Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Viva Las Vegas..... Baby!!!!!!

I know it has been a while since I have updated my blog, but Internet access here in Las Vegas is not cheap! $13.95 + taxes per day in our hotel.... And that is a cheap one! Suffice to say I haven't paid it!

I have discovered a number of free public wi-fi sites (Starbucks is a good one!), but didn't have my iPad with me at the time to do an update.

Anyway, I wouldn't have had time to update of the goings on in Vegas as we have been non-stop since arriving. We have been inside just about all the big name hotels/casinos and some not so big names, we have walked and walked and walked so many kilometers I can't even imagine putting a number to it, we have seen show after show after show, some free some not so free... And would recommend all of them.... And I have shopped and shopped and had to buy another bag to get it all to Los Angeles and then home to Sydney.

We have just finished packing and are about to sleep. We fly to LA at 11:00am in the morning.... A mere 9 hours away....

I hope to have better Internet access in LA to be able to update more regularly....

Till then...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Valentine's Day in Big White

So today is Monday and Valentine's Day here in Canada and we woke to an overcast day with a slight breeze blowing. The kids weren't super keen to go out and ski in it, so we've sent Dad & Karmen out to investigate and we will get a call from them after a few runs (which will take a few hours) letting us know what it is like. If it is OK, Mum & I will dress the kids and then meet up with Dad & Karmen and ski the afternoon.

Going back a few days now to Saturday. After some pretty full-on days of skiing we decided that we would make Saturday our rest day. So we all had a bit of a sleep in, caught up on some washing, etc. After the domestic duties were finished, Mum, Dad, Karmen, Darren, Casey, Tayla, Jack, Riley, Kody & myself, headed down to the Adventure Playground for an afternoon of snow tubing.

OMG! What a blast!!!!! Basically it is an inflatable tube with a "sleeve" covering the sides and the base. The sleeve has handles sewn on them. The handles are more important than you might think. It also has a long rubberized strap with a handle on it as well. To go up the lift you sit in the tube and the long strap gets hooked onto what looks like a rope tow and you get pulled up, backwards, and then spat out thru a little bit of a chute at the top. Then you get out of the tube and walk about 20 metres to the top of the run.

The first run we each did was separately. So you get back in the tube and the attendant at the top of the run grabs one of the handles and sort of pulls/spins/pushes you off the top of the run. We all got spun around like we were in a washing machine, screaming and laughing at the top of our lungs, while going down the 300 metres, only coming to a stop when the tube slows down on the strategically placed hay. It is so much fun. So much fun!!!!

I was a little worried that Kody might find it a bit too much, but he was LOVING IT!!!! The more runs we did the more confidence we gained. We would come down in small groups and then a bigger group and finally all nine (Mum wasn't tubing) of us came down in one HUGE group. Basically you have to hang on to the handles on each others tubes to stay together. It is a BLAST!!!! the kids loved it and want to do it again before we leave. Lots of video footage taken.

Saturday night was our big night out for dinner. We had befriended one of the Kids Centre carers/teachers, a Kiwi named Penny, and she had offered to babysit the four kids for $15 per hour while we went out for dinner at Snowshoe Sam's. It was a great dinner. Plenty of wine was drank. Gorgeous food eaten. Lots of laughs had. Dad was educated that the Wolverine was NOT just a mythical creature, but real animal. Outside the snow started falling. Inside our waitress was entertaining us with a Gunbarrel Coffee. What is a Gunbarrel Coffee I hear you ask? Well, it is a regular liquour coffee that is made with pizzaz and flair when the flaming liquour is poured down the length of a gun barrel. Very classy. Video footage was taken and will be shown at a later date.

At the end of dinner we ventured outside into the snow and wind, which was picking in intensity. Darren and I decided that we would catch the shuttle bus back and Mum, Dad, Diane, Bob, Karmen and Casey were going to catch the gondola back down to Happy Valley and then walk to The Raven. When the shuttle finally arrived to pick Darren and me up, the rest of the gang were already inside, having given up on the gondola ride. The evening driver was Jackie and she was nice enough (after a $5 tip) to drop us right at the door of The Raven.

Inside, we discovered that Penny had survived an evening with the kids. They were all in bed asleep. She cost us $75, which was $75 well spent. We worked out that at the end of our ten days here in Big White, we will have some food left over, so we made the offer to Penny that if she was at the apartment on Wednesday morning before 9:30am, she could take all the left over food. Well, her eyes nearly fell out of her head. She was ever so grateful, apparently they don't get paid very much here and don't get too many shifts, so the babysitting money would be a big help. Working here is certainly not a career move, more of a lifestyle choice.

Earlier in the week, Mum, Diane, Darren and I had booked to go on the Shopping Shuttle to Kelowna. So on Sunday morning we headed down to Happy Valley Day Lodge, boarded the bus and drove down to Kelowna. The bus drops you outside Save-On-Foods. You go and shop for five or so hours and then meet the bus back at the drop off point for the trip back up the mountain. It was interesting to shop in a different country. The chemists shops, or drug stores as they are called over here, sell a whole lot more than those back home. I nearly broke down in tears when I saw a Kitchen Aid Mix Master (my dream) for only $369.00. Back home we pay almost $1,000.00. And yes, this was all available in a drug store called London Drugs.

We also shopped Orchard Park Shopping Centre and Orchard Park Plaza. I managed to pick up a great Spyder Ski Parka for $179.00 which back home would set me back quite few hundred dollars more. Kody and I fell asleep on the bus trip back and before I knew it we were pulling up in the car park at Happy Valley.

We unloaded our purchases from the bus and started the walk back up to The Raven. Darren was in front and I was helping Kody when all of a sudden.... SPLAT.... Diane was down. Face first. She had slipped on some ice and and gone down like a sack of potatoes. Actually when she went down she landed on the milk that we had purchased, it was now all over the ground. Looks like no cereal in the morning for anyone! She had winded herself quite badly and basically just laid there in ice, milk, snow and water. The longer she laid there the more injuries became evident. Sore arm, sore knee. It took three men to get Diane back up on her feet. The walk home was pretty slow going up hill.

Dinner tonight was an good old fashioned Aussie BBQ.... well, the best you can do on the fourth floor balcony in a foot of snow. It was the funniest thing was watching two grown men cooking a BBQ dressed in full ski gear. A casual TV night followed.

We woke this morning (Monday) to an overcast, kind of blah day. No-one was really motivated to get up and go go go! So a slow casual breakfast was had and then much discussion about what we were going to do. In the end, Dad & Karmen headed out to ski, Bob had a day off and Diane spent most of the day in bed recovering from her fall. Casey slept 14 hours straight, Darren & I decided that we would head out at about 12noon and hire him some ski gear and ski with the kids for the afternoon on the gondola. This is a free lift and it only has a green run from top to bottom. Perfect for Darren and Kody. So we took Tayla & Jack up the mountain, met up with Karmen and Dad to hand them over and then skied the rest of the afternoon as a family. It was really nice. The weather started to close in and fresh snow began to fall. The wind had picked up and it was time to head back in. Karmen, Tayla & Jack skied past us on their way home, so I sent Riley with them. Darren, Kody & I headed up for one more run and on the way home Kody & I took the turn off the ski home (for the first time) and Darren headed back to ski hire to return his equipment. He then walked home.

Dad, Darren, Karmen, Tayla, Riley, Jack and Kody all ended up in the hot tub on the balcony after a hard day of skiing. I made some cheese sticks, but they were not as nice as the ones I make at home cause the pastry was completely different, the cheese was very different and the oven has a mind of it's own. But everybody eat them, so they couldn't have been too bad.

A baked dinner of lamb and veggies is on the table for tonights dinner. It should be worth the wait.

Tomorrow is our final day here in Big White. On Wednesday we head off to Las Vegas, so my plan is if it is a nice day to get Darren and Kody back up the mountain and probably even up to Millie's Mile, Sundance and even Kyle's. We are planning on doing another session on the tubes and I'd love for the kids to have a go on the mini Ski-Doos they have here.

More sooon.....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The Raven, Big White, BC, Canada

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Fun Fun Fun

I know it has been a couple of days since I've updated you with what we have been up to, but I have had a few technical glitches with the blog. I am using an iPad to blog with and the app I downloaded to use (BlogPress) has suddenly decided that it doesn't want me to upload photos. So I have been trying to find a way around it. Perhaps loading my photos onto Photobucket might work. I'll try it out and see, but for the meantime here is another update.

So we've skied all over the mountain and for the skiers interested in what runs, read Bob's blog. The runs over at Gem Lake were BIG and I mean BIG. Blue Sapphire, the longest run here is a Blue (Intermediate) Run but back home it would be classed as a Black (Advanced) Run. It was long and steep but well groomed so it wasn't too bad on the legs.... it's the bumps that kill me.

I downloaded and app onto my iPhone called Ski Tracks which runs on the GPS feature of the phone and tracks everything from speed to distance to gradient to lifts up.... it is pretty savvy. Apparently on this day in the morning session I skied 12.8km plus 9.4km of lifts up for a total of 22.2km and in the afternoon session I skied 13.4km plus 9.5km of lifts up for a total of 22.8km. The maximum speed I hit was 47.6km/hr. Gotta love my gadgets.

I've heard Mum & Dad talk about the Snow Ghosts at Gem Lake which are trees covered in snow but it's not until you see them for yourself you get a real appreciation for what they are. Karmen and I had actually decided they look more like frozen penis's so we have renamed this area Penis Forest.

The hot chocolate in the hut at the bottom of Gem Lake was very welcoming after a couple of runs. Karmen attacked a big bowl of minestrone soup to warm her up. We then went and hit Kalina's Rainbow a few times. It was freezing right at the top of the chairlift, but I had to stop and take a photo of a sign that I thought was hilarious. It told you how much if would cost if you skied outside of the boundary and need to be rescued. $500. Hehehehehe!!!!!

The kids were in ski school today having ball. They ski all over the mountain with their instructors. Kody rides the "Big Pineapple" from the Kids Centre down to the Magic Carpet to ski. He is really coming along nicely.

The following day Dad, Bob, Karmen and Casey jumped on the shuttle bus to ski at the sister resort of Silverstar. While Mum and I made big M's up/down/across the mountain after we dropped the kids at ski school. I had a great day skiing with Mum. It was at a slower pace than what I skied with the others the day before, but Mum's style of skiing is ski a run, coffee, ski a run, coffee..... nice! We got to the end of our day of skiing (about 1:30pm) and decided that we would do lunch. Beano's Coffee Shop is the most central place in the VCM (Village Centre Mall) to have lunch, but they have purposely made the chairs very uncomfortable so you don't stay long. It's all about turnover. We decided after the hard day of skiing we had just had, we deserved more comfortable chairs, so we headed to the White Crystal Inn and found a gorgeous little bar called Sante Bar & Grille. The chairs were much more comfortable here and we made this our camp for the next hour or so. We had lunch, which was huge, one between the two of us would have been plenty and then relaxed while we waited for the kids to finish ski school.

Darren met us up in the VCM and grabbed the refill bread and milk that was required from The Market and then we collected the kids and headed to the shuttle bus stop to meet our favourite driver, Kenny. Today he was in an especially good mood and he sang some songs from his latest album to us as he drove us done the mountain to our apartment. Again, he was super nice and drove up right to the door rather than at the end of the street.

The ski school were hosting a carnival in the VCM tonight so we got all the kids changed and headed out the door at 6pm and pressed the button on the lift and out popped Dad, Bob, Karmen and Casey. They had just returned from their day of skiing at SilverStar. They looked exhausted. We continued to head up to the VCM and they changed out of their ski gear and followed.

We arrived at the VCM a tad early (shock, horror, yes I was early for something) and positioned ourselves in a great spot. The ski school had cleared out all of the chairs and tables that normally fill this space and had set up carnival style games with huge inflatables. There was hockey, ball toss, basketball, limbo and a long inflatable millipede that the kids can crawl thru and when they come out the other end it looks like that are coming out his bum. Hehehehehehe!!!!

Mascots Loose Moose and Boomer the Kangaroo made an appearance walking through the crowd and encouraging the kids. The idea of the evening was to win tickets and then claim the prizes. The 5, 7 & 10 ticket prizes were crappy, so our kids were aiming for the 30 ticket prize of a replica Loose Moose or Boomer stuffed toy. Jack's competitive nature kicked in and he was running back with handfuls of tickets every few minutes. Riley and Tayla were doing pretty well, and little Kody, now feeling much better, was not winning tickets for his ability, but more for his cuteness in attempting to win. By the end of the evening we had accumulated enough tickets for everyone to get a prize so we ended up with three Loose Mooses and one Boomer.

To get everybody to leave the VCM, the mascots treated the crowd to a foot race outside, down Main Street. It was fun to watch and the kids cheered loudly for the Aussie, Boomer. I can't remember who won the race, but it was fairly close. Video replay with refresh my memory when I get home.

We had a bit of an incident with Riley this evening. Lack of respect and no manners. To prove a point he was told he was going home to Grandma so I made him pack his bag. He cried the whole time, asking for one more chance, etc etc. I wasn't having a bar of it. So, once his back was packed I handed him his passport, opened the front door and said "see you later". He walked thru the door and I shut it behind him. I watched thru the peep hole as he walked up the path and around the corner to the lift. He didn't hesitate once. By the time I caught up with him, he had pushed the down button and I asked him "Do you know where you are going?". "No," he replied! He came back into the apartment and had pretty much been on his best behaviour since. Lets hope it continues.

Friday morning proved to be a slower start, not the usual 6:30am/6:45am wake up. Dad, Bob, Karmen and Casey took the older kids (Tayla, Riley & Jack) out skiing for the day. Mum and I headed over to the magic carpet with Kody. I had to head up the gondola to ski school to grab Kody's ski boots, skis and helmet. Mum and Kody headed over to the Magic Carpet area and by the time I got back from my little gondola trip up and back, Darren had met up with Mum & Kody. We put Kody's ski boots on him and he hopped on his skis and headed down the mountain. Wooooohooooooo...... look at him go!!!!! He is paralleling and turning. Amazing what a few days of lessons can do. I spent the next hour and a half skiing with Kody and videoing him. Mum & Darren were getting cold, so they headed over to the Happy Valley Day Lodge and met up with the rest of the skiers. Apparently the kids were getting cold. Lunch was had and by the time Kody and I meet up with them after our skiing adventure, they were just about to head out for some more skiing.

They were now under strict instructions to be back at the apartment no later than 3:00pm as we were headed out to the ice hockey game tonight and had to be showered and changed and back up at the VCM for a 5:00pm pick-up. We waved goodbye to the skiers.

Darren again headed up to the VCM to grab some bread. Mum, Kody and I were headed back to the apartment. The horse drawn sleigh ride had just arrived at the Happy Valley Day Lodge so we took the opportunity to have a photo with the horses.

The trip uphill to The Raven was a little bit of a struggle in ski boots and carrying my skis and poles and Kody skis made it even worse, so Mum decided that if we put Kody's skis on him, she could pull him up the hill (snow covered road) easier than carrying it all. Kody enjoyed the ride.

We got back to The Raven and only minutes later Darren walked in the door. It was time to hit the showers and get ready for our night out. By the time Darren, Kody and I were showered, Riley had arrived back with all the skiers so he jumped in the shower, go dressed and I must admit he is being pretty good so far.

Once we were all showered and ready to go, we made the short walk over to the gondola and headed up to the VCM to meet the bus that would take us down the mountain to downtown Kelowna. On the bus ride down the mountain, there was a heap of traffic headed up the mountain. After all, it was a Friday night, so people were probably heading up the mountain for the weekend. But even more, it was Fright Night Skiing. Lift tickets are $5 and ski hire is also only $5. What a bargain!!! They light up Millies Mile over at Black Forest with big flood lights and you can ski until about 9pm.

The ice hockey game was at Prospera Place, home of the Kelowna Rockets, who were taking on the Chilliwack Bruins tonight. The hype and general buzz of the arena was amazing and we weren't even at our seats yet. The local bank was sponsoring a "Puck Toss" at the second interval. Pay $5 and get two numbered bright orange pucks that you toss over the perspex barrier and into the ice. The closest puck to the centre of the ice wins the $100 prize. Well, never having been to an ice hockey game and wanting to experience EVERYTHING, we handed over our money and got our pucks.

All along, dinner tonight was going to be at the game and the smell of the greasy food and popcorn was wafting thru the concourse making the kids hungry, but we thought it was more important to find our seats first. We would come back for food. The seats we had were up and to the left, on the curve, of the goal. I thought they were pretty good. You could see the whole arena.... actually, I don't think there would have been one bad seat in the place.

Our seats were sort of split up a bit. Diane and Bob were a row in front and to the right of us. The bulk of us were in one row and then Casey & Dad sat just behind us. Once seated, Casey, Dad, Karmen and Darren headed to the concession stands to get some food. We had no idea what was available so I told Darren to just get what he thought we would like. The start of the game was fast approaching and there was a huge inflatable blowing up on the ice. It ended up being head of the Kelowna Rockets mascot, a dragon I think. It was situated at the opening were the Rockets would come out. The lights dimmed and "the dragon" started to breath smoke and flashing light simulated fire. The Rockets skated out through his mouth. It was pretty cool. You gotta remember that this is only the minors, the WHL (Western Hockey League) but these people take their hockey seriously.

All pedestrian traffic is stopped from moving on the stairs while the game is in play, so the food getters were held up a few minutes until the first break in play. When they got back to us, we had ended up with chicken strips and chips (french fries) with honey mustard dipping sauce. It was typical "game food".

There was a huge remote control airship that buzzed around the arena dropping tickets to "something". There were girls running up the stairs giving away envelopes with prizes in them. The couple in front of us won a $25 gift certificate to "somewhere". They had the jumbo screen above the scoreboard where they featured "Crazy Dancer Camera" where they would focus on fans dancing in the crowd. There were seven shirtless young boys with crazy headgear each bearing a letter "R", "O", "C", "K", "E", "T" and "S" painted on their stomachs, sitting behind us and to the right a bit. The camera loved them. They also had "Kiss Camera" and when the camera picked a couple (usually man and woman) out of the crowd you were expected to kiss. This was a crowd favourite. Bob & Diane featured on the big screen, but not when it was Kiss Cam.

The game was very fast and these guys can sure skate. There were three punch ups in the game. It was funny to watch cause the referees just stand by and watch them fight.... that is while they are still on their feet. The second they hit the ground, the refs jump in and pull them apart. The fights were just as interesting as the game. These guys aren't afraid to put their body on the line. Many times when the Rockets were going to score, a Bruins player would just throw himself on the ice and block the shot. It was a noisy and physical game. We loved every minute of it.

As expected, when the Rockets scored the arena erupted, but I found it interesting that when the Chilliwacks scored there was nothing but silence. Obviously the fans don't travel to support the team at an away game.

Riley had noticed that many fans were wearing Kelowna Rockets jerseys and he decided that he wanted one too. The kids both had $50 Canadian and $250 American to spend on this trip and the jersey was $100 Canadian. So Riley got his jersey out of his own money, leaving him only $200 American for the remainder of the trip. When GPPS has it's next mufti sports team day I know what he will be wearing.

At the end of full-time it was a 4-4 draw, so the game went into overtime. At the end of overtime, it was still a 4-4 draw. It ended up coming down to a shoot out where the Rockets managed to lose the game. The minute the last shot at goal was finished the locals were out of their seats and headed for the doors. We waited until the crowded thinned a bit before making our way out. Dave, our bus driver, met us exactly were he had dropped us off and we boarded the bus for the hour long trip back up the mountain. The kids (and I) fell asleep on the trip back and we had to wake them up to get them off the bus. Dave dropped us at the end of the street and we made the cold brisk walk back to The Raven.

Into PJs and off to bed.

Til next time......

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The Raven, Big White, BC, Canada

Friday, 11 February 2011


Me and Mum keeping warm, outside the ticket office.

Dad, Karmen & Mum, outside the real estate office. Who'd buy this bunch anyway??

Bob, Karmen & Mum up on the mountain... in the cold.

The Rattray family in the cold .... Karmen, Mum, Me and Dad.

More soon......

Location:The Raven, Big White, BC, Canada

Thursday, 10 February 2011

First ski in Canada in 20 years

I must apologize..... Blogger isn't being very co-operative tonight. It won't let me post any photos. I will try and fix this tomorrow.

I've worked out that the last time I was in Canada skiing was 20 years ago when I travelled to Lake Louise, Whistler & Blackcomb with Janet & Peter Williams and family in March of 1991 when I had two good knees. So I was a little apprehensive when I ventured out for my first ski, being that I am older, heavier and now have one definately dodgy knee.

Well, I had the best day.... THE BEST DAY!

It might have had something to do with the 10"... that's right, 10 INCHES... of new POWDER snow that fell overnight. We were all eager to get out there on the snow.

The kids were due to be at Ski School no later than 9:15am, so we had breakfast, got dressed and headed out the door. Down to the garage where the ski lockers are to get out the gear out. Mmmmm.... now, what was that code to unlock the locker. Nope, that's not it. Nope, not that one either. The clock was ticking, the lock wasn't budging and the stress levels were rising.

Bob and the kids were off down the road to the bus stop to catch to shuttle up to the Kids Centre. Like the Pied Piper! We, on the other hand, were continuing to struggle with this lock. Finally another tenant came into the locker room and we asked him if he had any idea what we might be doing wrong. He proceeded to show us that we were actually putting the code into the back of the lock, not the front of the lock. Damn combination locks!! Twist, twist, twist, click.... open the lock popped.

We quickly grabbed all our skis and headed for the door. The shuttle bus runs past the end of our street every 30 minutes, so we didn't want to waste any time waiting for it, so Karmen, Casey, Mum, Dad and myself made a left turn and headed for Lara's Gondola to head up the mountain. Karmen and Casey walked a bit faster than Mum, Dad & me and got to the top much quicker than us.

When we arrived at the top, we jumped off up the top and headed straight over to the ski school to meet up with Bob, Karmen, Casey and the kids and sign them into their classes for the day. Kody was already in the Ski Cubs room, I just needed to hand over his ticket, and then to the other end of the building to where the older kids are in the Snowriders room. Handed over his ticket, kissed goodbye and left him there.

Bob headed off to hire some skis and Karmen, Casey and I then headed back to where I had left Mum & Dad outside the ticket office. We purchased tickets and then waited for Bob to join us before ventured out on to the mountain.

Now, I have a pretty good sense of direction at home. I never loose the car in the carpark at Westfields, and I certainly don't turn North of the freeway when heading HOME from a holiday in Forster (like Mr Plowes), but I have to admit, I have absolutely no sense of direction up here on the mountain. As soon as we hit the slopes and Bob and Dad started talking about which runs to ski and what chairlifts to catch, I just stood there dumbfounded. I am quite happy to take a back seat and follow the leader.... well, for a while anyway!!!

Now for the skiers out there, you might want to check out Bob's blog as he as posted exactly which runs we skied and which lifts we caught. He has even posted some video of us skiing.


Mum had had a pretty nasty fall out of the hot tub last night and was a little sore today so after a few runs on Serwa's mum decided to head into the Day Lodge at the bottom of the Snow Ghost chairlift to a coffee and a break. Bob, Dad, Karmen, Casey and I headed up for another run. Now, these are not like the runs back home in Australia where you stand in a queue for 15 minutes to get on a 6 minutes chairlift ride up for a 3 minutes run down the mountain. For starters, there are no lift queues here, none at all. The ride up the mountain is normally a good 10-15 minutes of a detachable (fast) chair and the run down is somewhere between 1.5km and 3.5km. So a round trip can take about 35-40 minutes.

At the end of this next run, somehow Karmen, Casey & I had separated from Dad and Bob and decided that we would go in a have a hot drink with Mum. Mum, being Mum, had befriended a lovely lady (Yvonne from Alberta) and they were chatting away like long lost friends when we walked in. Drink purchased. Warmth returning. Looking out the window we could see Bob & Dad had arrived at the bottom of the run, so Karmen and Casey headed out while Bob headed in. Dad stayed out.

We were chatting with Yvonne about the rest of our trip yet to come and also told her about Bob and Diane's train adventure that was to follow. She was shocked, to say the least. Even commenting "Are they paying you to do the trip?" That comment was greeted with a roar of laughter from Mum and I. We told Yvonne about the blogs Bob and I are keeping and she was quite to ask for the web addresses so she could follow the rest of our trip, but more importantly she wanted to read all about the train trip Bob and Diane and taking. So, Yvonne, I hope you are reading!!!

Dad, Karmen and Casey came back in after that run and warmed up before we all headed out again. This time we headed to the far right side of the mountain to an area called Black Forest. Mum started to get cramps in her legs so she headed to Beano's in the Village Centre, for a coffee.

Since her trip to Big White in March 2008, Mum has always talked about her favorite run, Millie's Mile and it was certainly not a let down. She would have loved it if she came across. There were a few other runs like Bear Paw and Whiskey Jack's that were not groomed and by this stage in the afternoon, my legs were feeling a little sore so I didn't really enjoy these runs. It was this part of the afternoon that Bob got the video camera out and shot some footage of us skiing.

On one of the runs up the chairlift, I received a phone call from the Kids Centre telling me that Kody didn't go out skiing for the afternoon session because when they cam inside for their lunch he had fallen asleep. The girl was like "Don't cut your skiing day short to come get him. I've got two staff in there looking after him. He will be fine to collect at the end of the day." I was happy about this because I was really enjoying my skiing and didn't feel like calling it quits yet.

After quite a few runs in Black Forest everyone was feeling a bit peckish and the decision was made to go and meet up with Mum at Beano's. Casey and I decided that we would head down the mountain with Mum on the shuttle bus and Karmen, Dad & Bob would pick up the kids from ski school.

We ventured over to the bus stop and only had to wait about ten minutes before our favourite shuttle driver, Kenny, arrived. We board the bus and had to wait about another ten minutes before we could leave. We had already concocted a story about Mum hurting her leg and not being able to walk, in the hope that Kenny would drop us right at the door, instead of at the bus stop 150 metres down the hill. And it worked. Right to the door. You beauty.

Lock up the skis, head to the lift, up to the room, get out of ski clothes, pour a Baileys on ice. Aaaahhhhhh!!!!! Relax!!!!!!! By the time I poured my second Baileys, I looked out over the balcony and here was our tribe heading up the road. Obviously Kenny didn't like them as much even with the $5 tip Bob had given him, because they had to walk UP the hill.

Dinner tonight was Crumbed Chicken with yummy vegetables (mashed potato, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots). Good skiing food. Everyone ate except for Kody. He hadn't been well since he got home from ski school. He kept saying he wanted to vomit... and he did! At least he got it in the bucket. A dose of children Panadol and off to bed for him. Actually, the rest of us weren't far behind. Till tomorrow......

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The Raven, Big white Ski Resort, BC, Canada

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

First Full Day in Big White

Our first full day did not go to the original plan, because the day before didn't go to its original plan. Upon arrival in Big White we were going to do all the ski hire and booking the kids into ski school, but because we didn't do it straight away, it became the first thing to do on the first full day.

So we all got up about 8:15am (a sleep-in), had breakkie, then dressed in our ski gear and trekked down the hill a short distance to Happy Valley and jumped on Lara's Gondola which took us up to The Village Centre. Mum, Dad, Karmen and all the kids jumped in one gondola. While Bob, Casey, Darren and myself waited for the next one to come around. The liftie warned us not to stand "there" because the big overhang of snow was ready to fall off the roof and he didn't want us to cop it all on our heads. He didn't listen to his own advise cause less than three seconds later he wore the lot all over himself.

Each gondola holds eight people so we also had a local snowboarder jump in with us. He has just resigned/been fired from his job in one of the cafe's and explained that Monday mornings are pretty quiet on the mountain cause everybody normally has a big Sunday night and with yesterday being "SuperBowl" here, everyone partied pretty hard the night before. But, we reckon he was still partying because he said he had just came down to the Happy Valley Day Lodge to stock up on beer (patting his pockets, happily). After another minute or two of small talk, where every second word was the F-bomb he took one of the beers (Miller) out of his pocket, cracked it open and proceeded to guzzle more than half in one mouth full. He was out for a good day.

When we got off the gondola we noticed it was very busy. Demo Day! What is Demo Day I hear all the non-skiers ask? Well, Demo Day is when ski manufacturers bring their latest offerings to the public to try before you buy and basically you leave them your skis and ski on their skis for a while. When you return the hard sell is on for you to buy a pair. Typically pushing salesmen. If just made the Village Centre look like a market place with lots of littel stalls lining the street.

When we got past all the market stalls, we emerged into a post card. It is such a beautiful village centre. The snow covered buildings looked like something out of a Hollywood movie. The tall pine trees don't even flinch at the weight of the snow that has accumulated on the branches. It was perfect.

At this point we waved goodbye to Bob as he headed off to buy a new pair of ski boots, a process I know from personal experience, is a time consuming and laborious one. But realistically the best place to do it is on the mountain because you can have them fitted, go for a run, come back, make a change to them, have another run, change, etc etc.

First stop for the rest of us was the ski hire. All very modern. Lots of computers ready for you to enter all your details (name, address, height, weight, ski ability, etc.). Hit enter and it printed out the form and then it was into boot fitting. All us adults brought our own ski boots from Australia with us, so it was only the kids who needed to be fitted for boots. The we moved around the corner to ski hire. One by one when went through and got our skis. Karmen and I paid a little bit extra to have Performance skis as opposed to the regular rental skis for hacks...... I wonder if they will make our performance any better. Only time will tell.

The next stop was straight to the Kids Centre where we organized the kids into the SnowRiders Program for Tayla, Riley & Jack and the Ski Cubs Program for Kody... it is an age thing. By this time is was almost noon, so we decided to book them in for half a day today and the next three full days as well. This would give them a chance to remember how to ski again and also us a chance to learn our way around the mountain without a bunch of kids in tow. They could go into the afternoon session from 12:30pm. Too easy!!!

With the kids gone the rest of us split into two groups. Dad, Karmen & Casey went off to ski while Mum, Darren and I had a coffee at Beanos, had a look at a few shops, located the supermarket for refills of milk and bread and just a general look around to get our bearings. By the time we did all of that it was 3:15pm and time to pick up the kids from the Kids Centre. Darren went and got Kody from Ski Cubs. He had a great afternoon skiing on the Magic Carpet in the beginners area. The older kids weren't back yet. So we waited. Dad called us to say they were only having one more run (cause the lifts close at 3:30pm here) and they would meet us at the Kids Centre. This proved to be fortuitous as they have a very strict hand-over policy and if you can't show "the barcode label" associated with you kid you can't collect them. So we waited for Karmen to arrive with the label.

Bob met up with us at this point. Karmen arrived. We could leave all the kids ski gear in the Kids Centre, so we took advantage of not having to lug it all down the mountain each night and back up the next morning. Change the kids into their walking boots and headed for the shuttle bus. We decided to catch the shuttle bus as we weren't really sure of exactly which way we had to go to ski home.

Bus arrives. We all pile in. Bob gets chatting with Kenny, the driver, and he obviously takes a liking to us, because instead of dropping us off at the bus stop at the end of the street (only about 150 metres away) he drove us all the way to the door of our apartment. God bless you Kenny!

Skis packed in ski locker and up to 402 for a dip in the hot tub which is on the balcony. Drinks and nibblies served to those in the tub. For me, according to the meal plan we had established back in Sydney, it was my turn to cook, so I headed for the kitchen to prepare the Spaghetti Bolognese. Now, I told you we did a big shop and I also told you how hard it was to do because nothing looked familiar to us. Well, I haven't told how somethings are just plain out weird.

Take Garlic and Zucchini as a perfect examples. A picture tells a thousand words so take a look at this.

This is an garlic bulb.

This is just one clove off the bulb.

This is a zucchini. Looks normal, right?

This is the same zuchinni with something to compare it too.

It was tiny.

Spag Bol eaten it was time to relax.

The end of our first full day in Big White. Kids exhausted. Adults stuffed. Everyone happy!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The Raven, Big White Ski Resort, BC, Canada

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Raven

We woke in Kelowna to a very cold morning. The kids were excited to be in a different place. We ventured downstairs to the Denny's Restaurant that was within the hotel, for breakfast. The kids had Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Darren had a Lumberjack Special and I had an All-American Slam.... they were all what us Aussies would call a "typical American breakfast." Very tasty.

While we were in the warmth of the restaurant outside the snow started to fall. Only light flurries.

Brush the teeth, check out of the hotel, lock the bags in a secure room and head off to the Orchard Park Shopping Centre. The snow has coming down heavier.

Our first stop was to the Telus mobile phone shop where we purchased some pre-paid SIM cards to use in the "old" phones we bought from home. When I say old, I mean the phone I was using before my iPhone, so only 12-18 months old. The girls in the shop were skeptical that the Telus SIM card would work in the phone, so we only purchased one pre-paid SIM card to test it in all the phones we brought with us before purchasing more.

So after the phone shop Mum and I headed to the Save-On Foods supermarket to meet up with Diane. Someone had told us to become a member of the supermarket club to get a discount. So, always mindful of a bargain, we did.

Diane, Mum and I started in the fresh food aisle and Karmen joined us about 30 minutes later. We had allowed 2 hours to complete the grocery shopping, but ended up contacting the shuttle driver and postponing pick up for a hour. You know, it takes three times longer to shop when you have no idea what the items on the shelves are. We thought we were smart having our meal plan and completed shopping list with us, but it didn't save anytime at all.

I left the girls in the supermarket to head back to the hotel to use the free wifi to register the SIM card. The snow was coming down even heavier now, making the walk cold, and stepping off the kerb into a puddle of water didn't help. When I got back to the hotel the first think I did was to take off my wet shoes and put on my nice warm, dry boots.

The plan was that if the SIM card worked in all the phones I was going to rush back to the Telus shop and purchase more for all the phones, but I was unsuccessful in registering the card and decided to leave it till we got up the mountain and telephone customer service. Dad and Bob walked into foyer about now and Brian (our shuttle driver) was also there. We picked up all the luggage and headed off the the grog shop. Apparently Dad, Bob, Darren and Casey along with all the kids had been there purchasing our liquid refreshments and decided that it would be better leaving Darren and Casey and all the kids there to guard the $800 purchase than trying to cart it back to the hotel for pick up. Good move.

We pulled up and loaded the kids and grog into the bus, then headed over to the supermarket to collect Mum, Diane and Karmen and the ten days supply of groceries for twelve people. When I left the girls in the supermarket earlier we already had four FULL (overflowing) shopping carts and weren't finished. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up at the front of the supermarket and here they all were with seven, yes SEVEN, shopping trollies full of groceries and a receipt almost two metres long totaling $1700. The clerk at the store said that we were the second largest purchase they have ever had.

All aboard. We headed up the mountain to The Raven. A slow drive because we got stuck behind someone that obviously was not use to driving in snow and on snow. I admit, it was a very weird feeling driving on snow and having no snow chains on. They all had snow tyres on though... but they don't look too much different to normal tyres.

Our expert driver, Brian, steered us right to the door of The Raven... then all the hard work began. We had to go up to the top floor of The Raven in the elevator with ALL our luggage, ALL our groceries and ALL our grog!!!! That was an effort!!!

Walking in through the front door I felt like I was walking into a website. I had familiarized myself with the pictures on the website for The Raven. It was exactly as seen online. Room allocations were made and the first drinks were poured. Aaahhhhh!!!! Time to relax. Well, maybe for the others, but not for me. I got stuck dealing with setting up the mobile phones. There was a bit of rigmarole to register the phone online. Not having a Canadian address or existing phone number was a bit of a hassle, but the Customer Service Officer on the phone (I think she was in India) was very helpful. We tested the card in all the phones and it works in four of them, so we will be able to contact each other on the mountain.

After all the travel today we had planned on not cooking dinner and pizza was always on the menu. The Bakehouse delivered us six large (and I mean LARGE) pizza's. They were very very yummy. A few more drinks, plans made for the following morning and everyone hit the hay.

More tomorrow....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The Raven, Big White, BC

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Day 1 - 30 Hours of travelling

Firstly I need to say that this is the first time I have blogged from my iPad using an app call BlogPress, and I don't know what it is going to look like once I hit the Save button, so please don't hate me if it is not what you are use to seeing.... Wow... what a big day. I am sitting in bed in hotel in Kelwona and just trying to remember in what order we did things today. Kim picked us up from home at about 9:30am on Saturday morning and drove us to Holsworthy train station (in the Klueger). All the bags only just fitted in the boot. We caught the 10:13am train from Holsworthy to the International Airport and on the way in we had an elderly Italian gentleman serenading us with his harmonica.

The kids were great on the train and didn't once whinge about having to drag their big suitcase from the car to the train or from the train to the seats in the airport were we sat waiting from Mum & Dad and Karmen, Tayla & Jack to join us. They were catching an airport shuttle from Cabarita.

Finally Mum & Dad, Karmen, Tayla & Jack arrived (after receiving some sad news about the death of a long-time Lansvale neighbour... and for those of you who know the track record my parents have with overseas trips and friends/family passing away you will appreciate that I am shredding their passports when we return home from this holiday.... hehehehe!!!!). Karmen, Tayla & Jack and Darren, Riley, Kody & myself checked in at the Qantas Economy Counter while Mum & Dad went to the Qantas Business Class counter. After joining the first of what will be many queues, we caught up with Mum & Dad who had managed to secure fast passes through Australian Immigration along with passes for ALL of us (yes, even the kids) to go into the Qantas Business Class Lounge. Wooooohooooooo!!!!! No paying $12.00 for a hamburger at Sydney International Airport for us. We were treated to Morroccan Lamb on Cous Cous, Salads of all kinds, fresh fruit (kids loved the strawberries) and help yourself to the alcohol (bourbon & coke for me). Then I discovered the Moet. That was very nice!!!

The kids were then treated even more special when the wait-staff served then french fries in a paper cone, followed shortly by mini chocolate ice cream cones. Talk about a FREE LUNCH!!!! The kids were extremely well behaved in the lounge. They boys sat and played their iPods. At one point one of them succeeded in a hard level of a game and they all let out a big cheer. The other business class passengers nearby laughed so hard and said how cute it was and how good they were behaving.

Then it was time to board the plane. We separated from Mum & Dad at this point as the Business Class in the new A-380 is on the upper deck while Economy (or cattle class, as we have come to call it) was on the lower deck. No, not in the belly of the plane with the baggage... although I reckon the service down there may have been better than what we got in Economy. Once seated, Kody took advantage of the time we had to check out the emergency procedures manual..... he has only had three days at school and can't even read yet, but he still managed to understand most of the pictures.

Riley & Kody have never been on a plane before so I knew that taking off was going to be a "camera moment". Look at their faces.....

Karmen, on the other hand, is a terrible flyer and she was sitting in the row behind me. Look at her face, and Tayla & Jack....

Riley took this photo out the window on take off. Janet & Peter, Glenn & Clair were somewhere on the water beneath us on Doe-Gon (a boat) waving us a fond farewell.

So, coming back to the service on the flight. I was under the impression (from previous experience and from the website) that children were issued a "pack" full of things to do on the plane. Our kids never got it. When the meals come around, they only had two children's meals, not four. The flight crew obviously think it is beneath them to take away any rubbish. Everything you get comes in a plastic bag, but do they give you anywhere to put it? No. Do they come past and remove it? No. As a matter of fact, unless they were actually giving you a meal, they rushed through the cabin and hardly looked at us. Mum & Dad came down to cattle class and took two kids at a time up to their seats in business class. Now they want to know whey we aren't sitting up there!!!! Too cute!!!! After meal service we all tried to sleep. The only successful one that actually got quality sleep was Kody. I reckon it's cause he was small enough to curl up into a ball on one seat.

Saturday turned into night and when the sun came up... it was Saturday all over again, thanks to the international date line. I took these great pics of the very colorful sun rise out the window.

Breakfast was served and again there was only two children's meals. Not Happy, Jan!!!!!! And before we knew it we were landing in Los Angeles.... LA.... LAX.... whichever one you prefer. We disembarked and Karmen & I figured that we would just meet Mum & Dad in the baggage claim. I don't know how we did it, but we were whisked through the Diplomatic counters at US Immigration and were fingerprinted, photographed and got the stamp of approval in no time. Mum & Dad on the other hand had to join the huge queue at the other end of the Immigration Hall. We went to collect our bags while we waited. Funny though, cause Mum & Dad's bags came out first, and they weren't there to get them, so we did, and when they finally got through Immigration our bags arrived. Then we all joined the even longer queue for US Customs. We were all together and then some official looking woman, point at Darren & me and said "You join this line". So we did, thinking we were again being fast tracked.... no such luck! We joined the queue, and took longer than Mum & Dad and Karmen, Tayla & Jack, cause we ended up going all the way to the other end of the Customs Hall. Finally through US Customs and we head outside at LAX... and breath that fresh air.... cough cough cough.... talk about smog. I noticed as we were landing that it was a little hazy, but we could still see the "Hollywood" sign on the mountains. Not so when we took off again only three hours later. We opted for a brisk walk pushing six trolleys full of luggage (and Kody propped on top of one) from the Main Terminal to Terminal 2 where we were flying out on WestJet from LA to Calgary, Canada. Check in the bags and then headed upstairs to the departure gate. Between landing at LAX and leaving LAX for Calgary we had allowed ourselves about three hours.... this was the perfect amount of time. With all the security checks they do, you need that much. We were in the queue for security (shoes off, laptop/iPad out, all liquids out, then through the full body scan) when we saw Bob, Diane & Casey waving to us from the other side. "Almost there" I thought.... ha! The security people were so slow. When we finally got to be checked, both Darren and I had to also remove our money belts from underneath our clothing, get patted down, that's right! Not just the handheld metal detector they usually use, Darren was patted down by a man and I got a woman... First they put on fresh gloves and then "copped a feel" and then walked over to a machine thing where they wiped a testing strip across the gloves and then inserted the strip into the machine. Darren was first... clear. I was next. "Beep! Beep! Beep!" The screen flashed red. My heart did flip flops. I was thinking "What on earth have they found? What did I touch? Where was I sitting? Who has been near me? Drugs? Explosives? What was it?" My mind was racing. The security women then kicked, yes kicked the machine with her huge black boots, leaving a scuff mark on the front panel. Her boss came over and said "It's not working, you'll have to use the other one." A wave of relief washed over me!!!! OK... you can all stop laughing at me now!!!! We boarded the flight on the much smaller plane and had an uneventful flight to Calgary. It was a short flight of less than four hours. We all slept.

Canadian Immigration was busy. So we queued... AGAIN!!! Finally we got to the counter. There were still people queued behind us but buy the time the Immigration Officer had finished with us we were the last people out of the Immigration Hall. He wanted to know what we did for a living, when our employers were expecting us back at work, and on and on it went. Finally at the end he asked why we were coming to Canada and when we reply "for a skiing holiday" he said something along the lines of "it's along way to come to go skiing!" Not a good advertisement for Tourism Canada!!! So, that was the second of three flights finished and with less than an hour for the final flight of the day we split up and went to find something to eat. We didn't really find much, but what can you expect in an airport at 7:45pm. Boarded our final flight from Calgary to Kelowna, a short 47 minutes. You just take off, get level and then land. I like a quickie!!!!! Bob had pre-arranged for a shuttle bus to pick us up from the airport and bring us to the hotel and sure enough, Brian, our driver was there waiting for us. He is also pick us up tomorrow and taking us up to Big White! Us, about 30 bags and however many boxes of groceries we purchase in the morning to let us the ten days we are in Big White for. Thank goodness he doesn't have any other passengers cause there won't be any room. I promise to take photos tomorrow of all our stuff to show you what I mean. Well, it is pretty late here now and I need sleep, so until next time..... Brenda PS: Can't say I miss you yet, cause I haven't been gone long enough. Hehehe!! - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The Sandman Hotel, Kelowna, BC, Canada

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Raven.... our home away from home

So last time I promised to share with you some info about the penthouse apartment we are calling home whilst in Big White. But some of you have actually asked me where Big White is, so the map below shows where in Canada Big White actually is located.

The advertising blurb reads:

Vacation rental accommodation at its best! Ski-in Ski-out, Private Hot Tubs and The Ravens own Pool & Gym.

The Raven is a luxury development located in Happy Valley, it offers outstanding condo living space, contemporary style and luxury.

The Raven ski condos have been spaciously designed with acute attention to detail, luxury and comfort with many European inspired design elements. The location of The Raven was chosen for optimum balance of views, proximity to ski lifts and amenities and the convenient ski-in, ski-out access. These Ski Condos & Penthouses come with their own private decks and hot tubs for star gazing and total relaxation after a day of ski and snow activity.

Your Ski vacation rental comes with access to The Ravens own INDOOR SWIMMING POOL AND GYM. All Ski Condos have access to hot spot wireless internet access, heated secure underground parking, Ski lockers, oversized windows for enjoying magnificent snow topped views and geothermal under floor heating throughout.

The spacious living areas are where family and friends can come together and enjoy open living, cooking, dining and relaxing in front of a roaring fire. Every condo has large screen wall mounted plasma TV, DVD player and stereo (plus pool tables in the larger Penthouses) and all have big squashy leather sofas for total ‘feet up’ comfort. Kitchens with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances probably boast more equipment than you’re likely to have at home for dining and entertaining. Bathrooms have steam showers, warm cork floors and come complete with fluffy bath sheets and towels.

The Raven vacation rentals sit in the centre of Happy Valley with magnificent views toward the Monashee Mountains. These views are best savoured with a glass of fizz from your private deck and steaming hot tub. This is Big White accommodation at its best!

The photo below shows the outside of the The Raven.

The Entrance Foyer

The Great Room #1

Three of the four bedrooms for the adults

The loft bunk bedrooms for the kids

The kids loft area

The Kitchen & Dining Area

The Bathrooms

And finally, here is the after skiing relaxation tank..... the HOT TUB!!!

Please, please, please take note of how clean and neat and tidy this place looks at the moment... cause after the Franks family arrive it won't be so pretty.

17 days to go. The kids are getting so excited.

Til next time!