So we have now been home for 10 days. I have recovered from the jet lag. I have mostly recovered from my horrendous holiday diet which consisted of peanuts, bacon and beer with a side of barbequed animal. All the sand is gone from my hair. I am mostly unpacked save for the bit of shrapnel on the dining room table that doesn’t have a home yet. So now what?

I can honestly say that if someone handed me a one-way plane ticket back Australia I’d grab it, throw my runners and jog bra in my carry-on and hitch a ride to the airport. Even though we had crappy weather during our trip, it’s way better than the weather here. They have miles of turquoise beaches, rainbow coloured birds and the whitest sand you’ve ever seen. I love the smell of the gum trees and the sound of the chattering cockatoos. The Aussie bacon is to die for and the wine…well you know. Yes there are sharks and crocs that want to eat you and spiders that will send you to emergency and snakes and jellyfish that will just kill you in mere minutes but 22M people seem to survive all those perils and vegemite just fine. It’s no worse than here really. People can die of cold exposure here, get eaten by urban cougars, get run down by seniors driving full-size Mercedes sedans and we have to somehow survive Tim Hortons and the CFL. I’d rather take my chances with the spiders and snakes and get to spend 10 months a year in shorts.

The people that we made friends with there (and you all know who you are) are as good as they come. Warm, sincere, incredibly generous topped off with a solid dose of humility and humour. We truly feel like part of your families; in 2008 you all took us under your wings and made sure that we never felt lonely or homesick. Our return to Oz was exactly what we imagined it to be…a homecoming of sorts and it was fantastic to catch up. It felt like mere weeks had passed since that December day in 2008 when I balled like a baby all the way on to the plane…heartbroken and pissed off that I had to leave. The kids didn’t really grasp what was happening that time. But this time it was Elise’s turn to start crying while the car was being packed and sob most of the way to the Adelaide airport begging “please don’t make us go”.

Australia could easily be home to us. Half my heart is still there.

Wine, wine and more wine


We’ve been in Adelaide for a week now and every moment feels like deja vu. We left the airport in our Holden wagon (a gray one this time) and within 5 minutes we knew exactly where we were going and how to get our way around. Everything was exciting to see and strangely familiar at the same time.

Of course the one place we knew how to get to was Dan Murphys – the Costco and Nordstom’s of liquor stores rolled into one. It was like the mother ship had landed…didn’t wait for Dug…I just grabbed a shopping cart and headed straight in – hungry kids in tow. ‘Don’t care how hungry or hot you are, Mama and Papa are busy filling this grocery cart with booze’. Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz, Pirramimma fortified Riesling, Langmiel GSM, Inigo Shiraz….the cart got fuller and the kids got hungrier. Tossed in a final flat of Blue Tongue Lager and Dug could barely see out of the rear window of the Holden with all the luggage and booze piled so high.

Finally got out of there and found a spot to feed the kids. As we sat down, Dug realized that we’re sitting outside of the only liqour store in Adelaide that sells another of our favourite Cabs that we’d only be able to get by appointment at the winery. Off he goes to acquire a bottle because we needed another one to complete the 2 cases we had in the car.

We spent a couple of days on the Fleurieu Peninsula which is about 30mins away from McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek which can mean only one thing – wine tasting. Wine tasting in Oz is like no other. Cellar doors are all gorgeous and often it’s the owner greeting you to share his wares. On our way south we drove through McLaren Vale and stopped at a little winery that my parents discovered while they were in Australia. It was pissing with rain as we ran into the Mt Jagged cellar door (an old barn guarded by an equally old dog) and were greeted by the owner…a man from Kingston…as in ‘Ontario’. Really?! Of course we chatted about the crappy weather and how shitty the Leafs are and bought a couple bottles of the most glorious sparkling Merlot. Hence I have been reading up on the physics of air pressure…as in ‘will a bottle of sparkling wine explode in the luggage compartment of a 737?’. There are lots of articles that say it will be fine and the only concern is that it’ll get nicked by a baggage handler. Other articles claim that catastrophic things will happen to bottles of bubbles and all contents of a suitcase in the unpressurized hold. I look at it this way; if the bottle explodes, worst case is that I have to wait to go back to Oz before I get another taste and some clothes will get ruined…like the jeans that I can no longer fit into…so what. Best case, I get to enjoy the most amazing bottle of red bubbles ever smuggled into YVR.

The next day, the weather was better and we headed to Langhorne Creek, primarily to go to the cellar door of my other fav sparkling reds – Bleasdale. This was a fantastic winery…a really big one that makes a selection of whites, reds, sparkling and ports…also the first SERVE YOURSELF cellar door I have ever been to. There were glasses and about 20 different bottles to try. Of course, you can’t possibly taste it all but I gave it my best and came away with another bottle of bubbles and flagon of fortified Verdehlo – kind of like a port – heaps good mate!

And just to head off the question ‘what are the kids doing during this wine tasting?’ Well down here they accommodate boozing parents by building playgrounds and gardens at many of the wineries. Most of them also have a resident dog (we’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of them – see picture below) and the kids were kept busy while we blether on about ‘how great the legs are on that Cab’.

So after a few days of really good eats and even better drinks, we headed back to Adelaide. One more wine stop. We found one store in Adelaide that sells one of our favourite Coonawarra Merlot/Cab blends so we stopped in on our way back to the city. Dug went in and was gone for a while; he did finally come back with 2 bottles in hand. Funny story. Apparently this guy was a wholesaler and didn’t sell retail but because Dug came in for a specific wine he took Dug to the bottle shop next door, sold them the wine and then Dug bought it from the shop for the same price at the winery. Turns out that sometimes you can always get what you you want. And if I get my bubbles home I will be one happy girl.





On the plane to Adelaide right now. We made it to Melbourne airport on time; we’re getting really good at packing up all our crap (offically 69k as of check-in this morning) quickly and efficiently. Dug is the colonel – he keeps track of the time and systematically lifts each bag, making sure we (I) haven’t over-stuffed. I’m the lieutennant. I oversee the packing and direct the corporals (the girls) to get themselves organized for exiting the accommodation and preparing for transit to our next locale or an airport. It truly is a military operation that so far has come off without a hitch each time.

We purge at each packing, sacrificing bits of leftover food and stinky seashells. I even sacrificed half a bottle of wine this morning and that really frosted me! I could have drunk it but it was 7am when we left our apartment and chugging down leftover wine would have been wrong on many levels even though it was a fantastic Margaret River Sauv Blanc. My carry-on is jammed with food – crackers and cereal…I could survive a couple of days in the outback with my backpack snacks.

Touchdown…I am home. First stop is Dan Murphy’s for the biggest and best selection of booze on the planet.

What do you get when you cross 2 kids, a Holden wagon and 1000km?


I’ll tell you what you get…hours spent in a sand-filled car that smells like farts and rotting hermit crabs. Throw in a tour of just about every bathroom along the way and that about sums it up. Anyone who has traveled with children has heard “I have to pee” far more than one would think humanly possible. In our family, not only do we have 2 girls that like to be in the bathroom, but I’m also sure that Sophie has the world’s smallest bladder. Everywhere we go, the trip starts with a bathroom break, is punctuated with a bathroom break and usually ends with me saying “just get us there fast – Sophie has to pee again”. What is it with this? And I hate public toilets unless they are those fancy ones with TVs and a tray of delightful hand creams and hair products. Unfortunately gas station toilets are pretty bare bones and often smell bad. Even worse are the dunneys (out houses) – I don’t go near those. I hate airplane bathrooms too…I’m proud to say that I made it from Vancouver to New Zealand without having to squeeze myself into one of those…14 hours baby – like a camel I am!!

So back to the car…I said it smells like farts and rotting sea creatures. That’s not an exaggeration. The fart smell is from Elise. She is foul. Yesterday from the back seat I hear, “Papa, this is your last chance to roll down the window before the gas leaves the station”. I’m not kidding – that’s exactly what she said before she let it rip. Most often she’s sneaky about it and laughs hysterically when we all pull our shirts up over our mouths and noses. Going to put her in a giant plastic beach ball if it doesn’t stop…she’ll be like the boy in the bubble except that it’s to protect us not her.

You’re probably wondering where the rotting hermit crab smell is coming from. Every single beach we go to becomes a seashell collecting frenzy. Much to Dug’s disgust, the girls quickly collect more than they can carry from every beach and fill pockets and with hands overflowing, they dump their treasures in the car. Unfortunately this often means that bits of seaweed and beach muck get tossed in too…neither of which smells good after a day in the warm car. As I am writing this, the bathroom sink has been filled with stinky shells under the threat of being tossed if they don’t smell better after a warm soapy bath. It’s not all the kids’ fault…I’m the one who OK’d putting the wallaby skull in the car too. Dug did not find it that interesting when Elise decided that it was too fragile to ride in the back with all the other sticky mucky treasures and put it beside him on the centre wood grained console of this fancy Holden.

So between all the toilet stops and stinky things in the back seat (Elise included), there is sand everywhere. I HATE sand. I really hate sand. I hate it between my toes and fingers, in my shoes…anywhere. I could write a entire Dr Seuss rhyme about how much I hate sand. Well it’s everywhere. When I ran my half in Auckland, I wondered why my feet felt like they had no skin on them afterwards…turns out I wore the same socks the day before when we walked along the edge of a beach. 21km later I had inadvertently given myself a sandblast pedicure – I’m sure that some spa somewhere charges the rich and beautiful a fortune for a fancy sand pedi but this do-it-yourself job sucked. It’s in my ears and in my hair, in my toothbrush and that can’t be good for my teeth.

All in all the road trip has been good. We haven’t accidentally left anyone in a gas station toilet or hit a kangaroo (knock on wood), but at time the driving is a little scary. Aussies love their cars and drive fast; driving is a sport. No matter how fast you drive, there is someone right behind you who wants to go faster. These little country roads are 80 to 100km/hr; they are windy and narrow, but that does not deter anyone from driving full throttle. The typical driver on our Island highways would literally freeze like a kangaroo in the headlights and mess in her Depends. It’s a little scary for me and Sophie as the cautious ones in the family, but Elise eggs Dug on…to Ozzie Crazy Train the other day while I wasn’t in the car telling Papa to “get some air”.

We have 300km to go to tomorrow to get to Melbourne. I predict 6 bathroom stops, 10 farts, at least one dead thing in the boot and Dug will get flipped the bird twice for driving only 100 in a 90k zone.

The picture below has nothing to do with this blog, but I thought the stubby holders on our afternoon beer deserved to be seen. Dad, the one on the right is a gift for you, but we thought you’d appreciate the pragmatism of borrowing it until we get home.


It’s true…llamas spit


So we have been in Oz for a few days now and it’s like riding a bike. I thought it would take us longer to re-acquaint ourselves with Aussie lingo and customs, but turns out we never forgot.

We’ve had pretty crappy weather since we got here. It’s been cold and rainy and we’ve even had to wear our coats!!! But we’ve braved the elements and done lots of sight seeing anyway. We went to a local wildlife park which are often little sanctuaries for injured animals that will never make it back to the wild. The girls got to snuggle a koala and watch a big croc get fed. In all these parks are the bags of chow that you buy to feed the bored kangaroos and emus. This place was no different but these ones were so bored or so well-fed that they didn’t even bother to take food from us. All except the llamas. Sophie fed a greedy llama that got cross when she stopped. I always thought spitting llamas was a lie. Turns out llamas do spit. This one unleashed a furious mouthful of mucus and half-chewed kangaroo chow right into Sophie’s face. She had crunchy and slimy bits all through her hair and while she wiped her eyes, all the rest of us could do was laugh.

We checked out some cool beaches…in the rain. And because the weather has been so bad we had most of these all to ourselves. We’ve done a few cool walks in the national parks and have seen lots of neat beasts. Of course the birds are fantastic. We’ve also seen a couple of creepy crawlies – the first one we saw as we crossed over a little ditch. It was a big snake about 10ft long and it caught my eye as just as we stepped over it – literally a foot over it’s head. We could tell pretty quickly that it was a python and harmless to us but it gave us a start at first.


Shortly after that encounter, the girls went to use the bathroom in the ranger’s station and found this guy on the wall behind the toilet. It’s a huntsman spider and this one was a good 4″ across. They aren’t particularly venomous but big nonetheless…and Elise refused to use that bathroom.


So today we had a bit more of a scary encounter. We were walking up a trail from a beach and Elise shouted out “snake!” and sure enough, there was a big black snake laying on the side of the trail. This was no harmless diamond python. This one was glossy black with a red belly and while not usually fatal, a bite would have been really nasty. The worst part about this was that while Elise stopped a couple feet short, Sophie had walked right past it and didn’t even notice it. Poor Elise burst into tears and refused to go anywhere until Dug lifted her up. The 3 of us had to forge through the bush to get around the snake and get to Sophie who was stuck on the other side of it. I didn’t manage to snap a picture of this one…thought better of that (didn’t want to wind up with a Darwin Award). I would be perfectly happy to go the rest of the trip without seeing anymore snakes.

Paradise Found


So as expected, we fell in love with New Zealand. It’s not only gorgeous and majestically beautiful, it’s also charming and quaint. The people here are so friendly and helpful and obviously love their country so much much that they are incredibly eager to share it with those of us who are just visiting.

Auckland was vibrant and metropolitan but not frenetic or angry like many big cities can be. It’s a city of 1.25M people and is busy and fast paced but I did not hear a single car horn or expletive during the busy days downtown. No one jaywalked or walked on the “don’t walk” or ran orange lights. It was busy but very polite and orderly. We got to spend a couple of days right downtown, taking public transit, asking stupid questions, counting coins like dumb yanks, and looking goofy in backpacks, white sport socks and running shoes.

I learned a few things about New Zealanders. They are a boating nation. Boats are everywhere. And coincidentally Dug had his eyes permanently glued to the seas…and it didn’t seem to matter if he was driving. I heard things like “that boat with the black mast is exactly like the one that so-and-so had in 1990 when it broke the record for such-and-such race”. I often responded with an animated “Watch the f$&@ing road!” My lack of enthusiasm was terribly disappointing for Dug.

The second thing that New Zealanders love is rugby…specifically the All Blacks. There are signs and car flags, billboards and people wearing jerseys everywhere. They love their team…there was even an exhibit in the Auckland museum that payed homage to the All Blacks. The in-flight safety video on the Air New Zealand flight featured Richie McCaw (captain of the team) – got and kept my attention. They love this team so much that it looks like it’s the last few weeks of the Canucks road to the cup…all the the time. Minus Luongo and the riots of course. Speaking of the Canucks, Dug managed to find a guy (probably the only one) in this little remote town of 1800 people who was from Vancouver and wearing a Canucks shirt. And of course they commiserated about Luongo.

New Zealand was a gorgeous stop…we didn’t get enough time there but what we did see was fantastic. This was in spite of the temperamental weather with gale force winds that we had. These tough Canucks made the best of it.


A Taste of New Zealand


So 11,000km and 48 hours into our journey and I have 3 pieces of news. No divorce papers have been filed, no passports or VISAs were lost and neither of my kids got left in an airport bathroom. 3 for 3 – yeah for me! Actually everything went super smoothly and the trip was completely uneventful with the exception of Sophie being up all night before we left with the stomach flu. She literally stood up only an hour before we had to leave for the ferry. It was a bit dodgy for a while but we made it through.

So today we decided to drive south for a while and go to a place called Hot Water Beach. This place was pretty cool; in a 200 yard strip of the beach at low tide people (and I mean lots of people) dig holes in the sand with spades. Warm water fills the holes and they sit in them and soak…like being in a personal hot tub within arm’s reach of 200 other people in personal hot tubs. There were couples and families and even a large group of 20-something men who had set up a full bar next to their giant hot pool.

And this water is freaking hot – scalding hot; we could actually see the hot water bubbling up through the sand and running down the beach in painfully hot channels. We had no idea what we were doing but apparently there is an art to building the perfect pool – it has to be the right mix of scalding hot and cool seawater. After Dug borrowed a shovel from a German couple lounging in their perfectly warm bath he started digging…only to find cold seawater. So then we kindly accepted a pre-dug pond from it couple of Kiwi’s who were leaving. It was perfect until we took it over and quickly discovered that we had no idea how to properly channel the hot and cold in and out of the hole and keep the temperature tolerable. Our hole got way too hot and very quickly we had to abandon it and return to our first cold hole. Fortunately that pond was now tepid from the hot water seeping slowly into the bottom of it; this had nothing to do with our hot spring prowess, but rather blind luck. Regardless, the girls and Dug enjoyed their dip in their homemade spa.

This would be a fantastic way to spend a moonlit night with a bottle of wine and only the sound of the waves.

New Zealand is turning out to be a pretty cool place. Tomorrow we head north to Bay of Islands…after I struggle my way though a half marathon tomorrow morning. No prep or clean living before this one…just beer, sausage and a prayer that I’ll make it.