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It was a group of 10-2-1.  Ten adults, two dogs and a 2-year-old.  I’m talking about a much anticipated mini family reunion over three days in May.  It had been almost 3 years since we were all together. For months we chatted on Facebook about the shenanigans from “that week” back in 2015 when Megan and Justin got married.  We were thankful for 3 days of spectacular weather. Perfect to showcase Vancouver Island North one more time for our out-of-town guests:  my brother and his family from Ontario, my Dad from Courtenay.  And dear friends/beloved godparents of our daughter who joined us from Lake Cowichan.

One morning a bunch of us headed out on a crabbing adventure.  Our experienced guide Rob herded 4 generations of us from the logging road, through lush, green forest and down a small rock cliff to the sandy beach at Ledge Point.  Not a big secret apparently as there were at least a dozen other crabbers all with their own homemade equipment.  Rubber boots and bucket are an absolute must !!  We used modified hockey sticks with a rounded metal scoop (I’m guessing made out of old coat hangers) on the end.  Waving our sticks slowly back and forth through the sea grass seemed most effective.  And I was so proud of myself for not squealing when a crab latched onto my stick.  I managed to gently scoop underneath the crab and quickly push it into the bucket. Inwardly thinking eek, eek, eek I got a crab lol.  The limit is 4 adult male crabs per person and between our 3 licenses we came home with 11 in the bucket. Well done team !!

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Low tide at Ledge Point was optimal for crabbing

Fresh boiled crab still in the shell was added to the barbecue dinner for grandson Bowen’s 2nd birthday party that night.  Happy chaos with our crew plus our son-in-law’s parents and one of his siblings and her husband.  The birthday boy and star of the show seemed very happy with his fire chief’s ensemble and more trucks for his vroom vroom collection.  His Mom had a hard time keeping the candle lit on the cake long enough for us to sing.  Bowen is fascinated by candles and can’t wait to blow them out.  That’s actually one of his jobs at church on Sunday mornings.

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Happy 2nd Birthday Bowen.

Later it was back to the beach for a bonfire, stories, wobbly pops and so much laughter.  And may I remind those assembled — what is said and happens the campfire, stays at the campfire 😉

The next morning Chris and I hopped on the motorcycle and everyone else piled into vehicles for more adventure.  First stop was the Nimpkish Hatchery on the way out to Telegraph Cove.  Our friend Rob is one of many volunteers at the hatchery and he explained the process from egg to fry (baby salmon) to adults being released into the wild.  Very interesting to learn that at the hatchery 99% of eggs survive.  They are not so lucky in the wild.  Next stop was Telegraph Cove.  First an alfresco lunch on the deck at the Killer Whale Cafe (their seafood chowder is amaaaaazing !!) followed by a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk.

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These salmon were released at the beginning of June

The next day we hugged everyone goodbye and it was time for laundry and some yard-work.  Rob called and asked if we were interested in heading out to Telegraph Cove for lunch.  There’s only one way to answer a question like that – heck yeah !!  We were one of seven bikes in convoy out to the Seahorse Cafe.  Thanks to Marcus and staff for another great meal.  We’ll be back again soon.

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North Island Bikers are big fans of the Seahorse Cafe

The heat has been turned off inside the house, windows are thrown open most days and we can hear the birds chirping every morning.  It’s beginning to feel a lot like summer.

Hugs from the beach…

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I started calling myself Hippy Dippy last summer when I bought a flowing tie-dyed top in a funky little shop on Hornby Island.  Being born in 1960 means I was too young to be a hippy but it’s never too late…to be…groovy !!

When we moved from Resolute Bay, NWT (high arctic, population 100) to Squamish BC, (near Vancouver, population a whopping 5,000) I started learning about recycling.  We’re talking 1989.  The only recycling I’d ever done was cashing in cans and bottles.  In Squamish there was a recycling depot and I started taking back cardboard and glass.  Bought milk in returnable glass bottles.  Got myself a book called “The Green Consumer” and wrote my first newspaper articles about my intriguing new journey.

Back then I only got 6 out of 18 on a “How Green are you Quiz?” but I’m certain my score would be much better now.  My husband teases me that he didn’t know he’d be washing garbage when he retired.  Tin cans and plastics are all rinsed before being tossed into the recycling tote in our kitchen.  Downstairs we have much larger containers for plastic bags, styrofoam, glass, can & bottle returnables and general recyclables.  Every two weeks the general stuff gets picked up curb side.  And the rest we have to take ourselves to a local depot.  Incredible to think it would all end up in landfill otherwise.

Fifteen years ago or so I worked on-call casual at a local store East of Java.  It has changed location and owner but still one of my favourites.  It’s the smell.  Candles, incense, essential oils permeate and I can tell if something has been purchased there by inhaling that glorious aroma.  During slow times I would devour books about essential oils learning more about tea tree, peppermint and lavender – the first ones in my collection.

Essential oils have exploded in our small community.  “Make & Take” parties where I’ve made foaming hand soaps, lip balm, and rollers to help with sleep and stress.  Taking it to the next level I’ve swapped out store bought laundry, dish and dishwasher soap for homemade.  No chemicals, no additives.  Only clean ingredients.  Learning as I go.  I’m happy with the laundry soap but really don’t like the dish soap.  It’s too runny so I’ll use it up and move to another recipe that’s thicker with more suds action.  More research required as well on dishwasher soap.  Coffee rings did not come clean and the inside of the dishwasher itself is now stained. Stay tuned.  I am nothing if not persistent.  Scratch that — stubborn.

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The hunt for all natural personal products is another part of the hippy dippy trip.  I’m still in the early research stage so for now relying on store bought toothpaste & mouth rinse, face & body creams and have switched over to bar shampoo.  At the end of November I finally said goodbye to deodorant containing chemicals.  What I found out over many months and many different deodorants is that my armpits are super sensitive.  Googling armpit rash & bumps led me to sites that explained you have to detox your pits.  Only makes sense that your body has to get rid of the aluminum and chemicals it’s been ingesting for so many years.  On a crafting weekend away with gal pals we took time out to visit the Qualicum Beach Farmer’s Market.  A serendipitous chat with the owner of Green Diva Apothecary led to my problem.  She suggested I could be sensitive to deodorants with baking soda as the main ingredient.  Now I’m using a sage lavender blend with baking soda at the bottom of the list.  Ta da — problem solved.  I sure wish I’d read this article in November.

https://branchbasics.com/blog/2018/02/how-to-detox-your-armpits-and-switch-to-a-nontoxic-deodorant/

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I’m not pretending to be an earth mother here.  There are still things in our bathroom and kitchen that are not eco friendly.  Definitely not good for fish or aquatic creatures should these things get into the water supply.  I’m making small and steady improvements being more mindful of the environment.  And enjoying making things from scratch with ingredients I can pronounce and understand.  Please tell me what you’ve learned along the way.  Feel free to share recipes and advice making your own homemade cleaning supplies and personal care items.

Love & Peace…

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Always up for an adventure, four generations piled into a logging road worthy truck and off we went on a Sunday drive to explore Vancouver Island North.  Son-in-law Justin asked where we wanted to go and our only request was not a lot of walking.  Makes sense when you’re traveling with an almost 2-year-old and a Great-Grandma with sore knees.

It’s an extremely windy road to Port Alice and unless I’m the one driving I’m usually a little green around the gills.  Not this time.  So distracted chatting and telling stories I was amazed how quickly we arrived.

I’m embarrassed to say it’s the first time I’ve been to the Port Alice mill site.  Twenty years on the North Island and I’d never been further than the village.  Neucel Specialty Cellulose closed in 2015 putting 400 people out of work.  Devastating to this small village they’ve lost people, shops and services but the spirit is still strong. There are plans underway for a community garden and a new marina to encourage tourism.

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An old dock and one of the many beaches in Port Alice located on Neurotsos Inlet

Next stop on our most excellent adventure was Link River which was definitely worth getting out of the truck for.  There’s a boat launch, campsites, gazebos with fire pits, and old school swing set.  There is no way the youngest of our group was going to let us walk past without some time on those swings.  Obviously there were visitors here during the Easter weekend and Justin found a plastic egg with a chocolate egg inside.  Along with a bunch of socks.  Strange what people leave behind 🤔

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Link River Regional Park

Thanks to our uber patient tour guide who didn’t mind the umpteen times one of us yelled, “stop the truck !!”  So many photo opportunities and most of the time I had no idea where we were.

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The signs above helped my sense of direction slightly but on logging roads the signs are mostly just numbers which don’t make sense to me.  Joking that we’d been to church Sunday morning and Devil’s Bath in the afternoon we hopped out of the truck to climb a few stairs to the lookout.  The pictures don’t do the enormous sinkhole justice at all.  I thought to myself that maybe taking a few of those trees would give visitors a better view.

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Miles and miles and miles of logging roads.  Most not visible from the highway and a world unto themselves.  We are so blessed that the logging companies allow access to recreational sites, lakes and rivers.  And there is so much history out in the bush.  Old mine sites like the Merry Widow and we drove past Benson Lake where an old miner named Bob Bennett hit the national news years ago after being rescued from a well.  The spunky octogenarian had been down there for 4 days and wondered what the fuss what all about when the RCMP dog found him.

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An interesting bit of logging history sitting on the side of the road

Here’s a map of “the loop.”  We were gone for 5 hours and covered a lot of ground.  It’s been a wonderful three weeks having my Mom visiting from Ontario.  Sadly she’s flying home in a few days but we’re planning our next adventures already.  We didn’t have time for the Eternal Fountain or Elephant Mountain so we’ll save that.

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Just one of the maps available on the Vancouver Island North Tourism website 

Spring is here now.  The temperatures are milder, trees are budding and spring flowers blooming.  Perfect for adventure.

Hugs from the beach…

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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.

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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 😀

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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 before 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 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?

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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.

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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.

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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 😉

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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.

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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.

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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 to “Auld Lang Syne.”  Magic 💕

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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 things. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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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