Cement plus Gardener equals Butchart Garden

Jeanette Foster Kennedy (Jennie) was born in Toronto, Canada in 1868. When she was orphaned in her early teens she went to live with her aunt and 7 cousins in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. She was an extremely gifted child, artistic, intelligent and adventurous — so much so that when given the opportunity to fly in a hot air balloon and a plane, she took it. (Back then these activities qualified you for daredevil status.)

She graduated from the Brantford Young Ladies’ College, (one of the most prestigious schools in Canada) where she earned a scholarship to study art in Paris. She declined the opportunity, opting to marry her sweetheart, Robert Butchard when she was 18.

Robert was raised in his family’s hardware business and while the couple was on their honeymoon in England he learned the process of producing cement in bags rather than barrels (the common practice at the time). He returned home and shortly after established the Owen Sound Cement Company. Jennie became a chief chemist for the company.

In 1902 the couple and their 2 daughters moved to Tod Inlet in Vancouver where raw materials for the cement were plentiful. They purchased a homesite property with a limestone quarry and established the first Portland Cement plant. The business was extremely successful and within a few years, the 3.5 acre quarry was depleted.

During those first few years in Vancouver, Jennie, who had never had an interest in gardening, fell in love with the abundance and variety of vegetation on the West Coast. She planted a small flower and vegetable garden at her home. Her new hobby became a passion and a short time later she commissioned a well-known Japanese Garden Designer to design a formal garden on the property.

While she appreciated her husband’s success, she wasn’t so happy with the environmental impact (aka, big hole) on their property. So being the adventurous, intelligent and artistic woman she was, she set to work transforming the site.

Laborers that were no longer needed at the quarry to extract limestone were put to work cleaning out the rocks and debris left behind. Countless loads of topsoil were brought in by horse and cart. Jennie herself hung from a buson’s chair to plant ivy and dwarf trees in the quarry’s walls. She had trees planted to hide the old cement plant.

It took over 10 years, but she turned that ugly, scared pit into what is known today as the “Sunken Garden” of Butchart Gardens. Today the gardens (yes, there are more than just the Japanese and the Sunken Garden) receive over a million visitors a year and are registered as a National Historic Site of Canada.

You can’t keep a good woman down.

*Would you like to see some pictures? Check out my visit to Butchart Gardens.



Living with a Chronic Condition: Wanderlust

Every one of us has unique quirks, neuroses and/or conditions that we have to live with. Mine is chronic wanderlust.

RV at Mesa Verde National Park

I’m rarely stationary.  Once I bought a home-on-wheels to accommodate it. I’ve since switched professions from Workcamper to Corporate Road Warrior.

Now I travel via planes, Ubers and rental cars and sleep in hotels. This job requirement keeps my wanderlust in check. It only took me 40 years to figure out that I could actually live with it instead of living in spite of it.

Man-made Rush Hour

Traditional job counseling directs us to get a college degree, pursue a passion. We’re taught to present our talents and abilities to potential employers via resumes and interviews. But we’re not taught to look at the conditions of we will work in or the environments that affect our productivity.

Some fortunate souls instinctively choose professions that match their personal preferences. Other, like me, had to figure it out through trial and error.

For example, when I was in high school I was hired by a Jewish woman to help her prepare for guests invited to her home for Seder dinner. I came hours before the guests arrived to assist with cooking and cleaning the kitchen. I stayed to serve the dinner and clean up following the meal.

I loved it. I loved the interaction with her guests and the meal presentation and the love that was shared around the table. She valued and respected the time and energy I put into my work. Before long I was hired each month, and then each week to help her or one of her friends or relatives.

In college, I worked at a department store in a mall. I loved selling find jewels and gold. But I hated the stale air, the incessant and conflicting music tracks constantly playing in other departments surrounding me in the store.

After college, I graduated to more professional positions where I chose salary, benefits and prestige rather than evaluating the workplace environment and how often I’d be able to get outdoors for some fresh air.

Had I known how important task-diversity and travel opportunities were to me back then, I probably would have traded my college education for a motorhome. Not everyone is cut out for college. And not everyone is cut out for a desk job. And it’s time we started counseling young people accordingly. Where and how you work is equally as important as what you do for work.

Now I have a job that fits me better than any job I’ve ever had before. But, it is by no means perfect. No job is. (That’s another thing that kids should know. I know that advise would have been valuable to me!)

Mount St Helens from the air

I love my job. I love the variety of tasks. I love the challenges. I love teaching and encouraging the people I train. I love the opportunities to travel and explore this amazing country we live in. But sometimes I have to do things I don’t like doing — like getting to the site.

For example, today is a “travel day”. Travel days, to get to where I do my work, are usually long, and surprisingly exhausting. I sip coffee at home, watch the sun climb up over the horizon onto a painted pink sky over a calm majestic ocean.  After a shower, I toss my wardrobe into a suitcase, hop into an Uber for an hour ride to the airport. I’m herded through security, ride the APM (Automatic People Mover) to the gate where I wait for my plane. It’s delayed. I wait longer and finally board.  A short flight and I’m dropped at a gate at my layover destination where I frantically swerve through travelers, climb the escalator, board a packed inter-terminal tram and race to the gate where I catch my next flight. After the second flight, I trek through the airport to baggage claim, then grab a 40-minute train ride to another hotel where I hail a cab to my hotel. Done and dog tired.

Assisted Rush Hour

That, my friend, is a travel day…. all 14.5 hours of it. In 5 short days, I’ll take another more-or-less similar trip to another part of the country.

This is how I live with chronic wanderlust. The travel days are grueling but quickly forgotten because job satisfaction, relationships, and adventures happen the minute they end.

Evaluate your work environment, responsibilities and salary equally and blaze a trail to a job and an environment that suits you!

Key West, Key Lime

It’s a 13-hour drive from Florida’s northwestern state line to the southernmost city, Key West. But from where I live in Cocoa Beach, it’s about six hours, and with three carefree travel companions, it promises to be a great destination for a weekend getaway.

After cruising at breakneck speed past Miami the highway bottlenecks into a narrow two-lane highway funneling traffic through the Southern Glades Wildlife Preserves. Bumper to bumper vehicles inch south, well below the posted speed limit. I imagine that most travelers are like us, anxious to get off the mainland and onto the northernmost Key (Largo), which makes this traffic jam even more stressful and slightly irritating. But just about when I think I’ve had enough the bridge to the island is in sight and within minutes we’re in Key Largo. Ahhh, I hear the Beach Boys and feel the southern tropical winds blowing.

Here we stop to decompress, enjoy a leisurely dinner, spend the night and wake refreshed for our short 97-mile cruise to our destination tomorrow.

20170624_184904We pass on the restaurants the hotel staff recommends and eat at Snapper’s where the fish is fresh and our patio table is right at the water’s edge. When dessert is offered I order a piece of Key Lime pie. And, caught up in the Islanders’ easy-going spirit, I suspend my calorie-counting habit and declare this to be a Key Lime Pie Challenge Weekend.

I’m intrigued by this pie. Such an odd combination of tart fruit in a creamy substance. As a foodie, I’m curious how the lime mixes with the cream without curdling it. And I’m never quite satisfied with the amount of pucker I get out of a bite. I always want more. I hope the Challenge will finally satisfy my desire.

Months ago I purchased a bottle of Key Lime Juice from a Florida citrus grower so I could make the pie at home, but after researching the ingredients and the calorie count per slice (a whopping 553!) I decided against it. The juice is still in my refrigerator, used to freshen a gin and tonic when a real lime is not readily available.

defaultSnapper’s Key Lime pie is average. The lime flavor is sufficient, the graham cracker crust adequate and the garnish (a dot of whipped cream) is imitation. I’m hoping the next pie will be worth the calories.

The next morning we hit the road again. I’m grateful that I’m a back-seat passenger. Driving is tedious and slow through the small towns on each island. But the scenery between the islands is stunning. We cruise through Plantation Key, Windley Key, Islamorada, Long Key, Duck Key and Marathon Island after which we reach the Seven-Mile Bridge. Seven miles long. Views from the bridge are like the finale of a fireworks display — unexpected and ever-changing colors spilling across the shallow sea on either side of us. Dotted with mangrove islands and hemmed in with a century-old defunct railroad bridge that parallels the highway the waters are clear blue, turquoise, and gilded-gold by the shallow sandbars off the islands’ coast.

After passing through several more small Keys we arrive at our destination, the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria Resort. It’s the only hotel on Key West Island with its own private beach — and what a beautiful beach it is! Eyeing it from the resort’s lobby I’m tempted to lounge there all day, but we have plans. (There’s a Pie Challenge happening and I’m the judge!)

We quickly drop our bags in our rooms and head downtown to walk Duval Street (the main drag) from one end to the other. Key West feels like a smaller and slightly calmer version of New Orleans. We do the normal tourists things — window shop, pick up a few souvenirs, and eat dinner at a recommended seafood restaurant. They entice us to try their Key Lime pie but we opt to return to the Resort where we can enjoy dessert at a comfortable table…by candlelight…on the beach.

key lime pie casa marinaCasa Marina Key Lime Pie is made with a pistachio crust and served a la mode, with Key Lime ice cream. I taste the ice cream first. Delightful! My mouth puckers. It’s the tartness I’ve been looking. But when I follow that spoonful with a spoonful of pie I’m disappointed again. The filling falls flat. The pistachio crust is unique but doesn’t enhance the pie’s flavor enough to warrant it’s expense. Another average Key Lime Pie, but with really good ice cream! That’s a plus. We turn in for the night with visions of a better Key Lime pie in our travels tomorrow.

The next morning we’re running on a schedule. We’re tripping to the famous landmarks — the Southernmost Point on the island, the Route One Marker, and Hemmingway’s House. But first breakfast. Rumor has it that Blue Heaven has the best Key Lime Pie of all the islands. We’re hoping to find our winner.

key lime pie blue heavenOur benedicts are delicious and the Key Lime pie is exceptionally delicious. Topped with inches of meringue (most likely for presentation and perceived value), the pie is as tart as I’d been dreaming a pie could be. In addition to naming it a winner, I’m elated to put an end to consuming the excessive calories in each piece we’ve tasted.

Now, time for some walking, starting with the 3 blocks to Hemmingway’s House where we encounter 6-toed cats, an old urinal converted to the cats’ watering dish and a “wall of wives”. No wonder he was such a great story teller!

p.s. Each link in this blog is worth clicking. The Florida Keys are rich with natural beauty and fascinating personal histories. 



Hayward, after the Flowage

Day 2 in Hayward Wisconsin begins with a stop at Hayward Bakery & Cheese Shop, the local bakery where they still bake doughnuts every morning from scratch! It’s rare to find a freshly baked doughnut made with real ingredients so I must indulge.

Live-the-swanky-life-wht-swanky-stuff-and-Dakota-cigarsWe munch down our treats then wander through downtown, window shopping the local merchants including Dakota Cigars and Swanky Stuff. (Swanky Stuff — gotta get me some of dat!)

A few hours later we’re standing at the door of the Moccasin Bar…and Wildlife Museum. We step inside and are instantly captivated by fine specimens of cougar, lynx, bobcat, and bear in their taxidermal states. We stroll to the bar and order beers — $2 beers. Yes, we already like this place.

Like 3 periscopes we twirl in our seats, eyeing all the taxidermy exhibits around us. Birds, ducks, geese, pheasant, otters, beavers, badgers, more small furry animals than I can name or remember, trophy-sized muskie, and pike, walleye, bass, and sturgeon.

Most intriguing were the dioramas of chipmunks and other small critters depicting, well, as far as I could tell, the life of Wisconsin hunters, fishermen and trappers.

I leave you with these to decipher on your own.  You MUST click here!


The Flowage Trifecta

My work schedule lands me in Minnesota days before the Fourth of July weekend so I hit the first and nearest attraction prior to meeting up with my brother and his wife who live in the area.

Mall of America. Ehh, same ol’ shops with a few amusement park rides thrown in, most likely a draw for parents cooped up in the house on sub-artic winter days. I skip the rides, cruise the mall floors for an hour and purchase some squishy balls (which I paid way too much for) from a kiosk vendor. Turns out the squishy balls provided hours of entertainment for my Colorado grandaughter. They were worth every penny.

A quick look around at the artwork at the Mall’s entrance, a snapshot at the “Star” and I’m on my way to my brother’s home where I spend the night. Next morning the three of us hop in the car and head up to their cabin in Hayward Wisconsin.

Their cabin sits on the banks of massive 191-acre Hayward Lake, the waters of which are deep, clear and cold. But cruising on it would come after sightseeing on the Flowage.

The Flowage? Yes, the Chippewa Flowage, a 15,000+ acre controlled water flow. Basically a humongous man-made lake with 233 miles of shoreline.

In the mid-1900’s developers built small resorts along this shoreline — clusters of cabins with a “clubhouse” for the semi-isolated guests. A generation later the resorts were split apart, the cabins sold to individuals, and the clubhouses converted to bars to give fisherman and other outdoors enthusiasts places to eat and drink.

Recognizing their relative isolation along these 233-miles of shoreline, bar owners have joined together to create cross-promotion incentives to their visitors. Visiting three or more of these bars and enjoying a beverage at each will earn you a t-shirt touting your accomplishment.

But there is one resort that operates as a lone wolf, proudly offering its patrons the opportunity to earn a drinking t-shirt without ever leaving the premises. That resort is the Tiger Musky Resort and the Trifecta is their claim to fame. It’s a simple combination of three shots — brandy, tequila and bourbon, each with an over-the-top garnish. The shot of brandy is served with a live minnow swimming in it. A trifecta winner cautioned me, “You have to keep your hand over the glass while drinking it so the minnow doesn’t jump out.”

A Proud Trifecta Winner

The shot of brandy is served with a live minnow swimming in it. A trifecta winner cautions me, “You have to keep your hand over the glass while drinking it so the minnow doesn’t jump out.”

Next shot, tequila, garnished with a live leech. The same fellow comments, “Yes, get ready because the leech balls up in your throat.” (Good sign, at least it won’t stick to your throat!)

Shot number 3, bourbon, served with a live earthworm. “That one’s not bad, except for the dirt that comes with the worm.”

Surprisingly none of that enticed me to head out to the Tiger Musky Resort but I was impressed by the creativity of these northerners. Amusement parks in malls and critters in their cups. Those are the results of living in the northern climates where winters are long and hours are spent hunkered down with your best buds in your favorite watering holes.

I’m not tough enough to earn the three-bar visit t-shirt and the Trifecta is way out of my league. I’m happy to enjoy an outstanding Bloody Mary…served with a snit of beer?







Lions, Dragon and Fairies, oh my!

What do a 200-ft-long dragon, a half-dozen lions, and a few fairies have in common? They’re all handcrafted life-sized fabric and light structures on display at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square in Philadelphia.

What do a 200-ft-long dragon, a half-dozen lions, and a few fairies have in common? They’re all handcrafted life-sized fabric and light structures on display at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square in Philadelphia. I came across these glowing lanterns on an evening walk around the city in early June.

Not one for crowds I debated whether it was worth the 20-minute wait and $17 admission fee to enter the gates. But as I stood in line and listened to the Asian music flowing over the Square’s brick walls and peered through the trees at the tops of the massive displays I decided that I couldn’t walk away from such an unusual event.

There were displays of zodiac creatures, and mythological creatures, and monkeys and even a glowing ocean display. Amidst the displays, food vendors served traditional Chinese cuisine, and Chinese dancers, acrobats and plate spinners entertained Festival attendees.

It was well worth the $17 and the 20 minutes.

Click here to learn more about the Chinese Lantern Festival.


One More Stop in Little Rock…The Clinton Presidential Center

Balance is the key to everything. One day a hike, the next a museum.

The William J Clinton Presidential Center & Park is so much more than a museum though. Oh sure it has the usual stuff — exhibits about his vision and accomplishments and displays pertinent to life in the White House.

I also learned about Bill’s upbringing, his family life and how he decided to pursue the presidency in his pubescent years! He blazed his own trail to the white house from that day forward.

I walked through a reconstructed model of the staff room and the Oval Office. I saw pictures and documents, historical data and political data. All in all, it was a lesson on the struggles and victories that anyone might encounter on their way to and while living in the White House.

But who knew I’d encounter the Xtreme Bug Exhibit there? Apparently, Mr. Clinton is an avid fan of bugs’ abilities to leverage the power of cooperation. See the ClintonFoundation.org’s full article on the exhibit and why it’s a natural fit for the museum.

“According to the Pulitzer Prize winning biologist E.O. Wilson, ants, termites, bees, and people are among the most successful species on earth because they are the greatest cooperators,” said President Bill Clinton. “Insects are a window into how our world works, and show us how species thrive through cooperation – whether a colony of ants, or a community of people working together to make the world a better place.”

And, who knew I’d be awed by the beauty of Clinton Park? Thirty acres of reclaimed land (previously a run-down warehouse district) that is now a stunning public recreation area and a prime example of urban renewal in our country.

Who knew I’d find the Choctaw Train Station, also situated on the Clinton Presidential Center Campus? It’s now restored and home to the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, the first school in the nation to offer a Masters Degree in Public Service.

And, most surprising, who knew I’d find the headquarters for Heifer International, with a school and animals right here as well? (Check it out, one of my favorite non-profit organizations, all about promoting self-sufficiency.)

And who knew I’d find a garden that recognizes Anne Frank among others on the very same ground, with words that humble me and remind me that my life is blessed beyond measure.

“From my favorite spot on the floor, I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind…As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this last, I cannot be unhappy.”