Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 in Pictures

This will be a weird reflection for me because Nikki is no longer by my side.

First self-portrait of Nikki and her Mama, 2009

She was ten years old, and had stopped responding half of the time. I sadly made the decision last winter that she had given us all the beautiful photographs she could muster, and was ready to rest. It was like saying goodbye to a faithful pet, in the sense that only you and other people who love their animals and fur babies like a daughter or son could understand-- yes I know she was just a Thing, but she was like my metal baby.

She who was with me when I got in a blue truck to drive up to the Yukon for the very first time, with a man that was to become my husband

She who was with me when I flew to London with my best friend to teach feral students and explore so many countries

She who has been your eyes and guide through the birth of this blog, from the first post four years ago, to all the sun-drenched days and dark nights of our time in the North after that

In a fitting way, Nikki's last adventure with us was being there to capture our bittersweet departure from Haines Junction, as we road tripped our way to our next home in Vancouver, towing a dusty U-Haul all the while. Like maybe leaving the Yukon was her last able breath, and it was time to stop.

For faithfully documenting the beginning of These Northern Times to the end, and for always reminding me about what is the sweetest in life, we salute you Nikki.


Feeling forlorn, I almost didn't do a '2015 in Pictures'. None of my pictures from last year had her at the helm.

But, I rallied because looking back at my year is an ancient ritual for me. Maybe it doesn't much matter whether a photo is taken with a DSLR or an iPhone. Maybe what is central is that it tells a story of where you've been, to hint at where you're going next.


With that in mind, I give you our year--

(which, to be sure, was a mixture of light and dark and gravity and levity as always. One thing I do know, is that our roots in BC and Vancouver grew with each passing month. We feel strong here now. My heart is back home with me.)

Enjoy the review!


We spent our first days of 2015 on Saturna. It's maybe how I want to spend New Years Day for the rest of my life. There is some kind of old magic there that helps recalibrate the heart after a hard and lonely winter. We got around on our bikes, and bikes alone, which is enough to remind you that your body is powerful and your life is abundant.

(Even when the pipes freeze, and you have to send your husband along to the neighbours to get pails of water)

Professionally, two wondrous things happened in the first quarter of the year. I was hired on with the Vancouver School Board in February, after SIX months of unemployment (languishing about, feeling displaced and unproductive),

I had my interview while I was dying with the flu, and somehow pulled it off. I started being Ms. Liu again after that, which was most often a real joy,

Teacher outfit: Templeton Secondary School

And then a month later in March, I learned that I was going to start my Jedi training to become a Master which filled me with tears and elation and pins and needles in my butt,

There is a theme with the pictures I took in 2015. This is one of them: This year, I became obsessed with flowers and plants, (the buying, gathering, growing, and sometimes neglecting of them)

For March Spring Break, we kept it local and hopped over to Victoria and Saturna to visit with family and friends. It's been at least a couple of years now since we went anywhere exotic for the break, and it's a nice change of pace. We put the two weeks to good use and spent one puttering about at home, and one away. 

Honoring the need for decompression, while not doing so much that we would need a vacation from our vacation, feels good.


Spring came in the form of irises and daffodils all over Vancouver, and hanging outside in parks. (WHAT! Says my long trained Yukon brain... Isn't it supposed to be snowing until the end of April?)

We both continued to teach around town, learning the vibes of all the different schools.

Often, I could bike to there.

I wrote nothing for four months on here. I was busy living. Then, I missed you and this act of creativity and necessity, and I started writing my first pen pal letter in May. (Which I'm proud to say I've been able to keep up ever since!)

They remain the most consistent way for me to process my monthly experiences. Looking back at them, it is humbling to know that life is paradoxical: everything changes and nothing changes.

Moving back to Vancouver, one of the things we were most ready for was access to culture. We went to go see Walk Off the Earth in May, and they were as talented and charming as I had expected them to be,

2015 was the year we lived close enough to our family that we could visit them, so in June, we drove up to Pemberton to visit Kat and her boys, and to go camping,


Also in June, the most spontaneous trip materialized. M + C offered to fly Bry up to the Yukon to help finish the nursery for their soon-to-be little boy, and I decided I would be bummed if I stayed home, so within a couple weeks of the preliminary, tentative conversation of "What do you think of this crazy idea...", we had tickets booked.

Yukon, we just can't quit you. Good thing you are a cheap, 2 hour flight away from us. With warm cookies in-flight and beaming friends at the other end.

Food baby vs. Actual babies

When we came home, we taught for a few more weeks and then school was OUT FOR THE SUMMER.

Summer 2015 was nuts.

Totally bananas.

First, I threw myself into co-Maid of Honor duties for the one and only Maggie Liu, who was getting married to her man in London in August.

Yanice and I threw her a camping stagette at Sasquatch Provincial Park,

Followed by a London High Tea bridal shower,

There were birthday picnics, sibling BBQs, and celebrations because my parents moved into East Van,

In July, we somehow made time to go to Saturna once more (if you're counting, that is 3X so far in 2015) to cuddle with family and friends,

Meanwhile-- since January actually-- the making of inspiration boards for our imminent trip to Europe have been a constant undercurrent. Suddenly, now that we're in July, reality sets in that we are about to leave to experience some dream cities and watch my best babe get married. AHHHHH.

Planning hits a fever pitch--

The anticipation is my favourite part, really--

Packing commences: I start laying out clothing options in earnest,

I book the last of our Airbnbs, buy travel sized toiletries, mull over the philosophical decision of whether or not to purchase travel insurance.

We finalize our itinerary.

And suddenly, July 22nd arrives and we find ourselves with four pieces of luggage packed to the gills and at the airport. Our adventure begins!

If you've been with me a while, you know that our first stop is camping in Iceland. Mom lends me her DSLR for the trip, and I'm so grateful to be reunited with a version of Nikki.

(Words are here and here. Video here.)

After a week of surreal landscapes, we trade it in for the cool, city life of Copenhagen:

(Words here. Video here. )


 In early August we traded in the Danes for the Italians, and made our way to Cortina D'ampezzo:

(Words here. Video here.)


And after a quick stopover in Venice,

(Words here.)


We made our way to France, where we road-tripped around to little villages in Provence.

(Words forthcoming. Video forthcoming.)


And after four countries and many, many days, we ended our epic Euromoon at our final stop. Back to our old home of London, England!

Time for nostalgia and THE WEDDING of the year.

(Words forthcoming. Video forthcoming.)

At the end of August, I turn 31 in the company of my best friends--

We come home.

In September, it's time to be an adult again. We start work, I start grad school.

School is simultaneously both inspiring and not as glamorous I made it up to be in my mind.

We add a new member to our family, (I forgot to say, we also said goodbye to Bibi earlier this spring, and goodbye to Indy. Heartbreak both times--)

meet Ninja Turtle! She is the best.

We continue to devour Vancouver's eats year round,

While also taking full advantage of farmer's markets and SPUD deliveries to inspire our cooking,


A necessity:

Though life quieted down in the Fall in terms of jet planes and excitement, we often went on Sunday Adventures out of the city to beat back the gloom of responsibility.

(School is a lot more than I thought it would be. We are tired, M-F).

Clean air, living things all around us, no screens or sirens. It is our one true way of feeling free.

The in-between, who knows. Little things happened. Lots of feelings. 

I don't have any pictures of those.

Just many cups of these to get through the textbooks.

December: My first semester of grad school comes to a close.

Am I wiser? Smarter? More ready to be a counsellor?

Don't know. But my adrenaline has been firing for months and I sprint through the holidays with the last of my reserves.

Thank goodness for family and food that helped me hobble along.


And then, on the last day of 2015, we board a ferry and head to Saturna again--just the two of us.


Full circle to how we began this enormous year; just he and I on a gulf island that holds so much quiet, you begin to breathe once more.

Friends: thank you for being part of our journey on this particular trip around the sun.

Goodnight to you, 2015. 

Time to put you to bed, and wake your little brother up.

From B and me both-- we hope 2016 is exactly what you need it to be.


A look back at: : 2014 / 2013 / 2012


  1. like your writing style, 加油

  2. I'm hope you're as jealous of your 2015 as I am. And I agree with mama, I love falling into your words.

  3. so so so worthwhile. please always do this. We will get a new camera pup. Maybe call her Blowie?

  4. that was a pretty big year, I'd say....thanks for the recap and more wonderful photos. 2016 is already one month gone but hope it continues full of fun and adventure for you both. Love, Karen