Chapter 17: We're Back!

Hey y'all! We had an amazing Christmas, and didn't want to interrupt Christmas day with a post, so today is a double dose kind of a day. We will tag team this one, tackling one week each. First up, covering Christmas day is Steven!

This was our first Christmas as a married couple and sadly we weren’t able to make it home for the holidays. Leading up to Christmas we experienced a huge wave of emotions since it's Christmas time but we knew we weren’t going to be able to spend it with our families. For both Heather and myself, this time of the year has always been very family centred and both of our families have Christmas traditions which we knew we weren’t going to be able to take part in being so far away so we decided that we ought to take this opportunity to start creating our own family traditions and what better tradition to start with than good food.

Heather thought it wasteful to cook a whole turkey for just the two of us (I disagreed but marriage is all about compromise) so we looked for something smaller. At the bucherie the butcher suggested a roti de dinde which translates to turkey roast - It’s a turkey for 2! At Atwater Marche, our local farmers market, we picked up some fresh thyme and rosemary, some nice cheese and other goodies for our holiday meals. We also bought some oranges for our stockings - Fact: stockings must have oranges; they fit perfectly in the toe*

We made so many delicious things - to start we made gingerbread cookies on Christmas Eve from a recipe Heather's mom gave her. We had no reference of how many cookies the recipe would make so we ended up with at least four dozen - COOKIES FOR DAYS!!!! Then we put together an adorable spread of cheeses, meats, olives, crackers, strawberries, spanakopita and bubbly. We munched on that while watching Home Alone (the first one of course) and later opened one gift each before Skyping home with our families. Heather's family has a tradition where we read Christmas stories and then the nativity so we were able to join in on that. There's one touching story that makes Carol (Heather's mom) cry every time she reads it. She took on the brave task of reading it this year, that is, until she fell apart and had Mark finish it because she couldn't. The evening continued to the point where Heather was straitening my hair because her brother and I wanted to see who could look more pervy. He won (it's all in the centre part), but I looked super Asian (#heritage). After Skyping we wrapped up for the night and left out a plate of cookies and chocolate out for Santa.

On Christmas, we went to church where we got to sing in the choir to invite the Christmas spirit and then came home and made the best french toast we've ever eaten! It's all in the ingredients - if you can find some, buy real light-maple syrup. It makes all the difference. We bought some fresh bread so we could cut thick slices and then ate it with strawberries and real whipped cream. AMAZING!!!! Then we opened our gifts.

I love how Heather gives gifts. She'll listen so intently to small things I talk about and then tuck that information away for later. Ages ago I had been telling her about how sometimes when we're climbing it's a little straining on my neck to look up while belaying the whole time so for Christmas she bought me these mirror glasses that help me see the climber without having to strain my neck! So perfect! She also got me a lapel pin and some new tie clips because I told her a lot of my ties are too narrow for the one tie clip I own. For Heather, I gave her the new Harry Potter book with some fleece-lined jeans because, for anyone who knows Heather, she loves being warm more than most things so she loved them.

Then we made our roti de dinde which we made with garlic, potatoes, onions and carrots and then baked it in butter because butter ;) We couldn't find an exact recipe that we liked so we just browned the roast, covered it in fresh sprigs and threw it in the oven. Then we ate it with steamed veggies and baked mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows. I could have eaten that whole roast by myself but I shared because love.

This was a really special Christmas. Though we were both sad that we weren't able to be with family this Christmas we had each other. Having just gotten married and moved away we don't really have a lot so it was pretty stripped down and it became an opportunity to focus on the things that matter most. On our wall we have a painting hanging which Heather made which says, "If my heart was a house you'd be home." It's a lyric from an Owl City song which made me sceptical because Owl City but I've been thinking about that a lot this holiday season. Moving out here immediately after being married has been a big challenge. We've had to learn to adapt and compromise and there have definitely been hard times but they're outweighed by the fact that I'm facing them with my best friend. It's been hard making our humble place our home but Heather has my heart so whenever I'm with her I'm home.

Tag team Heather*

After Christmas was over we got packed up for a little skiing up at Mont Tremblant, a "mountain" about an hour and a half away from Montreal. I say "mountain" because for us Rockies kids it was so little! How adorable! In all honesty though, the whole mini mountain thing is really nice on your car, and they compensate for the elevation by having these giant snow makers all over that are blowing out hot steam which turns to snow when it hits the freezing air outside. It makes for a pretty uncomfortable ski lift ride being blasted with wet snow, but its worth it to have constant fresh powder!

So in preparing for this trip, we mentioned that we would be skiing for Steven's 30th birthday to his brother Joe. Joe was SO excited for Steven, and I didn't see why he was quite so excited. You see, Steven had led me to believe he had been skiing before a few times, so it wasn't as if this was really a new experience or anything... Turns out Steven has been cross-country skiing. Not downhill skiing. NOT THE SAME. Like at all. So upon arriving at the ski hill and spending forever getting rentals and all that sorted out we finally made it to the slopes. I couldn't see a bunny hill, but since he had "totally been skiing before a few times" I figured we would be okay anyways. I knew I would probably need to give him some pointers and remind him to pizza but since he had gone skiing about 15 years earlier I thought it would come back and then we would be good to go. As it turned out, he had no idea what he was doing. but at this point, we were already up at the top of the hill, so there is not a lot to do about it but learn on the slope! Steven is a really good ice skater so I knew that he would be able to get skiing pretty quickly, but I did worry when I saw how badly he was doing at first. The very first thing you learn to do when you put on a pair of skis is to point your toes together and "Pizza" your way down the hill. It's basically a snow plow and slows you down. For some reason, Steven could not get it. He would try, get scared, hockey stop and fall onto his hip. (He has a pretty epic bruise as proof!) I could see him getting frustrated but trying to be positive. Then all of a sudden, he just got it. Not the pizza, (that took a whole day longer) but he got skiing. I was teaching him to zig-zag his way down because it was more like skating, and as soon as he got it, he really got it. We were in business! zipping down the mountain weaving back and forth. It was the craziest thing to watch as he evolved! That first run took probably 1.5 hours (instead of the 15 minutes it took after that) but after that it was pretty much smooth sailing for Steven! He has been officially converted and may never snowboard again :)

We were staying at this lovely cabin for two nights while we were in Tremblant, and it was ADORABLE. I could not have been happier. It reminded me so much of our Lake house, but smaller, Quebecois, and with heated floors haha. The owner Claude had a garden where he grew his own produce and chamomile teas. He had chickens who provided the eggs at the all organic and locally sourced breakfast provided every morning. The whole experience was so relaxing and we were so in love with it.

 

Our only contentions were the lack of wifi - which would have been fine if we had planned for it, but because we weren't expecting it we had a hard time structuring our time at first. Fortunately, we had brought some books up with us and did a lot of reading out loud together which is always my favourite way to spend our rare spare time. When we were little my mom would buy a series of books and give us kids each one of the books in our stockings for Christmas, and this year my mom sent us a box set of one of our families favourite series when we were young: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C Wrede. If you want a fun series to read with your kids, I would highly recommend this one. The female characters are strong-willed, smart, kind, practical, ambitious and brave. I think it is fair to say these books shaped me in a lot of ways. They were the beginning of my feminism - hands down - and it has been really interesting to go back to them and find myself looking back off the pages. I looked up to the headstrong, witty main character. A woman who knows what she wants for her life and is fearless about asking for it. It was humbling to realise that although It wasn't natural for me, over time I have become a confidant, articulate person much like the ones I looked up to from the pages of the books I read as a young girl. (And as a side note - my brothers all loved these books as well, boys can love stories with strong female characters too!)

 

We had so much fun skiing, and took our time on the drive home. We were so tired we pulled over and took a nap half way home, even though it was only a 2 hour drive haha! We spent the next few days relaxing (Because we couldn't physically do much anyways haha) we ran errands and had an accidental Starwars marathon. After watching Rogue One we reeeeeaaaally wanted to watch episode 4, which we were able to do thanks to our friend Sam. (long story..) Then because we had some more time on our hands  we watched episode 5, and after that it was like well... we're almost done... we might as well make it an official marathon... haha. We did that last year too, its becoming a bit of a tradition.

Speaking of traditions, New Years is actually a pretty special holiday for us. We have known each other for years and knew of each other for longer than that through friends of friends. It took a long time for us to realise we should go on a date and even longer for that to stick, but one of the most significant nights in our early courtship was New Years eve. It happened very spontaneously, we ended going dancing with two friends. After dancing for a few hours our companions were tired, while we wanted to watch a movie... So we dropped them off and proceeded to have a spontaneous unforgettable adventure. Since we watched a movie together that year, last year we watched jaws, and this year we watched 2001: A Space Odyssy.

After our movie we went to Vieux Port where they were having a giant dance party/concert thing. It was incredibly fun. We didn't really know any of the acts, but they were all quite short so if you weren't into one, it was only like 15 minutes long anyways! There were like at least 4 acts an hour for two hours I would guess. The funniest was near the end when the performers started doing what we are assuming were traditional Quebecois songs? About drinking and about meat pies? Anyways it was amazing and hilarious, and some of the performers had lyric sheets, while the audience knew all the words! it was awesome.

The highlights of the night were the giant Coca-cola bottle ice sculpture, free cokes and light stick things, and CONFETTI CANNONS. Here's a picture of me loosing my mind. Really all you need to know how I felt about that magical moment. We watched the fireworks and had a kiss at midnight, and pretty much its gonna be a terrific year. 2016 may have been bad for some things, but for me and Steven it has been one heck of a year to beat.

Cheers, Merry Christmas, Happy New Years

Heather and Steven

Chapter 16: Party! Party! Party!

This week was a pretty momentous one for us. I (Heather) finished my training at work!!!! I've been doing something called the MPC Academy for the past 12 weeks. Basically there aren't enough visual effects artists in the industry so the studio MPC offers 3 month training followed by another 9 months of employment with them to help young artists break into a difficult industry. This job is the whole reason we embarked on this crazy journey to Montreal. It has been a lot of work, tears, and craziness, and I have learned so much in the past few months here. I and five others were hired out of a very large pool of applicants, so just getting hired was a huge deal for me as I was switching fields pretty much. All my experience comes from Animation, and this is live action work, and I have very limited experience in lighting which is what I now do. They try and hire only people they think will be successful in the program as it is such a large monetary and time investment, but it doesn't always work out. One of the people I started out with didn't end up "graduating" the program with us. It was pretty shocking and we were all heartbroken for him. He was let go the day before we finished, so that definitely put a bit of a damper on the celebrations.

My fellow lighting trainees were Tiffany, Nicolas, Carmen, Frank and Terry. We are all very different, but found a great sense of camaraderie as we stayed late and came in early to get our work ready to present twice a week. They are really great artists, and I am so happy to have gotten to know them more over the past few months! We have all been put on to our shows and I am so excited to start work on Monday on my first feature film. You'll be able to see it in the theatres and everything!! (I can't say more now, but I will keep you posted when it comes out.)

 

This weekend seems to be the weekend that everyone was planning parties and get-togethers. It has been really crazy. we had a little graduation ceremony at work, there were work parties for both of our jobs, we had a white elephant gift exchange, our church had a Christmas party, and some friends had a pot-luck as well. We definitely overdid it, and some hard decisions had to be made. In the end, we had a blast this weekend, didn't sleep enough, and didn't get to do everything we wanted to haha. But we had a great weekend anyways.

Our White elephant gift exchange was awesome! We filled up our house, and it looks like we may need more seating before the next gathering. So we can invite more friends obvi. For those of you who don't know what it is, let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up:

  1. Everyone who comes brings a wrapped gift less than 20$ in value (or what ever you are comfortable with)
  2. You draw numbers for who chooses first (the least desirable is choosing first)
  3. You choose a gift, unwrap it and ooh and ahh. (or laugh and moan. depending)
  4. The next people to choose picks either a fresh gift from the pile, or they can steal something someone else unwrapped. If you steal a gift, the person who had it stolen can pick a new gift from the pile or steal a different person's gift.
  5. Each gift can only be stolen 3 times.

 We had some really funny gifts, I think one of the favourites was Devin getting a purse, and working that purse all evening. look for the man with the purse in these photos, he is pretty fab. One of the best and most desirable gifts (i think) was a large abstract painting our friend P.O. had made! (he is french so that is pronounced like "pay oh" not "pee owe" haha) Hurray for more artist friends!

I feel like this week a lot of people have been asking us how we like it here in Montreal. Actually we love it. The city's culture is amazing, and the people here are so warm. Their warmth almost makes up for the freezing temperatures of the city. Almost. No but really, so far the cold hasn't been so bad. We have really been prepared with the winter wear we have bought, so this kind of cold hasn't been too much yet. I'm sure it will get there, but I'm feeling like "if this is -20, I can totally handle this. inside."

What else did we do this week than party? I am having a hard time remembering right now...

Love Heather

Chapter 15: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Another week come and gone and this week has definitely helped us get in the spirit of Christmas. I'm sure many of your have heard of the rodent under our sink fiasco. For those of you who missed it, we had a furry visitor this who came uninvited at 7:30am on Monday. I had already left for work so I wasn't there to see what it was but it would growl every time Heather made any noise. I was really excited to come home and find out what it was but when I arrived home I found that there was a big hole under the sink leading into the wall. Our landlord came and set up some rat traps with cheese but Heather and I are pretty positive it's a squirrel and I don't know if they like cheese. Heather put some peanut butter out for it but nothing yet. We hear it in our walls every day at 7:30am like clock work and we still have no solution of how to get rid of it. We'll keep you updated on any progress. It snowed this week both here in Montreal but also in Vancouver. Weird, right? I've been telling everyone here that it just doesn't snow in Vancouver and here Vancouver has made me out to be a liar! It's right at that perfect temperature for snow but not too cold - the perfect weather for buying a tree. I had a very idealized vision of the conditions for getting a tree. It needed to be snowy but not blizzarding, during the golden hour so we would have perfect light for photos and close enough that we could walk our tree home. Now you may think that I'm going to tell a story of how it was a total disaster and that it was nothing like what I wanted but not this week! Everything was perfect! I met Heather down at the Atwater Marche a few blocks from our house, and we explored the fraser and balsam trees until we found the perfect tree. The difference between the two trees is that fraser trees have a bluer tint to their needles and, although thicker, they tend to be less fragrant than the balsam trees. We decided to go with a balsam tree because really wanted that smell of pine when we come home. Then we posed with our tree and took some pictures (obviously), got it wrapped up and carried it home.

But we didn't have time to set it up because we had to rush off to perform in a Christmas musical performance. One thing that really helps welcome the Christmas spirit is singing carols. There were a number of wonderful performances. There were a number of choir performances, a guest performance from the local Catholic church and a French acapela group that was incredible. We had the privilege of performing in 4 numbers and with some remarkable musicians. Unfortunately, we don't have any recordings to share but we'll try and get something to share later. We did renditions of "Guard Him Joseph" by Sally Duford, "In the Bleak Mid Winter," "Go Tell it on the Mountain" (with a gospel swing feel) and "The First Noel." It was definetly too many numbers, our voices were hoarse by the end but it was worth it because it was so fun! We still have no idea how we ended up in so many numbers considering not many people know us and no one had heard us preform before... bit of a gamble on their parts but it worked out so good in the end!

And then today we finally had the chance to set up our tree! When I say the balsam trees are fragrant that is an understatement, especially in our apartment. We walked in to a delicious wave of pine scent, and turned on "White Christmas" to get us into the christmas spirit. We were very simple with our decorations and made our own star out of sticks but it fits right into our little home and warms it up. Starting our own traditions has been super cool. We have 12 notes on the tree, and have decided to write something we love about each other each of the 12 days leading up to christmas as our own advent. It was Heathers idea and Im really excited to try it out, we will let you know how it goes. After we decorated the tree, we tried to pose for a photo with our tree using a timer and... it's a lot harder than it looks! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas indeed. Let us know what you think of our Christmas decorations, I'm sure we will be doing more decorating in the coming week.

Heather got all tuckered out decorating the tree

Until next week,

- Steven

ps massive photos i know. its heathers fault, we couldn't decide which ones to post and it got late so....