Pender Island – a magical weekend getaway.

I always love escaping the city’s hustle and bustle so I thought that we’d have fun with good company, good food & wine and perhaps a little quiet. We were invited to join our friends at their cabin on North Pender Island. This cabin has been in the family since our friend was six years of age. What I didn’t know is that we were en route to somewhere magical.

The first magic? Orcas / killer whales diving around us just as the sun was setting on the BC Ferry ride. The BC Ferry ride from Tsawwassen (in Vancouver) is approximately a 2 hour trip to the Island ferry terminal called Otter Bay. You are required to be at the Vancouver terminal 40 minutes prior. It is way more relaxing to take your car onto the ferry and relax rather than drive for hours and arrive exhausted. This method of transport for a weekend away does not exist in Sydney, Australia. We booked an evening journey hoping that it would coincide with kid’s being asleep for all or most of it.

Pender Island is one of the smallest islands in the group of Southern Gulf Islands with a population of 2,200. It is also known as the Hawaii of Canada with a sub-mediteranean climate. The Gulf Islands are in the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, Canada.

Firstly, my idea of a cabin was perhaps a basic square-shaped cedar log house, you know like those cute ones you’ve seen in a movie; one room, a fireplace with perhaps a small kitchen and bathroom to get you by in the middle of the forest. I was actually looking forward to an adventure of roughing it like a castaway on an Island. Boy, was I wrong!  We were surprised on our arrival to be greeted by this luxurious cabin with stylish finishes mixed with the warmth and character of wooden beams. I did discover though, that originally there was a cabin not too dissimilar to my vision which had been moved by crane to make way for this newly evolved modern form. Perfectly comfortable, our friend’s father even demands to stay in there whenever he visits! A welcome celebratory wine or two was opened, photos of the cabin’s history were viewed with childhood memories shared and without realising it was 1am and we headed off to bed as the kids would be up at dawn.

Magic in the morning…on waking, we were in the presence of the most nonchalant baby deer grazing on the clover and flowers right outside the window. What really struck a chord with me was the peaceful surrounds of the forest. We were sitting in this beautiful light filled home, with serenity that I yearn for and hardly remember savouring for a long time (okay, excluding noise from children). We forget that our concept of silence usually includes white noise in the background; the hum of traffic, the sound of appliances, machinery, something buzzing constantly. I think here, you just enjoy one’s solitude.

After a breakfast of home made granola and muffins (see previous recipe posted), berries and coffee we headed off to the Pender Island Farmers’ Market.

These are open every Saturday and what impressed me was the serious and committed following for George and Kelly’s produce. This was the only stall with a queue; everyone wanting the pick of the crop! We loved the tayberries, as well as many other items, but they were something I had never tried before.

There are a few artisan bread stands which sell beautiful hand-made sourdoughs, rye and grainy loaves which I adore. Fresh fettucine seemed to be hiding under the table of the ‘felts lady’ – it took me a while to find it as she has her hand in arts, crafts and pasta some would think an odd combination, however it was delicious and so fresh.

If I hadn’t eaten breakfast, I probably would have been tempted by the polish lady selling a selection of homemade european cakes and she was happy to do taste tests!

My husband and son stationed themselves at the preserves lady’s stand staring out the bacon jam! What a concept my husband exclaimed excitedly.

As well as the passionate producers, there were a number of designers of arts, crafts and jewellery. One of the better known artists on the Island is Frank Ducote who thoughtfully gave my son a card signed with one of his works designed in honour of the late writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things are which is one of his favourite bedtime books.

There is an Art Festival running on Pender Island presently with Frank Ducote and many others featuring heavily. More on Frank Ducote can be viewed on 

Back at the cabin, fresh pasta for lunch and everyone was happy. Then onto the next activity…more magic or treasure? Our friends took us to this private beach they called ‘Chinaman’s beach’ (I cannot reveal the location – it’s secret!) and we learnt there was real treasure to be found on it. Over a period of time, pieces of fine blue china have been washing up on the shores and although they are only the size of a fingernail there is quite a collection they have found. Each piece of the puzzle revealing a different design; another clue to perhaps unlocking the mystery of a shipwreck perhaps? Our friends almost had me believe it may be from the Titanic, but I am not so sure it made all the way from Newfoundland, Canada to the shores of Gulf Islands.

The children enjoyed looking for crabs more than the treasure so we were all happy.

Back to the cabin, and where would we be without a barbecue? Contentment is sometimes so easy to attain; on this occasion it was a juicy hamburger, fresh cut chips from hand picked potatoes, some bubbles and smiling kids. Now that’s magic!

An evening of poker, wine and a dessert of ‘chocolate dirt’ and ice-cream (secret recipe from a friend of our friend and it’s incredibly good) was really a divine way to end the day.

Next morning, a hike to Fern Tree Gully which is a heavenly bed of ferns in a rainforest environment. The air was so fresh you could taste it, and the smell of cedar was invigorating. This I tell you was better than any hangover cure and that’s magic too!

On our travels we saw the monstrous Cedar and Douglas Fir trees, giant-sized slugs (I had to mention as I had never seen anything like them and they were in camouflaged colours too!), and heard some sheep in the distance from a farm nearby.

Lunch time was a sumptuous selection of produce from the Farmers’ Market and our friends vegetable garden at the cabin. We all ate very well, with flavour and abundance from all the fresh food. Then off to the next adventure.

We drove to Hope Bay, which is on the southern part of the Island. A quaint area with an art gallery, a gift shop, a cafe/restaurant and few other small stores with the backdrop of the water. The children caught some jellyfish in their nets, we snacked on some fries from ‘The Cafe at Hope Bay‘ – 4301 Bedwell Harbour Road, British Columbia. It has a good selection of dishes on the menu and changes between lunch and dinner. It would certainly make for a romantic setting on an evening out.

We also visited another beach which has been washing up a few recently discovered pieces of blue china too. I saw my first Arbutus tree, bright flaming orange their trunks were and they had an Aussie blue gum type of feel about them too. Another magical spot where we searched for more treasure, spotted crabs and generally soaked up the tranquil beauty and views in this secluded spot.

Can you spot the seal? We saw a little something moving in the distance…

Like sands through the hourglass, our restful time is coming to an end, or should I say a close for now because I do hope we return. This Island is magnificent in so many ways as it offered us the creature comforts we enjoy while away; good food, good wine, good beds and good views and the peace and quiet that you could only imagine was 100 years ago  in a far away land from what we know today.

We have all had a truly fun and magical weekend. When the weather forecast for Vancouver this weekend was doom and gloom, we were blessed with sunny, breezy days.

Our friends were the perfect hosts, company and entertainment for our little one with many games and activities planned. It will be recorded as one of our most memorable and delightful experiences that we have had here in British Columbia. For more on Pender Island with accommodation available please see this website Chamber of Commerce.

Pender Island has it all…the sub-mediterranean climate, the coves, beaches, rainforest, small mountains, lakes and open farmland.  I highly recommend this Island (ssh, don’t tell too many people) as a getaway for all people; families, couples, singles that are seeking a weekend getaway or longer that offers so much more including a little bit of magic.

For now so long Pender, I am so thankful we were introduced to you and we hope to return again.


Roasted granola

Thank you to my favourite Australian magazine, delicious. as while reading the June issue I stumbled across the ‘Australian Flavours’ story on The Grounds in Alexandria, Sydney.

The Grounds is a recently opened industrial chic space set in a former pie factory which is a cafe providing house-roasted coffee, freshly baked bread and pastries and kitchen garden all in one. I miss brunch and coffee at places like this back home in Sydney, although I’m sure it won’t be going anywhere for a while.

I had to make the ‘roasted granola’ on page 88 from their recipe selection published which I adapted slightly with a more Canadian influence. I substituted sunflower oil for an organic virgin coconut oil to increase the flavour and health benefits. I prefer to use all organic products so the apricot was darker dried unsulphured apricots I also used half the amount of walnuts, no pepitas just sunflower seeds and more maple syrup and a little Fraser Valley blueberry honey. It was an easy transportable and sustaining breakfast we could enjoy at the cabin on Pender Island which was received well by all. This recipe will become one of my favourites.

Roasted Granola (makes about 15 serves).


1/2 cup (35g) shredded coconut

1/2 cup (125ml) virgin coconut oil

40g unsalted butter (I used Fraser Valley butter)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 Tablespoon Fraser Valley blueberry honey

1 tsp ground cinnamon

500g rolled oats

1/2 cup sunflower seeds (recipe also calls for 1/2 cup of pepitas)

1 cup (160g) almonds

1/2 cup (100g) walnuts, halved

1/2 cup (85g) raisins

1/2 cup (110g) dried apricot, thinly sliced


1. Preheat oven to 266 F / 130 C. Stir in coconut, oil, butter, syrup, honey and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat for a few minutes until combined.

2. Scatter oats, seeds and nuts on a baking tray and pour over syrup, stirring well to coat.

3. Roast for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Add fruit and cook for a further 30 minutes or until crisp. Remove and cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Serving suggestion:- Taeberries and creamy yoghurt.  I discovered Taeberries at the local farmer’s markets on Pender Island, a blackberry-raspberry cross (similar to Loganberry). They are high in vitamin C and fibre and are a tangy sweet flavour.

Next, I will try to do Pender Island justice by writing about our weekend away at our friends’ cabin.


On the move muffins

Sometimes when life is busy, its great to get away for the weekend to peaceful surrounds. We were invited to go our friend’s cabin on Pender Island which is one of the Southern Gulf Islands located along the Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Of course, the first thought apart from the excitement of arriving there and participating in many outdoor activities such as hiking, beach time, fresh produce markets and games was what delicious treats could I make for us all?  I decided on some easily transportable goodies like my favourite muffins which are a little healthy, a little naughty and give you an energy boost when you need it. I am also making the most of local seasonal produce available at present, like sweet BC raspberries and blueberries.

The mini-muffins are easy for kids and easy to have one, two or more! We all love them and they work out every time. Fingers crossed they are a hit with our friends and their children too.

On the move muffins (makes approximately 45 mini-muffins)


1 cup plain flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup carrot

1/2 cup apple

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 cup mixed raspberries and blueberries

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup 100% pure maple syrup

1/2 cup yoghurt (I use a peach variety)

rolled oats and icing sugar to decorate


1. Preheat oven to 355 F / 180 C and grease two 24 mini-muffin pans well.

2. Sift flours, baking powder, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon into a large bowl. Add sugar and mix, then carrot, apple and walnuts and mix very well ensuring ingredients are evenly distributed.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, oil and vanilla together for a minute or two and slowly pour in maple syrup while beating for another minute.

4. Add to the dry ingredients carefully folding in and then add the berries and yoghurt without over-mixing.

5. Spoon one to two teaspoons of the mixture for each muffin in the pans. You can decorate by sprinkling a few rolled oats on the top and bake for 12-15 minutes in a standard oven (or until skewer comes out clean).  Pop out of the pans after standing for 10 minutes and dust with icing sugar.

Please note: I prefer to enjoy these more in mini-muffin pans, however you can cook in the larger deep muffin pans for approximately 35 minutes. (Ensure you line the large ones with baking paper to remove easily).

An achievement – I climbed the Grouse Grind!

If you saw my earlier posts on the Grouse Grind, my first experience to the top was via the luxury of the Skyride and I mentioned this was a ‘must do’ as there is so much entertainment up top of the mountain.

Then my husband (in my opinion of peak fitness), enjoyed his first experience grinding his way up. At the time, I wouldn’t have considered it reading the Trail Facts from the grouse mountain website…

Length: 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles)

Elevation Gain: 853 metres (2,800 feet)

Total Stairs: 2,830
I read the word ‘challenging’ and thought, that will be great for my ambitious husband but how did I miss the rest of this sentence on the website?

“The trail is very challenging. Keep in mind that there is a wide range of mountaintop trails that might better suit the average hiker.”

I assumed I would fall in-between the ‘novice and average hiker’ range so if I was going to do it, the pace would be my own and not competitive at all.

The advice on the site??

“On average it takes and hour and half and novice hikers two hours is recommended.”

Ok, so a good friend who has completed the grind many times previously invited me to come along and well with my husband’s motivating force persuaded me to say yes. It was a “yes” rather than “YES”. There was trepidation as he has a habit of making things sound easier than they actually are.

The record by a woman is completing it in 31:04 minutes and the official record at 23:48 minutes by a man. Not that I was paying attention to any of these statistics prior to embarking on the trail, in fact I was purposely trying not to focus on anything but putting one foot in front of the other in order to reach the final step.

The start of the trail is clearly marked as demonstrated in this picture…

so there is little chance you can start in the wrong direction. I put my timer on and we set off, quietly confident that it would be better than anticipated.

I was into the trail by about 10 minutes and I could feel my elevated heart rate and breathing becoming fiercer. The girls were feeding me words of encouragement to reach the first 1/4 Mark. This point they assured me takes the longest and I was alert and ready looking out for it. It could not come quick enough I can tell you.

There was a busy and eclectic crowd should I say on the trail last night, perhaps the gorgeous weather we’ve been having in a straight set brought them all out this week, and who knows what their motivation was for reaching the top?  My driving force was a cold, crisp glass of white wine or two while soaking up the beautiful expansive views around me.

For others, I am sure some of these motivations were filtering through the various groups…

Generation Z’s – The youngest lots were stopping, not for water but to get their iPad out (What the?) and change the music on their iPods which might have well have been on a loudspeaker for everyone to hear the volume was so high.

Generation Y’s – The ego motivates with ‘I am sure this will be a piece of cake and I can socialize and possibly even pick up once up top’, but sadly the comments I heard from a few girls before they even reached the 1/4 mark was “I can’t go any further, I can’t do it”, with a slightly less impressed look from some of the other girlfriends.

Generation X’s – like moi, we were mostly quiet and happy to step aside should any freaks want to sprint past us, I was quietly internalizing most of the pain so as not to show us up, reveal our age or any negative thoughts crossing my mind every couple of minutes particularly when I was just past the half way mark.

Baby boomers – I’ll show these young upstarts a thing or two about endurance, I even heard some 75-year-old telling some younger sprinting males they were “not allowed to go downwards”…tutt tutt.

At the half way mark, I saw my first chipmunk. Really cute I might add, but I think he might have been taunting me for a bit because he kept circling me back and forth, almost to say ‘You can turn back now, it’s not too late’. I was starting to have doubts about whether I was going to make it, however all the words of encouragement from my friends topped up my dwindling motivation.
I looked up after a bit and there it was….the light! That could only mean one thing and my friends confirmed it, we were close, give or take a few hundred steep stairs.
At that stage I was practically lifting one leg in front of the other and might have sounded like a ‘Sasquatch’ grunting and huffing heavily but I knew that I could only do one thing and that was keep moving as I was close.
The last marker of achievement, the final frontier was reaching the yellow rope. I was whimpering at the painful thought of knowing I was so close yet not close enough. This was tormenting me as I was literally minutes away and felt I could have collapsed in a heap, but I just had to find whatever energy reserves were remaining to clutch it.
Yippee! I made it! I checked in with my timer and I achieved it in 1hr 19mins and then it hit me. I was enveloped by sweeping views of Vancouver’s city and sea which were more dramatic than what I recalled from going up by gondola recently. The sun was fading and it felt magical. It was surreal looking out at the majestic Douglas Fir, Hemlock and cedar trees which were dense, darkish and towering over me on the trail and now beautiful pyramid-shaped silhouettes sitting at the same level as the clouds and I. Now onto a treat at Altitudes Bistro.
After this vigorous endeavour, my wine couldn’t arrive quick enough. My body’s elevated  temperature had however reduced my appetite which took a while to kick in. I chose the CedarCreek Pinot Gris from the Okanagan Valley, British Colombia. It was incredibly refreshing with hints of peach and melon. I decided on a charcuterie plate to complement which included a terrine with some cured meats, walnut bread and cheese. With this delicious selection in front of me, for a moment I was transported to Alsace, France (one my favourite countries) it was so delightful.
My final thoughts? Overall I would recommend you do the Grind at least once in your lifetime, it is well worth it when you reach the top. Although the thought of repeating this over and over to beat my time does not inspire and will hardly qualify me for a Grouse Grind enthusiast or obsessive, it is a killer workout which you will be proud of regardless of how long it takes. The overriding feeling of achievement and rush of endorphins you are rewarded with washes away any pain you may feel (as I did) along the way.
Please, I would love to hear any stories or thoughts from fellow grinders out there now that I have accomplished this!

Cherries, chocolate or wine/champagne anyone?

Since the start of June, I cannot help noticing all the popping red colour of cherries front of store everywhere I shop. Cherries always remind me of my childhood and our Aussie Summer Christmases. My Mother would fill a large bowl on display to brighten up the house and we couldn’t wait to take a handful!

Some of the things I love when celebrations start in Summer are cherries, chocolate and champagne – it’s the simple things in life right?

Although I know that while I am here in Vancouver, cherries are in season come Summertime but sadly without Christmas to enjoy. So when I saw that Whole Foods Market were selling these beautiful organic cherries at a special price this week, I couldn’t resist.

Our celebration was to have our first dinner party at our home here in Vancouver with our closest friends who have been amazing and awesome to us since the first day we arrived. We love entertaining and wanted to treat them to something special and came up with a vegetarian menu (catering to dietary requirements) which was delicious and not too heavy. I was also looking for a good reason to indulge in the local BC Salt Spring Island, Chèvres (which is a very soft, fresh goat’s cheese).

Our friends brought us an exceptional wine which I also want to make a mention of from the Okanagan Valley, BC; ‘Joie Farm’ Pinot Blanc 2011. Joie means “Joy” in French and this wine certainly lives up to its name and is inspired by Alsace with a beautiful tropical fruit intensity. This was a very memorable drop and I look forward to exploring the Okanagan vineyards very soon.

Our menu:-

Entrée – Sashimi grade salmon + Edamame                                                                     Main – Beetroot and goats cheese tart accompanied with a Fennel, radicchio and walnut salad (recipes sourced from delicious. magazine Australian edition). and the dessert…

Dessert – Chocolate meringues with amaretto cherries and coconut gelato (dairy-free)

The Kid’s menu was cheese and vegetable frittata with fries followed by banana gelato (sugar-free) with raspberries and a petite meringue on the side.

The sun has rolled on consecutively for over a week now and it is reminding me more of what our Summers are like back home in Australia.  I will combine a Christmas Summer favourite with the beautiful cherries that are in abundant supply which is just singing for an opportunity to entertain with these.

Cherry topped mini-chocolate meringues with coconut gelato (makes 6)              This meringue recipe is inspired and adapted from Valli Little’s recipe in delicious. magazine.


4 eggwhites, at room temperature

11/4 cups caster sugar (or berry sugar)

1 tablespoon cocoa, sifted

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

24 cherries pitted

2 Tablespoons of caster sugar (or berry sugar)

3/4 cup Amaretto liqueur

Coconut gelato (a good quality creamy one)


1. Preheat the oven to 150 Celcius / 302 F. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

2. Whisk eggwhites in the bowl of an electric mixer with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Add caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time, every minute or so whisking until thick and glossy. Fold in cocoa, vinegar, cornflour and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until well combined.

3. Dollop 6 rounds of the mixture onto the lined tray. Using the back of a spoon make an indent in the top of each one. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 120 C /250 F. Bake for 45 minutes then turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, add amaretto and sugar to pitted cherries and leave in fridge for an hour. Remove when ready to serve and heat up in small saucepan till syrupy consistency.

5. Using an ice-cream scoop place coconut gelato on meringues and pour amaretto cherries on top. Garnish with a few fresh cherries in the bowl as well.

A champagne to match for a celebratory note? Moët & Chandon’s Rosé Impérial – Enjoy!

Easy weekend burritos – child friendly

After our steamy affair with ‘Steam Rollers Burritos’ the other week, I couldn’t stop thinking about the speed in which they delivered it to us and more importantly how delicious it was.

We all enjoyed it, and when I find something outside of my repertoire that our son likes then I must reproduce it somehow! Ok, so I’m not sure about the steaming process but I certainly am going to try to come up with a similar flavour profile!

On a lazy summer weekend, these burritos are fairly easy and great for a late-afternoon/early dinner when you have friends around with children too.

We are virtually flexitarians; those who mostly keep to a vegetarian diet, but will eat meat occasionally, and for this experiment I have used some turkey mince which is a lean addition to what could also be a vegetarian option with the protein packed beans. I chose cannellini because they have a creamier texture (for my son), and black beans for good contrast too.

I don’t think there are any rules for burritos and if there are…well I’m not Mexican! The main goal here is that the whole family enjoy them. I think my burrito wrapping skills leave a bit to be desired though.

Weekend burrito recipe – child friendly (makes 12)


12 soft Tortilla wraps (preferably 12 inch)

450gm turkey mince

1 cup of short grain rice

400gm mixed beans from a can (I used cannellini and black beans) rinsed and drained.

1 cup tomato puree

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon taco seasoning mix

1 green pepper/capsicum (de-seeded) finely chopped and diced

1 brown onion finely chopped and diced.

2 corn cobs, husks and silk removed

2 teaspoon chilli powder

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth

4 Tablespoons sour cream

2 ripe avocados

Zest from 1 lime

2 Tablespoons lime juice

2 cups tasty/cheddar cheese (grated)

Optional extras: 1 cup fresh cilantro/coriander leaves (finely chopped) and Tabasco sauce.


1. Use a small sharp knife to cut down the length of the corn cobs, close to the core, to remove the kernels. Cook corn kernels in a small saucepan of salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Refresh under cold water. Drain.

2. In a deep-frying pan, warm oil on medium heat. Cook turkey mince with taco seasoning until browned and set aside in bowl.

3. On a medium to high heat, add onion and peppers to frying pan until soft and add beans, salt, thyme, parsley, chilli, lime zest, turkey mince, stock and tomato puree and stir for 5 minutes to combine. Turn down to a simmer for approximately 25 minutes or until almost all liquid has absorbed. Turn off heat.

4. Cook rice in a saucepan of boiling, salted water, following packet directions, until tender. Drain. Refresh under cold water. Drain and set aside.

5. Meanwhile, mash avocado, adding lime juice and then sour cream.

6. In a big bowl, combine the rice, corn, turkey and bean mix.

7. Warm tortillas in microwave or according to packet instructions (they are easier to wrap this way). With each tortilla, spread a little of the avocado mix and sprinkle with cheese in a rectangular ‘I’ shape leaving the bottom third of the tortilla free.

8. Finally place a couple of tablespoons of the rice mixture on top, with extras like Tabasco and coriander if you like and wrap. (Please note, I find the best way to wrap a burrito is by following the steps below).

9. How to wrap burrito: > Fold the bottom third free flap over > Carefully wrap the left side over the filling > Create a small diagonal flap with the remaining side of the tortilla at a 30-35 degree angle > Bring the right side of the flap over filling tightly and it’s ready to go!

A cocktail or two for ‘the parents’ works well too – Enjoy!

Summer water parks in Vancouver

Finally, bless the sun is out! It’s glorious and it is weather that just makes you want to scream with excitement up to the heavens…after an intense and long cold spring.

My son’s expression is priceless when I ask him which water park would he like to go to today? He is literally a kid in a candy store and he is giving it much thought. I ask “Would you like to go to the water park at Granville Island or Stanley Park?” He replies, “Ummm Stanley Park, no Granville Island!”.

Silently, that was my pick although we’ve been to Stanley Park recently too. Both have quite a bit going for them in terms of surrounding entertainment, so either way you are likely to have a happy and worn out child by the end of it.

Ok, so I’ll start with the Stanley Park option. Stanley Park is close to Downtown, surrounded by beautiful and breathtaking scenery of the ocean, mountains and Lion’s Gate Bridge and more. The park itself is a lush green forest approximately 1000 acres and if it wasn’t such a popular tourist destination you could easily get lost in the half a million trees that are hundreds of years old. Cedar, Hemlock and Douglas Fir trees surround you everywhere you walk. The water park is open from June 1 to September 1 from 10am-6pm.

If I take my son to the Stanley Park spray area, I will pair it with the Aquarium which is only a few minutes away on the north side of the park. With Summer camps in full force by July, you are best to arrive here via public transport and earlier in the day if possible. It is a free attraction which makes it even more alluring. It has a wider area of the soft spongy tarmac covering in some of the play areas making it slightly safer for the younger children.

Between the spray park and the Aquarium, there are many shady spots on the grass to enjoy a picnic lunch. I recommend you bring your own packed goodies. Whatever you do, DO NOT order any of the ‘hot food’ from the Lumberman’s Arch cafe – in my one and only experience, choosing what I thought to be the healthiest options on the menu; how many ways can you go wrong with a salmon burger and fish & chips?? It was overcooked, dripping with oil, tasteless and typically overpriced given the location.  It was a very disappointing experience and it is just about the only place to eat conveniently close by. The food at the Aquarium is better, more palatable and appears to be better quality in some areas of the ‘hot menu’.

So, do you know where I am heading with this? Further to mentioning earlier that Granville Island water park was personally my choice for the day, the options of gourmet food are endless!

Granville Island is the largest free attraction in North America. It is situated right next to the kid’s play area as well incase your child literally gets cold feet (the water is a little chilly still). It is open May 21 through till September 5 from 10am-6pm. All the delectable foods on Granville Island are all close by, minutes walk away. Sushi and gelato always work a treat for my son and I, particularly Gi Gelato & Coffee House did it for me at 1535 Johnson Street, Suite #105 Granville Island. Freshly made creamy flavours including sorbet which I love are fantastic and not expensive.

Say no more, a good day out, a free day out (just about) and we are both happy.

Stanley Park Spray Park – Vancouver Park Board

O Canada! Long weekend celebration for Canada Day – 1st July 2012.

Our celebration of Canada Day was not our first my husband had to remind me, but it was the most memorable!

Back in 2008 when my husband and I fell in love with Vancouver while travelling, we were actually in Whistler when the celebrations took place. I was so in awe of the beauty of the place and it was the first time I had seen the mountains that I can’t recall the celebration of Canada that well. Also, what was noticeable was the large number of Australian and kiwi expats creating a racket at any opportunity to have a party up there. There are many performances and a parade that takes place here too.

Canada Day is a federal statutory holiday on July 1st to celebrate the 1867 Federation when three colonies became a single country within the British Empire.

We were fortunate to be invited to some friends we have made while here (through friends from home) to their neighbourhood Canada Day parade in the Pemberton Heights area of North Vancouver in West 22nd Street.

As we approached the street, there were people blowing up countless red balloons at the Capilano United Church where the “Running of the Bikes” begin. When we arrived at our friends’ home, we were welcomed with a drink and then into some bike decorating. One of the highlights of the day is the kid’s bike decorating competition and some children start adorning their bikes a week or more out from the date! I probably observed, more than I actually decorated ‘with drink in hand’ but it was fun seeing the kid’s bikes and scooters lit up in red streamers, flags and ribbons.

Once we ready to scoot out the door, we made our way to the church where there was a sea of red and white flooding the road. We could hear the echoing laughter and screams of excitement from the children while they were waiting on their colourful bikes for the North Vancouver Fire Truck to arrive. When the engine pulled up, the glee in their faces was evident and the firemen signalled everyone to start and away we all went…chasing the fire truck down the road at a blistering amble until we reached Sowden Park.

There were two bouncy castles set up and the Fire Truck were providing endless entertainment for all. There were running races ready to commence for the older kids as well. By then it was time to turn around, feed our little ones and give them a nap to re-energize for the fun party that was about to erupt in the afternoon.

Our friends threw a fantastic party and it was the perfect place to learn more about Canada and Canadianisms…for example,

eh‘ has more than one meaning. Canadians often end their sentences with “eh” and it is generally considered a polite way of inviting the other listener/s to participate in the conversation as opposed to the speaker simply stating fact after fact.

Schwack‘ is a new word I hadn’t heard and it was used a couple of times by different people and still not exactly sure what it means except that by Urban Dictionary’s definition could be a number of things to the effect of “cool, ‘extreme pleasure’ or to take a 3 to 10 second chug of hard liquor straight from the bottle in order to get significantly drunk extremely quickly”.

A Blue Jay‘ is a native North American bird which I sighted for the first time in our friends backyard – beautiful by the way and that they are also the name of the Toronto baseball team.

Garbage bears‘ live near humans, scavenge for food in bins and don’t hibernate like other bears.

Poutine‘ really is a French Canadian dish of fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.

a S’more‘ is supposedly uniquely Canadian and is a traditional nighttime campfire treat which is a sandwich of Graham crackers, a roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate.

Cariboo genuine draft‘ from BC tastes quite refreshing although it is 5.5% alcohol which seems relatively high compared with most Canadian brews.

BC wines‘ can be very good, or at least the ones I enjoyed on Canada Day!

Pop‘ has a different taste in Canada (as its made from sugar), more like our fizzy drinks in Australia to ‘pop’ in the US which is made with corn syrup.

Canadian flag‘ has a stylish looking 11 pointed red maple leaf which bears no actual significance.

The last fact was interesting to me, because unknowingly I tried to replicate the Maple Leaf  with strawberries on the maple cake I made for the day and it had only 10 visible points so had I have included one more it may have improved the stylised look of my baking efforts. For those recipe hunters, I am happy to post up the Maple Cake ingredients and method too, just let me know!

All in all, it was a day that we will treasure to have spent with a lovely group of Canadians and thank our friends for inviting us to be involved in the true Canadian spirit.

Canada Day!

More from the street parade…

Grouse Mountain adventures – a must do!

On a regular Monday morning, a good ‘local’ friend invited my son and I to join them for a day out at Grouse Mountain. Of course I like to think I’m adventurous and said “I’m in”, without really knowing what I was in for. There were however, only two occasions before this that I had been up a mountain and seen snow!  I hear that most of the snow is disappearing at this time of year, although the coldest June on record here aka ‘Junuary’ has been reported recently so I wasn’t sure what the mountain would look like. However off we embarked on a day with the children for an action packed day on the plateau.

The drive is only a half hour in traffic from Vancouver (15 minutes from Downtown) to Grouse Mountain located at: 6400 Nancy Green Way, Vancouver, BC. You can venture up there any day of the year as it is open from 9:00am to 10:00pm through the year.

When we arrived, I picked up our tickets although a membership is worthwhile too if you plan to go at least half a dozen times throughout the year. It was straightforward and what I really like is that all tickets include the round-trip sky ride (Gondola), the Lumberjack Show, Ranger Talks at the Grizzly Bear Habitat, and other summer activities (May-October), mountaintop ice-skating, sleigh rides and Peak of Christmas in the winter, year-round movies in the Theatre in the Sky and more.

On arrival, we took the sky ride up while looking for white wolves in the forest which are running around freely. At the Grizzly Bear Habitat, a sleuth of people were still watching  two of the biggest grizzly bears I’ve ever seen…well they were the only grizzly bears I have ever seen in the flesh! Apparently they were much lighter than usual after coming out of months of hibernation, but still they were enough to startle me never the less. My son wanted to keep watching them but realised if he tried to get any closer, they might ‘eat me’  he said.

Then off to the Birds in Motion show which was also very thrilling with the newest addition; a Great-Horned Owl only 10 weeks old flying right above my head almost taking my hair with it! I remained completely still as instructed! I am glad it wasn’t the Peregrine Falcon; the world’s fastest animal here too, or it might have been successful with its speed at leaving me hairless. It was beautiful watching them in free flight and educational too.

Final stop was the Lumberjack show with some well-seasoned fries (they were good and it was either those or Beaver tail which is a classic Canadian sweet treat!), which was very entertaining and funny. I particularly liked the log-rolling, the 60-foot tree climb and the exciting springboard chop which is the only three board event in North America. In Australia it is known as the three board jigger and is one of the most demanding events in lumberjack sports.

This is a must-do experience as there is so much to see for everyone. Perhaps next time I will stair master my way up to the top, and if that’s the case I will treat myself to a dinner at the ‘Observatory restaurant’.

I was pleased to learn that Grouse Mountain is dedicated to sustainable dining and is also a member of the Ocean Wise conservation program. All of the restaurants at Grouse Mountain are also certified by the Green Table Network, which puts sustainability on the menu; choices include Halibut, Sockeye Salmon, local produce like Dungeness crab, organic greens, Okanagan cherries and more.

I will be back!

Please note, photos are not my own.