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!