The Olive Branch: February and March

Golly gosh, where is the year going? My aim was to write an Olive Branch update at the end of every month but somehow February got away from me and now it’s already the first week of April! Time for a bumper edition!

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Back in February, we took an overnight trip to the one place in Israel where you can count on seeing snow in the winter: Mt Hermon. As you can see, we weren’t alone there. Yup, Israelis get pretty excited about snow…

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We shared a DIY for a Kids’ Art Wall Collage. Also a great way to spruce up and repurpose an old picture frame! Mmmm, look at the nice tidily-arranged toys and books (it never really looks like that).

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Sophie performed in her ballet show and I was so proud I could burst! I guess ballet love must be hereditary…

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We went on a spring almond-blossom hunt. Every year we take a trip to the Sataf, an agricultural site in the Jerusalem Hills, where they experiment with growing vegetables and orchard trees as they were grown in biblical times. So pretty!

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Yup, still working on that scarf! Pretty slow going, but it is my first knitting project after all. Hope to finish it by next winter! I’ve joined a knitting group and we meet every Thursday. Wouldn’t even have managed one row without those lovely girls…

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I finally dug out my pasta machine, which had been languishing decadently in its box for the last four years, and proceeded to make tortellini, which didn’t take very long at all. I lie, it took A WHOLE DAY! Avoid making all my newbie mistakes by checking out our post: How to Use a Pasta Machine: 10 Top Tips!

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Was it worth spending a whole day learning how to use a pasta machine! Absolutely it was! Especially when the result was Chard, Pistachio and Cranberry Tortellini with Shiitake and Lemongrass-Sage Butter. Check out our recipe and I defy not to lick the bowl at the end!

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I made a wig. Not a very realistic-looking hairpiece, I admit, but one that was befitting of a little mermaid all dressed up for Purim. For anyone unfamiliar with Purim, it’s often described as the Jewish Halloween: kid-centered, fancy dress costumed, too many sweets… you get the idea. I gave Sophie a deadline for deciding what costume she wanted and then held her to it. Although I did somewhat modify her initial request to dress up as an ‘evil mermaid’. What the heck?

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Purim was an insane week of costume making, egg decoration (not just for Easter, apparently), goodie basket prep and multiple parties. Super fun and rather knackering! Here are Sophie the Mermaid and Tom the Pirate just before we headed off to Mr Olive’s office Purim party.

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Current obsession: The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees. This is a book which is basically a step by step system for discovering your own personal style and curating the perfect wardrobe of clothes to meet your style and lifestyle needs. I’ve worked through most of the exercises and am now on the section about working with outfit formulas. Doing the exercises in this book is basically what I would prefer to be doing over almost anything else at the moment and I’m already feeling so much more confident in how I dress. Did I mention I’m obsessed?

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Last but not least, my parents and brother came from the U.K. to visit for a week so I went all quiet on social media so I could focus on really being with them. It was so wonderful having them here and getting to share my Levantine life with them! We did beach walks, hummus lunches, extended family gatherings, road trips… ah, missing them  so much already…

All that plus a baby shower, a Mums’ karaoke night, closing on a kindergarten for Tom for September, and house hunting. LOTS of house hunting.

Sometimes it feels like time is moving so swiftly without much being achieved so it’s fun to look back and see how much we really did in these months! How is spring treating you so far?

Love Em xx

 

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!

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!

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