Our little puppy, now 120lbs

You’ve likely seen him on my Instagram account (my daughters say all I post there any more is Tully,) but I thought I’d do a little post on how our wee pup is doing.

Tully's MOSTLY awesome with the kids. They don't like his stuffie stealing habits, though. Nothing drives an 8 year old girl more crazy than stuffie theft. Oh, and drool.

Nothing drives an 8 year old girl more crazy than stuffie theft. Oh, and drool.

Tully is doing great. He’s sweet and gentle, and loves to get hugs several times a day. He just settles his massive bum on your lap, or sidles up to you and leans in, expecting your arms to wrap around his neck.

A lap dog...

A lap dog…

He’s is bigger and bigger, although his rate of growth has slowed now at seven months.

That's a kind sized bed...

That’s a king sized bed…

I’m expecting when I take him to the clinic today for him to weigh in around 120lbs. That’s a whole lot of muscly dog. As Jason commented, most of the time he takes up less space than his size. Tully will curl up in a ball on the bed (yup, that no-bed pledge went out the window) or sprawl across the then floor and we simple step over him. But sometimes his size is a thing. Despite his usual heeling and good behaviour, I found about 20lbs ago that if he sees a squirrel, or wants to meet someone, then it is hard for me to hold him. So I got a no-pull harness, which really helps. I love it so much, I started selling them at the shop. Last night, though, I took it off and got into a peck of trouble. I was running him around the park on a 30foot long leash, and had attached it to his collar instead of harness, so he wouldn’t trip. Mistake. He saw a shitzu on the other side of the park, and took off straight for it (to say hello in his friendly huge way,) and I got dragged across the park on my knees/belly. Not pleasant. I am so bruised up today, and have now pledged that we won’t have any park exercising without the harness.

Walking the big boy on the dog beach in Summerland. Note the no-pull harness...

Walking the big boy on the dog beach in Summerland. Note the no-pull harness…

Other aspects of his bigness are just management issues, however. Oddly, he eats a lot. lol. We actually had to take him to the dentist, because his bottom canines were growing into the top of his mouth. Yikes! So for the last few weeks, he’s had to eat mush, and I’ve switched to an all raw diet before I really wanted to. But to give you an idea, every day he eats four pounds of ground chicken, four eggs, six cups of brown rice, a couple of cups of squash and green vegs, kelp, vitamins, minerals and calcium. When he gets his dental appliance out (right after Harambee in two weeks!) then he’ll be eating more chicken necks and tripe for meat, which will cut the food costs in half, and I won’t have to additionally supplement with calcium as much.

Handsome boy!

Handsome boy!

Tully still fit in the back of our station wagon… Mostly. He has to do a bit of a squish dance. The only trouble in the heat (we are into our hottest summer ever in the Okanagan, so this is a real problem as next week is supposed to be 38-42…) so I’m thinking of getting a little fan that pushes our AC from the front of the car to the back, just to help him cool. Generally, he doesn’t handle heat well, so we practice siesta at home and he just goes out in the morning and night. Whereas the other dogs can dig cool holes under the back deck, he doesn’t fit! So Tully has been working on some craters in the back yard, and mostly hunkers down in the shade of the apple tree.

Downward dog...

Downward dog…

His training is going well.. Tully can sit and lie down and the like. But more than that, we’ve been working on skills that make our lives easier. Since his head is more than counter height, he’s learned to lie down in the kitchen whenever I’m making food. When he does this, he gets a little nibble thrown down to him ever now and then, and that keeps him off the counters 90% of the time. His shoulder is table height, so we do the same thing at the table… Make him lie down, and then he gets something, at some random point during the meal. It works pretty well, actually. Otherwise you can imagine he’d be helping himself constantly.

Sofas are his favourite. He's claimed this chaise as his own in the living room.

Tully’s claimed this chaise as his own in the living room.

When we are at the clinic, Tully has a mat behind the counter. He lays on the mat, and if someone comes in, I either let him slowly meet them or put him hastily in the back. He would much prefer to meet people, as he is SUPER friendly. And he’s great with people. Everywhere we go, people stop us and ask “what breed is he?” Or occasionally, “is he an Irish Wolfhound? I’ve always wanted one!” He gets so much attention, it’s almost like when the girls were little and everyone wanted to talk about them. But it is a lot easier, since I don’t have to worry about Tully’s privacy. I just have to worry about his manners. “You can pet him! But please wait until he sits down first.” It’s a work in progress.

I have no idea who broke the pillow!

I have no idea who broke the pillow!

I think Tully has a lot of potential as a working dog. He went to the girls’ grade three class once a month for the last five months, to visit, and be measured and weighed. They made a class project out of him, and practiced all sorts of math. “How much did his tail grow from last month?” He was an angel, honestly. He’s so amazing with kids.. I think that’s his real strength. If we were to do any special work, I would likely get him to work in schools. He’s suited to being mauled by 20 kids at a time.

Sugar and Tully

Sugar and Tully

My previous dog, Hamish, was a therapy dog. We used to volunteer at the U of A hospital. Those who have been following my blog for a long time may recall that our dearest Hamish (really, our first kid,) died tragically of cancer just a year before the girls came home. Hamish left a gaping hole in Jason and I’s hearts… We loved him so much. Even though Tully looks nothing like Hamish did, there are so many similarities, we find that hole being filled up, six years later. He goes to work with me, like Hamish did. Just like Hamish, Tully is very empathetic, and seeks you out if he thinks you are hurt or feeling sad. He’s smarter than we thought possible, and plays some of the same games that we played with his predecessor. Like the finding game, where I show him one of his many stuffies, and then hide it for him to find around the house. He’ll bypass his other toys, just to find  the one I’ve showed him. Pretty cool. Any mainly he’s just an easy pup (drag across the park as the exception.) he wants to please, is easily trained, and share his love with all that meet him.

At five and a half months... Tully and me!

At five and a half months… Tully and me!

In short, Tully is a joy. I’m so glad I got him, and happy to spend my days in his company.

Even if he's huge, he's still a puppy!

Even if he’s huge, he’s still a puppy!

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The end of Ethiopian adoption: how it happened

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It was almost exactly 6 years ago the Jason and I became the parents of two beautiful little Ethiopian girls. Aren’t they growing up beautifully?

This last week, we learned that there would be no more Ethiopian adoption for Canadian families.  Both programs are now closed … And no more children will find families in Canada.

Although it wasn’t a surprise, the email that came from the adoption agency had sad note of finality to it. When I shared the news with my almost-nine-year-old daughters, one of them commented wistfully “that makes me sad, because there are so many children in Ethiopia that really need homes. I’m not sad for us, but I’m sad for the kids who will live in orphanages and who won’t have a family.”

I have to admit I feel the same way. Since I am in Ethiopia every year, and have had an active role in this last adoption attempt, we’ve known for a while that it was highly unlikely to adopt from Ethiopia again. My sadness for those unadapted children was more nuanced though, because I see a system that has failed them. Some families will likely be much more surprised that there is no more Ethiopian adoption. What went wrong? How did adoption stop, when Ethiopia sent thousands of children to live in Canada only a few short years ago?

Here’s my take on why there won’t be any more new adoptions from Ethiopia to Canada.

First… The big picture. In the early 2000s, international adoption kicked off in earnest in Ethiopia. As has happened many times across the globe before, the demand for children catylized a system into overdrive. There was real social need for childcare and for non-institutional, long-term placement solutions, as this was the height of the HIV epidemic. Adults were disappearing, neighbours and grandparents were overrun, and domestic adoption wasn’t on the radar for the average Ethiopian.

Due to the demand, more orphanages and agencies popped up than anyone could oversee and handle.  Adoption agencies started getting competitive, and more than a few resorted to bribery, child solicitation and other horrid forms of corruption. Meanwhile, there were other agencies doing good work, checking and ensuring the authenticity of the adoptions. We can’t forgot those! And then, there was the grey area. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time in Ethiopia around child care organizations, I know there are a lot of well intentioned people who brushed aside the complicated ethical concerns of international adoption to ensure children were placed in a home. A change on the paperwork to make the children more adoptable, or easier to pass through the courts. I heard stories like this over and over, from both sides of the pond.

Of all our friends who adopted children from Ethiopia,  I would say that roughly half of those adoptions were tainted with some lies, or shortcuts along the way. Ours is one of the others… The legitimate, honest adoptions where everyone knew what was going on. Since we have an open adoption with our girls’ family, we know that the big information information we received about the girls’ background was true, and they really did need to have an adoptive family. But a complete pre-adoption story was the exception, not the norm. All those other fibs, lies and outright injustices Started to come out as children got older and could talk, and the international adoption parenting community got rightly pissed off. Many people hired investigators to find their children’s birth families and true stories… All which should have been clearly shared by adoption agencies and orphanages in the first place!

With all these pissed off parents and investigators running around, and the cracks showing in some agencies’s methods, the government started cracking down on adoption. Regions had backlogs. Judges weren’t available. The ministries issued statements. Meanwhile, the government was auditing the heck out of the agencies, and (good job Ethiopian government) managed to close down many of the more blatantly corrupt orphanage and agencies.

Back in Canada, things were going amuck for the two adoption agencies that had open Ethiopian programs.

First, the Imagine Adoption bankruptcy. If you haven’t been following my blog for six+ years, then you may not know that we were caught in the middle of that fiasco with our girls. In fact, I was the one who had to break it to the Ethiopian staff that their employer was broke. Our twins had become legally ours July 3, and then on July 13 I found out that our adoption agency was bankrupt. My mom and I flew to Ethiopia on six hours notice (not knowing how long we were staying…) and the rest is history. But that bankruptcy was due to the director of the agency spending the money, that was supposed to be feeding and caring for our children, on a new pool, horse and house renos. Oh by the way, she finally was “sentenced” this year. It’s amazing how she got away with stealing from the mouths of orphaned children in a third world country. There is a special place in hell for that kind of person. Eventually, another agency took over the Ethiopia adoption licence and the program limped along. They aren’t taking new clients for Ethiopia

The other licenced agency had financial difficulties not a few years later. We put in our oar with them for this second adoption, but heard this past week that they are closing their program. For the last couple of years, we had two organizations barely making it along. What a mess.

Back in Ethiopia, enough adoptive families had stayed at the Hilton and Sheraton where the politicians hang out to cause concern over the mass exodus of children leaving the country. Many of the families didn’t stay to learn about their children’s culture. They just flew in, ate $30 salad buffet lunches at the overpriced luxury hotels, and flew out again with their babies in tow. The wealthy Ethiopians, government officials and hotel staff were astounded.

Orphanages and agencies closed their doors, and also routinely didn’t get post-placement reports back to the people who had placed the kids for adoption in the first place. Many birth families didn’t get any information about their kids, and told their painful stories of loss to the media. Justifiably, people were outraged. Culture is so important in Ethiopia, and for children never to connect with their birth families again and to be disconnected from their culture was a loss for the families, but also for the country.

And then the horror stories started filtering in. I was in Ethiopia when the story of Hannah Williams broke. I was sitting in a cafe, meeting with some of our partners for the NGO I run. One man mentioned in grief about “all the kids that were dying that had been adopted.” I was confused, and didn’t know what they were talking about, until I managed to get wifi the next day and learned about the tragic death of that poor little girl. It was horrible. And it forever changed the way the average Ethiopian saw adoption.

Thousands of Ethiopian children found loving homes overseas. Many of those adoption were honest, and good solutions for children that needed homes. But there was also corruption, financial mismanagement, lies and deceit, pissed-off parents, concerned government and judiciary systems, grieving birth families, a horror story of one beautiful little girl, and a proud Ethiopian people wondering why their children weren’t being raised as Ethiopians. So bit by bit, the house of international adoption in Ethiopia came falling down. And now, in Canada and many other receiving countries, it’s gone.

International adoption doesn’t solve orphan crises. It can be a good solution for some children that need a home, and don’t have other options. however, adoption never does address the root issues that lead the children to need homes in the first place. Now, more than ever, we need to help our Ethiopian friends fight poverty, foster social equality, spread education and keep families together. If you were considering adopting from Ethiopia, or had children from Ethiopia touch your life in some way, I hope you’ll consider helping one of the many organizations take care of the country’s children. They need your support more than ever.

We appreciate your donations for our charity, Vulnerable Children Society‘s work on behalf of children and families.

On a personal note, I am so grateful the people who safeguarded our children, and enabled them to find a home with us. I am thankful for the girls’ family, who saw a way when there was no way to care for the girls. I’m grateful to the orphanage that shared everything they knew about the girls’ family with us. I am grateful to the judge who gave me a complete heart attack as we went through seven court dates, just to ensure that the reason for adoption was actually true. (It was.) And I’m grateful that our first adoption agency, in the throes of bankruptcy, didn’t have the capacity to intervene in our relationship with the girls’ family. Lastly, we are grateful to our girls, who have enriched our lives in countless ways, and who we love more than anyone in the world.

Fathers Day Diner

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I was so proud of my little girls on Father’s Day. They are so considerate sometimes! As a special treat for their daddy, the girls dressed up as a 50s style diner waitress and proper French chef.  Then they made a delicious breakfast all from scratch, complete with excellent service.

First, Spice set the table…

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Sugar made cinnamon buns and chopped pineapple, two of daddy’s favorites. image

Daddy was properly appreciative. The girls dined him and made him feel very special.

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The funniest part of the day was when Spice the waitress to exclaimed, as she made daddy a mocha for the table, “these heels are killing me!”  Quite obviously, they were not entirely necessary to the outfit.

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After breakfast, we went for a long walk with the dogs, and then daddy went off to the hardware store to buy lumber for his new poker table project.

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It’s funny, all the moms I know want for Mother’s Day is to have a day where they do absolutely nothing. But Jason is  like most of the dads I know… He wants to spend some time with his kids, eat a nice meal, and spend some time with power tools. Mission accomplished.

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I asked the girls tonight what they live about their daddy, and here are the answers:

Sugar: I like him because he’s funny and he’s nice. If we do something wrong that he will not get mad at us, but he doesn’t yell very loud.  Hes super funny and likes to play with us playmobile.   He’s a really good daddy and he loves us very much.

Spice:  I love my daddy because he appreciates what we do for him like this morning and I love him so much, no matter if he yells.  I like spending time with my daddy and I love working with my daddy picking fruit.

Wine Wednesdays: Sauvignon Blanc from Chablis

Wine Wednesday's: Sauvignon Blanc from Chablis

When I traveled through Chablis 10 years ago, I tasted delectable Chardonnay after delectable Chardonnay. But nowhere was I treated to any other white grape variety.

When I chanced across this wine at the local government liquor store, I had to try it. What would Sauvignon Blanc taste like, from my favourite white wine region in the world?

It’s a pale yellow, with colour right to the rim. A sniff… Lime leaves, vanilla blossoms and a pale fragrance of white lilies in a steel vase.

The taste… Ah, there it is. The lime of Sauvignon Blanc, but the bracing steel of Chabis. That limestone mineral character is so characteristic of Chablis, I would recognize it anywhere. And the limestone gives the wine, somehow, a generous mouth feel, so that it fills the mouth more than any white wine I know, without being coy or too bodacious. So so so good.

I enjoyed this delicious wine with some risotto prima vera… A simple Italian rice with suresh peas and carrots from my garden.

Ok, you can tell from my tone that I fell in love with Chablis ten years ago, and never fell back out… But now I have to add to my list of adoration Sauvignon Blanc à la Chablissaine.

Wine Wednesday's: Sauvignon Blanc from Chablis

Skating through Addis

I love this video from the streets of Ethiopia. I’ve never seen a skateboard there! But I guess they are getting enough paved roads in Addis to now have room for skateboards. Super fun!

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All about the books… Why e readers suck

I love this video from a British Columbia bookstore!

Personally, I hate E readers. I have an iPad but I don’t use it for reading at all. I think we have too much screen time in our culture as is, and a book should be An escape from technology. There’s nothing like the feeling of a real book in your hands as you escape away from electricity and flickering screens.

Often we have different standards for our children then for ourselves. We would never want to child to talk away with an electronic device for hours on end, would you? Of course not! It’s been proven many times over that electronic device time lowers your child’s concentration, affects their academic marks, and even negatively affects their happiness  so why would we  often we have different standards for our children then for ourselves?

Real books help you go to sleep; e-readers keep you up at night. Real books are reusable, recyclable, and can be shared. You can mark them up and curl into bed with them.

I get that you can take multiple books in one e reader when you were traveling. Total advantage. But even better yet, why don’t you take one or two books with you on a long trip, and then trade them for other people’s books along the way?

Yes, real books use trees. But e readers create horrid electronic waste, and source a lot of content from countries that don’t have any environmental regulations. Trust me… The electronic readers have a MUCH larger ecological footprint.

Truth: You can take multiple books in one E reader when you were traveling. Total advantage. But even better yet, why don’t you take one or two books with you on a long trip, and then trade them for other people’s books along the way?

My vote? It’s all about the (real) books!

Carving out time for myself and my kids

Those closest to me have noticed a difference in me lately. I’ve been less frantic, and less panicked about all the things that I haven’t done. I’ve made some changes in my life, and are continuing to do so, that have enabled me to carve some time out for myself and my children.

Like many people, I have a lot on my plate. I didn’t exactly designed it that way… Life just ends up going un-according to schedule. Since our veterinary business took a few years longer to start than planned, I grew my other business, Africa Sleeps, in the meanwhile. Even though I retired from teaching, I still ended up being an entrepreneur with two businesses that need a lot of attention, as well as the founder of a charity, as well as a mother and wife. This isn’t bragging; it’s more of an admission of guilt. In our society, we value busyness too much, and don’t place enough emphasis on enjoyment of the moment.

This last year has been increasingly frantic. I found less time to spend with my children, and no chance to ever get on top of my work for my three major obligations. Of course, the charity is the organization that suffers the most, because it always gets bumped behind my two businesses. As much as I value the creativity of building a new business, and the passion for natural products, my work in Ethiopia is the most important to me. And yet it’s always at the bottom of the heap.

As I was driving down south to Portland to meet my sister for a much-needed getaway, I decided to listen to an audiobook that I had been waiting to have some time to get to. It had been recommended to me by one of my former students, went to Ethiopia for four months to volunteer for my charity. The Four Hour Workweek was is inspiring… Reflecting in all those hours of driving, I took a hard look at how efficient I actually am, how I spend my time, and what is most important to me.

First of all, I realized how many times the day that I get distracted by unnecessary activities. The prime example is Facebook. I started to go on A Facebook diet. I realized how many times a day I would have a break in tasks, and then end up on Facebook for 5 to 15 minutes. Well, those 5 to 50 minutes add up. I still need to use Facebook for work… So I can’t go cold turkey. But I installed an app that dealt with my organizations pages, and put the Facebook app several pages back on my iPad desktop. To my surprise, I didn’t miss it at all. I found that even checking Facebook once every couple of days was sufficient to keep up with friends. There simply just too much garbage information coming across the wire. This all takes time… Time I don’t have. So the less Facebook the better.

Secondly, I realized that I was trying to do too much in one day. I was constantly frustrated with all the things that I didn’t get done. Multitasking actually sucks. It’s a horrible efficiency strategy. So I begin giving myself two major tasks for a workday. That’s plenty to do in a day ground between school hours. Because I only set myself to tasks to do, I also had to really think about what was most important with my time, and delegate some of the less important tasks to others, but I couldn’t eliminate all together.

My third important take away was how much I could assign to others. I do use the strategy in the past, employing a housekeeper, and even a marker to get some of the more mundane and tasks of my teaching load done. But since we started the veterinary hospital and have been living on an extremely limited income (just Africa Sleeps,) I have been trying to do more and more myself. So I started thinking about what I could delegate to my staff at the hospital, and decided did to hire a minimum wage personal assistant. I advertised for the personal assistant job, and ironically, have not had time to hire someone! That’s next week.

The other part is “encouraging” my husband to take on some more family tasks. The truth is that he is not run off his feet… It’s a start up veterinary hospital and the veterinarian isn’t busy all the time! So he is learning to use some of his downtime to pay bills and run errands. {insert joke about teaching an old dog new tricks} But seriously, Jason is learning to use some of the non-booked time in his day for household obligations, instead of whiling away those hours and having to tack on household stuff afterwards, at the expense of family time.

On the way back from Portland, I listen to another short audiobook about effective mornings. Basically, the whole point of What the Most Succesful People Do Before Breakfast is to get up early and pay your self in time first, like the Wealthy Barber suggests with money.

I realize that my evenings after the kids went to bed were mostly being used to go back to work. I work too much… Have I mentioned that?

So I decided that I would get up an hour earlier every day, and give myself an hour of time for myself. I didn’t dictate what that time should accomplish. But I found the mornings that I sit with a cup of espresso or chai, and either blog or reads, fill up my cup in the way that a few things do. The one thing I miss, having children, is quiet breakfast. So this is my way of carving out a quiet breakfast for myself, and a little refractive time. Consequently, at the other end of the day, I am either going out in the garden or spending a little time talking with my husband after the kids go to bed. Then, I go to bed myself. With a few exceptions {insert another joke about training an old dog new tricks} I’ve been avoiding working at night, when I am least productive anyway.

The most recent changes we’ve made is after our trip to Las Vegas. Prompted by our children’s less-than-subtle hints, Jason and I had deep discussion about our lack of time with kids. The truth is, until one of those major obligations is gone, we don’t have a lot of spare time. But we had found we had got into the technology trap… Much of the time we did have to spend on the children, we were wasting on technology time instead. Jason will go to his iPad, and I would go back to work. Sloth and Overwork. Neither reflected our true priority, of enjoying our daughters before they grow too old to enjoy us. So Jason has ditched his iPad, or rather tried to and was having a terrible time until I hid it on him. And I am making an equal attempt to not go back to work after 5 PM. Most importantly, we have taken the pledge to say “yes” to our children, and squeeze in activities and time with them during the day.

Our lives are these constant works in progress. The last few years have been building… Building our businesses and setting up our lives for the next stage. Now we are in the editing phase of carving out time for ourselves and our children.

If you find that you are short on time, not spending time with your kids, and too busy with work, I highly recommend those two books. They’ve prompted a lot of discussion in our lives, with more changes and editing to come.

Two old fogies at Rock in Rio

Last weekend Jason and I escaped for a weekend away (no kids!) to Las Vegas. Our reason for visiting sin city was the biggest rock concert in world, Rock in Rio, and we had a blast!

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This is an actual picture of the concert… For the headliner acts, we were in the brightly lit part left of the towers and the zip lines. Jason isn’t much of a concert goer, but he even describes it as amazing!

Days before the concert, we learned that Sam Smith has cancelled, due to some medical emergency. He’s Jason’s current favourite artist, so he was very disappointed, but the rest of the acts more than made up for him.

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The headliner, Bruno Mars, was ever kind of amazing. It was exactly as I imagined it… A big flashy show, with lots of dancing, jokes, and upbeat music. His 1 1/2 hour set was definitely in my top five concerts of all time. Here’s the first 17 minutes of the concert…

Taylor Swift, the other headliner, was totally disappointing. Her performance as so practiced and artificial, we actually left half way through. Sorry, Taylor.

My second favourite artist was Jessie J! Wow, that woman can rock a stage. She was witty, engaging, and completely gave herself over the the performance. We were right in front, and it was the first time I saw Jason actually rock out to music. You couldn’t help but move!

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Jason’s second favourite was Charlie Xcx. Ok, the old fart that I am, I knew some of her songs, but honestly didn’t know who she was before the concert. Well, that’s changed. Her performance was excellent. She was full, of energy, and her all girl band completely rocked the stage. If you ever have a chance to see her, do it…

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Ed Sheeren, who I wThe biggest surprise for us was John Legend. He’s a bit of a crooner, right? So we thought he might be sleepy in concert. As contraire… He had a masterful command of the stage, and was incredibly pitch perfect the entire concert. Truly astounding! He made a fan of Jason in one hour, let me tell you. I would pay to see him again in a second.

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For two nights, the concert ran for seven hours. My tired old knees couldn’t take standing the whole time, but luckily, the concert venue had astro turf all over. So whenever you wanted to, you could sit on the Grass, festival style, and relax. That was great. And despite my jokes about being an old fogie, the concert actually was a huge mix of ages and people. Leave the kids at home! But if you have a chance to go, do it! It was a completely fun, memorable experience.

Happy Mother’s Day from my sweet girls

This morning I was surprised by some cute gifts for Mother’s Day. But the best gift of all were the books the girls gave me. The book from Spice, especially, made me cry. It’s amazing to see yourself through your child’s eyes, and what makes them feel loved. One of the girls cards said “Dear Mommy, you worry about me, and I like that. I love you! Happy Mothers Day.”

From Sugar..

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From Spice…
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Sisters Trip to Portland

Before Christmas, my brother in law asked me to find a CD of Damien Rice,  in Irish folk/rock singer for my sister Ena’s Christmas present. Despite looking in the few stores, I didn’t have any luck on the CD. No one buys physical music these days! But one evening in May, I came across concert tickets for the same guy, performing in Portland. I thought “what the heck, she’ll love it,” and spontaneously bought the tickets. I mailed one to her when they arrived, and announced that we were going on a road trip, wether she liked it or not. Ena was delighted! And so in April, we headed off on our four day whirlwind trip down to Portland to see an Irish folk singer.

Ena and I live a few mountain ranges away from each other, so we agreed to meet in Spokane and then continue on our way to Portland.

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Apparently my brother-in-law was slightly concerned about our ability to meet up in a foreign city without cell phones (I ditched mine almost a year ago when our clinic opened and my daily work/home life shrunk within three blocks.) Surprise surprise, maps and preplanned meeting times still work.

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Ena and I explore the sites of Spokane, including taking a gondola ride over the river. That was pretty cool.

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We scrounged up some gluten-free grub at Gastro pub in a trendy Spokane residential neighborhood, and headed out for our night in the cabin.

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For our budget trip, I had booked a cabin in Potholes State Park. It was practically deserted this time of the year, and we had a restful sleep, waking to the sound of the marsh humming on our doorstep.

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Then onto Portland!

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We stayed at an HI hostel, right in the middle of a trendy shopping and residential neighbourhood. It was great! I’ve stayed at countless hostels, all over the world, and this was one of the best… Clean, simple rooms, a beautiful shaded garden between the four buildings that constitute the hostel, and spacious kitchen to make our own food.

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We rode the tram to the concert, and found it very easy to get around. 

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Otherwise, our time was spent shopping, eating and walking.

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I wanted to see what the hipsters (and their dogs!) We’re wearing, to incorporate new ideas into my store. I definitely picked up some awesome product ideas, as well as some cute low boots.

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Spending a couple of days there, I really jived with Portland. It is beautifully lush, and the laid back atmosphere and attention to style really suits me. I’ve always said if I ever had to live in the U.S., it would be in San Francisco, but maybe, in the imaginary border crossing, it would be Portland instead.

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After too short of a visit, we headed back home. This time, we drove north, then east, and spent the night in a yurt in a wooded state park.

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The next morning, we took a hike through the woods, following the river, and got our legs ready for the long journey home.

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A trip like this is a special gift. And that’s the way I feel about my sister. As teens, we often didn’t see eye to eye. I thought she was reckless and she thought I was a stick in the mud. But by the time our twenties rolled around, we realized that we have way more in common than we ever thought. We share interests, values, and a lot of great jokes. For the last 18+ years, I’m lucky to have counted her around my best of friends.

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Bonus picture! For fans of my puppy:

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Wine Wednesday: Sargamuskotaly Tokaji Late Harvest

One of my personal wine fetishes is a passion for sweet dessert wine. The sweeter does not mean the better… Dessert winds are all about the perfect balance between aroma, acid, sugar, and mouth feel.

Wine Wednesday: Sargamuskotaly Tokaji Late Harvest

Probably the best value wine that I know of in this category is Tokaji from Hungary. Hungary and wine, once upon a time, was very popular in Europe. But the methods have fallen out of favor, and The region’s exquisite quality is ours for a bargain these days.

The most famous kind of wine from this area is Aszu. The grapes are affected with Noble rot, picked individually, and then fermented in their own best of wine.

This is not a bottle of Aszu, however. This is a late harvest wine.

You can taste in wine that some of the Yellow Muscat grapes have been affected by botrytis, Noble rot. But the sweetness comes mainly from harvesting the grapes as the colder temperatures set in on the late harvest. It’s a fresh, modern style with the backbone of botrytis, found only a few places in the world. Awesome. And the best part of all, is that this little bottle is on $12 in my province!

If I haven’t already convinced you with the price in the pedigree, let me lure you in with a description. The wind is a medium yellow color, clear around the room as it is only two years old. The aroma is full of honeysuckle, orange blossoms, white lilies, beeswax, and buttermilk. When you take a sip, take a big sip….And feel that luscious full wine swirl around in your mouth. Note the high acidity, the balances the sweetness. It has a delicious pineapple taste, with tropical lilies, strawberry blossoms and a mouthful of honey. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Of course you can drink this with dessert, but I love a glass appoint self. Some of my other favorite pairings are with popcorn, pad Thai, salty nuts and pate on crackers.

Enjoy!

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