23 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Let me just say (for future reference) moving the week of Christmas is not ideal.

But, we are moved and in the midst of unpacking. I am hoping to have most of the house completed by late tonight.

We are still without phone or internet service and may have to wait until the new year before we are connected. Apparently our address does not exist. (I spent over an hour trying to convince them that the house does exist; but, I wasn't very effective and they still don't believe me. I'll have to try again after Christmas.)

We have just picked up a tree and will decorate tonight. I am hoping to get in a bit of Christmas baking tomorrow. Hopefully all will go well and everything will be organized for tomorrow night when my family comes over for Christmas Eve.

I am REALLY looking forward to a relaxing Christmas day with my family. I am so grateful that we moved safely - driving over the mountains and through a blizzard. I am grateful we are all together and I hope we can give the kids a somewhat normal Christmas. It will be a memorable one at least.

I just wanted to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and New Year!

Hopefully I will be reconnected by then and back here on a more regular basis!

Best Wishes!

11 December 2011

Christmas is coming!



Winter on the West Coast of British Columbia is really unlike winter anywhere else in Canada.

In some ways it is wonderful. No mittens, no touques, no boots, no snowpants. Getting ready to leave the house is just as quick as it is in summer! There is no worrying about finding matching gloves for four kids as they head out the door...mittens and gloves are so much like socks in my house...I try not to think about how many have been lost to the black hole in the dryer.

We can leave home without coats on most days. The weather is really great.

Except...

I am having a VERY difficult time believing that it is almost Christmas! I miss snow. It doesn't help that my decorating this year has consisted of mountains of packing boxes cluttering every spare inch of my house. We are preparing for our move just a few days before Christmas.

Luckily for me, with the lack of snow the kids are also not feeling very Christmasy yet either. I did get them to make and decorate a few cookies which they really enjoyed and if nothing else gets done at least we have done something!



I am hoping that we can VERY quickly unpack when we arrive in the Okanagan in time to get a tree set up for Christmas Eve...with decorations and baking...oh and shopping, I have yet to finish my Christmas shopping as I did not want to have excess to move...I think due to time constraints it will be a bit of a scaled back Christmas at our house this year. We are just going to really enjoy a week off together as a family after not seeing much of each other since summer. And for me that is going to be the best Christmas present of all.

28 November 2011

bloom...


I love this photo. It reminds me that even if everything around me is falling apart...I can still bloom.
And I need to be reminded of this sometimes.

I really believe that in everything I have a choice...trials can weaken me or make me stronger. I choose.

It all depends on how I look at it. The past few years I have been working on finding beauty in the little things and enjoying the journey. I have been setting priorities, discovering who I am and what I want out of life. I've made some mistakes along the way but I have also learned a lot and am getting ever closer to who and where I want to be.


The hubby's first and last semester of architecture school will soon come to an end and a new chapter will begin...I begin packing for another big move...and I feel happy.

24 November 2011

Just a thought...

It is interesting to me to read and listen to people's comments on my last post. They are many and varied. My day has been a little stressful actually. It is hard sometimes to stay focused with so many different opinions pressing themselves on me. I read a quote tonight that made me feel a little better and I thought I would share...

"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." -Woodrow Wilson

I was thinking about all the people I know of who live their life this way and I was wondering: what if everybody thought this way...what if striving for this rather than money was the primary focus...

something to think about.

23 November 2011

happiness...

The hubby and I have been formulating plans for our future...our Plan B future.

I've been reading old journals, looking at family photos and reading my old blog posts.

As I think about our future while looking at our past, one item stands out...

When the hubby and I were engaged, I would bring home tourism brochures from the travel agency I worked at. We would look through them and talk about all the places we could live. We were young and the whole world was available to us. The thought that we could live anywhere in the world was exciting. After looking for weeks at brochures for a reason that I do not know we settled on Prince Edward Island. It seemed perfect. We talked about it for weeks, months...but I had a mortgage and a good job and after we married, we stayed where we were.


Nine months into our marriage, I was given the opportunity to take a business trip to New Brunswick. The tourist board flew a number of us over and showed us why we should send our clients to New Brunswick. If I had been single without a mortgage, I would not have returned home. I loved it. Each place I went I fell more and more in love. I remember the last night of the trip standing outside the Algonquin hotel in St. Andrews by the Sea. It was very late at night and tears were running down my cheeks and for the first time in years, I felt like I was home. I missed my new hubby but I did not want to leave. I spent an hour on the phone with him trying to convince him to drop everything and meet me there. We could open a BandB or something, right? We could make it work. I loved the few days I spent in New Brunswick and talked of it often over the next decade.

When my hubby mentioned graduate school in Nova Scotia...I jumped at the chance!


FINALLY...I would get to live in the maritimes.


 We spent two years there and as I look back at our pictures at the smiling faces of my children playing on the beach I realize that (aside from the long commute that my hubby had) we were happiest there.


 We loved the ocean, the day trips, the museums, the galleries, the history, the architecture, the slow-paced lifestyle.


 The maritimes suit us.


The past few weeks we have spent hours discussing and more hours pondering and praying about what we should do. Looking at our photos...of the house we lived in (that is owned by my mother-in-law and rented out) and available to us...it did not take us too long to decide where we should be.


Plans are in the works for a more permanent summer move to Nova Scotia...we feel relief, peace and happiness...no more lobsterless summers for us!

21 November 2011

Plan B

Time in Vancouver has not been going well which has resulted in my lack of posts.

I do like Vancouver. But the past few months have been full of trials, troubles and hopefully growth and learning.

Life is filled with trials; there really isn't anything we can do to escape them. Sometimes we need to focus and push on down the path we have chosen; work through the problems and wait for things to work out. Other times we  realize that the path we have chosen is not the right path for us. This is when we need to be brave, admit we have made a mistake and turn around and choose another path.

The hubby and I are experiencing a wrong path. Even though it is something we have worked on for years...now that we are here, it has become very obvious that this is not our path. Architecture school is not turning out to be what we thought it would be in so many ways. My husband has wanted to be an architect for more than twenty years. We have been working in one way or another to get him to architecture school for fourteen years...we are working on plan B...

10 November 2011

Autumn in Vancouver


For some reason I am having a really hard time adjusting to our new life in Vancouver.


I don't like the traffic both in vehicles and pedestrians or the extremely busy schedule we have had since our arrival.


I have been trying to find some peace, quiet and tranquility.


It has been very difficult. 


The one thing I have been enjoying is the beautiful fall colours and mild weather...

 

I have been struggling with the question...what do you do when you spend years working towards something and when you arrive it is not quite what you were expecting. I may be experiencing a little of the "be careful what you wish for" blessing/curse. 


For now, I am practicing patience, perseverance and tolerance.

I am trying to appreciate the beauty that is around me and I have been focusing on my studies. As I am reminded daily by signs all around campus, I am living in a "Place of Mind"...


I have experienced many changes to my lifestyle since I have been here both good and bad all of which take some getting used to...

I'm not sure what the next few years will bring, but I find myself repeatedly thinking about the saying: that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger...


I am hoping for the latter.

19 September 2011

Hard Times

I have been in a bit of a downcast mood lately. Although, I am really working hard at staying positive. In addition to a lot of technical difficulties lately (hence the lack of photos), it has been a very busy and stressful time.

 I have two weeks left in my current semester of classes and eight assignments left to write...I am having a very hard time coming up with a story for my next assignment (they all end up really depressing and not fun to write...). I always seem to end up with a large amount of work to do at the end of each semester, possibly due to my tendency to procrastinate. Or possibly due to the fact that I have a husband and four kids to take care of and I am usually moving or something else equally life changing at the same time. Probably a combination of the two. I don't like having so much to do in so little time. But, on the bright side my student loan has just been approved for my next batch of classes. Once I finish those I only have to apply for loans one more time before I finally finish my degree. The next batch of classes also finishes off my third year courses and begins my fourth. I can finally see the end of a very long (but rewarding) process.

My hubby has been working (ie. going to school) long hours, which was expected, but still very difficult. We all realize (kids included) how important it is for him to finish this degree and we are all learning patience, but, we really miss him.The bright side of this is we have been more diligent in using our time together well and not wasting it. Time apart also emphasizes to all of us how much we love each other and how important our family is.

The kids are back at school and seem to be enjoying it. But, we are all having moments of REALLY missing home school. The kids have each had their days of not wanting to go and wishing they were back at home and I miss them every day. But, I am loving spending one on one time with the youngest. Every morning as we are walking hand in hand back to our vehicle after dropping the kids off, he looks up at me with a big smile and says "mommy, just me and you!". Our days are designated "just me and you" days and have been really special. My youngest son has been the least affectionate of my kids, but during "just me and you" times I get lots of hugs and kisses and lots of "I love you so much mommy". If it wasn't for the obvious benefits to my youngest (and me) I think I would have pulled the other kids from school. So far they have come home with lots of tales of playing lego, playing on the computers ("we are allowed to go on any sites we want at school! I got to watch youtube for a really long time!"), colouring, playing outside on the playground ("even during school time!"), etc. I am happy that they are having fun, but....I do hope they actually start learning something soon. I tend to get a little frustrated with the school system. But, I am trying hard to give it a chance...although the message I left for a teacher to call me last week has yet to be returned...

And probably my number one stress is something that stresses out a lot of people...$$$.
We have been living below the poverty level for quite a few years now. But, we have been very fortunate while my husband has been in school to have had very low or no rent due to our generous parents who have provided homes for us to live in. For the first time since he has been in school we are renting from somebody other than a parent and living in Vancouver the most expensive city to live in in the country. We are definately feeling the difference and are on very strict food rations. I have tried very hard to feed my children well over the years to build good palates and it has been great. My kids love eating things like spanakopita and calamari, vegetable curries, pasta with swiss chard, ricotta and lemon. Lots of things that most kids don't like. Now, we are on a VERY tight food budget that doesn't allow such things. I am working with about 10% of my usual food budget. In some ways this is good and it gets my creative juices going (I still refuse to buy and live off boxed macaroni and cheese). I still cook from scratch but am running out of uses for large russet potatoes (20lbs for $3.99). I have also been forced to bake bread almost daily which is something I wanted to do anyway and have truthfully just been to lazy. The biggest problem living in the city with no money is all the shopping that surrounds us...there are too many things to want! We are learning how to be thankful for the things that we have, because really, when you look around the world we could have so much less.

Life IS stressful and right now it IS hard. But, I am learning a lot. I really believe that our times of trials can help us grow and become better (or if nothing else they help us to appreciate when times are going well).

One of my favourite quotes is by Anne Frank who said, "Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy". I like to think of this whenever I am feeling a little down; because really, I have so much to be thankful for.

17 September 2011

computers...

I am not sure why, but for some reason computers and I have not been compatible. I bought a new computer a few weeks ago and this past week, it died. I think I was the lucky recipient of some sort of virus. After a three hour phone call with a computer tech I was able to reconfigure my computer and make it new again. Unfortunately, I once again lost everything I had saved. Unfortunately I had not gotten around to backing up the new photos and essays yet, I wrongly assumed that since the computer was so new, everything would be okay....sigh.

My advice for the day...back up files on a daily basis.

12 September 2011

Happy 100th

This is my 100th post...


photo courtesy of my amazing hubby

I found it interesting as I looked over the past 99 posts to see how much life has changed in such a short time. I started writing less than two years ago and in that time I have lived in three very different places. I spent a year homeschooling my kids (which I loved and my children had varying responses to). I canned a lot and didn't bake as much as I would have liked. I have crawled closer to the end of my degree...5 1/2 years in and counting. I have greatly increased my collection of transferware dishes and vintage kitchen items...which reminds me I need to take some pictures of the items more recently acquired. I have read a lot and have had a lot of fun playing with my camera.

I have learned that while changes can be (very) stressful at times they also teach us a lot about ourselves and what our priorities are. I am still learning but getting ever closer to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. I am just trying to figure out how to fit the dreams and wants of six different people into one family life. I think that is the most difficult part of trying to follow our dreams...getting our dreams to work well together...but we have been working on that too and have almost figured everything out.

We are all learning and experiencing new things as we keep moving forward towards our goals and fulfilling our dreams. I can't wait to see where I am 100 posts from now!

07 September 2011

Looking East


This week our family has been feeling a little nostalgic.


 Maybe it's the craziness of my hubby's hours (he had a few days that lasted until 2am in the studio)...


maybe it's the beautiful September weather that still feels like summer...


it could be that we were stuck in the house for a day and the boys were getting restless and I may have mentioned once or twice how nice it was to have a large house with room to run around...


perhaps it was visiting the local beach and the only sealife we found was 20 or 30 tiny crabs and they were all dead (no hermit crab racing here)...





or maybe it's the fact that Lobster season is over and we didn't have any this year (all but one of us thoroughly enjoyed lobster seasons for three years).


 But, everyone in the family has been missing the Maritimes.


All of us.


 Every day for a week.


 I can't seem to get away from it.


 I pull a random book off the shelf and it is "Above Atlantic Canada", I grab another and it is Anne of Green Gables.


I turn on the TV and Chef Michael Smith is cooking "at home" in Prince Edward Island.

I apologize for the lousy phone photo, but that is me and my daughter and chef Michael Smith in PEI.

 I walk into the kitchen and my daughter is looking at photos on the labtop, scrolling through the past few years...


sigh...


and to top it off, just for fun I pulled up the MLS listings for our current location with homes starting around 1.5 million for a fixer upper...switch to the Maritimes and a similar house will set you back less then 100 thousand. With 1.5 million you can buy your own island or hundreds of acres, or an estate. I do love Vancouver and think the next few years will be a great adventure for our family. But, I am still dreaming of my farm...


and maybe some lobster.


30 August 2011

Vancouver

It feels so good to be reconnected. I have a new internet connection that works and is fast AND a new computer that has more than half a screen!!! I am a happy girl. I have missed my blog.

The family and I have had a crazy busy month!


Two and a half weeks ago we arrived at our new home in Vancouver and spent a week exploring...the beach, the aquarium, the science centre, the hiking trails in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, Granville Island Market...and we have been unpacking and I have been working furiously away on my courses - one month to go and A LOT of work to do! I didn't get pictures of anything except our visit to the UBC rose garden


 which was beautiful by the way.


The hubby started school a week ago and is enjoying it but the hours have been CRAZY!

I am a little nervous about what the next three and half years will be like. But, as we always say the time will go by anyway and working hard will bring us closer to our dreams.

 At times we wonder if we are doing the right thing, our dreams are expensive, time consuming and often exhausting...but you know what, they are so worth it. Eight years ago we stopped and re-evaluated and decided to live a fuller life. Instead of just working to pay the mortgage and living for the week-ends we wanted to live our dreams and in the process we have learned and experienced so much! We are learning a lot about ourselves and what our priorities are and what we really want out of life. We have traded in security and stability but nobody said following dreams would be easy, if they were everybody would be doing it! I know that if we continue to work hard and move towards our goals we will get there...we just have to have patience. I have been making plans for my future this week and working out details on what I will be doing. Although it will still be about a year and a half before I finish my degree...all else on hold until I can get that done. (except I do want to get a new camera sometime soon and practice and play with that. We will see.)

I read somewhere once that the species that survive are the ones that are most adaptable to change...I like to keep that in mind and often repeat it to my kids...I have had a bit of a mutiny around here and two of the three want to go to school this year and have convinced the third to go along with them. So, no homeschool for me this year. It will be a good change. They want to meet some kids in our new area and I will have some one on one time with the four year old which we have never had. So, I just keep rolling with the waves as they come.

For me a life of change brings challenges but also keeps it fresh and exciting! I never know what is around the next bend in the road...


but so far, things keep working out for the best.

Summer has been great and full of memories; fall is just around the corner and I can't wait to see what it brings!

20 July 2011

berry season

I was so happy to receive a phone call from my local organic farmer to tell me they had three flats of Raspberries ready for me! I have been waiting so patiently for the rain to stop (the okanagan has had the rainiest, coolest summer that I remember. We haven't even topped 30 degrees yet! I think this is mother nature's way of preparing me for my move to Vancouver). The berries finally managed to dry off long enough to be picked and I jumped and ran out the door as soon as I received the call.


We have been snacking on berries all week and it has been wonderful. I really try to buy a lot of fresh berries when they are in season. I feel so bad for my kids who do not have the pleasure of picking berries in the backyard. When I was growing up my granny had a large garden and every summer I used to pick strawberries and raspberries by the ice cream pail full and I could always eat as many as I wanted. We also had a large row of blackberry brambles running across the front of our property and I would do the same in late August with those. Even though we don't have our own, I try to recreate the excitement of berry season by buying as many flats as we can eat. My kids look forward to berry season every year and we all dream of the time when we can just step out into the backyard for our yearly fix.

All the berries around our house has also kicked off canning season! This week I have made over thirty jars of jam: strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, raspberry, raspberry strawberry cherry, and apricot. The smells coming from the kitchen have been amazing! I have frozen bags of rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries - cherries are coming later this week. I always feel so content looking at what I have stored away for winter.


I also surprised my kids with another treat from my childhood...while the two oldest were out with their grandma for the afternoon, I whipped up a double batch of granny's pyrahi (learn about granny's pyrahi here). I used the last of the strawberries for one batch and the first of the raspberries for the second...so good! I love being able to pass on a family tradition.



They taste of summer and happy childhood days.

I love berry season.


13 July 2011

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

While we were in Vancouver this past week-end the family and I decided to do a little exploring in the Pacific Spirit Regional Park. There are trails that begin literally steps from our new home. We LOVED it and are really excited to have such a large (763 hectares) park just outside our door.


We loved walking through the lush woods feeling like we were out in the middle of nowhere...even though we were in the city.


We spent over an hour walking through the trails, enjoying the wildflowers...


It was a beautiful sunny day; but it was nice and cool in the park.


Parts of the park are dark and lush while parts of the trails are out in the sun.


We walked and talked and laughed...


and spent the day enjoying each others company. I love when we find an activity that we all enjoy!


In addition to hiking we did something we have never done before...


We foraged for food!


There were a few different edible berries in season that we ate as we walked.


The four year old loved the huckleberries. I was also really excited to share huckleberries with my kids. I remember eating them when I was very young. One of my earliest memories is from when I was about four and I was in the backyard sharing huckleberries with my pet goat. This week-end I enjoyed the first huckleberry I have had in over twenty years!


The boys were so excited to be eating "like bears" and we were all pretty happy about getting such a great snack for free!


We were also really happy about all the blossoms...future berries that will be waiting for us on our next visit...

and I am particularly excited about the blackberries! I used to eat them by the ice cream pail full when they were in season. This week-end I saw thousands of blackberry blossoms...I think we will be doing a little more foraging in August.