Sunday, 20 October 2013

Autumn Weekends

I am not Autumn's biggest fan. I've always struggled to get into that season, because in Australia there is nothing good about it (aside from my birthday... obviously). We don't have the holiday season coming up, no Thanksgiving, Halloween or Christmas, no beautiful trees or colours and often it only cools down a few weeks before winter. It's just the doom and gloom before Winter hits. Given, in places like Cobar that's when the weather is actually at it's best. I still don't like it.

The majority of North Americans are obsessed with "Fall". Ask them, you know it to be true. They love the holidays, the beauty, crafting, cooking, decorating, eating, family. They love the fashion "you can look cute with boots and layers without needing full Winter clothes", and everyone loves the harvest. I've found a few that side with me, "it's cold but there isn't anything fun to do" but they're definitely few and far between. 
Confession. This year I've become a bit of a sucker. I don't know if it's because the weather is better, or if I've started to notice the beauty and have a better wardrobe... but I've kind of fallen for Fall. I love Thanksgiving, and layering and root vegetables, and pumpkin pie, and the way the sun comes through the coloured leaves. Sucker. It reminds me of the first time O'Hara and I travelled to Europe in September/November. We were walking to the top of a hill in Switzerland somewhere and we finally understood why people liked Autumn. It's freaking beautiful!
Yay for wearing gumboots! O'Hara loved playing photographer...
This weekend I travelled to Vernon for the Pumpkin Harvest Fest at Davidson Orchards. They had everything you could possibly want (harvest wise). Mulled apple cider, pies, cakes, pumpkins. It was worth the drive. Sunday we attempted for the second year to see the Salmon Run. We've been in "off" years since we've been here, and this year was an improvement on last year (zero) but we're still waiting for the big kahuna. Still, I got to see some fish, splash around in my new gumboots and marvel at the beauty of the leaves.
The giant dead fish are particularly beautiful!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Canadian Thanksgiving. Round 2

Despite what How I Met Your Mother says, Canadians have quite a lot to be thankful for. I think everyone who is lucky enough to get paid for working, have the opportunity for an education and lives in a free country has PLENTY to be thankful for. This is our second Thanksgiving in Canada, last Thanksgiving we learnt all about some Canadian specialties. No Wheat Salad this year. Yet.

This year we were invited to KD McG's (AKA Korah) mum's house for a Thanksgiving feast. I don't use the term feast lightly, but that is what it was. I thought I would burst from eating, then had three pieces of dessert. I'm sorry but you haven't lived until you've had pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese icing.

Before dinner we went around the table and said what we were thankful for, for the past year. Korah had warned us that's what would happen so we had some time to think about it. Do you know what? Having to think about this, really made me realise I lead a very blessed life. I am thankful for a whole lot! This is what I had.

Firstly, I am thankful to have two loving and supporting families in Australia. Who (while barely) have forgiven us for living in Canada. I'm also thankful that my wonderful friends from home still love me.

I'm thankful that I was able to have the opportunity and job that lets me work in Canada and we were able to buy a home here. I'm thankful that I've been able to make new wonderful friends while living here.

I'm thankful for having Korah in my department for the last year, which has let me become friends with her and Mike and the opportunity to have Thanksgiving dinner with her family. I am so thankful that they invited us to their family dinner, and included us. They are wonderful people.

Finally, I am thankful for my husband. He makes every day a good one.
I'm also pretty thankful for Stacey (Steve's GF)

Monday, 14 October 2013

We bought a house..... in Canada!

Wow! We didn't really see this one coming, but after about 15 months of renting our condo (townhouse equivalent I think to the Aussies) the unit next door came up for sale. O'Hara and I had talked about buying on and off. We'd think about buying, then something would happen that would make us think we'd be home sooner rather than later. Then that would sort itself out and we'd start thinking again. Being an expat is like being on a roller-coaster of emotions. I'm slowly getting used to it!
Excuse the scrubbiness, but us drinking champas in our new house. I promptly smashed the bottom of the light.
The housing market in Canada (in Kamloops at least) is cheaper than it is in Australia. Vancouver is ranked one of the most unaffordable cities in the world, but I think part of that is to do with wages and I'm sure Sydney is up there as well. There is also often talk here about a housing bubble bursting because the interest rates are so low, but that seems to be a risk here and at home. The deciding factor for us was when we worked out we were paying about $200 a month more in rent than what a mortgage + property taxes + strata fees would be for exactly the same place.

So we did it! The whole process was fairly simple. We don't have Permanent Residency (or the application submitted) so we had to have a 20% deposit. We were able to use our contributed NRSPs. These are kinda the equivalent to super except we don't get a tax break because they aren't "registered". We may end up getting registered "RRSPs" now, because we shouldn't need to draw on the cash before we leave (famous last words no doubt...).

With a 20% deposit it meant we didn't have to pay mortgage insurance BUT we did end up having to pay Property Transfer Tax. If we had PR we wouldn't have had to pay this as we are first time home buyers. That was a fun little surprise as O'Hara was signing the paperwork 2 days before possession. Please, we actually need another $3,600... Luckily we had a good lawyer that told us we needed to pay it (after everyone else told us we didn't), otherwise we would have been pinged come tax time. Thank you Fulton & Company.

We went with a variable interest rate which may have been a bit risky, but we're only paying 2.6% at the moment so there's no complaining here. Now we just need to get a couch so we don't have to sit on dining chairs when we're at home! Unfortunately we just booked a trip to the UK, and I bought the new iPhone so it may take a while. I clearly have the right priorities.
The best way to move! To an empty lounge room with a view (now full of sh*t)
We have three things that were super exciting. 1) Our bed faces the other way so we have a much nicer view. 2) The condo was literally one across from our rental, so we just passed everything across the balcony. In Canada appliances come with the house even if you're buying, so Teresa we did not move the fridge this way! 3) The old Man Cave (they left the sign of rules - they're gone) is now a Sophisticave. It's the game room where we can hang out and drink scotch from the bar that's now there. Much better.
It's not creepy guys!
Visitors are welcome! You can stay in our shrine room for the non-existant child! You're welcome!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

My Island Home

Guys, this was possibly the best trip we've had in the last 18 months. It was our trip home. This is my opportunity to rave about how much I love my home, don't take it as a dig at our host country!
Sydney housemates reunite at the same restaurant 5 years later
O'Hara was seriously lucky and was able to have nearly 3 weeks in the Motherland. I wasn't quite so fortunate, but I've since realised that 8 days in Australia is substantially better than none. When we arrived in Canada we'd been living in Cobar for the pervious 18 month. While I love Cobar it's hardly a good representation of the awesomeness that is Australia, so it was almost a shock as to how much fun my country is. It's only a few weeks into spring there and it was plenty warm enough to swim in the ocean - though I understand Australia is experiencing a crazy hot year. *Cough* climate change *cough*. Sun Peaks is also opening a week later this year. *Cough* PROOF *cough*.
We planned the trip so we could attend the wedding of our beautiful friends Hayley and Pat. The wedding was absolutely spectacular. I haven't laughed and cried so much at a wedding ever. I'm sure part of it was the emotional turmoil of seeing my friends for the first time in 18 months, but there was a lot of love during that day. Fitzy, my goodness do we miss you. Ever day. But especially on these days. We also got to relive the London days of playing cards (Black Bitch obvs), eating scones with jam and cream and drinking Strongbow and Leffe (damn I wish it was only 99p).
You wish you could be friends with this lot!
Cheeky cards and beautiful trees - when did driving in Australia get so pretty there?
While staying in Canberra we visited O'Hara's grandparents in Batemans Bay and spent an afternoon on the beach, got to hear about his parents amazing trip around Aus, tried to convince his siblings to visit us (some again), and have incredible lattes from a new coffee shop in Curtin. I also forgot what good coffee tasted like. North Americans, can you please get your shit together! Seriously. Please! A good latte shouldn't need syrups or sugar and it absolutely shouldn't scald your mouth - note: Rachel took me to a coffee shop owned by New Zealanders in LA... that place is good times.
O'Hara's parents, aunty and grandma
We spent 2 nights in Sydney staying at Coogee. Ah, our old stomping ground. It's so weird spending time here sober. That didn't happen a lot. Sun, beers, good food, beers, more good food, beach, sun, beautiful beer gardens, more beers and many, many good friends. Heaven! Speaking of good food, we literally (not figuratively) had a suitcase full of food to bring back. Best! We also somehow rounded up 5 generations of Baxter kids at a pub one night. We would have had 6 if Simon had manned up and come out. GOSH Simon!

I was not impressed when we had to leave on Saturday afternoon to get on a plane back to Canada. Especially as I kept cheekily checking the weather in Kamloops and it was not something to look forward too. My homesickness is worse now than ever, the only thing that keeps me a little sane is that I have a little kangaroo and emu on the front of my passport. This means if I really want to, I can always go home to the most amazing place on early.
FIVE generations of Baxter College kids!
Beach, beach, beachy, beach I LOVE you!