Thursday, October 23, 2008

My life in Canada (January 2006 - December 2006)

January 2006 - December 2006:

Nothing too much happened after New Year. Michael and I slowly started thinking of a new car for me as the mini van is almost about 11 years old. We might yet get a decent amount of money for it before it really would start having problems. Our plan was not to buy a new car until the end of this year or beginning of the next year. But we did go to the Vancouver Auto Show in March of 2006 to see what kind of cars would be there and what would be the best kind of car for me. We wanted a car that would be safe, reliable and something that would be versatile. We were also looking for a car that we could use when going on holidays, so we could stuff it with all kinds of things and fit 4 adults in it. So, it’s not very easy to find something like that as we didn’t want to spend a fortune either. I was really interested in a Subaru Legacy station wagon and Michael was more interested in the Volkswagen Jetta station wagon, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Mitsubishi Lancer station wagon. After the Auto Show we talked things over and decided to take the cars we were both interested in for a test drive in the next couple of weeks. Michael and I really liked the Subaru, but it was hard to tell if it would have enough power to pull a full car on the Coquihalla Highway (highway in the mountains) on the hills as we test drove it in a flat area and the car was a bit pricy. We then went to North Vancouver to test drive the Mitsubishi’s and the Volkswagen…here we would really notice how they would drive on bigger hills. 

The Outlander wasn’t bad at all, but a little noisy going up a steeper hill and not fully loaded as we would have it when going to Mara Lake. The Lancer was really noisy and the ride was very bumpy, just not comfortable.Then we went to Volkswagen to drive the Jetta station wagon Turbo Diesel. After driving that Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GLS TDI we were both in love with it! We couldn't believe how much power that Turbo Diesel had and it really has a lot of power going up the hills and mountains around here...AMAZING. I don’t think it would be a problem on the highways in the mountains. The other thing that’s great is that it’s a diesel so it won’t need so much filling up! We really liked it a lot, so we asked around and bargained with a couple of dealers and one of them gave us a heck of a deal compared to the other dealers for a brand new 2006 Volkswagen Jetta station wagon TDI. After some deep thinking and talking we decided we would buy it. That is my first brand new car! I am sooooooooooo excited about it because it’s MINE! And since it is also so close to my birthday I am seeing it as a birthday present. Boy, that's the best present I've ever had! Michael bought a new car 3 years ago (a 2003 Toyota Solara) which he mainly uses and I used his old car (Nissan Axxess). It has been a real good buggy, but we had to sell it...three cars is just a little too much...hehe. We got a very good price for the Nissan, we will miss it though. But of course I am also very happy that I am able to drive a brand new car that I really like! The car is blue and really looks so cool with beautiful wheels on it, I love it!

In the summer we had some time off together. Michael and I were off work from July 1st until August 1st so we could enjoy some traveling together. In the beginning of July we went to our usual spot called Mara Lake. Mara Lake is located in the Okanagan Valley about 500km east of Vancouver. It's a family get together because Michael's mother her sisters come out from Calgary to this lake as well. It's about 500km west of Calgary, so just as far to drive for all of us. Michael's parents came with us of course and we took my new buggy the Volkswagen TDI! Wow, it's a great car and it performs amazingly well. It handles the steep inclines on the Coquihalla Highway very good and of course it's great on fuel because it's a diesel. We had the trunk stuffed with all kinds of stuff and strapped some lawn chairs to the roof racks. We were very impressed with my new car! nce at Mara Lake, it was so great to see Fay and Dorothy again (Michael's aunts) as well as Deborah (Dorothy's daughter), Stu (Deborah's husband) and their little boy Evan. We had a great time with many laughs and fun time. We had the chance to sit on the beach and swim in the lake. The weather was really great, sunny and hot (around 30 C) most of the week. We had a little bit of clouds and a bit of rain one morning. We also did some shopping and enjoyed lots of the local fresh fruits like big black cherries, apricots and peaches. Hmmmm, they are so yummy! So, that was a successful trip again that we enjoyed so much!

Dorothy and Fay at the cabin at Mara Lake

View of the beach and Mara Lake

After our week at Mara Lake we had hot weather in Vancouver...35C and even warmer on some days. Boy oh boy, it was really hot, but thankfully there was some breeze that kept everything a bit comfortable. We would be leaving again on July 23rd this time for a trip to the beautiful Oregon Coast in the United States of America! We left early in the morning on Sunday July 23rd. The border to the USA is about 20-30 minutes driving from our place. At the border it was not too busy and we had no problems entering the USA. Then we drove off towards Seattle. There we stopped at the Seattle Premium Outlet Mall. Here you can find over 100 stores of designer clothing. Michael found some nice Adidas runners there for about $30.00 USD, not bad I'd say. Anyway, you could spend a whole day at these stores, but we didn't have all day as we were going all the way down to Oregon. The whole trip from our place to the place we were staying at on the Oregon Coast is about 500km. After a couple of hours driving again we stopped at a Wal-Mart in Chehalis (Washington State). Holy Moly, it was so hot in this place it must have been close to 40 C...pfff! My goodness, what a big Wal-Mart that was. We found this Orange Crush Creme cake (kind of like a pudding cake or pound cake)...never seen anything like it. So we were going to buy it as we can't get it in Canada. It turned out to be a delicious cake! They also had a 7up creme cake which we brought home (also very delicious!).

Anyway we continued our drive and stopped at some other places along the way. The scenery was quite beautiful and we enjoyed the drive. We stopped at a store in Warrenton (the town we were staying in) to pick up some last minute stuff like milk, butter and other things that we didn't want to buy earlier. It seemed like it was a lot cooler in this area compared to the hot weather we have had the whole trip. We are close to the ocean here and I guess the wind keeps it cooler. It was about 25 C in Warrenton, ideal temperature, I'd say! We arrived at the house we rented around 4.30pm, we stayed in a town called Warrenton which is on the northern Oregon Coast. What a pretty house with a beautiful backyard that looked out on a small lake and we about 0.5km from the beach. It looked like we picked a great place, a whole house to ourselves with a barbeque in the backyard, a beautiful deck and of course a living room with TV, a full kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. The house was quite nicely decorated as well and we felt comfortable right away. We put our stuff away, had an easy dinner and we relaxed for awhile. At around 7.00pm we decided to walk down to the beach and have a look around. We wanted to see the sunset tonight and since the beach wasn't that far...we went for it. It took us about 5 minutes to walk to the beach. This beach was called Sunset Beach and it was a beautiful beach. The thing that I really liked was that the waves were quite rough and fairly big, compared to what we see at the ocean in Vancouver. These waves are much wilder and so beautiful to see! The weird thing over here was that cars just kept on driving onto the beach, so people could enjoy the beach right from their car. There were some people having a camp fire on the beach or even a barbeque. I thought that was quite interesting. The sunset was lovely and after that we walked back to the place and went to bed to have nice long sleep.

We got up around 8.30am and had a nice breakfast before we were on our way to Ecola State Park, a place where you have amazing views over one of the most scenic places on the Oregon Coast which is called Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock. I was really looking forward to this! The drive was not far from where we stayed, I think it took us approximately 15-20 minutes to get to the park. From the parking lot it was a very short walk to the most famous view point of Cannon Beach! Wow, that was so amazing, what a view. I loved the ocean with some mist from the waves and these big rocks sticking out of the ocean. We enjoyed a bit of time at the viewpoint and wondered around along the trails there to have a view of the nicest spots. After that we drove to Indian Beach which was also in Ecola State Park. This beach has also some great views over other seastacks in the Pacific Ocean. Seastacks are those hug rocks that stick out of the ocean. We sat on a bench at this place to take in the view and to just relax. 

There were some people on the beach, some were having a barbeque and others were going for some surfing. After that we went to the actual place called Cannon Beach. This is a little town by the ocean and here you can have a close up look of the Haystack Rock that you can see from Ecola State Park. We walked on the beach all afternoon to enjoy the beautiful views, the ocean breeze, the sunshine and just the amazing feeling you get when you are at the beach. Soon after we wondered around in the town, we had some lunch (fish and chips...hmmm delicious) and looked around in some of the stores in this town and did some more walking on the beach. It was getting closer to dinner time, so we went home and had something to eat. After a couple of hours we decided that we were going to go back to Ecola State Park to catch Cannon Beach by sunset. Too bad there were some clouds around and we couldn't quite get the sunset we hoped for, but the views were still amazing and there was a lot less fog around then in the morning. The view with the late sunlight was quite charming and we stayed there for a while before heading back and relax for the rest of the evening.

We left again around 9.00am in the morning to do some sightseeing. This time we decided to go to the Long Beach Peninsula which is back in Washinton State. We drove to Astoria where we had to drive over the 4 mile (6.5km) long Astoria Megler that was beautiful. Once we got to Long Beach we walked around in the little town and its many souvenir stores. We also walked along the beach on the boardwalk, there were quite some clouds around and it was quite breezy that day. None the less, it was a wonderful place. We had some lunch somewhere in Long Beach in one of the little restaurants and decided to Cape Disappointment State Park as it was on the way back anyway. We didn't know what to expect with a name like that, but since we still had some time we thought we'd go and have a look. We parked at the parking lot and followed the trail to the little beach. 

Funny, this beach was called Waikiki Beach. The view was amazing and definitely not a disappointment. We sat on some rocks where we watched the waves roll in gracefully. Great place and beautiful views. I am so glad we stopped here for a while. In the late afternoon we took our time to go back to the place we stayed at. We stopped in Astoria on the way home to sent off some postcards to my family and some friends. We noticed that Astoria is a wonderful city with such beautiful buildings. We also stopped at some stores in Warrenton for a little more shopping before we went home and had some dinner. The rest of the night we took it easy and watched some TV. We just enjoyed our evening together and were chatting away about what we had seen and done so far.

Today was our last day at the beautiful Oregon Coast. We didn't have too much more planned, but we wanted to do some more shopping at Seaside where they have some outlet stores with lots of cheap stuff. We were also going to the centre of Seaside to see all the little stores and do walk on the beach for a while. Seaside is such an interesting place. The town is wonderful and we visited an antique store which was quite interesting. We also went to a small mall with some neat stores. We saw a diner that looked like something from the 50's, I thought I was lost on a scene from the tv show "Happy Days". There was also an old fashioned candy store with all sorts of goodies. Michael found it very interesting as he recalled lots of candies from his childhood that you can't find easy anymore. We stocked up on a few things to take home with us. We went for lunch at a nice restaurant called the "Pig'n Pancake"...not exactly a place you might want to go and eat with such a name. 

That's why I remember it so much, but the menu on the door looked so good that we decided to go in anyway. We had the fish and chips, yummy that tasted very good and it was a great restaurant! So, if you are every in the area don't let the name scare you off...hehe! We had a nice walk on the beach at Seaside, which is a beautiful big beach as well. It was very windy and there were quite some clouds around. In the evening we headed back to Warrenton and had some dinner. After that we went for one more last walk to Sunset Beach, by now it was very cloudy and windy. But it was great to walk on the beach to enjoy the peacefulness and to listen to the rolling waves of the Pacific. Michael and I walked hand in hand and enjoyed our last while at this beautiful place. We say goodbye to the beautiful Oregon Coast and hope to go back some day! We left for Vancouver the day after that on our way home. We had such a great time and the weather was fantastic!

The summer has been so beautiful and so warm! It was sunny for almost 3 full months with hardly any rain and temperatures of above 25 C and sometimes up to 35 C. We were able to go for many walks and enjoy the beautiful beaches around here as well as some walking in the nearby mountains. I also had a great opportunity when it comes to a couple of my photos. Quite a few months ago I received an e-mail from an educational company who wanted to use 2 of my photos from the my the Canadian Rocky Mountains that they had seen on the internet. They wanted to use them for an Atlas of Canada. I was not going to get paid for it, but my name would be mentioned in the photo credits and I would get a free copy sent to me once it was finished. I was honoured that somebody wanted to use my photos in a book! I couldn't believe it, maybe someday something else will come out of it? Anyway, I agreed to it and at the end of the summer I received my book with both photos in it and my name is mentioned in the front of the book. That is so cool.

I have big time bragging rights now...haha! I think it's so great though that I can say now that I have my first pictures published in a book. Who knows I'll get more opportunities in the future with my photos. I am planning to buy a new digital camera that has lots of manual options for even better photos in the future. I really like photography and it's becoming more and more a passion! In September we went to Harrison Hotsprings as I had never been there yet. The Sand Sculpture Championship was being held at the beach by Harrison Lake at this time, so that would be great to see. That was beautiful to see, some of these sculptures are just incredibly detailed. There was also a Belgian team and they had a beautiful sculpture. It was amazing to see and there were still quite some sculptures in process. It's really neat to see how they create something like that and so detailed.

After looking around and contemplating a lot I finally decided which kind of new digital camera I wanted. I really wanted something with lots of manual options, but I didn't want to take the big leap to a DSLR because I am not too sure what kind of lenses I would want. I bought a prosumer camera or one of those super zooms as they call it or an "SLR like" camera. It's a Sony DSC-H5 with 7.2 megapixels which is a camera with a super zoom lens and lots of manual options which I had been craving for for a long time! I love all the features on the camera which allow me to create some photos with neat effects and just be more creative when it comes to taking photos. I have been practicing in front of our living room window and taken some sunset photos as well as some photos of the city buildings.

Michael and I have also been to Vancouver and Burnaby Mountain to capture some more interesting shots while enjoying a walk. I really love going out around here and capture all the beautiful places around Vancouver and where we live on photo. It is so much fun and the more I practice, the better my photos will get, I hope! In the meantime I also bought a polarizing filter for my camera which I hadn't been able to use very much in the fall yet as it's ideal to use when there is blue sky. I have been able to capture some wonderful shots from our living room window, it's great to practice for nightshots and sunset shots. This way I can really play around and learn more about my manual settings. I am really starting to enjoy it a lot. I wish I would have know my camera a bit better when we were in the Canadian Rockies, but the scenery was there that helped a lot. I just got my camera before we left and once we were in the Rockies I didn't feel like reading the manual and all that...hehe! Anyway, I get lots of practice at home and I am sure we will return to the Canadian Rockies at some point. We get the sunsets right in front of our window in the winter time, so it was an ideal time to practice. I really like the effects of the buildings lit up and a beautiful sunset sky above it all. Further nothing much has been happening, I still keep in touch with my mom once to twice a week and it's really great to talk to her. It's good to hear that she's doing good most of the time, but somedays are harder than others. I can only imagine after being with someone for over 40 years and being somewhat dependent on them and all of a sudden you are alone. I think the weekends are the hardest because most people are out and about with their own families and don't have much time for my mom, but usually she gets over these sadder days. I am also waiting to hear from the Registered Nurses Association to finally do a refresher course to get the highest title in nursing. I had to do another English exam which I passed no problem, so now I am waiting for the next step to in this process. We'll see what happens!
The weather has been a little crazy in the fall this year. We had our first snow fall already on November 25, 2006 which delivered about 50cm (20 inches) of snow.. This is quite unusual for this time of the year for Vancouver. We have had snow this early before, but not that much. Everything looked very beautiful that's for sure, but it wasn't fun to get around by car with all the hills over day I even had to take a taxi to work as I couldn't get my car out of our back alley...too slippery. It really was cold as well and we had temperatures around -10 C for about a week, but it was sunny which makes it really nice. The snow disappeared in about 2 and a half weeks and then it got warmer and the rain kicked in again at times as well. The snow kept on falling on the mountains, while we got the rain down here, so for the local mountains it was great and they opened early for the ski season. Michael and I also went to see our local Vancouver Canucks (hockey) on November 28, 2006 where we watched the Vancouver Canucks win 1-0 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was a fun evening and the game was great. Michael got some free tickets from somebody at work, so it was really worth going. We were sitting in the 4th row, which are fantastic seats so we were able to see everything so close.
In the beginning of December I finally heard something from the Nurses Association and I registered for an online course which I can do at home and I will start in January 2007. I am happy to start that again and hope to finish this online course in about a year. Christmas came around quickly and we spend Christmas Day at Michael's parents place. We had a wonderful dinner and a wonderful time! December 26 is a fun day over here and is called "Boxing Day" in Canada, to most people that means it is a big day to go shopping! On this day everything in most stores is 50% off or even more. Certain stores have great specials and sell things at a really cheap price on this day only. Usually there are great deals on electronics, clothes, shoes, perfumes, jewelry and so much more. We went to a big store (Wal-Mart) where they sell electronics, clothing, groceries and other things. The store was going to open at 7.00 in the morning. Michael and I got up early so we would be able to get the things we wanted to get. Unbelievable but we were standing in the line up at 6.45am...haha! There were at least about 50 people waiting ahead of us already. We did get the things we wanted to get such as a pack of 100 recordable DVD's for about $17.00 CAD (12.00 euro), the first 3 seasons of the "X-Files" on DVD which was $17.50 CAD (12.50 euro) per season, we also bought some soap at a very cheap price, some crackers and other stuff. It was a fun day of shopping. In the evening we had Michael's parents over for dinner which was really nice. We had a great time which is always so nice. We both took time off until after New Year, so we were able to enjoy our time together to the fullest! It's so great to be off together for a little while and just do the things we like to do.

Please see my next post "My life in Canada (January 2007 - December 2007) for the rest of the story!


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