Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We're just enjoying our first Christmas in Victoria. In an unlikely series of weather events, it turned out to be a white Christmas, something we didn't have in Strasbourg last year. However, I don't think the snow will last long -- it rained last night, and today the sun is shining brightly.

Last year we had a tight budget, so we set a 10€ limit for each present. This year we thought we would carry on the tradition, so we were to spend a maximum of $15 on each person. Most of us ended up going over the budget by a bit, but on the whole we were good about sticking to the limit.

We also had fun doing our Christmas Eve presentations for each other. Last night we learned about Christmas traditions in Finland, Germany, France, and other countries, listened to streaming Christmas music from the internet (after I finally found the sub-woofer for our computer speakers in the filing cabinet), enjoyed some of Meghan's flute selections, and talked about our best Christmas memories.

This Christmas and last are very different, yet they're also alike in many ways. Last year we spent Christmas in a foreign land; this year, even though we're back in Canada, we're spending Christmas in a new city, still a "foreign land" to us. Last year it was just the four of us in our little apartment in Strasbourg; this year, since we still live a great distance from our extended families, it's just the four of us again, but this time in our new house. But as always when we have a family celebration, we treasure the fact that our little family is a very close-knit one, sharing adventures that will mellow into memories that will last us a lifetime.

Whether you're celebrating alone or with loved ones, in the middle of an adventure or relaxing at home, we wish you a Merry Christmas, and the very best for 2009!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Victoria, the land of ice and snow

The weather has finally prompted me to do what no other experience in the last few months has managed to -- make a blog posting. The normal temperatures for Victoria are 7C for the high and 2C for the low. During the last week we've had temperatures down to about -10C at night and still below freezing during the day. The temperature has felt much colder on some days due to the wind, which blows quite regularly here.

Not only is it cold, but we're in the grip of a major winter event in Victoria: snow and ice that actually stays on the ground. Now don't get me wrong -- we're not surprised, shocked or appalled. Our many winters in Burns Lake, and before that, Yellowknife, have prepared us well for the white stuff that we have been experiencing. But I must admit that we're not driving our van right now, since we only have summer tires on it. This is a direct result of many years in the north which led us to buy separate sets of summer and winter tires -- and who's going to put winter tires on a vehicle in Victoria!

People who were born in Victoria all have a secret gleam in their eye when you ask them about the weather. Snow (that stays) is such an unusual event in Victoria that they all seem to really enjoy it. However, if you speak to anyone who has moved to Victoria from virtually anywhere else in Canada, they're seriously ticked off about the weather! The worst part for them at this time of year is heading back to where they came from (e.g., Edmonton, Saskatoon, etc.) for the annual Christmas visit. Not only are they heading into cold weather, but they're leaving the cold Victoria weather behind! This time they can't even brag about how warm it is here in the winter.

Surprisingly, the cats are really enjoying the snow: they go outside quite regularly during the day and get crazy in it (especially Aurora). Meghan is also thrilled. The one bad thing about Victoria for Meghan was the idea that there might be no snow in the winter. Perhaps in an effort to win her over and make her feel welcome, the city has provided a blanket of white for her to enjoy, and Meghan is making the most of it. She has been going outside at least twice a day to play in the snow and only comes in when her feet start freezing. Considering she only has rubber boots (another sign of our unpreparedness, having discarded the old winter boots when we left Burns Lake) she does quite well.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Penthouse Suite

We spent the month of September in a condo just north of Beacon Hill Park. It was a nicely kept place, and well-decorated. It also gave us one more life experience -- I think it will be the only time in our lives that we will be able to say that we lived in a penthouse suite!

The best part about living at the condo was being right across from the park, but staying downtown on Douglas Street was a close second. We were just up the street from the Royal BC Museum, so we bought memberships and spent a few Saturday afternoons there, seeing the exhibits and watching IMAX films. Weekend mornings were a lot of fun for Mark and me. We would get up fairly early and go for a walk through Beacon Hill Park and down to the rocks at the ocean.

After checking to see which cruise ships were in, we would circle back through downtown to pick up a coffee for Mark. When we got back to the condo, the kids were sometimes just getting up.

Another advantage to living downtown was being able to walk to work. When I started working at the Queen's Printer building in the middle of September, I only had to walk five minutes to work, which meant that I was also able to come home for lunch if I wanted. Mark's office was a little farther, but he still only had a 15-minute walk. We were able to park the van for long stretches of time (one time nearly two weeks!) and feel good about lessening our "carbon footprint".

For most of the time that we were in the condo, we were waiting to take possession of our new house. That happened on September 27, but since we had paid for the condo for the month of October as well, we took some extra days to make the transition over to the house.

By the time we moved into our house, we had lived in two other areas of Victoria. That, combined with driving all over Victoria in search of a house to buy, meant that we have a good understanding of the geography of the area -- a good introduction to a new city!