Monday, November 11, 2013


Today we had a few minutes so drove up to our old place on Gates Road.  We have a lot of good memories of our farm house here… but were not prepared for what we were about to see.

Today we saw an abandoned and neglected property that we had built and moved into in 1981.

This workshop was built before the house… it was a 40' x 80' Steiner arch building with a concrete floor.

Our kids used to call this place "the Garden of Weeden." But they never saw anything this out of control.

The weeds growing thru the cracks in the concrete and pavement had ugly burrs.

Isn't this an amazing pattern of weeds?

It was hard to get to around the house to the front door for the weeds and trees that have overgrown the place.

This is the back door… the entrance to the mud room.

Welcome to the front door! The same door we got from Glenmore Millwork. Originally the house had cedar shingle roof and authentic wood siding… which later got replaced with maintenance free vinyl siding and asphalt shingles.

Peeking thru the entrance window we saw all the floor coverings removed and most of the drywall gone.

The original cabinets built by Merv Waldo are still there… but the ceiling drywall and floor coverings are removed.

Shelby and I played 567 games of ping pong in this rec room before he beat his dad for the first time… and ever since then he has been hard to beat. Even today we still play a tight game.

A wonderful cedar sauna and hot tub room are to the right of this room.

Looking into the property from Gates Road… we had 20 acres here.

The most redeeming thing of this visit was to find our neighbours who still live across from mom and dad's olds farmhouse… the Ficke's.  Rose and Ron Ficke with their mother, who is 93.
It is truly amazing to see her walking up and down the steep part of Gates Road pushing her walker.

I don't often find a quote from someone I've actually met… but this is from the world famous brain surgeon Ben Carson.

"Every time I am looking into the depths of somebody's brain, I'm thinking, 'This is what makes a person who they are. That structure contains memories. Everything that they ever experienced is right in there'."

Thursday, November 7, 2013


What inspires me?

Seeing nice work that others have done… like the wood carvings at Barclay's. That was very inspirational for me.

Where do we get our ideas from?

Often we get ideas from nature.  The sun has been an inspiration to many artists.

Sometimes we look at one thing and see something else.

But basically we are all a bunch of copycats.

We see something someone else has done and think… why not do it this way?

We draw on all of life's experiences in everything we undertake.

After seeing this incredible piece of wood carving I got to thinking how I might do it in stone?  Maybe white quartz rays on a background of sandstone… with black pebbles around the face… and at the end of the rays.

I found myself sitting at my desk yesterday doodling in my day-timer.

It's just a quick sketch, but I have a vision of making a design like this on a rock wall on our house.  I found myself thinking about in the night when I should have been sleeping… then later in the day I sketched it out.

If it ever does happen, I will do a lot more planning… select the right rock colours and other elements.  But that is how things get started and soon one thing leads to another.  It will be fun to see if this idea will get the thumbs up.

Speaking of creative rock work this wall blew me away.  We were looking for a store… KMS tools… when we stumbled upon this retaining wall on Old Island Highway in Victoria.

This is not the everyday Department of Highways retaining wall.

A lot of planning and thought went into building this wall.  I found myself inspired by this amazing design.

As you can see, this is beautiful work.  If you have few minutes check out their website.

This is the kind of work that inspires me!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


The only reason I wear clothes is to keep people from laughing at me.

My favourite clothes are my cowboy hat, snap button shirts, blue jeans and cowboy boots.  Shirley used to call me her Marlborough man… without the horse, without boots and without the cigarette.

At one time I had to wear suits to work… and for sure when I had to go to the bank.  I called them my "grovelling clothes."  But today I love to wear tee shirts… and I like logo shirts.  Like this one you can hardly see... we got it in Mykonos.  I like the logos for the memories.  Mykonos is the windmill place.

Clothes?  That is girly stuff.  No real man would put that on the list.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Wood Carving is Beautiful

Today's blog challange is "Art." But rather than show any of my work, I would like to show some exciting works done by a father and son team that is on display in Barclay's Exchange.

Shirley and I went back to Barclay's in Chinatown to get some pictures of the wood carvings.

It was after our walking tour in Chinatown a few weeks back that I realized where Barclay's Exchange had moved. It has been a few years since they moved from Douglas Street to 516 Fisgard Street, Victoria.

The Barclay's I remembered was the place I bought my cement mixer… and the one ton chain winch… and other tools.  They never used to have high quality wood carvings and works of art. There just wasn't enough room in the old location.

Most of the pieces I took photos of today were done by Jay and Jean Brabant.

They have quite a good selection of masks…

With new carvings coming in… like this mask that arrived today and had not been hung up on display yet.  Owner Paul McDonald pulled it out of his office to show it to me… so I shot the photo as he held it in his hands.  Notice the copper eyes.

I love the colours and the variety.  Each one is a "one-of-a-kind" original work of art.

This sun mask is my favourite. Nose like the beak of an eagle… with seven radiating rays coming out from the centre.  It also is one of the larger and more expensive pieces.

But this totem pole was no doubt the largest piece… with lots of vibrant colours.

I'm still looking for the man who carved our beautiful front door.  It was done about 1986-87 at the time Jack Janzen built the house.  I have been threatening to introduce some colour to it… but am not in a hurry.

Before I would touch it with any paint I would do several colour comps to be sure about which parts would get what colour… and which parts stay natural.

We were told that at the time the door was made the wood carver lived on Mayne Island. If anyone knows the artist I would appreciate knowing his name.

"Men admire the man who can organize their wishes and thoughts in stone and wood and steel and brass." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Family Traditions

There are several family traditions around here... and they vary from one season to another. Our Friday evening tradition seems to work better in the late fall and winter when the sun goes down earlier.

... and when artichokes are in season.  I just love it when Shirley pulls out all the stops.

Complete with white tablecloth, candles and grape juice.

I like to have mayonnaise with mine...

Shirley prefers to dip hers into butter.

And if our life is not too wound up and Shirley has the time it is always a special treat to have fresh home baked cinnamon buns or Challah. What a great beginning for the Sabbath.

One of my favourite parts from Fiddler on the Roof is this song "Tradition."

A couple other traditions that come to mind is our daughter's tradition to post her Grateful List on her blog every Friday night.  We always love to check it out and see how her week went.  It is a great tradition! ...and she has been doing it for several years now.

Our tenant Chris has a tradition of taking a photo every evening of the sunset from our place.  He has been here almost exactly a year now and he still finds inspiration in taking the time to walk out the viewpoint where we have a bench between our house and his cottage and capture yet another sunset.

This one was taken October 29... a few days ago... and between Shirley and me we have well over a thousand sunsets... and no two ever alike.

"Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world." -Susan Lieberman

Saturday, November 2, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude

My daughter is always up for a blog challenge... but since we will be doing a road trip for more than a week to get from Mayne Island to Tucson middle of this month I don't know how consistent the posts will be... but I'll do my best.

I liked the photo challenge list posted on Sher's blog which provides the structure for each day... and right out of the gate want to combine the first two on the list... Colour and Love.

I got five bunches of cut tulips for Shirley's birthday... I just loved the softness and colour of these flowers.  There is a lot of colour and love in fresh bouquet of flowers.

As they sat on the dining room table it was fun to stop at different times and catch a photo as the light changed.

Just like there is a lot of love in a well planned and prepared meal... there is a lot of love in a bunch of flowers.

In this close-up you can see the yellow pollen on the petals.

"Flowers don't worry about how they are going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful." -Jim Carrey

And that is the way love is.  I don't have to put "Love Shirley today" on a list.  I wake up and turn toward her and tell her I'm happy to to have another day to spend together.  What should we do today?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Victoria's Chinatown

Come with us on a Walking Tour of Victoria's Chinatown.  This Gate of Harmonious Interest is the main entrance at Fisgard and Government Streets... but this is actually where our Chinatown tour ended.  More on the gate later.

There are seven Self-Guided Walking Tour brochures we picked up at City Hall in Victoria.  In addition to Mysterious Chinatown there is Secrets of the Forbidden City, Rollicking Boomtown (gold rush),  Fools Rush In, Law and Order... and two basically identical brochures on Haunted Victoria.

I didn't know that until about 1900 a ravine and stream ran right thru what today is Market Square between Johnson and Pandora.  The first Chinese... mostly men, arrived in town in 1858 at the time of the Fraser River Gold Rush... and they settled on the north of the stream away from the centre of town where the land was cheaper.

Somewhere in the middle of this lower level a stream once flowed.  Today there are shops around the outside... and in the centre there is a stage for musicians.

A wall in Market Square had some historic photos... this one showing early Chinatown on the Pandora side of the Square.

Pandora was a muddy street at times... with a board walk in front of the shops with residences above.

Many of the early Chinese emigrants to Victoria came from Guangdong Province where they farmed.  The Chinese have always been known for raising and selling fresh produce... so this BC Produce Company building on Pandora has a lot of history behind it.

Directly across the street from the BC Produce Company is the Hoy Sun Ning Yung Benevolent Association... a place where young Chinese men who were strangers here came to help each other.  If you look closely there is a sign on the red lamp post on the far, far right that says Fan Tan Alley... pointing to the narrow space between the two buildings.

Fan Tan Alley brags of being the narrowest street in Canada... with lots of small shops.

"Fan Tan" is a gambling game that was popular in the 1800's and was played in six gambling dens upstairs above the alley.

Shirley and Marilyn stopped into this little "Heart's Content" store...

No, she was not buying opium... it was big business in these parts up to 1908 when it was made illegal.  Shirley just made a purchase of a new top she liked.

Fisgard is the main street and most vibrant part of Chinatown. Fruit and vegetable vendors, curio shops like the one above... and restaurants line both sides of the street.

I was attracted to these colourful parasols.

We had walked on this sidewalk several times before, but did not realize that the red brick pattern is the Chinese character "shou" (representing long life.)

558 Fisgard -The tallest building on Fisgard Street is the former headquarters of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. At one time Chinese immigrants first required approval of the organization before they could come to Canada.

Across Fisgard to the left is the entrance to Dragon Alley. The dragon in China is not a nasty creature, but one that brings good fortune and positive energy. Originally the alley was a passageway to residences for men who lived here in Chinatown.

There are a few twists and turns along the alley...

But it is clean and appointed with lots of plants.

There were several shops... with very pleasant courtyards.

A Spa... again with a lovely courtyard.

Victoria Seed Bank... likely with residences above.

531 Herald Street: Big wooden doors allowed horses and carriages to enter a stable at ground level.  Upstairs was was one of Chinatown's brothels... a common feature in a place where so many of the residents were single men.

1800 Block Government:  This is the longest building in Chinatown... built in 1910 buy Lim Bang, a developer who had his own brickyard.  Note the recessed covered balconies on the second level... a very nice feature on hot summer days.

Even the garbage cans boast about Victoria's Chinatown being the oldest Chinatown in Canada.

As we walked back along Government Street this new sidewalk with the "shoo" character now had a special meaning to us.

1713 Government Street: This interesting tall, slim building was established by the Yen Wo Society.  Fifty-two steps up to the top floor is the oldest Chinese themple in Canada, dedicated to the god Tam Kung.  Notice the graphic on the side of the building.

It is called "Dragon Dance."  A mural by Robert Amos, assisted by the Principal, teachers and children of the Chinese Public School to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Canada's oldest Chinatown.

636 Fisgard: The Chinese Public School, established 1909.  Chinese children were once banned from attending public schools unless they spoke English. 

629 Fisgard: Lee Mong Kow Way is directly across from the school... named after the school's first principal who was highly respected.

This painting of Lee Mong Kow and his family is painted on the wall.

There is another amazing wall painting on this building beside the school.

If you look real close you can see the 8" x 16" blocks on the wall behind this painting on this Chinese Seafood Restaurant.

I liked this bicycle rack in front of Starbucks... see the graphics on it?

Marilyn treated Shirley and me to a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte... very delicious!

When we got home I did a little research on Victoria's Chinatown.  It reached it's prime in 1911 when the Chinese population reached 3,158... almost more than the entire population of downtown Victoria at the time.  And they occupied six full city blocks.

Between 1920 and 1970 the Chinese community went downhill... but then in the early 1980's things turned around and there was an effort to revitalize and restore some of the heritage buildings.

This beautiful Gate of Harmonious Interest was built in one of Victoria's sister cities, Suzhou and was then moved and constructed here in 1981.

Stone male and female lions stand guard on each side of the gate.

Shirley and Marilyn help to show the scale of these lions as they are coming forward to cross the street.

Notice the bells that hang on the corners... believed to scare away the evil spirits.  Dragons, phoenix birds and other symbols are believed to bring positive energy.

It was now time for lunch... and our favourite Cafe Mexico in the Market Square was our unconscious choice.  But we likely should have been more adventurous and tried one of the many restaurants in Chinatown.

One of the bonuses of a walking tour was that we saw several very interesting shops that we will no doubt go back to in the future.  Another advantage is that we were able to stop and check out several shops and poke around in them... where in a guided tour you would get left behind if you did that. 

Shirley even stopped to buy rice bowls... and I picked up a big bag of navel oranges at a good price.