Zen Living in Pune, India November – December 2018

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After a long and somewhat arduous journey (arduous primarily because of the weird transit in Frankfurt … a two hour connection turned into two km winding walk, two security checks, lots of confusion from the airport staff etc. before finally arriving at the gate ready to board asap … no time for a bathroom stop!! …… very unorganized for Germany … this was followed up with an unanticipated two hour fuel refill stop in Azerbaijan, necessitated by the tiny plane with only twelve passengers on board although it could have accommodated a hundred …. obviously this all played into the confusion at the airport … so a Frankfurt-Delhi connection that should have been a 9-1/2 hour flight turned into one almost 12 hours 😗!!) Aaah the travails of travel 🤪

It was a pleasure to arrive at the serene ambiance and gardens of Osho International Meditation Resort … instantly restores and soothes the spirit. As I walk through the gates into this little oasis of calm in the middle of Koregaon Park, it is hard to believe what beauty exists in the midst of the chaotic streets of Pune, a city of somewhere between 3 and 9 million souls … hard to get a definitive answer on population count from a local! Over the years, I have learned to shrug ‘Indian style’ in the face of these kinds of discrepancies 😂 … Indeed I may have almost perfected the musically wobbly side to side head shake/shrug myself!! It is brought into play when one does not have an answer to a question, or does not wish to commit to an answer or just simply does not wish to address the question period!! … the list for the ‘usefulness’ of this gesture could fill a book 😂! Truth be told, after a few trips to India, I have actually grown rather fond of it .. charming in its own way 😗. First time around I found all this head wobbling more than a little annoying particularly when requiring a response but over the years, less so. Embracing and understanding, or at the very least, accepting cultural quirks helps enormously when travelling. Eventually, I have learned to adjust to all the differing customs and quirks around the globe and for the most part appreciate their value even if I do not always agree with them. What is a great casserole or soup after all, without a zillion different ingredients to create a unique and delicious flavour?

So yes, over thirty hours of airplanes, airports, breathing in stuffy recycled air, compounded by little sleep, can leave one a tad cranky … not the best part of travel by any means but a necessary one. I adjust 🙃. The negatives shift into history as soon as my head hits the pillow in my, happy to note, very clean zenny room in Pune … home away from home for the next forty days.

Tomorrow … a zen living ‘adventure’ begins!!

Thanksgiving 2018 .. October Moments with Family

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Fall’s orange and yellow hues were not quite yet in full ‘bloom’ as I drove through the Rockies towards Calgary. What was unexpected however was the early very heavy record breaking snowfall a few days later … wow … 😲

Mother Nature’s snow dump made for some interesting days … mostly spent shovelling and attempting to dig my car out from under a few feet of snow …. it kept snowing for days! No sooner had we cleared a path, than it would once again disappear! Being Canadian, we learned to go with the flow … errrrr … snow 😂!!

Also made for a wintry white family weekend in Kananaskis …. I personally love being in the mountains any season … the snow and piercingly stunning blue skies created a magical landscape!

Love time with family ❤️

A beautiful weekend followed by Thanksgiving dinner at Sarah and Rob’s where we were treated to both a roast turkey and a smoked turkey! Rob and his brother Jackson were the ‘turkey chefs extraordinaire’! A most delicious feast indeed!

Never keen to leave these munchkins and no sooner do I arrive back in Kelowna, than I find myself missing them 😙 Yes, children grow up so fast and no where is it more noticeable than in the lives of grandparents who are well versed in the quickening trajectory of our lives ….

Fall is certainly in full bloom in Kelowna!

Early Fall with a return to Vancouver Island with Mickey and Gordon

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Early fall was perfect for a return to Vancouver Island with my good friends Mickey and Gordon. I always enjoy the ferry ride over and the fresh sea air after this particular smoky Okanagan summer felt nothing short of heavenly! I breathe deeply, letting the freshness wash through me. We visit Mickey and Gordon’s grandchildren Tiernan and Georgia and their partners Jay-Lynn and Connor in Victoria and Mill Bay and move on to the amazing ‘Bridge House’ at ‘Point No Point” a short drive from Sooke. The small seaside cabin we had booked earlier, was undergoing renovations so they put us up at no additional cost into their largest ‘cabin’ … stunning views surrounded us … A wonderful soul soothing West Coast week in every respect! Mickey, Gordon and I have been friends for almost five decades … in four short years, we will indeed hit that milestone and I hope we can celebrate in some fine fashion exploring some remote corner of our world. Travelling has always been a passion for us! Over many years, we have explored countries together around the globe … some research would be in order for something fitting for the 50th milestone of our friendship! At times I feel my friends know the ‘real me’ better than anyone in my life. They accept me, warts and all … oh yes, no rose tints here … they DO call me every now and again on various things but kindly so, well ok, not always kindly 🙃 … Mickey remains as candidly outspoken as I am 😙 but the acceptance is never questioned. Fall, my favourite season, finds me usually in quiet contemplation …. no exception on this rainy fall Kelowna evening! I feel such gratitude for the gift of friendship❤️.

August, A month tinged in a poignant mixture of joy and sadness

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My sister Raija Tyyne Maarit Leppanen passed away in the late evening of July 30th, a few short months after her 63rd birthday, cancer having taken hold in her throat area, compounded further by early onset dementia. My sisters Margaret, Maija and I had been sitting with her since early morning into the late afternoon, sometimes singing songs from our youth, or I, chanting my favourite Sanskrit Gayatri Mantra, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes just sitting in silence. The air was certainly tinged in sadness … so much potential now slowly fading into a quiet death. I cradled Raija, lying beside her as she passed. It was my first time holding someone as they took their last breath. Three months later, I remain in awe of the moment and am slowly moving into yet another new awareness of the preciousness of our lives. How important to love and accept rather than judge and critique. Negatives and positives live within us all! Death is such a teacher … Accept, breathe deeply … let the good prevail! I was very touched by the memories both my children and husband shared for the memorial service … humorous memories. How fitting for my sister, who in her finer moments, her early years, always had a great sense of humour! The memories everyone shared including a wonderful letter written by an old friend were heartwarming. It was a memorial tribute at its finest, to pay homage to the good in all of us. I was happy to see Raija’s sense of humour return in her last year of life. Today, three months later, I picture Raija’s soul flying … saying “well that lifetime was a bit of a weird ride but cool to be back here flying free again, waiting for the next lifetime of lessons” 😂!

My son Tim and his partner Liseanne made it to the memorial service in the nick of time, which warmed my heart no end. They stayed to visit for a few days, treating my sister Margaret and I to a wine tour of various small vineyards in the area. A most enjoyable afternoon sampling tasty local wines, including mead wines 😊! Tim and Liseanne’s visit ended far too soon. However, the positive side of that left me much needed quiet time for reflection, contemplation … life, death and all our various incarnations.

Savouring Summer with Family and Friends

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No Summer feels complete, without a visit to Linda and Court’s piece of heaven on Kootenay Lake. Linda was recovering from a knee replacement operation and was not totally mobile yet but we still managed a side trip to the Yasodhara Ashram, always a great outing where we sit in quiet meditation and chant. Our friendship has always had that something extra special … it sometimes seems we have known each other forever … living our whole adult lives as friends, sharing, always sharing … through decades of dinners and theatre nights, from drumming circles to the infamous Mackid New Year’s Eve parties, or ‘girls’ trips to The Kingfisher Spa … those Vancouver Island spa weeks were some of my favourite times with Linda … a memory from such a spa week still warms me … we had been laying down reading for a long time after a spa treatment and realized we had not spoken a word for hours!! … the comfort of true friendship!… knowing we do not always have to fill the silence with words, that our presence is all that is required ❤️

Sarah, Aliana, Oliver and Sarah’s sister in law Lisa and her daughter Brooklyn came for a ten day visit in July … the moms were enrolled at a university course for a week, while the kids and I enjoyed a lot of beach and park time in addition to the various Kelowna entertainment offerings of mini golf, Enerplex, bowling, kangaroo farm etc. It was certainly a whirlwind week of swirling youthful energy to spare 😊

Watching morning cartoons 😊

A Webb, Overmann, White, Gauss, Cuddie (the Exner arm and a few Webbs from Calgary were missing this year) picnic was held at Tim and Angela’s. Steve and Jenn were housesitting at Tim and Angela’s who generously allowed our troop to invade their gorgeous yard! Goofy Uncle Otto kept the little folk amused in and out of the pool … he remains a big kid at heart and of course the little folk love that 🤪!! Maija on the other hand, loves her photo bombs 🙃!!

Newest addition to the family is cute little ‘Nila, a sister for Meelo … Margaret and Brad’s grand-doggies! A great second annual get together!

Lisa and Brooklyn head for home and Sarah, the children and I head for Vancouver Island where we found a great little gem of an Airbnb home on Glen Lake! Managed to fit in a beautiful afternoon at Butchart Gardens, complete with high tea. The week was a most perfect finish to a BC summer holiday.

A Summer of Wedding Joy

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Thankfully the wedding week for my niece Jennifer and Steve was blessed with clear blue skies and sunny warm weather … the relentless summer fires had yet to take hold of Kelowna, where for most of July and August, the air quality rivalled that of Beijing and Delhi.

A gathering of generations of family came from all directions to Steve’s Dad Tim and his wife Angela’s beautiful home for a meet and greet barbecue extraordinaire the night before the wedding. It was an absolute delight in every respect … the adults enjoyed getting acquainted and the little people enjoyed mingling in the pool, hot tub and play center! Tim and Angela sure know how to throw a party … wonderful generous, warm hearted hosts!

Onward to June 2, 2018 Wedding Day! Held at Sunset Ranch, a historically significant spot for the White Family. Margaret and Brad lived and raised their children on that golf course where they were regular golfers for many years. It was certainly an appropriate and beautiful spot for Jennifer and Steve to seal their wedding vows. More than a few tears of joy were shed that day! I love weddings ❤️

A It was great to have Mickey and Gordon at the wedding and have them stay with me a few days for a well overdue visit!

A delicious luncheon at Mission Hills Winery with Mickey, Gordon, Jordan, Sarah, Rob, Aliana, Oliver, Aunt Marg and our Los Angeles arm of family, Johanna and Devendra ❤️

The White and Webb arm of family, together with our newlyweds, gather for a dinner at Cactus Club before everyone disperses for home. A most wonderful wedding week indeed!

Apologies … blog still stalled

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In the fall, I am taking a course at the local college on WordPress Development, (yes, such a course exists 🤪!!) hoping to troubleshoot the problems I am experiencing with posting pictures and take my blog/journal to another level, more for my own sense of satisfaction at learning something new once again, as anything else. My computers skills have started to lag over the last few years. I have become far too comfortable and complacent embracing the state of “being” over “doing” 😗 lately … a finer balance would perhaps be in order. In the meantime, a blog entry coming soon of a rather emotionally charged summer … a summer that held many moments of celebration, beauty, goodness, joy, laughter, love, albeit interwoven with moments of sadness, disappointment, grief.

Meditation remains my ‘go to practice’, reliably guiding me to a fine and peaceful balance when life goes off-kilter, as it sometimes does 😗 Hari Om Tat Sat❤️

October 27th …. well, here I am back in Kelowna, ready to head to Okanagan College for my WordPress course today! It was cancelled … I was the only one registered!!! The travails of life in a small city 😗. Guess I must muddle my own way through the glitches for the time being ….

Spring and Summer 2018 … My Long Neglected Blog 😊

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  • For many years, photo albums and scrapbooking of all family events and travels were my record keeping ‘go to’ creation. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, putting these memories into a format. Today however, these treasured
  • ‘creations’ remain neatly stacked and tucked away in my garage for lack of space and shelving in my new home!
  • In addition, as if the actual physical space is not sufficient, my iPad holds well over 8,000 photos of the past several years of events, global volunteering and various explorative travel, albeit all organized in cyber albums 😊. A solo nomadic year from 2010-2011 is further documented on a USB stick … thousands more pictures!! 😗. Yikes …. this qualifies as overload!!! I console myself that at least there are no further tangible albums to add to an already overly cluttered world!

  • It would appear this blog, this rather old fashioned journal, has evolved into a modern day record keeper … I occasionally refer to it, if only to recall where I may have travelled both geographically and internally. An interesting journey in itself 😗

April, May and June were brimming with family moments, birthdays, parties and a wedding! As the saying goes, pictures tell the story ….

Sarah and my little loves fly in for the baby and bridal showers.

Carmel hosts a baby shower for her daughter Kristine … drats, forgot to take pictures … just a few 😗!!!

Read the rest of this entry

Adios San Miguel de Allende …

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  1. Four straight years of participating in the Holy Week of Easter in San Miguel left Bev and I opting out of too much mingling and moving with the masses this year. In years past, we had often followed and photographed to excess perhaps, the many somber and celebratory processions that flow throughout the city. San Miguel comes alive at Easter, with Mexican tourists flocking here from all over the country, intermingled with a handful of Europeans, Americans and Canadians all eager to experience the legendary Easter religious rituals performed by locals every year. Sometimes it is enough to just enjoy the general ambiance. That often meant staying behind, enjoying our peaceful garden patio with a good book in hand :), or enjoying a meal or drink at a cafe near the Centro and viewing all the hullabaloo from a distance. One can still catch a hint of mastranzo (a minty herb) and chamomile wafting in the air … masses of these herbs are used over the two holy weeks … inside homes, lining the streets for certain processions, in churches, businesses, restaurants, decorating the various altars depicting the seven stations of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Need I say, San Miguel is a very religious city, high on Catholic rituals. For some reason, Mexican Catholic celebrations sit more comfortably with me than they do in other countries and generally I do enjoy the religious ambiance that prevails here at Easter … hmmm. However, it WAS a pleasant feeling to not participate as a harried tourist, frantically trying to capture every moment through a phone lens. I have certainly done both in my day :).

We did manage to find our way to the awesome Monarch Butterfly Migration in late February! Every year, we were either too late for it or we just didn’t feel like taking a day away from San Miguel! Great experience to share with Bev and her sister Jo Ann! Long twelve hour day though … comprised of almost eight hours of driving, followed by a steep horseback ride and hike to the site. There are times when iPhone photos do no justice whatsoever to a nature phenomenon such as this! Wished I had brought a good camera … such is life … a rich imagination is required to view my photos to get a feel of what we experienced 🙂

Up close and personal with a few monarchs that landed near us … tried to post a video …. not able to unfortunately … maybe weak wifi at our place 😗.

Adios mi amigas and amigos … swell having time to share some films, various concerts and impromptu gatherings! Til next year …

Adios also to the Queen of San Miguel … the most photographed church in Mexico … The Neo-Gothic Parroquia!

San Miguel de Allende 2018

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Air Canada recently added a direct flight to Mexico City from Calgary …. yeah!! No American security and long lines to deal with as is the case when flying via Houston to Queretaro! Initially Bev and I were sold on the idea and remain in that ballpark of thought for the time being. The singular negative issue was the necessity and cost of an overnight at an airport hotel in Mexico City, coming and going, combined with a longer shuttle commute to and from San Miguel … a two way cost factor involved … will weigh the pros and cons for next year with a tad more thought! ….. !! The tedium of travel issues and concerns disappear quickly however, the minute my feet land on the cobbly streets of San Miguel de Allende, and adjust to the pleasant rhythms of this charming colonial town in central Mexico!

Ahhh, how invigorating it is to be back … a restorative shuffling begins within hours of arrival! Back to the multitude of joys that continue to draw me here, year after year …. reuniting with my friend Bev, the warmth and friendliness of the Mexican people, church bells ringing throughout the day, continuing to preserve their long spiritual history, long walks everywhere, excellent alternative films at tiny pocket theatres, complete with a margarita and a bag of popcorn included in the admission price of roughly $9.00 Canadian dollars, great local restaurants, fresh mangoes every morning, stimulating talks at the local gringo based bibliotheca/library, musical concerts held in parks, canyons, local restaurants or churches, reuniting with a handful of friends we have made here over the years. Oh my, and the best of all, yoga classes with Antonio Elugardo, a Yoga maestro extraordinaire … I could take up residence in his classes and be totally content the rest of my days! The list of joys continues to grow yearly …. helping out in the rural community schools outside San Miguel where poverty remains a constant will hopefully grow into a regular involvement …. joining in every Sunday morning at the Universalist Community for music, celebration and interesting talks given by people of all faiths, who work together to build a community based on justice, equality and compassion for all …. yes, the many layers that make up this magical city continue to reveal themselves. Pictures tell the story to some degree, of my life and respite here during the dark days of a Canadian winter ….

Front row seats to a Media Luna concert at Paprika ❤️ … thank you Melissa and Donna!! A local band, comprised primarily of two young brothers and a few cousins. They have recently added an accordion player and a violinist … the addition adding to our musical enjoyment! These young men have ventured to playing in various venues in Puerto Vallarta this past year … more financially lucrative I imagine than playing for tips on street corners in San Miguel. Thankfully, they came back to play at our charming local restaurant Paprika, for the many fans who supported them over the past five years! It remains a highlight to hear Media Luna every year, wherever they play. A desire to expand their horizons was inevitable …. still a tad sad to lose our folksy little street corner band to the big city lights and tourism of Puerto Vallarta!

Winter

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What I continue to miss during these long Canadian winters are the ski trips to the mountains! While my children were growing up, ski weekends to Fernie, Whitefish, Sunshine and Kananaskis were a welcome and wonderful addition to a country ‘blessed’ with long winters :). Thankful to my daughter Sarah, who knows how dearly I love being in the mountains, for orchestrating a weekend in Kananaskis with Aliana and Oliver … felt undeniably exhilarating to be breathing mountain air once again !!

A Holiday within a Holiday, within a Holiday … Disneyland 2018

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A California kind of month … from social time with friends, to quiet quality time with family, to the bustle of Disneyland!!! A fabulous month in every way!

Sarah, the kids and I … hmmm (well, okay okay, Sarah and Google Maps who are equal partners, equally competent!!) navigate our way from Joshua Tree through the freeway madness of LA surprisingly smoothly and we meet up at our hotel in the heart of Disneyland with more family! Rob, his mom Linda, sister Lisa, kids Brooklyn, Ethan and Addison arrive within a few minutes of our own arrival … timing is everything! We chuck our bags, complete toiletry due diligence and head straight to Laguna Beach nearby, to shake off the bugs of travel. Lunch and beach walking is in order! Best decision yet! I could happily have dumped my bag at the nearest beach hut available and stayed indefinitely … on a bare bones sleeping bag! Amusement parks are not exactly my thing as anyone who knows me, knows 🙂 but I will pretty much do anything for Aliana and Oliver! I loved Laguna Beach! It was a great way for everyone to shake off remnants of an early morning flight and the commute from Calgary or even our own short bit from Palm Springs. The kids all unequivocally (and adults too, especially me!!) thoroughly enjoyed our long leisurely stroll along the beach … the children ran in and out of the surf exploring tidal pools, revelling in beachside nature, digging in the sand! We stocked up on healthy snacks and fruit for kids and grownups alike at Wholefoods nearby and head back to Disneyland. A great week of fun for the young and old, well, older, not old 🙂 ensued … pictures tell a better story than I …

Laguna Beach at sunset …

Onward and forward to Visionary Walt’s Playland …

We all bid adieu until the next adventure beckons …. a fabulous January comes to a close.

Pool Time in Palm Desert, Camping and Hiking in Joshua Tree 2018

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Sarah, Aliana and Oliver arrive to defrost from Calgary’s blisteringly cold winter. We splash about in the pools for a few days, enjoying the desert warmth and just savouring time together. A peaceful relaxing ambiance prevails. We leave the lush Palm Desert vistas behind and drive onward to Joshua Tree National Park for a little hiking and exploring around the stunning rock formations and boulders … this area has always been one of my favourite parts of the desert so it was nice to share this with Sarah and the kids. We opt for a night in an Airbnb trailer on the edge of the park, hoping to catch a starry sky, far removed as we are from the distraction of city lights. The evening’s overcast sky left us a little disappointed. We fall asleep “listening” to the silence and stillness of the desert. Winds moved in at some point in the middle of the night pushing the clouds westward! Sarah wakes up Aliana and I, leaving Oliver to his deep slumber! A fully lit, constellation rich sky our reward for climbing out from under warm comforters … the desert gets quite cool at night making it hard to crawl out from the warmth but glad we did! It is a deeply spiritual experience to gaze at the beauty of the twinkling heavens above us. Certainly a sense of Godly magnificence fills our hearts. More than twenty years ago, while holidaying at a bed and breakfast farm in Prince Edward Island, Brian and I woke up our sleeping kids to experience one of nature’s finest gifts of the night … the Milky Way!! … undoubtedly that memory lives strongly in Sarah and she wants a similar experience for her own children … prompting a return next year!ear

A New Year Begins 2018

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I was fast asleep when the bells ring in a new year, my granddaughter Aliana snuggled beside me. Party animals we were not! No major resolutions other than a promise to continue making health a priority. Eat healthy, exercise daily … do something, anything and go back to reading books more frequently. Simple and doable …

A quick Westjet connect and voila .. I am breathing in the desert warmth of Palm Springs! Hari Om … life is good! Mickey, Gordon and I meet up at the airport and drive off to La Quinta to settle into our cosy Casita Del Nido and thaw out from Canada’s relentless winter. Our friends, Carole and Gordon from Phoenix drive up for a visit a few days later. Lots of wining, dining and connecting followed. Reinforced the value of good friendships and how important to keep in touch. We commit to a return trip next January. Maybe meet up in Sedona for a change of pace? All in all, a fine way indeed to start off a new year. Mickey remains my older sister in so many ways, Gordon, the brother I never had … they probably know the real me better than most anyone I know. They have been around me at my worst, at my best, through thick, through thin and they still love me :)!!! Incredibly, our friendship spans 46 years … we thought of doing something special when the 50 crops up and man, that will happen quicker than a blink of an eye … have to start plotting and planning something.

My favourite part of any visit, remains the early morning walks in the prehistoric Santa Rosa Mountains that loom over the desert landscape …..

Festive Season of parties and celebrations … November through December 2017

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November found me flying to Vancouver and on to Crescent Beach to Mickey and Gordon’s home to celebrate their daughter Michelle’s 50th birthday …what a fun blast of a weekend … I met Michelle when she was barely four years old ….. aah these milestone birthdays that mark the passage of time. The eighties theme party was a sea of aerobics instructors, Village people, Forest Gump characters, rockers, even Tom Selleck made an appearance and ahh yes, our girl of the hour, Molly Ringwald 😂

A Gablecraft Christmas party in early December marks my second year in Kelowna … a great evening, full of good cheer. Happy I had the good sense to sign up for the Social Committee as it was a lot of fun organizing the party with the other five ladies … felt good to be part of a community once again. A few days later, I bid adieu to my new neighbours and head back to Calgary for a busy December, full of kids Christmas concerts, birthday parties, family dinners and of course Christmas festivities.

It is not always an easy transition to leave the old behind, be it locale, friendships or your favourite coffee shop to embrace the new at any age but particularly at my age! I am working on weaving all these fibres into this tapestry that is my life, a life that has at times held more complexity than I may have wished for but the threads are gradually softening and evolving into a simpler pattern, more in tune with the emerging me of recent years.

I fly into Calgary’s frigid temps from a Kelowna that has appeared to live on the fringe of winter these past few years … lots of snow with minus two temps but hardly the typically warm Okanagan winters of bygone years, when one had to drive to Big White Ski Resort to catch a glimpse of winter. Despite Calgary’s blistering -25C, Alberta’s welcoming wide open blue skies make the temps bearable but barely 🙃. Spending time at Sarah and Rob’s home with my grandchildren trumps all! Oliver’s third birthday set the stage for the weekend. Sarah had opted for a yoga/meditation party for Oliver … this is a relatively new addition on the party horizon … hope the trend continues. Hullabaloo has its place but quiet is nice too. My sister Margaret and nephew Jordan arrive for the weekend … a weekend full of fun brunches, dinners, visits and parties. Thrown into the mix was a surprise party for my nephew Bruce’s 50th birthday hosted by his new partner Rebecca and sister Susan… the family continues to evolve and grow.

Warms my heart to see Oliver and Aliana love building and playing with this old train set … it used to be a favourite of their mom and Uncle Timmy’s thirty years ago! Happy it survived storage in a Rubbermaid over the decades 🙂

Christmas as well, is evolving in our family. It seemed quiet with Tim and Liseanne in the Philippines. Sarah and Rob masterfully managed to keep Christmas gift mania of past years to a minimum …. I say it every year … little kids do not need a zillion gifts!! … it so very obviously overwhelms them, as it should anyone. But we live in this consumer based society … what is a grandma to do? Even though I continue to cut back, I still contribute to that pile of stuff that accumulates every Christmas … Well, what to do? … sit back and enjoy and repeat my daily mantra … ‘we are an evolving society’ …. everything in its own time 🎄🙃Fitting end to a wonderful year …. dancing! …. posting a fun video I took of Oliver and Aliana dancing to Hawaiian music in their makeshift Christmas light disco that they set up and decorated together 🙂

Friends and Family … Fall Moments 2017

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It is a truism that life can speed up as we age. Who does not remember a childhood where days stretched endlessly and seemingly moved along at a snail’s pace? With every decade that followed, the speed dial increased.   It is only with my ever growing interest and participation in meditation and mindfulness that I have, if not exactly slowed the dial back to a snail’s pace, I have certainly managed to stop and savour moments, linger longer, breathing in, slowing down, appreciating more, judging less.  Where once judgmental moments could erupt all too frequently, they have become increasingly rare.  The consequences of a harshly critical childhood left many scars that have taken me most of my adult life to soothe and heal.  The scars have faded over time into barely discernible lines.  I realize they were part of the whole, stepping stones that helped forge the person I am today … a far from perfect human being, but certainly a kinder more compassionate one.   Yes, fall remains my favourite season …. a time for settling in with a warm bowl of hearty soup and enjoying the reflections that flow.A fun afternoon with Gablecraft Social Committee at Vibrant Vines


A fun week in Mill Bay and Victoria with Mickey and Gordon, Tiernan and Jaylene, Georgia and Connor ❤️Good fall fun time in Calgary with family … caught Aliana in a mid air jump in her Taekwando class! Oliver reads to his babies!  A gorgeous fall day hike to Grassi Lakes ❤️. Love fall!!

Thanksgiving moments at Sarah and Rob’s

Sarah Turns 35 …. Kimberley Moments

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Our Sarah Liisa was born June 25, 1982 … memories take me back to those early months when I became a mother … what I remember very clearly from the first moment Sarah was placed in my arms, is the exquisitely tender protective love that washed over my whole being …. the blossoming of the heart valve, opening to the unconditional love of a mother for her child!   Brian and I spent those early months in awe, sometimes just watching Sarah sleeping!  Children are a gift so extraordinary that any descriptive somehow falls short.  Perhaps this is as it should be … ♥️

Flash forward, and here I am in Kimberley, British Columbia with Sarah and her family!    My own early all encompassing years of parenting, a long ago memory:)!!!   As beautiful a mountain setting as any, to celebrate her birthday … it appears the Kimberley Run may turn into an annual event.  It is Sarah’s second 10 km mountain run and Aliana’s second 1 km bike and run.  Rob may be encouraged to start training for next year, making it a family affair when Oliver turns three and qualifies for the 3-7 year category :)!!   I could hike it :)!!  Sarah and Rob’s friends the Jobidon family all joined in and completed the race as well.  Bravo to all!  

Had some fun park moments with the kids on the weekend … Keiran, Amie, Aliana and Oliver were fascinated by a little fawn that followed us back from the park to our condo …. it was quite sweet …. almost felt like he wanted to join them in their play ….  very endearing ♥️

  

The little ones were excited to surprise Sarah with birthday balloons, pie and ice cream!  I had a hard time finding 35 on a single balloon …. a 3 and 5 balloon worked!  

Whirlwind Vancouver Weekend … The Birthday Celebration Continues

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As if a birthday surprise to the South of France with my children was not enough to celebrate a 65th birthday, but a bonus weekend in Vancouver with my dear friend Linda thrown in? …. Wow!!  Linda and I have known each other for so long, we can scarcely remember a time we were not friends. We have been there for each other through life’s many joys and many challenges.  Our decades of theatre nights were always less about the plays than about the dinner before the play … a time to catch up, share, cry, celebrate, or laugh together.

We had a wonderful weekend of wining and dining, coffee stops, quiet moments people watching and savouring the coastal ambiance on a park bench at Kits Beach, or chatting benchside with the entertaining Kits Beach resident Tony Swain who, with little encouragement, shared his life story, a story worthy of a movie!   Adventurer, long ago pilot, journalist, author, race car driver … the list grew as he talked …. Tony had worn many hats in his working years  …. a man who dared to live by the seat of his pants for his whole life and apparently is still doing so :)!   Meeting this remarkable man reminded me to always remain open to others …. what we miss when we shield ourselves from interacting with strangers!!  Everyone has a story …. a story worth listening to.

Our weekend set sail with the Deva, Miten, Manose concert at Vogue Theatre …. an evening of pure Sanskrit chant magic and concluded with a solitary Stanley Park seawall walk (Linda flew home Sunday, I Monday night) …..  The pictures weave a weekend story … Namaste






Chamonix Revisited …

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  1. The final leg of my birthday extravaganza found us entrenched in freeway traffic for seven hours!   National holiday week, Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix all major contributors to the jam!  After inching our way on freeways, all the while being charged a king’s ransom in toll fees, we finally arrived in the rather lovely mountain village of Chamonix.   Summer crowds had not yet materialized leaving the town pretty much to ourselves.  Only a handful of tourists and the hearty hiker crowd in town!  Decades ago, Brian and I had flown there from Kuwait, to meet up with my eldest sister Pirjo and her husband Bill for a ski week!  The memories were overwhelming and poignant.  We were two then, just really starting out on our married lives, 25 and 27!   I return with two children, their partners and two grandchildren … ‘we’ had grown from two to eight!   Memories flooded my heart and mind … I had many tearful moments as I walked the back roads in the early morning mist that first day!   The memories of a long ago Chamonix, coated in winter’s snowy landscape was replaced by the stillness of a mountain sunrise and a field of wild flowers, reminiscent of a Claude Monet painting.  

The chalet the kids had found yet again on trusty Airbnb was everything one could wish for in a mountain setting!  More rooms than we needed certainly but utilize them we did!   Thrilled to find a true Finnish sauna and cedar hot tub outside!!!  And once again, a child’s dream yard where Ronan, Quinn, Oliver and Aliana could play and squabble in equal measure with abandon, or soak in the warmth of the hot tub, or just enjoy a patio surrounded by mountain views one could only dream of. 

 

We all took turns with the various activities available in Chamonix … hikes without youngsters, hikes with them, (all of us taking a turn with childcare),  even a day of shopping in town for hiking boots for some 🙂 or a Gondola trip to the dizzying heights of 12,000 feet for others.  Brian skied down this same hill above the clouds forty years ago!  My sister Pirjo and I, being rather ummmm, tentative skiers at the time, had opted to stay on the lower slopes :).  Somewhere in a dusty faded photo album, I will find those pictures of that long ago time in our personal history.  I loved it at the top …. feeling cradled in the heart of a mountain.  I was loathe to leave, wanting yet again to linger longer. 




A final evening fondue was in order as we bid adieu to Chamonix … finished off with, what else??? Gelato for the children 🙂

 

Leaving Chamonix behind we sped  along the Italian Rivera, going through so many tunnels, we lost count.  The six km long one through Mount Blanc alone was incredible …  a fait accompli!!  The toll stations were everywhere at an ever increasing cost … paying the price for the engineering feat of long tunnels bored through whole mountains,  I guess!  

We arrived in Nice for our final day, minus Tim and Liseanne who took a bus from Chamonix to Geneva for a day,  continuing on to Spain for an additional week of holiday.  

A final early evening walk along the sea, an extravagantly delicious dinner at La Petite Maison, a restful sleep, a morning walk to the market for berries and we were off again for the long commute home!  Thank you my children, my grandchildren, Jenn and Gary et al for a most memorable trip!  Love them all very much.  Au revoir français c’est un voyage amusant!  


A Perfect Idyll – A Country Farmhouse in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

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We bid au’revoir to seaside Cassis and the Mediterranean and hit the inland freeways, where cruising speeds of 140 – 160 are the norm …. toll stations appear to be part of every road network, thus far, ranging from a few Euro per use to well over twenty … beautiful roads but costly to drive!  We arrive at our next destination, a converted farmhouse in San Remy …. a touch of tranquility in Provence!  A place to stretch out, chill, swim, let the kids, big and small kick a soccer ball around the acres of grass, jump on a trampoline, explore a quaint town teeming with restaurants and the many nearby vineyards and oh yes, give everyone a chance to do laundry as well 🙂 ….  

A wine tour with Olivier through parts of the Rhone Valley proved to be a totally interesting, informative and fun day.  Olivier, of both French and English heritage is totally bilingual … the British side prevailed.   A delightful man, full of knowledge, and funny to boot.  We sampled our way through various vineyards …. white and rose Vacqueyras, red Gigondas, red Côte du Rhone, red and white Chateauneuf-du-Pape and various other wines that I have forgotten :).   We learned the importance of ‘terroir’ …. weather, wind, soil type, and a myriad of other conditions and situations that influence and determine the quality and taste of a wine.  The day culminated in a delicious late day luncheon at a restaurant located in the unbelievably bucolic tranquil countryside.  Again, we lingered long, savouring the day.  As I sit here today, in a cafe in Kelowna, typing this, my thoughts and mind easily float back to France.   I feel so blessed to have had this experience with my children, their partners, my grandchildren, Jenn, Gary and their children …  How kind and thoughtful they all were to arrange all this.  It is not easy planning and carrying out an overseas trip for adults, never mind one with young children to consider  …. a Herculean effort surely and one that succeeded brilliantly.  


A most enjoyable dip into life in Provence … a bit of education, a touch of exercise for all, relaxing homey ambiance, lots of wining and dining …. good fun!  Onward … en avant … to the French Alps! 

Nice, Monaco, Villefranche, Antibes, Cassis – Continuant Le Voyage

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One would think that eleven people, four of them young children aged one, two, three and five all living under the same roof for two weeks would create a totally chaotic and crazy experience but strangely, it was relatively peaceful and enjoyable for the most part, with only a few moments of slightly frayed tempers … well actually that would be me one evening on day twelve as I recall 🙂 …. I was bone tired from not too much solid sleep … two kids went to bed early and woke up at the crack of dawn with much fanfare … two stayed awake as late as possible with equal fanfare … the young adults seem to handle this situation better than I, perhaps because of an abundance of energy at their age versus that of someone my age …. they forget I need my sleep or the cranks move in :).   Mostly smooth sailing though for everyone, thanks in large part to Sarah and Liseanne researching and finding awesome Airbnb properties with yards, play centres, trampolines, pools and dirt for the kids to play in and with 🙂 … when the little ones are happy, far easier for the rest of us to be as well!   Any concerns about moving house every three or four days were quickly abandoned … everyone handled it like seasoned pros.  

Tim, Liseanne and I decided to venture into Monaco one day …. a twenty minute drive away from our home in Nice.

After squeezing our car into the smallest parkade ever, space being a premium, we did a walkabout through the town/country (Monaco is roughly two square kms, with a population under 40,000).   Lots of opulence in that wee country by the sea …..  Albert II is the reigning monarch of the Principality of Monaco and head of the princely house of Grimaldi. 

The Grand Prix was to take place a week later …. the place was buzzing with prep activity.  Massive yachts lined the bay, as the uber wealthy moved into town to participate in the big race … a sport for the one percentile!  We sat by the water’s edge and savoured truffle cheese, a charcuterie platter and the ubiquitous glass of wine, thoroughly enjoying some relaxed time. 

 

Villefranche Sur Mer has a special atmosphere with the warmth and charm of a small fishing village from a bygone era, allowing for a pleasant slower pace of life.  We had planned to tie up with the others in this village but they were leaving just as we arrived …. we had lingered longer than planned in Monaco!  The little ones had apparently had quite enough car and restauarant time at that point and were antsy to head back to play at the villa :)!   Tim, Liseanne and I opted for a quiet seaside dinner in Villefranche before hitting the freeway craziness back to Nice.  I remain impressed with Tim’s handling of the French road system without the aid of GPS.  Liseanne admirably handles the manual navigating with very few blips … Rob and Gary did admirably as well and despite using GPS, it still required vigilance and help from their trusty navigators, Sarah and Jenn!  All in all, I was thrilled to have the back seat in this regard … my sense of direction or rather lack thereof, would have found us going in circles 🙂

The following day found us all exploring the streets of the once thriving fishing village and port of Antibes, now known as much for its luxurious homes that dot the landscape as it is for its reputation as the cultural heart of the Côte d’Azur.  Within the old castle walls, sits the Musee Picasso … he lived a spell in Antibes, hence the honour I imagine.   We explored the cobbly old town streets, stopped at the local outdoor market (love these!!) to replenish produce supplies, taking time for a leisurely lunch to munch on a delicious French version of a club sandwich, accompanied of course by a glass of Rose!   Afternoon seemed like a good time to dip into the Mediterranean for a swim in a quiet little bay and soak in some rays.   Another charming village by the sea where one could most certainly linger longer … my life motto 🙂  

A short drive from Antibes, we arrive at our villa in Cassis.  We were all in agreement that Cassis was a favourite stop for all of us!  A most charming small coastal town with a relaxing vibe permeating the air.  A favourite part was being able to walk into town … a nice bit of exercise!  The villa was superb with a well equipped kitchen …. inspiring Rob to cook a meal for us all … a nice break from restaurants!  Shrimp, chicken, pasta, veggies … delicious!  

The little ones loved the ‘merry go round’ by the sea not to mention another large yard and pool to play in!  Totally loving the French Riviera … Côte d’Azur ❤️

Sarah, Jenn, Tim and Liseanne all hiked the majestic Calanque ‘range’ one afternoon … Gary, Rob, the kids and I stayed behind enjoying the amenities at the villa. 

Tim, Liseanne and I took in a boat excursion on our last day in Cassis to view the Calanques up close …. unbelievable formations and a view up close that was not possible hiking from above …. the Calanques of Cassis are a unique geological formation usually comprised of limestone or granite, made up of deep, narrow valleys with sharp edges, partly submerged in the sea … the shapes apparently bear resemblance to those of the Norwegian fjords. 

Another great day in France! 


Birthday Surprise – Côte d’Azur, Provence, Chamonix Bound 

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Last year, my children asked me to set aside May 18 to June 1st, 2017 for a surprise 65th birthday trip.   Amazingly, the surprise was kept right until check in at the airport!   To add to the surprise factor, was seeing Jenn and her family at check in!!   We had a veritable party assembled.  The Magic begins …..  Destination … Southern France …. the luminous Côte d’Azur!   A long day of travel ensued, including a hurried Pret a Manger food stop at Heathrow!  They serve the tastiest healthiest airport food ever!!   A short connector flight to Nice and we were in business!!  A bit of a scramble followed, picking up cars, children’s car seats, with valiant attempts by the guys to stuff our waaaay too many large bags into these vehicles and find room for the humans as well 🙂 …. somehow a miracle happened and we all fit!!! …. Not one of us obviously pays much heed to travel guru Rick Steve’s advice …. simplify your needs … carry on bags only!   I should have taken a picture of the lot of us and our stash … it was a sight to behold!  Off we drove to navigate our way from the airport to our villa somewhere in the hills of Nice!  We arrived very late to our rather sprawling first Airbnb home, our first stop on the Côte d’Azur adventure.  Tim and Liseanne had kindly gone out early in the morning, bringing back breakfast fixings for the rest of us!  So considerate ❤️ To climitize our minds and bodies to a new time zone, the first order of the day was a walk along the seaside, savouring the turquoise Mediterranean, exploring the ambiance of Nice.  The fresh sea air felt heavenly!   Sarah had organized a street food tour for our second day, complete with a fabulous outdoor market!  Nadia was as cheerful a host as one could possibly wish for … she had a rather persistent smile.  She introduced us to local delicacies, such as pissaladière, my personal favourite – a pizza but not exactly … more a tart topped with onion, anchovies and olives, ratatouille which originated in Nice, petits farcis –  a classic Niçoise specialty takes vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini and stuffs them with ground meat, garlic and bread crumbs and can be served hot or cold, various different breads, sweet rolls, cheese, pestos and tapenades, crisp local Rose wines ..  a classic accompaniment, we were told, with every summer meal in Nice.  We all concurred and followed suite with local customs :)!!!  Did I mention gelato?!   A daily stop encouraged by our four little folk …. big folk did not complain :).  We all passed on the local cheap wine poured from large barrels into Evian water bottles … we politely sipped the sampler but quickly chucked it discreetly into the garbage when Nadia’s back was turned  …. this remained our only unanimous reject 😙 The food tour finale was a sampling of local Rose served up with a tasty platter of the various appetizers!  A fine start to our culinary explorations of Southern France …. à votre santé!

The berries were beyond tasty and in a league of their own … all sun ripened local produce!

The Magic that is San Miguel …

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What remains a mystery to me, is how I could possibly have come to San Miguel for all these years and never discovered Life Path and the most awesome yoga teacher there, Antonio Elugardo … a nurturing, beautiful, kind, gentle, deeply respectful, highly intuitive human being.  His methods are very holistic in nature.   A delightful mix of meditation, breath work, qigong, chanting, deeply effective stretching and poses …. there is a rather appropriate saying I have always liked and applies … “when the pupil is ready, the teacher appears” …..  Bev and I will surely miss Antonio and his extraordinary classes when we leave … understatement!   

Yoga aside, our days have flown by … we savour the ambiance, the music, the friends, the food!   We never tire of the fresh array of avocados, mangoes, juices!  Fresh lime margaritas? ….. a daily treat!  Evenings often find us enjoying Netflix in the comfort of our villa, at pocket theatre, or a terrace dinner with friends.  All good 🙂 

One afternoon, Bev, Donna and I ventured into a park within the Bellas Artes Center for an outdoor music concert.  A perfect sunny warm afternoon to stop awhile, soak in the music and atmosphere.  A couple spontaneously broke into dance along the walkway …. delightful!  

We take in the music of Gil Gutierrez, and his jazz band one evening, on another, a concert with my personal favourite, Media Luna … whose music quite simply transports me :)!!   Their music style flows easily from Latin jazz to flamenco to gypsy jazz to classical to even a hint of Santana style rock.  They are a great group of young musicians who played in the central Jardin for tips just a few short years ago, until Gil Gutierrez “discovered” them and took them under his wing.  Gil, San Miguel de Allende’s most celebrated and talented musician was once a young street musician himself.   They now entertain weekly at Bistro Mi Casa, at the Instituto Allende, no longer having to rely on tips for their livelihood!  

Yes, this little city in central Mexico continues to reveal its many layers of magic, for those willing to walk through the doors and discover the surprises and awakenings that await …

San Miguel de Allende 2017

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I have eased back into life here in amazing time, barely a blink of the eye … but it is my Mexican home away from home after all.   Not sure what I can actually call my home these days anyway … hmmmm …. to some I suppose I appear to flit about much like a hummingbird … happy to connect with family, friends, savour a meal, a warm shower, a place to rest … the life of an itinerant flitterer …. 

Lately, I have hesitated typing my blog for some reason …. well, I DO know what reason!   It feels somewhat pretentious to document my days!  It seems such an egoistic pursuit and I have worked so hard in recent years to lessen the hold ego has on my thoughts, actions and words.  At times, I have considered going back to a written journal format for my eyes only.   I do enjoy going back to re-read and review my travels, experiences, musings and hope my family and friends do as well …. so easily accessible on an iPad versus lugging around journals and albums.   It took a decade or so, but it would appear I am embracing technology. 

San Miguel is busy preparing for Semana Santa.  Slight understatement to say Easter festivities are big here in this country of Catholic converts!  It will be a steady stream of parades, fireworks and renactments of the crucifixion of Jesus and all that it entails ….  “Las lágrimas de Mary viernes” (Tears of Mary)  fill a whole weekend of renactments alone, prior to Easter week!  The crowds are huge and we often opt for a quiet evening of Netflix instead.  I guess we have made the transition from tourists to semi locals :). 

Bev and I walk along the familiar cobbly streets, slipping into our comfortable routines …. meeting up with friends, or huffing (well at least I do 😙) through our morning yoga classes at Life Path with yoga teacher extraordinaire, Antonio Elugardo, stopping in at the Biblioteca for an informative talk on the progress of the cooperative initiative in Cuba, or savouring a margarita fuelled pocket theatre evening.   By all accounts we have settled in 🙂

Puerto Vallarta Moments February 2017

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LIG … enjoyed a restful sun soaked beach week here in Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta with my daughter Sarah and grandchildren, Aliana and Oliver!  Well perhaps not much beach time for Sarah, who had meetings all week with the Mexican staff for O Hotel Suites, but it certainly was for the kids and I  😀).  O Hotels have acquired several dozen new properties to manage in Puerto Vallarta, necessitating some organizing and brainstorming on both the Canadian and Mexican fronts.  The week flew by … one minute I am playing tag with the kids on the beach and far too soon, hugging goodbyes at the airport early Sunday morning!!   My love for these two dear grandchildren is surely one of God’s most precious gifts … my heart continues to expand ❤I  relished and welcomed the week that followed, despite missing the little ones immeasurably … the nourishing silence … the beach walks at sunrise, early morning yoga stretches, leisurely swims, afternoon meditations that flowed with great ease into naps, sunset beachside massages by beach roving ‘maestro massesuse Ernesto’ …. (borderline torture sessions at first blush, but always felt so good afterwards … after the pain subsided 😗)  …. sipping delicious fresh lime margaritas as I watched the sun setting into the Pacific Ocean.  Time also allowed for viewing a variety of FB you tube videos that I had filed away for that time when I had more than fifteen  minutes to myself,  a brief catch up on my blog and best of all …. Finishing Gablecraft Bookclub book for February! … “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrick Backman   … excellent read …. had me laughing and crying simultaneously throughout!   ‘Hari Om’ … that ancient universal mantra,  keeps running through my mind as I savour these many moments … feeling at peace with all that is … Namaste 🙏

Christmas 2016 Musings 

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Age certainly allows for a broader perspective on the emotionally charged Christmas family holiday!   I flash back to all the hoopla I was so pulled into as a young mom of two children in the 80’s, 90’s, and well into the new millennium!!!   Christmas was often way over the top …. a month of creating a festive atmosphere, functions, concerts, plays, gifts …. oh far far too many gifts!!   Memory takes me back to my own humble childhood …. Christmas Eve saunas for everyone, proceeded by the delicious Finnish  ”Kalakukko” … an oval loaf of rye bread with a pork and fish filling  … a delicious bread cocoon with pork, fish and pototoes simmering inside for several hours in a low temperature oven … this was a traditional Christmas Eve meal in Finland that my parents carried with them to Canada … thankfully!!  My sisters and I, to this day, remember how much we all savoured our mother’s Kalakukko!!  Strange and sad that not one of ‘Aili’s’ six daughters ever learned to bake it!   The gift opening that all  children relish, was endless hours (or so it seemed to young children) after the early evening meal and when the last family member finally emerged from the sauna!   Aaah … beautiful poignant memories.  Times have changed …. Nostalgic longings for more simplicity seem to always surface during the Christmas season  …. there is little doubt that my children and grandchildren are my joys today and undoubtedly will continue to be, always taking some form of centre stage in my heart … I am attempting to encourage a cabin Christmas somewhere once again for next year … will see … I remind myself  I make valiant attempts every year,  with little success 🙂   Many years ago, Brian and I organized and hosted our family (Brian’s side of the family chain actually) to three cabin Christmases in Fernie, spaced out over six years … I personally always thoroughly enjoyed them.   Will see if we can pull that off next year with my children and their families.  Posting some pictures of various Christmas functions from the Webb/Overmann/Hawkes/Cullen/McMechan potluck Christmas gift exchange at Sarah and Rob’s, to Christmas Eve festivities back at Sarah & Rob’s and onward to Christmas Day at my niece and nephew’s place … (Sandra and Bob) … The Webb/Overmann arm of our family had earlier enjoyed our traditional Finnish pancake breakfast on Christmas morning, courtesy of Brian’s talents (something I encouraged my mother to teach Brian to make so very long ago … I thought it wise at the time to bring in the male side of the family into the tradition 😗 … hopefully Brian has taught Tim well ?? )   All were beautiful warm family functions to close off 2016 … onward to a peaceful 2017 🙏

California Cruising Fall 2016

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  1. A joy every year is meeting up with Mickey and Gordon in La Quinta … seems most November finds us walking the Santa Rosa Mountain paths, enjoying sunshine days by the pool and indulging in happy hours at Stuft Pizza!    My good friend Linda usually joins me as well but sadly, not this year!! A fun day exploring Joshua Tree … Mickey clicking away to capture all the interesting rock formations and joshua trees  ….