Friday, 7 August 2009

The new blog.... here....

This blog will remain online as I hope it will prove useful to future BATUS residents...

Monday, 20 July 2009

(Almost) ready to go!

Less than 24 hours left in our little house on the prairie and we are almost ready for the off. Macy has tried out her air kennel for size (see left) and Blackie..? She is settling in well with her new family, my replacement Dave and his wife Karyn. I moved her over on Friday, and they let her out for the first time today and she returned to her new home (and not ours!) without a hitch.

After weeks of agonising over her fate, I knew as soon as I took her on the 2 minute drive to her house, that her very temporary bewilderment was better than the stress that 48 hours traveling would have been for her.

Dave & Karyn are likely to live in Ralston for four or five years, so she won't be going anywhere now for a while.

In the meantime, I know that Cyprus has a huge amount of cats needing permanent or foster homes, so I'm sure one of those will be keeping Macy company soon.

I am still undecided over the name of the new blog, but details will follow I promise.... in the meantime there are cupboards to clean, bags to pack and food to redistribute. We fly from Medicine Hat to Calgary tomorrow, onto the UK on Wednesday and arrive in Cyprus on Monday August 3rd.... Hope you will join us on our next adventure!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Last weekend away

Our last few weeks are slipping by frighteningly quickly and I can't believe that we've just come back from our last weekend in the Rockies, but what a great place to have spent it...

Despite the daunting 10 hour round trip, we decided to head back to Nipika near Radium Hot Springs for one last weekend. We rented the cabin with our friend MaryAnne, her daughter Ophelia and a friend of theirs who was visiting for the UK.

We first went to Nipika in October when the weather was quite chilly, we meant to come back when the snow was on the ground (quite a large window of opportunity!) and failed, but did at least manage to see it in the summer, and the were really lucky with the weather, it was warm enough to have a dip in the lake and sunbathe on the floating platform.

As ever, our dog Macy and MaryAnne's dog Reggie had a fantastic time. Let off the lead from the moment they arrived to run free in the meadow chasing gophers and paddling in the lake with the two resident dogs Rufus and Murphy. They were both exhausted by the evening, which was handy when it came to getting them clean! (see above right!)

Despite driving through the heart of the Rockies and staying in the middle of a forest, we still failed to see any bears, which was sadly my last opportunity to do so! Two years searching for them and despite my best efforts the closest I got was a sanctuary in Oregon. We did however see a moose, which are far less common!

On our 5 hour journey home, we broke up the trip by stopping at Lake Louise and the Banff Gondola.

I had never managed to visit either in the summer when the colour is so fantastic, so it was another last minute tick in the box. However, both were absolutely heaving with tourists, so we nipped in, took photos and nipped out again - not quite the same as the tranquil isolated Nipika!

So back to Ralston and lots of packing and paperwork awaits us. I will try to update this blog one last time before we leave Canada in just over a week and then we will be moving on to Cyprus and a new blog, details of that to come!

In the meantime, more photos of our last weekend away here

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Counting down

The last week since we returned from our holiday has flown by. It was actually quite odd to be back in some respects. We had after all had everything shipped just before we left, so I think mentally we felt we'd gone for good!

The weather has been a little crazy since we got back. More thunderstorms than in the whole of the two years since we arrived! One morning we woke up to a really warm day and huge hail stones outside and we even had a tornado warning last night! Still as you can see, the prairie looks very good on all the rain! (left)

This week we have begun selling off our possessions in earnest, so much, from cars to electricals must go and I feel terribly sentimental about parting with things. We came here two weeks after we got married and bought all of this for our first home and now, as we always knew they would, circumstances mean we must move on. I keep telling myself that its all just "stuff", but its still very sad.

This morning we had our "pre-march out". This incredibly military sounding event is an early visit from the housing officer, where it is determined whether your quarter is in a suitable state to be handed back. The rules at some bases are stricter than others. In Germany there were even limits to the number of picture hooks you could have in a room and when I left they wanted the drains cleaned and the patio pressure washed! Here they aren't fussed about holes in the wall and just want things wiped down.... Good news!

As we count down, next week Jim and I have our "mug out", another militarism! It is basically a post-work drinks held in the mess for our peers to have a drink in our honour... Jim and I are unique in BATUS being the only couple (I think) who are both mess members in their own right, but it doesn't mean we get special treatment!

And we're off for good two weeks today. We fly from Medicine Hat to Calgary on Tuesday 21st, overnight in Calgary (I might FINALLY get up the tower!) and fly on to the UK on Wednesday 22nd. Ten days break in the UK and on to Cyprus arriving in the hottest month of the year... h'mmm....

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Road Trip : Los Angeles

So our final stop on the road trip was Los Angeles. We drove into town 24 hours after the news of Michael Jackson's death was made public, and Hollywood which is crazy at the best of times, was on a whole other level. The day before I had joked to Jim that we would "probably arrive at about the point they started selling the the commemorative t-shirts" - I was wrong, they made them overnight and they were on sale several hours before we rolled into town.

We stayed just off Hollywood Boulevard and from the moment we arrived there were people in Michael Jackson t-shirts, playing his music in their cars and talking about him on the street... weird, really weird.

The funny thing is that I had actually been quite a big Michael Jackson fan about 20 years ago, which coincidentally was also when I was last in LA.

We walked past the crowds at the makeshift shrine on the Walk Of Fame a couple of times, and on our last day when the queue was shorter, decided we really should spend 5 minutes waiting to see it, just because we were there. (see above left)

Away from the craziness of Hollywood our 36 hour stopover gave us a chance to visit somewhere else I hadn't been for two decades... Universal Studios.

For anyone else who also last visited it in the 80s, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you by saying that they have dismantled the Back To The Future set! However, they still have the San Francisco earthquake with the collapsing ceiling and flood, and they've added one of the sets from War Of The Worlds, Desperate Housewives (above) and a brilliant 4D Shrek movie...

So, with our pockets significantly lighter, we are safely back in Ralston. It's quite strange to be honest, because after having our shipping sent a few days before our holiday, I think we both felt that we had left for good, but 3 weeks today we'll be flying out of Medicine Hat and on to the UK. I think I have finally made a decision about the future of Blackie the cat, but I'll reveal that in a few weeks..

Oh and to answer another question I have been asked a lot... the blog will be continuing in Cyprus, but I'm not quite sure what it will be called!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Road Trip : San Francisco

Onwards to California and despite driving through temperatures that topped 100F, disappointingly it was high 60s for our couple of days in San Francisco. It was the first visit for both of us and I must say I was surprised at how much small town charm it has. We stayed very close to Fisherman's Wharf in the nautically themed Argonaut Hotel.

During our 2 days, we walked a few of the ludicrously steep hills, tracked down the house they used for the film Pacific Heights (long story!) both walked and drove down Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world) photographed the Victorian houses known as the Painted Ladies (see left) walked among the enormous redwood trees in Muir Wood and of course did the Alcatraz tour.

The boat trip to the island and audio tour of Alcatraz (on personal mp3 players) was pretty fascinating, but I was a little disappointed by the huge crowds of people. It seems to be a problem with anything touristy in America!

So it's day 14 and Jim has driven for about 22 hours since we picked up the Mustang in Seattle on Monday, I have dozed through most of it, so shouldn't really complain, but our packed itinerary is exhausting and we are both quite looking forward to being able to wash our clothes, eat home cooking and rest a bit! California & Oregon deserve a fortnight to themselves and a much slower drive up the coast, maybe we'll have a chance to come back and do that one day...

Tonight we have arrived at our last port of call, Los Angeles, which is crazy at the best of times, but after Michael Jackson's death yesterday it is on a whole other level, people selling RIP t-shirts on every street corner and news helicopters hovering over our hotel, but more on that in a few days...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Road Trip : Seattle & Oregon

We had a flying visit to Seattle after Vancouver Island. We traveled by train, which would have been a fantastic experience, were it not for the fact that 30 minutes short of our destination we were stopped in our tracks (literally) by a fatality on the line ahead of us. In the end we got in to our hotel about 3 hours later than scheduled at 1am.

Hotel 1000 however was worth the wait... a really fantastic hotel in a great location. We hadn't had particularly high expectations of Seattle as it was merely a stop en route from Canada to San Francisco, but we actually loved it.

We had Sunday brunch in the rotating restaurant at the top of the space needle (see photo above) which was a bizarre but rather brilliant experience. After that we spent the rest of the day at the Experience Music Project and the Sci-Fi museum next to it. Jim got a military discount and I got a student one (thanks to my OU photography course) so a good day all round!

In Seattle we picked up our hire car to drive the west coast to Los Angeles. Jim had been fantasising about getting a Mustang since we booked it, but they were very reluctant to let one out on a one way hire, so gave us a Chrysler Seabring instead.... However, when we got it back to the hotel we realised the convertible mechanism was broken, and to cut a VERY long story short, 12 hours later we were driving out of Seattle in a brand new (6 miles on the clock!) red Mustang with a free satnav - Jim hasn't stopped grinning yet!

Seven hours south, we overnighted at another great B&B, the Rogue Forest. A wonderful cabin in the woods with an open fire, and a river rushing past. It was a great shame we were only there for a night, but maybe we'll have a chance to come back one day.

From Grants Pass, we had a brief stop at the Wildlife Images sanctuary where I at last got to see a bear (!!) as well as cougar, bob cats and raccoons!

From there it was another six hours drive through the beautiful Oregon countryside (with the temperature steadily increasing) to California and San Francisco.... we are staying here in the Argonaut Hotel for three nights and then its on to LA on Friday.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Road Trip : Tofino & Ucluelet

The second half of our Vancouver Island trip took us up to the Pacific coast to Ucluelet and Tofino. As we drove from Victoria over the mountains, the sky began to darken and the misty grey skies that this section of the coast is so well known for, rolled in!

Despite the fact that nearly every photo of Tofino I had seen before the trip had shown these kind of conditions, we were relatively lucky with half of our four days on the coast managing a bit of sunshine.

Most of our activities took us out on the water. Our first trip was whale watching in a RIB in the rain! Despite immersion suits and wet weather gear, we came back drenched, but managed to see several killer and grey whales, a sea otter and a seal.

On Wednesday Jim had a surfing lesson off Chesterman Beach while I mooched round in the mist taking photos and yesterday we were back out on the boat for a wildlife viewing trip. As I think has been well documented on this blog, after two years in Canada I still have yet to see a bear (except if you count a very small blob on a hillside). Everyone I know out here has seen bears, even Jim. The people on the boat trip the day before us even saw 8 bears..... we went out and saw none at all!

I have less than 5 weeks left in Canada - so will some kind bear please humour me with an appearance or I'll begin to believe I have been the victim of some elaborate wind up!

So, three days on the water and we finished our visit to Tofino on the water too, by flying back to Vancouver on a Tofino Air float plane, more of a treat for Jim than me - 45 year-old single engine planes don't inspire me with confidence!

So we're back on the mainland and tomorrow it's on to Seattle by train.... In the meantime, lots of photos on my Flickr account here

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Road trip : Victoria

Yesterday we arrived at the wonderful Abbeymoore B&B (see left) in Victoria on Vancouver Island. After so long on the prairie, I really can't express how good it was getting out on the water on the boat that brought us across from Vancouver!

The ferry took about 90 minutes, half of which was open water in the channel between the island and the mainland and the other half was negotiated through an inlet. This second part of the trip was particularly stunning with lush green land meeting the water, blue skies and seals swimming alongside the boat, it reminded me a bit of Cornwall, just a bit more tropical!

Coming over to Vancouver Island has made us appreciate the vastness of Canada even more. The country is so enormous that they have an island more or less the size of the UK bolted on as an after thought! Clearly we've been here too long because we have adopted the same attitude as North Americans visiting Britain, which is we'll do the whole thing in 6 days, it's not that big!

So tomorrow, we're moving on to Ucluelet, from where we'll also visit Toffino, but back to Victoria for a moment...

We have thoroughly enjoyed our brief stop here. The town is small enough to wander round in a day and full of charm with a lovely colonial feel to it. On the advice of the B&B owners we had lunch at the excellent Red Fish Blue Fish on the quay. Its a fish and chip restaurant operating out of two ISO containers with an almost constantly long queue of people lining up for food. (see photo below) I had two spicy pacific fish tacones, which were amazing!

The B&B has also been excellent. We picked it because it was the number one rated guest house on Tripadvisor and we certainly haven't been disappointed! Ian & Anne are charming hosts, the room is stunning and our breakfast this morning was delicious - in fact, my only complaint was that Ian cooking his own supper tonight smelt so good that it forced us to go out and find dinner!

So tomorrow we will collect our hire car for the 4 hour drive up island to Ucluelet, where we expect the weather to be overcast and damp!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Breathing space...

I thought I had better do a quick update between the chaos of packing and our imminent departure on our two week road trip on Friday.

The last week or so has been a little stressful...The removal men came on Thursday and in the chaos, our passports managed to get packed! (Something we have since discovered many people have done!)

As a result over the last 4 days there has been much talk of getting to Cyprus on a 'NATO travel order' and altering the route of our road trip to keep us in Canada, but thankfully after a 5 hour round trip to Calgary, Jim has managed to get them back. Would you believe they were in the first box he looked in?

We are also selling off everything we can't take with us. I was particularly sad to see our dishwasher go today, but as we only have about 17 days left when we will actually be in the house, it had to go!

Blackie the cat is very unsettled by it all. As I have mentioned in this blog before, she had had at least 4 homes before we got her when she was about 3 years-old. I am still not quite sure what the best thing to do for her is when we move. We have had a quote to ship both her and Macy the dog, but the flight to Cyprus is long and potentially stressful for an animal (particularly a cat I think) We would love to take her, but I need to be sure we are doing it for her best interests and not ours. I could probably find another family for her in the village here and then we could rehome another cat in Cyprus... But in my mind, neither option is particularly satisfactory...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Packing and sewing projects

We are currently in the midst of packing our possessions for shipping. The shipping assessor came on Tuesday and concluded we have 14.42 cubic metres. Our allowance is only 10.65, so we are desperately trying to squeeze things into boxes tightly before they come to collect it tomorrow.

Army life has its perks, but packing up an moving your whole life every two years, although invigorating, is also laborious.

At the same time as packing we are also selling off our remaining possessions one by one. My hair straighteners went tonight and our Ikea units go on Sunday. I keep being asked if I am selling my Norco bike, but its definitely coming with us!

In the meantime I wanted to show off a few things I have made recently. Firstly an upcycled skirt made from old bedding for my niece Millie.

Secondly, the base families organisation ran a competition recently to design a family coat of arms. I am not good at drawing, so I quilted mine and I won first prize!

The microphone symbolises my job, the sheep, where Jim and I met in the Falklands and at the bottom is his cap badge. The Latin inscription translates as "seize the beer".

And finally my french press cosy. Design (slightly modified) courtesy of House On Hill Road, which at last means and end to my husband wrapping the oven gloves round the coffee to keep it warm.

You won't be surprised to learn that I'm keeping my sewing machine back till the second shipment. I still have a few more things to make before we go!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

A busy week

As well as turning the house upside down in preparation for our shippers this week, we have also had a couple of good outings. On Tuesday I went on a day trip to the local Hutterite colony near Jenner.

The base organises one of these visits every year. Beyond seeing the colony members shopping in town in their distinctive clothing, I didn't know that much about them before Tuesday. Their lifestyle is less strict than the Amish. They use cars and motorised farm machinery but although they have electricity in their houses they don't have TV or the internet. Like the Amish they speak 'Low German' amongst the colony, but are also fluent in English.

They were generous hosts and quite humorous as they showed us round, but I'm afraid I found their lifestyle a little depressing. The houses are very stark, with no carpets or sofas and I felt that as they've given in to so much of the modern world already, their resistance to the rest of it and the impractical clothing they insist on wearing, seems a little pointless.

The colony prohibits photography, so unfortunately I wasn't able to record the day, but I did bring home some wonderful bread and apple tart as well as a huge frozen pork sausage for cooking on the barbecue, and you'll get to see some photos of that when we cook it!

On Friday we had the annual mess seafood night. This year the Canadian military took their turn in organising it, so the theme was "Down Homer' - which is a nautical Newfoundland celebration. As you can imagine the Brits were all completely confused about what the dress code was supposed to be, but eventually had it explained to us that we should turn up in checked shirts, jeans and wet gear... which seemed like a great idea until Friday came around and it was 30c! I confess, I wimped out and wore a summer dress!

The food was fantastic and we particularly enjoyed the barbecued prawns which were cooked in the garden and served with drinks in the sunshine before the main meal. We will miss it next year, I hope they do one in Cyprus!

And finally, I went back to the Cypress Hills Winery today and took Jim (and his father) to see what he had missed out on last October.

We had a beautiful afternoon in the sunshine and the cheeseboard was every bit as good as I remembered. We came away with a bottle of rhubarb wine and another of cherry wine. Then it was on to Fort Walsh for the tour and as it was in season this time, we actually got shown round by a guide in uniform!

So, after a busy week, we will be spending Sunday packing up the house. Our movers come on Thursday and we want to pack ourselves before then, so we can make sure our ten cubic metres are used to maximum effect!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The Canada Quilt

Quite a momentous day today. I have finally finished my Canada quilt! Back in April last year when I had barely done any sewing and before I even owned a sewing machine, a lady in the village called Kim was running a quilting course. I signed up and then (much to her frustration I'm sure) I told her I didn't want to make a nice simple sampler quilt, I wanted to make one where each square represented something about Canada!

I started sewing it by hand, then after a couple of months, I bought a machine without blanket stitch (big mistake!) and then for most of last summer the completed squares sat untouched in a folder while I fell out of love with the project.

Then as winter came round and I progressed to my second sewing machine I started on it again, and with our departure from Canada looming there was suddenly a target date to finish it by!

So here it is finished at long last! Huge thanks are due to both Kim Wood & Fiona Sadler who taught me so much and made me finish it when the whole thing nearly took a diversion to become cushion covers (don't ask!) For the first time in a long time, I now don't have a quilting project to work on... I'm sure that won't last!

Aside from quilting, I also made my first skirt with invisible zipper this weekend (see left). So easy and I love the result. Knowing how to make clothes will certainly prove useful as we travel round the world and find our shopping options sometimes a little limited!

And talking of traveling around the world, we still don't have an exact date for our move to Cyprus, but suspect we'll be leaving here mid-July. As well as packing up here, we have been filling in the usual paperwork for quarters and issue furniture in Cyprus. The army has a quite archaic system of deciding who is entitled to what furniture. I still laugh when I see "nest of tables (officer only)" on the form. I had a nest of tables in Germany and believe me, they are nothing to write home about!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Across Canada via Ralston...

The photo on the left is of Sam Thomas. He's currently two months into an 8 month hike across Canada.

Last summer I was contacted by a very old friend of mine who works at BBC Radio Oxford. She knew a "really nice young guy" who was going to walk across Canada for charity and would be passing through our neck of the woods, could we do anything for him?

I offered to put him up for a couple of nights and give him a shower and a decent meal but secretly thought that there were a million obstacles that would probably get in the way before he got here. Did he for instance realise there would be snow on the ground at the start of his trip?

I heard from Sam again in March when he arrived in Vancouver and enthusiastically told me he'd see us on a couple of months ("Sure, whatever" I thought!) as the weeks went by, he touched base several times, eventually calling us last Sunday to say he'd be with us at 3pm on Wednesday.

He didn't get here at 3pm on Wednesday. He got here at twenty past three, which I think is pretty impressive!

As luck would have it, he arrived on the same day as one of my colleagues was leaving us, so he ended up joining us on a great night out in Medicine Hat. He polished off not only a 20oz steak (see right) but also most of the leftovers on our table. I think it had been a while since he'd seen a decent meal!

Sam left us this morning to head east. For the next 6 months he's going to be carrying that 30lb rucksack you see in the photo and sleeping at the side of the road. I couldn't do it for any money and I think its a pretty amazing thing to do.

If you'd like to follow Sam's journey or sponsor him, follow this link

Thursday, 14 May 2009

And our next posting is...

... yes after months of wondering and waiting, we finally know where we are off to!

We are not as we expected going back to Germany (options number 1-7 on Jim's list of job choices) but are in fact going to Cyprus (option number 8!) I have to say its really taken us by surprise, but we are very excited, particularly because Jim's father lives in Cyprus.

Jim will be working in Episkopi and I am hoping BFBS might be able to find me a job at their office in Akrotiri (about 20 minutes from Epi). We have so many things to think about between now and our departure in July/August. Our possessions in Canada need to be divided up into those we sell, bin, ship on the first consignment, ship on the second consignment and keep to take on the plane.

For the last two years we have been mentally preparing for a life in Germany, putting aside things for our "cellar bar" and thinking about the cars we will have and now we are having to reconsider almost everything!

There is also the small matter of our belongings in storage in the UK. A selection of virtually new white goods and electrical equipment which has spent two years festering in boxes and now will probably be untouched for four years, unless we track down where the storage is and go and visit it and rescue the things we want. I can't even begin to think about the clothes I put in storage two years ago, I doubt I'd want them now, but in another 2 years?

So, lots to think about, but it is also a very exciting time. A sunshine posting is not to be sniffed at and I'm sure it will be every bit as fun as Canada has been.

And by the way, the photo top right was taken on last year's BFBS Cyprus catamaran cruise, if only we'd known then...

Sunday, 10 May 2009


Another week has gone by and spring seems to have finally arrived, with the help of a few downpours the grass has turned properly green and the trees and shrubs are even starting to come out. Its been a long time coming and it's so nice to see the village looking alive again!

Unfortunately with the rain comes the mosquitoes! They are back, not yet in abundance, but there's certainly enough of them and it isn't even that warm yet!

As May progresses, we're still treading water waiting to find out where and when we are going for our next posting, which could begin as early as 6 weeks time or as late as the end of September! We expect to know for sure by the end of this week.

As you can imagine with that hanging over us it's been a bit tricky to make plans for anything. We kept a promise to ourselves to put the RV on the market as soon as the snow was off the ground and were mildly horrified when we sold it the next day - that had not been the plan! We were very sad to see it go when we handed it over to its new owners today, and we're now hoping our gamble pays off and we don't have an entire summer without it. Timing the sale of your possessions at the end of a tour is a tricky business and the last thing you want to do is spend your last few weeks trying to offload things.

Last week we had Sunday lunch up at the pub in Patricia again with our friend MaryAnne and her parents who were over visiting and we have been making the final bookings for our June road trip. We are spending two weeks on the west coast of Canada/US starting June 13th.

And finally, my Canada quilt (the longest sewing project ever!) is in real danger of being finished before we leave! The top is complete (see left) I just have to make a decision about the material to use for binding.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Snow and sunshine.. it must be April

Crikey another 10 days gone and I am falling a bit behind with the blog!

So, lets begin with the weather, an almost permanent subject of interest here! Well, over the last week or so we have had almost everything thrown at us... At one point we had 20cm of snow forecast, although fortunately the worst we got was a tenth of that (see photo of my bike below) and at the other end of the scale we have 22c forecast for Sunday!

I am hoping that with the arrival of May we are in the clear now, and on the road to summer. The grass certainly looks green and the cat is back exploring the garden and hunting with great success!

Other than that I have been keeping busy finishing an OU writing course and beginning a OU photography course. It seems once you've done one OU course, it becomes quite addictive.

The dog, who we picked up a year ago today, has finally outgrown her crate, so that's been packed away and we now have lots more room in the dining room, which most of the time has given me more room to sew! Although we did use it for the Ralston Progressive Supper party last weekend too...

The board that decides Jim's next job in the summer sat at the beginning of the week and we will know where we are off to next within the next 10 days and possibly as early as next week. Then we will await the date of our posting, the details of our quarter, the date for our shipping and on and on... there is a lot of waiting involved in this military life!

One potential spanner in the works is that Macy the Dog has managed to fail her rabies test, meaning that the vaccine hasn't taken. This means we have had to start the process all over again and she now won't be pet-passported until October. However we are hopeful she could move to Germany having been vaccinated and await the paperwork part to formalise it... just one of many bridges we'll have to cross as we get to them.

We also had a bit of a shock to the system earlier this week when the house we recently bought in the UK and are currently renovating was burgled, not once, but twice. Fortunately we could have come out of it a lot worse and the police have already managed to recover some of our possessions, but its events like this that make me wish we were a bit closer to home...

As far as our cultural exploration of Canada goes... our travels have been taking a bit of a back seat while we plot our two week east coast road trip next month. We are flying to Vancouver, spending a couple of days on the island (I have been dying to see Tofino) and then getting a train from Vancouver to Seattle and then driving on down the coast eventually ending up in LA before flying home. Because of our Canada posting our honeymoon was only 3 days long, so we owe ourselves a bit of a holiday!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Crafting and sewing...

Ten days since my last post and I don't know where the time has gone!

Last Tuesday we had our scrapbooking evening at a local farm about an hour's drive from here and in the middle of nowhere. These days I'm more interested in sewing, but the idea of spending an evening in a Canadian family home is always interesting, so I went along.

Alice & her husband have one of three farms run by brothers, they have cattle and arable on their land. Being so remote they are also pretty self-sufficient, growing a lot of their own food and home schooling their three children. The lifestyle reminds me a lot of the Falklands where the kids are educated via shortwave radio and traveling teachers.

On Thursday it was the Medicine Hat Spring Rodeo, my colleague Jenny is a rodeo fanatic and she had booked tickets for all three nights, so we went with her and a couple of others. It was definitely more fun this year, now we know a little more about the events!

Just like last year the April weather has been amazing and we've been able to sit outside in the evening, catch a few rays in the afternoon and live with the front door open, but again, just like last year, it isn't going to last! Although it was 26c yesterday, tomorrow we have snow forecast and highs of 5c.... snow in April is definitely one thing I won't miss about Canada!

And finally today... I mentioned a little while ago a grand plan to equip our village store with cloth bags made from recycled materials by members of the community. The idea is an existing scheme called

Today we had the first workshop in the village school and the kids just loved it! We had boys begging us to set up a sewing club and teenagers saying how "cool" the sewing machines were and yes, we even managed to make some bags, 40 in total.

Granted a lot of them are a little aesthetically challenged with some wiggly lines of stitching and less than perfect seams, but woe betide any parent who picks up a plastic bag in preference to their child's masterpiece!

There is still lots more work to be done on our "grand plan" but we made a great start. I have lots of photos of the day, but of course I need the parents permission before putting them online, so I'll see if I can publish them later this week...

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Spring has arrived

Spring has finally arrived in Canada this week. Although it has been above freezing for some time, it took until Wednesday for the very last of the snow in our garden to melt and even today with temperatures reaching 17c, looking out across the prairie you could still see snow sitting in dips in the ground.

This time last year, the weather was 23c and we were convinced summer had arrived, but only a week later we had the biggest snowstorm I have ever seen, so we aren't quite in the clear yet!

However while it lasts, we are making the most of the weather and we actually went to our first barbecue of the year today, we had a great afternoon sitting in a garden in Ralston soaking up the sun!

Blackie the cat has also been enjoying the milder weather and is back on rodent control duties, she comes home every evening with a catch, which she has to try and smuggle past the dog, with varying degrees of success!

Yesterday we did our weekly shopping trip to Medicine Hat and stopped at the Dodge garage to admire the Challenger. (see above) Jim is tempted to buy one to bring back to Europe, but we think we'd probably need to park it across 4 spaces in a supermarket!

Next week we should have a few interesting things to report on. I am going to a scrapbooking evening at a local ranch on Tuesday and we are both going to the Medicine Hat spring rodeo on Thursday.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Las Vegas

A late update this week. We are chasing our tails after a long weekend in Vegas which ended with a very late night driving back from Calgary on Monday.

The trip was a Christmas present to Jim and I must say, that when I booked it in November I didn't really realise quite what a great time of year I had picked.

When we left Canada, it was just above freezing with the last of the snow still on the ground and a two and a half hour flight later, we were in Nevada and it was +26c! After the long Albertan winter, it was just what we needed!

This was the first time either of us had been to Vegas and we were pretty blown away! From the incredible architecture of the high rise buildings on The Strip to seeing people walking down the street with alcohol (we've lived in Canada too long!) and the incredible positive atmosphere which started as soon as we got on the plane.

Amongst the highlights of the weekend, we took a helicopter trip over the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon, landing in the canyon for a champagne picnic. Pretty expensive, but well worth it, especially when we flew over the queues of traffic driving up to the dam!

We also went to see Cirque De Soleil's Zumanity, which was good fun. Several audience members were pulled on stage to get involved in various adult themed sketches, most of which had the audience cheering and laughing, but we found out on the flight home that one of the girls who had been pulled on stage had fallen out with her boyfriend as a result of her involvement and was later seen in the foyer of her hotel with her cases! Oh dear!

We stayed at the MGM Grand, it was pot luck as I didn't know what I was booking, but it was a good choice.

It has an astonishing 5000 rooms and we were upgraded to one of the newer rooms in the West Wing with a great king-size bed and a modern bathroom which was partly open to the sleeping area.

The only flights we have taken since we arrived have been to the UK and back so it was such a novelty to fly short-haul and not arrive with jet lag. Now all we've got to do is work out if we can fit another weekend in before we leave, it seems rude not to! More photos of the weekend here