Mini Adventure: Happy Holi

For something completely different from my usual local adventures I decided an outdoor, cultural experience sounded like an excellent mix. The University of Victoria Indian Association had an open invitation to the public to attend their Festival of Colour celebration. As it is unlikely I will ever visit India this seemed like a perfect alternate to participate in an event I have only seen in pictures, documentaries and travelogues. Of course it was geared to students by the fact it was held on the grounds of the university. However, that was not about to dissuade me – two of my daughters, me, and my parents, were students of Uvic. (I do not recall such frivolity)

Except for the shots of me, my daughter and my sister, all the unknown smiling faces happily posed for me.

guess who! We knew some of those baggy clothes would eventually come in handy. Somehow my camera survived.

Clothed in white, to let the colours pop, wearing a pair of sandals (with socks because the temp was in the low teens) that did not matter if the colour would not come off, and ready for getting messy, I set off with my daughter and sister. Although we arrived shortly after the event was slated to begin it appeared to be in full swing. We were there for about two hours, I was possibly the oldest participant. This brought about some interesting reactions when young men approached to smear coloured powder on my face with a “Happy Holi” or gently toss it. Which brought to mind the reason for the celebration, and the culture behind it.

Time to let loose before exams and papers in April.

What is Holi and why is it celebrated by wild swirls of colourful, perfumed powder? There is a lot of information on the Net that tells the tale far better than I can. However, some basic facts: Time to mention that this year Holi was on March 1st and 2nd,; I have no idea why the Uvic event was held on March 17th. It certainly coincided with a number of celebrations. Lots of green for anyone hoping to partake of St. Patrick’s Day activities later, or Naw Ruz (New Year’s for at least three faiths), and of course the first day of spring. Holi – Festival of , celebrated by Hindus, is an important observation of the arrival of spring, good harvest and triumph of good over evil. A lot to pack into just two days. Although these days there are many colours used to celebrate Holi, usually synthetic, gulal – made from flowers and herbs – originally came red, yellow, green and blue to represent a significant purpose.

I love that I captured the shot below of the blue faced girl. (Also my sister in the sunglasses)

The dunk tank looked verrry cold and did little to wash off the colour

A note about the synthetic powder, perfumed gulal has become very popular – not great for anyone with allergies. Synthetic is safer on the skin, but like the natural ingredients, is not easy to wash off. I saw one young woman wearing a (p)leather jacket that I was loathe to mar. There were also sweaters that would most likely maintain the marks of good luck forevermore. Not exactly good clean fun.

We noticed a group of future students clutching folders, walking along with parents (is that helicopter parenting?)- either the parents were saying no bloody way, or looks like a relaxed school. There was a perimeter that participants of the celebration never crossed. Somehow I doubt such restraint occurs at larger Holi gatherings!

One of the times a line was started. The Macarena was popular when it was played (the students would have been very young children when it was popular – they all seemed to have the right moves). Lots of modern Indian music – very danceable.

Food also plays an important role, sadly, we left before what I could smell cooking was served. I love Indian food and rarely have the opportunity to eat it. Unfortunately, my sister does not like it and my daughter can only eat it if there is no gluten. K think if it had not been advertised that refreshments would be served, as well as having that heavenly aroma in the air, I would not have felt rather cheated. Also hungry. After two hours or so of fun, dancing and enjoying the sun it was time to head home to wash the pink, green, blue, yellow and red out of our hair and clothes.

everyone had a great time.

The next day, despite having a shower as soon as I got home, I am still finding colour in my ears; and the one article of clothing my daughter most likely wanted to come clean now has a lovely rainbow hue.


Mini-Adventure: Witty’s Lagoon, Metchosin, Vancouver Island

The morning started with crisp air, pale blue sky semi-shrouded in grey-white cloud. Where had the double digit temperatures disappeared to? Ah yes, although clocks may have been set to spring forward Mother Nature was sticking to her timepiece. A quick telephone call to discuss when to meet with my sister – not solely based on the 8c – ensured we would most likely be finishing up our beach hike as high noon approached. As I had also suggested heading for lunch to the local, and afar, favourite Mychosen Cafe I was hoping a later arrival might be in our favour so we would not have a long wait for a table. I also woke my daughter up to ask if she wanted to join us – she did! I was definitely not going to be unattended.

We did not head out until just past 11:00! At first I thought that would be a rather late start, however, being only a ten minute drive away it really was not. Driving to the lagoon is fairly straightforward, the parking lot is off of Metchosin Road, with Mychosen Cafe barely a two minute drive further down the road. More on that later. This time I did not second guess taking my sturdy stick. I had taken my usual precaution to read up on the trail I expected we would be taking. One warning is that the trail can get muddy and slippery in some areas, along with narrowing at times I decided throwing caution to the wind would be asking for trouble. My sister and daughter think I tend to over prepare, I always carry water and a snack with me, plus a small emergency kit. I would rather have it with me and not need it. Fortunately, if anyone did suffer a fall or anything else there are usually several people walking the trail. Many had Alpine poles. I had my stick and my knee brace. We were ready to plunge into the forest.

Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park has two main trails, the Beach and the Lagoon, that branch off from the Nature Centre situated at the beginning of the walk. Both trails are classed as moderate. The trail slopes down towards a bridge and platform where the lovely Sitting Lady Falls can be viewed. (I later discovered there is better viewing from the Lagoon Trail, sadly not until we had finished for the day) Before we could see anything, other than a stream merrily heading beside, then under us, we could hear the Falls. Much like my love of lighthouses, trains and the ocean, I love waterfalls. Moss covered rock walls, ferns clinging to the sides, slick logs choking sections, the Falls were many feet below us, pouring into the relatively serene lagoon below. By far not as majestic as many Falls it was still pleasant to view. Sometimes a walk in a park does need grand gestures from nature.

The trail continues its downward spiral, indeed muddy and narrow in places, hikers here seem to have an unspoken code that allows passing without crowding. Several good mornings and hellos along the way provided a pleasant acknowledgement of spring finally in the air. From the Falls we entered into the cooling environs of green forest. We discovered one ancient arbutus, entwined around an ancient, craggy Douglas fir nestled in the cradle of the arbutus limbs.

A variety of soft mosses, blackberry spines still without new shoots, many shades of green dappled by the sun. Oh yes, the sun! We could hear and see birds – the haunting call of a raven, the triumphant call of return from Canada geese overhead, seagulls in the distance, ducks paddling in the lagoon, crows giving chase to something. There are 160 species of birds in the park – birders flock the area.

As we continued to wend our way down, it is always at least a slight decline going – steeper in several areas – I started to pick up the slight decay and renewal of forest with an undertone of ocean. Despite our many stops along the way we were soon entering marshlands before the trail opened onto the beach access. Slivering waves, kissed by sunshine, its rays enticed a bare cheek to lift the face to the far reaches of ocean and deeply inhale the salt, algae and tiny, damp stones that meet the finely ground sand. First beach day! Picnics appeared, children with boundless energy hopped from giant, ocean smoothed logs, dogs joining in the delight of the warming day. (For me the only negative the whole time was the dogs – they are not allowed on the trail or beach from June to September)

the ultimate in log cabins

50 Shades of Blue

We chose to walk along the beach at the narrow line where small stones meet the soft sand; although a little trickier at times so much more enjoyable to feel and hear the skitter or pebbles underfoot, or the soft shush of sand as it slipped around my shoes. Shells dropped by seagulls are plentiful, shining purple whorls insides are all that are left inside. A piece of blue glass, always a treasure when my children were young, a small, pale, quite dead, crab. And always the glitter of the ocean as it gently lapped the shores. Beyond, snowy mountains and still the pale blue sky from the early morning. When summer arrives families, teens and many others, will crowd the beach and go swimming in the shallows. For now it is the ducks and seagulls who rule. I wish I could have filmed one very funny seagull high-stepping its way across a sand bar, even as the water became deeper it appeared this gull was not about to ruffle his under feathers as he stretched his legs and twinkle toed it’s way to that eventual dip where swimming took over.

Too soon our stomachs reminded us that it was lunchtime, we reluctantly turned around to traverse uphill, the same slippery, muddy spots waiting to challenge us. Going in the opposite direction there is a whole new perspective. While we took our time to enjoy everything in reverse Lunch beckoned.

One young boy had an ice cream sandwich that was nearly as big as his face! I will have to share a treat with someone next time.

Seems everyone else had a similar plan. Mychosen Cafe opened in 1987 and quickly became a reason to go for a drive to the wilds of Metchosin. I have probably eaten there maybe ten times over the years, not once was I disappointed. Hopping busy, we were told to expect a 25-30 minute wait for a table. This despite being after 1:30. A good reason to carry snacks. Alright, there really are not too many choices when in Metchosin. The Sugar Shack is the ice cream and bakery that belongs to the cafe, or there is Mychosen Pizza. (Heading home I did see a newer place on the next property) Patrons do not mind waiting. You can visit the goats in the Critter Corral, check out the various fowl, or chat with a neighbour – even if you have never met before. Metchosin is still very much a country place.

The wait was worth it. The menu could be considered too extensive if they were not practically the only place in town. Gluten free choices are available (not good for anyone who cannot tolerate possible cross-contamination), several salads, French onion soup(nearly ordered that), of course hamburgers, sandwiches, wraps, breakfast and dessert. There is also a dinner menus for after 4:00pm. Choices, choices! I decided on the Metchosin lamb Greek Wrap with a 1/2 order of fries and 1/2 order garden salad. Garden salads are far too often disappointing, a chunk of iceberg lettuce, tomato and maybe a slice of cucumber, all with bottled dressing. Not at Mychosen. A fantastic mix of lettuce including baby red, beets (these have never seen a can), carrot, cucumber, croutons and one cherry tomato. (I do not like tomatoes so that was fine) I chose their raspberry vinaigrette house dressing. This was enough salad to have as a light meal. However, I still had the lamb burger wrap to tuck into. Yum. Nicely seasoned lamb, generous, wrapped with feta cheese, tzatziki, lettuce, & cucumber wrapped in a warm tortilla. The fries were fine, not heavily salted. I liked them better when I had half of my wrap and chips for dinner. The servings are that generous. No need to cook that night!

Another weekend adventure to rejuvenate the soul, exercise the body, and discover, or rediscover, a little more about where I live. I invite everyone to take some time to discover the hidden or forgotten jewels in their area.

Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Sixty kilometres from the British Columbia Legislative buildings is the Sheringham Point Lighthouse, in Shirley BC. From where I live in Langford it is roughly a 45 minute drive that goes through Sooke and Otter Point before reaching Sheringham Point Road, anchored on either side by the red, Shirley Community Hall and Shirley Delicious. Although only a few minutes drive down the narrow, windy road to the first Regional parking lot a sense of the wild begins to calm anyone in need of a break.

People in Shirley know who the visitors are. I had barely pulled into the small parking area when another driver motioned for me to roll down my passenger window – had I mistakenly entered private property despite the signs clearly indicating a path marking the entrance to the Lighthouse? Not at all, he wanted to inform us there was another parking lot closer to the Lighthouse! We thanked him, indicated we were planning to walk the trail, and headed out. Anytime I go on on a hike into the woods I try to be somewhat prepared. Particularly this early in March.

Sturdy footwear, layered clothes – hat, gloves, a small bag to carry water and a snack. I also have a whistle on my keychain to scare off any grumpy bears or hungry cougars. I also look at a map to determine the type of trail: easy, moderate, difficult. Based on the ‘easy’ I had read I chose to leave my stick at home, in my car. I also do not go on hikes alone in an isolated area. I was with my sister. The trail was closer to being moderate than easy with its rises and falls that were covered in soft, springy moss, leaves, and mud in some areas. Considering I have been wearing my knee brace for hikes from now on I will take my stick.

There are two routes to the lighthouse, we chose the approximately 1.1 km, direct trail. Sure enough, there is another parking lot at the top of the gated entrance to the Lighthouse. The area is locked between 9:00am to 5:00pm, a precaution against vandalism and thrill seekers meeting an early death. The cliffs are steep and unforgiving. The vista is breathtaking. Peeping through the trees we came upon the first glimpses of the lighthouse jutting 20 metres up from the sheer rock. Every time I am lucky enough enough to visit a new place with a lighthouse I am awed by how these simple structures could withstand the fury of the ocean and warn sailors to steer clear. As we approached the cement steps and path to the structure I was stopped by the heaving sound of waves crashing on rocks – and this was a relatively mild day for wind. Trees and shrubs are windswept back, as though combed into a pompadour. Daffodils carpeted small areas, a sunny welcome in unforgiving territory if a wrong step is taken.

A bee was also enjoying the lovely, slightly stunted, sunny daffodils

Sheringham was built in 1912, (one of 12 to serve the area after many shipwrecks). Automated in 1988, declared surplus in 2010, the lighthouse was declared a heritage site in 2015, giving the Lighthouse Society (est. 2004) the green light to begin restorations in 2016. The land and the lighthouse are now protected as a community park, free to all visitors. After we managed to pull away from the enthralling view, the breaking water against the rocks and shore, the many shades of blue to grey of sky and sea we slowly made our way back to the relative quiet of the trail with thoughts of lunch beginning to form.

My goal was to introduce my sister to the craziness of Shirley Delicious. A wonderful, quirky restaurant that serves fabulous, delicious food, and great Fernwood coffee. I had warned that the place is very popular and usually extremely busy – we arrived before noon. Indeed it was hopping. The owner was flipping paper coffee cups, playing with the music and acknowledging everyone with a quick hello, quip, or handing over coffee – all with a smile behind his South African accent. I do not get out there often, and am always bouyed when I do. I had one of their focaccia sandwiches (they were all only $9.00) each has a silly name, of course I cannot recall what mine was, all that really mattered was that first bite. Warm, soft, perfectly seasoned focaccia bread filled with turkey, cranberry sauce, although I am not a fan of cranberry sauce I was intrigued by the combination with the light touch of chutney and brie plus fresh greens. Heaven. Except for the tomato slices. I hate tomatoes. These are eat with both hands sandwiches. Right away we knew we would need boxes to pack away at least half. Recyclable of course.

Now we know where the dragons are.

The air was too damp to sit outside – an absolute delight, and necessary if planning to stay to eat, during warmer weather. Take a walk along the paths, look down and around. There is much to delight the eye before or after your meal. A mini-Sunday adventure. I was home after only four hours. My body and soul were full.

Thetis Lake Hike

As I have noted in previous blogs it is always important to visit places right under your nose. Now that March has arrived with our first beautiful day I was not about to spend any of it in a gym for my exercise. The original plan had been to visit Shirley or Point No Point, about a one hour drive for the former, and more for the latter, from where I now live. When that had to be postponed it was time to hit google for trail inspiration. Nothing too challenging, preferably not one already traversed many times. Naturally in nature, long enough to get in some steps without feeling exhausted at the end.

Beautiful blues.Beautiful blues we love to see return

Thetis Lake, a mere 5 – 6 minute drive from where I live was the perfect balance. Judging by the many vehicles parked it seemed others had the same thought. Established as Canada’s first nature sanctuary the park land and lake has something for most quiet, outdoor activities. Notice I said quiet. The only boats allowed are canoes, or electric boats. Although still early in the season we saw young people learning the craft of keeping their craft afloat, a canoe with a lone paddler silently gliding in the still waters, and one small boat with fishers working their lines with a flick and a small splash to entice a trout.

It is advisable to carry water and a snack, wear a light coat with a hood and sturdy footwear. Considering my propensity for slipping I also had a sturdy ‘stick’ for the steeper sections, and was not hiking alone. This time of year some areas remain damp and muddy. From around a corner heard we a young couple who had passed us exclaim after the father slipped while carrying his baby in a back carrier. They were all fine, just frightened. I doubt I would do the trail alone although several younger adults were using it as a running course. Notices are not always well placed, it is adviseable to have a map of the area with you. We had a map App that was only somewhat useful. Fortunately this was not the first time at the lake and there were several other casual hikers. We chose a moderate trail going around the lower half of Thetis Lake. A pleasant 1 1/2 hour walk.

Fishing for rainbow trout

During the off season dogs are allowed to run off leash. Although they might be ecstatic to be frolicking in the fresh air I did not appreciate it. One dog was far too interested in my stick – I never could figure which group of people it belonged to. Thetis Lake is very popular in the summer for the beach, swimming, picnics and camping. With public transit and close to the city this picturesque spot sees young people and families pretty well take over during the warm weather. Fortunately there is room for everyone.

arbutus trees serving as a natural arch as the path winds along the lake

Wedding Wednesday: 136 days

Although I cannot share too much – photos etc. – I thought part of the blurb on the wedding website my daughter is using was a perfect way to introduce when she and her fiancé met 25 years ago. “A long time ago, on a beautiful island in British Columbia, a young man from the East Coast laid eyes on a young West Coast girl.” It is only fitting they are getting married onboard a boat.

Some recent updates: a pair of shoes I think will be suitable arrived at me door yesterday. Wow, this ordering online is great! As my second daughter pointed out the pumps are higher than a kitten heel, and lower than stilettos, yet look subtly elegant. The only bit That do not like is the little logo stud on the side of each shoe. Which means I will mull things over for s few days before making a final decision. Until they had arrived I was still unsure they would be suitable with my dress. So I am basically ready unless I return the pumps.

Colour hint of my already purchased dress.

As for the bride’s shoes…. actually she called me to have me add to my growing list a reminder she must have shoes before March 26 when she will have her first fitting. My only concern will be how high a heel she is considering. She has to climb stairs to the top deck where the ceremony will be held. As mentioned recently the fitting for the dress this will be done in two stages. The $30.00 hourly rate sounds astronomical although it really is not. Unstitching lace, moving everything up, and hand stitching back on while still maintaining the integrity of a dress is not easy. Fortunately I still think only the lower front half of the skirt will need work. Dresses should not be made for 6 foot women only!

Meanwhile, what were worries are now being nailed down and a calm period seems to have arrived. The guest list seems to be under control, and the deadline I have set to remind the bride and groom to hand deliver invitations that had to be held back while waiting for RSVPs is approaching. I suppose I should let them know when that is. The other worry was decor, what is the budget, what will work on a moving venue, what is or is not allowed, has the colour scheme been finally decided? Of course, once we had bought out a few stores to gather everything according the bride’s ‘look’ the colours and decor was decided. Adding to my reminder list will be for the glass receptacles to be purchased. Which reminds me, I now have a whiteboard and an erasable calendar.

Not having candles opened up more choices of what can used. Bottom heavy vases in the event of the boat rolling. (Hm, is this really a good idea? I get seasick. Fortunately, I have been on the vessel a couple of times) Rather than candles, not even LED, my daughter chose fairy lights, and they really are quite lovely. The colour scheme will enhance the look of an aquatic connection without appearing kitschy. I keep going back to subdued elegance. As I go over what seems to be included in decor for weddings I can see how the cost rises. The only pressing decisions now seem to be a runner for walking down the aisle and chair swags.

Then the topic of transportation came up. My fault, I mentioned that Harry and Meagan (I am not fixated – their nuptials just keep being in the news) will have a carriage for after their ceremony. I thought my daughter’s idea of a trolley to the wedding was far more fun, if not (we discovered) original. She then informed me she was looking into a carriage! Very Victoria. Perhaps both will be used. Or she could arrive on the back of her father’s motorcycle.

What is important is that, despite some early OMGs, the next 136 days are fun. After all, it will be a celebration of two wonderful people who want to share their special moment 25 years in the making.