'Tis the Season { Christmas 2017 }

Our Christmas tree was a little more subdued this year but Christmas was no less magic. It's such a beautiful time of year and the kids really make it. They are so excited for what's to come and they really bring that joy to the season.

This year we cut down a tree at the Scout Christmas tree farm on a bit of a wet and windy day. And spent a afternoon together decorating the tree from top to bottom and made a cool time lapse of our efforts. There were lots of events to be enjoyed across the season. We participated in the light the world initiative where each day you read a scripture and sought to  service. We had great experiences as a family visiting with members of our ward and friends, dropping off cookies and singing carols. It was a great way to pay homage to the Savior and strive to emulate him. We had plenty of events and parties to attend and host. We had the ward Christmas party earlier in the month followed by Levi's work party, a cookie exchange party, Monica's crafting party, a visit to the temple to see the nativity statues, Finley's school Christmas concert, the youth Christmas party at our place as well as hosting the final destination of a youth activity in our garden shed ( a makeshift stable), and a dinner we put on for Levi's counselors in the Bishopric. I also went and saw the 100th anniversary of the Boston Christmas Tree sendoff. Lots of Christmas spirit. Levi and I also enjoyed attending Handel's Messiah performed by Symphony Nova Scotia which was absolutely moving and we got to see a member of our ward, Chris perform on the Oboe. It was a great reminder of the reason for the season and the tribute to our Saviour was beautiful. That was also the night that I surprised Levi with a miniature little Christmas stocking telling him that we are expecting another baby. Our best Christmas surprise for sure.

Christmas morning was lovely. We really limited the gifts this year and it was a good move. Finley got Lego and a remote control car and Primrose got a Moana doll, a princess dress plus their stocking and a stuffy they give to each other. I also decided at the last minute to put together a small dolls house for them both but really I could have saved it, what we had was enough. I got Levi a massage and a skiing lesson which he was very surprised and excited about and he bought me a tea pot, a little bow ring and a learn to draw book. We had the missionaries and our friends Camille and Robbie over for dinner which was lovely. I cooked a traditional North American meal with a turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings and we watched A Christmas Carol as a special treat for the missionaries as they were allowed to watch a movie.

For the next week we slept in and lazed about, a well deserved rest for Levi. We made the occasional trip to the movies and swimming pool as well. We spent New Years Eve with our friends the Speers who put on an amazing oil fondue spread and then we attempted to light some fireworks we have but it was too cold!

Christmas in this part of the world is very different to home but we have embraced it all. I've learnt to cook North American dishes, begun new traditions and my life will forever be changed by the experience of Christmas in this part of the world.

Jade's Workshop { Christmas 2017 }

This year I volunteered to do the Ward Christmas party. I'd had an idea bouncing around in my head since my good friend Nicky did this amazing carnival activity in Salt Ash Branch years ago. I had wanted to do something similar but Christmas themed and here was my big chance. It was a lot of work, but I spaced it all out over the course of a month, had a great team that took on some major elements like food and the crafts and nativity performance so my main role was to bring the space to life with decorations. I spent the weeks leading up to the event painting poles and gathering boxes and set about making 100 lollipop, candy cane and spiral decorations. 100 didn't seem that many at the time but we needed 100 boxes wrapped as a weight at the bottom and that almost did me in! I had wonderful volunteers show up to help and we got through it all with time to spare.

For the meal Jess and Camille did an incredible hot potato bar, dessert was hot chocolate, cider, cookies and nanamo bars organised by the youth leaders and Amanda organised the primary children to perform a beautiful nativity with congregation participation. Finley drew the part of Joseph and was thrilled to be with his friend Sophie who played Mary. Jack Paxton did a wonderful job playing Santa and there were crafts for the kids and adults. We also had some really cool things happen in the lead up like a new convert Bobbi donating a fireplace mantle she had at her workplace. It was perfect for the Santa scene we did and everyone was very impressed.

It was a lot of work but well worth it in the end. The best part for me was seeing the unity of the ward, everyone together enjoying the Christmas spirit and having a great time. It is wonderful belonging to a community of people who believe and celebrate the birth of our Savior.

{ Memories } Heaven on Earth

These pictures evoke the most beautiful memories. HAPPINESS. I don't think our hearts will ever truly leave the sleepy town of Port Stephens. It was chance really that we ended up there in the first place and discovered that life in the slow lane is really living. It totally changed us and impacts how we live our life now, even though we are so far away. 

It taught us:

To take time for the important things
That bbq's on the deck are key
That living near water for us is a must
That when the place you live in doesn't run at lighting speed you can actually breath 
To not worry if we can't do everything
That church in a small, dusty community hall can bring you really close to God
To run, swim and dive right in

I was lucky enough to find so many forever friends in this beautiful place. To have my first precious baby and bring him home to our house on Pantowora St. To build a home and painstakingly landscape it on a shoestring budget. To get fit and find the joy in running and exercise. To have so many friends and visitors come and enjoy it all with us. 

PS you know I love you! 

The Elusive Icebergs of Newfoundland

Just before we moved to Canada a good friend of ours Jean gave us some DVD's she had found called trains across Canada. We were excited to watch them and get a bit more a feel for the place we would be spending the next few years of our life. They had an awesome segment on the Martimes and one of the most striking places was Newfoundland, which interestingly you can't actually get to by train ( ? ) but where you can kayak around icebergs. Immediately Levi and I both said 'we have to do that!' and onto the bucket list it went.

The time came where the stars aligned for us to be able to leave the kids with our good friends the Paxtons and spend 48 hours in Newfoundland for Levi's 36th birthday. In the days leading up to our trip I was checking the iceberg tracker (that's a real thing) hourly hoping that icebergs would be where we needed them to be to see them up close in a kayak. This year had been great for icebergs, there were hundreds surrounding Newfoundland but only ONE!!! was near the location of our kayak tour and not near enough. With all the prayers I could muster I pleaded with God to help the iceberg float along a few kms to the needed destination. But as I prayed I had a very clear answer that we would not be kayaking around icebergs ... devastated. From there I had the assurance that if I could get past this iceberg disappointment I would still have a wonderful time in Newfoundland. My challenge now was to let it go and just enjoy... oh man. Boy did I try. But this was a bucketlist item! I had dreamed of this since even before arriving in Canada. How could this not happen! Well all the wishful thinking in the world can not change the course of an iceberg so I had the not that fun lesson of learning that in life you don't always get what you want. Levi was a great example to follow, when informed we would not be kayaking around an iceberg he said 'okay' and didn't give it another thought (who is this person!) so I proceeded as best I could to just enjoy and that's what we did.

We took the short flight to St. Johns and settled into our beautiful bed and breakfast where I had booked a room with a spa (a true highlight as our bath resembles a puddle more than a bath). We went out and had a truly excellent dinner, St. Johns is known for it's food and it did not disappoint for our entire stay. The next day we traveled about an hour for our kayak tour. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and it was clear that icebergs or not this was going to be awesome. We had a double kayak and our guide fed us sea urchin, took us to a waterfall and caves that drew you in and out, all the while telling us the history of the area that use to be a prime cod fishing location but collapsed because of over fishing. The water in the area was so deep and clear that you could see incredibly far down. It makes it a perfect spot for whales to come into the cove and at times there can be dozens there.

After kayaking we took the lead of a couple we had met at breakfast that morning and booked a picnic lunch at Ferryland lighthouse. We didn't realize at the time just how magical an experience this would be. To get to the lighthouse you have about a 20 minute walk along a old and bumpy road and when you arrive it feels like you are at the edge of the world. The rocky edge, the surging water and our elusive iceberg in the distance was so beautiful. As we waited for lunch we read of all the incredible shipwreck stories, a true and tragic part of life in the maritimes. We took our amazing lunch of sandwiches, salad, dessert and lemonade and our blanket to a lovely spot in the sun and just enjoyed this incredible place. It was perfect and a true highlight of our trip. It's moments like that where I feel really overwhelmed at the blessing it is to experience such a different and beautiful part of the world. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving along the coast to another lighthouse, Cape Spear, located at the most eastern point of all of North America. This was another very cool spot. We ate at the top restaurant in St Johns that night, we were absolutely exhausted and it was a bit too hipster for us but the food was good. We fell into bed that night. What a day!

We had most of the rest of the day to explore before our flight that afternoon. We went on the hunt for some more icebergs and saw a few in the distance. We ate lunch in St Johns at a cool cafe and wandered about the town which is known for it's 'jelly bean' houses and steep streets. It has a beautiful harbour too which was best seen from Signal Hill where we headed after lunch. The beauty of the harbour is the huge foreboding hills that rise at it's narrow mouth. It was windy up there!

We had a truly memorable time in Newfoundland. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Levi's birthday and spend time together just us. I love that I get to have these experiences and share them with my husband and true love. He is the best of men.

Thank you Newfoundland!