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Q-TIPS, part 2:

Four more ways to stay (relatively) sane in quarantine!

Although there have been rumblings recently about “Cautious Re-openings” both in the U.S. and here at home, Canada’s doctors and scientists are still recommending staying at home if you can. Therefore, since quarantine season is in full swing, in solidarity with my fellow Isolators out there I am currently sporting the very latest in stay-at-home fashions. Loose-fitting leggings and unflattering sweatshirts, now is your time to shine!

In all seriousness, though, while this time is difficult for many, please remember that by staying home, you are keeping yourself, your loved ones, and those Healthcare Heroes and Essential Workers safe – and that is no small feat. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and practice all the self-love skills you can.

By now, most of us have more or less settled into the “new normal”, however you define that for yourself. But just in case you’re starting to climb the walls a little bit, here are some more tips and tricks to help yourself (and your boredom) while you’re staying home and safe.

Remember that social distancing does not apply in all forms

There was a short period back in early April where they considered changing the term “social distancing” to “physical distancing”, and I for one wished that it would have caught on, because you CAN be social without being physically close. And honestly, I think we can all practice a little more “social closening” without breaking any Health Canada rules. Check-in with loved ones in any (virtual) manner that suits your fancy. Texting, emailing, calling, Skype and Zoom are all appropriate methods of communicating with others.

While it may not be everyone’s favourite method of interacting with people, digital communication can help fine-tune your writing style, and is a great method if you live far away from your loved ones. By focussing on communication first, we all may come out of quarantine with stronger family ties and a new perspective on those we choose to interact with.

Indulge yourself!

There are countless articles on the activities that you can do to be productive while remaining inside, but let yourself do something that you’ve always wanted to do if you had the time. Of course, that MAY include useful skills, like learning an instrument, learning to cook, perfecting your artistic technique – but it COULD also just be that special bottle of red wine and that one series you’ve been wanting to binge for ages – or that book you never finished, or a new video game.

Maybe for you, indulgence means dressing up to the nines for a virtual date (or just for yourself!) and ordering yourself an ultra-fancy meal. Whatever it may be, take this time to let yourself enjoy – your mind and soul will thank you for it. Learning new skills is a great thing to do for yourself, but don’t forget that it’s okay to indulge and go easy on yourself.

Don’t forget – you ARE free to move about the cabin!

If you’re like me, the transition from sweatpants into pyjamas can feel like a blur when it seems like virtual work, activities, and socializing blend into each other, and before you know it, the day is gone. Whether you are married to the elliptical machine or detest physical exercise, remember to at least take a little time away from your screens and move around a bit. There are many at-home workouts that can be found online, from yoga to circuit routines.

Our very own Ladysmith Parks Recreation and Culture people are getting into the act – check out their YouTube Channel, it has a bunch of exercise videos, as well as cool Kid’s Art classes – free!

Fresh air is also important, so try to go for walks, runs, or hikes to clear your mind. (Please remember to be mindful of social distancing and abide by local regulations to keep yourself and others safe). This can also be done virtually via platforms such as Zoom, so you can sweat and commiserate over a tough workout with others around to support each other.

Self-Reflection & Meditation

Now is an excellent time to reflect on anything that you may have not been able to previously, for whatever reason. The time for introspection, goal-setting, making vision boards, taking advice from various self-help books, budgeting, and any other sort of reflection is now! Doing this may activate new emotions and insights, and may help you feel more in touch with yourself and your life after stay at home orders begin to be lifted. 

As important as it is to check in with yourself and do some heard emotional work in self-reflection, also take some time to turn your mind off. Meditation comes in many shapes and forms, so let your hard-working and stressed brain take a breather as you tune out to some music, sketch whatever comes to mind, garden or take care of potted plants, or practice more traditional forms of meditation through breathing and visualizations. There are many apps that can help guide you with this, whether you are a newbie or veteran meditator. 

And Finally…

Most importantly, remember that this lockdown will not last forever. It is certainly tough now, but with time, patience, and a little effort on our part, we will come out of this stronger and more resilient than ever before. Healthcare workers, grocery store workers, food delivery workers, and many other essential employees are working hard to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional needs. By taking care of yourself now, you are doing yourself and others a favour in the long run. It is not often we get so much time with ourselves, or whoever we may be quarantined with. So take a deep breath, get yourself your favourite adult beverage, and take some time to remind yourself of the things that truly matter for you!

Stay safe!

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Q-TIPS (and Tricks): Quarantine Strategies to Keep You Sane

Before We Begin…

It’s probably a bit of an understatement to note that the current global situation has really thrown a wrench into our daily lives, and nearly everyone is experiencing stress and anxiety to some degree. I wanted to write about fun, different things to do while we’re all doing our part to “flatten the curve” – but please don’t take that to mean that I’m making light of a serious situation. I know that some of you are scared about your future, and worried about your family – and I know I’m starting to dread turning on the news every day – but we simply can’t give in to despair.

We live in a great Province, in a great country, with leaders and scientists and health workers that are rapidly becoming the new superheroes of our time. We will get through this together, no matter how long it takes. And for most of us, doing our part means staying at home, and getting through the days and nights of isolation as best we can. THAT’S why I wanted to write this blog. Plus, I’ve already watched half of Netflix and all of Amazon Prime…

Anyway, here’s some suggestions for passing your time. I think for the most part they apply to any family situation, and “Quaratiners “of any age:

Make a Good Old Fashioned Phone Call…

Many of you have already picked up on this one, but there has never been a better time to use your phone as an actual phone, and have a good old conversation with a family member or friend. You’ve got the time!

Here’s a fun spin, though – scroll through your contacts list and pick out a friend or relative that you haven’t spoken to in over a year. Give them a heads up that you’d like to talk, so that you both can set aside a mutually convenient time, and then give them a call and see how they’re doing. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even try to work your way through your entire contacts list!

Start on that Spring Cleaning!

I know, I know, cleaning can be a real chore. But did you know that it can actually be good for you? Many scientific journals (too many to list here, but feel free to Google it) and studies confirm that house cleaning can be therapeutic – it relieves stress and lowers anxiety levels. In addition to the psychological benefits you’ll enjoy by bringing order to the chaos, for me personally, cleaning also gives me a sense of accomplishment – like I’ve actually done something productive with my day (in addition to finishing that final season of “Friends”, I mean).

But I’m not just talking about the daily duties that we all have – I’m thinking more along the lines of that basement or garage that’s maybe gotten a little out of hand over the winter. That attic or shed (or SHE-shed!) that could use some love and attention. Maybe it’s time to go through the old wardrobe and see what’s what. Whatever you choose as your project, make a checklist of the activities that it’ll take to get the job done. You’ll be amazed at how you feel when that last box is checked!

…and if you’re self-isolating in an apartment or condo, or are one of those rare few who live “the life uncluttered”, you could always take a look at organizing your music library, or contacts list, or email accounts. See, there’s Spring Cleaning fun for everyone!

Host a Virtual Happy Hour!

I guess if there’s a silver lining to be found in this situation, it’s that the coronavirus crisis has come at a moment in history when it’s never been easier to communicate with each other electronically. With today’s technology, and with so many people now working from home, everybody’s getting into the act.

You can FaceTime a friend on your phone and have a virtual meal (or date!) with them. If there’s a senior in your family that’s isolating alone, invite them to Sunday dinner on their phone! With free apps like Zoom, you can host video meetings with up to 100 people, for up to 40 minutes, for free! A friend set this up for his daughter’s soccer team, just so they could all regain some of the camaraderie they’ve been missing, and it was great!

Host a Ryan Reynolds Movie Marathon!

I just love this guy. Born in Vancouver, a committed environmentalist, a supporter of homeless charities, and generally an all-around loveable fella. He and his wife Blake Lively have also recently donated $400,000 to New Your City hospitals to aid in their efforts to save lives during this pandemic. And just a few weeks ago, the couple donated a million dollars between the “Feeding America” and “Food Banks Canada” charities.

While Reynolds’ movies aren’t exactly what you’d call classics, they are definitely fun and entertaining; and he’s certainly got enough of them for you to while away a solid day or two as you self-isolate. So, I thought I’d end this blog with a list of my favourite Reynolds’ flicks.


  • 6 Underground
  • Deadpool and Deadpool 2
  • Pokemon Detective Pikachu
  • The Hitman’s Bodyguard
  • Life
  • R.I.P.D
  • The Change-Up
  • Green Lantern
  • The Amityville Horror
  • Blade: Trinity
  • National Lampoon’s Van Wilder
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Best Places to Walk Your Dog Around Ladysmith

They really are the best friends we can ever hope to have – our dogs love us completely, thoroughly, truly madly and deeply. The very least we can do for them in return is to get them outdoors and let them run around! And what better place to do that, than right here in this wet, wild and wondrous place we call home. You could spend every weekend of your life exploring the vast forests and coastlines of this beautiful Island, and see something new and awe-inspiring each and every time.

And some of those wonderful places with wondrous views are right here in Ladysmith! So here’s my brief, unofficial, un-scientific list of the best places to walk your dog in and around Ladysmith:

Holland Creek Trail (with Heart Lake and Stocking Lake)

A real favourite with locals and visitors alike, the Holland Creek trail is a 6.4 km loop through some amazing forest, right here in our own backyard! It’s worth noting that the trail is more level and easy going on the town (south) side of the creek than on the north side, the latter which I have previously described as “several types of UP” (and a million shades of green).

This forest will resemble Jurassic Park at times, with its magnificent mossy branches and giant ferns all over the place; but there are boardwalks, wooden steps and handrails along the way. On either side, you’ll get a great view of Crystal Falls, but on the north side, you can clamber down to the creek ‘til you’re almost beneath them.  If you’re simply wanting a nice leisurely stroll, though (as opposed to a bit of a grind), stick to the town side.

If you (and your dog) are the type to appreciate a fine view and an awesome lake, then you might want to consider heading up (and up, and up) on a little side trip to Heart Lake, at the very “roof” of Ladysmith. The Heart Lake trail is an offshoot of the Holland Creek trail, and gets you up and out to some fabulous views back over our lovely town and out to the harbour, the “middle islands” between here and the mainland, and of course, the mainland itself (on a clear day). There are signs posted at strategic locations to help you on your way.

And if you (and your dog) are REALLY adventurous, you can continue along from Heart Lake to Stocking Lake, which is juuuust  a bit further down the way. Keep in mind, it’s all downhill from here to home!

Hemer Park (Cedar)

Hemer Provincial Park is only about a 15 minute drive from Ladysmith as you meander along Cedar Road’s twists and turns, and then head down an idyllic country lane all the way to the end. It’s a forested park with a great trail system – but a fairly small parking lot!

There’s a viewing platform over the marsh that provides the opportunity to observe various types of ducks, Trumpeter swans, Bald eagles and turkey vultures, and beavers – if your dog likes that sort of thing…

The park trails wind their way along Holden Lake and through the marshy areas. You’ll stroll through Douglas fir, red alder and big-leaf maple trees as you go. Quite often you’ll also need to share the trail with horseback riders, as these are popular equestrian trails as well. The terrain isn’t difficult – the compacted trails of Hemer park are easily traversed by all ages, and wheelchairs and strollers can navigate most of the park as well! Note that, as a Provincial Park,  dogs should be kept leashed here.

Haslam Trail to Timberland Lake

You’ll find the trailhead for this 7 km loop at the end of Timberlands Road, which is accessed from the Trans-Canada Highway just at the south end of the Nanaimo (Cassidy) airport. This next part is important – ignore the “No Entry” signs (much of this trail follows along old, abandoned logging roads), and pay attention to the “Trans-Canada Trail” signs when the road turns to gravel. The big feature of this dog walk is the suspension bridge you get to cross over a mighty gorge (tell your pup not to look down).

You’ll also get a great view of Nanaimo’s Mount Benson to the north. About 3.5 km in, down at the end of the trail, you’ll see Timberland Lake, which features excellent swimming in warm waters in the summertime.

[ A note from my friend Mike at this point – always make sure your dog likes swimming before you toss him in the lake! ]

Pippin would rather not swim, thank you.

Keep in mind that the Haslam Trail is excellent for cyclists as well, and quite popular (relatively speaking), so you may want to keep your furry buddy on a leash if you hear any bikes coming up behind you. From Timberland Lake, you can continue on exploring the Trans Canada Trail, if you like – you just need to find the sign that says “White Pine Trail” and follow it along!

Where’s Your Best Walk?

There are certainly more places to take your dog for a walk than just these, of course, but they’re my favourites. What are yours? Drop a comment below and let me know where to bring my canine companion on our next outdoor Island adventure!

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Chemainus Love Letter

I always like to tell people that as a Realtor, I’m not so much a sales person as I am a Match Maker. I introduce people to homes, until they fall in love with one – and then I’m a Wedding Planner!

Well, recently I myself said “I do” to purchasing a cute little hobby farm just outside of Chemainus, on Vancouver Island. And I’m here to tell you, that honeymoon is still going strong! I just LOVE it here!

Let’s Start with the Murals

Chemainus is one of the most interesting small towns on Vancouver Island. The community literally wears its history on its sleeve – you can’t walk half a block in the charming downtown without pausing to marvel at one of the building-sized, hand painted historic murals for which the town is internationally famous.

Striking images, some small and tucked away and some two stories high, evoke the indigenous heritage of the area, as well as vignettes of local Pioneers from the Age of Steam and Rail. Still others celebrate the local Asian community and culture, life in the Early Years, and the Logging activities that allowed the town to grow and prosper since its founding in 1858. And what’s great is that the people painted on those buildings, those faces of history, have literally become permanent residents!

Check out all the murals, and their artists, at

The thing I love most about the Chemainus Murals, though, is not the fine artwork or the substantial historic significance, but rather the reason for those murals being there in the first place. You see, a while back, the people of Chemainus got hit with some real economic hardship. And they could have packed it in, abandoned ship, and moved on – but they didn’t. They got smart, they got creative, and they saved their little town.

In the early 1980’s, the Forestry industry in BC was hit by a big recession, and the sawmill in Chemainus (the largest employer in town) was forced to close its doors after 120 years of operation. Almost 700 people became unemployed, in a community of less than 4,000 people. In many other places, at many other times, this type of disaster has completely broken the spirit of the community and created almost an instant ghost town. But not in Chemainus!

In 1983, local businessman Dr. Karl Schutz pioneered the concept of “painting history on the walls” of Chemainus and creating an “outdoor art gallery”. An organization known as the Festival of Murals Society was established to oversee and preserve the murals project. You’ve heard the expression, “If you build it, they will come”? Well, that’s exactly what happened in Chemainus. From potential economic collapse to international tourist destination welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors every year – all because, in the words of Dr. Schutz, “never let those who say it can’t be done, stand in the way of those who are doing it”.

Isn’t that an inspirational story? Chemainus was known ever after as “the Little Town That Did”, and I just think that’s amazing. They also inspired other communities in Canada and around the world – such as Botwood, Newfoundland, where my father, Mike Shainline, was actually the President of the Botwood Mural Arts Society!

But Oh, the FOOD!

Before you start wandering around Chemainus appreciating all the murals, though, make sure you fortify yourself with a coffee and one of the many delectable delights served up at the Ma Maison Café, serving a mix of local farm-to-table style fresh baked goods and deli style breakfast and lunch menus. It’s absolutely my favourite because it belongs to local Chef Lauren Cartmel, a Vancouver Island girl who worked at top restaurants in Vancouver, London, and Beverly Hills before recently returning to the Island and the beautiful Cowichan Valley. Ma Maison has a great atmosphere and a wonderful back patio garden!

The back patio at Ma Maison. Check out their website!

A great place to stop for lunch is the Willow Street Café, in the yellow two-story building right on – well, on Willow Street. It has an outdoor patio that’s a great spot in the summertime to sit and sip a beer while you’re people-watching.

For a great dinner with a mouth-watering selection of BC wines, I highly recommend the Odika Café on Mill Street. International cuisine including African lamb shanks and roasted wild mushroom ravioli – and you HAVE to finish with their sinful flourless chocolate cake. Not to be missed!

Odika Cafe – stop in anytime! Have a look at the rest of their menu…

And of course, the Secret Garden in downtown Chemainus hosts some fun candy and ice cream shops, and is a great place to take a momentary respite from the rigours of shopping and mural appreciating.

And Oh! The SHOPS!

Chemainus is the place to go when you want to putter around and poke into neat shops of all kinds – antiques, home décor, hand-made crafts and knickknacks,  – there’s literally something for everyone. But one of the coolest shops in town, hands down, is the Christmas Shop – I could spend HOURS in there! Just make sure you finish your ice cream first!

One of the really neat businesses in Chemainus is the “Back To Britain Pubs” showroom. The service these folks will provide is to build an authentic British pub right in your own home! Their showroom is AWESOME (you usually need to call ahead) and full of old-country odds and sods. Definitely worth checking out!

Check out their website at

And of Course, the Theatre!

No trip (or relocation) to Chemainus would be complete without taking in the dramatic arts at the Chemainus Theatre Festival. Performances run year-round; be sure to get dinner reservations as well, the buffet is sumptuous but the desserts are to die for.  I love the theatre because its history and genesis was closely tied to – you guessed it – the murals that flowered in Chemainus in the 1980’s and became such a sensation. Ken and Ruth Smith, in cooperation with Dan Sawatzky and architect Shane Davis, built the now-iconic domed theatre building in 1993. In that same year the building won the award as the “best building on Vancouver Island” and has been welcoming visitors both local and international every season since.  Performances run Wednesdays through Sundays virtually every week of the year.

Check out this season’s lineup at

…There’s So Much More!

It looks like I’ll have to continue this love letter in another instalment – there’s so much more to tell! There’s Waterwheel Park, Stocking Creek Falls, the sunken 737 airplane that scuba divers love exploring – the stately and adorable character houses throughout the neighbourhoods – there’s no end to the awesomeness of this little town!

Until the next time then!

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Ladysmith: Finding the Spirit of Christmas, 2019

It’s pretty easy these days to get caught up in all the consumerism of the holiday season; everyone always seems to be rushing around, fighting for the best parking spot at the mall, worrying about the best gifts for mom or the kids; all the decorating, the baking, the school concerts – the list goes on and on.

And for a lot of us, that’s the tradition – Christmas is a busy time. When you’re caught up in the Yuletide Tornado, it’s pretty hard to get perspective on the meaning of it all.

But at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that the spirit of Christmas is really about spreading joy, to everyone. Right? Here’s a couple of ideas on how you can do that this holiday season, right here in your own home town.

– – –

Be a Secret Santa – For Real

I’m not suggesting you climb down their chimney or anything, but if there’s a family in your neighbourhood that needs some help, it’s kind of fun to help them on the sly.

This is a small town – chances are you’ve seen a kid walking home from school without a proper jacket or a toque on their head; or you know their parents might be having troubles making ends meet during the festive season. Be a Secret Santa for these folks – wrap up a coat and mittens, put a food basket together, really anything you think might make their lives a little easier or their Christmas a little cheerier.

Sneak the gift or the hamper onto their front porch on Christmas Eve when everyone’s asleep, and make sure the gift tag says “From Santa”. I guarantee you’ll be warm and fuzzy for days from the power of this goodwill. And you may end up changing the life of someone in your community.

Volunteer Locally

I know that everyone’s time is precious, and there are a great many demands on everyone’s time, especially during the run-up to December 25th. But just think of the difference you could make to someone’s day, week, month, or year, just by volunteering an hour or two of your time. You could even get the kids involved, and make it a family tradition!

The best place to start in Ladysmith is the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association. These “Heart on the Hill” folks have got volunteering down to a science. You can sign up for virtually anything – ladle out some soup, make some snacks, heck, you can even hold a baby in your arms for an hour! If you’ve got a skill – any skill! – the LRCA will find a use for it. They are quite resourceful, after all… Visit their website at and see if something catches your eye. In the meantime, check out their fun video.

Contribute to World Vision, UNICEF, OXFAM, etc.

Every year around this time I get the World Vision catalogue in the mail, and every year it absolutely astounds me how big an impact is made in the Developing world with such a little contribution from the First. You can buy a little piglet for a family for a $40 donation. That piglet will grow, and could produce up to 20 more piglets each year after that. Just imagine the difference that will make!

You can send a struggling community two hens and a rooster for just $50, providing food, vitamins and an ongoing source of income. You can send girls to school with uniforms and backpacks. You can provide classrooms with school supplies or sports equipment, all for less than $100. Can’t figure out a present for that hard-to-buy-for relative? Make a donation in their name and send some joy to a place in the world that could really use some.

Commit a Random Act of Kindness

If you’d rather your charity were of the closer-to-home variety, that’s cool too. Joy needs to be generated everywhere – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a grand gesture, take up a lot of your time, or be bestowed on someone half a world away. You can spread Christmas cheer right here in Ladysmith, in a thousand different, simple ways, just through random acts of kindness. Let someone have that parking spot at the mall. Hold the door open for that single mom with three kids.

Pay for the guy behind you in line at Tim Hortons. Heck, just smile at a stranger, or be a little more patient with the sales clerk who’s obviously run off their feet. You’d be amazed at how far that goes, and how good it makes YOU feel.

‘Tis the Season

My all-time favourite Christmas movie is “Scrooged”, the 1988 classic where Bill Murray’s character has the familiar Christmas Eve epiphany and finally realizes what it’s all about. I’ll end this blog with his words:

“Christmas – it’s the one time of year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more –  for a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be. It’s really a sort of miracle, because it happens every Christmas. And you can’t waste that miracle, you have to do something, you have to take a chance. You have to get involved – there are people having trouble making their miracle happen. There are people that don’t have enough to eat, there are people that are cold – well, you can go out and say hello to these people, you can take an old blanket out of the closet and say here, you can make them a sandwich and say, oh by the way, HERE.

And if you give, then the miracle can happen to you – it’s not just the poor and the hungry, it’s EVERYBODY who’s gotta have this miracle. If you believe in this thing, then the miracle can happen and then you’ll want it to happen tomorrow. And if you like it and you want it, you’ll get greedy for it – you’ll want it every day of your life, and it can happen to YOU. And it’s great, it’s a really good feeling, it’s better than I’ve felt in a long time. Have a Merry Chrsistmas, everybody. “  [ Here’s the full scene on YouTube ]

Hoping you and your loved ones have a safe and joyous holiday!

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Community Profile: Ladysmith

Ladysmith is that kind of small town where people walking down the street will not only make eye contact with you, they’ll actually smile and say hello as well! It’s a place where a fellow motorist might wave you through a four-way stop, even if it’s their turn to go. Where the cashiers in the shops ask you how your day is going, and then actually listen to your answer.

It’s just a laid-back, easy-going, West Coast kind of town, nestled between the ocean and the hills. The downtown features heritage buildings with modern goods and services, and there are some interesting little restaurants to fit any taste.

Here’s a few statistics to paint the picture:

Population: a little over 8,500

Location: about an hour North of Victoria, or a half-hour South of Nanaimo

The traditional colour palette of Ladysmith weather – green and grey

Transportation: 5 minute drive to the Cassidy (Nanaimo) airport, 15 minutes to the Duke Point BC Ferry terminal.

Main Economic Drivers: Forestry, Tourism, and Agriculture.

Weather: well, it’s the West Coast, isn’t it? The colour palette is green on the bottom and grey on the top for most of the year, with a lovely interlude of blue skies from June to September when temperatures are in the high 20’s (Celsius). Most winters will see a few snow days, when this hilly town pretty much shuts down so everyone can get out their toboggans. The snow rarely lasts, however, as the average January temperature is 6 degrees above freezing. And in the springtime, well, there simply is no better place to be than Vancouver Island!

A Japanese Cherry Tree in full bloom

Media: The Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle newspaper is delivered weekly; Take 5 magazine comes out once a month

Schools: Ladysmith Primary School (Kindergarten to grade 3), Ladysmith Intermediate School (grades 4-7), École North Oyster Elementary (K-7), and Ladysmith Secondary School (grades 8-12). École North Oyster Elementary is a dual-track school, having both French immersion and English programs.

Notable People: World-famous blonde bombshell and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson grew up in Ladysmith. Stef Lang, a Canadian singer, songwriter, and producer also known as DYLN, grew up and attended Ladysmith Secondary School. Another LSS graduate is actress Michelle Mylett, who currently stars in the hit series “Letterkenny”.

Dining: For a small town, Ladysmith certainly has a wide variety of cuisine on offer in local eateries. There are well-established family restaurants, coffee shops and pubs, an Indian restaurant and a Tapas bar, plus a few sushi and teriyaki options to round out your available choices over and above the regular fast-food chains. There’s even a vegan restaurant AND a gluten-free café!

The Patio at Plantitude Vegan restaurant in Ladysmith

Festivals and Celebrations: Ladysmith residents enjoy doing things outdoors, all year round. Family-fun celebrations in the summertime include Ladysmith Days, Logger Sports, the Maritime Festival and Arts on the Avenue – and of course the annual “Brits on the Beach” and “Ladysmith Show and Shine” automobile love-ins. But the undisputed champion of Ladysmith events has to be the Festival of Lights, when the charming downtown shops and streets are illuminated with a blaze of holiday brilliance all through December and January. And it all kicks off with the Light-Up Parade on the last Thursday in November, where – for one evening – the population of Ladysmith nearly doubles, as people come from far and wide to watch Santa flip the switch and kick off the holiday season.

Community Living: Ladysmith keeps its community spirit alight all year round with a wealth of volunteers doing just about anything and everything you could imagine – read my blog, “Ladysmith, Queen of Clubs, Part 1. Ladysmith has a nearly endless supply of clubs, organizations, and associations – with a veritable army of volunteers who all spend their time building the best community they can.

Recreation: Snuggling itself against the hills rising from the Pacific as it does, Ladysmith offers all kinds of outdoor pursuits. In addition to the always-popular seaside activities at Transfer Beach, local recreational favourites include gardening (of course), hiking and biking along the Holland Creek Trail, or making the climb up the hills to Heart Lake.

Ladysmith Parks, Recreation and Culture operates out of the Frank Jameson Community Centre, a facility that includes a pool, a weight room, a gym, and a fitness studio where you can sweat to your heart’s content at any number of cardio, spin, yoga, or other exercise classes that are held on a regular basis.

As for organized sports, Ladysmith has you covered there as well. Read my blog “Ladysmith, Queen of Clubs, Part 2.

Kayaking is also a popular pastime around these waters:

Ladysmith also has a beautiful Marina featuring moorage and boathouses as well as free parking. And the view is spectacular:

– – –

So if you’re looking to relocate to an incredibly friendly small town that’s abuzz with lots of social activities, great schools and programs for the kids, and also plenty to eat, then Ladysmith may be just the town for you. And if you need more convincing, read my blog, “Ladysmith Love Letter”!

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Ladysmith: Queen of Clubs, pt. 2 – Youth Sports

Sport helps youths to become better contributors to society. Research shows a child’s involvement in sport helps them to improve their social interaction, increase their confidence, and improve their listening skills and health. Competitive sports can be brilliant for building children’s confidence. From team mates telling them they’ve done a great job to accepting new challenges and accomplishing goals, competitive sports can be a real boost to self-esteem.

Ladysmith, the “Queen of Clubs”,  is home to many youth sporting and activity groups – here’s a few to get you started:

Ladysmith Baseball Association

Over the past 52 years the Ladysmith Baseball Association (LBA) has offered sporting opportunities to the youth of Ladysmith and district. Whatever level you play at, baseball can enhance your life, improving fitness, strength and coordination. Whether you are looking to play casually in their recreational league or competitively with one of their traveling teams, you’ll find the LBA to be a great place to learn new skills and meet new friends. LBA is a volunteer based, not for profit society.

Mid-Isle Soccer Club

The Mid-Isle Soccer Club is a not-for-profit, volunteer-operated Club whose mission is to foster a lifelong love of soccer in our youth members, and to promote the benefits that team sports and a healthy lifestyle provide. Their Club is open to any child from the age of 3 to 17 that wishes to play. The season begins in September and runs through March (with a holiday break in late December). Registration opens in March and closes in August.

Ladysmith Minor Football Association

The Ladysmith Minor Football Association (LMFA)  is a full contact co-ed football league for players aged 9 – 14. Quality, safety & coaches for players are their number one goal. They provide the individual growth of our community’s children through the spirit of competition, discipline and fair play, and are  committed to providing a program that maintains the highest standards and guarantees a fun, positive experience for everyone involved.

Rhythm Dance Academy: Ladysmith’s Dance Studio

Rhythm Dance Academy is a bright, spacious and inviting dance studio located right in the beating heart of Ladysmith, BC. Discover the passion for dance and explore the various opportunities in the many disciplines that Rhythm offers. Rhythm Dance Academy provides classes for ages three to adults in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Modern, and Performing Company.

Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association

Kids in Ladysmith play hockey in the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association, with their home rink located a few minutes down the road at the Fuller Lake Arena. The Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association is committed to providing quality hockey programs for kids aged 5-17. They provide the highest quality amateur hockey programs for children at their appropriate level of play, by encouraging fun, sportsmanship, good citizenship, physical development and a love of the game, that lasts a lifetime.

Fuller Lake Skating Club

The Fuller Lake Skating Club offers figure skating, power skating, and “CanSkate” learn-to-skate programs every year from September through March at the Fuller Lake Arena.

Ladysmith Sportsmen’s Club

The Ladysmith Sportsmen’s Club was established in 1944. It is a non-profit, co-ed volunteer organization involved in the promotion and preservation of outdoor recreational activities and conservation programs. They host learn-to-fish events, watershed debris cleanups, and they operate the Bush Creek Hatchery.

Ladysmith Chemainus Swim Club

The Ladysmith Chemainus Swim Club (LCSC) is a non-profit society that promotes youth health and fitness through swimming. Based out of the Frank Jameson Community Center in Ladysmith, they welcome competitive and non-competitive swimmers of all ages and abilities. The goal of the club is to equip each member with life skills while having a desire to see them succeed in and out of the pool. Swimmers travel for competitions, mainly in the Island, as well as in house events. Registration is ongoing – you can always join the Orcas!

So if you’re looking for a sporting adventure for your children, to offer them all the benefits that sport provides, then Ladysmith has you covered – on the field, in the stream, on the ice and in the pool!

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Ladysmith Weekend Escape #1: The Saanich Peninsula & Sidney by the Sea

Vancouver Island is FULL of wonders, and Ladysmith is in the middle of it all!

Drive time from Ladysmith: around 90 minutes

Getting There from Ladysmith: Head south on the TransCanada Highway, over the Malahat and into Victoria. Turn left at Mackenzie Ave and follow the signs to exit onto the Patricia Bay Highway (towards the Victoria Airport and Swartz Bay Ferry terminal). Follow signs to Sidney! Enjoy the sights along the way!

The Saanich Peninsula

Even though it’s traditionally the driest part of Vancouver Island, rolling hills and lush farmlands characterize the Saanich Peninsula. Many people call this area the “Provence of the Island”. Backroad drives will uncover small wineries, farm stands, and marshlands teeming with birds. The peninsula is home to many delights, including the Victoria Polo Grounds and  the Climb the Boulders climbing gym.

3-story climbing wall at Climb the Boulders!

The family-favourite Victoria Butterfly Gardens is also nearby, featuring thousands of butterflies as well as frogs, tortoises, flamingos, and other tropical birds. And no visit to the Saanich Peninsula is complete without a trip to the world-famous Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site that receives over a million visitors a year. After strolling through the Sunken Garden and the amazing Rose Garden, enjoy afternoon tea in the original Butchart family residence, overlooking the Italian Garden and the Saanich Inlet. In the summertime, there are evening concerts on the lawn, and on Saturday nights there’s a fireworks show. Not to be missed!

Fountain statue in the Italian Garden, Butchart Gardens

Sidney by the Sea

Along the shores of the Salish Sea, with a commanding view of Mount Baker and the Gulf Islands, lies the charming community of Sidney By the Sea. Accommodations abound in the Sydney area, for all tastes and budgets – but no matter where you stay, Sidney has something for everyone. Beacon Avenue holds shops and galleries that are perfect for poking around in – and on Thursday nights in the Summertime, this main street is closed to traffic and becomes a vibrant street market with live music!


Shopping in Sydney is always eclectic and engaging! For starters, “Booktown”, as Sidney is also known, is a bibliophile’s dream – there seems to be a bookstore on every corner! Our favourite is the Haunted Bookshop, with every one of its wonderful antique bookcases holding a treasure trove for readers.

Another favourite is Tanner’s Books, with its “Travel and Nautical Room” full of maps, charts, and nautical reference books. And Beacon Books has an excellent collection of Modern First Editions and rare collectibles.

See the Sights!

If you have the time (and you should make the time), wander on down to the Sidney Pier and catch the passenger ferry to the Sidney Spit. It’s a narrow, sandy strip of land that’s perfect for sunbathing and swimming, or watching the shorebirds on the tidal flats. For an extra adventure, rent some kayaks and make your own way over there – it’s only 5 km across the water from the Town of Sidney!

Sidney Spit (Gulf Islands National Park Reserve)

And while you’re down by the Sidney Pier, spend some time at the Shaw Center for the Salish Sea, Sidney’s award-winning aquarium. There are wolf eels, jellyfish, a giant Pacific octopus, and hundreds of other amazing marine animals. It’s a great place for kids and adults alike!

Eat and Drink!

All that walking and shopping is going to make you hungry. There are many excellent choices in Sidney, but our personal favourite is “the Farmer’s Daughter”, a fromagerie/bistro/wine bar that serves quality cheeses from around the world – with the wines to match! And of course, you can get artisan gift baskets and platters to take home!

And down at the Van Isle Marina, you’ll find the Sea Glass waterfront grill, another of our favourites. Their menu is mouth-watering and their wine list is almost as superb as their table service. Reservations are recommended!

Coming Home to Ladysmith

Summertime: Something we like to do when coming back from the Saanich Peninsula is to catch the Brentwood Bay ferry over to Mill Bay. It’s a short trip on the water, and gets you to the north side of the Malahat without having to go through Victoria traffic. A word of warning, though – the ferry only holds about 20 vehicles, so you may have to sit in the café and have an ice cream cone while you wait for the next sailing!

Autumn: We generally forego the Brentwood Bay ferry in the Fall, in favour of looping back through Victoria in order to stop at Goldstream Park on the way home to Ladysmith. Goldstream Provincial Park is in an old-growth temperate rain forest on the north-bound side of the highway at the start of the climb up the Malahat Drive. It’s one of the best places around to see salmon spawning, generally between October and December. And where there’s lots of salmon, there are a lot of eagles – so don’t forget your camera!

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Ladysmith: Queen of Clubs, pt. 1 – Community Organizations

An unknown author once said, “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year; but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in”.

If that’s true, then Ladysmith – this grand old dame of a town – must be the biggest democracy around. It constantly amazes me how, for such a little community, Ladysmith has a nearly endless supply of clubs, organizations, and associations – with a veritable army of volunteers who all spend their time building the best community they can. Ladysmith really is the Queen of Clubs! Here’s a rundown on all the service clubs and arts organizations that Ladysmith has to offer:

Service Clubs:

Ladysmith Fraternal Order of Eagles

The F.O.E Ladysmith 2101 works hard to bring citizens together in the name of bettering communities and raising funds to assist friends and neighbours in need. They donate thousands of dollars annually to Ladysmith sports groups, Festivals and Celebrations, and Community Support groups. Their motto is “People Helping People”. More…

Ladysmith Kinsmen

Kin Canada is an all-Canadian service organization made up of outstanding community volunteers. From coast to coast, members are enhancing quality of life in their communities by promoting service, fellowship, positive values and national pride. The Ladysmith Kinsmen really enjoy getting their hands dirty – building playgrounds and access ramps as well as fundraising to help local families and graduating students. The Ladysmith Kinsmen are also the sponsors and organizers of both of the Town’s annual parades: Ladysmith Celebration Days in the Summer, as well as the hugely famous Festival of Lights’ Light Up parade in November. More…

Rotary Club of Ladysmith

Rotary International brings together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. It is a non-political and non-religious organization open to all people regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, or political preference. The Ladysmith Club holds regular meetings every first and third Thursday of every month at the Fox and Hound Pub. More…

Ladysmith Lions Club

Lions strive to create and foster a spirit of understanding among all people for humanitarian needs by providing voluntary service through community involvement and international co-operation. The Ladysmith Lions meet on the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month at 6:30 pm at the Ladysmith Seniors Center. More…

Royal Canadian Legion Branch #171

Whether helping local Veterans, supporting seniors, providing youth sports programs, raising funds, volunteering to help those in need, or simply offering a place to gather for fun and celebration, Legionnaires provide essential services in their communities. The Royal Canadian Legion is proud of its military heritage and still maintains close ties with the Armed Forces today; however, over the years, categories of membership have evolved to include members of our close knit community. Please feel free to come visit us at 621 First Avenue in Ladysmith. More…

Ladysmith Air Cadets

Launched in 1943, the Ladysmith Air Cadets provide a dynamic, structured youth program that offers a variety of interesting and challenging activities and develops an increased level of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-awareness in local youth. Cadets are motivated to improve their physical fitness, to work harder at their academic studies and to give back to their communities through volunteerism and citizenship activities. More…

Community Services Groups

Ladysmith Fire/Rescue (LFR) Ladysmith Fire/Rescue is a volunteer fire department that provides fire protection to the Town of Ladysmith, parts of Saltair and the Diamond Improvement District. The fire protection area spans over 40 square miles.  In addition to responding to approximately 200 calls per year, LFR maintains a strong public education and fire prevention presence in our community. More…

Ladysmith Search & Rescue (LSAR)

LSAR’s Ground Search and Rescue members are highly trained in back-country rescues. The LSAR Swift Water Team responds to incidents in inland waters, creeks lakes and rivers. Additionally, LSAR offers Adventure Smart programs to educate the public on being prepared when they head out in the back country. More…

Ladysmith Resources Centre Association (LRCA)

The LRCA is a non-profit charity that serves unique and diverse individuals and families by offering resources and services that enhance the quality of life in Ladysmith and surrounding area.  The LRCA has a renewed mission, a purposeful direction to “enrich the lives of the people in the community through advocacy, programs and partnerships.” More…

Ladysmith Family & Friends (LaFF)

LaFF is a Family Centre for families and caregivers from  Ladysmith and surrounding areas with children up to the age of 6 which provides inclusive, interactive opportunities for the development of children, families and community. LaFF’s vision is to have a community of connected and thriving families. More…

Ladysmith Seniors’ Centre

The Ladysmith Seniors’ Centre is the social club for the 55+ crowd! It’s a perfect  place to socialize, meet new friends, and take part in many daily activities. LSC provides social recreation, health, fitness and special interest activities to keep members active and involved. LSC provides services to over 350 members, and annual membership is only $20. More…

Ladysmith Newcomer’s Club (LNC)

Just arrived in Ladysmith and looking to make new friends? Need help with a specific need for your family or business but don’t know where to start? Or are you looking to move to Ladysmith from afar and need help landing safely? The LNC is a social club where new residents can meet and interact through fun activities and events. More…

Arts & Culture Organizations

Ladysmith Arts Council

The mission of the Arts Council of Ladysmith is to enhance the vitality of the artistic community through enrichment and developing the arts through education, exhibition and engagement. Their goal is to bring together artists & arts lovers of all styles and mediums, and provide artistic opportunities and experiences within the community and surrounding areas.  The volunteer-run Waterfront gallery hosts monthly exhibitions and can be rented for private art shows and events.  More…

Ladysmith & District Historical Society

Promoting awareness of Ladysmith’s history and operating a museum at 721 First Avenue, the Historical Society has helped preserve Ladysmith heritage since they were incorporated in 1999. They administer the Ladysmith Archives, which provides free, public access to thousands of documents related to the history of the Ladysmith area. More…

Ladysmith Maritime Society

The Ladysmith Maritime Society serves the local community by operating a maritime museum, restoring heritage boats, operating the Ladysmith Community Marina, providing summertime harbour tours, and hosting the annual Ladysmith Maritime Festival event. More…

Whew! I know, it’s quite a list! I hope it helps you get a sense of the volunteer opportunities in this great town. A word of warning, though: you may end up joining more than one of these organizations – it’s happened before!

Thanks for reading! The next instalment will highlight the sports clubs and event committees available in Ladysmith.

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Ladysmith Day-Trip Diary #1: Chemainus

Vancouver Island is FULL of wonders, and Ladysmith is in the middle of it all!

Drive time from Ladysmith: less than 10 minutes

Getting There from Ladysmith: A quick, panoramic oceanside drive from Ladysmith, down the appropriately-named Chemainus Road, lies the idyllic town of Chemainus. This charming community of around 3,000 folks is famous for its outdoor “gallery” of over three dozen painted murals on the sides of local buildings. Chemainus also has an excellent theatre in a grandiose domed building. In 2006, a Boeing 737 airplane was sunk off the coast to form an artificial reef about a hundred feet down. It’s quite popular with free divers!

If you have the time, though, another great way to get to Chemainus from Ladysmith is to walk, hike, run, or bike along the Cowichan Valley Trail, a relatively wide, flat gravel pathway that winds through lush rolling farmlands, three types of forest (BC Maple, random coniferous, and the other kind – I’m not a botanist…), and some lovely residential back yards. Along the way you may see some deer, some bunnies – essentially the whole cast of Bambi – and also some horseback riders, cyclists and other assorted wanderers.

Along the Cowichan Valley Trail

There’s also a seven-foot-tall carving of a mother heron with her babies, just incongruously installed in someone’s backyard.

Heron statue along the Cowichan Valley Trail from Ladysmith to Chemainus

From the Coronation Mall parking lot in Ladysmith, you head down the bike path alongside Chemainus Road until just past Gourlay Janes Park, a relatively undiscovered gem down by the water. After that you cross the road (carefully!) and hit the trail proper. You’ll know you’re in the right spot when you pass the lemonade stand.

Roughly 9km along the trail from your start at Coronation Mall, you’ll reach the Sawmill Taphouse at the outskirts of Chemainus – definitely worth a stop. They have a couple dozen Pacific Northwest craft beers on offer, and you can get a sampler “flight” of six half pints (they call it “tap dancing”) to go along with your oven-fired pizza or farm-to-table tapas. 

About a kilometer further on, once you’re in the town proper, you’ll want to check out the Water Wheel Park for some shade and rest – sometimes there’s music on the bandstand, and you can also get on a horse-drawn carriage or trolley tour of the world-famous murals around town! (Fun fact – I used to be a mural tour guide, way WAAYY back in the day!)

Water Wheel Park in Chemainus

And no trip to Chemainus would be compete without tickets to a show at the Chemainus Theatre Festival. Performances run year-round; be sure to get dinner reservations as well, the buffet is fantastic but the desserts are to die for.

Chemainus Theatre Festival Building

So there you have a great day out from Ladysmith – down the road or on the trail – in lovely Chemainus!

Thanks for reading!

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