Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July. It’s internationally recognized as American Independence day, and conjures thoughts of fireworks, hot-dogs, sparklers and block parties for people around the world.


Old Fashioned Summer Picnic

Old Fashioned Picnic with Slice of Watermelon

People around the planet are familiar with this day, thanks to movies and television. We’ve all seen the images in American films, portraying these celebratory scenes. The cliché is generally a setting with kids running slow-motion through the street with red and white gingham tablecloths dotted out of focus in the background. Props like lemonade, ketchup, mustard, and smiling veneers of perfect housewives and happy families feature heavily in my own mind’s eye when I think of the 4th of July.


I’d take a stab at saying the vast majority of my Kiwi friends and family covet this kind of fairytale to some degree. It seems so idyllic, so full of energy and community. So very, what is the word I am looking for… Patriotic.


Kiwis are a bit more low key. I find more joy and sense of community in Matariki than I do in Waitangi day (our 4th of July equivalent). Waitangi day, sadly, often seems to turn into some racial and moral soap-box. We don’t have big block parties and BBQ’s.  We have a long weekend in the middle of our antipodean summer, and we get together to roll our eyes at the sorry state of affairs. We get together, and carry on to love the stuffing out of our special people at beaches, baches, parks and playgrounds across this beautiful island nation. We laugh, we eat, we toast, we talk.




On the way to the airport to fly home to Auckland, the iconic Kiwi Poet Sam Hunt was on the radio. He was being interviewed by Paul Henry (who I can’t help but like despite, or perhaps because, he always seems to have his foot in his mouth) for his birthday and to publicise his new book.


Sam Hunt is a seasoned eccentric. He was born to be so. He left school at 16 with a brain full of knowledge. The intelligence he cultivated wasn’t generally gleaned from his traditional academic path. His mother was a huge fan of astronomy and poetry, and his father was a barrister with a love of words and debate. He was nurtured in fertile soils of knowledge, and went off on many adventures, and those adventures have turned into poems and stories that I hope most New Zealanders get to feel percolate through them, as his life experiences and words are so deliciously human, and quintessentially Kiwi.


Sam Hunt gave me a gift for his 70th Birthday this morning.


He gave me some poignant phrases and his candor and humor lit a spark inside of me that has been smoldering for some weeks and threatening to go out completely.


Sam Hunt, along with the irrepressible Paul Henry, gave me a renewed sense of self, and reminded me that words, to me, are like sunlight or rain. New Zealand is my home. I chose it, it chose me back, and this place contains the majority of my purpose and passion.


We are all connected here, intimately. We are a community, diverse yet similar on so many levels. We are the underdog that rises triumphant, time and again. We are temperate and volatile, and sit waiting the next shake-up, as we are perched precariously on the ring of fire. We are humble, we are brave, we are loud, we are quiet, we are busy, we are calm, we are beaches and bush and bathed in brilliant golden sunshine.

Seems to me, Sam Hunt, and thousands of eccentrics before and after him have been labeled a spectacle. He’s spoken up and spoken out about many things, in his art and on a variety of fronts. He personifies a lot of the freedom of thought and speech that we enjoy in New Zealand, and that America has tirelessly fought for and debated.  So thank you for that Sam.

I am also, openly and unashamedly grateful to be in a safe, sleepy island nation where I am free to think and be a part of this society. I can find people who agree, or who disagree, and I never, not for one split second worry about someone pulling out a gun to hurt me or anyone I Love. Not on a motorway, or shop, school or movie theatre.

A nurse can throw a dildo at a politician in protest, get international media attention which seemed to leave both the woman who threw it, and the man at whom she threw it, somewhat better off. He handled the situation with humour and gained international media attention.  This, many have said, left him looking like a pretty decent bloke.

She got her point across to millions and millions of people here and around the world. She also gained a very solid fan base for a while there, and then was given the chance to slip back into relative anonymity. No jail sentence, no talk show circuit, no Chewbacca mom getting paid for autographs carry on for her. Because this is NOT America. Nothing against Chewbacca mom of course, we just do things a bit differently around here it seems.


I wish the United States of America peace and enlightenment on this, the day they celebrate their independence.


I hope that they put down their guns, and only people who can use them responsibly can pick them back up.


I hope they do not vote in Trump.


I hope they learn to care for eachother and their own and the rest of the world’s resources a bit better.


Wait… I wish that for New Zealand too!!!


Anyway. I could go on, but I won’t.


Just wishing everyone a very happy 4th of July in America and around the world.


Maybe we can all declare independence from some of the things that no longer serve us today, and move forward with confidence and kindness for a safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable planet.


Thanks for reading.



Whirlwind West Wend Around the South Island

Despite being quite different in many ways, my husband (who I’ve affectionately nicknamed Grumpy) and I share a great many interests and passions.  An example of this is our Love of New Zealand.

After a magnificent tour around South America late 2012 – early 2013 we had a discussion and decided that we were going to try and stay put a bit more and explore our own back yard for a change.  And for the past year, we more or less have.

Our annual family Christmas vacation was spent cruising around New Zealand and then over to Australia with all three kiddies, one people parasite (I was in my second trimester with our fourth child) and mother-in-law in tow.  It was an excellent trip.

And after re-affirming our Happy Hobbit commitment to each other on Valentines day at a re-wedding party, we thought it would be fitting to take a quick honeymoon together (no children).

We chose to go to Christchurch, as Grumpy had not been there since he was twelve years old when he was flown down for winning a mathletics competition.  I’ve been down half a dozen times, for various reasons.  So we booked our seats, packed our bags and away we went.


Luckily, you can fly domestically pretty much up until your due date (if you are so inclined) so being 35 weeks pregnant was not going to impede our plans.  We would not have been able to go any further afield at this point anyway as you are not generally allowed to fly on any international route after between 28 and 32 weeks, depending on the carrier’s policy.

So here’s what we had planned:


Wait, that isn’t entirely true.  We had booked a rental car.

We’ve had terrific luck and numerous adventures just flying by the seat of our pants when we travel, and maybe, to a lesser degree, through life in general.  We don’t make a lot of plans, and when we do, they change frequently.  Not planning and letting things like; the weather, our budget at the time, our mood, and now our smart devices, help us to decide where and how we spend our vacations is pretty much how we roll.  Not for everyone, but it has served us well.

We’d made loose plans to visit some people in Christchurch.  However, when we landed, the weather was astoundingly clear and crisp and we decided then and there to head inland.  We popped in to Riccarton mall and picked up a grocery bag full of supplies (grain waves and water basically) and were on our way.

Once we were out of the Canterbury plains and into the foothills of the Southern Alps, we felt quite free and very pleased with ourselves for being so adventurous.  We arrived at Castle Point rocks, and I asked Grumpy if we ought to stop, by he opted to take a picture from out the window instead and said we’d stop on our way back through.  That proved to be a mistake, as we didn’t return to this iconic natural wonder on our return to Christchurch.  We’ll stop another time and clamber over the interesting formations with our children, one day in the not too distant future.


Whilst driving, we decided we’d aim to get to Greymouth that evening.


Greymouth is a lovely little West Coast town, where mining has historically been the major industry of note.  What we noticed, is that there was no shortage of interesting and eccentric characters, an abundance of local pride, and, it just so happens, really good food.


We let trip advisor suggest to us where to stay, a lovely farm/homestay called Oak Lodge Homestay and were pleasantly surprised with the results. The hosts were very friendly indeed, and we had a self contained cottage with lovely rural views.


Our hosts recommended we eat at a place called Ollys’ (yes, the name is grammatically accurate as it shows that more than one Olly owns the restaurant apparently).  The smoky stuffed mushrooms were delicious, the plating was impeccable and the dessert was divine.


And the whole experience cost us just over $50NZD after our tourist discount.

That night, Grumpy fell to sleep at a completely uncharacteristically early 10:00pm and we woke up at around 9:30 the next morning.

We had a delicious (and reasonably priced) breakfast at Maggie’s.  Again, we ate really good mushrooms (calling card of this quaint little town perhaps?) and perfectly acceptable coffee, even by our undeniably demanding standards.

We also got a call from our hosts to let us know that I had forgotten my spectacles.  They say spectacles.  Not sure why this is noteworthy, but I liked that they called them that.  So while Grumpy returned to the Oak Lodge Homestay to collect them, I went shopping on mainstreet.  I picked up a hand knit sweater for our current youngest son Adam (about to be dethroned of this title once his brother arrives) and a kiwiana charm for my Pandora bracelet.  Steve was given some fresh baked muffins for our trip, and then we were off again.


We were going to head up to Pancake rocks, but opted instead to drive South toward Glacier park, as we had been assured that the forecast was going to be clear and calm, assuring us glorious views of some of our natural wonders.

Low cloud rolled in about the time we had driven through Hokatika, and stayed with us for the rest of the trip through Glacier National park.




After a very brief stop we got back in the car with the intention of making it to Wanaka that evening.  We happened across a lone hitchhiker and picked him up.  He travelled with us until we got to Lake Hawea where we dropped him off at a very nice campground there.



After dropping off the German at the campground, we stopped to take this picture of the hills at dusk coming into Wanaka.


That night we stayed at the second most highly recommended accommodation on  The room was $260.00 per night with a King Sized bed, and no tea or coffee making facilities.  The hosts were very friendly, and the other guests provided excellent breakfast conversation the next day.

That morning we set off on the 5+ hour trek to get back to CHCH for our dinner reservation with our friend Erin.


We stopped at Lake Pukaki so Grumpy could have some Sashimi from the Salmon farm.  I of course could not partake as raw anything is a no-no whilst gestating.  Sigh.

It was a slightly hazy, but overall very clear and settled Autumn day and we got to take in gorgeous views across the lake and over to Aoraki/Mt. Cook.



Sometime later, I decided I was hungry, so we stopped in Fairlie in Mackenzie County for a cuppa and a bite.  We happened across some signs on the road as we arrived into the town and followed the short metal drive down to a gorgeous restaurant called The Red Stag.

The staff were friendly, the food was good, the decor was lovely, and I got to have cuddles with a 6 month old Jack Russell named Charlie.  Yet more fabulous to add to our already abundant supply.

We arrived back to Christchurch a little after 4:00pm on Sunday.  We’d decided not to book accommodation, but to stick with our winning strategy of arriving at the second most highly recommended establishment according to This happened to be a luxury self contained apartment called Sumner Re Treat for $195.00 per night.  Well, let me assure you, we will be returning to Christchurch in short order, and this is where we shall stay.

The landlady was out when we arrived, so the pub downstairs gave us a hot drink while we waited for her to return and let us into the apartment.  She ended up taking us upstair to a tastefully decorated second floor apartment that would not have been out of place on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The linen was gorgeous, the kitchen was amazing, the lighting plan throughout was fantastic.  Being seasoned travellers as we now consider ourselves to be, we can honestly say this was one of the most luxurious and best valued nights we have spent anywhere. Ever. I’m not kidding.

That evening we ate at a restaurant in Riccarton called Dux Dine with a menu designed perfectly for Grumpy’s dietary requirements and peculiar tastes.  The establishment serves no meat, only vegetarian and seafood.  It also recently went through renovations to become more wheelchair accessible, which was great, as our dinner guest Erin is not only in a wheelchair, but an active accessibility campaigner (among other amazing achievements).

Dinner was divine, although dessert was more than a little disappointing.  Grumpy ate so much he suffered a food hangover that lasted two days.

The next morning we had excellent coffee and went for a drive to the top of a hill in Sumner.  Neither of us had been out to this coastal suburb since the earthquakes of September 4th, 2010 and then the big one on 2/22/11.  It was wrenching to say the least.  Three years on from the event, and houses still teeter on the edge of the cliffs.  Swaths of the neighbourhood sit dark alongside perfectly safe and populated houses as a reminder of mother nature’s immense power and indiscriminate destruction.


So, in a little more than 72 hours, we managed to get a small taste of what is referred to by the locals as “the mainland” of New Zealand.  We will absolutely be back for more, and intend to take all four Hobbit children on a 18 day road trip from the very tip of the North Island to the very bottom of the South in our long range Electric Vehicle, the Tesla Model S.  We’ve been waiting on delivery of this family friendly EV for nearly two years now, but that is a story for another day.

Thanks for tuning in.






Raising Cross Cultural Kids

Our children are all exceptionally lucky.  They have been exposed in massive doses to their cultural heritages, here in New Zealand, in my native land Canada, and across the planet.


Daniel in the Rockies

They have trudged through the Grampians, visited the lochs, and picnicked along the river Dee in Scotland, all the while being told tales of their Lamb clan heritage.  They’ve visited their frail old aunt on the banks of the Nieuwe Maas in Rotterdam and been told stories of their grandfather’s childhood on a houseboat there.  Two of the three have been taken by train to Bavaria and Austria and served spaetzel by gorgeous women with high cheekbones, wearing lederhosen.  They’ve driven the Irish countryside and watched their mother kiss the blarney stone (not that I needed the gift of the gab, heaven knows I already had it).  They’ve seen native American Indian art and culture from the West Coast to the East of Canada and the USA, and told in vague terms that there are drops of that sacred indigenous blood in their veins, but the stories are not clear and we’re still trying to piece together which ancestral tribe(s) we may share DNA with.


Here’s our third child dressed as a bumble bee in a bar in Bavaria.

At times, this all falls on seemingly deaf ears and disinterested little eyes that hark back to their electronic devices and whine excessively about “not being like the other kids” and “having to travel all the time” and “spending so much time in airports and hotels.”


This is Steph when she was about three in Holland.


Daniel in Rotterdam… Thrilled as he frequently is. Such an emo sometimes. He’s been that way since birth. Love him just the way he is!


There are other times when they are genuinely interested in their heritage, stories of where they came from, and knowing about their family history.

Despite our best efforts to keep them connected with their vast and varied family roots, the two most recent pieces of their cultural substance stand out heads and shoulders above all their diverse ancestry.  Our children very much identify as Canadian and Kiwi.


Here are three little hobbit children playing in the snow in Gatineau (Quebec Canada)

Perhaps this is owing to the example we set, openly and frequently appreciating the fact we belong to this quiet, peaceful, and remote little nation nestled somewhere in the South Pacific.  They have been privy to an absolutely idyllic childhood here.  They ride their bikes in the lush green park across from their grandparents’ house.  They pick seasonal fruit from the trees in the yard.  They celebrate the seasons and snuggle in with blankets and hot porridge in the brief winter months of June, July and August, and climb trees and scrape knees throughout the rest of the year.


Here are the children eating an ice cream on our deck overlooking the harbour.

Pleasingly proud of being “half Canadian, and half Kiwi – but you can call me a Caniwi” they have spent at least some part of every season in Canada, while predominantly residing since their births in Auckland New Zealand.

What got me thinking about all of this was an off-hand comment by a good friend who piped up with: “Oh, NOW you are a Canadian” when I congratulated the hockey teams (men and women it turns out) for winning gold at the recent Olympics.  A light-hearts jab at the fact I will tell anyone who will listen just how amazing NZ is and how blessed we are to live there, yet when my native land does something noteworthy I am quick to proclaim my Canadianism.  Well, sure.  Why not right!  My home and Native Land of Canada punches well above its weight at the winter Olympics, while my home of choice does the same at the summer games.  Ironically though, I don’t actually watch any of it.  Sport is not something that interests my family, but a bit of national pride and celebrating internationally noteworthy achievements like these, well, I’ll happily join in on that.


The similarities between the two cultures that the children hail from are staggering.

Canada and New Zealand have larger, louder neighbours that they constantly get compared to and pitted against.  Not to state to obvious, but Canada shares the largest uncontrolled border on earth with the USA, while Australia is New Zealand’s largest and closest neighbour, with a mere 2153.61km separating the largest cities of Australia and New Zealand (Sydney and Auckland).

Canada has many of our talented sons and daughters swallowed up by our economically and politically larger neighbour to the South, and many, if not most of our talent in business, entertainment, R&D and beyond jump the ditch or end up further afield as well.  They often come back though.  There’s something about this country that grabs hold of most people who are exposed to it and never, ever lets go.  I am confident that our kids are going to have the option of chasing their dreams just about anywhere on earth those dreams may lead them.  At this point, at least one of them is just biding their time until they are old enough to settle in Canada for an extended period, and that’s just fine as far as we are concerned.


Adam with the sand of Black Bay between his toes

Our children have spent parts of their childhood, the same as I did, at my Grandfather’s cottage in Luskville Quebec.  They have felt the same sand between their toes in Black bay as I was when I was a child, and they sample the same vast array of summer fruits and vegetables from his extensive gardens as I did when I was a child.  And while they are there, they immerse themselves in their Canadian family and culture.  It is a part of them, and they are a part of it.

And then they return home to New Zealand.  To a culture of tall poppies, rugby fans, bare feet, great things to eat, and plenty of peace and quiet in which our family can retreat.

Our eldest son is fully intending on settling in Canada for an extended period when he is old enough to venture out on his own.  Our daughter currently has plans of buying a caravan and filling it with food, medical and school supplies and helping people who need these things anywhere and everywhere that need may be.  The third child just bides his time and adventures through life on his balance bike waiting for our next adventure, and the fourth and final son will slot into our story once he arrives.

Many of their friends have a similar story, and live with one foot in New Zealand and another in some distant land like the UK, South Africa, Holland, Italy, China etc.  Their families are cross cultural and even the ones who do not venture back overseas regularly observe customs and traditions from their non-kiwi heritage, all the while embracing the culture and lifestyle here as well.

The most important thing I hope the kids glean from our extensive investment and efforts lugging them across the planet as we do is that they are miracles.  Miracles of the fates of generations before them, and the Love between their parentage for the hundreds of years we have been able to trace back to.  And that they are citizens of the planet, and parts of them come from many corners of the world, and therefore, it is absolutely imperative that they show Love and respect to the all the other citizens of this planet as well.  Because every person they meet is also as miraculous as them.  When we spin it to them like this, I like to believe that they genuinely comprehend the importance of respect and tolerance.


I also truly believe that the two countries that they connect most readily with are places where diversity and tolerance feature heavily as a foundation in our political and social systems, as well as our communities for the most part.  And our family works hard, both within our own walls, and in the way in which we conduct ourselves in society and the community at large, to encourage this tolerance and diversity. New Zealand is a country where ANYONE can marry, where we have (or had at one time) some of the best personal privacy and protection legislation on earth.  Both Canada and New Zealand welcome many political and social refugees, and enjoy a diverse range of cultures and religions who I believe genuinely try to co-exist and learn from one another.  Two genuinely fantastic countries and cultures if I do say so myself.



Peaceful demonstrations for marriage equality bill (which is now law!) Makes me awfully proud!!!!


So that’s a little window into what we figure it is like trying to juggle a Caniwi family with a rich and varied mix of heritages.  And not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful for the opportunity to share these two amazing countries and cultures with them as we carve out a future together.  I hope that the foundation of knowing where they came from, helps all of our children move confidently, filled with Love, tolerance and kindness to wherever their paths may take them.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for reading.