Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

On Tuesday morning about 2:30 am we were jolted awake by fire trucks with sirens blaring as they sped past our house.  With my heart pounding and as wide awake as I could possibly be, my cool as a cucumber husband and I talked about what could be happening.  Medical emergency?  Fire?  Or maybe another landslide?  We dealt with a few last year and were evacuated overnight when one home was badly damaged.

Moments later, more sirens and flashing lights.  I really wanted to know what was going on but before I could even finished getting dressed there was a knock at the door.  Uh oh.  My stress level went up another notch.  It was an RCMP member advising there had been a large earthquake off Alaska with a tsunami warning in effect. Beach Drive was being evacuated and we should proceed to NISS (North Island Secondary School).  Minutes later a fireman passed on the same message.

Processing the information we stood there deciding what to take with us?  Last time we were evacuated we assumed it would only be a few hours.  It ended up being overnight and we vowed we’d be more organized next time.  So, gathering up our cell phones, wallets, iPads, charge cords, I also added my toothbrush & toothpaste to my knapsack and off we went taking both our vehicles up to the high school.  In hindsight we definitely need a checklist !!! One reason is the 72-hour emergency tote that we left sitting in the front closet. And we never got around to packing a proper “to go” bag with clothing or bedding or toiletries.


Emergency Social Services registers the evacuees

Within moments of arriving at the high School principal Jay Dixon Jay (his family also Beach Drive evacuees) welcomed us into the library with comfortable chairs and hot coffee.  Lowering a huge screen from the ceiling Mr. Dixon found the most recent information about the event online.  With access to free wi-fi many of us were on our devices reading reports from all over the world. The first bit of news was the earthquake was a 7.9 not an 8.2 although I’m not sure if that made anyone feel any better.

We were offered a blanket, drinks and snacks and really the atmosphere was more like a block party than an emergency.  Dogs, kids, parents and grandparents all in good spirits for being up in the middle of the night.  With no reports of damage or high water levels we all just wanted to go home.  About 4am Environment Canada announced the warning was cancelled and we got the all clear.

After such an adrenaline rush it was impossible to settle down to sleep.  And we were rehashing the events for days afterwards. CHEK TV from Victoria interviewed me about the sequence of events and I also talked to a reporter from the North Island Gazette.  I told them both how fantastic the RCMP, Port McNeill Volunteer Fire Department, Emergency Social Services and North Island Secondary School all were ensuring we were quickly notified, registered, and looked after 😀


Perhaps next time we’ll remember to bring this with us.

I now have a new app called Earthquake on my iPad for up-to-date information on earthquakes happening in North America. I’ve also added the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre and Emergency Info BC to my Twitter feed.  Not sure you can ever be completely organized but it makes me feel a little bit better.

Hugs from the beach…


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Another New Year’s Eve at home, just the two of us, and my eyes were getting heavy long the ball dropped in New York.  We switched channels between Anderson Cooper on CNN and Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve.  One benefit to living on the west coast is that it’s midnight out east but only 9:00 here.  I tried my very best but I tapped out at 10:00.  Sad, really.  I guess if I’d had an afternoon nap I may have lasted a bit longer.  Apparently there were fireworks happening close by and lots of banging of pots and pans but I slept soundly through it all.

As much as I love Christmas I was ready to bring all the totes up from the basement and pack it away.  Our Christmas closet (my favourite occasion has its own huge storage space) has never been so organized with detailed labels on each tote.  The only trace of the holiday now, is the bowl of candy at the front door. Hopefully not all our visitors have given up sweets as their resolution.  Candy cane anyone?


And speaking of resolutions have you made one?  Please leave me a comment – I’d love to hear yours.  I try to keep it simple but have been thinking a lot about things I want to do more…or less.  In the “do more” category: write, read, daydream, yoga, gym time, drink water, eat healthier.  In the “do less” category: drink coffee, spend so much blasted time obsessing about American politics or social media in general and worry.  I come from a long line of worriers.  Generations of women who fret and fuss, mostly about things we have no control over.  I’m going to try very hard to do something about that bad habit.

January always heightens my attention to detail.  I feel compelled to write lists and organize paperwork.  It all starts when I write all the birthdays and anniversaries in my planner.  Doesn’t matter how many great apps there are I cannot do without my hard copy daily planner.  On New Year’s Day I sit down and write all the important occasions in red pen.  Birthdays & anniversaries don’t change.  Upcoming events are written in pencil because there is the possibility they may change and the perfectionist in me doesn’t like to cross things out.  Better to erase and keep things nice & tidy.  A simple thing really but it pleases me to no end.  This lovely Celtic planner is teaching me a new Welsh word every month and includes incredible mandala diagrams.


After all the extra spending leading up to Christmas I go into frugal mode.  In January I bake from scratch, make soups from leftovers and dig around in the freezer to see what treats I can find.  A few days ago we enjoyed barbecued halibut and salmon for dinner.  We are always so grateful to friends and family who share their bounty from the ocean.  This is also the time that I fill up bags for the thrift store and boxes of books for our church’s second hand bookstore.  My word for 2018 is simplify.  Every room, every cupboard, every closet, every nook and cranny has potential.  Happy New Year to all — may your year sparkle & shine !!

Blessings from the beach…

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Christmas !!  And I absolutely love Christmas.  No not just love it — I daydream about it and plan for it all year. My Pinterest boards are full of holiday cards and craft ideas.  I’m a little later than usual but today my dear husband will drag the 10 foot tree and the many, many totes upstairs from storage.  It will take a few days but every flat surface will be decorated.  There will however be a few minor adjustments this year for our curious 18-month-old grandson.  The Nativity scenes will be placed much higher and Megan has suggested that ornaments on the lower limbs of the tree be replaced with bells.

Last week we made our way down island for a three-day island staycation.  Glorious snow-capped mountains and sunshine made us smile.  Sadly the sun didn’t last long and we spent most of the first leg of the journey dealing with torrential rain and high winds.  Thanks to the staff at Java Shack in Campbell River for keeping the kitchen open a few extra minutes to make us a late lunch.  I call it salad on bread but it’s definitely the best tuna sandwich EVER.  Tuna with smoked cheddar, cucumber, tomato, red pepper, red onion, sunflower sprouts all on rye bread.  We spent one night at the Comfort Inn near the Quadra Ferry terminal in Campbell River.  A bright, spacious room and very comfortable.  Chris donned his tuxedo and headed off to a Masonic Lodge meeting.  I stayed behind with a big bag of cheezies and binge watched HGTV while assembling homemade Christmas cards.


From snow capped mountains of the North Island to the Legislature building in Victoria

It is a long drive from one end of the island to the other !!  But then we arrive at our favourite home away from home.  The suite at Hotel Grand Pacific was lovely. Two balconies both overlooking the harbour with many downtown buildings dressed in their holiday finery. Arriving late in the afternoon we headed downstairs for pub grub instead of venturing out in the rain. I had the Romaine Salad with prosciutto, black pepper brioche, oh so garlicky lemon dressing and showered with shavings of fresh Parmesan. Chris had salt & pepper chicken wings and the potato skins with sweet & sour chili sauce, sour cream, bacon & onion. I’m so glad Chris doesn’t mind when my fork wanders 😉


The ducks in the front pond of the Hotel Grand Pacific kindly pose for pictures.  The lobby is sparkling with windows, tables and trees all beautifully decorated.

The next morning with absolutely no plans we started off at Belleville’s Diner at the Day’s Inn for brunch.  The whimsical menu is fun to read and the walls are covered with movie memorabilia.  I finally decided on the Dr. Suess which is basil, pesto, goat cheese scrambled eggs with in-house smoked ham, rainbow potatoes & grilled tomatoes.  It was a huge plate of delicious.  Eating out is one of my favourite parts of being away from home — but I’m sure you gathered that by now lol.  Or is it just because I haven’t eaten breakfast yet and really hungry.


The concierge at our hotel gave us a “Downtown Victoria Holiday Guide”  I didn’t get past the suggestion to Snap a Selfie at the Bay Centre’s Giant Christmas Wreath

The Bay Centre is hosting a festival of trees and there are dozens of trees on each level sponsored by nearby stores and companies.  A few of our favourites were the LEGO tree and one that had an elf’s bum sticking out the front.  Sorry five year old humour.  We sauntered through all three levels of the mall and then made our way back out onto Government Street for a browse through Monroe’s Books and Roger’s Chocolates.


This chocolate giant is on display at Roger’s Chocolates.   It weighs 25 pounds and costs $449.  I entered the contest to win one – but they haven’t called me yet !!

The main reason for the trip to Victoria was to attend The Tenors concert at the Royal Theatre last Wednesday night.  Clifton Murray who grew up in Port McNeill joined the Tenors 8 years ago and we’ve attended six of their concerts and have all their CD’s.  Sitting in the Port McNeill cheering section we were surrounded by Clifton’s parents Craig & Deborah, his siblings and their families.  One of the teary moments I had that night was Clifton’s adorable 3-year-old niece Fauna who walked up to the stage stairs to sing a verse of “You are my Sunshine” to her uncle.  Oh that got me right in the feels !!  And my big goosebump moment was the whole theatre singing the last encore “Auld Lang Syne.”  Magic 💕


My annual photo with Santa – he’s a lovely fellow !!

And now the Christmas chaos begins.  Today Chris is supervising the arrival of Christmas trees for our church’s annual sale at the grocery store.  Hurry because  they won’t last long !!  The Salvation Army Kettle is in Port McNeill for the first time this year so Chris and I will be ringing the bells along with other Rotarians & their families.  I’m still crafting to get ready for “The Last Minute Christmas Shopping” craft fair at the Lion’s Hall on the 13th from 10am-2pm and sure I’m hoping to sell a few craft but really I’m looking forward to the homemade peroghies, cabbage rolls and borscht for lunch !!  Throw in two concerts and a play and yes my dears it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Hugs from the beach…

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Summer doesn’t officially end for a few days, but fall is quickly showing its muscle.  Shorter days, Canadian Geese flying in formation and finally after one of the driest summers — blessed rain !!  One of my favourite parts of autumn is the cool, crisp breeze that comes in off the ocean.  Wish I could bottle that fragrance up and sell it.

The summer months were jam packed and action filled.  Not as many motorcycle trips as we would have liked but it is hard to beat last year’s 2 1/2 month North American trek. We managed a few mini vacays traveling with friends and family and the bike will NOT go back into storage until the last day of September when the insurance expires for the season.  We live so far away from most of our family so it’s such an event when they come to visit us in Port McNeill.  My brother & cousin rode their Harleys across Canada and we were thrilled they carved out three nights to spend time with us.  Much laughing over a few cold drinks !!  With her new hip and so much more mobile than when I saw her in March, my Mom just flew home to Ontario after being here for 3 weeks.  We chatted.  We shopped.  We ate bad snacks.  And GG (great-grandma) got lots of quality time with Bowen.  My Mom’s cousin Judy and her friend John come up from Washington State for a mini family reunion while GG was here.  Their moms grew up in Saskatchewan and then one went east to Ontario and one went west to Vancouver and then on to Seattle.


1) Trip to Hornby & Denman Islands with fellow bikers  2) My brother Dan and cousin Brian posing in front of the Whale Interpretive Centre at Telegraph Cove 3) Our daughter Megan, her husband Justin and their adorable son Bowen were all in a wedding party 4) My Mom & Bowen at our regular Friday night Legion dinner

I’ve been dragging my feet for two days now trying to decide which pictures encapsulated our summer.  Then realized I’ve used most of the best ones in previous posts or on Facebook.  So I started thinking in overall themes: people, flowers & north island scenery.


1 & 2 taken at Shepherd’s Garden near Port McNeill.  3) Alert Bay Ecological Park and 4) The Community Garden at St. John Gualbert Church in Port McNeill

Thanks to Mackay Whale Watching for the unforgettable moments out in the Broughton Archipelago.  Twice in two weeks I was out on the Naiad jumping up and down with glee to see orca & humpback whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea lions.  Over almost 20 years I’m sure Chris and I have taken thousands of whale pictures.  The majority of them are little black dots or splashes of water on the surface.  Although enlarged and cropped this is by far the best shot of an orca in our collection.


1) Orca spyhopping taken onboard Mackay Whale Watching vessel the Naiad a few weeks ago 2) smoky sunrise the result of forest fires in the Interior of BC 3) after the smoke cleared we went back to our normal morning view 4) one of the beautiful giants at the Alert Bay Ecological Reserve

It’s time to start getting the garden and yard ready for winter.  Chris and I are happy to get back to the gym this morning and start back on a much healthier eating plan after slacking off most of the summer.  So long carbs…hello lean protein and salads 😇 Chips & dip I will miss you *sigh*

Here’s a challenge for you.  Do more of what makes you happy.  What does that look like for you this autumn?  I’ve got a stack of books to read.  Information to add to the family tree on ancestry.ca.  Umpteen crafting projects to finish.  An online photography course to get through.  Happy Autumn 🍂🍁

Hugs from the beach…

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Day two of our most excellent adventures.  This morning our host Ro dropped off our breakfast at the front door before she left for work.  Fresh rhubarb muffins with fruit & yoghurt parfaits to go with our coffee. Wonderful !!  Meeting up with the rest of the badass posse (and I manage to say this with a totally straight face) we headed for the Hornby Island ferry.  It’s great that motorcycles are sent to the head of the line so we’re always first ones off the vessel.


Our first stop off the ferry was the Cardboard Bakery which had been recommended by two locals.  We could smell baking before we even finished parking.  Food is a very important part of this trip !!  Wandering into the adjoining gift shop the owner recommended I try on a beautiful tie-dyed flowing top.  Love ❤️ it.  How did she know I’d been calling myself a hippy dippy grandma a few days ago?


Reading the pizza menu we debated whether we should hang around for lunch but thought we’d better go see a bit more of the island.  Seeing a crowd at this funky looking building with the grass roof we asked someone what was going on.  Farmer’s Market we were told — happens twice a week all summer.


Have to tell you it was the funkiest most eclectic market we’ve ever seen.  Wandering through the forest we chatted with quilters, glass blowers, listened to two young girls singing and playing the ukulele.  Buskers & entrepreneurs of all ages.  Selling everything from quilts to popcorn.


With limited room for purchases all I came away with was two bars of soap.  Another few minutes down the road we found another market full of gift shops and cafes.  Chris holds our shared beer beside my amazing lunch at Forage Cafe.  A burger made with local beef, fresh greens & veggie salad and a side of organic veggie chips.  Mmm mmm.


Next was our mission to find the sandy beaches we’d heard so much about.  We think this may be Whaling Station Bay.  We didn’t waste any time shedding shoes and socks to dip our feet.


And Chris here’s our new summer home on the point.  Right after we win the lottery 😉 Real estate prices are crazy here.  Renting a house on the beach here can run up to $3000 a week.


Beach #2 was Tribune Bay.  Rougher water but still warmer than swimming at our beach.    Chris and Rob gamely waded in and the rest of us cheered them on from shore.  Whoops I forgot my bathing suit back at the cottage.


This picture of Jackie & Rob sums up the trip.  A good time was had by all.  We’re talking about possibilities for our next adventure.  Who knows where but we’ve decided it should be sooner rather than later.  Hopefully this summer we can all carve out a few more days and ride.


In case you’re wondering about Chuck Norris — Google memes for Chuck and you’ll see some of the silly sayings that had us laughing uproariously today.  “Chuck was bitten by a snake — and it died two days later.”  That’s just how tough Chuck is.

Tomorrow we pack up to head home.  Not in any rush I suspect it will take us most of the day.  We’ll drag out the time away as long as possible.


Hugs from the road…

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Six friends on four motorcycles exploring two islands in two days.  Okay that’s way too long for a song title but perfectly describes today’s adventure.  Meeting up at the gas station this morning at 8:00 all six of us were looking forward to our mini vacay.  Moments down the highway I realized that perhaps I was a bit too hasty leaving the leather chaps behind.  It may be the middle of July but North Island mornings are still cool.  Nope, correction.  Make that cold.  Thankfully I was wearing my plug-in jacket which kept my core warm.

Heading south on Highway 19 we fell into an easy rhythm.  Rob & Jackie were lead bike, followed by Debbie, then her husband Ken and we brought up the rear.  In absolutely no hurry we stopped at the Cable House Cafe in Sayward for coffee and toast.  Ask for the Brazil nut butter !!  Next stop was Campbell River for groceries and fuel.  And finally after years of driving right past, today we took the time to stop for a meal at the Highwayman in Union Bay.  A bike friendly pub with cool motorcycle decor inside and out.  A mug of Sleeman’s beer went perfectly with fresh fish & endless fries.

Next up the Buckley Bay ferry terminal on our way to Denman Island.  No point wandering away from the bikes — it’s only a ten minute ferry ride.  Thanks very much to the BC Ferries employee who suggested we add all the fares together on an Experience Card.  We saved a whopping 40%.   Off the ferry we followed the winding road to Blue Owl Cottage where the other two couples are staying.  And then on to our accommodations at “The Cottage” just around the corner.  For the next two nights we’re laying our happy heads in a very comfortable two bedroom cottage that’s completely outfitted with everything we need.


Meeting back up with the group we hit the road again to explore the island.  It didn’t take very long.  Denman is just over 19 square miles with a very rural feel.  There are many acreages and farms.  Some with incredible ocean views.   Population approximately 1,000 Denman has a small village centre with General Store, Hardware, Book & Gift Shop and Community Centre.


Taking our steaks & deli salads over to Blue Owl for a group barbecue we shared a few stories and lots of laughs.  We heard some embarrassing moments, talked about politics south of the border, our kids and grandkids and how much we all love living in a small town.

Tomorrow we’ll get on another ferry to head over to Hornby Island.  They call themselves the Jewel of the Salish Sea and their slogan is “so good, we hid it behind two islands.”  Hearing about their beautiful sandy beaches we’ve got our bathing suits and towels packed up and ready to go.

Now it’s time to call it a day.  All that fresh air has us yawning.

Hugs from the road…

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Longer days.  Photo worthy sunrises and sunsets.  Much warmer temperatures.  It’s finally time to dig out flip flops, shorts and slather on some sunscreen.  And the people said AMEN .  Just to be clear 20 degrees Celsius is considered a suitable summer temperature on the north island.  It’s never too hot or too cold.  We don’t get scorching hot summers and we’re happy with the mild winters — some years we don’t even have to get the snow shovel out of the shed. Add it to the many things we love about living on the west coast.

Deciding to be tourists in our own backyard last week we hopped the ferry and headed over to Sointula on Malcolm Island.  Approximately 800 souls call the island home.  I like to think of them as “the Finns and the hippies.”  More saunas per capita than anywhere else in Canada. Artists, writers, musicians and free spirits.  Our first stop off the ferry was the Sointula Resource Centre to pick up the Sointula Guide for 2017.  And groceries don’t get any fresher than goodies for sale in the garden stand out front.  Monday’s offerings were farm fresh eggs, garlic and assorted jams/jellies.  I love the honour system — you write down what you purchased on a a clipboard and leave your cash in the slot.  Our next stop was the Co-op Store where I found some organic instant oatmeal made in BC.  Because it’s a store owned & operated by the people there are always different items than we find at our grocery store.  We then wandered across the road to Upper Crust Bakery where I was thrilled to find a loaf of pulla — Finnish sweet cardamom bread.  My mouth is watering just thinking about toasted pulla with butter and homemade jam 😀 Chatting with the owner Victor we found out with a bit of notice he’ll bring baked goods to Port McNeill on Mondays.  After sharing a delicious cinnamon roll, sausage roll and ham & cheese croissant with my fellow travellers we’ll be calling him very soon.


Sointula is a Finnish word meaning “place of harmony”

After cruising the main drag we made our way to Burger Barn at the Boat Harbour. Sitting at an oceanfront picnic table we dove into scrumptious homemade cheeseburgers & fries.  An added bonus was being serenaded by two guitar playing locals.

We had all afternoon to explore before catching the 4:25 ferry.  Made our way to the other side of the island to Bere (pronounced “bear”) Point.  Even traveling with a one-year-old we managed to walk with the stroller for a bit of the Beautiful Bay Trail and finally ditched it with mama carrying baby the rest of the way to the platform at Malcolm Point.  Stunning views of Queen Charlotte Strait and the Coastal Mountains.  Walking the entire trail takes 5 hours round trip and depending on damage from winter storms it’s not always open the whole way.  There’s a caretaker’s shack in the campground parking lot with information if you’re not sure.


Bere Point Park & Beautiful Bay Trail

Before we had to line up at the ferry terminal we had time to relax on the beach past the Finnish cemetery on Kaleva Road.  With nobody in sight in either direction we happily plunked ourselves on driftwood with faces turned up to the sun.  Bowen is happy no matter what his surroundings — picking up and throwing rocks pleased him to no end.


On Monday eager to take advantage of another sunny day, our merry band of adventurers packed up for a trip to Telegraph Cove.  When you travel with a little person preparation takes time and effort.  Stroller, toys, baby bag with diapers & change of clothes.  Check.  Snacks, sippy cup, soother and sun hat.  Check.  Safe to proceed.

We brought our own picnic with homemade macaroni salad and picked up some fresh buns & deli meat on the way. Topped off with specialty coffees from Sea Horse Cafe we sat and watched the comings and goings in the harbour. Fishing boats, kayakers and visitors from around the world make their way to Telegraph Cove.

The yard of foxglove in front of one of the homes in the Cove stopped us all in our tracks. Glorious !!  I’ve learned since then that they are a biennial plant meaning they bloom the second year and then die. But each flower contains seeds so they spread like crazy.  And the last picture is my favourite.  Bowen fell asleep from the time we left the Cove and drove to the campsite so we could hike the short trail to Bauza Cove.


Telegraph Cove — launch point for whale watching, kayaking, fishing

Still on the list of North Island day trips this summer is Port Alice.  I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never visited Devil’s Bath or the Eternal Fountain.   And it’s been a few years since I’ve been to Alert Bay — walked through the Ecological Reserve or visited U’Mista Cultural Centre.

I’m throwing out a challenge — to explore your own corner of the world.  To family and friends we wish you a HAPPY CANADA DAY 🇨🇦

Hugs from the beach…

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