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!

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

Savta Clara’s Tomato, Carrot and Rice Soup

Back in November I posted a recipe for Savta Shifra’s Vegetable Soup, the best vegetable soup out there, in my opinion! Now, as promised, I’m back with a soup recipe from a different Savta (‘savta’ means ‘granny’ in Hebrew). Savta Clara was Mr Olive’s granny on his mother’s side and her famous winter soup is a winner: a zingy combination of tomato, carrot and rice with an energizing hit of lemon, pepper and fresh herbs.

IMG_3726.jpg

Forget your sweet cloying Cream of Tomato (although I do have a soft spot for the Heinz tinned kind!); Savta Clara’s tomato soup is an entirely different beast. Despite the satisfying addition of rice, this soup feels light, invigorating, rejuvenating. I kind of see it as the vegetarian equivalent of the classic clear chicken noodle soup. If you’re suffering from the winter woozies and you’re not a chicken soup fan, THIS is the soup recipe you need to get you high-kicking again. I’m actually eating a bowl of it as I write this, and, wow, is it ever clearing my sinuses!

IMG_3730.jpgIMG_3734.jpg

A little background on Clara: she was born in 1917 in Bacău, a town in the east of Romania. She was a mischievous child and, by her own account, rather tested her parents’ patience. “If they threw me out the door, I’d come back in through the window,” she said. “And if they threw me out the window, I’d climb back in down the chimney.” Clara always loved to travel and she first visited Israel in her early 20s. While there she studied agriculture under the Meshek Hapoalot scheme, which prepared young immigrant women for their new non-traditional roles as farm labourers in the kibbutz and moshav communities.

2017-01-25 11-58-15.jpg

On finishing her program, she returned to Romania, where she married her hardworking and good-hearted husband, Itzchak, and gave birth to their first daughter, Nurit. But in 1950 Clara returned to Israel with her family, this time for good. They lived first in the north of the country before eventually settling in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv. They had a wide social circle, mostly composed of other immigrants from Romania, and every Friday evening they would meet with friends to listen to music, dance and play cards.

2017-01-25 11-50-21.jpg

Clara was known for her ‘golden hands’ and her ability to excel at all kinds of crafts including sewing, knitting and embroidery. My mother-in-law, Irit, describes her as a serious but sweet and loving mother with exceptional organizational and culinary skills, and she and Mr Olive often recall their regular Saturday meal at Savta Clara’s, when she would serve borsht, peppery schnitzel and kasha.

img_3742

img_3744-2

img_3748-2

And, of course, this Tomato, Carrot and Rice Soup. Warming and comforting, with a kick of citrus, this is the soup that Mr Olive requests on dark rainy winter days, especially when he’s got a touch of the Man Flu. And now you can enjoy it too! Sniffles optional 🙂

img_3764

Savta Clara’s Tomato, Carrot and Rice Soup

MAKES 1 POT

PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: 35-40 MINS

Thanks to my mother-in-law, Irit, for passing this recipe down to me and for sharing stories of her mother, Clara.

Ingredients

3 medium carrots

1 medium onion

2 tbsp olive oil

One large handful each of fresh parsley, dill and celery leaf, including stalks (do not chop the herbs)

500 ml / 2 cups tomato juice

100g / 1/2 cup white rice

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt, black pepper and sugar to taste

Method

  1. Boil the kettle.
  2. Coarsely grate one of the carrots and slice or finely chop the other two.
  3. Finely chop the onion.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the vegetables, cover, and sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Pour boiling water into the pot, to about the halfway mark.
  6. Add the bunches of parsley, dill and celery leaves and cover.
  7. Bring to the boil and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Then, using kitchen tongs, remove the herbs and discard.
  8. Add the tomato juice and bring to the boil again.
  9. Add the rice, cover, and simmer on a low heat for 5-10 minutes, until the rice is cooked.
  10. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar. You can afford to be generous with the lemon and pepper, since the citrus and heat are what gives this soup so much zing and pep!
  11. Treat yourself to a big bowlful on a dark and rainy winter day.

 

 

Vancouver Island Travel Guide: Campbell River

Hi friends, it’s Em back again with the third installment in our Vancouver Island Travel Guide! To recap, last summer Mr Olive and I took our kids and two suitcases and traveled more than 10,000 kilometers across the world to Canada for a month-long road trip around Vancouver Island and the Rocky Mountains. Bonkers decision? Possibly! One of the best decisions we’ve ever made? Definitely! In this post I’m going to share about our visit to Campbell River, a small fishing town on the east coast of the island, which claims to be The Salmon Capital of the World! (You can read about our visits to charming Victoria and beautiful Nanaimo here.)

In Campbell River we stayed at Oyster Bay Resort, a wooden chalet resort whose website boasts an ocean view from the deck of each chalet – which there is. The only problem is that Island Highway 19A cuts right through that view, only a few metres from the porch! Hmmm. Despite the not exactly pastoral location of the resort, it does have some great things to recommend it. The pine chalets themselves are large and quite beautiful in design. They are also well-equipped with full kitchens for self-catering, a very real advantage when travelling with children whose palates are, let’s say, rather conservative (I didn’t get to taste any of that famous Campbell River salmon since no-one else was willing to eat it! Boo!).

IMG_1829.jpg

Campbell River has great access to some wonderful pristine coastline. In fact, my main motivation for adding the region to our itinerary was the memory of a couple of superb beaches I had visited with my parents and Canadian family on holidays as a kid. On this trip we had considered staying at the Miracle Beach campground (in order to recreate a memorable camping trip from my childhood – vast star-filled night skies and uninhibited hot dog consumption are what I mainly remember) but we ended up thinking better of it because of the inconvenience of having to carry camping equipment around with us for an entire month just for a couple of nights worth of tent camping.

Still, I wanted to visit Miracle Beach itself, which was a short drive south of our accommodation. It was a gloomy and overcast day, but we rolled up our trousers and had the best time playing in the shallow breakers and the tide pools. We dug in the wet sand and made heart shapes out of rocks until the rain started to fall and we returned to our chalet for Tom’s nap.

IMG_1835.jpg

IMG_1842.jpg

The skies cleared later that afternoon and we set out again for the second beach on our list: Saratoga Beach, also located south of downtown Campbell River. The sky was enormous, the tide was way out and the sand was damp and perfect for drawing and building things (and by ‘things’ I mean mermaids). Saratoga is a beautiful long, wide stretch of beach and the kids had all the space they needed and more for running amok.

img_1855

We stayed for two nights at Campbell River before continuing on to our next destinations, Ucluelet and Tofino on the wild Pacific coast of the island. There is no direct road joining Campbell River on the east coast with Ucluelet on the west so it was necessary for us to return south along the east coast to Parksville and then take Highway 4, otherwise known as the Alberni Highway, west across the island.

While Tom napped in the car, we followed a route which took us alongside Macmillan Provincial Park and the small yet internationally significant example of old-growth forest known as Cathedral Grove. This stand of rare and ancient Douglas Fir trees is protected and preserved by the Parks authority and with good reason: these trees are giants. The tallest measures 75m in height and the widest 9m in circumference. Some are more than 800 years old. Cathedral Grove draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly from all over the world and, even on the wet and muddy day that Sophie and I were there, we were just two among the many tourists gazing up in awe at the faraway canopy above.

Hope you enjoyed visiting Campbell River with us! Next stops: Ucluelet and Tofino!

Kids’ Room Tour

I was, frankly, a little terrified about moving Sophie and Tom into their new beds. I was afraid of things that go bump in the night – nothing supernatural, just the telltale sound of a child falling out of bed and crashing to the floor. I was also filled with trepidation, imagining being woken in the witching hour by a toddler gleefully galloping around the house having realised that his new toddler bed is much lower to the floor and rather less confining than his cot was.

Kids room tour.jpg

But Tom, who, at two, can occasionally take a rather cavalier approach to health and safety, was starting to enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to climb out of his cot and up onto the changing table. And Sophie, at the age of four, was definitely ready to move out of her toddler bed and into a big girl bed.  It was time. Room makeover, baby!

Mr Olive and I went bed shopping and chose a classic white single bed for Sophie, locally made by HouseIn, a company that specializes in ‘healthy’, environmentally friendly solid wood furniture, free from toxic chemicals. Apparently, even their glue is based on soya protein. Yum! (Just kidding – don’t eat glue, friends!) We’re really pleased with the purchase and with the room restyle which, I think, has resulted in a simpler, less cluttered and more functional space.

Untitled-1.jpg

The room is a decent size but not exactly cavernous so it was important for us to keep the beds up against the walls and maintain the floor space in the middle of the room for playing.

kids room tour 2.jpg

The ‘It’s a Jolly Holiday’ banner is a DIY via this tutorial and is a tribute to our family’s Mary Poppins fixation. The goatbells hanging from the curtain rail were picked up by Mr Olive on his hiking trip in Greece last autumn.

img_3541

The Four Bears canvas print was a gift from my cool sister-in-law. The little wooden train at the front with the Hebrew letters was also a gift from friends and spells out ‘Tom’.

kids room tour 3.jpg

The paper cranes mobile was a DIY and the red dress hanging on the back of the door was a gift brought back from Singapore by my other cool sister-in-law (is it the job of sisters-in-law to be cool or what?).

IMG_3544.jpg

The shelving unit is the IKEA Lerberg, which I spray painted white. It’s great for stacking boxed toys. I also love large glass jars (placed safely out of reach) for all of those little plastic doodads the kids seem to magnetically attract – the jars corral it all, it actually looks kind of cute, and if the kids want something specific from a jar they just ask.

img_3572

We kept the existing colour scheme, a bright and gender-neutral combo of red, yellow, blue and pink. So far the kids haven’t had too much input into how the room is decorated (too young to give a monkey’s, basically) but I can feel that starting to change. Sophie’s new bedding was a surprise Christmas present but I knew she would love the fairytale unicorn design. And, boy, does she! Almost every night she asks me to keep the light on for one more minute so she can admire her duvet cover one last time. So cute!

The kids have shared a room since Tom was about seven months old and, altogether, it’s worked well. They wake each other up occasionally, but since Sophie generally acts like she’s trying to win a gold medal in competitive sleeping, it’s not usually a problem. I also think that room sharing supports sibling closeness and they do really seem to enjoy being together.

I’m super happy with the room’s new(ish) layout and a good side benefit is that it has forced me to do some toy purging and reorganization too. First world problems, I know. But most importantly, Sophie and Tom love their new beds, nobody has fallen out (yet) and, hey, if they get really hungry at night there’s always that soya protein bed glue to chew on. KIDDING!

OTHER PRODUCT SOURCES: Wall art – Society 6; Book display unit – IKEA hack; Curtains, white chest of drawers, mirror, white fluffy rug, pink flower light – IKEA; woven rug – Fox Home; pink unicorn bedding – ASDA George

Chocolate Chip Raisin Oat Cookies

These are my go-to cookies. I can make them without even looking at the recipe. Well, almost. Actually, I always look at the recipe. I’m pretty bad at remembering quantities of things. And counting. Let’s just say that I’ll never give Fermat a run for his money. Not at maths, anyway. I don’t know how he was at baking.

IMG_3443.jpg

The recipe in question comes from Julia Suddaby, one of my favourite artists, who also happens to be a delightful person and my mum’s best friend. I remember first eating (far too many of) these cookies as a child while visiting with Julia and her family at their home in the Essex countryside. They were such a hit with us kids on that visit that my mum copied down the recipe and started baking them for us. Now I bake them for my kids, for any kindergarten event where refreshments are required, for leaving parties, for unexpected guests, for expected guests, and just generally all the time, for no reason. Nobody ever gets bored of them and somebody always asks for the recipe.

IMG_3416.jpg

Julia’s original recipe source was Joy of Cooking, which she says was her favourite escapist reading material while living on a Belgian commune in 1975. She told me that the nostalgia of reading about 1950s American cocktail parties was the perfect balance to the environment in which she was then living, which she describes as, “the bohemian world of 1970s travellers and artistic Belgian aristocracy”.

img_3427

Despite not being very aristocratic, there are so many things to love about these cookies:

  1. They are absolutely, positively, unquestionably scrummy. Chocolatey, fruity, chewy, a little bit cakey, a little bit crumbly, and extremely satisfying without being overly rich or sweet.
  2. You don’t need any special equipment. Just a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a baking sheet.
  3. You are quite likely to have all or most of the ingredients in your cupboard already, which means you can have a batch baked and cooling on your counter (and smelling heavenly) within about 25 minutes. This is obviously a boon when you have people coming over for coffee in half an hour and nothing to offer them but Ninja Turtle Pez sweets. (This has never happened to me. Ok, this has definitely happened to me). Which brings me to…
  4. Even if you don’t have all the ingredients, the recipe is pretty forgiving. You can use just chocolate chips or just raisins or neither. You can sub nuts, seeds, desiccated coconut or whatever you fancy. I’ve made the cookies with flax egg and non-dairy butter for a vegan version. And I’ve made them with half self-raising and half all-purpose flour and they came out totally fine. Hooray for lenient cookie recipes!
  5. While they do contain a ton of butter (not literally – that would be gross), I would say they are on the healthy cookie spectrum. Only a half cup of brown sugar AND vast quantities of oats. In fact, you can rest safe in the knowledge that, while the butter may not be doing anything great for your cholesterol levels, the oats (as well as enhancing your immune system, providing wholegrain fiber, and protecting against heart disease) definitely are. So it all evens out in the end. Right? Right!

IMG_3429.jpg

The recipe has gone through a couple of changes on its journey from ’50s America to ’70s Europe to my little kitchen in Tel Aviv today. My original note-book scrawled recipe (entitled simply, ‘Cookies’, as if to emphasize that you really don’t need any other cookie recipe in your life), calls for margarine. I don’t tend to buy margarine and I like the rich flavour that butter brings to baking, but feel free to sub a trans-fat free margarine if that’s what rocks your casbah. I added a pinch of salt and some vanilla extract to the recipe because, you know. I give a quantity guideline here for the chocolate chips and raisins, although my original notes are unspecific and, to be honest, I usually just eyeball it.

And that’s it! If you don’t already have a go-to cookie recipe, then try these – maybe this is the ONE! And if you already have a go-to cookie recipe, then try these anyway! Because they are freaking delicious.

IMG_3436.jpg

Chocolate Chip Raisin Oat Cookies

MAKES APPROX. 16 COOKIES

PREPARATION AND BAKE TIME: 25-30 MINS

Ingredients

100g / 1/2 cup / 3.5 oz brown sugar

175g / 3/4 cup / 6.17 oz butter at room temperature

2 free-range eggs

128g / 1 cup / 4.5 oz self-raising flour

192g / 1.5 cups / 6.75 oz jumbo rolled oats

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

117g / 2/3 cup / 4.12 oz dark chocolate chips

100g / 2/3 cup / 3.5 oz raisins

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C (356F / Gas Mark 4).
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter, using a wooden spoon, until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs, flour, oats, salt and vanilla and mix until just combined.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and raisins and mix again. (Not too much.)
  5. Put rounded tablespoons of the mix onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes before gobbling them all up. The cookies will keep in an airtight container out of the fridge. I can’t say how long for because ours always mysteriously disappear before I have a chance to carry out my research. 😉

 

 

Vancouver Island Travel Guide: Nanaimo

You know how when one of your dreams comes true and you actually do something that you’d been dreaming and scheming about for years? And then, even months after you’ve done it you still can’t believe that you really did it and how amazing it was? That’s how I feel about our trip to Canada. Earlier this year our family spent a month travelling in Canada: two weeks on Vancouver Island, B.C., and two weeks Winnebago-ing around the Rockies. You can read my travel guide to charming Victoria, capital of British Columbia, here. But today I’m here to tell you about our escapades travelling up the east coast of Vancouver Island and hopefully impart some useful hints and tips along the way. Let’s go!

img_1785
View from the Malahat

Starting in Victoria and driving the Trans-Canada Highway up the east coast of Vancouver Island, you pass through the Cowichan Valley region, known for its lush vineyards and wineries. Sophie and Tom, being only 4 and 2 years old, are not big wine-drinkers, so we decided to skip the wine-tasting and focus on getting to our next destination, Nanaimo!  Nanaimo is about 1.5 hours drive north of Victoria and on the way it’s definitely worth stopping at the Malahat, a sacred mountain lookout point located on Malahat Drive, a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway 27km north of Victoria. The 356m high viewpoint is named after the Malahat First Nation for whom the mountain is a holy place. Legends tell that the mountain is the home of the Thunderbird and other supernatural beings venerated by the Salish People of the Pacific Northwest. The view from the lookout is spectacular and takes in the Salish Inlet and and the Salish Sea below.

IMG_1812.jpg
Graycliff Cottage B&B
IMG_1818.jpg
Graycliff Cottage Garden

In Nanaimo, we stayed at Graycliff Cottage Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast in Lantzville, a sweet suburb north-west of the town centre, conveniently close to the Woodgrove Shopping Center (for picnicking supplies and White Spot lunches – more about that in a minute!). The B&B is indeed located right on the oceanfront: the header image for this post shows the unobstructed sea view from the B&B’s backyard at dusk. The accommodation was probably the nicest of our entire trip – just the right combination of comfort, privacy, cute decor and cozy homeliness. The catloving owners, Jan and Warren, made us feel very welcome and cooked us yummy pancake breakfasts in the mornings. We chose to go crazy and take both of the Garden Suites so we had plenty of space for the four of us. The garden was lovely and filled with plum and apple trees and flowers (by the way, if anyone can identify the plant pictured above, I’d be mighty grateful – so far it falls into the category of ‘Enigmatic North American Plant that Nobody Recognizes’).

img_1790
Westwood Lake

Once we’d dropped off our luggage at the B&B we headed straight to beautiful Westwood Lake, west of downtown Nanimo. I’d remembered bathing there as a kid on visits to my grandparents’ when I’d loved the fresh water and the natural setting, with forest stretching right down to the water. Our return visit didn’t disappoint. It was a baking hot day at the beginning of August and I spent some time kicking myself on the shins about having left my bathing suit back at the B&B. But I guess someone had to stay on the beach with Tom, who was snoozing in his buggy. So I sat and sweated and gazed longingly at Sophie and Mr Olive as they splashed about in the cool water. When Tom woke up (extremely grouchy) we had a picnic and Sophie met a mermaid (well, a girl wearing one of those mermaid tails you can actually wear swimming), with whom she was greatly enamoured and still talks about four months later.

The next morning we found a playground a short walk from our B&B so that kept us amused until lunchtime (clarification: it kept the kids amused and them being amused kept us amused. Mr Olive and I are, unfortunately, past the stage where we can get turned on by slides and see-saws. Even if they are in the shape of airplanes and zebras). We had a lunch date with my grandma and aunt at the famous Canadian chain restaurant White Spot. While I must clarify that, in my normal life, I’m not big on the kind of fast food commonly served at North American chain restaurants (pizza doesn’t count, right?), I developed a bit of an obsession with White Spot while we were in Canada, which Mr Olive teased me about ceaselessly. The food was decent (we enjoyed the Candied Salmon Spinach Salad) but I think that my warm fuzzy feeling about the restaurant may also have been due to eating there with my elderly grandma and my aunt, who I hadn’t seen for years. Also, the fact that Sophie was spotted eating a hamburger there. Not just the bun. The actual burger. (I’m not saying she’s a picky eater, but…).

IMG_1802.jpg
View to mainland Canada from Pipers Lagoon Park
IMG_1810.jpg
Lovely red-barked Arbutus in Pipers Lagoon Park

Tom fell asleep on the drive back to Graycliff Cottage and I spent his naptime pretending to be a pirate trying to capture a mermaid called Sophie. Then it was off to wild and beautiful Pipers Lagoon, halfway between Lantzville and downtown Nanaimo, for a sunny windy walk along the shore, a short climb up a rocky hill and along a shady path winding between Garry Oaks and stunning Arbutus trees. Of course we kept our eyes peeled for mermaids along the way (you may be sensing a theme here…).

IMG_1820.jpg
Colourful lanterns hanging from the ceiling in Coombes Old Country Market

The next morning dawned rainy and we packed our bags and continued on up the coast towards Campbell River (all about Campbell River in our next travel post!). But on the way we stopped off at the famous Coombes Old Country Market. In my opinion, no visit to Vancouver Island is complete without a visit to the market, or just ‘Coombes’, as we like to call it (since the settlement seems to grown up around the market, rather than the other way round).

IMG_1822.jpg
Goats on the roof!

There is a whole complex of shops, restaurants, stalls, and covered areas, but the highlight is the market itself with its famous grassy roof on which goats graze. Yup, there are goats on the roof. The roof is covered with sod from which the grass grows, an idea inspired by Norwegian homes that are built directly into the hillside, where the sod roof becomes an extension of the hill itself. This is an environmentally sustainable way of building since the sod and grass provide insulation in winter and evaporation in summer. And you can put some goats up there too. So, like, win-win-win.

The market is a delightful cozy cavernous place filled with all kinds of interesting gourmet and exotic grocery items, a bakery, a coffee shop, a restaurant and a vast array of beautiful gift items, both locally made and imported. There is a particularly good selection of wooden toys, kind of a Waldorf wonderland. We ended up buying a little string of felt dwarves as a gift for Sophie’s Steiner kindergarten.

And let’s not forget the Nanaimo Bars! For those who have never encountered these delectable squares of sin, a Nanaimo Bar is essentially a three-layer cake bar consisting of a bottom Graham Cracker crumb layer, a middle layer of custard-flavoured buttercream and a top layer of chocolate. Basically an endorphin injection in bar form. We bought a bunch of ’em and proceeded to use them to alter the moods of our children over the next few days. Just kidding. But not really.

Nanaimo is my mum’s hometown and, for that reason alone, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I had many wonderful childhood visits there and our return trip this summer brought back lots of memories. I only wish we could have stayed longer! Till next time, Nanaimo…

Next stop: Campbell River!

 

Pouf Love: it’s a thing!

“You say pouf and I say floor cushion; you say tom-ey-to and I say tom-ah-to…” – wait, you mean that’s not how the song goes?! And do you say ‘ottoman’ or just plain and simple ‘footstool’? So confusing. Anyway…

I was looking back at my Pinterest boards and I realised that my love for poufs (floor cushions?) began three years ago and I’ve only just got myself one now. So that means I’ve been fantasizing about getting a pouf for THREE years! It’s not as if I was yearning for a Ferrari. I guess I’m just majorly into delayed gratification, even when it comes to something as relatively easily attainable as… whatever you call them.

img_2567But now… now, I have a pouf in my home and it’s ever so lovely. I wanted it for our living room so I knew it needed to fit in with my Valentine’s Day-esque colour scheme (our living room falls in the Relationships gua of our home, according to Feng Shui, so this inspired the colour story for this part of the house). I found a wonderful seller on Ebay called Multimate Collection, who sells floor cushion covers made from upcycled Indian saris. The seller emailed me a couple of options in the pinkish reddish tones I requested and I chose my favourite. When it arrived I took it to a local upholsterer here in north Tel Aviv and got him to make me a cushion to fit inside. And, boom! A pouf cushion! A floor-oman! An ottopouf? (Is this joke getting old?)

img_2971

It’s beautiful. The kids love bouncing on it. And you get a whole new seating option which is easily portable and much cheaper than forking out for an armchair – yay hooray!

IMG_2957.jpg

So what about you? Are you as enamored of sitting on the floor as I am (preferably with a comfy cushion under your bum)? Are you an ottoman lover? Or do you fall firmly into the chaise longue camp (there must be one, right)?