Olive This & More

“I buy extra virgin olive oil by the case (much less expensive this way) and reach for it several times a day. I use it to marinate and cook my protein, saute my vegetables, and drizzle on my salads.”  —  Suzanne Somers


Running errands in Victoria’s core downtown,

I stopped at Olive This & More to pick up

another bottle of Tuscan herb

infused olive oil, a staple in our cupboard.


This was supposed to be a quick stop.

Not so…………I was soon side-tracked.





The rows of stainless steel urns with their informative labels begged closer inspection.

As I was processing the information on a label of extra virgin olive oil, a helpful staff member urged me to try a series of three different olive oils.  The first one was made from the arbosana olive, a Spanish cultivar grown in Chile, and was noted as a mild flavoured olive oil.

Next was an oil of the picual olive, a Spanish cultivar grown in Australia.  Immediately I could taste the difference.

Then I tried the oil from the picholine olive, a French cultivar grown in Australia, yielding a strong flavoured oil.  The difference was remarkable!

Just like the the taste of wines

varies according to the grapes

(among other factors),

so it is with olive oils.

So much to discover! 

The shop offers ready-made gift baskets,  or you can choose products to have a basket put together.


Olive This & More offers other tantalizing culinary fare as well, such as jars of various olives……….

……….salsas made by Tasteful Essentials in Parksville, above, and their sauces, below……………

………….smoked oysters from Campbell River,  Gunpowder Sauce’s flavoured pepper sauces from Nanaimo…………
…………….flavoured finishing salts from Saltwest Naturals in Sooke…………..

……………..and concentrated sauces from That Extra Touch in Qualicum Beach.
Saltwest Naturals in Sooke also offers a line of bath salts, below.
What an array of very distinct products, all made right here on Vancouver Island!
And of course, Olive This & More offers specialty oils, as well as white and dark balsamic vinegars, plus infused balsamic vinegars.

These are some of the oils and vinegars already in our cupboard.
Picking up my Tuscan herb infused olive oil, for which I originally came, I added some small gift packs which are always appreciated by the recipients.

Visit this tiny shop with its world of information and flavours!

Olive This & More
619 Broughton St, Victoria

Mon-Fri 10 – 5:30,  Sat 10 – 5,  Sun 12 – 4.

Hiking Trails

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

Following a recent hike, I felt the urge to share an aspect of our tiny Saanich Peninsula that brings to me so much pleasure, again and again:  our hiking trails.
Just seeing the photo makes me smile!
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park is one of my favourites and offers a variety of terrain and distances.
Run with me along just a handful of my fave trails, using photos, starting with the Timberman Trail.
Our first stop overlooks Squally’s  Reach which offers perfect rocks to set up a picnic.

Carrying along the Timberman Trail, we continue south to Jocelyn Hill, and then to Holme’s Peak.
The waters of Finlayson Arm lie far below this serene spot.  Isn’t this worth all that panting?!

Utterly beautiful, in all seasons.

Gowlland Tod Provincial Park has about 25 km of trails of varying levels of difficulty.

The Park stretches from the south end of the Saanich Inlet north to the town of Brentwood Bay and the Butchart Gardens.

Now, let’s go a few km north of Butchart Gardens and Brentwood Bay to John Dean Provincial Park.
Like others who live in or near Dean Park Estates, I feel as if this Park is my personal playground!
Both this trail and the moss-covered trees are so typical of this Park.
We start up Dean Park Road (my daily running route!) and very soon we take the first trail on the right which is the Barrett Montfort Trail.

From Victoria Capital Region’s naturalists, I’ve learned that this Park is home to scores of different mosses and ferns.
What a pleasure to see them remain green, no matter the season!

A spur off the trail takes us to the West Viewpoint where we look west and north over the Saanich Inlet which we already saw, albeit from a much different viewpoint, on our visit to Gowlland Tod Prov’l Park.

Another spur off this Surveyor’s Trail takes us to Cy’s Viewpoint where we look west across the Saanich Inlet to Mill Bay.

The trails pass by pools of water — or dry wadi, depending what season we’re here — the most notable one being the Emerald Pool, below.

An amazing reflecting pool!
Decades ago, determined hikers built rock stairways which can raise our pulse significantly if we tackle them briskly — or is that a heart-pump of gratitude?!

We loop around the southwest arm of the Surveyor’s Trail and find a recently installed bench at this viewpoint looking south over the Saanich Inlet.
John Dean Provincial Park protects one of the last stands of old-growth Douglas fir and Garry oak on the Saanich Peninsula.
Trees thrive here, as witnessed by the size of this random maple leaf.
This Park is set on Mt Newton, so we encounter definite elevation shifts as we hike.
We can go to the summit, but frankly, the viewing platform there offers an underwhelming view.
Much preferred, in my view (pun totally intended!) is the vista from Pickles Bluff.
We’ve hiked here as part of a larger group, or a handful of friends, or a bunch of my family, or just a couple of us, once with our little Yorkie (carried!), and I also come here by myself……….Pickles Bluff is certainly not a private hideaway, but I always find a personal getaway space here.
Raptors soar majestically and ominously around the curve of Mt Newton.  The Bluff overlooks our local Peninsula below, the Gulf Islands beyond, and the Cascade Mountains in the distance on a clear day.

Recently we walked from our current home in Dean Park Estates to our under-construction house off Land’s End Road at the very northern tip of the Peninsula.
We estimated the distance to be about 13 km and it took us 2 hours and several litres of water!
My sister and her husband were part of this trek.  Our route wound around YYJ, Victoria International Airport, which has a 10 km paved “trail” around the perimeter.  In the background is Patricia Bay.
Descending from the foot of Mt Newton in Dean Park, we were thankful to walk on flat terrain……until we hit Horth Hill, which is another popular hiking spot on the northern tip of the Peninsula.

This (above) is a view from Horth Hill, looking back (south) from whence we came, over the Peninsula.
This is a view from Horth Hill looking southeast toward Sidney.

The terrain on Horth Hill varies, from some rocky clambering at the very top, to typical woodland trails.

Okay, let’s catch our breath!  We have one more stop on this tour.  Yes, it requires an ascending hike!

We’re going up Lone Tree Hill!  I tell my out-of-town guests that this is the biggest bang for their hiking buck!
For a less-than-30-minute persistently ascending hike, you get a spectacular view!

We can see that Lone Tree Hill is less than a kilometre from Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, so we’ve come full circle on the Peninsula.

The view from the top of Lone Tree Hill is astounding — 360 degrees of a vista!
The camera doesn’t do the view justice at all!
We can see Victoria to the southeast, and beyond that, freighters lying offshore in the Juan de Fuca Strait, and the Olympic Mountains in Washington State beyond that.
To the east we see the USA’s San Juan Island.
To the west lies the Malahat and western Vancouver Island.
And close at hand are the bald eagles, hawks and turkey vultures soaring patiently and deadly.
The park is named after a wizened Douglas fir tree which was more than two centuries old.
On a sunny summer day, we seek the shade of the few arbutus trees up here.
In the winter, we appreciate shelter from the wind provided by the many rock outcroppings.
But always, we marvel anew at some aspect of this magical place.
I can’t help it — I LOVE this place!

See the world from another view!
Hike it! 


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All

Lil and I have slooowed the blog down for the last two weeks of December. With a new grandbaby (for Lil), and 11 people at 4 consecutive Christmas dinners (for me) we needed to take a deep breath and sigh. But in January our ‘secret gems’ will once again be published weekly as we continue to peek into stores and poke into alleyways to bring the best to you, our readers.

For me, the best part of the Christmas season is time spent with my family, extended family and friends. I treasure the conversations, the games and the laughter that is shared when we get together and know in my heart how precious this time is with loved ones.

I leave you with these quotes from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stuart.

Clarence: [In book inscription] Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.

Clarence: Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

Merry Christmas and Bonne Annee!

Lil & Linda


Christmas, 2017

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.  I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” – spoken by Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

My morning runs and evening walks in my local neighbourhood here in North Saanich are adventures of new sights during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

We don’t have any snow here but the wintry Christmas themes are on full display.

Animal themes figure prominently…………

…………………..polar bears by day and by night…………..

…………..the beloved Disney characters…………….

……………mice in the morning, and mice at night………..

………..and raccoons, no friends of mine but admittedly, cute here.

Here’s a cluster of tennis-themed ornaments on our Christmas tree.

And one of my oldest and most favourite personal tree ornaments:

I hearken back to the words of an enlightened Ebenezer Scrooge.

Enjoy this wonder-filled season.  Happy Christmas time!

The House of Lights – Oceanspray Drive

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go
Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow “

Johnny Mathis

Deep in the heart of North Saanich, on Oceanspray Drive, there is a house which twinkles and sings and is decked out in every imaginable decoration. I am sure that the people who set up this display of lights and characters must truly enjoy the Christmas season. It is an incredible amount of work to lay down the lights, place the characters around the yard and secure all objects. Just stringing up outdoor house lights can turn one into Scrooge….very quickly.

Let’s take a tour of the lights.

Now you see Santa…

Now you don’t….

My favourite scene…when it is dark the globes on the tree glow like a full moon.

One side of the property…

On a cool December evening, drive to Land’s End Road, turn onto Oceanspray Drive and half way up the hill, on the right side you will come across the House of Lights. Enjoy!





Russell Nursery

“Gardening is how I relax.  It’s another form of creating and playing with colours.”  — Oscar de la Renta

How lucky I felt to find this charming and well-stocked garden nursery close to our home when we first moved to the Greater Victoria area!

Just driving through the entrance gate, even on this December day, made me feel warm, knowing I was entering one of my “happy places”.

On this visit, my eye was immediately attracted to this leatherleaf mahonia which bursts out in spring with stalks of yellow flowers, and in fall shows off its needle-edged leaves topped with blue berries.
Russell Nursery staff have a solid knowledge of their plants and our microclimate here on the Peninsula.

Upon their recommendation, I’ve planted Mountain Fire Pieris (above), ubiquitous in this area, and various rhododendrons which even now in December sneak out a few blossoms, like this ‘Elizabeth Ostbo’ rhodo (below), ready to burst open…..

……….and this overly optimistic ‘Hansel’ rhododendron (below).

Walking past the benches of heathers,

I was drawn to one of my favourite performers, the Callicarpa beautyberry shrub (below).

Russell Nursery offers pottery, next to their shade garden.

Walking in the shade garden back to the main plant and shop area, I caught the sun on a large pot.
As this was approaching Christmas, it occurred to me that if one was searching for an extraordinary gift for a special gardener, one of these Halls English greenhouses would surely make a lasting impression!

But the stars of Russell Nursery right now are all the seasonal items, starting of course with trees, such as Douglas fir, Grand fir and some pines, sourced in Mill Bay and Duncan here on the Island.

The area normally filled with flowering trees is now chock-full of these cut evergreen trees, ready for decorating.

Christmas planters and centerpieces are made on-site using local plants.

Or you can design your own arrangements using Russell Nursery’s design elements.



I made my way to the garden shop where I knew the wood-burning stove would cheerily welcome me.

The garden shop is the business end of things where payment is made for purchases.  Brian Russell and his wife, Michele, have owned and operated the nursery for 25 years and are easing into retirement in January, 2018 as they sold the nursery to two of their senior staff, Susan Tice and Laurel Rassenti.
We’ll still be able to catch Brian on site in the coming months, as he’s remaining to help with a smooth transition to the new ownership.

Not only are Susan and Laurel the new owners, but they have decades of experience and this translates to the entire staff being educated regarding the plants and merchandise they sell.

Laurel pointed out to me the acid-etched steel art created by Roz Stanton from Pemberton, BC.

Unique gardening books are offered.

Laurel and I both commented on the Rustic Woodcrafts birdhouses (below, left) which are created less than two km from Russell Nursery.
Also offered is the Pender Botanicals line of soaps, cremes, balms and candles (above, right, and below) made on neighbouring Pender Island.

Susan and her staff offer a number of classes where participants can make their own holiday wreath or centrepiece.  Workshops are held next to the shop and all supplies are provided.

Having no personal experience with this, a friend and I took the wreath-making workshop, and these are the wreaths I made in 2016 (left) and 2017.

I think I’m getting the hang of it!

Russell Nursery
1370 Wain Road, North Saanich     
Closed Dec 23rd through Jan 31st


 Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

  The Sound Of Music – My Favorite Things Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I visited one of my favourite stores today, French Vanilla Home and Garden, and had a delightful chat with the owner Sheila Stone. I adore this store and when I want inspiration or simply refreshment in vision I stop by and browse through the many displays that Sheila has so beautifully designed.


Sheila’s artistic eye favours Nordic and Farmhouse French; a casual look that can pair a crystal chandelier with grainsack cushions, mixing textiles of homespun fabric with velour and velvet.

French Vanilla carries the wonderful Belgium magazine, Jeanne d’Arc Living, which illustrates so beautifully Nordic French design.

Sheila introduced me to Fusion Mineral Paint. It has a built in top coat and you don’t have to wax it. She has been carrying it for four years and finds it to be easy to use with a lasting finish. This might be the ticket for the vintage mirror that I found on line.

Sheila has a passion for painting furniture. She holds workshops in How to Paint furniture, and How to use glaze and waxes and hopes to hold more classes in the new year. This is her petit studio where the workshops are held.

She carries Rub on Transfers…adding a French touch to furniture and mirrors…a number of the Rub on Transfers are made from old French graphics…..how gorgeous is this mirror!!

…and Sheila also carries Decorative Stamping.

Using ink or paint you can stamp onto fabric or furniture. How stunning is this chest!

Sheila stocks French soaps, Lavender, and locally made candles and cushions,

and handmade cards.

Sheila welcomes her customers to browse, chat and discuss ideas and questions they may have on decor and/or products. She was most helpful in helping me to decide on how to ‘freshen up’ my powder room. Before we leave let us take one more stroll around the shop.




A bientot!

French Vanilla Home and Garden

1848 Oak Bay Avenue

Victoria BC

250 592 0422


Check the website for workshop information and/or phone the store to put your name on the list for workshops.

Best of Both Worlds, now at Fan Tan Alley

“When we enlarge our view of the world, we deepen our understanding of our own lives.” — Yo-Yo Ma

Linda and I visited Best of Both Worlds at the Quadra Street location in the fall of 2015.  http://www.victoriassecretgems.ca/best-of-both-worlds-imports/
However, this new location in popular Fan Tan Alley is proving to be a good move, due to the enhanced foot traffic.


The first thing that caught my eye upon

entering the store was this silk lamp

from Thailand.  Striking!



Then there was the collection of  small

lidded boxes — a weakness of mine! —

made of mango wood.

Of course, there were Thai silk scarves……………

………………….beautiful hand crafted paper parasols………..

………………..picnic baskets from China………….an elephant table from Thailand……..

……………..Thai silk cushions……………….

……………..carved statues and figures………….

……………wall carvings…………………bamboo ladders for climbing or for displaying throws, etc.

And then there was the furniture, such as this 12-drawer teak cabinet from Thailand,
or this 30″ saddle stool from China,
or this reclaimed teak cabinet from Thailand,
or this substantial warrior chair made of monkey wood from Thailand, or this armoire from China.

There were several styles of carts from India.

There were unique shelf units or bar storage units from India made of reclaimed wood and iron.

Reclaimed wood items from India seemed to be particularly popular.

Perhaps because I’m a newly minted grandma, I was drawn to this child’s rocker from Thailand,

and this, my favourite piece, a unique chest from India made of reclaimed wood.

Do visit this charming store in Fan Tan Alley or the warehouse on Quadra St and let your senses experience some of the unique products from the Far Eastern world.  Your sense of smell will let you know when you’ve crossed the threshold!


Best of Both Worlds

19 Fan Tan Alley

2713 Quadra Street 


Mon – Sat 10 – 5,  Sun Noon – 5

PERRO NEGRO Tapas and Wine Bar

This is the dream of all the world. The dream is to live in Granada. You know, work in the morning, have a one-hour nap in the afternoon, and at night go out and have that life. Go out and see your friends and eat tapas and drink red wine and be in a beautiful place.

My dream is isn’t to live in Granada but I do like the idea of working in the morning, having a little rest in the afternoon,  and eating and laughing with friends.  Lil and I visited Perro Negro, a tapas and wine bar in downtown Victoria, during the last days of summer.

Come on up…

and take a seat in this cosy, intimate dining area…




We were served a bubbly…villa conchi cava and handed the tapas menu.


The tapas for two menu was extensive so I will highlight the ‘to die for’ dishes that we enjoyed.

Warm Bacon Wrapped Dates: ‘Could we have another 50 to go, please!’….they were SO good. Stuffed with cheese and drizzled with honey, a pop of salty with the sun drenched taste of dates.

Chorizo puffs: Chorizo enveloped in puff pastry. Delicious! Thank goodness there were two each….I would have hated to arm wrestle Lil for another one.

Ensalada verde: Apples, pecans, goat cheese and lemon peel vinaigrette on greens. Light and tasty.

Tuna montadito: Whipped ricotta and smoked albacore tune…. a delightful match!

Gambas al ajillo: Prawns and garlic…. a winner any time.

Estofado de Carne: braised beef shortribs with mushroom and brandy. Oh my goodness, the shortribs were so tender and moist. Lil and I looked at each other as we bit into them and nodded in unison as our taste buds sent happy waves to our brain.

It was a most satisfying evening.

Perro Negro: Spanish Tapas Bar
536 Yates Street
Victoria BC


Thurs: 5-10
Fri-Sat: 5-11

Red Barn Market

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”   — Henry Ford

The Red Barn Market is known around Victoria for its good quality, fresh, local produce and the meats and cheeses sourced locally.  There are currently six Red Barn Market stores in the Greater Victoria area.

Outdoors 1

The Red Barn Market opened its doors in 2005 at Mattick’s Farm location in Cordova Bay.

Meat 1The Red Barn Market is known for sourcing meat locally, smoking these meats and cheeses as well at their own local smokehouse.

Sausages 1         Their own sausages are made daily.

Outdoors 2          Produce is sourced locally as well.  In fact, the Red Barn Market proudly features Island grown, Island raised, Island made foods.

Personal mealsPersonal meals are prepared by Red Barn Market staff and are big sellers to locals.  This Market at Mattick’s Farm is on the Lochside trail, so cyclists are frequent shoppers here.  Our son swears that the wraps at the West Saanich Red Barn location got him and his classmates through their Civil Eng Tech program!

Unique products 2The Red Barn market offers a number of unique products not generally carried in supermarkets, such as these bread kits.        Mrs Bridges Preserves             What to choose!  That really was my dilemma.
As I pondered this, a shopper came by and struck up a casual conversation, and she advised that the Red Barn’s meats are “clean”, always fresh, and are less expensive than similar meats at the supermarkets.

Apricot Peach Preserve    I chose a jar of Mrs. Bridges’ Apricot & Peach Preserve — great choice on the next morning’s toast!


Red Barn Market,  Mattick’s Farm
129-5325 Cordova Bay Rd,  Victoria       
7 am – 7 pm daily

Red Barn Market,  West Saanich
5550 West Saanich Rd,  Victoria

250- 479-8349
7 am – 8:30 daily

Red Barn Market,  Vanalman
751 Vanalman Ave. Victoria
6:30 am – 8:30 pm daily

Red Barn Market,  Oak Bay
1933 Oak Bay Ave. Victoria
6:30 am – 9 pm daily

Red Barn Market,  611 Brookside Road
Victoria  (Colwood)
6:30 am – 8 pm daily

Red Barn Market,  1310 Esquimalt Rd,
Victoria  (Esquimalt)
Mon – Fri  6 -9,  Sat & Sun 8 – 9