Tag Archives: winter

Spring Breaks

If summer is for vacation, then spring is for weekend trips.  Longer days are here and I’ve got the urge for going, but the weather isn’t right for long day in the sun just yet. Luckily, there’s lots of neat little places to explore nearby and we’ve been making the most of the weekends lately. It’s still a bit gloomy out, but a few recent excursions have made taking on the last  of Vancouver’s days of rain more of a pleasure than a burden.

Washington, the Evergreen State, the place who’s unofficial motto – Alki , or “Bye and Bye” – has been especially good at taking some of the sting from my summer yearnings. Recently we visited Blaine – a town where you can ride in historically significant ferry boat and then get coffee from a building shaped like a boat. A little further south, a nice little rainy Sunday found us in Edison – a little town named after an inventor and the former home of Edward R. Murrow – eating some delicious Irish soda bread from the bakery and watching ducks in the sloughs. A little later, we thought about out friends in Ireland as we talked the cliffs at Deception Pass.

Blaine Harbor's The Plover

Blaine Harbor’s The Plover

Coffee from a building shaped like a boat

Coffee from a building shaped like a boat

A drive over Deception Pass

A drive over Deception Pass

From the cliffs near Deception Pass

From the cliffs near Deception Pass

But all travel hasn’t been southerly. In fact, one of the nicest spring days yet was spent east in the Chiliwack Valley where we trekked along the Trans-Canada Trail. Further up the elevation rise outside the Fraser Valley, we got pretty significantly snowed upon for (what I assume will be) the last time this winter.

Snow over the Chiliwack

Snow over the Chiliwack

River in early spring

River in early spring

There have also been some neat in-town events lately too that are occupying the weekends. At the Museum of Anthropology I was happy to visit the dream world of Mexican artist in a dramatic show called The Marvelous Real. Paintings, sculpture, music and more all pointed to observations of this world by some of the most culturally creative artists I’ve seen in a while.

I always feel gross taking cell phone shots in the museum...

I always feel gross taking cell phone shots in the museum…

I also stocked up on all things animal hair at Fibers West which always makes for a nice way to spend a spring Saturday. Here we heard all about skinning goats and combing fleece and even took home some to spin. Best of all, we got the news of a sheep festival of sorts complete with shearing demos and info on farming coming up in September. My fantasy farm-living self can’t wait.

A display only a knitter could love.

A display only a knitter could love.

So much yarn I'm spinning!

So much yarn I’m spinning!

As the weather warms, I’m still hoping to visit the Gulf Islands and maybe even head out into the Washington rainforest. Does that mean I’m finally coming to like the rain? I’d have said so except for this lovely little Sunday sun shower we got this afternoon. Don’t worry, sunshine. I still like you best.

soon, sunshine.

Soon, sunshine.

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Snow Falling on a Blog Break

February draws to a close and I realize that, without my realizing it, 2014 has started off with a bit of a blog break, but a lovely little snowstorm this  past weekend reminded me of how much I do  miss sharing things with you, dear readers.

This winter has been a cruel one for most of North America – including my home town in Florida – but here in Vancouver things have been thankfully forgiving. Sunshine makes it into at least a few afternoons each week and, while the wind is cold, the irises and witch hazel are already in bloom and the rain hasn’t gripped with the strength it had last year.

That said, last weekend in rolled a wonderful little snow storm that, in true Vancouver fashion, dusted us for a few days then quietly slipped away. Not, however, before letting me take a few little snapshots of a cold, white evening layered with all the eerie loveliness of the woods in winter.

Cedars with just enough snow to show off their architecture.

Cedars with just enough snow to show off their architecture.

Snow clouds catching city light.

Snow clouds catching city light.

It’s a shame that house things and work  has let two months slip by already with me barely keeping up, but I  hope to see you again more frequently soon. In the meantime, keep warm out there everyone, wherever you are!

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First glimpses of winter

November’s end has brought a smack of winter weather and it’s that time of year when I usually mis-gauge the weather and leave the house dressed inappropriately. It’s raining. It’s really raining. It’s windy. It’s dry and cold, but the ground is wet. We’ll take the bus. The bike. There’s a cold front. The sun is out. How other people seem so comfortable these is beyond me even after living three winters here.

I get it right sometimes, but more often than not that’s because I’m carrying a pile of hats and mittens and extra socks and a different coat, which, if you’re doing much on-foot traveling, is a pain. It’s usually when I’m getting ready for a day like this when I miss the ‘Floridian lifestyle’ – not so much because of the cold, but because things are easier when the only pair of shoes you need are plastic flip flops and a hoodie is your go-to coat.

But to the diligent goes the reward I suppose, and the rewards of winter are already peaking out from behind grey clouds. I’ll be making some trips back upstairs to switch jackets for a while and I’ll probably step in at least one puddle in shoes that I forgot to waterproof spray, but at least I’ll be greeted with beautiful views.

Yesterday, we hung out at Acadia Beach for a while looking at winter’s visiting ducks and spotted some of the first snow on nearby mountains. The thin winter clouds are also here now and make for some really beautiful skyscapes.

A big white monster.

A big white monster on the Sunshine Coast.

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The view from a different kind of beach paradise.

And winter has a way of making us appreciate things familiar in a new way. Take the Bloedel Conservatory where we went for the first time in the dark the other day. You know, because it’s dark at 4:15 now. Good thing we have a secret tropical garden right here in town that happens to look like an alien ship in the right kind of fog.

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Bloedel looking almost alien in a winter sky.

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Impending Gloom

So, at the risk of sounding like one of those people who creates a problem and then complains about it, the time has arrived where things outside turn, as my favorite Irish buddy would say, ‘a bit grim’.

This will be, I think, our third winter here in Vancouver. I say ‘I think’ because it might actually be our fourth. At this point, Vancouver and I are in that steady phase of a relationship, not yet five years in but longer than two, where time has started to pass in unrecognizable ways. The kind where, when the time is actually counted up, you don’t feel like what’s happened in your life matches the resulting number. It feels a bit like when you are dating someone for longer than you normally do. On most days it’s nice – things have gotten comfortable, you know each other pretty well and can hang around happily without doing much. Then there’s the days when you see that lingering weird thing about the person that you don’t much like. Maybe they have an anger problem. Maybe they have smelly feet.

With me and Vancouver, it’s this:

Impending gloom.

Impending gloom.

Last week you were so nice with your warm sun and views of a mountain. Today you are grey. And I mean one-hundred percent grey. Grey skies, grey buildings, grey piles of soaked leaves all over the sidewalk. Grey.

Here’s the part where I’m complaining about something I caused myself. Who doesn’t understand that this is stuff of which the Pacific Southwest (or Northwest, depending on your perspective) is made? Who doubts the power of a literal rainforest to produce days and days and days of clouds and light rain? Who moves to British Columbia without a rain coat? That’s right, an idiot. From Florida.

This year, I’m determined not to fall victim to the gloomy bubble that is the sky above me and not to spend months complaining about it. How then will a sunbathing, flip-flop wearing, jean-shorts making girl like me combat impending gloom blues? Well, after some number of years, I can tell you it starts with a sunny breakfast.

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Thank goodness for my local grocery store owner who maintains a perpetual supply of grapefruits.

It also takes lots of candles, evenings with cool tunes on CITR or the turntable, puzzles, coffee at any hour, rain boots, fresh flowers, breaking up dark hours after diner with a walk up the street at Delany’s for hot chocolate, knitting, hockey, poutine, a sketchbook.

These will be the core strategies of my plan, but I’m open to additional research, suggestions, and, above all, not complaining. Happy grey days, Vancouver. Happy winter to us all.

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Bare Trees and Spring at Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Bare trees in the garden's center lawn.

Bare trees in the garden’s center lawn.

As a kid, trips to visit family in  St. Louis helped shape our year. Often, we’d arrive in the dead of December in time for Christmas. Usually it took place at several venues across town and there was much driving around and eating multiple dinners. As the Floridian cousins, we’d wait for snow and the chance to borrow the gear of our relatives to attempt sledding or making a wonky snowman. On winter trips we usually didn’t venture too far from the warmth of an aunt’s house or the confines of an indoor museum. Occasionally, the trip would be made in the summer and a place we always visited was Shaw’s Garden (also known as the Missouri Botanical Garden). My parents would fawn over the plants they could no longer grow in their sandy Floridian yard. My sister and I would gawk at the big trees with leaves that we were told fell off in the winter leaving the tree bare and naked. This, being from a land of skinny pines, fascinated me and, frankly, left me feeling a little saddened.

Well, it seems that not much has changed. My intrigue into the lives of trees in the deciduous sort is as well as strong as my subtle apprehension to them. What to do? Visit the Botanical Garden, I thought, and do so especially in the winter.

We didn’t go at all in January, but took advantage of a sunny day recently to walk among strange trees and remark on those bare branches that have come to be more familiar. Thankfully, the markings of Spring were peeking out under a sun that was strong enough to show us our nearly forgotten shadows.

The new entry and visitor's center has a neat art gallery space and a great place for coffee and snacks.

The new entry and visitor’s center has a neat art gallery space and a nice little place for coffee and snacks.


Highlights from the garden this season include the Japanese White Pine.

The leavings of winter.

The leavings of Winter.

The glories of Spring.

The reaching of Spring.

Right now the Witch Hazel blooms in a canopy over the walks near the back of the garden.

Right now the Witch Hazel blooms in a canopy over the walks near the back of the garden.

A carpet of Persian Violets.

A carpet of Persian Violets.

An unfamiliar sight these days.

An unfamiliar sight these days.

That Japanese Pine from the highlights at the entrance. It's from another part of the world, but then, after all, so am I.

That Japanese Pine from the highlights at the entrance. It’s from another part of the world, but then, after all, so am I.










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Where are you, Sun?



Happily, these photos are not from today.

Today it’s cold, but the sun is out in full force and might stay that way for at least the rest of the afternoon which means I can actually try some of the things I learned recently in the bathtub. Hooray!

Until today I haven’t until been able to practice them because it’s been looking more like these photos outside lately. This afternoon, I’ll be able to find due south from a shadow, calculate the angle of the sunset and determine approximately how long the equinox. Could I just look this stuff up online? Sure. But what’s the fun in that? Today I’ll indulge in some sun worship by practicing natural navigation.



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Snowy River

February has opened with hectic switching between warm sun, bleak rain, cold air and thick fog. Last week we rode up to Squamish to try and take advantage of one of the sunny days but were met with a thick blanket cloud that set over most of Howe Sound like some kind of magic carpet linked to the water. The air gets cold pretty quickly after heading north. The elevation change seems slight from the car, but when we turned up the valley to visit one of our favorite spots, Anderson Beach, the difference was clear.


Snow on the banks at Anderson Beach. Judging by how far my leg fell in (wrong shoes entirely) it must have been at least two-feet thick in some places.

The last time we were here it was warm and we sat next to the river examining and trying to stack pebbles and rocks rounded down by the water. The little island just in front of this park access makes for interesting patterns in water currents. We’ve seen salmon coming up to spawn here and decided it would be a great place to camp once we have our bear-aware knowledge and gear ready. On this visit we barely made it to the river’s edge on account of deep snow and were surprised to find a strange irony residue left on an almost empty river bed. The naked trees lining the river’s edge created a ghostly feeling heightened by trying to step into the footprints of the last person who passed here before us. Also we discovered the tracks of a large and mysterious beast.

Look at the size of that hoof!

Look at the size of that hoof!

Being Florida kids, at first we tried to justify there being abnormally massive deer in the area, but we later read that there had been a heard of elk released here not too long ago that are known for cruising around this area. Good luck to them this winter. Their feet are much better than mine at navigating this kind of landscape.

There’s a neat look at a glacier (the name of which I don’t know) on the ride down the valley. It’s majestic and arresting even in a whitened world. We got nice views of it just as the sun settled behind the mountain. Something like Rembrandt lighting shone from behind the snow and cast a lovely little glowing haze (unfortunately that effect doesn’t show up so well in drive-by photos).


The majestic peak of a sunlight glacier. 

As much as I try to pretend otherwise, it is still winter and the sun went down behind the mountains on us quickly. REluctantly we headed back out through the maze of mossy trees and banked snow and then through the thick forest back to the highway. A sometimes-forgotten element of beauty here, the drive home along Howe Sound was beautiful bathed in a winter sunset. The changing light reflected on the water, some still hidden by fog, and the islands’ moving shadows made for stunning glimpses of rocky coasts and a winter-leaning sun.

Sunset over the Sound.

Sunset over the Sound.


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YOU GUYS It looks like SPRING in here

Well, at least in a pot inside the house that I, um, put near the floorboard heater. The road outside our apartment is being dug up to make way for an improved sidewalk and more room for a bike path and some of the little garden area has gotten tampered with in all the construction. The other day I picked up some casualty bulbs I found lying on the road and planted them in the house. It’s only been like four days and look what happened…

Spring! Look it's coming!

Spring! Look it’s coming!

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snow day


Stillness at Bunzen Lake

Woke up to flurries the other morning and the news of a rare bird visiting our neck of the woods. Not sure which of these was most efficient at dragging us right out of the house despite the cold but out we were. The flurries didn’t last long, but they were thicker in New Westminster (where the Red-Flanked Bluetail , normally a resident of Russia and Eastern Europe, has mis-migrated this winter). My snowman-making skills have improved since last year and it was nice to see everything bathed in white. The bird, obviously a foreigner in his unrecognized flitting motions and silhouette, had attracted a gaggle of onlookers. While I appreciate the feathered, I try to refrain from joining the bird papparazzi on these kinds of things so I have no Bluetail photo. For me, snow makes a better subject. It moves less and I don’t have to bother it while it’s already lost. Well, at least I think I didn’t bother it.


Snowy streets in East Van make it look even more like the 70s over there.


Like a little spilled powdered sugar landed here at Queen’s Park.

If only it were warm enough to want a snowcone.

If only it were warm enough to want a snowcone.

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amongst the reeds and the rushes


waterlogged winter reeds

Our trips to Sea Island have revealed mountain views, herons hunting, people on horse or bike treks celebrating the sunny days, a host of visiting winter ducks, one lark and one coyote. This autumn, it’s a platform for the windswept and the rain soaked. And for those who don’t mind a bit.


what a lovely darkened silhouette against a late fall sun


sandy grey reeds and silvered driftwood


the want for wings


the visiting ducks often cut paths through the reeds


the cold light of late autumn


all that remains

where the land meets the sea

where the land meets the sea

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watery walking

Rainforest. Rain. Wind and Rain. Rainy. Dark, cold and wet. So what to do? I know, walk anyway.

Rain means tall trees

Rain means tall trees

and wet rocks

and wet rocks

and slimy slugs

and thankfulness for hoods

and thankfulness for hoods

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