Archive for the 'family' Category


Being back in Halifax


Photo from Dennis Jarvis on flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

Family circumstances mean that for the last week and a half I’ve been living and working from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will be here for a few more weeks. It’s been a changing experience to be here, and a very different one from when I’ve returned here for holidays.

I was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and spent 6 years in Halifax going to university. I’ve visited here many times in the years I’ve been away, since we still have family here and nearby. But this is the first time where the initial weirdness of visiting has worn off. Being here for this long, and doing ordinary things like working and buying groceries, has made me feel a little more local once again.

These things, which initially felt strange, have started to feel normal:

  • Everyone’s so freakishly polite, especially in the service and retail industry.
  • Food portions are massive.
  • Relaxed drivers: three times I’ve had cars that were already waiting at a four-way stop reverse to let me cross the street without having to walk around them.
  • Everyone has a funny Canadian accent.
  • The price you see on the tag is not the price you’ll have to pay at the counter.
  • It’s cold: it’s well into spring but some days temperatures max out in the low teens. Nevertheless there are a lot of people in shorts and T-shirts.
  • Lots of hockey. And I don’t feel the need to specify that it’s ice hockey.

I’m looking forward to seeing how things feel when we head out to the country.


Wineries we visited in Margaret River

My youngest brother and his wife recently visited us here in Australia, from Canada. It was really great having them here. They made the most of it; you can read more on his blog if you like.

They’re wine folks, like us, so one of the highlights was something that was as new to us as it was to them: a flight across to Perth and three days in the Margaret River wine region of Western Australia. The countryside is beautiful out there, the coast is breathtaking, the food is great, and the wine is top-notch.

I wanted to make a record of the wineries and wines I liked for future reference. Lucky you (if you have my taste in wine): you can have this list for free. Also, Cabernet Sauvignon is the highlight wine of the Margaret River, and that’s reflected in a lot of my favourites.

In no particular order:

  • Swooping Magpie. Another super-friendly, very boutique producer, with a cellar door in his garage. Prices were very reasonable. Best of the bunch was his 2010 Verdelho and his 2008 Shiraz, really the only bottle of that variety I liked much on this trip.
  • Deep Woods Estate. Small, rustic, with a friendly gent. I forgot to take notes here, but it was typical: cab sauv was the winner. Less typical: the gent was friendly enough to let us take home a barely-touched bottle! Yay! Buy their wine, all of it!
  • The Growers. A cellar door collective of small producers. A fun spot, an entertaining gent behind the bar. None of the wines were fantastic, but some were decent, and all were incredible value for money with most bottles working out to be $10 or less! I’d drink the 2010 Niche Semillon Sauv Blanc and the 2009 Niche Shiraz again.
  • Swings & Roundabouts. Busy, fun place, with great lawns and woodfired pizzas. Their 2010 Cab Merlot was ok. Their 1.5 litre bottles of white and red are BBQ-aimed value for money at $22 each.
  • Woodlands. Wow. We went here by mistake, but it was one of the best. Tiny, unassuming, no frills, but what winemaking. Highlights: 2008 Margaret Reserve Cab Merlot, 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve de la Cave, 2009 Cab Sauv Alma May, and 2006 Robert Cab Sauv. They only do one white (a sign of craftspeople: only do what you’re good at). They also do 200 bottles of straight Cab Franc each year; I might have to get in on that.
  • Knee Deep. Gorgeous, small, friendly, fun. We wanted to do lunch, but they were booked for a wedding. 2009 Kim’s Chardonnay wasn’t bad, 2009 Sue’s Cabernet was good, 2008 Kelsea’s Reserve Cab Sauv was superdelicious.
  • Clairault. A bit fancy, but not huge, and the guy behind the bar was really great: funny, friendly, and very informative. Everyone liked their 2010 Semillon Sauv Blanc (53%/47%). I thought their 2007 Estate Cab Sauv (with just 8% Merlot) was fantastic.
  • Laurance. What a poncy, gold-statue, art gallery, tasting-charging bunch of tosh. And their wines are awful, except for the 2009 Icon Cabernet, which is fantastic.
  • Redgate. Small, but nothing special, nor overly friendly. Still, their 2011 Chenin Blanc and 2010 Rosé were more than drinkable. And their non-vintage Rhapsody In Red was a decent not-with-food and drunk-chilled at just $19.
  • Watershed. A large place, with restaurant and function rooms, but friendlier than most its size. I fancied their 2009 Senses Viognier, their 2010 Senses Zinfandel, and their 2008 Awakening Cabernet.
  • Howard Park. Too big, busy, and impersonal. There was some big event going on. Plus, there are two roads in and out, and we got lost by not going out the one we came in. Liked their 2008 Chardonnay, and their single vineyard 2009 Leston Cab Sauv.
  • Hay Shed. A very friendly – and knowledgable – guy at the cellar door. The 2010 Hay Shed Hill Shiraz Tempranillo, at $20, was an easy-drinking BBQ wine. Their 2009 Block 2 Cab Sauv was very good, and their 2008 Kerrigan+Berry Cab Sauv was top notch.
  • Wise Wine. Nice spot, with great views. There was a wedding reception going on. Highlights were their 2011 Sea Urchin Verdelho, their 2008 Lot 80 Petit Verdot, their 2009 Eagle Bay Cab Sauv, and their tawny port.
  • Stella Bella. We were looking forward to this one a great deal, as we’ve been drinking their wines since our first visit to Australia. They did not disappoint: it was one of the best cellar door experiences we had, with laughs, discussion, and tasting of things we shouldn’t have had (wink wink). I loved a lot of the wines here, but wound up buying and shipping home two bottles each of their 2007 Suckfizzle Cab Sauv, 2011 Skuttlebutt Savvy Cab Sauv, and 2007 Suckfizzle Sauv Blanc Semillon.
The other big non-beer finds in the region were:
  • Bootleg Beer. Excellent beers, great outdoors eating areas, good vibe. Liked all their brews except for their Hefe, which was too banana-y.
  • Margaret River Venison. They farm their own deer, produce all their meats, and will let you try all their fabulous produce.
  • Yallingup Woodfired Bread. No web site. Google it and you’ll find others’ mentions. It’s hard to find, unless you ask a local. But my god, is it worth it.

Two weeks in Nova Scotia

Two days ago I returned from 2 weeks back in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was a great visit home with family, and it was really hard to leave.

Sailing from Mahone Bay to Hubbards. Click to embiggen

Some of the fun stuff we did:

  • Counting 14 hummingbirds at once outside my parents’ house.
  • Sea kayaking at Advocate.
  • Making maple butter with my dad and brothers.
  • Two days’ sailing, from Hubbards to Chester and Mahone Bay with my inlaws.
  • Taking nieces and nephews on Halifax’s Harbour Hopper.
  • Meal at The Bicycle Thief.
  • Visiting Lunenburg.
Check out some photos by clicking here.

Trip back to Canada

In two hours we’ll catch a taxi to the airport and start the 24-hour trek back to Nova Scotia, Canada.

The journey won’t be so bad. Sydney to Los Angeles – the longest leg by far – is in V Australia’s premium economy class, about which I’ve heard good things. LA to Montreal, then Montreal to Halifax, is by Air Canada, which is what it is.

The important thing is this will be the first time I’ve been back to Canada in two years. It’s been the same amount of time since I’ve seen most of my family too.

I expect this trip to be very fun, and very relaxing.

See you soon from the northern hemisphere.


Christmas Day

We had a really nice Christmas Day yesterday: breakfast, presents, being short-term adopted by a lovely family, more presents, a dip in the pool, huge piles of food, more pool, more lazing about, Skyping with family in Canada.

Today we’re off to yet another lovely family homestead, some dogs and kangaroos. Tomorrow we start the big drive south to Sydney.


Xmas holiday

My first hot-climate Christmas is upon us. I’m on my way to work now, but at the end of the day we’ll fly up to Brisbane. We’re fortunate enough to be able to spend a few days of the break with Miss B, the She-Aussie, and all their bunch. We’ll be up there for about four days, then make our way back south to Sydney.

I will miss my own family, though. I’ve only spent one other Christmas away. But I’m sure we’ll all be thinking of each other: them digging out from under snow, me applying large amounts of sunblock.


Champagne and family and goodbye to France

We’re on the chunnel train, just about to head back to the UK. We’re delayed an hour because a train broke down in the chunnel earlier, and they’re running half as often.

It was a super weekend in France. We got to explore the champagne region a lot more than we did when we were here years ago. They’re just harvesting now, and it’s interesting to see. We had some tastings at a couple of small caves, and had the impressive and educational tour at Moet Chandon.

We also got to hang with Lt Dan and Nellie for a couple of days, and laugh and reminisce and eat loads and drink champagne and drive around and plan visits to Oz. It’s certainly making saying our goodbyes to this part of the world bittersweet.

Au revoir, France.


je reviens à la France

My Toronto brother and his missus are holidaying in France and, by the sound of it, having an excellent time. Pas une surprise.

This afternoon my missus and I will jump in the car and zip through the Eurotunnel to meet them in the champagne region for the weekend.


Weekend in Scotland

Another 3-day weekend, this one spent in cold, damp, wonderful Scotland.

I’ve got a cousin who lives in Edinburgh, and we spent a few days with her and her family. It keeps my uncle skills sharp to play with their kids, but we also got out for some good walks and some grown-up catching-up.

In the middle of it all we also trained over to Glasgow to see the Scotsman finally marry his missus. It was a good wedding, and a great time with them and a few friends I’ve not seen in a long while.


Trip to Canada

I neglected to blog in the past week, mostly because I was incredibly busy catching up at work after having been on holiday for a week and a half. Things are roughly returning to normality now.

The holiday, as I’d briefly written before, was back to Nova Scotia, Canada, where I grew up and where our families still mostly live. Lt Dan and Nellie are the exceptions – they live in Toronto and so we missed them this time. We’ll be seeing them soon, though.

NS was brilliant. We had none of the travel woes and close-calls we had at Christmastime. Family are all super and happy. The weather was great when it needed to be. We got around a lot, but there was enough downtime to really get chilled.

Quick recap, though I’ve mentioned some points before:

If you want to know what NS (or the Blue Lagoon) looks like, check out some pics on Facebook.

How did I get up there wearing my Mr. Lazy shirt?

How did I get up there wearing my Mr. Lazy shirt?