Places to Go

In Search of Snow…

I have lived my whole life in the land of frequent rain, and while I love the blue/green/grey landscape with my whole heart there are times when even I get sentimental for other weather…

A few years ago, when she was quite small, Miss G. cried inconsolably when we put away the Christmas decorations before she had seen actual snow.  It seems that snow, in particular, is emotionally tied to our winter celebrations.  There are pictures of snow on Christmas cards, sparkly snow in globes, and snow filled landscapes in almost every holiday film we watched.  Here in Vancouver, though, no snow.  This year, to avoid the blues that can follow a green Christmas we promised to whiten up with a trip to the mountains in search of some real snow…

We were spellbound on the switchbacks up the mountain by the blanketed city lit up below us…

  … then outfitted with snowshoes, poles, snacks and many (many!) layers of woolens we found ourselves a little winter wonderland along the Cypress Snowshoe Trail on Hollyburn Mountain.
I have wanted to do this for so long, and am so glad we finally got around… Beautiful, bright and so much fun for all of us (even dragging G. Jr. up the tiny inclines by pole…)



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Snow Fort

It all starts
with the quality,
the density, the size
of the snow bank.
True now, true forty years ago;
it is the critical ingredient.
We piled it high, over successive storms,
waiting not so patiently
for the right time. The right mix
of wet and cold
Snowman snow.
Digging, with shovels, with hands
creating a dome, an inner sanctum
interconnected tunnels, in and out
meeting in the middle
all within the pile of snow.

(Raymond A. Foss)

Places to Go

Ambleside Beach (and the end of Summer…)



Our favourite place to go this summer – the place we returned to over and over – was a quiet stretch of beach on the north shore of Vancouver.  The sea and sand and sun were just the things to soothe our city dwelling souls.  Half an hour from home we could dip our toes in the salty Pacific or squish them into the seaweed and sand.  We watched float planes, cruise ships, sail boats and shipping tankers coming and going about their business.  We built castles and sculptures, swam and fished (for smelts!) and whiled our time away…

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“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” (John F. Kennedy)


Miss G. is always up for art – she has a knack for creating “found art” sculptures with an amazing sense of place…


I’m not sure what is more inviting – the statue, or the seagull sharing the view…


“Always keep your mind as bright and clear as the vast sky, the great ocean, and the highest peak, empty of all thoughts. Always keep your body filled with light and heat. Fill yourself with the power of wisdom and enlightenment.” (Morihei Ueshiba)

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The sound of the waves, the feeling of the wind, the smell of the salt and the sea… these are the things that I keep close as the season changes and the burdens of real life resume, layer by layer.




“It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean.” (John Locke)


Summer, the season of recuperation and rejuvenation, is disappearing minute by minute each day.  The days are cooler, shorter, and increasingly more demanding as the business of daily life piles up… but the summer in our soul cannot easily be replaced.  The light and loftiness of those beachside afternoons are stored away in that summer self, to be called upon when we find ourselves in need of a lift…


““Au milieu de l’hiver, j’apprenais enfin qu’il y avait en moi un été invincible.”   (Albert Camus)


Places to Go

Burnaby Village (Volume 3)…

There are some places that our family “field trips” return to over and over.  Burnaby Village is one of those amazing venues, and although I have shared about our previous visits both in summer and winter I can’t stop taking photos every time we go!  If you live nearby and haven’t visited, please go!  It really is incredible that this slice of history is just minutes away from our daily life.

On our most recent visit we had the chance to see the village with fresh eyes – we were there with family friends who had travelled half way around the world.  This made us even more aware of the culture that we are lucky to inherit…

The farmhouse and the heritage dahlias in the garden…

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The schoolhouse…


The heritage garden…


…barber shop…





The vintage kitchen…

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…the general store…

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…the music studio…

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…and of course my favourite drygoods store (where all of the hats would look amazing on me, I’m sure, but the grey one is just so lovely…)

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This is the house I thought I would live in when I grew up. (Still might happen.)  This is the house I imagined with every Nancy Drew mystery I read…

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On this visit the embroidered linens were hanging to dry in the kitchen…

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The “lady of the house” was amassing her trousseau…



Every time we visit I leave wishing I could stay.  Just past the village is Deer Lake, which offers a contemplative space …


…and a musical interlude to bridge the gap back to our here and now…


“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” (Virginia Woolf)

Places to Go

Burrard Inlet by Boat…

We are a month into fall and, while some days have been beautiful, there have been enough rainy days for me to miss the summer sunshine that already seems so far away…

Although we are fortunate enough to live close to the water, we don’t get out on it much.  Lucky for us, one of our great friends has both a boat and the patience (madness!) to take it out on the water with our crazy family in tow…

Just a few weeks ago we spent an amazing late summer day enjoying the view of sun, ocean and blue sky from the best vantage point possible – the middle of it all.

At first the seals weren’t particularly interested in us…


…but then one raised an eyebrow…


…and another woke up enough from basking in the sun to notice as we boated by…


There were endless interesting boats to photograph…


…and G. Jr. had to hold on to his hat.

(Literally.  We turned around three times to fish it out of the water after he let go and it blew off in the breeze.)

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The trip to Deep Cove (by car) usually takes us at least half an hour.  By boat it is a quick fifteen minutes of some of the most amazing watery views…

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Our reward for taking this leisurely trip was (naturally!) gelato

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…and then we headed back out on the water and north up Indian Arm.

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On our way back to the dock we could just see G. Jr’s favourite bridge – the ironworkers’ memorial – in the distance.


He didn’t stay awake much longer – all that fresh sea air knocked him right out!  Good thing Miss G. was in full form – we needed her to help us tie up the boat.


A day of sun and sea air can do a lot to bring some balance to a busy life.  Facing another week of blustery fall weather and the doldrums of the day-to-day, I am grateful to look back on the sea change and see things from another angle…


“They change their climate, not their soul, who rush across the sea…” (Horace)

Places to Go

Burnaby Mountain…

Vancouver is a city surrounded by nature – rivers, mountains, oceans, inlets… It’s hard for us to visualize the shape of the landscape even as we live in it every day. A great place to get perspective is to go vertical; part way up Burnaby Mountain, just west of Simon Fraser University, there is a gorgeous park with an amazing view.

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The lower part of the park contains this sculptural installation: “the playground of the gods…” or in our case the playground of two wildly rambunctious youngsters…

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…which is even more incredible with the north shore lights and setting sun behind it:IMG_7019

The north side of the park looks up toward Indian Arm…

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One of my favourite sights:


…and then this gorgeous view west out towards the ocean – it always tempts my adventurous spirit to get on a boat and go… Where are those boats headed when they leave our port?IMG_7029

All the view and fresh air builds up an appetite… IMG_7003
… a scoop (or two) of ice cream will finish it off perfectly.  (The hardest part is narrowing it down from the 200 plus choices…)


Places to Go

Granville Island (Volume 3)…

Another gorgeous day, another chance to get out into our city… (so grateful for the people and places that make it wonderful for us…)


We try to get to Granville Island as often as possible.  It is one of my favourite parts of my hometown, probably because I have so many happy childhood memories of wandering around the market and taking in all of the sights and sounds.  I want my children to have the same happy memories and connections to the places that keep Vancouver alive for me…


I have shared pictures from visits before (twice actually) but every time we go I love it and (of course) take endless photos.

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Boats, sunshine, saltwater, sandy beaches…


I have the best memories of declaring as a small child that I would live my grown up life right here, in False Creek…  I haven’t had a chance to follow through on that promise yet, but there might still be time…


I hope your day, wherever it takes you, has a tiny bit of sunshine and flowers to carry you through.


Places to Go

Fort Langley (Volume 3)…

One thing (of many) that I appreciate about where we live is the crazy abundance of really diverse places to visit without driving more than half an hour or so – hauling children around on “adventures” has limits!  One place we love to visit (I have written about spring and summer visits before) is Fort Langley…  Every time we go I find new things to photograph and endless things to investigate.

On our most recent trip we managed some time searching for antiques and oddities before we headed into the museum.  I  captured my personal favourites for you:

…a BC Highway sign (which I still regret not buying…)


…vintage tins…


…carousel horse…


…and some bowling pins…


Our next stop was to check out the Fraser River’s Bedford Channel…


…before heading into the fantastic museum.  Forgive me if you’ve been reading for awhile and these photos seem familiar – I always find myself enthralled with every nook and cranny and end up taking tons of photos – it’s a very photogenic place to hang out!

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We did take a break from taking pictures to pan for gold…

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…and Miss G. spent some free time playing a few tunes on the old upright.

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Of course I loved the library – they have two vintage editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the big house…

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The children always love the animals – the fort has a small replica of what would have been a functional farm.  Fresh eggs, goats milk, fruits and vegetables growing in the garden…

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        Spending a day at the fort is a little bit like travelling back in time, but mostly I love the way it makes us look at the little details – the most important things to notice are usually the smallest.    

“Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.” (Junichiro Tanizaki)

Places to Go



Our summer is almost over, but it has been an amazing one.  Now that G.Jr. is growing up we are able to cover a lot of ground in our favourite town, and have really taken family field trips to the next level…  The weather has been wonderful, and we had many days of sun and exploration to take advantage of.  I have written about many of our favourite Vancouver hangouts over the last two years, but this year we ventured even further afield.  New to us this year: the Museum of Biodiversity at the University of British Columbia.  (I owe this one to one of our Kindergarten students last year.  If he hadn’t gone and loved it so much we would never have gone… we’re so glad that we did!)

The museum is right in the middle of the university campus, and the building is built around an amazing blue whale skeleton which is more stunning in real life than these pictures can convey:


The first thing we did after going in to the museum was watch the movie about the search for, discovery of and excavation of the skeleton – shockingly we were all enthralled for the entire 45 minutes, and my little people are still talking about the amazing adventure the scientists had to get the skeleton across the country and installed in the museum.  Wow!  (Side note: we were stuck in traffic on our way off campus and got passed by the lead scientist from the movie on his bicycle.  The kids wanted me to roll down the windows so they could yell “we loved your movie!”)

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The rest of the museum is even more fun… there are (almost) endless things to look at and so much to play with too.  A little history…


…a little art…


…a little craft (we made these origami butterflies to hang up on the museum display – so I guess our work is hanging in a museum!)…


…and a lot of fooling around:


For quieter moments there are games to play… (ladybug bingo?)…


…and scientific pursuits…


…but the best part is the opening and closing of the specimen drawers, scientifically classified and endlessly entertaining with tiny treasures and curious collections:

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On our way out I paused to admire the little wilderness they have created in the middle of the (seemingly) never ending university expanding construction…


“We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.” (E.O.Wilson)

Find out more about the UBC Museum of Biodiversity here, and keep fighting for the diversity of life in those tiny wildernesses that are disappearing day by day…  it seems like the littlest things are in need of the greatest champions.

Places to Go

Alderwood Farm…

I am the luckiest person in the world. (One of them at least.)  Sometimes I forget.  Just when I really needed a reminder most recently I was invited on an amazing trip – I accompanied my littlest one on his very last pre-school field trip to a lovely dairy farm in the country.  On a beautiful sunny day, at the end of a harrying workweek, it was like a stolen moment for which I am very grateful…


Farms, while probably some of the most hard-working places I have ever been, always impress me with their calm feeling…


…plus they are places of sheer joy and deliciousness.  As depicted here in the form of fresh butter (hand made with love!)


Here we have sweet Bilbo ready for milking… I tried my hand at if first (nothing like you imagine from watching movies…)


…and then G.Jr. had a chance too.


Look who’s over ten hands tall!  ( I think 11.5 hands is the benchmark for Disneyland rides.  Keep eating your dairy products little boy…)


I loved this map of our province, showing all the farming areas around British Columbia.  It reminded me of an old Pete Seeger song that we sometimes sing in the car: The Farmer is the Man.  Where would we be without our farmers?

In spite of feeling like we were in another world the Aldor Acres Dairy farm is actually quite close to the “city”… just a little bit past Fort Langley which we also love to visit…


The animals were all happy to see us…

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…especially the baby goats as my baby was in charge of feeding one of them!

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I think this little one thought she was coming home with us!

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As always, when visiting somewhere I love, I tend to look for ways to move myself closer.  Maybe this old house across the street needs a new owner and some TLC?


For now it’s home to the city and our regular life… but I enjoyed the amazing view on the ride home every last second.  We are blessed beyond our ability to believe, and every once-in-awhile it’s good to take a day out the regular life to remind ourselves to be grateful.


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” (Melody Beattie)

From the garden...

A Garden Story…

This is how it all happened!  As we had no travel plans for this summer we thought we would put some energy into having a small garden plot.  As always, I went to the library.  I found this amazing book:


I’m a sucker for the revolutionary way to do anything, and when I read that the author had been an efficiency expert in his corporate pre-gardening life I was smitten.  The book has tons of great information – I highly recommend it.  I thought we would start with a simple 2×8 box, but Mr.Martini doesn’t do things by halves, and so we ended up with something more magnificent…


This is exactly why I had children – many hands make light work!


This is exactly why my father-in-law wishes he never had children – having a son has earned him a crazy daughter-in-law who finds endless tasks for him in his “retirement”! (He secretly loves it. It gives him great ammunition for his daily rants.)


After digging out our spot and laying down landscape fabric we built an 8×8 frame using two layers of 8 foot long 2×6 planks.

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We filled the frame with four yards of garden soil (compost, sand, dirt mixture) from the garden centre.  Thank goodness Zio has a utility trailer – that would have been many trips otherwise!


Thank goodness for many hands, and for a beautiful evening to rest and appreciate our labours thus far!


Our flower garden was humming along on it’s own this spring with lupins…






…and the very first poppy of the season…


…plus cosmos, some snapdragons…


…and African daisies…


…so we continued to concentrate our efforts on creating a home for the veggies.  Our giant plot would be too big to maintain from the edges so we built a plank bridge right down the middle, creating two separate sections with 3×7 grids.

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The real square-foot gardening method involves a grid plan where the number of plants is calculated by how much growing space it needs and therefore how many seedlings could grow in each square.  We drew ourselves a map to remember what was where, and over the growing season we have referred to it many times – it is surprisingly easy to forget which is red cabbage and which is savoy or how many butternut squash we actually planted when they are all growing enormously large and every which way!  In the beginning they were so tiny, but filled with promise…  Starting in mid-June we had hot weather, day after day, and so we continued to water the veggie patch faithfully.


In the meantime, the flowers continued to grow in spite of our neglect, and made a happy home for birds and bees and ladybugs…

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As we tended the baby plants they continued to grow.  In preparation for the rain that we expect eventually here in the temperate rainforest of the north west Mr. Martini built a support for the shelter we would need…


The little plants loved the sun and heat that kept on coming, and so we watered every day.

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Meanwhile, the poppies continued to bloom…


…followed by the peonies…


…and the ever-present foxgloves…


…and the kiwi flowers came in abundance…


One morning, while leaving for work, our entire family stopped in amazement to see a hummingbird hanging out in our front garden… I knew I let the yucca grow there for a reason!



Then the biggest surprise of the summer so far: our female kiwi tree, covered in more blossoms than ever before (in spite of our constant neglect, and with no male kiwi in sight) began to make actual kiwis.  Amazing!

 Then the absolute best part of having a garden began – those little plants that we had nurtured and watered (and sung to – thanks Miss G.) were ready to be harvested!  None of my hobbies are more satisfying than growing my own food; it creates a great sense of pride and fulfillment to know we can do it.  (Really, the food grows itself!  But I’ll take some credit when I can.)

First came spinach…

  …followed quickly by the broccoli and the early tomatoes…


…then the savoy cabbage which was very popular as a bug hotel.  Lots of washing required…

The beets are not quite ready, but some of them are getting close!

We have more cucumbers and zucchini than we know what to do with.  Today I found a cookbook at the library with six zucchini recipes.  Phew!


There are so many spaghetti squash as well – this first one I picked from our garden weighs over 9 pounds (about the same as G.Jr. when he was born!)

We are still waiting for the peppers, the pumpkins (started at preschool from seeds!) and the butternut squash.  Also, we optimistically planted a cantaloupe… maybe this will be the summer that we actually get one!  As for the little square-foot garden – well it sure has grown.  And we still have two months to go!  If the vines start coming in the house windows we might worry…