Hopefully you all had a lovely Christmas day, filled with family, food and festivities. I for one am suitably full of turkey, pigs in blankets and chocolate. For Matt and I it was our second Christmas away from home and all its comforts. All family and friends know how much I love Christmas, from the food to the decorations to buying the perfect gifts, so being away from home has its challenges.
We have been fortunate enough to secure two fantastic long-term winter housesits for our Canadian adventure, one in snowy Calgary, Alberta looking after a beautiful 14 year old sheltie and this year in coastal Halifax, Nova Scotia, looking after an energetic dog and two cats. They have provided us with unique experiences and ones we will treasure forever.
As ever, the time between Christmas day and New Years Eve often leads to one reflecting on the year that has just passed. Today I’d thought I’d reflect on our two Canadian Christmas’ and how they’re different from home.
Housesitting at Christmas can be unusual, you are not in your natural environment and doing your traditional Christmas routine, whether it be going to your local pub or putting up the same decorations each year. This was most apparent last year when we sat for a gentleman who escaped to Mexico each winter and as a result didn’t have a Christmas tree. This was a struggle for me as I love to make my own decorations to add to my home each year. Knowing we were travelling around in the summer meant that we were reluctant to invest in anything too large. So, a trip to the dollar store resulted in a 20cm plastic tree and some snowflakes to make me feel a bit better.
This year, however, has felt more festive. The homeowners don’t go away every year and were kind enough to let us put up their gorgeous tree and fill it with their traditional baubles and tinsel. Far more festive!
Not being in your normal surroundings leads me onto food. Canada may not seem that different from the UK, but many things we love at Christmas are not over here.
For us Brits the prospect of Christmas dinner without pigs in blankets (bacon wrapped sausages, NOT pastry) is an outrage. I attempted to make my own in lieu of classic Marks and Spencers ones. Last years effort was awful as the bacon didn’t stay on my sausages, mostly due to the fact they were constructed after bucks fizz and half a bottle of wine. This year I prepared in advance and they were top notch. My other favourite is honey-roasted parsnips. Calgary seemed to be in a parsnip drought and I had to go to four stores before I found my favourite veggie. This year two stores in and I found a pack of four for $4 (£2.40!!) I didn’t care that they were much cheaper at home as tradition is tradition and I was having my parsnips!
As for Matt instead of going to the local pub he filled the fridge with local craft beers and was quite happy.
One of the major differences is the weather we have had during our winter housesitting. Last year we were walking in fresh, fluffy snow, whereas yesterday we ventured out in the freezing sleet (which was, believe it or not, the nicest part of the day!). It was fantastic to have a proper white Christmas, which never happens in the UK. It meant we could make snow angels and attempt a snowman.
However, the winter weather can also bring along some unexpected moments. Yesterday, just as I was about the press play on Chicken Run, the power went out! For over five hours we sat without power as Halifax endured 110km/hr winds resulting in falling trees and power lines. Luckily, the turkey was all cooked and everyone at home had been video called. Furthermore, we had an abundance of torches from our summer camping and a few tealights to keep us going. As a housesitter its always a worry when things like this happen, but there has been no damage to the house and all animals are safe and warm. It has given us truly unique experience we will never forget!
The most important thing at Christmas is friends and family. For me this is the hardest part of being away. As Calgary was eight hours behind we scheduled video time in advance so no one missed out. This year being only four hours behind meant we got even more time with our loved ones. My family has been growing thanks to my beautiful sister and this year was the first for my brand-new niece (born just days before Christmas) and last year was the first for my gorgeous nephew. Technology has meant I didn’t have to miss these special moments, as I was propped up the Christmas dinner table on the iPad. Later in the day we called Matt’s family to complete the family tradition of the Radio Times quiz. This year was tough as we haven’t been able to watch good British TV for over a year, so we had to guess quite a few.
Whilst I have thoroughly loved our Canadian winter experiences, I am looking forward to a good British Christmas next year! I hope you all had a fantastic day yesterday and wish you all a happy new year.