Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Renovated Immigrants

Eric-Professional Camp Napper
Shuswap Lake
We have just completed our first 6 months in BC and thus far it has been one huge adventure in every imaginable way! Our day to day lives have changed considerably and much like our lovely older house, we too, are under renovations. We have done a marvelous job of balancing work and play in between 3 moves and an epic volume of immigration-related paperwork. Really, it has been the busiest 6 months of our lives but we are so grateful to have finally purchased a home and escaped the rental market. Our neighbors are from all over the world by first or second generation and have been very welcoming to us. Many of them are outdoor enthusiasts as BC is a paradise for all things, in nature.
Shuswap Lake Dock

Nights of watching television or movies have given way to long walks in the evenings, boat rides, fishing or visiting on our very forgotten back porch. With sunrise at 4:45 a.m. and sunset at 10 we find we have hours of additional time to be outside even as early as May 1st.  May was good to us and brought many warm days and June even warmer. Movies and television have simply taken a back seat to being outside this spring and summer.

Gavin has been camping a great deal and is astounded at the number of lakes and waterfalls to observe. Eric joined him recently at Ruckell Point to celebrate the conclusion of the Scouts official season. Many of these pictures were taken by either Gavin or Eric from various camp excursions. Gavin's trip to the Vancouver coast found him immersed in all things ocean. He found a dead starfish and brought it home, several days later, so I could check it out.  When I opened the zip bag containing it, I was both in awe and immensely nauseated. The stench was unforgettable! Scouts Canada has been co-ed for many years and I must say, the ladies make it more social and bring a balance we lacked in the States. Additionally, the entire program is more relaxed where Scouts really are planning and doing for themselves and learning from the result. Between Scouts and our boat, Gavin is really experiencing an outdoor lifestyle.
Deceased Starfish from Vancouver Coast

Our new boat is perfect for us-a small barge, rides smooth and only goes fast enough to pull a couple of people without a wake. Oddly enough, Eric and me both grew up behind jet boats but those days of wanting to fly across the water, are over. We are earnestly trying to learn how to catch the variety of fish in our local lake. The lake itself is a massive 84 miles in length and contains more than 21 species. Our goal this summer is to get proficient at catching kokanee and rainbow trout. Eric has set the pace by catching one during Scout camp last week. We need my Brother Phil here to school us as he is an expert!
Scouts Out for a Spin

In between golfing, boating and camping, Eric is finally able to really enjoy his weekends. His boss is a wonderful person and is very gracious to all the employees. In Canada, a beer during a work lunch is a standard affair, and Eric has adjusted well. Again, our lives have changed so much since his long hours in Ruidoso and weekends filled with looming deadlines and resource constraints. We miss our Doso friends and are trying to write them often with hopes they will visit when they can.
Scout Cabins

I am still gainfully unemployed as I continue to wait for my Work Permit. I had begun to look for employment in earnest but after talking with our attorney, realized it was going to be considerably longer than I had hoped, to get said Permit. I am hopeful the timing will be perfect and know an ideal job awaits me. Meanwhile, I am working all day on the house or in the yard and find myself fulfilled with the present season I am IN. Our next door neighbors keep me company and have graciously fed us repeatedly since we moved into the hood. They are super fun and have 3 lovely girls and an assortment of pets. Just our speed!
Since we are living in the basement, I feel compelled to pick up before dinner each night. Living in a house while you are renovating is a tough gig but we are beginning to get use to it. Our neighbors have been feeding us homemade food and making sure we do not forget what a furnished house actually contains! They are perfect neighbors to have and we are all enjoying their kids, pets and pool!

Eric's First Canadian Fish
Kelowna is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and the construction industry is BOOMING. Everything products and or service we have needed has been booked and thus our schedule continues to slide. Each morning you will find me on the back porch cooking breakfast over our camp stove and scrambling back and forth to the laundry room, which for the time being, is serving as our kitchen. I must be walking 3 miles per day just in the house! Other days I spend either farm foraging, hiking a random trail (there are hundreds) or hitting the weights at the Y.  I have ripped out some major bushes and cleared one large flower bed as well.  17 bags of mulch later and I can finally say I have made progress and my hands reflect the work. Love me some dirt. The Farmers Market on Saturdays has become a real treat as we are already getting local veggies and strawberries from the valley.  We had really missed all these agricultural extras when we lived in New Mexico. Every imaginable amenity and food is right at our back door, along with thousands of miles of wilderness.
Stilts at Camp


Our animals are enduring a great deal right now and we are doing all we can to help them manage. Loud, repetitive noise and a constant parade of strangers seems to be their new norm. On really rough days, Bandit goes to work with Eric to escape and Smokey goes to daycare to swim and race. The cats sleep on Gavin's bed until I let them out after school, when all the contractors have left for the day.
Rotten Cotten in the yard
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We are all anxiously awaiting the day we are not sharing our bathrooms with multiple tradesmen, using our laundry room as a kitchen and listening to the sounds of a nail gun. But having found our new norm, we have reached homeostasis! I am often reminded, sometimes we have to go backwards before we can go forwards.

Love and Light,
Ness

Sunday, March 24, 2019

O' Canada-Living In The Outdoors

Alas, we are approaching our fifth month of residence in the Okanagan Valley and we are still in disbelief. Do we really live here? The valley is amazing and the outdoor lifestyle is endless! The micro climate and the topography are the very reasons this place is so highly desirable. Hot summers, mild winters and wildlife all year around. The locals refer to it as "Italy or California in Canada, sans all the crowds." Seems appropriate.















After months of looking, we have chosen a house large enough for a rental apartment and for family near downtown and at the base of Knox Mountain. Trails can be hit from our doorstep and Eric's job is less than 10 minutes away. Gavin will reside at his present school, electing to remain and take the city bus to and from. The house has great bones but needs updating so we are embarking on a very large renovation project as of 1 April. A total kitchen gut, floor gut and addition of a full legal suite will get us a tad closer to our needs and desires. Living in the house during this time promises to be entertaining at the very least! I suspect our spring will be busy with our version of B.C. Fixer upper, but have no fear, we have plans to play on the lake, in a big way.

After much consideration and research, Eric found us the perfect pontoon boat for lounging with friends and family. This beauty is 21', seats 11 butts and has a 70 horse power motor for dragging Gavin and his cousins around. We plan to moor it on the water for quick summer access. Since it is daylight from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. during the season, we will have plenty of daylight to boat on weekdays and weekends alike. We are so excited!




In other news, Gavin is rocking at school and Scouts and recently took first place in the annual Truck Race for his age group. Pictured is the truck he carved and raced.


Our winter has been filled with skiing, skating and hockey, most recently at Silver Star where we rented a ski chalet for a few days of spring break. The weather was so warm we skied in t-shirts! And, the visibility was ridiculous, unveiling mountain ranges over 100 miles away! Having so many ski areas around us, this one was particularly family friendly with many activities by day and night. Gavin is a natural at everything, so he rarely face-plants but I enjoyed eating a bit of snow for the both of us. Nordic is so cathartic as it is very quiet and a considerable workout. Reminds me of trail running for these reasons.

I scampered off for a whirlwind Girls Trip to Vancouver to hook up with my dear friend Amber. She was in Vancouver for a class and we were determined to hit the big city and Victoria hard for 3 days. The metro reminded me of San Francisco, filled with the hustle, bustle and culture of people. People were very cordial, polite and eager to visit. I would call it Canadian-metro. People helped us at every turn and were interested to hear all about the trials of the current United States and our thoughts about her future.


We ate Moroccan and Thai in Gastown and Amber rode a pony without permission. :) Our next jaunt took us to the ferry terminal where we had a Nanaimo bar and coffee prepping for the 90 minute journey over the straight. We did not see any resident whales but the views were fabulous and the amenities on the actual ferry, surprisingly comprehensive.

A cafeteria, an arcade, several lounges and reading nooks abound. Once in Victoria we relished Tea at the Empress and the historic venue and energy inside. Even if you are not "tea" people, the bar is a must visit due to the art and architecture.



Huge wood beams and ornate carvings could be found in every aspect. The hotel is over 100 years old and filled with the spirits who have visited, including the Queen. I found it profound to see the enormity of each painting, depicting her life in chapters, floor to ceiling. Stunning. I highly recommend Hibiki, a Japanese whiskey you can sip on by the fire. Smooth.

We will plan to travel to Victoria and the other islands again and this time allow a great deal more time. My time with Amber went so quickly, as time with friends does, and before I knew it, we were putting her back onto her plane via a red-eye to New Mexico.

The quiet of our hotel room was more than I could bare so I headed on the train, then the bus to Stanley Island for the quintessential Vancouver bike ride. Surrounded by the peace of the water I was reminded of how important it is to invest time with friends.


Au revoir,
Ness

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Toques, Toonies & Timbits: Our First Month in B.C.

Mission Park Greenway-A favorite trail running spot
Hello from B.C.,

Here we are on the cusp of our first 4 weeks in our new home country. For me, it seems as though the 2000 mile journey here was long ago. So much has occurred since. Our nervous systems have been on overload with all things...new. The journey here was relatively seamless. We had zero mechanical issues with vehicles, we had lovely weather and we were able take rest with friends and family along the way. Our decision to haul our own trailers provided immense flexibility.  Mostly, I was grateful everyday not to have cats in my SUV crapping in the litter box at will! You always knew one of the felines had dropped a load when Eric would suddenly pullover, scoop the duke, toss it in the trash and resume driving.
Dogs road with me, of course, and slept quietly the entire time. Aside from leaving hair behind, the pets did not vomit or have any accidents despite the numerous places they lodged. We were on a roll until we arrived in Kelowna and faced a few obstacles with our housing plans due to our immigration status.


Smokey Thru Gavin's Eyes
Our realtor has been a blessing for months but upon our arrival and without the ability to yet buy a house as planned, she found us a stunning town home for our first weeks lodging. A spectacular home in a very quiet area allowed us to catch our breath and develop Plan B for a more permanent rental. No small task, seriously.
Okanagan Lake, Bear Creek Canyon Trail
The rental market here has a .6% vacancy rate and when you have 4 pets, you are not a particularly attractive tenant. I had to buckle down and find my negotiating panties but was able to secure a nice older home on a beautiful street near the lake. Six other families were vying for it so we felt fortunate. With the knowledge we will be buying a house soon, we are electing to leave nearly all our belongings packed in our trailer, the garage or the massive basement. I keep wearing the same clothes, as does Gavin, Eric is more appointed as he knew he had to look professional for work. Good thing we don't have any friends yet or they may be getting a bit concerned about our repetitive clothing selection. Grateful to have a Son, who could care less!
Okanagan Lake Via Gavin's Kayak

School is rocking along for Gavin but it is very large compared to his prior school. He is in a school containing 7th thru 12th graders, hovering around 2500 students in total. Clubs, programs and electives up the wazoo! 
Gavin's new school

Every kind of person, any kind of hobby or interest and it is covered. Plus, the ethnic diversity is considerable. Kids from all over the world with different customs and beliefs are teaching him a great deal.  Really, he is quite excited about it all. He seems at par or ahead in all his subjects, except French, which will likely require, a tutor. A second language and a plethora of toques  (stocking caps), are both required for Canadian offspring.
First day of school, rental house in background, shoes in truck!

Early Morning Jaunt, Bear Creek
He is rocking his saxophone in band, taking swim lessons while we workout at the Y and will be in an after school ski program in January. In Canada, both parents normally work full-time, thus the number of after school programs, is considerable. He will get to night ski with friends, have a lesson by a Certified Instructor and be fed dinner. I think he will have a blast. Our valley has not been blessed with snow as of yet and temps have been mild, but the mountains around us are putting on their winter crowns. The Winter Queen is inbound.

Big White Ski Area~550

Eric was recently custom-fitted for ski boots, for the first time in more than 20 years. He and Gavin visited Big White, pictured above, for opening weekend and were blown away! The sheer size of the resort and the amount of runs astounded them. Plus, the shopping, dining and lodging, where I will dwell, sounds like a hot toddy paradise! Suffice it to say, Eric is feeling like his old self~sans the stress of owning his own business and doing the work of 3 distinct people. 

He is enjoying his new job and loving the fact he is only responsible for himself! The office is very well-managed, his boss is super and the hours are lovely. To top it all off, they provide an employee, all expense paid trip, each year. Thus, we are headed to the Mexican Riviera in April. WHOOO! Since we had to postpone our trip to Jamaica with friends, this was thrilling news! For the first time in twelve years, we are going adult-only, while Gavin resides here and attends school. Meanwhile, we are trying to get unfat before we hit the beach so I have been exploring running trails and local food for my kitchen while the boys work and school.

My farm foraging is fun with a purpose: to find quality local ingredients direct from farmers with sustainable access for working parents. 

The girls above are residents of Fresh From The Farm where they roam freely, eat lots of veggies and produce bright-yolked golden eggs. The Spud-Nuts, pictured below, sort of blew my mind. I am not really a donut consumer as I find them to sweet and filled with an abundance of...air. Once a year, I will hunt out an apple fritter but I just don't care for donuts, in general. The Spud-Nut, made with farm raised potatoes and only a handful of other ingredients, were game changers. Crispy on the outside, moist and dense at the center and only a light hand of sugar, these are addicting and fleeting. The farm only makes 25 dozen, one time per week, and they FLY out the door on a normal day. We have learned the term donut hole, used in the States, has been taken over by the Tim Horton's brand and are solely referred to in Canada as, Timbits. Talk about brand sucess!
Fresh Farm The Farm is family owned and their goal is to utilize land resources to create loving products for public consumption. The arrangement below is yet another sample of their creativity. The smell is divine.



In other big news, Eric's much anticipated Canadian Citizenship Certificate finally arrived last week, after nearly five months of processing. He cried, then we cried.  Becoming a citizen in a new country is a once in a lifetime moment. Gavin and me are on our own multi-year path to residency now that Eric is deemed legitimately, Canadian, eh?

We have attended a few parties thus far and are enjoying telling our tale of how we chose Kelowna, crediting most of the decision to our cousins in Edmonton, and filling in the remaining blanks. People love the story and find it fascinating and courageous. 
In an attempt to meet some folks, we attended a party at The Rock House, duly named due to the large boulders surrounding it's lake-front elevation. Seriously, the most expensive home I have ever visited with very unusual, but fascinating decor. Click here for images of the home and its owners. https://infotel.ca/newsitem/why-the-interiors-most-expensive-residential-property-suits-its-owners-perfectly/it27025. 

The bathroom had faux diamonds in the sink and I almost felt criminal when I used the toilet! Ah, but the food for a foodie included a signed cookbook. To our enjoyment, a renowned local chef signed his new book The Okanagan Table, highlighting the bounty of local foods. He and his sous chef's provided all the canapes and they were out of this world. Check out Chef Raudz restaurants and culinary background. http://www.raudz.com/

Our relocation in a nutshell: Everything we needed to happen, did, and little of it had to do with our own determination but rather faith and flexibity. If you want change, it is yours for the asking, if you believe the universe has only good intentions for you, it will. 

In closing, our contact information is included below. We are missing our State-side friends and expect a holiday card, regardless of our move and your need to place two stamps on it. Please click "Follow" on the blogs left pane so when I create a post, you are notified.

With Love,
Ness

2099-3151 Lakeshore Road
Kelowna, B.C. V1W3S9
575.937.7673 Ness 
575.937.8096  Eric
anessa.collins@gmail.com


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Carpe Diem/Seize The Day

Alas, I am productively unemployed and have a few moments to update our fans about our decision to move to British Columbia! (If you were not aware of this, give yourself a minute to adjust to the news, then proceed.) Indeed, after a handful of miracles, and a great deal of praying and patience, we have decided to immigrate to Canada and have thus chosen Kelowna, BC as our future home.

Most of you are aware, Eric has spent the last three years, working seventy-hours a week without reprieve. When we sold our house in 2017 (after 4 years of being on the market) it opened our minds to the possibility of leaving New Mexico and putting up stakes elsewhere. Our biggest obstacle was our sense of responsibility to our employees and the community, both whom have depended upon D.T. Collins Land Surveying for many years. We were hoping for a miracle or a series of them, really. Most surveying firms in New Mexico terminate via two methods. They either close their doors, the Owner/Surveyor passes away or both. For us to get a buyer would be highly improbable, but not impossible, as we have/had a viable, healthy business to offer. In July, our miracle arrived, and he is a Surveyor from Artesia, looking to expand his thriving business into Ruidoso. A deal was made, our employees will continue to be employed and the Village will continue to have the support it needs to prosper. Miracle 2 of 2 arrived when Eric, upon issuing only 2 resumes, was hired by phone (sight unseen) by a young, innovative surveying firm, as a Senior CAD Consultant. Vector Geomatics Land Surveying, is a growing business in BC and offers a great deal of opportunity and a massive reduction in responsibility for Eric. All things just fell into place. Eric is really excited, especially after golfing with his two new bosses, with whom he seems to have a great deal in common. We could not feel more gratitude than we have the last two months.

For a number of reasons, leaving the United States, is very appealing to all 3 of us. Suffice it to say, we know we have all the resources we need to go wherever we want, so why not? After checking our guts to really understand our priorities we began to evaluate options. Due to the growing economy, the public school system, the climate and associated outdoor-enthusiast lifestyle, we chose the Okanagan Valley, after a cousins recent recommendation. (Thanks KIRI!)

Kelowna, the largest city in the Okanagan Valley, with a population of 200K, seems the perfect size for our hobbies and needs. The area has a thriving economy and is projected to continue to grow as Canadians migrate North from the increasing cost of living in Vancouver.
I know, it sounds so very far away, but really, we will only be a few hours away from the Washington border. My oldest Brother is only 6 hours away in Pasco and Gavin is depending upon his Uncle to turn him into a "real fisherman" via his annual trips to Alaska.  Additionally, first, second and third Cousins on Eric's side reside only 9 hours away in Edmonton, Alberta. I guess you could say, we are moving where we feel we already belong. Odd as it may sound coming from the United States.

I assure you, the pictures do not do the area justice. It is breathtaking and boasts nearly thirty wineries, 2 dozen golf courses, 2 enormous recreation/YMCA centers, 2 climbing gyms and several ski areas renowned for the quality and volume of snowfall each year. Plus, a mandatory requirement-an airport. No more 3-hour drives to reach one! YEAH!!!

Okanagan Lake, pictured, is eighty-five miles long, 3 miles wide and nearly three-hundred feet deep. People leave work, head to the Waterfront via one of the twelve beaches, and paddle-board, boat, ski or kayak until nearly dark (up North this happens around 11 p.m. during the summer.) The Valley sits at ~1100 feet, making the mountains around it look like 14'ers-but they are only 10'ers. Although we love snow, we do not want to live where it is much colder, than our present location and this area fit the requirement. Finally, I love to cook and the prospects of local fruit and produce really seals the deal. (The first apple tree was planted in the mid-1800's by a Frenchman named, Pandosy. The vineyards came much later.) The area is still Canada's main producer of fruit and wine.


August finds us packing and inventoring our personal effects as required by immigration, concluding our philanthropic responsibilities and transitioning our business and the processes within, to a new Owner. Yep, it is a little nuts, especially for Eric, who continues to put in long hours to insure there is no interruption of work. Gavin and I are packing, planning logistics and trying to eat through our freezer as food cannot be taken over the Border. Eating the last of our elk and bison and hoping to befriend a hunting family once we settle! If you have ever seen Eric with a gun, you understand why!

So, when do we depart? I wish we knew. Right now, we are waiting on Eric's Citizenship Certificate, of which he was eligible due to his Mothers birthplace, in Canada. Until the hot little piece of paper arrives, our hands are tied. Our Immigration Attorney is bull-dogging this process for us and we are cautiously optimistic it will be delivered this month-but there are no guarantees. Our orders are to be packed, have a plan for the move and be READY. We had a two-page task list that is now down to one, and each day is filled with all sorts of items to be completed. Too say we are incredibly excited would be an understatement. However, it is mixed in with many other emotions as we attend farewell parties and say goodbye to people who have made living here possible and who have, in many respects, become part of us.

All of the recent events and the years proceeding them have taught us one valuable lesson: If you chose a lifestyle, which has created a life, you are not enjoying, leave it. All the resources you need to do so lie within you and fear you may have is just a projection on your part~and really does not exist.

Lady Outlier/Ness