Vancouver Island Travel Guide: Tofino and Ucluelet

Hi! It’s Em here with Part 4 of our Vancouver Island Travel Guide! (You can read Parts 1, 2, and 3 here). Just in case you haven’t been following avidly along with my overgramming of shots from our Canada trip last summer, here’s the rundown: Mr Olive, myself and our two kidlets (age 2 and 4) spent last August on an epic road trip around Vancouver Island and the Rockies (in a Winnebago!). It was an incredible experience for all of us, both the travelling itself and the intense family time it gave us, and I’ve been sharing our adventures here at Olives and Peaches, along with recommendations for the places we visited. Today I want to tell you about Tofino and Ucluelet, two neighbouring towns on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island.

The Island’s west coast is different from the east. While the east looks out onto the mostly calm Georgia Strait, the body of water separating the Island from mainland Canada, the rugged west coast is pummeled by the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. In general the west coast is much less populated and the beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park are vast and open to the elements.

Of the two towns, Tofino is the recognized tourist destination. Well-known internationally for its world-class surfing beaches and young nomadic population, it’s where the surfer girls and boys flock to and where you’ll find all the best coffee shops, pizza joints and places to get your board waxed (or maybe surfers wax their own boards? Ok, I’m clearly not a gurfer. Which means girl surfer. And, yes, I did Google that).

IMG_1863.jpg

Because Tofino is such a tourist hotspot, we had trouble finding high season accommodation there for our family of four, even 3 months in advance. So we decided to check out Ucluelet instead, a half hour’s drive down the coast. Ucluelet is traditionally considered to be more of a working fishing village than trendy Tofino, but it’s clearly developing a flourishing tourist industry all of its own: everywhere I approached was booked up. On the upside, everybody was also keen to direct me to their brother / neighbour / mother-in-law who also rented out rooms… and who also turned out to be booked up!

The moral? Book your accommodation for either of the two towns a good six months or so in advance, since the most special places get bagged early. And most of the not-so-special places too. Luckily (finally) we ended up finding a delightful and reasonably priced little cabin resort right on the edge of Ucluelet. The self-catering resort is called Little Beach and takes its name from the sheltered sandy cove located across the quiet street. Hooray!

Little Beach is also walking distance from the start of the Wild Pacific Trail, one of Pacific Rim National Park’s must-do hikes. We did the Lighthouse Loop section of the trail, which follows the rocky coastline through stretches of temperate rainforest to the Amphitrite Lighthouse. The trail was easy with dramatic views out over the ocean. Unfortunately, we spotted neither whales nor mermaids. But there’s always next time. The other hike we did was the Rainforest Trail, much of which is along a wooden boardwalk suspended above the ground, deep among giant cedars draped with moss. Both hikes were lovely and definitely doable with kiddos.

IMG_1890.jpg

IMG_1903.jpg

There are several famous beaches along the stretch of coastline between Tofino and Ucluelet. Chesterman Beach is one of them: a wide stretch of sand wonderful for strolling along. We were there on an overcast day and it was fun to look out to sea at the surfers, and watch the waves crash against the several small islands that decorate the coastline. In the winter Chesterman Beach is a favourite spot for storm watching and there are many beautiful accommodation options overlooking the beach (did I mention book early? Yes I did).

IMG_1909.jpg

image (9).jpg

The other must-visit beach is the aptly named Long Beach. Bordered by old-growth forest and over 16km in length, Long Beach is the longest stretch of beach in the Pacific Rim National Park, and its extreme waves (especially in winter) have made it one of the most popular surfing locations in British Columbia. Strewn with driftwood and seaweed, it’s great for walking and beach-combing. When we were there we found small forts built from logs and driftwood up and down the beach, and it was entertaining to watch the surfers and kite-flyers doing their thing. For us, it was the first sunny day after a few days of rain and clouds and neither Sophie nor Tom could resist running into the (freezing) sea, going crazy in the waves and then rolling in the sand until they looked like a couple of little schnitzels.

IMG_1914.jpgIMG_1919.jpgIMG_1921.jpg

After removing the kids’ crumb coating, towelling them off and bundling them up, we set off for Tofino to stroll the streets and find a place to eat dinner. The town is full of young travellers from all over the world and seeing all those kids with their backpacks reminded me of the big New Zealand trip that I did in my twenties (the trip on which Mr Olive and I met!). Speaking of Kiwis, they seemed to like Tofino too, since they almost exclusively made up the service staff at the cute little pizza place where we ate dinner, Tony’s Pizza! The pizza was great, the kids were happy and we were happy that they were happy. Win-win-win!

IMG_1945.jpg

Although this is technically a Tofino-Ucluelet post I can’t not mention an extremely successful pitstop we made on the way back across the Island, at utterly glorious Sproat Lake near the town of Port Alberni. It was one of those unplanned stops which really end up being a trip highlight – partly because the weather had suddenly turned amazing and partly because of the awesome natural beauty of the lake and its surroundings. It was such a joy to see the kids running into the crystal clear water to paddle and afterwards picnicing in the sunshine at the lake’s edge.

We loved the magnificent natural scenery of Vancouver Island’s west coast and the laid-back hippie vibe of Tofino and Ucluelet. These two towns were also significant to us as they marked the end of the Vancouver Island portion of our Canada trip, before we picked up our Winnebago and headed off to the Rockies! Look out for our next Canada trip post coming soon!

Kids’ Art Collage DIY

This was a DIY I came up with to solve two problems. We had a large piece of wall art centre stage in our living room and, although I didn’t hate it, I just wasn’t feeling the love for it anymore. We picked it out when we first moved to Tel Aviv but, seven years later, the style didn’t feel right and the colours were definitely all wrong for our space. This is it (please avert your eyes from the clutter of toys on the shelf beneath – or don’t and feel relieved that yours is not the only family that struggles with toy-narchy):

IMG_3897.jpg

In addition, our little Sophie (age 4) has turned into quite a fabulous artist in the past few months. I love her drawings (mainly figures in profile with crazy hair flying out behind them, which I’ve just realized also describes the picture I replaced – spooky!) but it was getting hard to know what to do with them all. I found this article super helpful as it provides a system for sorting through and storing your kids’ artwork. I now have a file folder AND a rotating display in the kids’ bedroom AND a few months ago I also chose some of Sophie’s best pieces and mailed them to her grandparents and some other family members. Win-win-win, right? I know. I surprised myself. The rest get (not too guiltily) recycled.

And then I came across this picture and I became weirdly obsessed with the piece of artwork on the left-hand wall. A very simple framed collage of kids’ artwork, but look how pretty and sweet it is. I decided to make my own!

This DIY involved both spray-painting the picture frame and making the collage to go inside it. In the past I’ve often bought cheap frames or already-framed pictures at the flea market and I’ve found that painting the frames can really give the artwork a new lease of life. It’s also a way to create harmony between a group of pictures or between the art and the rest of your decor. If you’ve never spray-painted picture frames before you can use steps 1 and 2 of this tutorial, regardless of whether you intend to make the collage or not. 🙂

Kids collage materials.jpg

Supplies:

  1. Scrap paper – newspaper is fine, or you can do what I did and cut up used grocery bags.
  2. Masking tape
  3. Scissors
  4. Spray paint in the colour of your choice. I used Rustoleum Ultra Cover Paint + Primer. If your spray paint does not have a built-in primer you will need a separate primer.
  5. Paper to form the backing of your collage – I used brown craft paper.
  6. Glue stick
  7. White card stock to make a picture mat.
  8. Watercolour paints and paintbrush (optional)
  9. Cutting mat (not pictured)
  10. X-acto knife (not pictured)
  11. Ruler (not pictured)
  12. An old picture frame (not pictured)
  13. A selection of your kid’s beautiful artwork!

Note: working with spray paint is rather messy and the fumes can be dangerous. If you have the option, I would recommend doing the painting part of this project outside. We live in an apartment so I just did it on the floor of my laundry room with all the windows open. Take anything you don’t want to get covered in paint dust out of your work area and cover your surface with a sheet – I used an old shower curtain.

kids collage steps.jpg

Step 1: Measure the glass front of your picture frame so you know how big your collage needs to be, then go ahead and cover the glass with scrap paper and tape down carefully. Make sure there are no gaps where the glass peeks through.

Step 2: Follow the instructions on your spray paint and spray the picture frame with as many coats as is needed to get a smooth and even finish. Don’t forget to spray the sides of the frame and the thin strip where the frame meets the glass. The Rustoleum Ultra Cover paint I used includes a primer but I still needed to do about 6 coats, with a few minutes drying time between each coat. I then waited an hour until the frame was dry enough to handle and did one final coat.

Step 3: While the frame is drying you can make your collage. Measure and cut out a piece of paper the same size as the glass part of the frame. If your frame is large you may need to tape several pieces of paper together, as I did. Don’t worry about how it looks: this is just going to be the backing for the collage and won’t be visible. Select your favourite pieces of kid’s artwork – I chose pieces in colours that match our living room decor. Take some time to arrange the drawings on the backing paper, bearing in mind that the edges closest to the frame will be covered by your picture mat. Then take a phone photo so you don’t forget where you put the drawings! (True story). Carefully glue them in their places using the glue stick.

Step 4: Create a mat for your collage using white card stock. This will be a nice border for the picture and creates a more professional-looking finish. I made my mat 5cm wide on each side but you could make yours wider or narrower depending on the overall dimensions of your piece. I cut mine out using a cutting mat and an X-acto knife to get a good straight line. Use the glue stick to glue the mat around the edge of the collage.

IMG_3969.jpg

Sophie admiring her work 🙂

Watercolour picture mat.jpg

Step 5: This step is optional but I found that the white frame, together with the white mat and the collage, which itself contains a lot of white space, combined to create a piece that looked, to use Mr Olive’s phrasing, “a bit anemic”! I created some added contrast and interest by painting watercolour dots on the mat and I think they did the trick! Also, they’re pink, so… (#ihavethisthingwithpink). All you have to do now is put your collage in its frame and hang it in pride of place on your wall!

IMG_4016.jpg

So there you have it! You’ve replaced a piece of art you felt kind of ‘meh’ about with one that you love, and you’ve found a great solution for what to do with (at least a small proportion of) that tsunami of kids’ drawings you were drowning in. But, really, the best part of this project is the fact that for years to come, your kid will be able to see her or his artwork displayed prominently on your wall and know that their creativity is valued and loved. Awwww!

Picking up a pen…

Who doesn’t love going to get the post and finding a letter or a card, or even better, a little parcel from a friend or family member that you were not expecting? There is something so lovely about knowing that someone took the time to sit down and tell you just a little something about their day, or what is happening in their life at that moment. There is also something really nice about receiving something tangible and real – a piece of paper that they have touched that is now in your hands.

fullsizeoutput_ffd.jpeg

February is International Correspondence Writing Month or INCOWRIMO. I have decided to participate this year. So what does this mean? It means that I am committed to writing one letter or card every day for the entire month – that’s 28 cards or letters to people I love and care about (though I am sure that this number will also include a few letters and cards to people in Washington DC expressing my displeasure about a few things too!)

fullsizeoutput_1000.jpeg

Letters really do have the power to change history. Just a few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast about something or other and it included a story about the passage of the 19th amendment to the US constitution that gave women the right to vote. I won’t spoil the story for you, suffice it to say that a letter to a young legislator from his good old mum played a pretty critical role in women in the United States having the right to vote! If you are looking for more inspiration for writing a good missive, check out some of these famous correspondents. My favorite – Edward Gorey.

fullsizeoutput_1002

I will keep you posted (get it?  posted?  haha!) on my progress! In the meantime, who would you most like to receive a letter or card from today? Is it me? Let me know (by mail, please!)

Love, Ave xox

Damascene lentil soup (Shourba Addas)

There is no food quite as good to me as food from the Levant. In 1999 – 2000 I spent a year living in Damascus, Syria (where I met Mr. Peach, in fact) and soon after arriving found the most amazing restaurant – Al Shamiat. My roommates and I would go to Al Shamiat at least four times a week after class for lunch. Everything they made was simple but delicious and I have spent the last decade and a half trying to recreate the flavors that I found in that little hole in the wall.

fullsizeoutput_ff6

One recipe that I was able to approximate pretty easily and early on was their yellow lentil soup or Shourba Addas. This golden, creamy soup is filling and delicious and could not be easier to make. Plus, kids (at least mine) love it which makes it a good go-to for a winter’s day, or as a quick after work supper. What’s especially nice about this soup is that it is thick, seeming like a blended soup, but there is no need for that extra step – after about 40 minutes of simmering, the lentils turn into a gorgeous emulsion all by themselves.

fullsizeoutput_ff4

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and keep an eye out for other Damascene recipes on Olives and Peaches – helping to keep a few of the delicious traditions of beautiful Syria alive seems the least we can do right now.

fullsizeoutput_ff5

Ingredients

3 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 small onions (or one large), diced
1/2 tbsp of turmeric
400g/2 cups of split yellow lentils, rinsed
2 bayleaves
2 ltr./8 cups chicken stock
Juice of half a lemon

To serve – lemon wedges, pita chips and chopped parsley

Method:

1. In a heavy pot, melt the butter and add the olive oil to prevent the butter from burning.

2. Add the diced onions, stirring occasionally. Cook until translucent and tender.

3. Add turmeric, stirring to coat the onions so that they are a beautiful golden color and the turmeric is fragrant (about 1 minute)

4. Add the rinsed lentils, stirring well so that they are coated in the butter, onion, turmeric concoction (about 1 minute)

5. Stir in stock – this can be done all in one go, no need to be delicate.

6. Throw in the bayleaves. Go on. Throw them.

7. Bring to the boil and then simmer on low for about 35 – 40 minutes or until the lentils are completely tender, and have lost their shape and the soup is thick. Give it a stir every 10 minutes or so – lentils can sort of sink to the bottom of the pot and if you aren’t paying attention, burn.

8. Serve piping hot with some chopped parsley as garnish and pita chips and lemon wedges on the side.

The Olive Branch: January

So the first month of 2017 has come and gone and if the photos I’ve taken this month are anything to go by, it seems like our January was mainly filled with baking sweet treats, eating aforementioned treats and then hiking in the countryside to make our bodies think the sweet treats never happened.

img_3435-2

At the beginning of the month I shared my go-to cookie recipe: Chocolate Chip Raisin Oat Cookies. Yummy, simple to make and not even really all that bad for you (ignore the butter, ignore the butter… what? Of course I wasn’t trying to send you a subliminal message). Bake up a batch and then you won’t have to offer your guests your kids’ Pez sweets as refreshment.

img_3541

Also, I tidied up Sophie and Tom’s shared bedroom so I could share this Kids’ Room Tour and it stayed tidy from the exact moment I finished tidying it until the exact moment the kids entered it. Sisyphus, I feel ya.

IMG_3461.jpg

We took a couple of lovely trips out of the city. This one was our hike at Yaqum Lake in the centre of Israel. It’s a lake that only exists in the winter, after the rains begin. Tom enjoyed scanning the wide skies for airplanes.

IMG_3697.jpg

I bought a new plant! Such an indulgence, I know. It’s a Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sanseviera) and here it is peeking out from behind the lamp. Apparently it’s one of those ones that’s impossible to kill. We’ll see. Already this month we had some crazy strong winds which literally dislodged our window boxes and smashed them onto the ground below (we live on the fourth floor). Only the lemon geranium survived… sniff sniff.

IMG_3618.jpg

We did another trip up to the Carmel region to Ramat Hanadiv, a nature park with formal gardens and a separate wilder section with hiking trails. We loved the rose garden, which was in full bloom – it’s always funny for me to see flowers and plants that I associate with summer thriving in the Mediterranean winter! By the way, the pink roses smelled the sweetest. No surprise there then. #ihavethisthingwithpink

IMG_3778.jpg

In important family news, Mr Olive’s sister gave birth to their first baby and I’m so looking forward to all the cuddles! I baked this Vegan Chilled Chocolate Torte with Toasted Hazlenut Crust to celebrate (my sister-in-law and her husband are vegan so we eat a lot of plant-based food in our family). I based the recipe on one from the first Oh She Glows cookbook (which was a gift from Ave, incidentally ♥ ♥ ♥ ). Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to post the recipe!

img_3765

And finally, right at the tail end of the month, I finally got round to posting the recipe for Savta Clara’s Tomato, Carrot and Rice Soup. It’s a winter warmer that packs a lemony peppery punch and it’s an old family recipe passed down by Mr Olive’s granny. Generations of soup-lovers can’t be wrong!

Apart from that I went on a girls’ karaoke night, had a date night with Mr Olive, added a few more rows to a scarf I’m knitting (first ever knitting project – wish me luck!), signed a fair few petitions – no need to guess the subject 😦 – and, as always, did a sh*tload of laundry!

So how about you? How was your start to 2017?

Em xx