Tag Archives: Nanaimo

Playing in the Mud – Part 2

I stepped into the Bowen Park pottery studio with the intention of throwing a few bowls, doing some slab work, and overall just getting my hands dirty again.  I imagined that the other people there would be like me, relative novices or people playing with pottery.  Maybe some nice grandmotherly ladies rolling out clay like cookie dough to cut out shapes for Christmas ornaments.  As I turned the corner into the studio, the first woman I saw was doing exactly that.  Her little frilly apron completed the picture.  Then I looked beyond her, and felt a wave of inadequacy wash over me.

The room was filled with predominately senior-age women, which was to be expected since seniors get free or very inexpensive access to a fantastic array of classes and activities at Bowen Park, ranking from lawn bowling to language classes to dance to pottery.  These women, however, were not dabbling.  They are artists.  One was crafting an amazing clay mask wall piece that was around two feet in diameter.  Another was doing slab work on a series of massive platters.  To my left were a couple of women dipping their bisque wares (pottery that has gone through one firing, but still needs a glaze before a second firing) into glaze, but their pieces were gorgeous.  Applique star fish on a series of mugs, bowls and casseroles.  Another had tall narrow pieces that are incredibly difficult to throw.  To my right was the wheel room with three women at pottery wheels throwing pieces that were taller, wider, and all around more stupendous than I had ever been able to do even when I was practicing multiple times a week.

A quick selection of some of my pottery created here in Nanaimo.

A quick selection of some of my pottery created here in Nanaimo.

Anyone who has thrown pottery can tell you that the more clay you have on your wheel, the bigger a piece you can make, but also the more you have to muscle the clay into submission.  I had gotten proficient with smaller pieces of clay, ranging from 1 ½ to 3 lbs. at a time.  Once I had tried a 5 lb. piece of clay and it just about threw me across the room.  A nice, petite, grandmotherly woman dropped what looked like a good 8 to 10 lbs. of clay on her wheel and almost immediately had it centered and was pulling up an amazing deep, wide bowl.  The idea of sitting with these women and practicing my “skills” that hadn’t been dusted off in years was daunting.

This bowl originally was a fail.  I pinched the top right off of it while trying to draw it higher.  A carved leaf vein in the bottom and some good glaze, and it is reborn as a lily pad bowl.

This bowl originally was a fail. I pinched the top right off of it while trying to draw it higher. A carved leaf vein in the bottom and some good glaze, and it is reborn as a lily pad bowl.

I mentally put on my “big girl pants,” sent up a quick prayer that I wouldn’t totally embarrass myself, grabbed my bag of clay and other tools, and sat down.  Then I proceeded to get up and sit down again a good three or more times as I remembered a different tool I needed, or couldn’t get the bin around the machine on correctly, or forgot a board for my clay, or forgot to wedge my clay before throwing it… the list goes on.  The lovely women on either side of me offered kind advice so that my brain slowly wrapped around the process again.  Now every time I go, I am excited to see these women working too.  They are a wealth of advice and inspiration with what they do.  I learn so much from getting muddy with them.

A butter dish or spoon rest.

A butter dish or spoon rest.

As I’ve now been throwing in Nanaimo long enough to have finished pieces (thrown, set, dried to greenware, fired to bisque, dipped in glaze, and then fired again), it’s been fun to look at the differences in my pottery between Indiana and now here in Nanaimo.  In Indiana (pre-Little Man) much of what I did was based on having friends over for dinners or parties; small dishes with ringed bases that are great for oil and balsamic bread dipping, appetizer plates with a circle cut out to hold a wine glass, fancy serving dishes that look like giant tropical leaves.  Pieces are largely still packed away in boxes from our move in order to protect them from Little Man.  They are the type of pretty, fragile pieces that he could quickly turn into thousands of pottery sherds for a future archaeologist.

It may be hard to tell in this shot, but this is a clam shell plate with a raised portion at the back for dip.

It may be hard to tell in this shot, but this is a clam shell plate with a raised portion at the back for dip.

The pieces that I have been making here in Nanaimo show that I’m trying to get my feet wet (or my hands dirty) again, sort of slowly flexing my pottery muscles as my brain remembers what my hands haven’t quite forgotten yet.  In all honesty my thrown work has been a bit shaky, but I’m just now catching my stride.  My slab work has been better.  The pictures included in this post show my most recent work here in Nanaimo, while the previous Playing with Mud post shows pictures of my Indiana work.  Instead of being inspired by dinner parties, I’m trying to think of what types of things we can use now with Little Man.  For example, he LOVES the planets, the Moon and the stars, so I’ve started a little “series” of planet and moon plates.  They aren’t anything special in terms of technique, but I hope they are fun for him to eat off of at meal times, and that they inspire his imagination in other ways.  I’ve also been making more piggy bowls that I first created in Indiana.

One of Little Man's planet plates... maybe Neptune?

One of Little Man’s planet plates… maybe Neptune?

Another one of Little Man's planet plates...  maybe Uranus?

Another one of Little Man’s planet plates… maybe Uranus?

When I first made a piggy bowl, I had been inspired by an old pottery piggy bank that a fellow student at the studio brought in.  The face looked so cute, and more importantly easy to replicate.  I also quickly learned that any bowl that goes a bit wonky on the wheel can be immediately saved through the transformative powers of a piggy face.  When I throw pottery, unless the piece absolutely implodes on the wheel (which does happen, but less frequently the longer I practice) I don’t want to waste it.  Sometimes you can slap on a handle and a slightly wonky bowl can become a nice mug.  Other times, a piggy face is just what is needed to salvage an otherwise unattractive piece.  The first couple bowls I threw needed some salvaging, so piggys they became.  I’m planning on throwing some bowls next week at the studio, so I should probably look into expanding my animal face repertoire.  Our cupboards are getting a bit full of piggys, but luckily these small bowls make great presents for little ones and a number of my friends have new additions that will be receiving piggy bowl presents soon.  Little Man loves his piggy bowl, and gets to use it often at meal times (with some supervision) for soups, bread rolls, hummus/dips, cereal/oatmeal, and the like.  I’ve been wanting to make some from scratch chocolate pudding, and I have to admit that his piggy bowl is the inspiration for that.  I think it would be the perfect thing for that special treat.

The piggy bowl tradition continues in Canada.  It's amazing what a piggy face and some good glaze does to fix an otherwise so-so bowl.

The piggy bowl tradition continues in Canada. It’s amazing what a piggy face and some good glaze does to fix an otherwise so-so bowl.


Cannon Firing

This post also announces the creation of a Things to do on Vancouver Island page on The Sheep Are Out Blog.  As I come across fun things to do on the island, I will write about them and link them to that page on the blog.  If you are looking for interesting things to do in the Vancouver Island cities you see listed there, please check out the links and blog posts to get ideas.  Also, if you have any ideas for things that aren’t listed there, please send me an email.  We are definitely still learning our way around the island, and welcome any fun ideas.

Cannon Firing

Every day in the summer at noon they fire off the cannon by the Bastion in downtown Nanaimo.  We stumbled upon this tradition one sunny afternoon as we were wheeling Little Man in the jogging stroller towards the sea wall.  It was the music of the bag piper that caught our attention first, the massive cannons second.


We learned from these presentations that the cannons were never used in battle or for protection, but that they were used in official ceremonies and now were a part of local tradition for summer afternoons.  The firing was always proceeded by bag pipe music, and a few times a local highland dance troupe would dance as well.

Over the summer we went so often that if we were anywhere within ear shot of the cannon and Little Man heard the pipes, he’d ask about the cannon.  Little Man had a love/hate fascination with the cannon firing.  He wanted to be there, wanted to see and hear it fired, but would sit for most of the time with his hands clamped over his ears throughout the presentation.  He would eye the cannon suspiciously through the whole thing, then we would cover his ears before the shot, and once it was over he’d ask for it to fire again.


The pipes reminded me of Binghamton where a friend played pipes and we would go to his troupe’s biannual Robert Burns dinner complete with requisite haggis.  There was also something special about sitting on the balustrade, watching the ocean and listening to the music.  Little Man would sit spell bound, so for a moment I could concentrate on the sound, not on whether or not my toddler was about to dash into traffic or tip over the sea wall.

When the cannon firing starts up again next year, Little Man will be a year older.  He’s now at an age where he is developing long term memory, and he might… just might… remember these visits to the Bastion and the cannons.  I can’t wait to see what his memories are.

cannon 3

25th Post and Counting…

This is my 25th post on The Sheep Are Out…, a blog about our lives on Vancouver Island.  We’ve lived on the island for about 3 ½ months, and are starting to get a feel for the area.  We’ve wrangled sheep (and our toddler), explored the ocean coastline, played in what feels like a myriad of parks and playgrounds, and begun a quest for the best fish and chips in the greater Nanaimo area.  We feel closer to family (at least our north-of-the-border family) and farther from friends; though that equation is starting to shift as we are making friends here now too.

Little Cowboy touring his new acreage.

Little Cowboy touring his new acreage.

As inevitably happens with any move, it starts to feel impossible to have lived anywhere else.  We know where things are in the house… mostly (please don’t ask for anything in any box in the basement).  We know where to go in town for great sushi or for Little Man’s favorite fried rice.  We know which grocery stores carry the foods we want, which gas stations are the fastest to get in and out of, and where we most want to go when we have the rare chance for a baby sitter.  In short, we are starting to find our feet.

We all know who's the boss here, right?

We all know who’s the boss here, right?

In honor of this 25th post, the recipe I am sharing with you is for what I’ve named the Manic Monday cocktail.  Right after the semester started for Dave, there was a Monday that left us both a bit frazzled around the edges.  It was one of those days when it feels like the wheels are just about to leave the track, but you might be able to hold on for just a moment more.  To celebrate that crazy day being over, I made these Manic Monday cocktails and we toasted the survival of our own little tornado of crazy.

End of a long day.

End of a long day.

In the spirit of joyful survival; to all of our friends and family that we’ve found here; and to our friends and family who we would love to come and visit… Cheers!  May your home feel like home.  May your days be filled with family and friends.  And may you come visit us soon!


Manic Monday Cocktail

Makes one cocktail


1 ounce dark rum

1/2 ounce orange liquor

1/2 ounce lemon juice

1 ounce mango juice

Ice cubes

Optional: lightly sweetened citrus soda


  1. Put all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and secure the lid.
  2. Shake vigorously until the metal shaker gets nice and frosty.
  3. Strain the ingredients into a rocks glass with new ice.  This is a great opportunity for ice spheres if you have the forms.
  4. Optional: Top the cocktail with about an ounce of a lightly sweetened citrus soda if you want something a bit brighter.  I love the extra sparkle on a hot evening, but if I want to taste more of the mango then I just keep it simple.

P.S. For those of you who would prefer an alcohol free cocktail, and let’s face it sometimes it’s nice to serve a fancy drink without the booze, try mixing equal parts of mango juice, orange juice and the sparkling lemon soda.  Delicious, refreshing and a special treat for those who can’t have or don’t want the alcohol.

Click here for a printable version of the Manic Monday Cocktail.

When in Rome… Or Nanaimo…

One of the fun things about moving around a lot (three states and two countries in the last six years) has been discovering local food favorites.  For those that know me this should not be much of a surprise.  Food places make up most of my landmark references and anyone asking me how to get anywhere will likely be led by directions to make turns just past certain restaurants or food markets.  In fact, when travelling (abroad or domestically) I often try to find time to go to one of the local grocery stores.  I love to see what foods are unique to a place, and I can often find gifts for friends and family that travel well and are light weight.

 I have also found that when attempting to become a part of a community, one of the best ways of winning over the locals is to try (and try to recreate) one of the foods that is special or unique to that place.  When one of our best friends was doing fieldwork research in Illinois she stumbled upon the Horseshoe Sandwich.  The Horseshoe seems to be any sort of meat protein (ranging from shrimp to ground beef and anything in between) served open-faced on Texas toast (why this was in Illinois I have no idea), covered with a liberal coating of French Fries and a cheese sauce.

 When living in Indiana, the closest thing to a local dish we could find was the Tenderloin Sandwich.  This was sadly not as unique as the Horseshoe.  The Tenderloin consists of a thin slice of pork tenderloin that has been pounded, breaded and fried to within an inch of its life.  The finished product is more like cardboard than food.  The tenderloin is then served with a little mayonnaise on indifferent bread.  If you want iceberg lettuce and out-of-season tomato on your sandwich then you order the “works.”

 Unfortunately I did not fare much better in Iowa.  I had some amazing food at the homes of friends and in some great restaurants, but what Iowans seem to be most proud of is “food” that can be fried on a stick.  This is found at just about any local community fair, but is produced in spades at the Iowa State Fair.  Famous for its mammoth butter sculpture of a cow, this year the fair’s website boasted 60 stick-bound food-ish items with new options appearing each year.  While living in Iowa they were proud to introduce fried butter on a stick, deep fried bacon, as well as fried pink lemonade.  Don’t ask.

 With the move to Vancouver Island I was initially focused on eating anything that swam in the ocean.  After five years of living in land-locked Midwestern states, I was all about celebrating fish especially salmon.  However, great salmon and seafood are not unique to Vancouver Island, but are hallmarks of the entire Northwest Coast of both Canada and the States (Please don’t call that nation “America” as that tends to get me in big trouble with my Canadian neighbors.  We do all live on the North American continent after all…).  My quest to find a special food that is unique to our new city led me to the Nanaimo Bar.

Little Man trying to score a nanaimo Bar

Little Man hoping to score a nanaimo Bar.

 For my State-side readers, “Nanaimo Bar” refers to a wonderfully rich dessert, not to the “bars in Nanaimo.”  While there is some debate about where the Nanaimo Bar originated (some try to claim them for the States.  Check out wikipedia for more details.), the bars are largely considered to be a local delicacy and are jealously celebrated as a part of local culture.  At its most basic rendition a Nanaimo Bar is a layered cookie with a chocolate and coconut graham cracker crust, a vanilla cream middle, and a top layer of chocolate.  There are numerous variations on this theme with people attempting to put their own spin on the bars with flavors that pair well with chocolate, like peanut butter, raspberry jam or espresso.  Nanaimo Bars have become so tied to local culture that there is a permanent exhibit in the Nanaimo Museum dedicated to this dessert.  The exhibit is flanked by two Nanaimo Bar-shaped stools for people to sit on and contemplate the displayed recipe and local lore.  Stools and recipe tea towels are available in the museum gift store.  The Nanaimo Tourism Council has even published a Nanaimo Bar Trail Guide that includes all things Nanaimo Bar, marking not only the best places in town to try one of the bars, but also themed pedicures, soaps, cupcakes, cocktails and the list goes on.

Pooh Bear enjoying the Nanaimo Bar exhibit at the Nanaimo Museum.

Pooh Bear enjoying the Nanaimo Bar exhibit at the Nanaimo Museum.

 I had heard of these bars before moving to Nanaimo, since Dave had tried a couple on the mainland (aka Vancouver).  They were almost always a disappointment, tasting only of intense sweetness.  Then when we first moved to Iowa we had a little party at our place where we served a number of dishes that were regional specialties from the different places that we had lived (Yes, Utica Tomato Pie was there as well, but that is fodder for a different post).  Dave prepared Nanaimo Bars as the party dessert, but these were different from those that I had sampled before.  While still rich and sweet, you could also taste the vanilla, almonds, chocolate and coconut in Dave’s version.  I was hooked.  He has since made them a couple of times, including most recently at this summer’s Hopwood Family Reunion.  The pictures of Dave making the bars (and Little Man trying to score one) come from that event.

 When Dave made the first batch in Iowa, he had done some internet research and combined multiple recipes to create his perfect Nanaimo Bar.  Then as I was doing a bit of internet research for this post I discovered that what he had created was incredibly similar to what is largely thought to be the most authentic Nanaimo Bar recipe.  In 1986 the city of Nanaimo hosted a contest for the Ultimate Nanaimo Bar and the winner was Joyce Hardcastle.  It is her version of the Nanaimo Bar that is the closest to what Dave put together as well.  Unknowingly Dave had stripped out away of the “unique” add-ins and found his way back to the classic version.

 As I mentioned above, Dave’s most recent reason for making Nanaimo Bars was as a special dessert for the recent Hopwood Family Reunion.  These are worlds away from the first bite of a Vancouver bakery’s Nanaimo Bar that I had on the mainland, and they will continue to be a part of special celebrations with our family.  Just remember that a little goes a long way.  A small square with good coffee or tea is a great dessert.  However, since we just had them this summer it is going to be a good couple of months before I want to have one anywhere near my vicinity.  One of Dave’s young cousins found out the dangers of Nanaimo Bar proximity at the reunion.  One night we were all up late playing a get-to-know-you-better game on the deck of the cabin.  A number of desserts had been brought out to munch on while we played.  One of the teenage cousins had the luck (good or bad) of having the plate of Nanaimo Bars sitting directly in front of him the entire night.  We lost count of how many bars he ate, but it was a substantial number.  So be warned, these things are good.

Chef Dave getting his ingredients for Nanaimo Bars.

Chef Dave getting his ingredients for Nanaimo Bars.

Dave’s Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars are famously three-layered cookies, with a graham cracker base, a custardy center and a chocolate top.  Dave’s version is intensely chocolaty with the added richness of coconut and almonds.  For the reunion Dave doubled the batch and therefore used a larger baking dish as is seen in the accompanying pictures.  A small square with a cup of black tea or coffee is divine.


Cookie Base:

1 ¼ c. graham cracker crumbs

1 c. unsweetened flaked coconut

½ c. almonds, toasted and finely chopped

2/3 c. unsalted butter

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ c. sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

Custard Filling:

2 c. powdered sugar

2 tbsp. vanilla pudding mix

3 scant tbsp. cream

½ c. unsalted butter, softened

Chocolate Topping:

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (not chips)

4 tbsp. butter


Preheat the oven to 350º.

 Prepare an 8-inch square baking dish by buttering it and then lining it with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Be sure to leave an inch or so of overlap on two sides to serve as a handle to help remove the bars once they are firm.

 Make the base:

In a large bowl stir together the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds.  Set this aside.

No rolling pin at hand, so Dave used the next best thing to crush the graham crackers.

No rolling pin at hand, so Dave used the next best thing to crush the graham crackers.

The combined graham cracker crumbs, coconut and finely chopped almonds.

The combined graham cracker crumbs, coconut and finely chopped almonds.

In a saucepan melt the butter with the cocoa powder and sugar.  Remove the pan from the heat and temper the beaten egg by adding a few spoonfuls of the hot chocolate mixture to the beaten egg and whisk like mad.  Tempering heats the egg gently so that it hopefully will not scramble when you add it to the mix.  Once you have beaten in the few spoonfuls of chocolate mixture to the egg, then pour the egg mixture back into the pan with the chocolate and again whisk like mad.  Pour the chocolate and egg mixture into the crumbs and stir until combined.


The sweetened cocoa and butter mixture for the cookie base.

The sweetened cocoa and butter mixture for the cookie base.

Tempering the eggs so that they do not scramble in the cookie base.

Tempering the eggs so that they do not scramble in the cookie base.

Dave showing off his smoothly tempered cocoa and egg mixture pouring into the graham cracker crumbs below.

Dave showing off his smoothly tempered cocoa and egg mixture pouring into the graham cracker crumbs below.

The combined cookie base mixture.

The combined cookie base mixture.

Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared baking dish and press it down evenly in the pan.  Bake the base in the 350º oven for 10 minutes and then cool it on a rack.

The baked cookie base is cooled here on an impromptu cooling rack of an upside down muffin tin.

The baked cookie base is cooled here on an impromptu cooling rack of an upside down muffin tin.

 Make the filling:

In a medium bowl add the powdered sugar and pudding mix.  Then stir in the cream and softened butter.  Beat until smooth.  Spread this over the cooled cookie base.

 Make the topping:

Using a double-boiler, or a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, place the chocolate and butter over low heat and stir until both are melted and smooth.  Spread this evenly over the custard filling and refrigerate the baking dish until the chocolate topping is firm.

The completed but uncooled Nanaimo Bar pan.

The completed but uncooled Nanaimo Bar pan.

 Just before serving, take the dish out of the refrigerator and let it stand on the counter for 5-7 minutes so that the bars can be cut without shattering the chocolate.  Lift the bars from the baking dish by pulling up on the parchment or aluminum foil “handles.”  Peel the paper or foil from the bars and place them on a clean cutting board.  Cut the bars into 16 squares (4 cuts horizontally and 4 vertically) and place them on a serving plate.

For the reunion Dave made a double batch of the bars so the pan is larger than the one described in the recipe.

For the reunion Dave made a double batch of the bars so the pan is larger than the one described in the recipe.

Dave's Famous Nanaimo Bars... be careful if you sit too close to the serving plate.

Dave’s Famous Nanaimo Bars… be careful if you sit too close to the serving plate.

The bars can be stored in an air tight (and cousin-tight) container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks.

Click on the following link to open a separate page with the recipe for easier printing.

Nanaimo Bars

Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier and Harbourside Playdock

One part of making Nanaimo feel like home is finding new things to do with Little Man on the island.  We had our old haunts back in Iowa, many of which he still asks for like the Pella Library and the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines.  There is no zoo on Vancouver Island, or at least I have not been able to find one, and while there is a library here the children’s section is rather sad.  Like everything else after a move we need to recreate special places to go.  For Little Man, one of these new places is the Harbourside Playdock and the area leading up to it.

 We first stumbled on the Harbourfront Walkway (or sea wall as we called it) just after we discovered that our bank cards were frozen for the 4th of July holiday in the States (see Two Independence Days post).  It was a gorgeous day and the wind from the ocean was whipping at Little Man’s curls with reckless abandon.  He tipped his face to the sky, chucked Pooh Bear over his shoulder and took off giggling down the quay.  We caught Pooh and then jogged along behind, smiling for what felt like the first time in days.  That is when we saw them.  Our mouths dropped open and our hearts sank.  Ice cream cones.  People walking with ice cream dripping down their chins.  People sitting on benches devouring what looked like the best ice cream in the world, and we had no money or hope of getting any until the holiday was over.  We briefly considered seeing if they would give us ice cream in exchange for Little Man washing dishes.  Oh bother!

 We walked along, plotting how we could get enough money to buy a couple of cones and debating if it really was a bad idea to spend the only $6.00 Canadian that we had.  Then we turned a corner on the walk way and found ourselves staring at the Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier.  The pier is a thin finger of a walkway jutting out into the Swy-A-Lana Harbour (yes, extra vowels in Canadian spelling), and walking on it makes you feel like you are suspended in the middle of the bay.  There are water planes and small inter-island ferries toodling about, and sometimes dragon boats as well.  For a moment, at least, the walking pier took our minds off of our ice cream dilemma.

The Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier

The Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier

 Dave kept a firm grip on Pooh Bear and I strapped Little Man back into his jogging stroller before entering the pier for fear that one or both would go for an impromptu swim.  This was NOT an unjustified precaution.  Just before we moved from Pella we had been walking with Little Man and his teddy Whisper the Fox in the central square of town.  At one side there is a large circular fountain surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence to keep people from splashing in its depths.  We got too close.  With an impressive arced shot Little Man lobbed Whisper up and over the fence and into the water that can only be described as quaintly foul.  It was not a nice athletic leap, but I quickly followed the fox over the fence and scooped her up from the slime.  Later after some serious spa time at home (aka washing machine) Whisper was declared safe for toddler loving again, and we learned to practice better vigilance with teddies and toys close to bodies of water (even as small as a glass of water or bowl of cereal… seriously).  We were determined that there would be no Pooh swimming or fishing from the Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier on that day.

Walking out onto the pier while keeping a death-grip on Pooh Bear

Walking out onto the pier while keeping a death-grip on Pooh Bear

 Walking out onto the pier we thought we saw people fishing in the harbour, but as we got closer it became evident that they had “fishing” line, but no poles.  Then we saw the small black cages attached to the line.  Apparently you do not fish from the pier, you catch crabs (is there a very form of crabbing?).  The bait of choice is chicken breast, and each cage/trap has a large, raw chicken breast attached to its side.  I just missed the Immigrant Welcome Center’s trip out to the pier where they explained the process of getting a crabbing license.  I’m tempted to look into this more, but I don’t think that myself or Little Man have the patience for it.  Maybe in a couple of years.  Can I bribe anyone to come visit for a freshly caught crab dinner?

Fresh crabs from the harbour, but they were too small and were tossed back by the 6 year old fisher/craber-man.

Fresh crabs from the harbour, but they were too small and were tossed back by the 6 year old fisher/craber-man.

 For Little Man the crabs are interesting, but he was most impressed when we visited the pier with his favorite Canadian Auntie.  While we were at the far end of the pier, a harbour seal came to visit.  She (the seal, not Erin) winked and flirted with us all as we took pictures like mad, but when the seal discovered that we did not have any fish she gave us up for a bad job.  Little Man still looks for her (since we all know there is only one seal in the ocean) each time we go out there.

Auntie Erin as seal paparazzi

Auntie Erin as seal paparazzi

“Seal” just before she realized we had no snacks

While the Swy-A-Lana Walking pier is great, it is relatively short lived.  As we retraced our steps off of the pier, Little Man let out a squeal of pure delight as he spotted a P-A-R-K.

Harbourside Playdock park in Nanaimo

Harbourside Playdock park in Nanaimo

The Harbourside Playdock is located just off of the pier, by the swimming lagoon.  The play area is designed like a series of “docks” leading to some of the main islands surrounding us, all within relatively short ferry rides.  Departure Bay, Gabriola Island, and Protection Island are just a few of the “docks” to play on.  Little Man loves the wavy docks leading between the play areas most, but the Protection Island and Gabriola Island slides are close seconds, as well as the swings.

Little Man taking off in the direction of "Gabriola Island"

Little Man taking off in the direction of “Gabriola Island”

The Galiano Island play dock


While the Harbourside Playdock park is fun, it is not as popular with the locals so is not the best option if you are a new “immigrant” and want to make friends.  Most of the people there seem to be tourists, all with cameras firmly in grasp (like myself).  To get to the parks where the locals go (and hopefully friends will be made), you need to go elsewhere.  That’s for a later post.

 For now, whenever we visit the Harbourside Playdock park (and that is relatively often since it is close to a great Lebanese restaurant for a takeout picnic) we often start or end our visit with a walk along the Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier.  And I always keep a good grip on Pooh or Whisper.  That water looks cold…

Little Man thinking pirate thoughts...

Little Man thinking pirate thoughts…

 P.S.  Even though we have walked along the sea wall (aka Harbourfront Walkway) numerous times, we still have not gotten our Ice cream fix.  The timing just has not worked out.  Either we are there too early for ice cream, or too late and the toddler-needing-a-nap meltdown has begun.  But we will get that ice cream… and soon…