Thursday, September 10, 2009

Squeezing the last drops out of summer...

August was good to us, with its warm and sunny lazy late summer atmosphere. It was filled up with visits and parties, camping trips and exploring, hikes and fairs. In the midst of all that fun, we also managed to get a fair bit of work done, and some of Dave's art is now part of the gallery at the stunning Sooke Harbour House. We had the immense pleasure of staying there for a night in May 2008, and are so happy that a few birdhouses have found their way on to the walls there.
Somewhere along the way we realized that hey - we've been here a full year! I guess we aren't the new Victorians anymore. Rather than change the title (the not-so-new vics?) I've decided that it's time to retire this blog. I'm going to take a little break from blogging (well, I'm still going to try to keep going with the PMBC, even if it's not quite on schedule, but somehow that doesn't really fall into the blog category in my mind). This blog gave me some sense of being connected to everyone in Montreal through this first year of living on the other side of the country, but increasingly I've been favouring the old school methods of staying in touch. I suspect I will soon come up with some other reason to blog. In the meantime, thank you all for reading.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Midsummer Summary, Part 2 (July)

July was mostly spent back east, travelling around Quebec and Ontario, visiting favourite places and catching up with loved ones:

So sweet to see their eyes popping with joy when given the chance to reconnect with far away family and friends. Bittersweet when we had to leave again, although we came home with heads bursting with fresh memories (as well as a large pile of photos to go with them).

Thank you to everyone who made it such a memorable visit. The kids are already planning our next one, so it won't be too long, I'm sure.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Midsummer Summary, Part 1 (June)

The third thing I like about living in Victoria is the way the air smells. I thought it was just that because Victoria is relatively small, the smells of the city haven't yet overpowered the smells of nature, but I've realised that it is not just the fresh air that pleases me. More specifically it is the fresh sea air. I can smell the sea when I step outside our house. I get used to it, and forget to appreciate it, but when I come back from a long trip I get a reminder. I'm not the only one, either: as we were disembarking our flight home I overheard the young man behind me say happily "it smells different here", and then his traveling companion replied "yes, I like it". (To be fair, it was a flight from garbage-strike Toronto, so I imagine anything would be an improvement).
It is nice to be home. And to notice that yes, this place really does feel like home. So without further ado, my midsummer summary, in photos:

Wafflerama, June 6th

Oak Bay Tea Party, June 7th

A camping trip with Erin, June 9th-12th

A new fence

A new game

A visit to Deep Cove

I was planning to do a complete recap of June and July, but I think our trip back to Quebec and Ontario deserves its own post, so stay tuned for part 2, coming soon (I promise not to wait 6 weeks!).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse

Before another weekend comes and goes, I wanted to post a little report on last weekend's expedition to a National Historic site. On this excursion, Dave and I were accompanied by two girls and a dragon.

The site is beautifully maintained, and admiring the view and the exhibits, I couldn't help thinking that if you were in the military in 1914 and you were posted at Fort Rodd, it must have felt like you'd won the lottery. This thought was reinforced by some of the photographs on display.

Especially this one. (Just in case it is too small to make out, there are ten children in the photo and the caption says there were four more to come!):

It's hard to read all the information available to you when you're chasing a dragon through the fortifications, but all the same, I like wandering through places that were obviously buzzing with activity at one time, and are now relatively quiet, except for the odd visitor.

The lighthouse is actually still in use, so we weren't allowed to go all the way to the top, but there was a nice display in there as well, explaining all the different technologies employed over the years.

On the drive back, the dragon fell asleep, and all was peaceful in the camper. I've taken to reading out the German instructions posted next to the passenger seat - it amuses the children. This time however, I noticed the (English) safety message printed under the propane stove. "WARNING: It is not safe to use cooking appliances for comfort heating". It struck me that this notification could have been useful on my parents' gas stove during the ice storm of '98.

We have another fun-filled weekend ahead, kicking off in a few hours with wafflerama, our neighbours' legendary breakfast event, hosted every year on the morning of the Oak Bay Tea Party parade. We were invited to the wafflerama test kitchen last Saturday morning, and this evening Grace was heard asking if there would be more asparagus waffles tomorrow. Yes. One of my children is officially a foodie. In the evening we're off to the airport to pick up our niece. The kids are all so excited to see their cousin - one of them said "I can hardly go to sleep - it feels like Christmas!"

Before I sign off, a little launch for all my literature-loving friends... I've started another blog (but, you may be wondering, isn't one neglected blog and one abandoned blog enough? Yes indeed. It should be. This new one is really just a chronicle of a strange little reading project I've taken on.) Head on over to the Prime Minister's Book Club and check it out!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Introducing Marie

... the newest member of our fleet! Yes, it's true - this beautiful '79 VW Westfalia pop-top is our new home away from home.
Here she is in front of our house:

A view from the back seat:

And from the fish eye side mirror:

Some may fear that we've lost our minds, but oh life is sweet in the Westy. We came across her a couple of weeks ago... we had been on the lookout for a while and this one was the first that met our three requirements: 1) Automatic 2) Runs well and 3) Under 5K. We spotted the ad on a Tuesday - that evening Dave took her for a test drive, and the next day she was ours! We bought her from a very nice lady called Connie, who told us that the camper's name was Muriel, and that she didn't mind if we changed the name, but would prefer it if we kept her a girl. Done. After a few little trips around town, we took her on our maiden voyage last weekend; a trip to Pender Island (to coincide with a certain disc golf tournament).

Here she is at the campground:

With Dave heading off to the disc park Saturday morning, I wondered what I would do with the children all morning (and worried a bit about having to drive Marie around the hilly island myself). And then I had a flash - a memory really, from my first visit to Pender eleven years ago. I remembered that the friends who were hosting us had taken us to a piece of land that had previously been a rustic sort of seaside summer resort. Dave and I had strolled past abandoned cabins, and out along a tiny spit of land, and when we got to the end there was a bench with a spectacular view. All I remembered was that it had 'rose' in the name. I looked at a map of the island, and spotted a park called Roesland, and figured that must be it. So Saturday morning, with me in the driver's seat, we dropped the disc man off at his tourney, and headed to the other side of the island to explore.

It wasn't quite as I remembered it. For one thing, in my memory there were many more cabins to peek in. But in the time that has passed since my last visit, the park has been taken over by the Parks Canada - it is now a part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (as is the campground we stayed at). I suspect that most of the cabins were knocked down so they wouldn't crumble on squatters (or explorers like us). The cabins that remained had signs on the top steps telling us not to go in, but we could still peer through the windows, and get glimpses of some other family's vacation memories. In one cabin I saw a carved wooden sign with the four names of the family members followed by '79-'82. Roesland closed in '92. The site now holds the Pender museum as well, but we were there too early, so we'll have to wait until our next visit to scope that out. Across Otter Bay (where we did actually spot five otters looking out at us - so satisfying when a place lives up to its name) you can now see a new vacation home development. This is another change from the last time I was there, and offers quite a contrast from the humble old log cabins tucked into the forest. After we'd had our fill we headed off to the farmer's market, where the kids played while I stocked up on Ewa's European cakes (rhubarb coffee cake -yum) and admired some hand-dyed island sheep's wool. We then loaded back into Marie, and drove back to find Dave, getting only somewhat lost along the way. Despite her lack of power steering, Marie is very nice to drive, especially if you aren't in a hurry.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Victoria Day

My first real Victoria Day, I suppose, since in Quebec we celebrated Dollard des Ormeaux Day until 2002, when Landry changed it to Journée des Patriotes (I googled DDO to get my facts straight on this, and boy are there some funny forums discussing this particular topic). Here in Vic however, the day is not just a holiday but yet another parade day! In fact, the biggest parade of the year in Victoria. It kicks off early (in my opinion), at 9 am, so we watched a bit of it on TV while we ate our french toast (down to my last can of real Quebec maple syrup so anyone coming this was soon feel free to stick a can in your luggage for us (hint hint Erin!) - I can accept a lot of change, but for some reason I still struggle with maple syrup in a plastic jug). Pardon the digression. Having attended most of the other parades that have come through town in the past nine months, I felt determined to check this one out, so we all headed out after breakfast to catch the tail end of the event.

It was great to see so many nationalities represented, as Victoria does not immediately present itself as being particularly multicultural. But what was most amazing was the number of marching bands. We heard them practicing all weekend, marching along the side streets of our neighbourhood. How is it that Victoria has so many marching bands? It doesn't. They came from Washington and even Oregon. Apparently there is some big marching band competition, and you get points for the number of parades you participate in or something.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blossom City

The second item on my list of things I like about living in Victoria (this is a list in installments) must be the bluebells.

Those were taken yesterday evening on the way to Brownies. Something about bluebells at dusk. (Blame Merchant Ivory). I should be going on about the tree blossoms. We have had a full month of nonstop crazy beauty. In our own backyard we are treated to this:

And here's one I shot at the Inner Harbour:

It seems that we are coming to the end of the sakura (Japanese cherry blossom - that's what we were told is in our back yard), and there are great drifts of blossoms covering streets, sidewalks and gardens. (I have photos, but perhaps that's enough of that for now...)

I meant to start off with hello again! And apologies for my lengthy hiatus! What can I say, but having finished up the book, and the BA, I was a little burned out. Of writing. (Can you tell?) And computers. And then it seemed like so long, with so much to report on, that the simple task seemed daunting. But the bluebells brought me back.

So a few quick highlights from April, to bring us back up to speed:

Easter with the Vancouver cousins:

The photo credit goes to my brother-in-law Tony. It was taken in the final leg of the Easter Rabbit hunt at the Butchart gardens, just before the children's efforts were rewarded with a Roger's chocolate egg (only ceramic rabbits were hunted). We had such a lovely weekend together, we're hoping to make it a new tradition.

Strangely, the following Friday was a professional development day (making it a three day week), so Grace, Amelia and I enjoyed a walk along West Song way with our neighbours Julie, Lucy and Jonathan:

Two of the girls playing on a rather unique driftwood structure protesting the proposed mega-yacht marina. Speaking of the neighbours, I must thank Mike for restoring the title to this blog. We were invited across the street for a delicious waffle breakfast last month, and our host kindly took a few minutes (or more) to work some techno magic. We feel incredibly fortunate to have lucked out in the neighbour department again (and not just because they invite us over for splendid brunches and fix blogs).

Last but not least, we had a visit from Uncle Joe:

I'll admit, I felt some pressure being sandwiched between the Caribbean and South Africa... what could Victoria offer my globe-trotting brother? Luckily all he wanted was to hang out, which we are quite skilled at.