Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver’

Happy Canada Day! This is our second as Canadians and what a journey it has been. Did I realise what would be required before we made the decision to relocate? No, definitely not! Fortunately we ventured into this as a family armed with the excitement of the challenge, the expectation of the new and the required amount of bravery.

 

There were times when I just wanted to jump right back into a box and post myself back to South Africa. I won’t bore you with all the things that I missed about the familiar life that I had left behind in sunny Gauteng. I quickly learnt after having to relocate a second time from Toronto to Vancouver that it was time to look forward and not backwards! What surprised me was how different things worked here in British Columbia. It was like being in a different country! As with all things, patience is required and slowly you get into the rhythm of a new place and you pick up on the customs and nuances.

One of the things we needed to do was to get ourselves settled into a new abode.  La Ravine is a west coast house nestled in a forest with the Mission Creek running alongside it. We recently had an arborist visit our property to check out the health of our 60 aging trees. Can you imagine waking up one morning to find a giant Douglas fir lying across our kitchen table? After all the effort we have put into fixing up our ‘mouldy oldie’, it would be deemed a disaster! We realized early on that a having a house is one way of putting your roots down in a new country. It is somewhere for your family to come home to and to know they belong there and are loved. This was one thing that I could contribute to and I have spent many happy hours bashing, banging, painting and digging. My stamp is on this little piece of Canada!

Nature does not always appreciate our effort and it ‘fights’ back in many ways to reclaim its territory.  The forest drops branches and copious pine cones and leaves on our roof. Moss and algae live happily on our roof shingles and door frames. The river erodes away our riverine bank and the frequent Vancouver rains wash away our topsoil. We are conscious that we are definitely custodians of this little forest while nature allows us to be.

But for now we will rejoice in our home among the trees.

 

Read Full Post »

Sitting in the morning sun……

Sun, glorious sun has finally arrived here on the West Coast! We have had continuous sunshine for over 2 weeks! We revel in it and the excitement is tangible. Everyone is outside. I soak up every opportunity to feel the warmth on my back. There is nothing better than a morning stroll along the boardwalk at the seafront. I watch the sea traffic out in the bay…..laden tankers, sleek yachts and majestic ocean liners. They glide by through the first narrows of the Burrard Inlet. Cheeky seaplanes swoop overhead and make their presence felt too. I have almost…..not entirely…forgiven Vancouver for the awful winter that we experienced this last year.

Watching the ships roll by….

Today was to be a different experience as I fancied to get closer to the water. I pulled my dusty bicycle out of storage and donned my ravishing helmet. The descent from our house is long and steep so I decided to NOT test the quality of my brakes. On the North Shore I jumped on the ferry.  My helmet irritated me as I hate the ‘hat- hair’ that it gives me. But this was definitely something that I was going to have to conform to. I tried to appear nonchalant, as if I done this many times before. But I stuck out like a sore thumb with my European Stroller with the basket on the front……in retrospect I am sure no one even noticed me! I must add that the cyclists I encountered that day had either rugged or very sleek bikes along with the most up to date bike attire. This was obviously a very serious sport!

On the seawall at Stanley Park

“You are being ridiculous!” I chastised myself and turned my attention to the view from the ferry across the bay.

It took me 2 hours to get from the city around Stanley Park and back with a few pit stops along the route. The pathway followed the seawall for most of the way. There were plenty of other bikers as this was obviously a favourite outride.

“On your left.” The cyclists shouted as they appeared from behind me. This unnerved me at first but I soon became accustomed to the ‘rules of the road.’ It was heavenly to breathe in the fresh sea air and to feel the cool breeze on my face. The bay was a hive of activity. I had to concentrate on where I was going as I was distracted by all the sea traffic.

The noon horn blew and it was time to stop for lunch. I sat at a sidewalk café with a wonderful vista over the yacht club. It was a sensory overload with some people watching thrown in for good measure.

Two thousand miles I roam just to make this dock my home….

There are times when I have to pinch myself. Where am I living? Yes, I am in Vancouver. During these times I reflect back on my life back in South Africa……for a minute on that seawall, I was racing down the hill from the Lonehill Koppie down to my school. But I return to reality…..

“It is time to head home.” My new Canadian friend had kept a watchful eye over this newbie on her bike adventure into the city. Thanks for showing me ropes! Little did I know there would be more to learn. I still needed to work out how to get my bike from the ferry onto the front of the bus. I was not about to attempt the hill ride up to our house.

There were limits to these exploits!

My bike has a new experience too……

 

Read Full Post »

 

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Music stirs my soul and I have such fun finding just the right piece for my blog. Sometimes it is the lyrics that resonate but other times it is just the voices that make it pertinent. The rich sounds waft through my house as I listen and enjoy. This recording is no exception as these voices really do justice to Queen’s famous rendition. They just add to the Hygge in my house on this beautiful sunny day in Vancouver.

I recently came across the term Hygge. It fascinated me as it is something that I have always practiced without giving it much thought. This also explained my endless preoccupation over the last year with getting my house cosy and inviting. It is a difficult concept to translate as it vague and has many interpretations but here goes….. It is from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well being.’ The Danes, who are regarded as the happiest country in the world, practice this concept in their homes and in the way they live. If I was to give you a practical example you could imagine this…..I am sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold Canadian winter’s night with a glass of red wine in my hand and my dog curled up at my feet. That is Hygge! Another could be sitting in a steaming hot tub on a cold January evening with the snow lining the trees and an equally satisfying beverage in my hand. This is Hygge!

You could be curled up under your duvet in your apartment, watching your favourite television programme while you chomp away at a decadent box of chocolates. It could be as simple as lighting a candle just to create the right atmosphere. Or having friends over for a relaxed potluck. These are all Hygge!

My garden, a cup of morning coffee and Josh…..my idea of Hygge.

It is about being kind to yourself, indulging in simple pleasures and not denying or punishing oneself because of it. I like the sound of that. What is life all about if we can’t have a little bit of what you fancy?

But it has wider applications too and not just confined to the comforts of home. Certain aspects have been introduced into the workplace to reduce stress levels. I noticed on a recent visit to the Amazon headquarters in Seattle that principles of the idea were being implemented. Amazon staff were encouraged to bring their dogs to work. Special areas were created to accommodate their needs. There was an outdoor play area where they could socialise with their canine brothers and do the necessary ablutions. These dogs have added another ‘Hygge’ dimension to an otherwise stressful day in the life of a software engineer. It makes you think……

Leo catching the number 9 to work…….

As far as I am concerned, a little piece of Denmark is alive and well at La Ravine …..our home in the forest.

Rhododendrons beckon you to draw closer…..

 

You might like to read the book The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russel

Read Full Post »

I must stay conscious
Through the madness and chaos…….

 

“You do know that the rain never stops in Vancouver!”

It was move- in day and true to form, it bucketed down. Soggy people and boxes filled the front doorway. The movers lurched down our four flights of stairs and the piles of boxes steadily climbed towards the skylights.

“Where would you like this?”

I looked up from my pile of paper in the kitchen.

“I really don’t know! Find a space……anywhere.” I wanted to weep.

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare....

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare….

So I call on my angels….

I lay and listened to the loud squawk of the Steller’s jay and the deep blast of the cruise ship’s horn that resonated from the harbour. My brain was still trying to process ‘all that is new’ from my unfamiliar environment. These sounds sooth the jaded unpacker’s weary muscles. I decide to lie just another 10 minutes. I can see down to the river from my uncurtained bedroom window. I jump up and open the door onto the balcony…..just a fraction. Enough to keep the cool morning air out and to let in the sounds of the bubbling stream. It is still too early for our grey heron who has regular fishing trips along our banks. He must be having a lie in too! I have begun to recognise the clicking hoop of his call and the enthusiasm of his flapping wings through the giant cedar trees.

Our resident Stella's jay...the national bird of BC.

Our resident Stella’s jay…the national bird of BC.

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas....

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas….

I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
……
My days disappear as I fill them with trying to create some order out of this chaos. I am making headway with the unpacking of boxes and am slowly becoming an expert at discarding unwanted clutter. Yes, I am still at it! My heart has hardened and am able to toss that favourite scarf or special ornament. This is round two of my clear out session! Hopefully the thrift shop will find a home for all these once ‘special things’ that have no place in our downsized abode. Fortunately we still have a Black Hole which runs under the house. It is slowly filling up with the camping gear, Christmas decorations and seasonal items like the skis. I hesitate to place anything there. It is dark and awful and I hate going down there! It feels like any piece of furniture or box that gets put down in the hole, is being committed to a stint in solitary confinement.

Josh on his morning fishing expedition....

Josh on his morning fishing expedition at our river.

Victory is in my veins…..

Nature reminds me of the rhythms that surrounds me. I feed off the familiarity in the sounds of the birds and the consistency of the flow of the river. Some things don’t change.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay...with some tech assistance.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay…with some tech assistance!

 

Read Full Post »

 

This rendition is by Heart at the Kennedy Centre with the original group in the audience. It was performed for the first time in 1971.

There is a lady who is sure all that glitters is gold

And she is buying a stairway to heaven…….

My legs ache as I trundle up, what feels like the 100th time, the four levels of our staircase to the road. The garden debris duly deposited, I make my way down again for the next load. The overgrown garden is getting a facelift. I tug away at strings of rampant creeper and slowly the magnificence of this garden is being revealed. There are all sorts of treasure troves beneath this blanket of green…..two earthenware pots, old garden tools and discarded lights. As I unearth each object there is an unraveling of the story behind this house.

Two earthenware pots emerge from the undergrowth....

Two earthenware pots emerge from the undergrowth….

There is a feeling I get when I look to the west…..

This wild child was designed and built in the 70’s and is a real mix of eclectic west coast charm. Plenty of light pours in from the large windows and skylights. Besides her cheerful disposition, this old rocker was due for her Botox rejuvenation.  It seems that she has had 2 other owners besides us. Each adding their own taste in style with ‘creative flair.’ As a result some cohesion and updating was necessary. I can assure you…..not all of it cosmetic either! Most of the updating centres on the damp issue. The house is built on rock and where you have rock, you have water. The scourge of any home owner up near the Grouse Mountain.

The original plans

The original plans of house in the forest…..

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,
And the forests will echo with laughter…….

I hear you saying……why no house inspection? The Vancouver house market is so vicious that if you request a house inspection, you lose the house. We had already looked at so many mouldy oldies and this one certainly captivated us with her forest and her stream. It was a choice we made with our eyes wide open. We had to just jump in and swim! And swim we did, with the reality of what lay ahead of us. In record time renovators were organised. Matt, you are a gem! You have taken charge with such professionalism. Each week brings progress and with that my sleep pattern improves. So far floors have been ripped up and it has revealed this lady’s checkered past. We deal with each of these transgressions in turn. A gas line will be brought down from the road for heating and cooking. Areas are being damp proofed, gutters replaced and electrics updated. But always the one to prepare for the unforeseen. I have bought myself a really fancy new bathing costume…..just in case!

'n Ruskansie ......

‘n Ruskansie ……

Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder……..

Our lease on the apartment expires this weekend, the fate of our cars unknown, we have an unfinished house and our dear hound sits in the kennels! We are joining the ranks of the homeless in Vancouver! On the bright side, we have a 70’s rocker who is dusting off her dancing shoes. She is about to emerge from her chrysalis and will be rejoicing in her new found splendour!

Her second childhood has begun……

There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold……

Read Full Post »

I almost can cannot handle it…….

It had been months of preparation and finally the truck had been packed up with all our worldly possessions. You could not squeeze another toothbrush into the back of the neatly tessellated boxes. We had managed to downsize somewhat and I felt relieved that the loot had reduced to a more manageable amount. I waved at the already familiar truck driver as he rounded the corner. He had a good 40 hours of driving ahead of him across Canada. Did I ever realise how big this place was before we got here?

Another box to add to the pile....

Another box to add to the pile….

 

I have been waiting for this moment……..

The relief was tangible and I felt the stress just tumble off my shoulders. Now all that was left was to organise Josh’s travels and the 2 cars. The vehicles were fetched that evening by 2 flatbed trucks. The drivers walked around the 2 clean immaculate passengers. Even ‘they’ had been prepared for their trip to the west coast! The drivers strutted around and rubbed at the dust marks on the body work. But I knew these 2 beauties were ready and scratchless and could be winched into place. From there they would be driven into a carrier and securely tied down. Our pool table was going to be slide in alongside the cars. Another thing to tick off the ‘to do’ list!

My Highlander graciously takes up her position....

My Highlander graciously takes up her position….

It is good to be alive round about now…..

At 5am the next morning Josh was collected. He gingerly jumped into his crate and settled down on his familiar soft blanket. He looked across at me knowingly. I assured him ‘that the trip was shorter this time round.’ The last of my packing was done. What a relief! The next few days would be spent with family and friends. It was bitter sweet to say goodbye. I suppose the reality of what you have meant to people and what they have meant to you only really hits home when you leave. I was very honoured and touched by the outpouring of emotion. I am so grateful to them for being part of my life over these last 5 years. We hope that Vancouver will be on their favourite list of vacation spots in the near future.

I think I have finally found my Hallelujah….

The call came in at the airport that the truck in which are cars were traveling had met with an accident. No one was hurt fortunately….. except the cars! In true Canadian fashion a moose had walked out across the road and the truck had swerved to avoid it. What are the chances? Oh well, they are after all, just vehicles. I will be most grateful if the second truck gets to us safely. Hopefully no moose migration is imminent over the next few days.

The culprit.....

The culprit…..

Somehow I fancy a little red low- slung number. On second thoughts maybe an orange one……we are after all empty nesters with no ‘real’ responsibilities!

I could get used to this……

My beloved garden pots have certainly seen a bit of the world....

My beloved garden pots have certainly seen a bit of the world….

 

Read Full Post »

I’m only one call away……

It is hard to believe that 5 years have passed since we landed here in Canada. There was so much to absorb and learn over that time. Many of you have followed me through my blog with these trials and tribulations. You have encouraged and sometimes commiserated with me and I have so appreciated your impute. No longer a stranger here in Canada, I have the feeling of permanence and belonging to this vast country. But ‘life’ decided to toss me another surprise, just in case I decided I might go down the curved path of complacency…..a move across Canada to Vancouver!

“Oh no! How do I put my head around this one?”

We say goodbye to Oakville and all our favourite haunts.

We say goodbye to Oakville and all our favourite haunts.

Change is never easy but change in those Golden Years is even harder. But our South African pioneering spirit stands us in good stead and before too long I was ready ‘to pack and follow.’ As I slowly sift through the contents of the house in my effort to downsize, I reflect on our time here in Oakville. A lump surfaces in my throat when I think of the family I leave behind. Hopefully the attractions of Vancouver and us, of course, will bring them over for frequent visits. We have family nearby across the border in the US which is an added bonus. So Morkel gatherings will be easier to orchestrate once the Toronto family have hit town.

Our forest in our new home .....

Our forest in our new home …..

Call me if you need a friend……

Friends are going to be hard to leave. These ladies have taught me so much with their generous spirits. I am richer for having them in my life and am grateful for their kindness. They have given me a rudimentary appreciation of Art, taught me various Pilates positions which have put a spring in my step, shown me how to wield a paddle so that a canoe moves, familiarised me with the property market in Canada, instructed me in the art of interior decorating so that I know how to group and use colour or have just been my companion on long walks or a coffee date. I am going to miss you all so much.

No matter where you go
You know you’re not alone……

I leave here with a full heart.  We do hope that you will visit us in the beautiful city of Vancouver.

The view from the north shore across to Vancouver.

The view from the north shore across to Vancouver.

 

I’m only one call away
I’ll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I’m only one call away.

Read Full Post »

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…..

Read Full Post »

This is what I have been waiting for……..

My car is parked surreptitiously down the side of our house in my neighbour’s driveway. Josh is next to me in his basket. He watches intently as the ‘foreign’ visitors make their way up our stairs and through the front door. He is accustomed to the ritual of ‘clearing out of the house’ each day. Private viewings seem to be the format here in Canada and Show Days are reserved for the inquisitive shoppers. Once he notices me grab hold of his bed, he rushes to the door. He is ever hopeful that this evacuation might include a walk. We sit there in the sub-zero temperatures until the viewing is complete. Each prospective buyer is sized up by myself and my canine helper. Is this the one?

I know it is going to be a good day……

I struggled to write this passage as I found the whole process of selling our beloved house emotional and difficult. Strangers were in and out of our Maison de Morkel. They quizzically sized it up from all angles and inspected every corner. But 3 weeks have passed since then and I am happy to announce that the deed is done. Our house is finally sold!

It has happened!

It has happened……

Canada is a huge country and to move from east to the west coast is like moving to another continent. It would have taken us 4 days to drive the distance. Instead we are going to wing our way over this vast country while the contents are being shoved into containers and onto a truck. Josh has had his very own designer wooden crate made and squeezed back into the hold on the plane too.  The Groot Trek Mark 2 is about to begin.

I shuffle my slipper less toes to the kitchen……….

A house does not just shut itself up! Besides the disconnection of all the usual utilities like gas and water, there is mail to be redirected. We won’t even mention the sorting and discarding that needs to happen. Conveniently I am the only one left at home once my youngest son leaves for university. So the lot of packing and throwing out has been unanimously delegated to mom. A quick word of warning…….Don’t play the ‘Where is it?’ game with me once we get to Vancouver!

Hello, you beautiful thing……

There is some merit in the sorting frenzy as one gets to re-evaluate your worldly possessions and to say farewell to those that just don’t bring you ‘joy’ anymore. I know that might sound trite, but hear me out. I recently read The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up. According to the author on the New York best seller’s list, Marie Kondo, “If it does not bring joy……chuck it!” This book could not have arrived at a more timely moment when all our household goods were about to be scrutinised, categorised and some eliminated. You begin to realise how little you really need.

My thoughts are all I have so I try to make them brave……

In my mind’s eye I can see myself with my head buried deep in a cupboard looking for the elusive joyless item!

 

 

Read Full Post »

Like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion…..
My hand works skilfully up and down the clear window pane. A stray hair blows across my face and I stop and gaze out towards the river. It lies dormant with its thick ice cap and dainty snow crystals that cling to the surrounding trees. As with all tasks that are repetitive, it helps to keep in the rhythm. Up and down the soft cloth soothes…..it will be the last time. I reach down low to the small finger prints of the twins. I falter and then continue with my stroke. One swish and the sticky marks have been erased. It has begun. I have begun the process of cleaning, sorting, throwing out and the packing of boxes.
My power is turned on……

A rekkie in Vancouver this last week.....

A rekkie in Vancouver this last week…..

The Groot Trek Mark 2 will be a mere 3500 km from Toronto to Vancouver. We rush around and get our house ready for the inevitable Show Day. We replace light bulbs, make lists and run backwards and forwards to donate accumulated ‘things’ to the thrift store. Personal items like our cherished family photographs are all safely packed away. The house needs to appear to prospective buyers like a blank canvas. What a hard task that is! It is as if Maison de Morkel never existed. In our hearts it still does and I remind myself that it is healthy to visit all this sentimentally. The downsizing has begun…..
This is my fight song…….
“I can do this.” I tell myself as I round the corner on my way back from the lake. It is strange……the other day I was priding myself on my exceptional navigational skills. I know all the short cuts and seldom get lost. The monotone voice of my SATNAV used to be my constant companion but her job is in definite jeopardy. I finally have a sense of belonging here in Oakville. It has taken almost 5 years for that wonderful state of ‘I belong here’ to kick in. But as life has it, one must never get too comfortable or feel just a tad complacent. Immigration has certainly taught me to accept change and CHANGE I must….. It does not help to fight this new state but rather to channel my energy into preparing for our new life in Vancouver.
Starting right now I will be strong….
We leave behind our 2 sons and our dear friends. My heart feels heavy at the mere thought of it. One gets used to keeping your family close when you do this ‘country hop.’ It is going to seem strange not to have them popping in for a chat, dad’s steak or mom’s pasta. We are so grateful to the friends and neighbours who have been there for us. They have shared all our trials and tribulations. It is a bitter sweet move as the rest of our family awaits our arrival on the other side. I see 2 little faces running up our driveway.
No doubt Jack and Kate will make new finger prints on our Vancouver abode.

D1-1309c_edited

Christmas with the family in Toronto 2015.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »