Ah, Victoria. You’re kind of our favorite. We spent July through September in this magical, perfect-sized, quaint, and oh-so-friendly place. It feels just like a warm hug with really delightful and cozy people. There’s seemingly always someone available to give you a smile, a helping hand, or a congenial chat. I’m beginning to think that many of the residents are actually angels incognito. I would go out shopping, or wherever, and come home feeling happy and light with a grin on my face and a spring in my step, thanks to the sweet people and beautiful surroundings. Incidentally, we’re currently back in Victoria, enjoying another visit, the lovely details of which will be featured in an upcoming post.
Our vacation home was beautiful, well-equipped, and within a couple minute walk to the ocean, where we explored the tide pools at the beach. We feel very fortunate we’ve been able to book another six weeks in this same home starting summer of next year!
With an excellent grocery store a couple minutes drive away, and an amazing kitchen at the house (it even has a little window seat!), I just couldn’t resist making lots of delicious home cooked meals and mouthwatering treats. Here are some of our favorite recipes from this time, in case you’d like to try them out. Everyone chipped in to help with the cooking, cleaning, and shopping. We felt more domestic than we have in a while, doing everything ourselves for a change. It felt surprisingly homey and soothing.
We’ve learned to not take for granted the wide variety and availability of meal ingredients to be found in North American grocery stores. Does your recipe call for smoked paprika? They’ve got you covered! Nutritional yeast? Yes, right this way! Hominy? Not so much, sorry! Okay, so maybe they have at least one limitation, or perhaps I just wasn’t in the right store. No biggie! Besides, the availability of ready-made Nanaimo bars in the area more than makes up for any perceived lack, especially if you know where to go. When they’re good, they’re really good. For future reference, we found some amazing specimens at the Sidney Bakery!
I also had a chance to indulge my tea fettish to the nth degree in Victoria, where even the grocery store varieties dazzled my senses. Beyond that, there are many specialty tea shops like Silk Roads, where I delighted in their Chocolate Panda concoction, and there’s Teavana, where I found delicious varieties of Pumpkin Spice and Orange Blossom. They even have a Macaron shop in town called Bon Macaron, which pretty much speaks for itself. You could make your very own luscious little tea party with that combination, could you not?
Brandon generously dedicated much time and energy tracking down some used bikes and helmets for our family, which made for some exhilarating exercise, during which the pleasant nature-scented air and nice temperatures were so refreshing. We even spotted many deer wandering around the neighborhoods. Emily and Marie basked in the freedom to explore on their own, reveling in the many parks and playgrounds, and a large cemetery with lots of old winding paths throughout. Peddling into downtown Victoria was a quick ride as well. We especially enjoyed biking and walking around Beacon Hill Park.
We played lots of games, including Boggle, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Monopoly, Pick Two, and Uno. Mancala was also in the house, which inspired Brandon to program a digital version with Emily and Marie. It turned out to be an excellent learning project! We also put together a jigsaw puzzle we received from family members on our recent visit in Poulsbo, such a nice meditative yet addicting activity. And, of course, we all had fun working on our musical endeavors.
We watched a selection of movies at home every once in a while. In case you’re in the market for recommendations, here are some we especially enjoyed: The Help, Hector and the Search for Happiness, What We Did on Our Holiday, Big Hero 6, and Hundred Foot Journey.
We visited the Unitarian Universalist church on a couple different occasions, appreciating the welcoming, connecting people, beautiful music, and messages shared.
Emily and Marie hammed it up at a drama workshop where they worked on a spoof of Maleficent with another little boy. We watched their funny performance on the last day. Aysia also engaged in a course of yoga/art/nature classes with some other children around her age which she looked forward to each week!
Emily designed a memorable celebration of her twelfth trip around the sun, which involved a new guitar strap, caramel & chocolate covered apples, sushi, the Minions movie, family karaoke, and of course birthday cake and ice cream. A sensational time was had by all!
Grandma Alli came to visit us while we were in Victoria, and we mostly relaxed together at home, but we did venture out one day to see a beautiful Japanese garden. She introduced us to literal music videos during her stay and spent a lot of time with Brandon as they worked on making their own, which Brandon and I finished up after she left. She also introduced us to Dr. Who, and we watched a few episodes together. We played Boggle a few times during her visit, and found out she ranks at the genius level, always coming in loads of words ahead of the rest of us. Brandon usually wins, by far, but even he followed as a distant second when Grandma Alli was playing. We went to Sidney on her last day with us, where we ate lunch and stopped at the Sidney Bakery afterwards, before she caught her ferry back home.
Another notable outing for our family was our attendance at the Chalk Art Festival, where we watched as the artists brought their imaginative ideas to life. We even created some of our own!
One evening we had a neighbor knock on our door, apprising us of an air show starting at the nearby beach. Hurrying outside to see it, we found throngs of people already gathered to watch. What a spectacular sight!
On a gorgeous sunny day, we scouted out the Sannich fair. We saw many bunnies, and touched a really soft, fluffy, white Angora. We saw donkeys, little horses, baby goats, artwork & crafts, prized flowers and vegetables, and even an ice cream eating contest. We luxuriated in a leisurely listen to some live jazz music being performed on the stage and treated ourselves to some scrumptious chocolate salted caramel fudge from one of the booths.
We also had a lot of cherished visits with friends, both old and new, during our two-month stay. Speaking of which, there is a large and active homeschooling/home-learning community in Victoria. We highly anticipated our get-togethers with a group of them who gathered at Esquimalt Gorge Park each week. The kids all had a lot of creative fun together, and the adults enjoyed each other’s company and conversation. One week we attended the annual Not-Back-To-School beach party, where there was an even larger turnout of home-learners and parents to hang out with. We all had a fantastic time!
We were also thrilled to spend more good times with our friends the Shields, who we met during our first visit to Victoria. They brought us some freshly caught salmon soon after we arrived which we relished, and we shared a dinner at our house on a different occasion. I was duly impressed by their daughter Tizita’s cooking skills, as she was helping me in the kitchen. Another day, we met at a very tasty restaurant, Tacofino, and then went to the fascinating IMAX showing of Galapagos together.
We were overjoyed when the Tucker family, who we met in Bali, graced us with a visit to our house one day, as they were passing through the area. We were so glad for the chance to see them again! We ate, talked, and took a walk to the beach together before they ferried away.
The wonderfully spunky Bender family flew to Victoria by sea plane to spend a day with us as well. We walked with them to Beacon Hill Park and enjoyed the fall leaves while meandering around town together, savoring some tasty snacks along the way. We’ve played with these guys in Bali, Chiang Mai, Thailand and Perth, Australia throughout our travels as well!
Our treasured new friends, Maya and Brian, and their two children, shared dinner with us at their home one evening. Their daughter is close to Aysia’s age and they became best buddies in a flash. Also at the dinner were a couple other families we enjoyed meeting for the first time, Suki and Rod, and their children, as well as Renee and her daughter. What a great group!
We met some other traveling friends, Jihong and her two children, along with a couple of their friends at Beacon Hill Park one day. We also assembled with Jihong and her family for a meal of Chinese dumplings at her parents’ house one evening, where they taught us how to make them and invited us to help! Our friends came to dinner at our house another night and we were grateful to spend so much time together during their short visit in Victoria.
Our family was invigorated by a hike to a silvery blue waterfall in scenic Goldstream Park with a new friend, Amber, who was about to embark on her own full-time travel adventures with her young son.
Another day, we visited some new friends, Andy and Astrid, who have donkeys on their property which they invited us to come see. Our friend Jenny was there also and had fun jumping on the trampoline with our girls.
We certainly weren’t quite ready to leave Victoria on the ferry when the time came, but at least our first stop was a two-night stay at Grandma Alli’s house, before we boarded our plane in Seattle. She made some adorable fairy gardens with the girls during our visit. They picked out their favorite little plants from the garden shop which they each arranged and planted in their own pot, before adding some darling, fairy-approved decorations from Grandma.
When it was time to say goodbye, Grandma Alli drove us to the airport and we were off again, this time to New York City!