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We built our own house, own house
With our hands over our hearts.

Decisions are never easy to make especially when you are prone to deliberation. Buying a house is one of those big ones. It must be right up there on the scale of decision making challenges. It is not only the financial outlay that makes this a tough one, it affects the way  you choose to live and it reflects your personality. Strangely enough, it one decision that we make easily within the budgetary constraints. I either like a house or not. Distance dictated that the Vancouver house was going to be an exercise in online shopping as I was still located in Toronto.

My better half had diligently found over 300 ‘suitable’ houses in the North Vancouver area. He visited many of them and even put in an offer on one. But we lost it due to an over zealous bidder. We were so disappointed! Then one day while I was searching on line, I happened to stumble across a house nestled in its very own mini forest.  The added feature was that it had its very own creek too. I just knew that this was the one!

Our forest along with a treehouse...

Our forest along with a tree house…

The Vancouver market is crazy and houses sell in a matter of days with multiple offers. Therefore a decision had to be made promptly. I poured over photographs and zoomed over the roof of the house courtesy of drone produced aerial footage. This magical little instrument revealed the beauty of the trees that give this property its charm and privacy. Any urban sounds are drowned out by the fast flowing Mission Creek. The decision was made…….it was the easiest online purchase I had ever made.

But in case you think this tale has the makings of a bedtime story, there are challenges to be had. The big one is access to the property. The house is positioned well below the level of the road and the only access is a rather steep and lengthy staircase.

Once the euphoric online acquisition had been made, the inevitable buyer’s remorse set in. How were we going to manoeuvre all our worldly goods down that steep staircase and into the house? I could see myself somersaulting down the staircase with a large sofa hurtling behind me!
Sleepless nights were the order of my day and afterwards I gave a couple of lofty solutions to our problem ….one being to construct a wooden bridge from the garage across to the house. I had idyllic visions of me trotting across with my shopping packets swaying next to my sides. My tree walk would both be a practical solution as well as food for my soul. This did not go down well….

So the engineers and creative brains in our household are working on it. I am keeping my somewhat lofty solutions to myself. There are many ideas being banded about and much discussion has ensued. I trust that they are bound to come up with a  practical plan.

I think I will turn my attention to dreaming about how I am going to make this feel like our home

Wake up to the sun
Clouds always come undone
You give the light I need
Like water to a seed

The twins check on our shower.....

The twins check on our shower…..

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Some things will never change…….

The challenge came forth from way down south where the sun beats warmly on the African earth. Oh the memory of that warmth and clear sky, just the medicine to escape from the reality of our Canadian winter!  

We had been house bound for a few days and had clocked up a 25 centimetre drop of snow all in one day! The wind chill bit into the bones as we shoveled and cleared the driveway. It was a never ending job! We had hit the comfort foods and braved the streets to alleviate the cabin fever. Then ‘the dare’ came in and the spirits lifted. It was just too enticing a challenge to ignore and besides it would distract us from an otherwise dreary cold day.

 

The ramp takes shape....

The ramp takes shape….

But don’t you believe it……

The plan was put in motion. What equipment would be needed? It was obviously going to be a snow setting so all the ski paraphernalia was needed. Then the scene had to be set and this involved the building of a ramp. Some jumping technique would add a bit of flair to the short prescribed video footage. Thank goodness for the house full of engineers and our software ace. It was a case of all hands on deck. The snow shovels and extra garden ones were rounded up and the heaps of snow were reorganized into our very own Winter Olympic ramp. Sochi here we come! Bear in mind that at the bottom of the back garden there was an icy stream and a forest of mature elm trees that had to be avoided at all costs.

Think about it before you break the rules…..

We were finally set up, cameras were poised and the ramp glistened against the backdrop of trees. It was now close to minus 20 C and the breeze had picked up.  We proceeded to the top of the hill. Let’s do this! The thick ski jacket was pulled off to reveal the requirements for the challenge……a bathing costume!  Note this was not a baggy pair of bathing shorts but a speedo! I giggled uncontrollably and was banished to the side of the garden where I would not distract. I was reminded that this was a serious matter. I duly removed myself to a safer vantage point where I could safely chuckle into my coat. The skis were clicked into place, the ski poles dug in and a few warm up stretches were performed. Count down…..3…2….1 ….and my son was off. He slid down the track and flew up into the air over the ramp, twisted and landed perfectly. We all let out a whoop and I ululated from my banished position. He did it! He met the challenge!

 

Lights, camera, action.....

Lights, camera, action…..

It’s just the way it is……

The cold does strange things to you when you are cooped up for so long. It is similar to being stuck out in the bush for long periods of time. In South Africa it is known as being bosbev…k. So we survive the cold version of this malady by amusing ourselves with ‘many firsts.’  I am grateful that ‘the challenge’ took place in our back garden.  I am sure some of our neighbours might have called in the paramedics and had us rushed off to ‘groen dakkies’ if they had noticed our antics!

Groen dakkies: the asylum in Cape Town

bosbev…k:  bush mad.

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The icicles twinkled as the morning light shone across the deck. It had been a rough night. An ice storm had ripped across Ontario and left a path of destruction. We were reminded once more of the power of nature. The beauty of the ice crystals masked the scars of ripped branches that were strewn across the back garden. I opened the back door to examine the debris of trees and twigs and gasped as the cold wind rushed in. Ice crystals cracked and popped in the branches as the trees swayed to and fro…..a phenomenon I had never observed before. It was like the distant sound of rattling gunfire!

The iced leaves on our emerald cedar hedge.

The iced leaves on our emerald cedar hedge.

My morning kettle purred on the stove as I awaited that first sip of satisfying sustenance. All is well with the world when there is a cup of steaming tea! Suddenly everything electrical stopped…..the internal fan, the furnace and my beloved kettle. The world was silent. The next 24 hours were reminiscent of our regular power outages in South Africa. The only difference was that I was unprepared for this debacle and it was minus 10 outside! My first thought was that we needed to think of a way to stay warm. The reports were that ice storm had wreaked havoc with the local power lines. There goes my cup of tea!

The telephone broke the silence. “Are we still on for tonight?” The reality hit me!  I had been so taken by the force of nature in my back garden that I forgotten I had 30 people arriving on my doorstep in a few hours for some ‘Christmas Cheer.’

I asked myself the question: Do I go ahead with this? I have always been partial to a social gathering and allowed myself a 30 second rethink of the situation.

The cupboards were raided for supplies of candles. Thank goodness this household loves this waxy standby……festive reds, icy whites and angelic creams! So out they came and were strategically placed on every surface around the house. A pyromaniac’s delight! Some smart thinking had also resulted in a couple of long life torches. What a win! I felt pleased with the result. The Christmas decorations twinkled in this soft lighting and it looked festive and ready to receive our guests.. We had light and ambiance. Great! We were almost there. What was next on the agenda? I suppose we needed some FOOD!  

This proved to be more of a challenge as we could not deliver any ‘hot food.’ All the dainty phyllo pastry morsels would have to take a back seat.  Fortunately the larder was bursting with an array of snacks …it was Christmas after all! I was grateful for my passion for exotic cheeses as this would have to satisfy the more discerning pallet. So that was the menu sorted! Of course the fridges had loads of liquid ‘Christmas Cheer!’  There was also a pot of aromatic Gluwein which I managed to heat on an emergency hot plate. The aroma of the cloves and cinnamon wafted through the air and soothed my jarred nerves.  It was going to be just fine…..there were even a few bottles of bubbly firmly planted in ice buckets filled with the snow. As they say in the classics…..’n boer maak ‘n plan.

 IMAG1716

As I walk around and switch on my lights, turn up my music and sit by my flickering fireplace, I am grateful to have the power back on.  In the brief 24 hour period that we were off the grid, we certainly went into survival mode.  We were reminded of our essentials……we needed to eat and keep warm. Somewhere in between all of that we also managed to throw in a party! Ingenuity and the underrated little ol’ battery saved the day.

IMAG1745_1

                                       Let us celebrate and roar…..it is a new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It crept stealthily around the great elm tree at the bottom of the garden.  It stopped and its graceful form was silhouetted against the undergrowth. Slowly it moved closer and one leg hovered. It hesitated while it kept an eye out for any impending danger. Satisfied, the great blue heron trusted its surroundings enough to stay a while. It began to scout the blades of grass. This beautiful bird was so reminiscent of its familiar African cousins.  It had a different demeanour and was prepared to risk a closer look. It edged forward as it grabbed the sought after delectable grub.

 

Our graceful visitor

Our graceful visitor

 

There is something inside of me that just sings out loud when I venture into my garden. The inner child just wants to rush out! My garden is full of surprises and still taps into my sense of wonder. The joy of a spring bulb, the revival of an iced shrub and the scurrying visitors all keep me intrigued. It is a place where I can go to and remember who I am. It does not matter what country I live in. The joy and contentment it provides, remains the same.

 

The bastions lure you to explore further....

The bastions lure you to explore further….

 

 There are times in life when you have to dig deep, real deep to find that peace and contentment. Some find it in their chosen career path, others in the things they possess and some simply need to face a challenge. We focus on survival in our concrete jungles but in our gardens we can stop for respite. So I am fortunate that my garden provides that for me! There is something so honest and straight forward about tending a garden. As I wallow about with my plants, it puts all things that I ponder into perspective. It reminds me that there are no short cuts in life. As I begin to cut back the vigorous summer growth, I am also reminded that there is a time for everything in a garden. Each season brings hope and promise.

Some wise man once said: There is no paradise on this earth; it is up to us to create it. I just did!

 

Summer 2012 018

 

 

 

 

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