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


Monday, January 15, 2018

2017-It's A Wrap~Literally!



Happy Belated New Year Blog Post to you All! My last post to this blog was completed in August of 2017 and our lives have changed tremendously since its issuance. We sold our house, finally, downsized tremendously and moved into our Village. I can't recall how many times I filled my SUV with crap we did not need but it was in double digits. We received a very rare cash offer and of course took it!

As you can discern from the pictures, fall itself, not unlike the winter thus far, was freakishly warm and dry, for those of us dwelling at 7000 feet. Even our towering mountain of 11,000` has struggled to maintain the bare minimum of ski runs open. In the midst of all things change, we endeavored to get our family photos taken. We were thrilled with the outcome of the pictures, less thrilled with the prevalence of wrinkles, grey hair and a kid who is almost as tall as I am! We are grateful to be so healthy regardless.

The last three months of 2017 were a three-ringed CIRCUS. Gavin in basketball, Scouts and band plus our involvement in philanthropic projects nearly took us under the bus. Gavin did well in his second year of basketball and finally made a few into the net. He advanced from Scout rank to Tenderfoot in his Troop and pulled straight A's again. Eric and me completed our 10th year of leading the charge at Santa's Helpers, helping to bring a full Christmas to more than 300 local families 700 kids and 60 elderly. Thank God we had an abundance of volunteers and steady donations, which are the two mandatory requirements, to pulling it off each year. Eric managed to make it through a very hectic quarter without a second engineer. He somehow did the same amount of work as two had done previously, although he would not recommend it to anyone! My business slows during the holidays so my volunteering always increases. The Chuckwagons (community pantries) also kept me busy with ongoing public relations, marketing and education. I am so thrilled with their evolution as community resources. People, non-profits and restaurants are each donating food to keep them stocked. I call these people our "cookies", fitting for a chuckwagon theme.

 Keeping food items in these Wagons, is no small task, given the extreme demand. New Mexico has the 2nd highest food insecurity rate among children and most families miss on average, 2 meals per week. Since these Chuckwagons are unregulated and not manged by an "entity," I get the opportunity to answer an abundance of  questions about who or whom is actually using the donated items. My answer is simple.

We will never really know and isn't' that the point? In the absence of knowing the recipients we are unable to judge or really have an opinion about these individuals. I do know one of the Wagons is regularly emptied and re-filled, kids are beginning to understand more about who lives in their town and these little boxes have brought our community a bit of hope in an otherwise fairly grim year for humanity. What more can you ask for in this day and age, in these uncertain times? Despite being spread quite thin, we manage to host Eric's family for Christmas, provide lodging for friends after Christmas and squeak in a trip to Alberta. Over-Achievers, yes indeed.
Evelyn~A spry 102 years of age

















I cooked up a storm for two days, we ate and then packed for this very spur of the moment trip to Canada, leaving our house to friends who needed it during this time. The very day after Christmas, sheets were flying, along with trash and towels as we flipped the house from one set of guests to another! And then, with bags under our eyes and in our hands, we headed to Alberta for a week of family, fun and freakishly cold weather (even for Canucks!) Gavin's Great-Grandmother had recently celebrated her 102nd (no it is not a typo) birthday and we chose to surprise her on a whim with help from a flurry of Eric's cousins.



All Cousins
Cousins~Smoking Hot Ones

Despite the -20 and -25 degree temperatures we managed to laugh until our faces hurt on more than one occasion of late night games, late night adult chats and some incredible metropolitan food! We gorged on Indian and Thai, plus some lovely French pastries and cookies from Duchess Bakery (owned by one of Eric's family members.) And, to top it off, we finally made it out for New Years Eve for the first time in years, enjoying a multi-course French inspired meal, paired with divine libations blended and mixed by course. The food was life-changing and so were the drinks, Special thanks to Duane for driving us home this very night and to the Wysynski and Johnson families for letting us lodge in their homes. We always hate to leave Canada as does Gavin, who is surrounded by cousins his own age. I am reminded of an old adage, "don't be sad it is over, be happy it happened." Since our return home and up-teen hours of much needed sleep, we are entirely back to normal. We are all exercising, eating clean and hoping to get rid of the holidays pounds before Girl Scout Cookie Season arrives!!!

Love to All,
Ness

Friday, August 18, 2017

Three Weeks In The Crown

Upper Waterton Lake, Watterton National Park, Alberta, Canada
















Maybe the old cliche' "a picture is worth a thousand words" begins to depict our summer of 2017. I said, maybe. To chronicle all we observed, all we did and all we felt, just isn't possible. We traveled by car more than 5000 miles, visited two other countries, crossed nearly a dozen rivers, visited three national parks and stayed with a couple of dear friends. We spent one entire morning watching wolves hunt bison on the Yellowstone. Truly, it was like our very own, National Geographic episode. We hiked back-country to hidden lakes where most can't or won't adventure. The Crown of the Continent, named for the jeweled peaks along the northern Rocky mountains, offers unparalleled beauty and adventure!




Mornings started at 5:30 a.m. with coffee, my map, bear spray and the daily plan. If we were energized, it was a big plan! We kayaked to several glaciers on those days. Gavin was in awe of the water. Crystalal clear, freezing cold. 
If we were feeling lazy, a small plan. Visit the visitors centers, hit Old Faithful, watch the stars by campfire. Never the less, always a plan. If you expect to do the parks right, you have to start early. Our tent was home for most of the trip with the exception of respite with friends in Montana and Utah, and one B&B (glorious lodge), two dive bars and a few restaurants. We ate our weight in huckleberry's!

I felt fortunate to see each friend, as time is passing quickly and we are all aging. I hugged them all long and hard making sure they knew it. And, I found, Gavin grew up significantly while traveling alone with his Adventure-Mom.
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After his usual phenomenal week at Vasa Camp, with dozens of cousins and Swedish culture, Gavin was able to sleep in his own bed, for three nights out of the entire month of July, before gallivanting to Denver for a STEM Camp, hosted by his God Mother, Candice. The two of them hit all of his favorites including music with a Zac Brown Band Concert, Sushi and Professional Soccer. In between camp time Candice planned trips out on the paddle board and to parks before cooking him supper and shuffling him off to bed. He loves her dearly and I am so glad they had all this fun together! 


After travelling by car for most of the summer, I found it took awhile to adjust to phones, noise, people, commitments and a clock. I guess these are signs of a remarkable journey! Please continue to scroll down to see more pictures of the wonder that is the Crown of The Continent.
"Keep close to Nature’s heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods." Jon Muir