Category Archives: Cedar

A Week on Our Own: The End

I am so glad to have gotten to the end of this week!  It was a great week all together, full of fantastic accomplishments, reuniting with good friends, and some awesome Mommy/Toddler time.  It was, however, also a long week of single parenthood (Much love to all the single parents out there!  You’re amazing and don’t ever forget it!), a week of feeling like I should be somewhere else, and a lot of laundry… a lot of laundry.

Day 6 for Dave was spent jaunting from one airport to the next, each one a bit more disappointing than the last.  For Little Man and I the morning was spent at the Hazelwood Herb Farm in Cedar, and then a lot of cleaning… a lot of cleaning.

The Herb Farm was by far the bright spot for both of our day, and it’s finally convinced me that I’m trying to rush Spring along a bit too quickly for Vancouver Island.  The minute the temperatures got into the high teens in Celsius (that’s 60s… I think… in Fahrenheit…) I feel like I should be out in the garden planting something.  Except that it’s still pretty cold at night, and the ground is still pretty cold, and nothing that I want to plant (peppers, basil, etc.) is ready for that type of temperature.  This became very clear to me at the herb farm where they sell the types of plants that currently do good at this time of year.  Little Man and I came away with some great herbs (oregano, thyme, chives, and sage), as well as celery.  I’ve never tried celery in my garden (or container box) before, but I thought that it might look like a great dinosaur forest for Little Man.  So like for most things, including parenting and gardening, I’m learning that a little patience goes a long way.  But right about now, I’m really impatient for Dave to be home!!!

Day 7: Homecoming!!!

Welcome Home!Dave finally made it home this morning.  Little Man has been counting the number of breakfasts he had to get through before Daddy would be home, so this one he ate with relish and was constantly glancing at the door expecting Daddy to come waltzing in the minute his food was finished.  Not quite…  But after breakfast and the crazy dance of getting myself and my toddler ready for public appearances, we finally got the long awaited text that the ferry was pulling in, and then we were off to the car.

It’s always good that I give a buffer zone of time just for the process of getting the few meters (Canada-speak there… Did you catch it?) from our front door to our car.  This time it was the two farm dogs that caught Little Man’s fancy, but then he had to go say “hi” to his lady friends, the chickens.  At that point the little bitty “not dog,” as the farmer calls him, was running with him, Little Man took the opportunity to make a mad dash across the farm towards the sheep pen and his favorite hill at the back of the property.  Eventually the dogs and the toddler were corralled and we got to the ferry terminal just before Dave made it out of the building.

The rest of the day was a blur of Daddy and Little Man cuddles, nap time for all, and much playing.  You could almost hear the “reunited and it feels so good” chorus as the two of them raced around the yard, Little Man “cutting the grass” with his toy lawnmower and chasing his dad.  I have a feeling that the upcoming week will be one of recovering from exhaustion and gearing up for more dissertation deadlines, but at least we’re all together and now there are two of us to clean up toddler messes.  And there’s the awesome sign, too.

Checking the fluids to ensure the mower runs smoothly.

Checking the fluids to ensure the mower runs smoothly.

Lots of toddler cackling here...

Lots of toddler cackling here…


A Week on Our Own: Days 4-5

I’ve fallen a bit behind due to dealing with a lovely Springtime head cold, but to continue our saga of the Defense Week, Days 4 and 5 were a day of play and then a day of rest.  On Day 4 to celebrate Dave’s passing the Defense, Little Man and I went on a meandering Springtime adventure leading up to a picnic in one of his favorite parks.

We began our trek by stopping at Coco Cafe in Cedar for a picnic lunch.  After securing an amazing Roasted Chicken Club on thick, multigrain bread, a Carrot Muffin (Little Man’s arctic fox teddy apparently loves carrots), and a Mandarin Orange sparkling water for myself we were off again.  Cedar Street is a meandering half-circle, more or less, that goes through the town of Cedar and out towards North Oyster and the airport.  Along the way you also come across Fredrich’s Honey House, one of Little Man’s favorite places.

Today at the Honey House we’d brought along a couple of our empty honey jars to be refilled.  I’ve got plans for a post with the contents of one of the jars soon so keep your eyes peeled.  One of the jars we brought to be filled was Little Man’s own “tiny, tiny, tiny” honey jar that he was given there full of Blackberry Honey last summer when we visited for the first time.  We filled up the jars with their local wild flower honey and a gorgeous dark honey, sampling as we went.  Little Man liked them both, but thought the dark honey was the best.  Then with his little jar clutched tightly in a fist and a wooden tasting stick in Mommy’s bag we were off again.  This time we were heading for the park for our picnic.

Our destination for the day was Transfer Beach Park in Ladysmith.  Ladysmith is about 20 minutes south of Nanaimo, and is the town where we went for the Ladysmith Lights display last November.  It’s a cute town, perched on a San Fransisco-esque hill overlooking the ocean.  At the Transfer Beach light turn toward the ocean and follow the curving road down past an old steam engine, past the amphitheater and turn left into the parking lot by the playground.

An astute viewer might notice that Dave is in this picture while the post is about him being in New York.  These photos were taken just after Dave got back, since I failed to take photos earlier.

An astute viewer might notice that Dave is in this picture while the post is about him being in New York. These photos were taken just after Dave got back, since I failed to take photos earlier.

There are two playgrounds, one shaped like a ship for the little ones and a larger contraption of swinging bridges and slides for the more adventurous kiddos.  We generally only spend a short time on the playgrounds, since Little Man’s favorite thing to do is to go down to the pebble beach and throw rocks into the ocean.  I think soon we’ll come back with a little cork boat on a string and see how that fares in the calm waters.

Skipping rocks is the best thing ever.

Skipping rocks is the best thing ever.

While the playtime was great, the picnic was a little less successful.  It consisted mostly of me chasing my toddler around the playground with the chicken sandwich and him giggling maniacally as he dashed this way and that, clutching the arctic fox under his arm, and sprinting for anything he could run around.  All in all a good time was had by all, including the fox, and we succeeded in a good nap time once home.

Day 5: Face Time

After our shenanigans the day before, we played Day 5 close to home.  Dave spent the day with our dear family friends in New York, and I spent the day wishing desperately that we were there with them.  The highlight was later that afternoon when we got to do some Face Time chatting with Dave and our friends.  Little Man was a bit confused as to why Daddy couldn’t appear at his door immediately after appearing on the computer, but in the end was just happy to get some time to chat with his dad.  The next day was to be an all day travel extravaganza for Dave, and a good bit of cleaning for us.

Operation Daddy Sign: Day 4/5

We finalized the Congratulations, Daddy! sign over these two days.  On Day 4 I took a gigantic Sharpie marker and wrote the words on the sign while Aiden took his nap.  Once the ink was completely dry we added a little more glitter glue to the sign, and I added some glitter glue accents to a few of the letters that were written over dark paint and weren’t showing up as well.

The completed "Congratulations Daddy" sign.

The completed “Congratulations Daddy” sign.

A detail shot of the added glitter glue to make dark letters a bit more legible.

A detail shot of the added glitter glue to make dark letters a bit more legible.

Now the stage was set, all we needed was for Dave to make it home.


A Corn Maze and the Making of Fall Traditions

When Dave and I first started dating I was surprised to learn that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving also; though their holiday is a month earlier (on the second Monday in October).  I’d always thought of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday, but in fact it is not.  The importance of the Thanksgiving meal, however, does vary greatly between the two nations.  In Canada, or at least on Vancouver Island, there no displays in stores, no Thanksgiving-themed commercials, no chatter about getting together with family, or trying to figure out long distance travel to get home for this one evening.  Instead, all the focus seems to be on Halloween, complete with fireworks.  Our cats will not be amused…

With this difference in Autumn celebrations, I feel out of sync with the season.  Halloween seems on time, but the fact that Thanksgiving is already over leaves me feeling like I’ve missed out on something important.  We had a great Canadian Thanksgiving, and we will be celebrating American Thanksgiving come the end of November, but in the meantime we’re trying to carve out some new Fall traditions and get into sync with our new community.  In Nanaimo that means a trip to McNab’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch.

A perfectly foggy day for the corn maze and pumpkin patch.

A perfectly foggy day for the corn maze and pumpkin patch.

The day we went was a little late in the season, since it was after Thanksgiving (Canadian) and most of the really big pumpkins were gone.  However, they had tons of small to medium pumpkins, a local school fundraiser with all the homemade baked goods my heart could ask for, and the corn maze was still in full swing.  I was already feeling nostalgic for Iowa since a much-missed friend was throwing a fall celebration party with all of our friends, and we had just passed the dates for two of our favorite things to do in Iowa; the Farm Crawl and the Brews and Muse Festival at Peacetree Brewery.  Oh, friends, we were sure missing you on those weekends (especially those friends who shall remain nameless but kept sending emails and Facebook comments about the delicious new brews from Peacetree that we were missing out on… trisky hobbits that you are).

So with homesick hearts we went looking for new traditions at the pumpkin patch.  I assure you I never thought in my life that I’d say I was homesick for Iowa, but I’m getting sincerely tired of leaving places behind that have become home.  In our quest for new traditions to make this place home, McNabb’s did not disappoint.

Even after living in the American Midwest for five years, I had never been to a corn maze.  At Farm Crawl there was a corn maze, but I was always more interested in Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch, the borscht served at Coyote Run Farm, and the amazing preserves, people and brew (Peacetree again…) at Blue Gate Farm.  So McNab’s was my first time to be in and amongst the corn.

Dave and Little Man heading towards the corn maze.

Dave and Little Man heading towards the corn maze.

Surrounded by corn... like being back in Iowa.

Surrounded by corn… like being back in Iowa.

The day was perfectly foggy for an Autumn trip to the pumpkin patch, and we headed off to the maze first.  We had a great time trying to get lost, and searching (often fruitlessly) for the little markers hidden in the paths.  Apparently the markers haven’t been moved in years so the locals all know where they are, but since we’re new the hunt was still fun.  Once the chill of the maze started to get to us, and the enclosed space of the corn from Little Man’s viewpoint started to wear on him, we took the Hay Ride tractor to the pumpkin patch.  Here we selected a couple of pumpkins, had them measured and then heaved them back to the tractor, wishing we had brought the stroller to carry our pumpkin booty.

Hmmm... Which one can I carry all the way to the front?

Hmmm… Which one can I carry all the way to the front?

As we got off the tractor at the front of the farm, we ran into some friends from town, and hung around the fire pits chatting.  That is the sort of thing you miss when you move often; the regular meeting of friends in public places.  Little Man ran around with their kids, visiting the piglets and goats, and climbing massive downed stumps.


When Little Man finally started showing signs of wearing down and needing lunch, we headed off for lunch.  We could have stayed there for hot dogs, but the morning was cold and we all wanted some warm, inside rest.  So we headed for Coco Café in Cedar.  The café’s name is an acronym for the Cedar Opportunities Co-Operative, whose mission is to provide developmentally disabled adults with employment opportunities within their community.  This year the maze was dedicated to Coco’s, and I had heard of it before as well.  It has the reputation of being a nice little café with cozy atmosphere and good, local food, for good prices.  Perfect.

Walking into Coco Café I caught a glimpse of our little family in the glass door; all looking cold, dazed, hungry, and distinctively muddy.  Inside I ordered a hot cocoa, and Dave got coffee.  Little Man was very pleased with my drink choice, and did his best to polish off my whipped cream before I could get to it myself.  Dave had a Thai Curried Chicken Panini with a green side salad.  Little Man had the grilled cheese on an awesome whole wheat bread; and I had a massive bowl of Beef and Barley soup complete with a good-sized hunk of warm Pumpernickel, rich with molasses.  Dave’s Panini was great, and we were both impressed with the salad.  After our time in the Midwest we had come to loath side salads since inevitably they were tasteless piles of wilted, ice berg lettuce buried under a mound of not-cheese.  At Coco Cafe even the side salads were great.  Not a hint of iceberg lettuce to be seen, but only dark, lovely salad greens with a homemade vinaigrette.  Little Man liked his sandwich, but preferred my cocoa; and my soup was divine.  It was full of great vegetables, barley and beef, the broth was rich and stew-like with a good amount of black pepper.  This soup was a perfect example of why homemade soup is so much better than the stuff from a can.  All in all we had a great, home style lunch that did not break the bank, and which warmed us up from our stomachs to our fingers and toes.

On the way back home, Dave struggled to keep Little Man awake so that he could take a nice long nap at home.  Little Man, for his part, did his best to hide behind his Pooh Bear and fall asleep.  In the end we all had great naps, and ever since I’ve been fixated on hot beverages.  I want drinks that I can hold in a real mug, not paper or factory made, but something made by real hands, something that fits nicely between my palms, and warms me from the fingers on out.  And that brings me to my family’s Wassle; a hot mulled cider that fills the home and the heart with the aroma of the holidays.

This recipe for wassle comes from my dad’s side of the family, and just a whiff of this simmering away in the slow cooker makes me think of “family.”  I don’t mean “family” in the sense of just the three of us, but of gatherings of loved ones, whether or not you are biologically related, where you can just relax and be at home.  In fact, it’s worth making this wassle just for the aroma.

When Dave and I first made this wassle for our friends-who-became-family in upstate New York, their first comment was “mmmm… this is good…” followed quickly by asking if we’d ever tried this with rum.  We hadn’t.  We did.  It was delicious.  But I have to say, this wassle is amazing on its own and doesn’t need any accoutrement.  What sets it apart from other mulled ciders I’ve tried is the mixture of apple cider with pineapple, orange and apricot nectars.  Cardamom and cinnamon round out the spiciness of the hot, hot drink, and are key to its aroma.  There is no added sugar, the juices are sweet enough as it is.  So if you’re having friends/family over and want that scent of the holidays that will stop them in their tracks the minute they set foot in your home, this is the wassle for you.  The only problem will be getting them to leave later, since it’s so nice to just sit with loved ones while cradling a mug of this wassle in your hands.

Wassle (A Hot Mulled Cider)


4 cups apple cider

4 cups unsweetened pineapple juice

1 ½ cup apricot nectar

1 cup orange juice

6 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp. whole green cardamom


  1. Pour all juices into your slow cooker and turn it on to high.
  2. Place the cardamom pods on your cutting board and crush them with the back of a spoon or flat of a knife.  Alternatively, crush the pods in a mortar and pestle (I just can’t find mine since the move…)
  3. Add the cinnamon and crushed cardamom to the slow cooker.
  4. Cover and heat until pipping hot, then turn the slow cooker down to low and simmer the wassle for 25 minutes.  Enjoy!
  5. Optional: float a new cinnamon stick in each mug.

Click here for a printable version of the Wassle recipe.

pumpkin 2