The Illuminators

If you read some of my posts before you know that Canadians don’t really care about fashion (check out: “High Fashion”) and Vancouver has been voted as one of the ‘most unfashionable cities in the world’.

Canadians wear what they want as long as it is ‘comfy’and protects against the weather. But let me tell you this, as unfashionable as they are in the clothes department, Canadians know how to dress up their houses during the Christmas season!

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If you are North American and you are reading this, please excuse my ignorance.Of course you are used to twinkle lights on every house, bush, tree or ornaments attached to your property. I, on the other hand, am a money conscious, energy conserving, disciplined German housewife! The only extra-vaganza my parents indulged in was the lit up pine tree in front of our house. In Germany, electricity is expensive! We turn off the water while we brush our teeth. By November we bought a whole seasons’ supply of candles from IKEA. My mom said she wanted to create a wonderful, cosy atmosphere.-but I figured they wanted to save energy!

Let’s go back to fashion in Canada: Nobody gives it a second thought if you wear your pyjama bottoms to the shops, nobody cares if you wear shorts in the middle of winter (aka, now) or if you prefer flip-flops over winter boots. Everythings goes and I am loving it!   I noticed a certain change of consciousness when the season changed from autum to nearly winter:  At the end of November an invisible switch switches on in the brain of most Canadian house owners!

Even if the average house owner is not interested in the latest fashion, they sure know how to decorated their houses for the season! I believe there is a secret competition going on around here who can outshine the neighbours with the brightest, most colourful and fancy arrangements. All I can say is this: What Canadians saved over the previous 11months in fashin goods, they will spend on their electricity bill at the end of the year.

Normal and unassuming during day light, houses transform into a festival of extra-ordinary illuminations as soon as it gets dark!

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It is a feast for the senses! All this was prepared by caring husbands who gave up their free Saturday: Every single light bulb was single handidly polished before the string was artfully stapled around every window frame and along the gutters,

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I personally prefer ‘simple’over éxcessive’.2012-12-03 11.06.45

I keep our light decoration inside the house and wouldn’t want to force my light spectacle on innocent by-passers. But this is me- and this is what life is all about: We are all different- We all like different things! And this is how it should be! This is what makes us all so extra-ordinary!

Whay do you think of this one?

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I nearly crashed into the nearest lamp post when I saw this house. All I could think of is this:

“Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder”.


This is my tenth blog, this is our tenth month in Canada and here are 10 wonderful adjustments we made to our previous, European life:


No more random ‘drinking’!

I am still not over it and have to stress it over and over again: The liquor prices are ridiculously high!  Just looking at them makes my eyes water! If we want to stay on track with our immigration fund, we have to suck it up: Intoxicating liquids are for special occasions only.  Luckily, there is always something to celebrate! On the other hand, the big bonus is when you have a spontaneous get together, everyone brings their own grog!

Coffee – to – Go! 

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” True to this saying I am blending in: My thermos filled with delicious home brewed blend follows me wherever I go.


My bike has turned into a tool for recreational purposes only. Gone are the days when I used it purely for transportation. Blame it on the distances! The upside of conquering the steady inclines and steep declines? It beats an indoor spinning class any day!

Let it rip

Not any more- at least not on the Autobahn. The speed limit on highways is between 80 – 110km/h. No wonder it takes forever to get anywhere.  Surprisingly, hardly anybody drives within these limits, but still enough drivers do and it forces us to slow down!

Good-bye repairman / Hello handy husband

No more expensive maintenance and replacement costs for household appliances. Follow these simple steps to get your new part within 24 hours (written from the mechanically challenged woman’s view):

Let your husband find out what’s wrong with your dead appliance.                                                                                           

     Take out the broken part, find the serial number, order and pay for the item over the phone, pick it up the next day and let your husband finish what he started!  

The following is the Dutch or German protocol for getting an appliance fixed:                                       

  Make a phone call, stay on hold for at least 10 minutes, make an appointment, (lucky you if you  get a date within 5 working days) and receive an allocated time slot for the repair man to show up e.g. between 9-12pm. On day in question take time off to stay at home, (don’t leave the house for any reason whatsoever!), the repair man arrives (normally at 11.55am), he will fix the part – or order a new one- which can take up to 10 days and he leaves. If your appliance doesn’t have warranty anymore you are stuck with the bill for the repair man and the new part. Oh, and I nearly forgot: Ladies, no chitter chatter with the friendly repair hunk, keep to the bare minimum: Companies will charge you for every minute their representative spends in your house!


Asian Influence

 Our fourth official language at home is now Korean (next to English, German and Dutch).                                        

    We added chop sticks to our array of forks and knives.                                                                             

    Our children are getting a beating in the daily ping-pong tournaments. But in time they will get better and will be champions in their own (Caucasian) League.

Bargain shopping

As I mentioned in “The Move”, costs of living are high.  But here is another trick learned while being the conscientious housewife: Collect coupons and follow the trail of weekly deals!

 Value Village is a paradise found. It’s my favourite spot to go whenever I have some time to kill (a community charity store with everything you can imagine on offer – and more).

Shopping across the border is much cheaper in every possible category. If only the border control officials were friendlier…

Lessons learned: The local Farmers Markets are for treats and not for stocking up on fresh fruit and veggies! Of course you can buy your heart out if you truly believe in supporting the local producers of organic, pesticide free goods – bear in mind you will be charged up to 4x the common prices.

Emergency Help

If one of your children happens to break an arm (as our youngest son did), go straight to the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Don’t waste your time with any other hospital which doesn’t have a paediatric department! Simple reason: the anaesthetist won’t treat your child- the risks are too high if they are not trained and specialized. In our case we received calming (morphine), soothing pain relief (gravol) but had to travel to another hospital to receive special care (an operation on our son’s arm)!

Added sugars

When you take the time to read food labels you will notice that most pre packed food items have additional sugar added to it. In order to get back to my former, tight, 6-pack tummy I was forced to start cooking again with fresh ingredients only. I never said I am a Martha though…

TV in small doses

We stopped watching regular TV! The frequency of commercials is driving me crazy! I prefer Netflix: You pay $8.oo/month and have access to TV shows, movies, documentaries… whatever the heart desires. The disadvantage: They are not new, but the big Plus is, no commercials and no week long waiting time to watch the next episode. Our first addiction was “Prison Break”- (we are talking long, long nights, every night for three short weeks). To this day it still puzzles me how anyone could stand the suspense and wait one week for the next episode? Our next Netflix project is “Damages” – which falls under our category of “a great night in!”

These were truly 10 wonderful, extra-ordinary months. Have you made any adjustments recently? Do you have thoughts to share? Please let me know! I would love to hear from you!

Until the next time – with an update of one of my favourite events of the year: Halloween!