The brothers and I ditched small cousin yesterday to go skiing. Whistler-Blackcomb is a wonderful resort - trails everywhere, gorgeous view of Canadian Rockies, snow-covered pine trees. Sadly it was raining in the village, which made the lower trails rather slushy; however, up nearer the top, the snow was wonderfully chalky and pure joy to ski in.

We only ski once a year and I keep forgetting how much work it is. Afterwards I remember the exhiliration, the flight; I forget how each turn is a full-body effort, shoulders to hips to knees; I forget how much my calves hurt after only a couple of hours. I remember the breathtaking views from the lift but not how the cold eats into you, how your skis pull down at your knees throughout the ride and how the entire lift stops sometimes, leaving you swinging, paused, waiting. Still. Absolutely glorious, the view and the snow.

We missed dinner, caught in traffic on the way back down to Vancouver; in return Uncle P invited us to the dinner party that his mother was having. I tried to refuse (I was extremely tired) but when Grandma Kwok put in a personal request, I had to accede; there is no refusing A Chinese Grandmother's Wish. Turned out to be a huge gathering; there were people everywhere, tables full of food, about six children between the ages of two and five running around screaming, the never-ending sound of mahjong being played somewhere. Also had neat discussions involving snowboarding and American sports. It was interesting to get the Canadian viewpoint. Hockey was going mostly unwatched on the television and I've never been told to eat so often by so many Chinese mothers. It was really fun.
Woke up yesterday morning to the sound of the smallest cousin, shouting "Mary, Mary! Mary! Mary!" at the top of his four-year-old lungs. I was slightly disconcerted until I heard his father tell him that "it doesn't mean anything unless you put the word 'Christmas' after it."

Apparently his father had been teaching him the use of the exclamation point. "If you don't have the exclamation point, then it only says 'merry.' But if you have the exclamation point, it says 'merry!' See?"

Christmas was nice - the rain, relentless for the past few days, let up briefly, though the sky was still grey. We collected an aunt and went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (second time for me, which gave me time to notice that either they put both Patil twins in Gryffindor, or Padma spends a heck of a lot of time in the Gryffindor common room). Still delightful, definitely my favorite of the series thus far. Then back to the other aunt's house, where I tried to be helpful in the kitchen but quickly realized that my time would be best spent keeping smallest cousin out of the kitchen. So I babysat all evening as increasingly wonderful smells filled the house. My aunt's first turkey turned out wonderfully, moist and delicious with the red wine gravy. (None of us were very good with turkey. Everyone was very experienced with duck, but not turkey, so the outcome had been in doubt until the very end.)

Now it's Boxing Day. We're thinking of going to the mall, but we're worried about the Boxing Day sales traffic (Boxing Day is the Canadian version of Black Friday; the crowds are insane). Ah well, we'll see.

I leave you with this gem: Gaiman and Pratchett's New Years Resolutions for Crowley and Aziraphale.
I'm actually liking Ulysses, which comes as a shock to me. But the writing styles, though initially offputting, are actually quite enjoyable. And my cat sounds exactly like Bloom's. Also, this synopsis/guide, courtesy of Hemingway fils, is proving very helpful.

Back in Vancouver now, my annual winter migration to the maternal relatives, the Cantonese speakers, the wonderful Chinese food, and the French-and-English labels. According to my relatives, I haven't much changed, but my brothers have. (The brothers are sixteen and eighteen respectively, and have been continuing to sprout. They'll plateau eventually.) They're taller and lankier every year, and baby fat continues to melt off their faces, exposing more of the bone structure underneath. It's really neat to watch their faces settle.

Strangely, though, my youngest cousin doesn't seem to have changed at all. Perhaps he's gotten a little more shy. He was a moderate-sized three-year-old, and is now a slightly small four-year-old. I was expecting him to have grown more than he actually has. Oh well, he's four. He's got time.

We flew into Seattle last night at 9:30p Pacific. Landing was like descending into mirrors; it had been raining there long enough that all of the road surfaces were reflective, beaming back the street lights and buildings, doubling all of the images. The roads were very slick but it still took less than three hours to get up to Vancouver. Between getting the rental van and claiming the baggage, though, it was still almost 3am by the time we got to bed. Woke up at noon; braved the Christmas Eve traffic to see the grandparents, and got the typical Chinese bakery treats. We got the old standbys: char sui pork buns, curry pies, coconut buns, the little egg custard pies, etc... I peered at one I hadn't seen before, labeled "winter melon tart," but none of the Chinese words matched the one I knew for "melon." I asked my mother for clarification.

"It's actually called a 'wife dessert,'" she said. "There's a story that someone liked those pies so much, he sold his wife for one."

I bought one. It was sweet, light, and very tasty.

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