Another Postcard from Canada

Tree Cemetery
We have a tree!!! A Noble pine. Went to the local tree lot where we found the christmas tree cemetery- a sign saying the trees
were by donation and a few very forlorn looking trees. Disheartened, we trudged back to the car several snow covered blocks
away due to a road closure (not sure what Jay planned to do if we had found a tree), and headed for another lot we had heard of.
This one had no trees but a sign sending us to yet another lot. See you thought I exaggerated over the tree odyssey saga. Finally third
tree lot lucky,and third day lucky, a mini tour of Vancouver, and plenty of time for Jay to get used to the left handed drive (except the upside down
driving has turned his sense of direction upside down too and he keeps turning left where he should turn right and vice versa, very bizarre)
- we have tree!!

Now we have it- getting it into the house is another mission. Chris suggested that we leave it in the garage to dry before taking it
into the house. However, after digging out the car, the driveway and the paving, we were not about to start digging out buildings.
Besides there was still the question of the metre deep snow between the garage and the house that would need to be negotiated
once the tree was dry and after we had got the garage door open. Anyhows, the tree is in place, decorating and champagne can begin.
There's just the little question of tinsel...

Lulu has defrosted. She got so cold and miserable on her first outing due to her over zealous snow play which drenched her
that she sat miserably in the shopping trolley. When I got all excited about trying Ben & Jerry ice cream and asked the kids
to help pick flavors she announced "I'm never eating ice cream again, I'm never going to be warm again!!" in her saddest and most
pathetic sobbing voice. I think she actually believed herself. Only when I carried her around the shop like a baby, in an attempt to rescue
our first day in Canada, did she perk up. The reminder of that experience kept her from silly snow play at the wrong time
for all of a day and then was forgotten.

Further news on Starbucks. Chris says that they buy up other coffee shops and then turn them into Starbucks. Sounds like a virus.
She also says she knows no one who drinks from them which is surprising as every third person walking around has one of their
red cups in hand like an implant. I think perhaps its like the abswing and there are tones of closet starbuck drinkers out there.
She has given me some suggestions for coffee spots to try. In Sydney we play spotto with yellow cars. Here we started playing spotto
with front doors without christmas wreaths, but Starbucks spotto soon took over and keeps the game much more lively than either
yellow cars or doors without wreaths. Jay and I have another Starbuck game we are thinking of starting. I order his coffee (I have
retreated to hot chocolate which they apparently make with Belgium chocolate when it can get through the snow), 3 extra shots
of coffee in a tall cup ("tall" for "small", or tiny if you take into account the amount of froth which fills half the cup) and Jay takes a
photo of the stunned waitresses face as she tries to decipher where the accent went wrong because surely she heard wrong.
Its why they have such big serves of super size me, its quantity not quality, if they drink enough maybe they'll eventually get
some coffee- like digging for gold. I think next time I'll ask for a supersize, hold all the water and froth and put in a "tall" cup.

There must be a good coffee here somewhere. I found one in Narita!!
Like an oasis, there was Illy coffee, Jay thought I was singing 'silly coffee' in my excitement. Strangely enough in Japan, we had
bought iced Starbuck coffee (from the zillions of prepackaged iced coffees available) to have in the morning to ward off the
caffine deprivation headaches which would ensue (couldn't bring myself to pay the ridiculous hotel price for what I assumed
would be crappy coffee). This prepackaged Starbucks was actually better and had more coffee than their "real" coffee.
Then with Jays disgusting Macdonald coffee in tow (which he put 6 little milk containers in and still had black coffee) we headed
off on our exploration of Narita, and there down a side street- Illy coffee.

Japan was interesting and confusing. We didn't have a clue what anything cost. The yen throws you. My theory was "think
of them as cents and then apply the pound" which seemed to get me in the ball park but totally baffled Jay with my dazzling

The days here are so short. We are finding it really hard to get up and out early, combination of the jetlag, the drive way (which requires
a workout of shoveling) and the sun not rising until after 8, the dressing of layers onto the chiildren and the redressing once
they're wet from the drive way. Then once you are out you begin to feel the sun setting at around 2, the evening chill begins, and this sort of panic of there
is not much more daylight left sets in. By 4.30 its really dark and it feels really late, combined with the added battling the elements, not
knowing where we are, the constant demands of the children and the pressure of this beginning our big holiday, we feel thoroughly
exhausted by our day yet are not sure where it went. I miss my hours of silent daylight in the house when I am up hours before the
rest, tiptoeing around in case the spell be broken and they awake. Here its not a race against the clock, since we don't have one, but rather
a race against the sunlight. It feels like ready steady go. Nb see photo of sun at midday!! The first few days we were thrown waiting for the sun
to rise only to discover that it doesn't and its not as early as we think.

Midday Sun
Vancouver reveals itself to us ever so slowly, like the shy and seductive dance of  the seven veils: snow, mist, rain, clouds, darkness, fog and more snow
It removes a veil of mist briefly to show us a glimpse of what lies beneath
and then retreats back under it, or the snow clears increasing visibility only to start again, a bit of blue sky teases and then vanishes and
the sun attempts to rise and then gives up. Meanwhile we are left to piece the jigsaw puzzle of the city together from the morsels that have
been gifted us. We think the city is probably quite beautiful with some stunning views but of course we are only guessing. We do know
however, that the snow is enchanting and we have spent days driving around Narnia before the great Aslan returns and the spell lifts. Even
a trip to the local supermarket is a beautiful adventure in this strange Narnian land. We would not be surprised to see Mr Tumnus down a side
street, we will keep our eyes open.

Streets of Narnia

Hayne, our psychic neighbour has appeared with a taboggan today, thankfully as Vancouver is out. Twice now I have said to Jay, "Why
don't you ring Hayne and ask him if he has a blank". Both times he has just looked at me with no response, and the like magic, Hayne
appears totting the in question much desired object: firstly the snow shovel (as digging a driveway with a garden spade is not a story
for here but rather for the horror story genre) and secondly the taboggan. We had been on a mission to find a taboggan and had
failed miserably much to the chagrin of the children. We had even got to experience the old Indian fake Canadian accent on their "guest relations"
phone service during our search which was strangely disconcerting.

The snow is so heavy, when you drive around everything is totally buried. Luckily for us it is easy to find your way around as the streets
are all numbered, its driving by numbers, as there are no discernable landmarks, everything is just bulky white. Hayne gave us a tip when we
first got here which was that the mountains are to the North and you can see them from everywhere in Vancouver not counting the snow visibility
which has meant we have seen them only occassionally- a compass would be more reliable.

Stanley Park

The snow is now starting to melt and we can see that it will leave a trail of carnage in its wake. The foliage is really going to be the survival of the
fittest as the weight of the snow is breaking branches everywhere and knocking much down. I can see how Spring would be such a revered
god send if you lived like this all the time- as breathtakingly beautiful as it all is, the practicalities of it, especially in a city not designed for it,
are exhausting.

Stop the press. Lulu's tooth has finally fallen out. It has been threatening to for a couple of weeks now and she has been patiently waiting for it to, she seems
to be the last of her friends not to have lost one, surprising given that she is one of the eldest. There was much discussion before we left as
to whether the tooth fairy, along with Santa, would find her in Canada and as to what currency she might bring (jury is still out on that one, guess
we'll just have to wait and see). A conspiracy was detected and avoided on Christmas day when a plot was being brewed about pulling it out,
with the aid of her brother, so that the tooth fairy would come at Christmas. Little boys and their schemes and gullible girls!! Anyway, a prouder toothless
smile you never did see.

A Zillion photos of the children to sort through and my laptop is struggling with the demands- you will have to wait.

Talk soon

PS - Kirsten- we were thinking of you tomorrow, which is your yesterday ( you know these North Americans are so behind) hope all went well.