Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas 2013 in Pictures

We've been in Canada almost two weeks now.  In that time, we spent 6 days in Whistler spending quality time together just the three of us.   We skiied everyday, soaked in the hotel hot tub overlooking the slopes, and wandered the chilly but charming village at night; in and out of the shops and enjoying the Christmas lights.  It was a peaceful time with terrific skiing and lots of fun.  The only downer was my brutal case of boot bang - stupid rental ski boots.  Next ski trip, I will only travel with my own boots.

We travelled to Vancouver in a blizzard but fortunately were only slightly delayed on our 12, yes, 12-minute flight to Victoria.  It's been great to be back.  We've done all that we hoped: spent time together all 8 of us, hiked Mount Doug, drank coffee and candy cane hot chocolate at Tim Horton's, J has played with the cats for hours, we've watched back-to-back episodes of "Breaking Bad" (again), wandered the city streets, and watched the sun set over Victoria's harbour. 

Hiking our much-loved Mount Doug

Then the Christmas tree fell down, we shorted the power in the house, and Marge got the flu, but Christmas was still celebrated with much love.  Our traditional reveillon was passed with the family and friends on Christmas Eve whilst following Santa on the Norad Santa Tracker.  Christmas morning dawned early with J and Marge filling the house with candles and Christmas music before rousing the rest of 7:00am.

The rest of the day was spent quietly, some of us hiked, some of us cooked, glasses were clinked, and more memories made, especially for J.

The formal 2013 family portrait

Our preferred 2013 family portrait

Being silly

Big J and Little J

J and his cousin Renee

Victoria Harbour

Inside Victoria's Empress Hotel

Victoria's floating fisherman's village

Monday, 16 December 2013

Coming up for Air

Remember me?  I’m the one who promised to be more faithful in my reporting of the everyday a few months ago.  Well, it’s been a time of transition, and rolling through the ebbs and flows of life pulling me in many directions and away from blogging.  So as I board my 15 hour flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles en route back to Canada for the holidays, I will bring you all up to speed on a few things since last we talked.

In early November, my good friend Jen and I flew to Hong Kong to spend a week together.  She had a free pass to go anywhere Air Canada flies and asked if I would join her.  So she flew 14 hours west from Calgary, I flew 9 hours north from Melbourne and we arrived in Hong Kong within 20 minutes of each other.  It was my first real foray into Asia and, boy oh boy, did we explore and experience much that this amazing city had to offer.  We stayed on Kowloon Island, a short walk to the iconic Star Ferries which shuttle people the short distance across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island.  Many people  told me that Hong Kong is something of a shopping mecca and that was true, however, neither Jen nor I are in the habit of wandering into Chanel stores in Melbourne or Calgary so it wasn’t our intention to do so here.  Rather our goals were to eat local, get off the beaten track, avoid touristy stuff, and troll the markets.

I think we accomplished our goals, we spent time twice at the Temple Street night market, eating hawker food (amazing), at the Stanley Market, purchasing inexpensive scarves, bags, and Buddhist trinkets, and drinking copious amounts of refreshing watermelon juice.  We also visited the Jade market and many neighbourhood food markets where the emphasis was on local Chinese greens, and dried fish and beans.

The traditional Junk boat we took around Victoria Harbour

One of my favorite experiences was going to a colony of temples dedicated to Buddhist, Taoism, and Confuscianism in Wong Tai Sin where the acrid scent of incense was overwhelming and the feeling of spirituality palpable.  Here, we took boxes of numbered sticks, sank to our knees in front of Buddha, formed a question in our minds, closed our eyes, and shook the box until a single stick fell to the ground.  Noting the number, we went in search of an English-speaking soothsayer who interpreted a story based on the number.  The insight was startling.

Big Buddha on Lantau Island

Offering at Big Buddha

Peking Duck - OMG delicious!
 Another day, anxious for a break from the overwhelming crush of humanity in Hong Kong, Jen and I travelled by ferry, tram and taxi to the far end of Hong Kong island, miraculously found an elusive trailhead and headed up the long and spectacular Dragon’s Back trekking trail.  We trekked for a couple of hours in peace before joining more widely-travelled part of the trail.  The views from the top of the ancient volcanic topography that is Hong Kong were amazing.  At the end of the trail, we hopped on a bus to the small beach town of  Shek-Oh where we peeled off our sticky clothes and swam in the wintery warm waters.

At the top of Dragon's Back
 Jen is one of my soul sisters, and we moved in a similar rhythm, inspired by the same things, equally adventurous and curious, she is grounded, generous, smart as a whip, and a treasured friend.

Upon returning to Melbourne, I took a taxi directly to Albert Park in South Melbourne where Child Wise was sponsoring the 5K charity run that J had been training hard for.  It was 9:00am and I was jetlagged but met up with C2 and J, and we ran the race.  J sprinted by me at the start and I didn’t see him again until the finish line.  He finished 4th overall among ALL runners in 26.29 which, for those of you not in-the-know, is FAST.  About 5 minutes into the run, my persistent hamstring injury made itself very known and I limped to a 29.28 finish.  
At least my socks were cool even if my hamstring wasn't
So began my weekly visits to Dr Physio who diagnosed severe tendonopathy in my right hamstring, and banned me from running for 2 months.  Let this be a lesson I hope to follow in future months – DO NOT IGNORE INJURIES AND RUN THROUGH THEM HOPING THEY WILL JUST GO AWAY because they don’t.  It’s a very bad tendonitis, and quite debilitating.  I’ve continued swimming as my shoulder injury is improving with therapy and added in yoga…till yoga aggravated my hamstring and Dr Physio has now banned me from yoga for a month.  Sigh.  I am very much missing running and both the physical and mental release that it gives me.  I am behaving and working hard to build my glutes and lower back muscles to assist in recovery.

Our darling 15-year old Labrador Murphy is still trucking on but the signs of aging are building.  She was diagnosed this month with early heart failure and is on new meds to combat it.  It has been an interesting journey sheparding our much-loved dog through old age.  During our absence for the next three weeks, my neighbour’s 25-year old daughter is moving into our house to dog-sit.  I have prepared THREE Webster trays of meds and vitamins (Monday-Sunday AM and PM) to be dosed out at specific intervals, and a clear schedule of walks and care.  Though we have been blessed with much time and travel with this lovely girl and I am grateful; all three of us gaze upon her with our hearts in our throats, I feel time is beginning to run out.

C2s work and travel schedule continue to be intense and it has a knock-on effect on our family.  We are coping but I feel change is in the air.  C2, thankfully, is healthy, fit, and well-balanced, but as we both had significant birthdays this year, we find ourselves wondering about this expat life of ours.  It has been an amazing experience, rich in culture, new worlds, and people, but there has been a price attached to it. The price is being rootless, wandering the globe, never quite sure where we belong or where we want to be.  Honestly, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about how we have lived the last decade, not a single thing, but the experience has not been without cost.  As J gets older and attached to things beyond the two of us, we are conscious of our choices and their impact on him.

I have started a new role at Child Wise.  Our organisation has undergone a painful reorganisation, I have emerged in a good place, many have not and that has been difficult.  But I am looking ahead to new possibilities and new horizons.

I am now three hours and three episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” into this  fourteen hour flight.  I think this is the longest moment I have had to sit and reflect in months.  I am very excited to see my family, again; excited for the three of us to spend a little quality time together; excited to ski for the next five days, breathe the cold air, and feel snow on my face; excited to hike Mount Doug on Vancouver Island, one of our happy places, inhale the heady scent of pine trees and bear witness to the stormy palette of the Pacific Northwest, excited to see my mother and feel her unconditional love, excited for the revelry of Christmas Eve reveillon, and excited for the joy that my sister-in-law and J create on Christmas morning.   I can’t wait to get there.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

It's Been Some Couple of Weeks

We were on school holidays again, between Terms 3 and 4.  Somehow, we are rushing with the speed of a runaway train toward the end of another school year.  J is about to finish Year 4.  That means he starts Year 5 in January.  Let me repeat that last part for effect, YEAR 5!!!!  How the heck did that happen?  I do know when a local news show recently had a special on how to handle the empty nest years, I tuned in, sigh.

We staycationed again at home.  It was ok but J was unwell through much of it.  We did fit in a fair bit of training for our 5k (see sidebar) run next month.  I am fairly confident that J will not only beat me in this fun run but will do so convincingly.  The fact that I arrive the morning of the race after flying all night from Hong Kong may have something to do with it.

His victory may also be aided by the fact that I keep forgetting I am a 40-ahem-something and have been running for weeks through a persistent hamstring strain.  Guess what?  I am now hamstrung with my hamstring.  Popping NSAIDs like an addict, I  returned to swimming, especially as we finally seem to be limping towards summer down under.  Guess what?  Are you familiar with the medial deltoid muscle of your shoulder?  I am now also hamstrung with my medial deltoid muscle, double sigh.  Ouch it just hurt to move my mouse to fix a typo.

However, it's all better than the alternative which was never made more sickeningly clear than when my second oldest friend in the world passed away last week at the ripe old age of 47.  Life sucks sometimes.  He leaves behind two extraordinary boys who were fortunate to know their remarkable father for more than 20 years.  Though we have been expecting it, his was not a easy death; cancer rarely bestows that gift.  He did, however, demonstrate more grace and humour than I would have thought humanly possible under the circumstances; cancer did not strip him of that.

On a more positive note, I am awaiting with much anticipation a week away in Hong Kong with a girlfriend from Canada in a few weeks.   A month later, we fly to Canada for the Christmas holidays, let me repeat that last part for effect, THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS, oy, that means we will be decorating for the holidays within weeks.  I dodged my promise to J to host a Hallowe'en party this year.  J has never lost his love for Hallowe'en and it really isn't done here, nor was it done much in Switzerland.  HOWEVER, a kindly mansion in our neighbourhood is hosting a haunted house, tickets only $5.00/kid.  I logged into their site faster than you can say 'boo' and secured tickets for J and two mates -  bah da bing!

Now I just have to get my hamstring and shoulder healthy again, or skiing, a few short weeks from now, won't be pretty.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Guess Who's 15!!!!

Only THE best dog to ever grace a family's life.  Murphy Watertails Hendricks; la grande dame of Labradors turned 15 this past weekend.

 She joined our family at 8 weeks.  She's an Empire Loyalist hailing from regal Kingston Ontario.  We flew her to Calgary to become a redneck dog.  She's never looked back.  She spent five years being the center of our world...till J came along, and he became the center of hers.

They're quite the team these two, and have been since the very beginning.  I could drown in a well as long as she is beside him.  I'm sure it had NOTHING to do with all the food he dropped.

 ....or the spoons they both got to lick.

When I lament the passing of time, and J's evolution to the big and beautiful boy that he is now; it is these images of J and Murphy that are forever etched in my mind.  One hand on his beloved bottle, the other curled in her fur.  Everyday...EVERYDAY.  She has the patience of Job.

Even when at age 7, we flew her to Geneva for five years.  She never missed a beat.  Of course, there was no quarantine in Switzerland, just a really nice vet at the airport.

Murphy was beside J at every first day of school.  Every one and I have the calendars to prove it!  The only exception was day one down under when she hadn't yet joined us.  But we made up for that.

In February 2011, Murphy safely landed, at age 12,  on Australian soil after a looooong solo trip that took her from Geneva to overnighting in Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Melbourne.  I'm not exaggerating that it was one of the happiest days of my life when I finally got to see her at the quarantine facilities where she spent the next 30 days.

 On day 31, I took her to the beach...

I'm pretty sure she thought it was worth the wait.

Through thick, thin, many miles, and 10 years together, they're still a team.

They don't come much better!  Happy birthday Murphy, we love you to the moon and back but know that every day with you now is your gift.

Friday, 6 September 2013


Yes, it has been a while since I last posted.  I occasionally disappear, as regular readers will have observed, and express my creative energies elsewhere.  Or maybe that’s just another way of saying, I’ve been distracted.  Did you know that you can begin a sentence with “Or”?  I was told this during a Plain Language Writing workshop this week.  You can also begin sentences with “But” and “And” and “Because”.  Interesting no?

I have been distracted/occupied/engaged elsewhere for the last few weeks.  And (are you noting the use of “And” at the start of this sentence) lacking a desire to write, I am, instead, composing a list of where I’ve been.


1.   Supporting and encouraging a heartbroken 20-something,
2.   Grieving an old friend in a battle he is losing,
3.   Editing a friend's second novel; I do love the editing process,
4.   Convincing J of the relevance of fractions, long-division, and conjugation of the imparfait tense,
5.   Prevailing upon C2 to see a doctor; being validated when C2 was diagnosed with Shingles,
6.   Re-applying for my Canadian passport.  Examining my new passport photo and wondering why my cheeks seem to have moved south when compared with the photo from five years ago,
7.   Working an extra day a week for the last two weeks at Child Wise,
8.   Wondering why in spite of all of my exercise and healthy eating, I am looking less like Carmela and more like Janice,
9.   Binge-watching Breaking Bad.  First half of season five done and awaiting the last six episodes with much impatience,
10. Mourning the all-too-fast passing of time as I look sideways at J, when yesterday I looked down and knowing tomorrow I will look up,
11. My new iPhone, au revoir Blackberry.


1.  Blog,
2.  At the tumbleweeds of Labrador hair rampaging through my house,
3.  Blog,
4.  Resisting TimTams,
5.  Blog,
6.  Demonstrating patience whilst convincing J of the relevance of fractions, long-division, and conjugation of the imparfait tense,
7.  Blog,
8.  Ignoring the all-too-fast-passing of time as I look sideways at J, when yesterday I looked down and knowing tomorrow I will look up.  Because (I started a sentence with“Because”!) it’s better than the alternative,
9.   Blog,
10. Any writing of my own,
11. Blog,
12. My to-do-list,
13. Blog,
14. Planning….anything.

I will aim to do better.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Dear Nespresso or The End of the Affair

Dear Nespresso,

I remember when we first met, it was in Geneva 2006.  You were the popular kid and I just wanted to fit in.  You had that beautiful shop on the quai Gustav Ador across from the Lake; I wandered in, feeling decidedly uncool overwhelmed by your smooth but distant charms.  In awe, I soon succumbed along with every other Swiss citizen and bought your Turmix.  Your design, your ease, your psychedelic-coloured capsules seduced me.  George Clooney convinced me that I was doing the right thing, and with Swiss efficiency, I recycled those beauties whilst building a flotilla of flashy capsules neatly stacked in my pantry, and adding an Aerocino to the mix.  I was besotted.

Much Love,

Your biggest fan

Dear Nespresso,

It was 2011, and our affair continued down under.  I have forgiven you for my failed Turmix and have moved on to a shiny vamp of a Citiz.  I forgave you, too, for my burnt-out Aerocino and have bought another.  I even forgave you for those more expensive brightly-coloured beauties.  My mother and sister-in-law have also succumbed to your charms.  I have doubts, though, and am beginning to question our relationship.  I now live in Melbourne, the mecca of coffee culture, where the flat white is an art form.  Suddenly, you don't seem quite so seductive, quite so elusive yet still I am loyal.  I add a sleek disposal unit enabling me to recycle in style.  Still, George doesn't move me quite the same way.  I was less besotted.


Your loyal fan

Dear Nespresso,

It is July 2013, I have been loyal for seven and a half years.  It has been an imperfect relationship.  I feel like I have given more than you and that only one of us has been constant and true.  My shiny vamp of a Citiz has failed me.  You have turned your back; spurned me.  You scoffed, unmoved at my distress.  "Pay a $150 repair fee or buy a new one" your only response.  My pleas that purchasing a 3rd machine in seven years seemed unfair and perhaps spoke to quality, fell on deaf ears.  I demonstrated to you that I have spent thousands of dollars over the years on your kaleidoscope palette of capsules.  I even argued that it made no business sense to lose me over  a $150 repair fee given the future we could have together; the thousands more you could count on from me if our affair were to continue.  You were unmoved, cold, business-like.  Did I ever mean anything to you? I am deceived.

Citiz, Turmix and Aerocino relegated to my garage floor

Your no-more fan

Dear Nespresso,

Before I bid you a final farewell, I would like to remind you of the principled individual that I am.  I have always recycled your capsules, I do not shop at Walmart, I support same-sex marriage, I avoid factory-raised chicken and eggs, and stand up for what I perceive to be right and compassionate in the world.   You have forsaken me and I am not afraid to say it.  We cannot be friends and I don't wish you well.  I have moved on and in a big way.

Let me introduce you to Giotto, our new love.  To be honest, C2 took advantage of your disloyalty to indulge a passion and invest in something that will be loyal a lifetime.  We are partnering with local Melbourne-based roasters to supply fresh beans thereby supporting local business and frankly delivering a superior experience.

You could have kept me dangling for years to come, Nespresso, but I am stronger, happier, and little-more buzzed in my new relationship.  Your gaudy-coloured capsules cannot compare to the new grinding, tamping, brewing and steaming experience, we and our new love are engaged in.

Giotto and I are equal partners; something we never were.


Australian Family Hendricks

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Yes, sadly it's the end of stay-cation.  J is back at school, C2 is in Brisbane, and I'm back on the semi-single-parenting/homework/chauffering/ball-juggling/Child Wise-working roller-coaster which while gruelling at times also brings me great joy; so no complaints.

We completed our two-week stay-cation with a yodel and a thousand steps.  To further elaborate, on the weekend, we drove into the Dandenong Ranges,  a short distance outside of Melbourne to the twin country towns of Sassafras and Olinda.  Both towns are charming for their antique shops, arts and crafts, and delightful cafes and small restaurants.  We browsed the shops enjoying the Christmas in July atmosphere (this is winter in Australia), sipped a flat white, and relished in the region's similarity to the Canadian Pacific north-west.  Except instead of pine trees, we have gum trees.

However,  our destination this day was "The Cuckoo".   The Cuckoo is an iconic Bavarian/Swiss style restaurant/smorgasbord/live entertainment that has been in business for decades.  Think Bavarian Beer Garden meets The Flamingo in Las Vegas.  We were less interested in any potential Branson, Missouri-type experience but were beckoned by the promise of  Swiss architecture, authentic Swiss cow bells, and apple strudel.

C2 and I exchanged worried glances as we and a tour bus pulled up in front of the chalet, even J professed some nerves and worriedly asked  "is this going to be cheesy; are they going to make me yodel?"  Still, the warm glow of the gas lamps, the Christmas decorations, and the smell of food and a warm fire, not to mention the buxom cardboard cut-outs, drew us in.

We had a hoot!  We sang along to music from "The Sound of Music" - Austrian/Bavarian/Swiss, nobody was being particular, and Christmas carols.  We ate roast beef, gingerbread, and far too much apple strudel.  We yodeled, and J stuck his hand up and proudly declared himself "Swiss!"  A Santa with a very Aussie accent threw handfuls of chocolate on our table, and Jingle Bells was played on cow bells.  Seriously, what more could you want from an afternoon?

After leaving the restaurant warm and sated, we spontaneously drove a short distance to the equally iconic 1,000 steps/Kokoda Memorial Hiking Trail.  The 1,000 steps are exactly that, narrow steps of mixed size and depth that ascend about 1.5 km through thick gum forest.  Fourteen plaques commemorate the original Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea where Australians and Papuans came together in 1942 to successfuly defend Port Moresby against the invading Japanese at great cost.  The plaques were a particularly handy place to stop for a breather when I thought my lungs were going to burst from my chest.

Barely breaking a sweat

At about step 950, can you feel the love?