BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Friday, September 28, 2012

A beacon in the night

This weekend my mother came for a visit, so we narrowed our list of chores down to a few gardening jobs and some car-based shopping. 

Aside: Car-based shopping is something we like to indulge in whenever a car comes to stay at our house (don't worry we buy gas!). Though Brad is now a member of the Victoria Car Share Co-op, it still costs more than a free car. At the moment we don't pay any monthly membership fee, so rental (including gas and insurance) is $8.50/hour.  Next summer we'll probably want to get out and about, but cycling with a young baby is not that safe, so we'll probably move to a $15/month membership and usage will only cost $3.10/hour.

Having visitors always leads to a holiday-like feel. This weekend we did two big touristy-activities.  One required us to drag Nikolai along under the duress of constant threats and bribes, and the other activity had us running after him in his enthusiasm.  I'll let you guess which activity was which!

The James Bay Art Walk: I was surprised to discover that there are so many artists in James Bay (of varying caliber and type). The art was all very interesting, and everyone seemed to have fairly unique styles.  However, I will have to admit my favorite part of the art walk was that it involved going to the artists "space".  Since many of the artists appeared to be rather well off retirees, we got to tour some pretty amazing gardens and homes.  I was thrilled to discover that my absolutely FAVORITE house in James Bay was showing off some very modern art (140 Government). 

Fisgard Lighthouse (and Fort Rodd Hill): Officially we drove out to Colwood to hit Lee Valley for an extendable fruit picker/pruner. But a quick look at Google maps for directions showed a large National Heritage Site just down the road from Lee Valley, so we decided to make an afternoon of it.  At just $3.80 per adult as an entrance fee, this site was well worth the money.  Although I wouldn't recommend it on a cloudy wet day, we are lucky enough to still be living under the sunny skies of a drought.

Our goal was really just to see the Fisgard Lighthouse (the oldest lighthouse on the west coast); however, apparently someone decided to put an army barracks in the way.  In general the Fort lacked any real history. Having toured Forts all over Europe, I've come to expect at least a few battle scars to provide historical context.  Given the lack of interpretive signage I imagine that it got absolutely NO action, ever.  But it did serve as a giant territorial dog marking to protect BC; first from the Americans and then from the Japanese.  Basically it was a giant cement bunker, without much historical significance.  Nikolai did like poking his nose into all the random supply rooms, and he enjoyed looking at the ridiculously large cannon (the only real information plaque was all focused on how difficult it was to get that cannon mounted into place).
By comparison, the Lighthouse was great! It was filled with all these "display" crates that you could open up to see what the lighthouse keeper would have read, eaten, worn. They had an interactive boat steering computer game, where Nikolai (and I) sailed a ship into Esquimalt harbour.  They also had an interactive display about how lighthouse beacons work.

But the best part about the Lighthouse would have to be the fact that it is adjacent to a "Pirate Island".  Since our local coastline is also dotted with such rocky Pirate Islands, Nikolai has become a fairly competent climber, and any chance to explore a new Island mustn't be missed!
Yes, I'm getting a belly...
The view from the lighthouse was expansive.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We can't return we can only look behind from where we came

Sometimes life offers up a crisis of faith... and being pregnant means that these crises often centre around my maternal instincts.  My latest crisis comes from an innocuous question asked by a friend living far away, "how are you doing up the nursery?"  Now anyone who knows my living situation realizes that a two-bedroom place does not have room for a nursery.  In fact, Nikolai only got a bedroom this past weekend... prior to this he was sleeping in a crib in our bedroom.

Voila, the crisis of faith.  Because, what kind of parents are we that our four-year old kid is sleeping in a crib in the corner of our bedroom?  It leads to other questions about our lack of normalcy... like why don't we have a car? or matching cutlery? or any of the things that I was told by various Parenting magazines that we need to be a good family.  And the answer boils down to one thing... our belief in the importance of having a parent stay at home... namely me!

In this day and age it's a luxury to be able to stay at home with Nikolai (and the baby in my tummy), but it is a luxury that we can only just afford.  It means that nearly everything we own is secondhand, and we live in a rented two-bedroom suite.  But it also means that we have time to spend playing with Nikolai, gardening, cooking meals from scratch, and indulging in the very Martha Stewart side of my personality.  So I must take heart, and reassure myself that we are ok with our chosen lifestyle. 

It is just an economic truth that most families must contend with... and I'm sure that we all struggle with such a crises in faith, whether we choose to go back to work or stay home. So I'm feeling a bit more bolstered now. And here are some photos that can stand as evidence for the fact that Nikolai and I do get to spend our days having fun together, and I will allow them to sooth the soul of a crazy-hormonal-pregnant lady.

First a picture of the boat pond with the pirate ship that Nikolai and I built.
And of course, we have spent endless hours picking blackberries along the side of the ocean.
As for my domestic side... here is the sweater vest that I knit for Nikolai's winter wardrobe (he loves sweater vests... and chose these colours).  We still are having t-shirts and sandals weather, and I couldn't convince Nikolai to try on this thick wool sweater, so here it is being blocked on the table.

Lastly, I have made a warm Alpaca hat and sweater for the baby.  A December birth is sure to require some extra warm wear.  Now can you guess what Brad saw on the ultrasound?  (It was later confirmed by the ultrasound report, so I'm not just knitting based on Brad's expertise!)
And for any knitters/crocheters out there... I highly recommend joining revelry.  I got all these patterns for free... but I mainly love the fact that I can see how the pattern knits up based on reviews, ratings and posted photos. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Architects may come and architects may go

For my birthday, Brad gave me a gift certificate for a tour of Victoria run by the Architectural Institute of BC.  We then looked at our available weekends and found ourselves with out any real choices, so we ended up on an Ecclesiastical Tour (other options include: James Bay, Inner harbour, Fort Victoria, Chinatown and Art Deco).  The tour was pretty good, and had us trekking all over town.  The tour guide was a knowledgeable architecture student, who wasn't opposed to being picked up by one of the guys on the tour. (He managed to talk her into going out for a coffee with him after the tour, so I suspect that she viewed such events as a job perk).

The tours are just $10 each, and all require a decent amount of walking.  Apparently we went on the most difficult walk, and the tour guide encouraged us to bring Nikolai along on the next one. (We'd sent him off to Grampy's house for the afternoon). 

As for my review of the Ecclesiastical Tour... well... apparently all the original churches burnt down.  The new churches were all built after the late 1800's, and some weren't even completed until about 20 years ago (you may sit on lofty ground Christchurch Cathedral, but I know that you are newly built on an old cemetery).  Furthermore, we weren't actually allowed into any of the churches.  In the end, I would have to say that our view of the tour was a bit spoiled by having seen so many churches in Ireland.  However, I am keen to try out one of the other tours next summer!

Above is a picture of Alix Goolden Hall (formerly a Methodist Church).  Nikolai and Brad were there for the Victoria Conservatory of Music open house last weekend.  Below is the Church of Our Lord, Victoria's oldest church (and the only remaining wooden church).
Now for a recipe that is not really related to the blog topic. I have been meaning to share my go-to recipe for a Nikolai friendly snack.  The photo is of cookies we made during the Royal Jubilee Celebrations for Queen Elizabeth.  Claire gave us official HM crown cookie cutters, so we were official in our celebrations!

This is a cookie that stays soft, and never seems to go stale.  However, I will admit that it's not very sweet.  I have tried to sweeten it a bit by glazing it in honey, but that only seemed to make the cookie sticky on the outside.  I think that I will try adding chopped up raisins to my next batch (if I left the raisins whole they would be picked out of the cookie and I would find myself eating the raisin-less remainders).

Honey Rye Cookies
(aka Russian Rye Cookies)

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).  Cream 3 tbsp of honey and 2 tbsp of butter.  Then beat in 2 large eggs and 1 tbsp of yogurt (sour cream, etc).  Add in 2 cups of rye flour and 1/2 tsp of baking soda.  You can then chill before rolling, but I'm often too lazy and I roll it right away by using a lot of flour on my rolling surface.  Roll it to a 1/4" thick, and cut out the cookies.  You can also glaze it with an egg and sprinkle on some sugar if you want to make it prettier.

Bake it until the underside is turning golden brown (about 10 min).  If you prefer a firmer cookie, then allow it to sit out overnight.  They are lovely dunked into a nice hot drink.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Let's go back to the coast

As the long days of summer come to a close, and Nikolai is (finally) going back to preschool, I have decided to touch on the highlight of summer in Victoria, the beaches.  And finding a beach of some sort is a very easy task, since we are on a peninsula of an island.

Obviously our most frequented beach is the one that is four blocks away called Fondo beach.  It is basically a beach of pebbles and washed up logs.  Though it is not a great beach for swimming, it does offer plenty of opportunities for Nikolai to pursue his favorite activity... putting the rocks (kelp & sticks) back into the ocean.  It also has a great view of the Olympic mountains, and all of the boat traffic going through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 
Just a little further along the coast (across from Beacon Hill Park) are rocky cliffs that open up into granite plateaus.  These little coves all have the same views as Fondo beach, but they leave you with the feeling of being a castaway.  Mainly populated by people in bikini's sunning themselves and pot smokers with guitars, we enjoy the challenge of climbing around on the rocky surfaces and exploring all the sea life in the tidal pools.  (Though I admit that this pregnant lady maybe pushed it a bit far on Monday when I tried to scale around the rock face to "take a shortcut" to Fondo beach.  As the intertidal area got narrower and steeper, I was eventually forced to give up and turn back.  My hips and back thoroughly punished me for my excesses.)

There are many, many rocky beaches in Victoria.  And there are two notable sandy beaches, both just a short bike ride away.  Gonzales bay is a smaller sand beach that isn't really car friendly, so it is a good place to go to escape the crowds.  By comparison, Willows Beach is THE beach in the city.  It has a Tea house (mainly selling hotdogs and ice cream, though I guess you could get tea there... but I probably wouldn't recommend drinking it!)  It has bathrooms, parking, a playground, and a huge amount of waterfront real estate.  There is plenty of space for everyone. 

As for inland beaches, we didn't managed to get to any of those popular locations this summer.  All of them are a longer bike ride away, and I just was not up to the challenge.  Thetis Lake and the Sooke Potholes are both good swimming places, and Elk Lake is best known for rowing (though you can swim there too).

This past weekend, we took Dylan and Nancy for a bike ride to Willows Beach and had, what will likely be, our last sand castle making day of the year.  We also took Dylan and Nancy to see a very accessible version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed in a tent on the cliffs overlooking Fondo Beach.  It was the first year that the Victoria Shakespeare Society used this venue, and I imagine they will do things differently next year. The back of the stage was open to the mountain views, which was pretty great to look at... until the sunset and temperatures dropped.  Luckily, I had been warned when I bought my tickets so we were well dressed and had some wool blankets with us.  Even so, more blankets were gratefully accepted when they were handed out during the intermission. 

Above is a photo from Fondo Beach (from a flash back to March).  That little rocky ledge is what I tried to cross around with Nikolai in tow.  He could have made it, but my belly wasn't co-operating with me. The photos below are from Willow's Beach this weekend.