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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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):

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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Sophie admiring her work 🙂

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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!

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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!

Getting organized as a working mum

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I can always tell when I feel like things are spiraling a bit out of control in my life because I do one of three things.  I watch makeup tutorials on you tube (thanks Kandee Johnson and Pixiwoo!); I buy cosmetics; or, most frequently, I watch videos and look at photos of planners and notebooks on youtube and/or instagram.

It does seem weird I suppose to find other people’s organizational systems comforting in times of stress.  But I do.  And right now I am in one of those points where I am looking at these sites a lot and trying to get my own systems for keeping work and family life under control geared back up again. 

This year it’s been particularly tricky to feel on top of things because not only did little Felix arrive in February, but we also had a house fire that left us living in temporary accomodations for five months while we managed an unplanned renovation to our house (not something that one would normally do with a 3 month old!).  This, with going back to full-time work and just adjusting to life with a baby again has really put the old coping and organizational skills to work.  Oh yes, and did I mention that Mr. Peach is now making a career transition too?!  Oy Vey!  

Through all of this I have learned some things that have helped me to find a modicum of balance as a working mum of two small kids.  

(1) Write things down – I have the memory of a flea these days. I think it was better before babies, but I can’t remember.  I have to write everything down. Everything. I feel like my life is lists, but even though the lists can get long and complicated, it’s better than forgetting things.  It does require that you look at the list again after you write things down though.  Guess who learned that the hard way…

(2) Write things down in one place (two at most) – This seems obvious to me now, but having spent years and years writing things on little scraps of paper and in different notebooks, its become painfully clear that you need one place to write things down. Having one central place for everything, makes it much easier to stay on top of things. I think I first came across this idea from the flylady website (many years ago), but have since sort of adapted what I do a bit.  Now I use a hybrid “control journal” (which sounds dreary to me) and bullet journal which works very well for me as I use it for both work and personal stuff.  

(3) Make it pretty if it helps – I like my notebook or planner to look nice. Having my book be visually appealing is weirdly important to me.  But I am not the only one.  I know this for a fact because there are so many people out there that do incredible things with their planners and bullet journals.  If you need inspiration just search for #bulletjournal on instragram and you will be amazed!  

(4) Review your lists on a monthly, weekly and daily basis – After reading Getting Things Done by David Allen I have really adopted the idea that regular review of your lists and priorities is the lynchpin to any system.  Without reviewing what you have done and the next steps for you to make progress on any of the 150 projects you have going on in your life, you will quickly find yourself discouraged and lost, and all the work you put into keeping your lists is wasted.  

Plus, if you are someone who is able to come up with long-term goals, you can use your monthly, weekly and daily planning sessions to really ensure that the things that you are focused on are what is truely important to you and where you want to be headed.  Goal-setting is something that I am trying to do better on myself, so if you have any recommendations of books to read or things to try, please let me know!  

(5) Recognize that your life cannot easily be divided between work and family – this has been a big one for me as I have eased back into work. While it would be nice to think that there is “work time” and there is “personal time” unfortunately, that’s just not the case.  I find myself scheduling doctor’s appointments and work and writing emails while I am rocking a little one to sleep.  That’s just the way it is.  But having everything in one place, using a system that works for me and is responsive to this reality makes me feel less terrible about it.

(6) Planning is self care, but you need to plan FOR self care too – As a mum, whether you work outside the home or inside the home, I have come to realize that the entire family relies on me for just about everything.  My state of mind, health and well-being has a direct impact on my lovies.  For that reason it’s critical that I do what you can to stay sane – from having a book that helps me feel like I can cope managing everyone’s stuff, to making sure that I have time for contemplation, and exercise (well, I am working on this part!). For me, planning is self care in that it makes me feel a little more like I can balance all of the demands on my time, and also helps me to ensure that I make time for myself where I can so that I can really be present for my family the rest of the time.

What do you do to stay on top of things?  I totally geek on this stuff, so please let me know!

Love, Ave

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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?).

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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.

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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