Dripping with magic

My Canadian friend tells me that it has been predicted to be the coldest winter this year and I'm so excited- Vancouver knows we're coming back and is preparing to put on a magical white show for us again. Fingers crossed.
I know many of you are wondering what is that mad woman talking about, but when you grow up in a place where the only white on the road is from the sun burnishing down and the nights are dripping with no relief, the thought of crisp fresh air to awaken the senses and snowflakes gently kissing your cheeks and catching in your eye lashes is a magical magical daydream.

Missing Snow

Snow Twig

It's nearly Christmas and I'm thinking about this time last year when all the cold weather clothes were being pulled out of storage, making giant piles next to the empty suitcases and the air was alive with anticipation. Vancouver was already preparing for us, covering itself in a pure white soft wrap and we were giddy with joy. Christmas was overshadowed by snow. My fake snowflakes are in hanging in the window and I'm dreaming of my winter wonderland. Last years Christmas was picture card perfect, but I missed the trays of mangoes and cherries and the traditions of home. This year, traditions, like life, are changing and I'm wondering whether it is not time to start some new traditions for christmas like Caper's Pumpkin Pie, roasted chestnuts in the snow with Nat King Cole in the background, Eggnog from Meinhardt, train ride through the Stanley Park Christmas display, Festival of Lights and most of all the gentle kiss of icy possibilities falling from the sky.
Yesterday, when I was supposed to be working, I found myself going through slide shows of our snow trip feeling very nostalgic. I think a few more photos from then will slowly appear leading up to Christmas.
To my Canadian friends- wish I was there with you.  

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.

More Postcards from Canada

Baby Snowman
This is the baby snow man that the children found at Stanley Park. They gave him arms and would not be consoled that they couldn't bring him home with us. That snowmen don't travel well is a detail that children are indifferent to. In the end we found him a special new home with a view of downtown Vancouver.
These trees in the foreground remind me of the snow gums in Australia.
Trees above the clouds.
View of Vancouver
This is probably the last photo I took in Vancouver on our last day coming down the road from Grouse Mountain. Even though it was a sunny day and much of the snow was beginning to melt, Vancouver was still hidden under a blanket of clouds.

More Postcards from Canada

Here is another postcard from Canada (in no particular order):
BC is putting on a special show for us. We arrived to a city under a blanket and all the Vancouverains
walking around in a gloom. Meanwhile you couldn't remove my cheshire smile with a snow shovel if you tried. We ordered a white christmas and we are defiantly getting one (please don't let the locals know its our fault or they'll be round with a lynch mob).

The house has a postcard out every window, and now that it has stopped snowing for a day we can see what the light is like- constant sunrise until the sun finally gives up trying to rise and pops back into bed just after 4.00. Beautiful light. Not to cold outside, unless your foolish enough to get soaking wet by loading your hood with snow like Lulu, and everywhere is heated inside. Luckily not as stiflingly hot as in Japan, but still something to get used to. Desperate to open a window while we sleep but everything is double glazed. I think we are the only ones driving around Vancouver with our car window open.

The children are loving the snow. Angel woke the first morning, after 11, squealing "It's snowing, it's snowing" with the tone of voice reserved only for christmas morning. However he is very disappointed that the snow is too soft to make a decent snow ball- our only saving grace I think as we can't keep them out of the stuff.

Haven't worked out the Starbucks thing. Theres 2 in every block, which would make total sense if they knew how to make coffee. Ordered a strong double shot, which we then had to get an extra shot put into and then was strangely weak still. Seems they have taken all the coffee flavour out and replaced it with strange flavouring and sweetening things. Under the impression that we spoke the same language as the Canadians-until you ask for a flat white. New found admiration for Australians because Starbucks went bust in Australia. Think I'll open a cafe when I move here and make a killing once I educate the country on what coffee is!! Miss my machine. NB- hot chocolate just as bad- strange mixture of hot water, brown food colouring and icing sugar??
Wondering where Chris and Andy keep their hip flask!!

The Odyssey for a christmas tree has began (reminding me why we bought a fake last year). Its Tuesday and again our mission for the day is to get a crissy tree, again. Failed yesterday as it took all day to dig out the car and driveway after the record breaking snow we got that night. Should have gone Sunday but decided against driving in the snow (Jay is still getting used to the left hand drive).

Went to the festival of lights last night which would have been fun if we had left the children in the car, tonight we are going to try for Stanley Park. Kids loved Science World which we will go back to and spend a wet day there. Had roasted chestnuts from a street corner vendor and ate them in the snow accompanied by Nat King Cole singing "roasted chestnuts in the snow...". Was magical despite Angel's best attempts. (Note to self, next time bring Sukie and leave Angel with the house sitters.)

Loved Japan, found a traditional stretch of shops leading to a huge suburb of temples and park, not nearly enough time to explore. All the food here is laced with loads of sugar, vending machines for absolutely everything including fresh flowers. Everywhere was overheated. On the plane Angel perplexed the hostesses by stripping to his undies and Jay and I removed all we could get away with and still sweated. Meanwhile all the Japanese are rugged up in their overcoats and snow gear under their blankets.

Haven't changed all the locks yet though its on the list. Could someone please hide Chris & Andy's passports.

Sneak Peek- Canada

On the road to Whistler

Stanley Park
Boat Shed in Vancouver

Many clients have been asking when they get to see some of the photos from our trip to
Canada and Japan that we took over Christmas. Of course, being a photographer, I am always to busy sorting other peoples photos to get to mine- I took a million, but it will take me a week to sort out which ones I want to work with let allow finish them. In the meantime here are a few just to show that we really did go.

Here are notes from the Postcards:
Sea to Sky Hwy:- Oh my f***n God.
The Sea to Sky Hwy is aptly named as delivers you straight to heaven after you plunge off the side of a cliff, down the side of a steep mountain and into the depths of the icy ocean below. They warn you about driving on the wrong side of the road in the snow andice- but they don't warn you about being a passenger on the wrong side of the road, in the control seat with no controls. I sit in the drivers seat without my pedals, pressing for my absent brake as the car swings me past the abyss yet again while the sun peaks through just enough to highlight the slippery ice on the road. They say its not the ice you can see that you have to worry about but rather the ice you can't see: Black Ice, the stuff of legends, or in this case nightmares. I can not bring myself to look away, I know there is the most spectacular views passing me by but I must concentrate on the road, or should I say edge of the road. I desperately wish I could shut my eyes but I can't bring myself to do that either. I have never been so terrified, no not terrified but petrified, in all my life. I can liken the experience only to childbirth only without the being torn apart bit.

Our day trip up to Whistler for lunch turned into 3 days. Partly because the thought of driving back after dark along that unlit highway, through the snow, when the temperature drops and the roads become really icy, seems a tad dangerous and the only thing a responsible adult entrusted with two children can do is to stay the night and go down when its safer, and partly because I need a days rest to recover from the ordeal and regain my strength after my adrenaline rush, and I need to put time between the experience of the drive and the memory. Of course the real reason is because I'm just too scared- perhaps it's just easier if I just stay in Whistler.

Like childbirth, I am reward for the ordeal. Whistler is spectacular. The village is large, and there is lots to do apart from ski. Clearly there is a lot for wives of skiers to do to bribe them into allowing their husbands to bring them up when they don't ski- shops and restaurants galore. Fashionable divas walk the streets in their head to foot furs looking like they've never donned a ski suit or have heard of the animal liberation movement for that matter. And of course, more Starbucks.
We find an indoor retreat for children with jumping castles, video games, hockey, putt putt, air hockey etc etc. Just set up by the village as an indoor playground- free. We decide to stay another day as we realise NYE has crept up on us and they do a special "First Night" in the village with special things set up for the kids.

Over coffee I discover that Canadians call flat whites lattes, so now we can order coffees by asking for a latte with two extra shots and we are served a medium strength flat white. Not sure what you would ask for if you actually wanted a latte, luckily I don't need to know, but it amuses me to think of all the Canadians coming to Australia and asking for a latte and actually receiving a latte when what they should be ordering is a flat white, hold the coffee. This mystery solved brings me to the next one which is of course eggs. I think they come out of a carton...

My mini me and I have fun taking photos together when we separate from Lulu and Jay. Both the children got cameras for christmas, so now in our family there is a cacophany of camera shutters clicking and flashes going off which is not nearly as noisy as a family full of saxophone players. Angel and I wander about through the snow taking pictures of this and that, and talking to the locals about the ominous highway (all are sympathetic).

All I can say about the trip back is that Jays tactic for the trip was to have me wind my window down and take photos as we drove slowly down the mountain, (although it didn't feel slow to me, I know that there was a caravan of cars behind us who can testify that it was slow as they sped past us every time the road opened up into two lanes). This only worked for a little while, the while that didn't include the plunging cliffs. We also had the added bonus of a sun that sets for the half of the day that its not rising, directly in our eyes blinding us and obscuring all visibility of the road, but not the edge.