May 23, 2016

Lakeside Gardens in early May

Lakeside Gardens on St Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island is a special place. In early May, during an unseasonably hot spell, we spent another glorious weekend at number 7.

Located right on the lake, the small cabins are a world away from all the cares of the world. One small step above camping, the cabins are under ten square metres in size but provide a luxury not easily found elsewhere: songbirds in the early morning. shorebirds through the day, eagles soaring overhead in the late afternoon, and the gentle sound of frogs to lull one to sleep at night.

And through it all, the ever-changing view of the lake.

It's rustic to be sure, but on a beautiful day on Salt Spring, nothing could be better.

Lakeside Gardens Resort website.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

May 22, 2016

Laburnum ~ the golden chain

Laburnum, sometimes called golden chain, is native to the mountains of southern Europe, and here on the left coast, its flowers herald the beginning of spring.

All parts of the plant are poisonous, especially the fruit, which develops as a pod. Symptoms of poisoning include convulsions, coma, and a slight frothing at the mouth, among other things equally distasteful. Why anyone would want to eat laburnum might be a mystery, though it has been used as a poison in earlier times.

On a more positive note, laburnum has been used for cabinetmaking and musical instruments like flutes. At one time it was a popular wood for the making of the most beautiful sounding of all musical instruments: the bagpipes.

For us, it's become a sign of spring, warm weather and the coming months of summer. Just don't eat it.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

May 17, 2016

Spring gets more colourful at VanDusen Gardens

This year spring on the left coast has been, at times, quite like summer; temperatures in the mid- to high twenties and dry and the colours of our favourite Vancouver backyard have come earlier this year.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

May 16, 2016

Beyond Bread at West 4th & Alma

Near the corner of West 4th and Alma on Vancouver's west-side resides a fantastic bakery/coffee house. Right near a bus stop it's busy, but a bit of a relaxing oasis too.

Stylishly appointed this bakery is one of Vancouver's best; the croissants are indeed exceptional. The bread is always fresh, which makes Beyond Bread's take on sandwiches difficult to resist.

The coffee comes from several of our favourite sources: Forty-ninth Parallel, Phil & Sebastian, and their own roasted-in-house Social Coffee. We've tried them all and they are all all nicely crafted and consistent in flavour and texture.

Beyond Bread Artisan Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Service is usually friendly and efficient, but on a few occasions we've noticed a wee irritation on the part of counter staff. However, that might be due to all kinds of things and most of the time all is fine in every way.

Beyond Bread is a wonderful stop on the way to the beach!

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

May 04, 2016

Finally! A quality Canadian sparkling water... Montellier

Jeem et Sherry love sparkling waters. Perrier and San Pellegrino are good waters and readily available across Canada. Badoit is an excellent water too, slightly lighter than the other two,though much less visible in our stores and restaurants. Badoit is distributed in Canada by Coca Cola, though it is actually owned by the great French company Danone. Perrier and Pellegrino, one sourced from France, the other from Italy, are both owned by Nestle, which is unfortunate, given the nasty nature of that Swiss transnational.

Now. Finally. There's a water to call our own. It is Montellier and it's rapidly becoming available across Canada, at stores like Safeway, Save-on, PriceSmart and possibly London Drugs (Jeem isn't quite sure about them).  Montellier is from the Quebec-based company called Alex Coulombe ltée. It tastes and feels great, just like the sparkling waters of Europe.

Alex Coulombe ltée began operations in 1905 and it's still a family owned and operated business, mainly bottling products of the Pepsi Cola company in Quebec. Thirty years ago Alex Coulombe ltée found a pure and naturally protected spring source in the lowlands of the St Lawrence valley, and Montellier water was created, based on the Coulombe family's belief that Quebec deserved its own local, quality sparkling water. The dream was always to expand Montellier's reach across Canada, and it's finally happening through a distribution deal with Pepsi.

Just as Canadians turned away from Heinz ketchup in favour of the Canadian-sourced French's, maybe it's time we all discovered a truly great Canadian sparkling water. Montellier is naturally spring-sourced, in Canada, by a Canadian family-owned business. And it has the official Jeem Seal of Approval on every bottle - and as we all know, that's not easily come by.

Photos from the website of Alex Coulombe ltée. 
Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

Fire in Fort McMurray

All of us have been watching as a wildfire devastates one of Canada's most strategically important cities. Regardless of what we might think of the oil sands, Fort McMurray is home to almost 100,000 people, and most of them have been forced to evacuate their homes by the supreme power of nature itself.

This photo was taken by a friend-of-a-friend as he attempted to leave Fort McMurray earlier this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with him and all the others forced to flee.

My thoughts and prayers are also with those who remain behind to fight the fire. We should pause a moment and consider those left in Fort McMurray, and first responders everywhere. Without them, in times like this, where would we be?

Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.