Hilary Letwin lives with her husband and bump, soon to be baby, in Port Moody. She works as an academic, specializing in the Italian Renaissance. She recently set up Culture Babes, which is a parent and tots group devoted to making cultural visits in and around Vancouver. Her parents snuck Hilary into the ballet as an infant (who knows how!), and she wants to visit museum exhibitions and attend musical concerts with her own babe in tow. Culture Babes makes exposing your kids to art and culture possible, scheduling events before museums open and organizing exclusive concerts put on by musicians who don’t mind the odd toddler squeal, so parents don’t have to worry about disturbing other patrons.
What’s your favourite thing for your kids?
My favourite thing to do with kids is to spend time on any patch of coast. There are so many beautiful paths and beaches in the Vancouver area, but we especially love to walk the Stanley Park Sea Wall and Rocky Point in Port Moody (paved paths make for easy stroller access!). We also enjoy driving to places like Belcarra and Deep Cove to watch for seals and find starfish glued to the piers. The best part of our favorite thing: it’s free! (Unless you count the cost of ice creams along the way…)
What’s your favourite thing for you?
My favourite thing to do is to attend a concert performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Throughout most of the year, they have concerts three times a week to suit any taste and schedule. In the last year we’ve seen Soprano Angela Gheorghiu sing with the VSO at the Orpheum (she did five encores!), a selection of songs from Broadway musicals, and Nina Simone’s daughter perform many of her mother’s songs. While I love dressing up to go to the Orpheum, I adore the casual intimacy of the Roundhouse in Yaletown, and the sheer architectural beauty of the Chan Center at UBC, mirrored by the view from the top of the Chan Center Rose Garden. Vancouver has such diverse art and culture venues!
What’s your favourite thing for work?
My favourite thing for work is to take a few hours and visit the Vancouver Public Library. Their holdings are so wide in subject, allowing me to read about pretty much anything, work or otherwise. In my role as an academic, the new Roman architecture and hushed camaraderie of other library patrons inspire me to still myself and work as productively as possible.
What’s your favourite place in Vancouver?
My favourite place in Vancouver is Vanier Park. We love to take a picnic to sit on the bluff, overlooking the city and watch the people whiz by on skates and bikes, tugged along by excited dogs. After our picnic – or in bad weather – it’s great to wander over to the Museum of Vancouver, where they have all sorts of super activities for kids, including scavenger hunt. Their exhibitions teach us about the history of this fabulous city.
What’s your favourite birthday gift idea?
When it comes to birthday gifts, I have a couple of favourites. As a child, my mum collected ceramics by Emma Bridgewater, whose pieces are all hand-made in Stoke-on-Trent, UK. After 25 years in business, she and her workshop are still producing beautiful dishes. I especially love her personalized mugs, teapots, and children’s dishes that can be ordered to carry any message, from a child’s name to congratulations for a friend’s happy occasion. You can order the personalized pieces online, or you can pick up her pieces (without personalization) at Bacci’s At Home on South Granville Street. For a wonderful gift that is locally produced, I love to give Contexture Design’s hand-made mobiles. Contexture makes most of their products from recycled materials, and in this case, their mobiles featuring salmon, crows and bumble bees, all returning home, and are made from old and out-dated road maps. To buy the mobile, visit Hip Baby on West 4th in Kitsilano.
What’s your favourite Vancouver restaurant?
My favourite Vancouver restaurant is the Arm’s Reach Bistro in Deep Cove, North Vancouver. It’s situated overlooking the water, so it is lovely and light on a sunny day, and cozy warm on a winter’s evening. They are kid friendly, especially at lunch, and everything on their menu is delicious! It’s so romantic to take a dusk stroll in the park by the water, browse in the wonderful shops in Deep Cove (like Room 6), and pop into the Deep Cove Theatre for a performance or a visit to the Seymour Art Gallery. Every meal for me at the Arm’s Reach Bistro is like taking a mini-holiday!
What’s your favourite kids’ book?
Books are very dear to me: I remember very fondly my mum reading me the entire Chronicles of Narnia when I was five. I love to give books as gifts for children, and recently I have been giving Good Night Vancouver by David J. Adams and Anne Rosen, which is a charming board book that represents an activity-filled day around the city. I also love the graphics and stories in the “This is” series by the Czech artist, Miroslav Sasek, from the late 1950s and 1960s, re-released recently by Universe. While there is no This is Vancouver, I think they inspire children to understand the wider world, and hopefully, encourage them to travel as soon as they are able.
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.