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Ending the Year with Adventures

I would be hard pressed to say which adventure we shared with Matt and Tom was the best because there were plenty to choose from. Although they are home safe and sound now, lest I forget, I am writing them down for posterity.

He was just a boy when Tom last saw his cousin Karen who moved to Vancouver twenty years ago. Jane, Tom's Mum was hoping we would connect with her while here, however, that did not happen prior to a week ago Saturday when we drove to White Rock, a seaside community within sighting distance of the United States.
That would be Mt. Baker in Washington State looming over the landscape. It was agreed that we would meet Karen and her boyfriend on the White Rock pier, a taller order than anticipated because, due to the sunny skies, we were not the only folks on the pier. That said, it happened without a hitch!
Bruce is chatting with Frank, I'm the shadow, and the reunion between cousins is taking place to the left of Bruce. We had a lovely chat on the pier, albeit a cold one, followed by a delightful lunch together. Everything went so well!
Speaking of White Rock, we've met a very nice couple at church who, much to my relief, offered to take our Christmas cards across the border for mailing!!! Instead of worrying about whether our sons would get their Christmas checks, I knew I could count on the USPS, and by golly, I was right!

By the time we drove the twenty or so miles back into the city, it was not only getting darker, but colder as well. Our plan was to attend the Festival of Lights at the Van Dusen Gardens, the place I visited in early November when they were beginning to set up the displays. Because it was so close, I suggested a quick stop at Queen Elizabeth Park where I wanted to show our family the tremendous views of the city.
Plenty of snow remaining on the ground at that height, and was it ever cold as well! The garden is but a few blocks away, and when we got there not only was traffic was backing up, the parking lot was full. Eventually we found a parking place on a side street, and careful of the icy sidewalks, we made our way through a big crowd to the gardens where it was, indeed, a festival of lights!
So many it was mind boggling! There were displays on water, as well as high up in the trees. In fact there were more than a million lights!
Plenty of snow on the ground made it even more magical, although it was darn cold, that's for sure.
It is one thing to see a building covered with tons of Christmas lights, but it is altogether different seeing them in this kind of setting.  There are lit paths that you stroll along, and were they ever packed with others who may, or may not, have been as cold as we were!
While Matt, Bruce, and I were at church on Christmas eve morning, Tom was shopping for our Christmas dinner ingredients at Urban Fare. Aside from lunch at The Templeton on Granville Street, it was a low key day with Tom making a cake for Christmas dinner,  while I finally made gingerbread cookies. It would not be Christmas without cookies, would it? I think not! The bright sky was no longer with us and, in fact, there were snow flurries on Christmas day, marking another first for me.

We opened our few gifts, did FaceTime calls with Tom's family, as well as our boys, this being the first time we've ever been away from Bill and Dave on Christmas. Bittersweet might be a good way to describe our feelings. As to the gifts, I haven't taken a photo just yet, however, Matt made me two hats, as well as a beautiful shawl, all welcome gifts for sure. In-between Christmas movies, and Matt and Tom putting together a jigsaw puzzle, Tom and I cooked a Christmas dinner which included much improvisation. He'd purchased a large boneless turkey breast that I wondered how I was going to cook due to a serious lack of tools. Well, here's a new idea for you....instead of putting it on a rack, we came up with the idea of using vegetables as our rack while using the bottom of the broiler pan.
Sliced lemon and an onion were stuffed inside, along with butter mixed with poultry seasoning on the outside, a generous sprinkle of rosemary and in it went into the oven with high hopes. Much to our amazement, our $35 turkey breast was delicious!
Whereas I can't imagine a Christmas without cookies, Tom cannot imagine a Christmas without crackers, so ensuring that he keep the tradition alive, he bought some at the garden gift shop. Crowns must be worn on Christmas!
And for the remainder of the day, for that matter. The meal was lovely, proving to me that while tools are good, making do with what you have is also good. Tom agreed because, while he usually makes his delicious lemon cake in a round pan, the square pan I had worked just fine. Covered in the blueberry sauce he made, the cake was scrumptious!
As is his custom, Bruce cleaned the kitchen while Matt and Tom worked on the puzzle following dinner.
Amazingly, they finished it while watching more Christmas movies. Just when we thought we'd seen them all, more new ones kept coming on.

 The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day here, when all the stores have huge sales. The weather was not ideal, but I wanted to make sure the lads did not miss Stanley Park, so we went for a cold walk in the park where last week's snow was still in evidence.
Bruce is wearing a hat Matt knitted for him, and I love the bright color. Of course, you knew I would, didn't you? Walking along, we ran into a woman who was feeding those darling Black Capped Chickadees from her hand. Matt extended his hand for seed after she offered, and before long he had those little birds eating out of his hand too.
Not only was I thrilled that Matt and Tom were able to feed the birds in this way, but she also told me about a path to take in March where she claims the blooming flowers are outstanding. Woo hoo! Something to look forward to come Spring. Continuing along the path we came to Lost Lagoon which, much to my surprise was frozen. Never having seen this kind of thing before, I'm chalking it up as another new experience. Birds!
Just as the same temperature feels different here, so do the gray, wintery days. At home, I go crazy when we don't see the sun for a few days, however, here it is just part of the landscape. Don't get me wrong, I do prefer warmth and sunshine, but this is all part of the reason I wanted to come here. More than once in the last few years I'd told Bruce that I just did not want to live my whole life without experiencing true seasons, never imagining that my dream would come true in such a beautiful place. We parted ways at this point so they could walk further, while the old folks, walking on the path beside the tennis courts, walked over to Robson Street to witness the Boxing Day crowds. In a word, large.
The best of that day was yet to come though because for their Christmas gift, I'd purchased tickets to the touring Cirque de Soleil show that comes to town for about six weeks this time of year. Called Kurios , it was simply spectacular.
Bruce was the lone one in our group who had seen le Cirque before, however, this is a brand new show, so he was delighted to see another production. Because I'd purchased the tickets a while back, we sat in the second row, with the performers, make that the aerialists, jumping practically over our heads. Before the show began some of the performers roamed around on the stage, giving me an idea of just how amazing the costumes would be.
That long ramp you see was for VIP guests who walked down onto the stage prior to the show. Being the good girl that I am, no photos were taken during the performance which was fine by me as there was so much to see I surely would have been distracted had I broken the rules. We ate popcorn and cotton candy, as you do at a circus, right? Exhilarated, we walked home in the brisk cold, marveling at the feats the human body is capable of doing. I could kick myself for never going out to Disney to see La Nouba where it ran for so many years. Not that Bruce didn't try and convince me to do so, mind you! When we return to Orlando I must change my stick-in-the mud ways!

The following day Bruce drove us to the UBC campus to visit the Museum of Anthropology where we learned much about the indigenous people who inhabited the area for centuries. As good fortune would have it, a tour was beginning moments after we arrived.
Our docent Carol was a little fireball, loaded with information that she often delivered in a witty style. We learned about the significance of the totem poles, where they came from, what they are made of, and who carved them, all within an hour or so. There is what they describe as, a forest of totem poles, surrounded by glass walls.
in a building constructed specifically to house them and their great height. We went outdoors, while it was snowing, I might add, to view the building from the outside, as well as the "longhouse" built on the property.
Nothing wrong with a snowy day, however, I would have loved for Matt and Tom to have been able to see the ocean from that height. Alas, it was gray, or in the photo more like a white sky. Carol is pictured during her talk about Bill Reid, the man who carved this fantastical piece and who is largely responsible for reviving the public interest in the art of the indigenous people of the coastal Pacific Northwest. This piece is entitled "The Raven and the First Men."
We had no idea Carol would, following lunch, give yet another tour, this time explaining the art of weaving blankets. Beautiful examples below.
We dropped Matt and Tom off at Granville Island and the old folks went back to the apartment; mostly because the snow had turned to rain. Later on, as was only fitting, we had dinner at Earls in Yaletown.
It kept raining and raining into Thursday, their last day in Vancouver. Striking out on their own, they visited Chinatown and Main Street, all in the rain. Not happy that they had to do that, but at least they now have a pretty much complete picture of the weather here in Vancouver. Fog, snow, sunshine, and rain. Close to the weather they are accustomed to for sure, however, whereas London gets lots of press regarding rainfall, in fact, it rains more here than there.

Around dinnertime, Bruce drove them to the station so they could head to the airport dry, and they were off, 4,706 miles to London, and an eight hour time change. What a thrill to have family here with us at this most wonderful time of the year.

By the way, in an effort to catch up, I've tried my best to condense this narrative, although it may not be evident by the number of photos I've included!

Following their departure we continued our adventuring ways which I'll get to next time. In the meantime, I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas and I'm sending out my wishes for all to have a healthy and Happy New Year. When you get to be our age, healthy is the operative word here. :)

yours truly,

Gail
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