The year 2020 was challenging and the covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented change. However, 2021 offers renewed optimism and a fresh start. There will be new ways to explore, have adventures, stretch comfort zone levels, and develop new insights. My blog is my chosen venue to share my story.
Background information is provided by clicking on the Menu (upper right). The Search feature assists quick location of previous blog posts including travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern B.C., Canada, and Mexico. You are welcome to join my journey. Virtual Hugs Sandy.
This blog post is a collage of life events and activities, and Canadian Flora and Fauna, during April (Springtime). From kayaking and wildlife (Beavers, Bears, Elk) to Spring flowers and blossoms on our beautiful Vancouver Island. To round it out, there are a few antics from our 11 month old kitten Sophia and a few Covid Sanity Strategies.
April 2020 commenced with my husband quarantined in our cabana and the backyard for the first 2 weeks. He had flown home to Nanaimo, B.C. from Toronto, Ontario. It was a peculiar life experience to be physically separated and distanced during the quarantine juration and wear masks and gloves while I delivered and removed food, etc. But….We were successful and healthy, and now have new stories to share about Covid Adaptations.
Meanwhile, Sophia (our 11 month old rescue kitten) and I snuggled and awaited the end of Mark’s two week quarantine.
Sophia still suffers from anxiety and likes to tunnel or hide under mats, pillows, or blankets to feel more secure when she is frightened. However, she now realizes she gets attention from this behavior and often makes the hiding into a game. I call this one her “turtle” game.
Sometimes, she is just plan curious! She likes to explore anything new from all angles!
Finally, Mark’s quarantine period concluded, and it was time to venture out together and ‘safely’ explore our “Covid lockdown health region” on Vancouver Island.
My son, Alexander, is an Engineer working in Victoria. Due to Covid rules and restrictions, the construction completion of his new apartment was delayed. We assisted (from 2m) by renting a UHaul and bringing his belongings down to Victoria when he finally obtained the keys–April 15th–which also happened to be his birthday!
Spring is a stunning time of the year embracing new growth and reemergence of wildlife after winter hibernation. It is also pollen season. Locate your nearest local honey producer and consume lots of local honey to increase your pollen resistance! It works!
The Crocuses, Daffodils, Tulips, Primroses, Snowdrops, and Heather are some of the early flowers to come into bloom here. The Dogwood, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Cherry and Apple trees, and a multitude of species are popping blossoms sharing an abundance of delectable hues and scents.
Spring is also a wonderful time to observe and possibly encounter some of the beautiful wildlife on Vancouver Island. The Columbia Black-tailed deer are the deer species located on our island. The life cycle of a Blacktail is 9-10 years in the wild, but only 3-6 years for bucks as they are the target of hunters each fall.
Due to increased Forestry clear-cuts and growing urban areas, these deer are now common in many residential areas. We observe a family visiting our yard to graze nearly every day, so deer resistance plant species, like Forest Flame bushes, Rhododendrons, Heather, and Daffodils are good plants for your gardens.
Out of approximately 3,200 Roosevelt Elk in the Province of British Columbia, roughly 3,000 Roosevelt Elk reside on Vancouver Island. They are quite massive animals and often seen in herds. Approximately 20 elk tags are given out each hunting season. Beyond that, our beautiful creatures are respected and revered. The toll free number if you witness any illegal activity effecting our wildlife is 1-877-952-7277.
Black bears are also spotted around the island, especially when they are eating spring shoots or scavenging on rocky beaches to fatten up after their light hibernation period. Estimates indicate there are about 7,000 black bears on Vancouver Island. In the spring sows over aged 5 years are usually seen with 1-4 cubs. Three or four cubs are quite rare, twins are the most common.
Although Grizzly Bears were unheard of on Vancouver Island a few decades ago, there have been a few sightings in recent years. It is suspected that some Grizzlies were successful swimming across from the mainland by island hopping en route. There are many talented professional wildlife photographers on Vancouver Island and tours to view our beautiful wildlife are available. Remember, if you see any illegal hunting please phone the toll free line to protect our wildlife from poachers!
The third Canadian animal I am sharing this post is our national symbol of Canada–the Beaver! The Beaver is the symbol on our 5 centcoin and was once nearly eradicated during the Fur Trade era. They are making a come back and although these photos were taken by a friend in northern B.C. (notice the snow), we have Beavers thriving here too usually hiding out in small lakes or marshy ponds. Watch for the chewed tree trunks, piles of small fallen trees, lodges and dams.
Our rescue kitten was discovered in the woods too…but her habitat and survival is slightly different from the elk, bears, and beavers!
The final topic in this blog about April, is Covid Survival Strategies:
Appreciating your neighborhood. Working in your yard. Observing nature and being grateful for what you have. We were so grateful that the Fire Department efficiently and effectively put out the chimney fire for our neighbors.
2) Dr. Bonnie Henry establishing Covid Safety rules and protocols for the province of British Columbia to help us flatten the curve and keep safer.
3) Learning New Skills and Adapting to Change. After much coercion from my husband, I started cutting his hair! We found that meditation and yoga each morning really helped bring a calmer, healthier perspective to each new day.
4) Using extra lockdown time to sort, organize and downsizeor share. We saved money taking the last of our belongings out of our rented storage locker and seriously analyzed whether we really needed these belongings. We discovered some treasures we had forgotten about, some items ready for recycling or garbage, and I gave away boxes of free educational resources to new upcoming teachers.
5) Our final Covid Strategy is get outdoors and experience nature while exercising! Often, this can be walking, hiking, riding your bike, or playing; but in this post I will feature going kayaking in the Pacific Ocean!
Here is a short video of some highlights from 2 consecutive days of kayaking around the gorgeous Pacific ocean surrounding Vancouver Island. We did not see whales or sea lions on these excursions, but seals and river otters are quite common companions.
Thank you for joining my journey throughout the month of April. The next blog post will include more trips and adventures exploring hiking trails, beaches, and natural beauty around Vancouver Island during May. Also, Sophia turns 1 year old!
Keep Safe. The world continues to brighten each week.
As Covid 19 vaccines become more accessible globally, and magic totals for ‘herd’ immunity become more of a reality than a dream; there is a new optimism about interacting with loved ones after a lengthy hug drought of over 15 months!
I selected a photo of Sophia (our rescue kitten) looking anxiously through the door and wondering what is happening, to introduce this blog post as it seems an accurate portrayal of Covid life during lockdowns.
Sophia is extremely expressive and her antics generate laughs and discussions which truly brightened our days during lockdown periods.
In Canada, we are carefully observing the new freedoms we see exhibited via media in Australia, the United States and U.K. We are not there yet. In British Columbia, Dr. Bonnie Henry continues to be our amazing leader throughout this pandemic. My husband and I gratefully received our first Moderna ‘jab’ on April 28th, 2021 and are currently awaiting the notification that it is our time to receive the second dose.
Last week, with huge excitement and relief, we commenced stage 1 of a 4 stage Restart plan in B.C. with hopeful anticipation that we will experience a new “norm” and freedom by September, 2021.
The Covid 19 Pandemic has shaken the world and changed all sense of what we experience as “normal”. This blog post is driven by a grateful optimism towards the future, while remembering life and adaptations we faced in March 2020 when our lives suddenly changed…. Covid 19 arrived!
Prior to the March Lockdown….
My husband accepted a job as part of a team working in Hamilton, Ontario for a few months departing from Nanaimo in mid February 2020. I joined the Harbour City Newcomers Club in Nanaimo excited to meet new people and explore activities in this new location. My son, Alexander, had recently moved back home to Canada after working at Western Digital in Bangkok, Thailand for the past 6 years. He was hired just prior to Covid as a Manufacturing Engineer at StarFish Medical Consultants in Victoria, B.C.
In Early March 2020 Sophia enjoyed the many facets of being a kitten–from sleeping anywhere and everywhere, to discovering her world. She was particularly fond of munching fresh grass every morning before exploring outdoors.
As a member of the Harbour City Newcomers Club (HCNC), I was enjoying meeting new people, attending art workshops, and being creative using new paint techniques.
In mid March 2020 we even participated in an Artisan tour checking out nearby galleries including a glass blowing studio. We car pooled together in vehicles and nobody wore masks! The following day, new lock down rules were implemented in B.C. It was the end of carpools, group meetings and indoor activities. This was the official beginning of masks and Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!
Who would have anticipated that this hair appointment would be the last one I would have for nearly a year and this would possibly be the last time I would see my hairdresser without both of us wearing protective face masks?
In mid March 2020 the world as we knew it drastically changed! The unprecedented Covid 19 Pandemic arrived and people started to horde toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, masks, gloves, and canned food. Suddenly, there was a frenzy of uncertainty!
Covid Coping Strategies:
Thankfully, we live in a single detached home with a large yard near to lots of hiking trails and ocean access. Nature and Spring beauty bring peace and inner grounding during this unsettled and scary time.
Another of my favorite locations is Buttertubs Marsh. There is always a plethora of bird songs and diverse species to observe. If you are lucky, you might see turtles or Great Blue Herons.
My dad passed away in 2007. His favorite bird was the Great Blue Heron and it is always a thrill and comfort when they grace my day. This Heron at Buttertubs was very close to the trail.
While I was active exploring nature and outdoor trails on Vancouver Island, my husband in Ontario visited Niagara Falls. Due to Covid lockdown… the highly popular tourist location was nearly devoid of visitors in late March 2020. What a strange and unusual experience!
By late March 2020 we were starting to adapt to this initial Covid 19 lockdown. Sophia taught me to chill, reflect and sleep a lot. Puzzles and books were becoming a popular option to aid the passing of time spent alone. Stores were crazy places to avoid whenever possible. Masks were not mandated yet, but long lines and empty shelves were troubling realities. Schools and most businesses were closed during the first lockdown. There were constant disturbing news updates about areas hardest hit by Covid 19. North America seemed to fair pretty well initially, but that was to change as the Global Pandemic progressed.
While we embraced early signs of Spring on Vancouver Island, other areas of B.C. and Canada were still in the midst of late Winter.
Daily walks and hikes outdoors were a welcome release. There are so many wooded areas, trails, lakes, rivers, and marshes to explore around Vancouver Island.
More nearby early signs of Spring to help a person feel grounded and grateful.
When the schools and playgrounds closed and people were confined to their homes, the hearts and messages of hope became more plentiful around our community.
As March drew to an end, it was clear that my husband’s job in Hamilton, Ontario would be terminating soon due to lockdown occurring in Ontario. Mark’s flight home to B.C. was booked for the first week of April. We were anxiously awaiting his arrival home.
Suddenly, domestic and international flights were all getting cancelled due to the Pandemic. Mark needed to get home IMMEDIATELY before all the provincial borders were closed between British Columbia and Ontario!
So after hours on hold with reservation centers, my husband managed to obtain a seat on an earlier flight departing the following day. Airport safety and protocols were pretty sketchy and the flight was completely full on March 31st 2020. Safety protocols certainly intensified prior to vaccines, as pandemic specialists learned more about this new Covid 19 virus.
There was no physical spacing in the airports or on the planes, so Mark wore a face mask and we mutually agreed he would go into voluntary quarantine for 2 weeks after he returned home. After our 2 week self imposed quarantine, we were both healthy and ready to tackle lockdown and Covid 19 life as a team together.
The future is optimistic and exciting, but let’s not forget the confines and struggles of this Covid 19 journey as we move forward and Carefully Conquer Covid.
The next blog posts will include more Nature, Canadian Animals, Exploration around Vancouver Island, Covid Wellness Strategies, Antics by Sophia, and Gardening. Stay safe and Keep on Smiling.
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada truly is diverse in landscape, nature, culture, and recreation. This blog post reflects February activities on Vancouver Island. Some of the events occurred prior to Covid facemask expectations and while indoor events were still permitted. From powder skiing up at Mount Washington to exploring fascinating sea life, we have it all.
The photo above highlights stunning Mount Washington and a live Moonsnail with its enormous ‘foot’ extended.
Here is a quick journey around some of our beautiful and diverse areas of Vancouver Island, Canada in February “winter”. Let’s commence in Campbell River as it is close to the middle of the Island. Heading north from Campbell River to Port Hardy takes close to 2 1/2 hours most trips.
The distance from Campbell River to Port Hardy is 230 km on highway 19 N. Bus service has stopped at present, so you will require a vehicle. There are few fuel stations between Campbell River and Port Hardy so be prepared and have a full tank. You can obtain gas at Sayward, Woss, and Port McNeill.
There are a growing number of electric car charging stations north of Campbell River, but check carefully before you head north as phone service is sporadic on this highway. The scenery is pristine with mountains, lakes, rivers, and rainforest surrounding you.
It is always wonderful to visit with my mom and a few friends while up in Port Hardy.
When phenomenal low tides occur on the north island, it is well worth the effort to explore and experience the expanse of sea life available on the northern beaches. Both sandy and rocky types of beaches are well represented.
Unlike more populated areas, there is extensive space to roam in solitude while appreciating the wonder of nature. Two of my favorite types of sea life to discover during low tides are: moonsnails and sea urchins.
Upon returning home to Nanaimo (just over 4 hours and 385 km southeast) from Port Hardy our kitten Sophia was so excited to see us. She continues to develop her trust with people and other animals since her arrival last summer as an anxious, wild, tiny 7-8 week old rescue kitten. Sophia has learned to interact with us and is so curious about everything.
Sophia helping Mark do repairs in the bathroom. Whatever is happening, Sophia is right there checking out the action!
What is a perfect way to spend a day or two when there is fresh powder snow and blue skies? Time to head up to another treasure on Vancouver Island–Mount Washington!
We packed our downhill ski gear and headed off in the truck. The drive to Mount Washington takes just under 2 hours (134 km) from Nanaimo providing the road conditions are clear and good. There are shuttles and buses available if needed.
https://www.mountwashington.ca/ Mount Washington offers rentals, ski packages, downhill/alpine trails, multiple chair lifts accommodating all levels of skiers, and varieties of accommodation up on the mountain or down at the nearby community of Courtney. The website is very handy to assist you when planning your day or vacation. There are outdoor adventure activities offered during both winter and summer seasons.
My husband prefers black diamond and powder skiing. I prefer groomed blue intermediate level runs. There are choices for all levels available here and the views from the mountain are quite breathtaking!
A different trip up to Mt. Washington brought more beautiful conditions and an intriguing fog bank looming at lower levels. There is an interesting character we have seen a few times who calls to the Ravens while snowboarding or from the chair lifts. This man sits on the snow signaling the birds with various whistles. The ravens recognize him and gather around to visit with him.
The fog bank seemed to be encroaching along the lower sections. It was beautiful… yet somewhat eerie in its intensity!
After a day’s exercise on the mountain… good healthy food called our name! I’ve recently discovered beet lattes. They are quite unexpectedly yummy!
Have you ever been to a Maple Sugar Festival? Perhaps you might have attended one if you visited Quebec, but it was a new experience for me in beautiful British Columbia. The French Immersion schools and French community organized this event just prior to Covid lockdown in B.C.
There were ice carving and sculpture displays, various Francophone bands, popular French food, a giant bear mascot, lots of maple sugar sweet treats to taste, and enthusiastic French conversation.
Here is a short video reflecting highlights from the Nanaimo Maple Sugar Festival.
Vancouver Island truly is a diverse and exciting place to live or visit.
The next blog posts will depict keeping busy during covid lockdown–from art to nature walks/hikes, and spring wildlife around Vancouver Island. Keep safe. Things are improving and the future looks so promising.
Sophia is our adventurous Rescue Kitten. Her litter was discovered in the forest and veterinarians estimate she is about 8 months of age. This post reflects our adventures on Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada and our kitten’s reaction to seeing the magnificent wolf which our family was donating to an Educational and Recovery Wildlife Facility near us.
My dad, Alex Prestwich, passed away in 2007 after a lengthy battle with a major stroke, blindness, and cancer. He adored and deeply respected the wildlife on Vancouver Island and treasured each living animal.
Dad even had a raven that frequently hung out on top of a massive press inside his machine shop. Black bears, deer, and the odd cougar also came by to visit when he worked late at night.
Dad was passionate about learning and inspired so many children with his constant curiosity towards life. It was these traits that eventually spear headed decades’ long development of a wildlife taxidermy collection to inspire and educate others.
No animals or birds were killed or hunted. All animals died through accidental or natural causes, then were assessed by the conservation officer, prior to their release to my dad. All taxidermy was completed on Vancouver Island and dad would only allow the animals to be portrayed in natural and respectful poses.
When dad passed away, we knew the Canadian wildlife collection needed to find the perfect home where people would continue to love and respect the animals and environmental education would continue to be emphasized.
In addition to the educational areas filled with taxidermy and media presentations; the extensive grounds were a collage of native flora gardens, ponds, and areas where black bear cubs, eagles, and injured or abandoned wildlife could heal and survive.
This non-profit organization is mainly run by volunteers who all love and care about nature and our amazing wildlife. Robin and his wife are passionate leaders who have made such a positive difference in our world. Dad would have adored touring or volunteering at this amazing facility.
On our initial trip to NIWRC we presented the entire collection (for Educational Purposes) except dad’s favorite animal, which was the Wolf.
It is painful to say good-bye to special items when you loose a loved one. But it was time to let go and share this magnificent and rare animal with the world.
Sophia knew something was up and crept hesitantly downstairs to investigate. Her tail fur totally puffed up when she spotted the wolf waiting to be transported to the NIWRC. Curiosity won and she hesitantly approached the wolf.
Ironically, the coloration of the two mammals was so similar. However, within minutes she raced back upstairs then watched from the safety of the door as the wolf was carefully transported into the truck.
Here is a short video of Sophia and the Wolf as we donate this magnificent animal to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Center.
Although much of our family lives in varying areas of Canada, we had 3 generations represented when we donated the Wolf to its new owners/educators. Thankfully this occurred just prior to covid restrictions, so masks were unnecessary for this event.
My 88 year old Mom, (Patti) was so thrilled to see the family collection on display as Robin (owner) gave us a grand tour of the grounds and educational facilities. My son, Alexander, represented the young adult generation. I represented the middle of the trio.
If you are touring through Vancouver Island and enjoy wildlife recovery and learning about Canadian wildlife, this is a amazing facility to explore. Bus loads of curious school children frequented here prior to covid lockdown and will return again soon I am sure!
When we returned home, Sophia made sure we knew it was her turn for attention once again.
Keep safe and optimistic 😉. The next posts will be adventures around Vancouver Island and skiing at Mt Washington!
I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunities, freedom, and standard of life we experience living in Canada.
However, people’s journeys in life vary and not all are as fortunate as I am. There are so many ways to be kind and support others. This global pandemic reaffirms the importance of being kind, calm, respectful and understanding towards humanity.
While respecting social distancing, you can join an organization like “Blankets for Canada” where volunteers purchase their own wool and knit or crochet squares to create blankets which are anonymously donated throughout your community.
There are rules about the types of wool, colours, weight of yarn, size of squares, etc. You may select to just create squares and drop them off at a local pick up location, or create squares and sew them together prior to dropping off a completed blanket. A member from the not-for-profit registered organization checks the blankets, attaches a label, and drops off blankets at multiple locations including: Women’s Safe Shelters, Men’s Shelters, Salvation Army hostels, or city homeless street people.
Upon reading about this organization in a community newspaper, I joined the Nanaimo chapter as one of a team of members knitting or crocheting squares to improve the quality of life for struggling community members. Winters are cold and wet here. In addition to giving warmth, our goal is to offer love and hope.
So the knitting vigil began. Sophia (8 month rescue kitten) watched beside me sometimes playing with the wool or sitting on the blanket so I couldn’t knit!
While working on each square I contemplated the person who might receive this gift. I hoped they knew they were loved, important, and cared about. The squares accumulated and as I neared the goal of 48, I made the decision to also sew them together and complete the entire blanket myself!
So….Off I went to visit one of the head organizers for the Nanaimo branch of Blankets for Canada and received a lesson in organizing squares effectively and techniques to sew them together. My mentor was extremely helpful and encouraging.
Here is a short video of the Blankets for Canada process…
It took an additional couple of weeks to organize the patterns and sew all 48 squares together…with Sophia’s assistance (of course).
When the blanket was completed I added a personal message. A couple of my friends had previously spent time at a Safe House while dealing with domestic violence. I requested the blanket be given to somebody at a Women’s Safe House and heard it was delivered to Haven House. I have no idea who received it, but I hope she feels loved and cared about.
The first 25 squares are knitted for blanket number 2. It will be ready for delivery when covid safety protocols open up again later this year.
If you have spare time during Covid lockdown, this is one idea of a project which could offer hope and love to another individual. Keep safe and optimistic my friends.
Northern Vancouver Island, Mt. Washington skiing, and Sophia assists with house renovations are the next blog posts coming soon.
Flashback to our first snow fall on Vancouver Island this season. This blog post is dedicated to our rescue kitten, Sophia, as she experiences snow for the first time.
Although initially dubious and slightly hesitant to immerse her paws and body in the cold white substance, she quickly embraced the experience tunneling through the snow and even playing with little snowballs. Here’s a short video of her very first reaction to snow!
During the next few days, the snow continued building slowly. Unlike the majority of areas in Canada, on Vancouver Island our durations of snow are short lived. When the powdery snow arrives, we embrace the beautiful winter wonderland knowing that usually within a few days it will melt and disappear.
Sophia had mixed reactions during the snowfall time. She was very curious often watching the snow fall from the doorway, but she also increased her burrowing activity hiding in bags and strange locations.
Sophia was fascinated by the falling snowflakes.
The snow decided to grace us with its presence for a few days as the centimeters increased steadily on our sundeck and around our neighborhood. We parked our vehicles at the top of our little hill as snowplows are rarely required here and cul de sacs are the last to be cleared when a snowfall does occur.
The moon was full and the winter wonderland was quite magical so we decided to venture out for a walk around our neighborhood in Nanaimo, mid Vancouver Island.
Snow continued falling throughout the night and the following morning Sophia ventured out to explore the sundeck. Her confidence towards this unknown substance had grown and she was now jumping, pouncing, tunneling, and playing with the snow. Her reactions and playful antics brought such wonder and happiness to us all.
We thoroughly enjoyed our week or so of snow in January and Sophia became very adept at maneuvering through it without snowshoes or skis. Here is a short video of some highlights from her explorations in our yard on Vancouver Island, B.C.
As quickly as it arrived, the weather warmed up and the snow melted making way for our next new adventures.
Future blog posts will include: Blankets for Canada, wolves at North Island Wildlife Recovery Center, Sophia helps with house renovations, and Harbour City Newcomers Club adventures. Keep safe and keep optimistic my friends.
Time to welcome in a new year! (I’m a bit behind!) Do you enjoy hiking through lush rainforests, or walking adjacent to the ocean where kayaks explore and seals and shorebirds are common? This is our paradise living on Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia is a unique island paradise off the west coast of Canada. The “Island” is 460 kilometres (290 miles) in length, 80+ kilometres (50+ miles) in width at the widest point, and 32,134 km2 (12,407 square miles) in area.
Vancouver Island is roughly the same size as Belgium (30,688 km²)or Taiwan (36,193 km²), and much bigger than Israel (20,770 km²), Kuwait (17,818km²) and Jamaica (10,991 km²).
Most of our forest areas are rainforest; however, our coastal climate is much more temperate than most of the rest of Canada. This blog post represents some of the beautiful outdoor locations around our home in Nanaimo. Keep in mind, all these adventures occurred during January–Winter in Canada.
My husband and I love hiking, kayaking, exploring nature, skiing, and so forth. My son does not always share our adventurous ways. Sophia (our rescue kitten) has mixed feelings about outdoor adventures. She is incredibly curious, but likes the comforts of home too. Sophia loves to burrow and sometimes surprises us by hiding under blankets, rugs, cloth, coats, pillows, etc.
Another January day, another opportunity to explore beaches and beautiful decorated clouds adorning the blue skies.
Nature offers beauty everywhere and there is lots of physical space to explore…
There are dozens and dozens of trails to hike and explore around our home. This short video represents a hike through one of our rainforest trails in winter. You will see a vast array of flora (plant life) from Arbutus to moss and lichen wrapped nurse trees growing fungus between ferns.
Try to use your imagination to hear and see all the bird species who make their homes in our rain forests.
More blog posts of nature and wildlife on Vancouver Island will be coming, but the next post will be “Sophia’s introduction to Snow!”.
As lockdowns continue, I reflect with joy and happy memories of family and freedom during our last Christmas/Festive Season prior to Covid 19. Presenting December 2019 on Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada.
The restaurant in Nanaimo was called “The Modern Cafe”… the delicious entrees were far from “Cafe” fair.
Back at the house….My mom presented us with a stunning, colorful quilt which our rescue kitten Sophia instantly proceeded to check out!
On December 24th we relaxed around the house and played with our kitten Sophia. Tomorrow family would be arriving!
Sophia (7 months old) is always involved in all activities… and much loved 😽. Our kitten suffers from PTSD from her unknown history before her mother and litter were discovered in the forest. She can be extremely wary and anxious in many settings… but she is content and happy with the 4 of us.
We were not blessed with the joy of young children zealous to commence festivities on Christmas morning this year…but we had fun activities planned and more family arriving from other areas of B.C.
Two trips were anticipated to pick up family members who were crossing by B.C Ferries from the mainland of B.C. to Nanaimo. The first 2 visitors arriving are coming from Prince George — my brother Mark and lovely Begona. Mark’s sister, Ingrid, is also arriving later from Vancouver.
Here are a few highlights from our last Christmas and Boxing Day prior to Covid 19. May this happy video bring smiles and memories of times when masks were not necessary and there were no physical spacing limits to worry about.
From our home to yours we wish you peace, happiness, beautiful memories, and optimistic hope of future family Christmas times again soon….
Reflections of December 2019. Our life was so free and hugs were plentiful. Family and friends could gather and interact without masks or 2 meter distancing. This blog post is dedicated to memories of that time and optimistic hope and appreciation for our future …
My son Alexander, and our rescue kitten Sophia, truly bonded while my husband and I were relaxing and exploring around Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I’m so thankful that Alexander decided to return home to Canada prior to the global pandemic after living/working in Bangkok for 6 years as a senior Design Engineer at Western Digital. There is something magical about mother/son reunion hugs!
I am retired after spending 35 years educating students. My husband, Mark, is semi retired. Yet, we are always busy learning and exploring new ideas or commencing new projects. One of our most time consuming projects is home renovation!
Our newly updated kitchen and living area space is such an improvement on the previous version. Although my talented husband completed the majority of the renovations, it was lovely to sit back and have our backsplash completed by a tiling specialist just before Christmas!
Next…. we removed the protective plastic off the stainless steel appliances! It’s tougher than it looks lol
While kitchen renovations kept us occupied indoors, what was happening outdoors near our home?
The Canadian animals on Vancouver Island are busy in the autumn and early winter. Black tailed deer are regular visitors around our yards consuming lots of leaves and plant life while their coats thicken in preparation for upcoming colder temperatures and snow.
We have reached a truce with the deer…The backyard is off limits and “deer fenced” to protect our flowers, vegetables, and shrubs. The front yard is open ‘game’ to our nibbly, cute visitors. Does and fawns regularly visit, but bucks are less common in the residential areas. Sophia is fascinated by the deer and often watches or sometimes approaches the fawns as they feed.
Deer and raccoons are common here. Beavers, elk, and black bears are viewed occasionally if you are lucky. But when the cougars come out of the forests and roam freely, we are fascinated–yet greatly concerned.
Cougar attacks on people are rare, but can occur if nature’s balance is upset, or a cougar is sick or starving. This cougar (with 3 kits) was photographed by a friend in a nearby community in December.
How does our rescue kitten, Sophia, react to all the action inside and outdoors? With definite mixed emotion….
That’s enough! Time to climb some trees and chase some deer!
Next, it’s time to string popcorn, decorate the tree together while listening to festive music and drinking eggnog, and enjoy the festivities leading up to Christmas.
Time to enjoy family (mom is arriving soon) and good friends. Our art isn’t up yet on the walls, but we are so excited to socialize with those we care deeply about.
How lovely it was to socialize with friends we haven’t been able to visit now for nearly 1 1/2 years. How grateful we will feel when once again we can share meals together in our homes.
This blog post was a mixture of memories and events from December 2019. The next post will be memories and fun from the last festive season before the global pandemic. Stay tuned. It’s coming soon!
Reflections and flash backs from our last International trip abroad prior to Covid 19. Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Dec. 2019. Fun in the sun!
As Covid continues to affect us all globally, and we are increasingly familiar with our homes and yards; it is soothing and peaceful to reflect upon fun and adventure from prior to the global lockdown. This blog post reflects the laughter, sun, and fun from our most recent trip abroad to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I invite you to travel virtually with me to sunny Mexico.
Mark, Lynda and I decided to take a taxi and explore the nearby community of Playa del Carmen. This coastal town is located along the Yucatan Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline. The resort community is located in the Quintana Roo state. Quinta Avenida pedestrian area is a shoppers’ souvenir haven where blocks of shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars are located near the beach.
Lynda had fun posing with the men in cultural bird regalia. We appreciated the colorful street graffiti and I was intrigued with all the beaded art creations for sale.
It was time to catch a taxi and return to the resort as tonight was “Mexican Cultural Extravaganza Night!”. The Sandos provided quite a cultural experience for us–from food, to costumes, dancing (including the traditional Mexican Hat dance), and Mariachi bands. We were immersed and felt the energy, pride and vibrancy from this beautiful country. An added surprise was when they called up visitors celebrating a birthday as I was one! We danced. We laughed. We made lots of noise!
Here is a short video depicting highlights from the Mexican Extravaganza Night at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort.
Within this brief 9 day trip to Playa del Carmen my husband and I have explored the famous ruins of Chichen Itza, swam with catfish in cenotes, explored “Xcaret by Mexico” during the day and evening, and snorkeled at Puerto Morelos Reef National Park.
We have laughed each day while getting reacquainted with dear friends from Orange Beach, Alabama, and definitely celebrated my 60th birthday in style! The warm enticing oceans and pools were appreciated each day as were the endless aspects of staying in an ‘all inclusive resort’. These Mexican adventures have been recorded and celebrated in 5 previous blog posts.
Our final day was spent relaxing around the resort with our dear friends Terry and Lynda.
Who knew this would be our final gathering in close quarters for an unknown duration due to covid?
These were days of relaxing in the sun without accompanying face masks and bottles of sanitizer. There were no signs reminding us of 2 meters physical distancing or washing hands with soap regularly while singing the Happy Birthday song two times.
I am grateful to my caring, loving husband who surprised me with this birthday trip to Mexico to celebrate my 60th year. We are appreciative that we reunited with delightful friends, Terry and Lynda. We are thankful that Mexico embraced us and shared their beautiful festive cultures, sun, and history. We are hopeful that once again our world will be free to explore and share with beautiful people from all countries around our magnificent globe.
My husband and I returned back to Canada tanned and relaxed. There was no premonition that this would be our last International adventure for an unknown period of time…
Future blog posts will be dedicated to creative ways to keep optimistic and active during covid times… Keep safe my friends!
December 2019. Our last International trip prior to Covid 19. Is Xcaret Mexico truly the cultural Disneyland of Mexico? This blog post explores the park during the day then includes the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular night performance.
Today we are exploring the multi award winning Xcaret Mexico theme park culminating with the famous evening cultural performance entitled “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” After breakfast we departed from Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The distance from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret Park is only 7-8 km. Many resorts promote tours and we booked a few ‘tours’ on the day we arrived in Mexico. If you are looking for a cheaper option, there are buses available (March 2021) for only $1-$10 CA depending on your route and bus company. Taxis are also available for $12-15 CA and take about 10 minutes each way. There are multiple websites to assist your research including: https://www.rome2rio.com
Once the tour bus drops you at the entrance parking lot and you pick up your Admission package, you are given a 14 page directory/map in the language of your choice and you’re off to explore the park. http://www.xcaret.com
$124.72 CAD per adult (March 2021 price quote) bought us the Xcaret day admission to the park including Xcaret Mexico Espectacular evening performance. Our goal was to focus on areas depicting live animals and wildlife from Mexico prior to attending the evening cultural show.
For additional $ there were many other tourist based options available including: special dinners, encounters and photo ops with (stingrays, sharks, dolphins, manatees), snorkeling tours, adrenaline fun, massages, etc. In addition, there were photo areas scattered around the park where your photo was taken and you could choose to purchase these photos later in the day.
Xcaret is a family fun park which includes a large children’s activity area, cultural presentations around the grounds, beach areas, and man made underground rivers which meander throughout the park. People can be observed maneuvering small kayaks, tubes, or swimming in the narrow rivers as you explore around the park areas.
Xcaret truly is a beehive of activity and offers options to suit various tastes and interests. The grounds of the park are vast and we certainly were not able to experience everything in only one day. Our preference is live fauna and flora from this lovely country of Mexico as well as cultural displays. Our photos are representative of this.
This video highlights our day tour around Xcaret …
But the highlight of our experience at Xcaret was yet to come… We were advised to queue in line as soon as the doors opened for the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. Prior to entering the huge auditorium each person was presented with a small cardboard figure and a candle.
The forum reminded me of a Canadian hockey arena after the ice is taken out. We followed the early crowd who immediately claimed seats near the main entrance doors. It turned out to be a prize location to view the elaborate show.
More than 300 artists performed 18 acts prior to an electrifying Grand Finale. The dancing, costumes, singing, bands, horses, massive props, colours, sounds, energy and vibrancy continued non-stop throughout the entire show.
In addition, we witnessed the history of Mexico. The journey took the audience from historical dances and rituals, through Mayan and Aztec culture, to Spanish conquest and the Mexican revolution.
From the physically rough Mesoamerican ball game and Ball of Fire game to the Volodores (Flying Men) and the traditional Mexican Hat Dance; the entertainment was expansive and expressive.
Of course, the Mariachi bands blared, the shoes stamped, and the skirts swooshed!
Click the video below to see highlights from the evening Xcaret Mexico performance.
The Grand Finale was stunning and the song “Mexico en la Piel” translated means “Mexico on Your Skin“. It is such an appropriate title because as we departed from the Xcaret by Mexico Concert, we felt as though we had been embraced by the the people and culture of Mexico.
I won’t give away any more secrets because in my opinion, this is a show you definitely should see if you are travelling near this area of Mexico! (Playa del Carmen, Cancun).
Before Covid 19. (December 2019) Our last International Trip
My husband surprised me with a trip to sunny, gorgeous Playa del Carmen, Mexico to celebrate my 60th Birthday. We had no idea this would be our final International destination due to the pandemic.
Gratefully, we had a fabulous experience and it was such a memorable way to announce my 6th decade milestone! From relaxing beaches and sunshine to walking snowmen, iguanas, howler monkeys, Mexican hats, food, friends, towels cakes, music and dance. Mexican birthdays are so much fun!!
After an emotional start opening birthday cards and gifts from family back in Canada, we departed from our room at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen to head off for a lovely outdoor brunch in the sun. En route we had quite a surprise when a troupe of Howler monkeys made an appearance outside our suite and the alpha male put on quite a vocalization performance for us.
For fun, I chose to interpret the deep, guttural vocalizations as an attempt to sing Happy Birthday. 🙂 It was the only time we saw and heard the howlers so close during our stay at the resort.
After a lovely brunch we explored the grounds and enjoyed the beach with our friends Lynda and Terry. A lady with a snowman passed by….Sure that’s believable? lol . Resort personnel were setting up domes on the beach for an upcoming wedding ceremony while people played beach volleyball or attended a beach aerobics class.
Today…We were fully participating in the relax mode. Besides…We had a birthday dinner reservation tonight!
When Lynda, Terry, Mark and I arrived at the Mexican restaurant, our table was colorfully decorated and we experienced spicy, delightful Mexican cuisine. Our waiter was a friend of Terry and Lynda’s and he made certain everything was extra special for us. Lynda and I donned traditional Mexican hats and a multitude of photos were taken of inebriated tourists!
After dinner we attended the nightly concert entitled Divas which included a talented Celine Dion impersonator. Upon returning to our room, we discovered a birthday fairy had visited! Wow! What a fantastic way to celebrate a 60th birthday. Thanks to my fabulous husband for making this possible!
May I repeat my birthday tomorrow? Just kidding. I highly recommend a Mexican birthday! Here is a short movie showing highlights from our day.
Tomorrow we have another full day of exciting exploration and discovery. We are heading to Xcaret Mexico for a day of fun followed by the superb cultural night show. Watch for the next blog post!