Last week was a wild one.
We are still recovering from the sheer amount of talking alone that went on at this house.
Very late, last Tuesday night, our very dear friends, Shawn and Tanya arrived for a visit all the way from Vineland, Ontario.
But the story starts, where most good stories do - in Winkler, Manitoba.
Tanya and I have been friends since elementary school in Winkler. Amazing, isn't it - that we've stayed friends all these years? Not only Tan and I, but the same group of girls who were together through elementary school, junior high, and then high school still call each other the best of friends. I don't know how these things happen, but I do know that when we get together now, we still laugh just as hard and as often as we did when we were 15 years old.
Tan travelled the world after high school and then ended up meeting Shawn right back in Winkler where he had travelled from Southern Ontario to go to College.
I'll never forget the first time I met Shawn. Tan and I were having a drink at Earl's on Main Street in Winnipeg when this unbelievably tall guy walks up and begins talking. And talking. And talking. After that he did a little more talking. Let's just say he didn't win me over that night. But he has since.
Tan followed Shawn to Ontario, fell in love, and never left. They have 3 beautiful boys of their own, and 2 International students that live with them who they love like their own. They live out in the country, in Vineland, surrounded by vineyards and open space.
Shawn is an amazing muralist and graphic artist who runs his own business in Niagara. He dreams things and then makes them happen - full of adventure and very little fear. Tan creates a soft place for people to land. Their house is always open and full of bodies and mouths to feed. There is nothing she loves more than filling up hungry tummies and and then taking time to hear stories. Most of everything I've learned about seeing hospitality and generosity as a gift, I've learned from her.
Though we haven't lived in the same Province for nearly 16 years, we've always stayed up on the day to day comings and goings of each other's lives. When we had infants and toddlers we'd call each other almost every day as if to say, "Hi - I see you, I know you exist. This is hard, isn't it?" Usually Tan was sharing a recipe, and I'd be giving medical advice over the phone line. We heard about pregnancies, new babies, exhaustion and the mundane parts of life. And we laughed. Sometimes we'd just hang up. That's the way our friendship is... if something happened, or if one of your kids needed you - there was no need to make a graceful exit from the conversation - just hang up with no explanation needed.
I'm so thankful that I didn't let my first impression of Shawn dissuade me from a relationship with him. One of the best parts of the time that's passed is that Mike and Shawn have become really close friends. They really like each other. Spending time with them is a gift for both of us, so it was with great anticipation that awaited their short but sweet stay in Vancouver.
Though they came during the coldest cold snap we've experienced since living here, complete with snow on the ground, we had a fabulous time! Here are just a few snapshots from the highlight reel.
Thursday morning we headed out early for breakfast on Commercial Drive at a little restaurant Mike and I have come to love. It's called "Sorry Babushka".
We weren't sorry we came, and weren't sorry for what we ordered, but we were sorry that it was frigidly COLD in the restaurant. Vancouver establishments just aren't cut out for minus 4, apparently. We kept our mitts, toques, and in Shawn's case, earmuffs on the entire time.
Of course, Shawn had to make a new friend at the restaurant. He sat down with the owner and wanted her to tell him the story of why the restaurant is called "Sorry Babushka". She told him the story was printed on the menu, but Shawn said, that he wanted to hear it directly from her. She indulged him, and we left. Little did we know that that little exchange was going to set the scene for the entire day.
Off to Granville Island we went, ready for some exploring.
Shawn looked right at home.
The first place we stopped at was an artist's studio. Shawn marched right in and began chatting with one of the artists, Cheryl, about her work and her vision. This was all well and good. In fact, you could see the delight on Shawn's face as he chatted away about the pieces she creates. Shawn, however, has difficulty tearing himself away, as is demonstrated by Tan's exasperated look in the next photo.
Here just a few of the pieces Cheryl and her partner, Mike, have created.
Next we were off to the Market. The fresh fruit and flowers, the sights and smells of all of the different vendors cooking up delicacies for visitors is one of my happy places. I knew Tan would feel the same way. We could wander up and down the aisles of a grocery store together and be happy. For a culinary Queen like Tan, this was a little piece of heaven.
And what did you know? Shawn made another new friend. Here he is chatting with the candy maker about the process of making caramel.
Just when we thought he had made enough new friends, he marched up to chat with this Wizard. He wanted to know how one becomes a Wizard in the first place. He got just what he wanted.
Shawn was right. A place like Granville Island is much more fun when you take the time to hear the stories behind the artists.
Just don't expect to get anywhere in a big hurry.
Thursday just happened to be Hannah's 12th birthday and the day of her first ever basketball game! We went to the school to catch the action. She may have had the loudest cheering section in the history of Confederation Park.
After the game it was time for Hannah's party with Uncle Shawn and Auntie Tan. Hannah got all of her favourites - sliders, salt and pepper riblets, ketchup chips, and Root Beer.
And then it was present time!
One thing Shawn does in his business is make vinyl stickers and decals. He took the header of Hannah's blog and made it into a giant sticker to cover a scrapbooking album.
The next day was full of skiing and boarding for Shawn and Mike up at Mount Seymour while me and Tan shopped at Metrotown all day. Though it rained up on the mountain ALL DAY and completely soaked them to the bone, it looks like they made the best of it.
We had an Indian feast without the kids at Bombay Beat on Hastings for supper that night.
Saturday was our last day together. Thankfully true Vancouver weather appeared for that one day. There was no rain and no snow in sight! It was a perfect day to head out and explore downtown and Coal Harbour.
Shawn's creativity doesn't take holidays.
Thanks, Mike, for keeping my head dry.
Great balance, Shawnie!
We stopped for lunch at "Red Robin" which we're sure has the best people-watching windows in all of downtown Vancouver.
After shopping on Robson, we needed to quickly head to some "real" mountains, as Tan called them. We drove home over the Lion's Gate Bridge, through North Van, and then up to a great viewing point near Grouse Mountain.
Shawn had been waiting for a chance to do this all weekend.
Too soon, our time was over. Sunday morning meant an early trip to the airport to see them off.
Our girls were so sad to see them leave. They made rich deposits into the girls while they were here - drawing, talking, and playing games. There's a reason they're Uncle Shawn and Auntie Tan and always will be.
We're already planning the next time we get together - this time with our 3 girls and their 3 boys.
Even if it's not for awhile, it doesn't change our friendship and the value they hold in our lives.
We're so glad they came.