Pass the popcorn, please.


You know there are star ratings, thumbs up or down ratings and rotten tomatoes ratings to help you gauge how good a movie really is but after our Palm Springs International Film Festival vacation, I’ve added one more personal one.
The ‘how long does it take my hubby to nod off?‘rating!

psiff16_smallflatart (1)

The festival itself is a delight and being located in the mostly sunny desert town of Palm Springs, just down the highway from Hollywood, is a real kick. Along with two dear friends we poured over descriptions for the many films on offer. One of our friends is a Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) veteran and even she was impressed – just look at this schedule for only three of the days:

PSIFF schedule

The offerings included lots of young, enthusiastic new filmmakers and given the timing of this festival the Academy Award nominees for best foreign film were all here – what a choice we had.

So 15 films later – brilliant stories and documentaries from Iceland, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey, Estonia, Belgium, Israel to name a few we were hard pressed to pronounce on some of our favourites. We’ve already booked for next year!

Hubby? He only snoozed through one and I let him happily since it was a stinker. If you have time, take a look at some of these trailers, you won’t be sorry:



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California dreaming…of snow?

What nicer way to escape the Canadian cold than to attend the International Film Festival in Palm Springs – right? Sun, desert,warm weather, great films…or more like great films and a 4 year drought that seems to be breaking thanks to el Niño!

I’m happy enough for this parched part of the world, to hope that the rain pouring down is going to make a difference to a true ecological disaster – just wish we’d packed a raincoat. Even the 4.5 earthquake that shook us awake this morning has been eclipsed in the news by the rain in California.

Poolside chairs

The sun broke through for a while this morning and turned the raindrops into little diamonds on the poolside chairs and glistened on the hanging grapefruit. Great opportunity to finally go up the Palm Springs Tramway into the San Jancito Mountain State Park for a short hike.

As we bought our tickets we looked nervously at the sign in the lobby…


We were truly mesmerized as we sped up the cables and the desert towns lay spread out on the valley floor below us …and snow appeared on the granite walls around us.

Tramway view down

Have I mentioned that we’re Canadian which for the most part means we’re pretty stoic about weather…

Snowy trees

Most of the time…


We hung in for an hour but I think it was the gale force, howling winds that finally decided us to hop on the next tram down to the desert…

Mountain melt

Rain – you’ve got to love it and all the life it will bring back to California!

Mnt San Jacinto sign

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Vignettes from a strange December

As I watch joggers run by in short sleeves and the children ride past on their bikes it’s hard to reconcile these scenes with the fact it’s Christmas Eve here in Canada.

But my Mozambican family has their Christmas lights strung up so it must be true!

Mozambican family

Romy sends his best although neither he, nor his friends, can understand why they’re sloshing through mud on misty mornings.


The geese continue to migrate although they seem in no rush and I’m sure some of them are contemplating a fowl coup against their leaders given how mild the ‘winter’ has been so far.

Migration 2015

Ivy however is happy no matter what as she desires ‘thrown stones more than the bones of elephants’ to paraphrase poet Dylan Thomas.


Whatever you are celebrating I hope it brings you happiness and a little peace…if this keeps up the lawn will need cutting soon!

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Remembering on the road

lest we forgetThis Rememberance day started appropriately gloomy with rain and fog as I hit the road. I was meeting my mother so we could join our dear friend Ceri for a catch-up lunch in Owen Sound. I traditionally attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, but given the distance we were all travelling to be together it couldn’t be helped.

My mother and I discussed the dispute between those of us that stick to the opening line of  Flanders Fields being ‘In Flanders Fields the poppies grow’ vs the recently popular version of ‘In Flanders Fields the poppies blow’. Since Canadian poet, physician and soldier John McRae died  in the last year of WW1, I guess we’ll never know if he had a preference.


As the sun came out and we passed through the small towns along the way we couldn’t help but notice the crowds gathering by their respective memorials. I felt a pang of regret but tuning into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio station to listen to what was happening in Ottawa made us feel a little more connected to the ceremonies.

Since moving to a smaller town I’ve noticed that people are different in many ways. It was a few minutes before 11am as we passed through farm country that I observed some cars had started to pull over and then the large freight truck ahead of me lumbered over to the side of the road too. I suddenly realized what was happening, pulled over and joined this unlikely community remembrance. My mother, who had been a child in Britain in WW2, cried quietly beside me as the The Last Post began, we had some silent reflection, listened to reveille and minutes later we all pulled back onto the road and continued on our way. Extraordinary.


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Horsing around

Romy 2015

Who ever knew that it would be such a difficult task to find a good home for my horse? Since Romy and I have been together the poor guy has had to move around a fair bit and I can’t figure out if he really minds it.

Romy and friends

There are lots of  considerations when choosing a barn – is it well managed, food easily accessible, water always fresh? are there good accessible trails? is there a good community of riders to hack (pleasure ride) with? Those are my main concerns but I’m not sure what his are.

Romy and Ivy - do they chat?

Romy and Ivy – do they chat?

The first move was not so difficult – just down the street, with horses he knew.

Visiting with my Mom

Visiting with my Mom

The second was necessary because I had moved over an hour away and wasn’t seeing him enough. He called for his old herd for a couple of days and I visited him twice a day for weeks to try and reassure him.

Visiting with my granddaughters

Visiting with my granddaughters

Well now that barn has transformed into a cooperative, which means that among other chores you take turns shovelling stalls for 14 horses…not my idea of enjoying my horse. He once again joined a couple of horses he knew, owned by mature women like me who had moved because they too didn’t want to do the barn work.

Fall lane

The trails at our new place are breathtaking – rolling fields with the Blue mountains in the distance and leafy lanes leading to deep forests. I wonder if he resents leaving his pals behind though and if after all this time he thinks of me as part of his herd?

Me and my boy

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Northern hotheads!

I’m going to spare you the photo of what Cheryl and I looked like after two days of hiking at just over 30 celsius , but it wasn’t pretty! The fact that the humidity reading was 100% and so things felt like 40…you get the picture, we were melting! This is the north remember, not Mumbai, although climate change is altering all that.

falls house

I thought I’d do a catch up on our Bruce trail adventures because we’ve covered some ground and are still working at completing the nearly 1,000 klms. We plan to do this over  four years though and we are now over 400klms towards that goal.

Blue mountain bruce trail

We’ve traversed some gorgeous forests in the Beaver Valley and Owen Sound sections and on the two days of the official heat alert we were in the gorgeous Blue Mountain club section – I’m a member!

We’ve seen lovely waterfalls, abandoned hydro electric projects, rare flowers,

Lady slippers growing next to abandoned hydro electric station

Lady Slippers growing next to abandoned hydro electric station

bizarre fungus, a vigilant guard llama,

Guard Llama

Guard Llama

and a sad sign for a lost cow. No wonder the llama was suspicious of us!

Missing cow

We have crossed paths with more hikers than we did last year – although this trail is often ours alone. A totally unscientific poll (our own!) tells us most of those hikers have been women and even the occasional men we’ve seen, have often been with women …so what’s with these signs? How come they’re all men?

Bruce trail horse sign

all men on signs








No hunting signs are throughout this region – truth be told, we avoid certain areas in hunting season – but this was certainly the most poignant sign this year.


They say Autumn is on it’s way in spite of the heat and we’ve seen some colours changing. On we trek and the journey is amazing!



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Crossing borders

To say that the girls were thrilled with the surprise I announced towards the end of our trip to Wales is an understatement. They had been curious about the lack of information for the last two days on our otherwise very detailed itinerary and I kept putting them off by saying we needed flexibility. When they learned that I had tickets booked for the Eurostar train to Paris…well use your imagination.

Jump for joy

We went up the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Champs Elysees, dined on crepes – covered the whole tourist gamut as best we could. Even down to a portrait on Montmartre. Didn’t my granddaughter do well when asked for a ‘mona lisa’ smile!

Mona Lisa smile

Many of us are privileged to take for granted the ease with which we come and go across borders with just the simple act of laying down our passport. As we sped towards the Eurotunnel on our way to Paris for the final part of our trip, the trucks lined up waiting to go through the Chunnel was a poignant reminder that there are too many families who don’t have that privilege. The three of us thought hard about what that meant.

Photo borrowed from media file

Photo borrowed from media file

For years desperate families have been making the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe often drowning at sea. Now here they were trying to get from France to Britain by hitching rides on trucks and the consequences, besides the backups as trucks are searched, are often equally tragic.

Do remember this photo of all the documents I carried?

Papers for Wales trip

Well thank goodness for complete files when travelling with grandkids! After passing through 6 sets of border control (leaving Canada, entering UK, leaving UK, entering France, leaving France, entering UK!) that 6th guard finally asked the right questions! Who are these children to you, where are their parents and do you have permission forms to be travelling across borders with them? Not only did I have every possible form but, thanks to my ever efficient daughter-in-law, they were notarized by an oath commissioner with a major police force!

As our vacation came to a close my grand daughters and I discussed all those less fortunate families, without official papers but lots of dreams for better futures. There but for the luck of our birthplace go we….

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Wales – From the mouths of babes

What great travelling companions two 11 year old girls can make…I’d originally thought that my role would entail more ‘grandmothering’ but here we were on a girls road trip, complete with fits of laughter that had tears running down our faces!

Looking out to sea

They indulged me as I walked them through some of the places close to my childhood and my mothers and fathers family too. We visited homes all our great-grand parents, grandparents, parents and family had lived in.

Joined by another dear cousin, Johanna, we walked along the lanes where I’d played as a child.

Fern trio

I’ve already mentioned that we learned about the children in the mines, the Aberfan School Disaster and now we visited the site of the moving memorial to the Senghenydd Disaster and a couple of old churches with ancient graveyards.

Senghenydd mine disaster monument

Senghenydd mine disaster monument

It was about this time that my granddaughters delicately wondered why we were spending so much time on sad things! From the mouths of babes…So it was off to Caerphilly Castle and playing on the mountain in the ferns.

on Caerphilly mountain

Next on our trip came a few days at the seaside with Tenby as our base.

Seagull in Tenby 2

This gave the girls the opportunity to experience a fun, but chilly, day on one of the many beautiful beaches of Wales. Families playing cricket on the sand, having picnics and licking 99’s(vanilla ice cream cones with a flaky chocolate stick!). Then there were the others, like my brave two, enjoying the sea!

Tenby Harbour 2

Can anything be more fun than exploring Manorbier Castle where parts of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was filmed?

Manorbier by the sea

Or looking for aquatic treasures in rock pools on the nearby beach?

Rock pools

Good travelling companions always know how and when to be flexible with agendas!

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Wales through young eyes

Planning a trip with my two eleven year old granddaughters was an entirely new experience. I asked them to research their ‘must see’ spots in Wales and they cycled over with a list which found a home on the fridge.

Girls Wales list on fridge

I found myself approaching the upcoming trip with the same precision I once applied to leadership delegations that I led to foreign lands. Agendas, document copies, contacts and technical information all found it’s way into my file folder…not what I normally do for personal travel these days. While I wondered about over preparing you’ll see in a future post, it paid off in the end!

Papers for Wales trip

I wrote in 2013 about a trip I took back to Wales(here) with my mother and about how much had changed and I wondered “When I take my granddaughter how can I ever make her understand what those times were like?”. Well here I was with two granddaughters in tow and as I would come to learn they are a lot more perceptive than I gave them credit for.

We made Cardiff, the capital of Wales, our base for the first part of our journey. A city that has made it’s way through many changes including the de-industrialisation of the country and is now seeing a new revival represented by the revitalization of it’s old docklands…Dr Who and Torchwood fans may recognize some of this area.

Cardiff Bay

We met up with Welsh family who generously showed us around, including making sure the girls were familiarized with the best shopping locations!

The girls in the family

An understanding of the recent history of the country was important to both the girls and me and our cousin Emily helped a great deal with that objective by taking us to The Big Pit, one of the last remaining coal mines in a country that used to help fuel the world.

Down the Big Pit

Down we went and we listened intently as a former miner described the working conditions and harkened back to a time when children as young as six worked down there, women pulled the carts in tight tunnels and horses lived and died in the dark pits. The girls understood that by their age they could have been underground working 12 hour days for half their life already.

Big pit mine

Only because they had added it to their list we also visited the memorial site of the Aberfan disaster of 1966 where 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a coal slag heap slid down on their school. I’d once told them about my maternal grandfather being one of the heartbroken miners who had dug desperately to rescue the school children and they’d not forgotten that story…no photos of that day, as the skies opened up in what seemed very fitting to our mood.

And being a Welsh summer there was some rain…but I think the girls coped quite well.

Welsh rain

Of course they also needed to experience some pony trekking to appreciate the Welsh experience as I knew it! Along sheep paths, on fern covered mountainsides in the Brecon Beacons.

Riding in ferns 2

With the beautiful countryside spread out below.

Welsh countryside

We spent a wonderful afternoon in the Brecon Beacons, on Welsh ponies and some of the darkness of history fell away.

3 amigas ride in Wales


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Summer glories

It’s a time of year when colourful beauties flaunt themselves shamelessly – some are wild and some a little more refined but they’re all determined to reproduce.


…a time of year when it’s often hard to tell the weeds from their cultivated cousins.

flower display

They are worthy of framing, right where they grow!

Garden frame


Flowers can be abandoned as well as the buildings but they don’t know it and continue to each compliment the other’s faded beauty.


The wild ones bloom around my home town …

Ducks at Kempenfelt Bay

and the ones I like best are the milkweed, not because they are the most glorious but because they bring hope that the monarch butterflies will return…

Wildflowers on Kempenfelt Bay

Happy summer to those of us in this northern hemisphere!! It passes all too quickly.


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