Sunday, January 27, 2013


Our canal during yesterday's snowfall.  
We've had a couple of weeks of temperatures below freezing, so the canal behind our home is frozen.  It snowed while it froze so the ice is not good for skating, much to the dismay of the locals.  I had my fill of skating in Lake Louise so my disappointment is limited.  
This guy spent an hour eating in our yard

The frozen canal has allowed the deer from the neighboring Canadian Ambassadors estate to invade our yard.  They must be tired of the Canadian's vegetation because they have spent the last two weeks munching on our landscaping.  It's like a whole new buffet to them.

The Canadian Ambassador's Home.  
Many of you may be wondering how the deer are able to sneak into our yard under the nose of our ferocious golden retriever, Graber.  Well, the frozen canal also offered opportunities for him.  Last Saturday, he was spotted sprinting down the ice in chase of a bird.  He has no sense of direction so once he gets out, he's gone.  Luckily Lori lured him back with a squeak toy and promises of cheese.  After that incident he has been sentenced to inside living except for supervised (and leashed) potty breaks.  The deer quickly picked up on his absence and escalated their raids after that.

The prisoner fulfilling his sentence.   

Alas, today Holland famous rain has returned so the snow and ice will be gone soon.  Hopefully, the deer will be on the right side of the canal when it unthaws.

One of the downsides of owning a white car in the winter -- it really shows the grime.  

A new home construction on our street, as viewed from the canal.  The Dutch build homes to last several hundred years so it usually involved steel framing and cranes.  

The small lake in our neighborhood where the kids skate (except for the day I was taking pictures)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

O Canada

Kate requested that we celebrate with a white Christmas this year, so we packed up our parkas and headed to Banff, Canada where it was certainly white and even more certainly cold.  Christmas morning we awoke to temperatures of -30 degrees C, which translates to -20 degrees F.  Both numbers are cold.... real cold.

Like all good winter resorts, Banff had a number of sporting goods stores, so we supported the Canadian economy and stocked up on additional cold weather gear to reinforce ourselves.  Plus Kate brought along an economy pack of hand and foot warmers, so we were able to survive and enjoy all the winter activities.  The condo where we stayed had a heated outdoor swimming pool.  A number of people went swimming (probably Canadians) but we weren't up for the frigid dash between the pool and the changing room.  

Dog sledding was probably the highlight of the trip.  Everyone got a turn at "driving" the team, which sounds fun until they tell you that you have to run and push when the sled goes uphill.  In fact, the guide's quote was "the dogs will look back to make sure you're pushing too.  They really appreciate the help".  Running through the snow in full gear pushing a sled uphill is pretty taxing, but who wants to disappoint a dog.  The other downside of driving was that you're fully exposed to the elements, while the other two people are toasty warm, wrapped in blankets in the sled.

Luckily the dog sled place rented snow boots because Kate's were in her missing suitcase.  

You know it's cold when even the sled dogs where coats. 

Lori getting ready to drive the kids, who are well protected.  

The view from the dog sled trail

Now it's Lori's turn to bundle up

Thanking our dogs for a great time.  

One day we drove over to Lake Louise for high tea at the Fairmont Lodge, followed by ice skating on the lake.  Everyone did well, no serious spills or thrills.  An hour of ice skating was enough though.

The view from the dining room at high tea.  

Although it is hard to tell, this is Grant laying on top of the lake with snow piled on top of him.  

It was a similar story when we went skiing.  No injuries, but one day satisfied our skiing appetite.  The ski resort also had a tubing hill, with a lift to take you back up the hill.  Unfortunately, the lift was broken so what had originally sounded like a fun idea didn't sound so fun anymore.

They look kind of like Star Wars characters, don't they? 

Most of our thrills were limited to traveling.  Lori, Grant & I flew from Amsterdam to Chicago where we planned to meet Kate and all fly to Calgary together.  Unfortunately, Kate's flight to Chicago was cancelled.  The next flight arrived too late, she missed the connection and spent the night in United Airlines Service Center lines and an airport hotel.  Between the cancelled flight and overnight stay, she got $40 in food coupons from United so she spent the next day sampling all the O'Hare Airport food offerings.  Even at airport prices, $40 is a lot of food.

So Kate arrived in Canada one day late.  As did one of her suitcases.  Her other suitcase -- which contained her winter coat and the winter coat that we'd ordered for Grant -- didn't arrive until two days later.  So we made a few more trips to the sporting goods store.

The travel woes didn't stop there.  The 1.5 hour drive from Banff to the Calgary airport ended up taking us three hours due to an accident (not us).  We missed our flight from Calgary to Houston and spent the night, 4 to a room, at the Calgary Airport hotel.
Christmas Dinner at the Post Hotel, Lake Louise

Kate and Lori with a friend

On this trip, we retired our playing cards.  We bought them for our trip to Southern Africa in 2007 and have taken them on every family vacation since then.  As you can see, they are a little worse for wear.  And what you can't see is that Graber recently ate two of them.  

Happy Birthday Lori

Lori had a milestone birthday this year so we opted for something a little more special than the typical store-bought cake and a card that says "Fijne Verjaardag".   As part of our Christmas holiday trip, we swung by Houston and hosted a party at one of our favorite restaurants.  The cake was still purchased, but at least it came from a professional bakery.  It was great to see family and friends again.

Now there's one lucky fellow

Lori and her parents, Don & Joan

Two sisters

Kate & Doug

Birthday girl with her loot