Category Archives: Family Fun

Richard Scarry books for children

Books Children Love to Read Again and Again

Richard Scarry was a prolific writer and illustrator of children’s books throughout his career. Always well-reviewed on Amazon, his collections inspire nostalgia in parents and quickly become a child’s favourite book. Each page is designed as a diorama that shows the relationships between people and activities. The artwork is detailed with lots of funny dialogue and captions.

Busy, Busy World takes the young reader on an adventure around the world to visit different countries and cultures. It’s a wonderful introduction to global diversity. Children are invited to connect traditional roles and customs with their present understanding of the world. Parents will appreciate the opportunity to talk about the examples of harmony among different peoples. Little explorers can travel to different cities such as London, Paris, and Cairo to meet a red fox named “Pierre the Paris Policeman” or a pig family sightseeing in Venice by gondola. The writing is sensitive to a young reader’s imagination and will make them laugh out loud.

His best-seller, What Do People Do All Day? introduces kids to the concept of work and career. In Busytown, everyone is busy all day doing their best. From train drivers to doctors, from mothers to sailors, in police stations and on fire engines, readers can follow the characters through their work-a-day lives. Workers are shown making things and selling them to buy things they need and want. Children can easily identify themes in business management, human relations, and economics. If your child has ever asked why you go to work each day, this book will help explain the relationship between work and reward.

A perennial favourite is Cars, Trucks and Things That Go. New and familiar animal characters are introduced driving strange and fun vehicles. It’s filled with scenes rich in detail that reward children who look closely for hidden clues. Fantasy vehicles like the pickle truck, an alligator car, and a toothbrush with wheels are fantastic. There is even a fire truck that shows up to extinguish a tiny fire in a miniature convertible driven by a ladybug. Kids will have fun tracking Officer Flossie’s book-long chase after that irresponsible, speedster driver in a cowboy hat!

If you’re looking for a special gift for a young reader or new talker, consider adding a Richard Scarry edition to your child’s library. They’re fun, educational, and really engaging for young and old.

Have a happy holiday!

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Coffee house and cafes for sale in Ladysmith, BC

Coffeehouse Treats at Home

Tasty coffee shop-style espresso drinks at home are a luxurious treat on a cold or rainy day. The mellow taste of a latte with flavours such as peppermint or pumpkin can elevate it to new levels of delight. A daily latte is a good thing and the perfect pick-me-up when working at the office. But what if you’re working from home now and not able to visit the coffee shops in Ladysmith or the Cowichan Valley?

Espresso machines have become more sophisticated and more powerful. The first machines on the market lacked the water pressure required to produce a quality brew with the right amount of crema. Crema is the frothy, caramel coloured foam that is important for overall taste and, of course, beautiful latte art. You don’t need an expensive machine to make cafe-level espresso but it might be helpful to know that the better machines produce better result, more easily.

There are a number of factors that go into making good espresso, including grind (use ultra fine), tamping (tightly pushing the coffee into the extractor), and the quality of beans. Home-made espresso tastes different from cafe-bought because their beans are tailored to suit customer expectations and go through rigorous taste-testing trials. Starbucks uses a different espresso blend compared to the independent coffee houses. Espresso beans are generally roasted darker than regular coffee but not always. Start with the coffee you already like and test using progressively darker beans until you find a brew that you like. Try mixing beans from different parts of the world to make your own ‘house’ blend.

Start with fresh, whole beans and grind them yourself. Beans should have a slightly oily appearance although this will diminish over time. A burr grinder is more exact than a blade grinder and may even have settings for drip and espresso grinds. A diluted espresso means the grind was too course; a bitter espresso indicates it was too fine. A proper grind will leave a slight stain on your fingertips when you touch it. Tamp firmly but not excessively. A correct grind/tamp combination will produce a balanced taste. If it tastes good, you did it right.

One of the best reasons to make lattes at home is that you can enjoy your favourite flavours all winter. The ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte is always pulled from the menu far too early in the season. Just as one begins to warm up to them as an emotional support coffee, they are gone. Thankfully, the main ingredients, Torani Pumpkin Pie Sauce and brown sugar, are easily available. These are the same ingredients that the independent cafes use, and the taste is the real thing. The Torani sauces allow you to control the sweetness by adding your own sugar or Nutrasweet. Serve your PSL in a favourite mug with whipped cream on top.

Unlike drip coffee, a shot of espresso is intended to be consumed quickly and immediately after brewing. This is when the flavours are their strongest. In the summer, it provides an uplifting break that doesn’t overwhelm the body with too much heat. Experiment with an espresso shot in the afternoon or after a meal to see if you like it. Adding hot water to make it a mugful is called an Americano. The taste is more caramel than drip without slightly less caffeine. You may not want to drink drip coffee with breakfast once you’ve tried it.

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today for a personal appointment. The coffee is on us!

Cowichan Valley homes with backyard guest accommodations and basement suites

Entertaining Summer Guests

Visiting other parts of the country is fun, especially if you have family or friends who can accommodate your stay. Entertaining guests are a great opportunity to show off your city and can make you feel like a tourist at home. To help you prepare for overnight company, here are some tips that you might find helpful. Let us know if you are looking for a home with a backyard bunkie or guest house.

It’s a good idea to start with a budget. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ to every suggestion, from dinner out to shows and tourist attractions. A budget will help set priorities. Saying ‘no’ to some activities also allows your guests to have some private time to explore so it’s actually win-win for everyone.

Send an invitation or two! How will your guests know that you want them to visit unless you invite them? The invitation can specify a range of dates that is convenient for you and outline some boundaries. For example, your invitation might say something like, “It would be fun to see you this summer. We’re at home during the month of July, if you would like to visit. Car rentals are very affordable if you want to explore on your own.”

Prepare for guests by taking a look at sleeping arrangements. Is the guest bedroom stocked and ready for visitors that may stay a long weekend or even a week? Providing written directions on where to find supplies and toiletries, the WI-FI password, and instructions for household items is nice. A selection of reading material is wonderful for rainy days or quiet evenings and early bedtimes. In the bathroom, consider a small selection of travel size supplies and an extra toothbrush or two. Place a nightlight in the hall or ensuite so guests can navigate easily.

Planning a menu for additional guests doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. Supplement regular meals with starters, such as a cheese and cracker platter, soup, or salad to keep costs down. For mains, consider hearty servings of spaghetti carbonara or pasta with Bolognese sauce, both simple yet delicious and satisfying dishes. Deserts can be a tray of store bought cookies or supermarket slab cake served with your favourite coffee or tea.

For a successful visit, try to plan for the unexpected but don’t overextend your hospitality. Feeling obligated to entertain and provide for guests all the time is too much of an expectation. Let them settle in and find their own way. Most of all, have fun because it’s your vacation, too!

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Vancouver Island staycation ideas for the whole family

Plan a Vancouver Island Staycation

This year, why not consider a local vacation on Vancouver Island instead of travelling abroad? There are a number of benefits from staying at home during your summer holidays. By avoiding hotels and air travel, you can save a significant amount of money that can then be spent on special meals and activities. To ensure your holiday-at-home is a relaxing change, try some of these ideas to set the stage.

The first rule of a staycation is to break from routine so you’re able to reset, relax, and enjoy yourself. That means a vacation plan and a schedule to explore your horizons. With some planning in advance, you can eliminate the everyday work, such as cleaning and shopping, to focus (or not focus) on the things in the vacation plan.

Determine your budget for the entire two or three weeks so you can plan accordingly. Rather than restrict meals to home-cooked, consider planning for three or four take-out or restaurant meals each week. Pre-cook meals for the freezer that go can into the oven for easy dinners. Sandwiches are a great Plan B because everyone can make their own. Desserts such as store-bought slab cake and ice cream will keep the mood festive.

Planning what you want to do each day or week will help keep the momentum going. For example, Mondays could be to explore the history and heritage of your area. Tuesdays might be a fun activity like visiting a local amusement park or horseback riding. Wednesdays could be daytrips to a nearby city or, if you’re already in the city, to the countryside for shopping in quaint village shops. Let family members write their suggestions on a blank calendar so everyone can participate in the plan.

To get everyone in the mood, some wardrobe updates might be needed. For kids, a couple of new summer outfits will delight them. Accessories such as glittery flip-flops or a kid-sized fedora will signal that vacation has started and it’s time to start having fun.

If you feel like you’ve seen everything, maybe it’s time to take a train or drive to a different part of your province. In Eastern Canada, the VIA train system is convenient and affordable. In B.C., the ferry system connects the islands to the mainland. A long weekend at a kid-friendly B&B gives everyone something exciting to look forward to.

Don’t forget to ‘schedule’ some idle time. Studies have shown that daydreaming and just vegging can produce alpha waves in the brain that leads to creativity. Bookend down-time with something artsy to make the most of that neural connection. Follow a slow day with some time in a gallery or artisan shops.

Prepare a ‘rainy day’ box with some interesting crafts and reading material. Local craft or dollar stores will have supplies such as construction paper, glue, and paints for young artists. Adults might want to try adult colouring books to get their alpha waves going.

Questions or comments about staycations on Vancouver Island? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Cowichan Valley homes with natural gas barbeque connections

Summer Grilling: Gas or Coals?

Known for imparting a smoky richness that pairs perfectly with charred fat and meat, barbeque is one of the most popular cooking techniques. Summer is barbeque season and with its arrival the debate over charcoal or gas is revisited by friends and neighbours across Canada. One great feature of gas grills is the option to use natural gas from the house and forget about running out of propane. Many newer homes in the NAME OF area feature natural gas connections for a grill. Let us know if this is a priority for you when looking for a new home in the Cowichan Valley.

But which fuel produces the best cooking results? The answer is this: it depends on what you’re cooking. Both fuels provide an even, dry heat that is ideal for grilling. Do you want to easily sear a protective layer to retain juices? Are you cooking large cuts or a whole chicken? Perhaps you are slow roasting and want a heavy smoke taste? Both types of barbeques will produce smoke which is mostly caused by fat dripping on the element cover or the charcoal.

The speed at which you intend to cook is an important factor. Quick meals such as hot dogs or burgers are done before smoke can penetrate the meat. A gas grill is perfect for quick meals that require only a short time on a hot grill. They heat up quickly and, when you’re done, shut off completely. That’s exactly what the chef needs when steaks or burgers are the main course. They’re also good for grilling vegetables and pizzas because the cooking surface can be easily adjusted with dual gas controls. Simple, quick, and easy with good smokiness when required. That is what you get with a quality gas grill.

Charcoal grills are a different way of cooking that is similar to smoking. They’re ideal for a slow barbeque style such as a whole ‘beer can’ chicken or thick steaks that need more time to cook. Charcoal is made from hardwood that is burned in an oxygen-free environment which produces carbonized wood. Because the briquettes are made from wood, the resulting burn will taste and smell a little like the tree the charcoal was made from. Some chefs will supplement the natural taste with a little wood of their own, perhaps from an apple branch or some driftwood. An electric charcoal starter helps to light the briquettes. Once the coals are an evenly lit, you can begin grilling.

If you have a charcoal grill, you might want to experiment with wood or wood pellets. Both will produce a wonderfully flavoured smoke. Plus, the fuel is basically free if you live anywhere near a forest or wood lot. Experiment with different types of wood, by itself or with charcoal, and see which species impart a flavour that you think makes perfect barbeque.

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact a Ladysmith REALTOR® today.