welcome to my (mis)adventures

Investment Strategies

We had a wonderful 1 1/2 days of spring skiing, followed by a detour down the coast to Narooma. The south coast of NSW is one of my happy places. Forests of eucalyptus trees, cackling kookaburras, empty beaches spanning miles of coastline. It’s a wonderful, magical place to be.

While fun, the trip was not just for leisure. Sean and I have been very seriously (and adultly) considering investment options. We’re considering buying real estate, and have been mulling over two properties – a studio in Bondi Beach we affectionately call “Garage View” and a cute apartment down the coast in Narooma.

In considering this major decision, I reflected on past good investments, and thought about what had brought me joy while also being useful and profitable. The electric kettle we purchased for our snow excursions came to mind, and the rebellious part of me that doesn’t want to get hemmed into a committing, unwieldy land purchase began to  compare the experience of owning a very handle kettle to owning a pricey and bulky plot of real estate.

Kettle ($15)

Real Estate ($more)

Portable Immovable
Dividends paid within 3 minutes Pays back in years if all goes well
Warms you up – essential for survival Has a sundeck
Requires electricty Requires a lot of stuff
Can be stored without a thought indefinitely Takes taking care of, management
Sense of security and well being Sense of risk
Maintenance free Not.

Clearly the kettle was a bargain.

Anyways, we continued to consider the matter. The real estate agent was from Whale Realty and the apartment used to be called Daisy Street, which I quite like the sound of. While mulling over our choice, we pulled over on the side of the road overlooking the ocean and got out of the car. Sean picked me a handful of wild daisies, and while looking at the water a whale breached in front of us.

We took it as a sign and bought the apartment.


Spring Season

Canadians tend to look forward to spring skiing. Warmer (but still freezing temperatures), some sunshine, fewer crowds, late season dumps of snow.

But Australia is different. Spring season is equivalent to water skiing in Canada. Okay, fine, that’s an overstatement but not too much of one. Temperatures rose this last weekend to 9 degrees (yes, that’s +9, not -9), making for a lot of melt and lot of water.

Good news is that car camping is only getting more comfortable, and a half day of morning skiing is better than none.

Warren Miller Wannabes

During our Western Hemisphere Tour 2017-18, we had a brief stop going through Seattle.  When we go to a new place Sean always knows what’s going on because he habitually collects the local paper. It was in this way that we learned of the legendary Warren Miller, film maker and ski outlaw.

Warren Miller is well known for being the first to make high-adrenaline skiing movies, starting with his initial compilation in the ’50s. There are stories of how he lived in his his van, stealing packets of ketchup from fast food restaurants and mixing them with water to make tomato soup – partly because he was broke and partly because he was a total bandit. Miller didn’t pay for lift passes, but instead would snag a ride up a chairlift only to outrace the ski patrol chasing after them all the way down the mountain. And repeat. All day long.

For obvious reasons, Miller captivates both of us. While we like to think of ourselves as Lifestyle Bandits, but Miller took it a few big steps further. He started filming his ski bum friends doing wild things, compiled the footage into movies, and took it on the road, traveling around North America to ski-bum cults hungry for adrenaline-fuelled ski debauchery that Miller effortlessly provided.

Taking a page from Warren’s book, Sean and I figured we should find a way to simplify going to the snow. It’s a 5 hour trip from our place in Sydney and accommodation is both highly in demand and very pricey. Besides, it’s always more fun to be outside anyways. Taking this into account, Sean took the seats out of the back of our Rav 4, padded the floor with a foam mat and we threw our ski gear, sleeping bags, food and kitchen camping supplies into the back.

Before leaving town Sean stopped by Kmart and bought an electric kettle. I thought this was going a bit far, but I’ve become a tea drinker since coming to Australia and agreed it would be nice to steal some electricity for hot water if we could find it.

In our first debut as Millerites, we had the best weekend. Arriving at the snow on Saturday midday, we enjoyed the runs until lift close at 4:30pm. From there we stopped by the car, dropped our gear off and picked up our gym gear and the kettle before heading to the leisure centre. We did another work out, had a swim, a shower, brushed our teeth and boiled the kettle in a corner before meeting some friends for dinner at their fancy lodge. After a wonderful dinner, we arrived back at the car around dusk and drove to the campground down the road.

The campground is well used in the winter (I’m very impressed by the other Aussie Millerite’s tenacity when it comes to the snow), and since we arrived after dark our choices for a park were limited. We pulled off the road and put the skis on the roof, clearing space to sleep, and even though it was still quite early, I promptly fell asleep and didn’t wake until 6am the following morning.

Straight away we went to the gym again and boiled the kettle. There’s something about fellow ski bums that makes them agree with our thinking that there’s something a bit awesome about bypassing the usual resort system. People who saw us with our little kettle and the packed Rav 4 would alway smile and say ‘Good on ya’, or tell us some story about their youth when they’d done the same. Then they’d frown and say ‘I’m not too old for that. Maybe next winter…’

The following night we had no dinner dates, and instead were back at the campground before dark. We lit a fire, heated up some supper and enjoyed watching night fall. The stars were incredible and the critters scurrying around at sunset – wallabies, kangaroos, ducks – were fun to watch. The moment was just as good or even better than being on the hill.

Sadly, being latecomers to downhill skiers, we only learned of Warren Miller by way his passing when we saw an article in the Seattle Times. His obit reads like an adventure novel and is thoroughly inspiring. It gives me feeling of a kid who’s gotten away with something and  makes me want to earn the same kind of biography at the end of my life.

A midday break for lunch…

Going Home from Home

I’m finishing up a spontaneous 12 day visit back home in Saskatchewan. It was a last minute decision to leave Sydney, but a good one. My brother is in the midst of moving from Pakistan to Nigeria, with a brief stop back in Sask, so when another bureaucratic error meant I’d have to leave Australia on a visa run,  it seemed a good opportunity for a family visit.

Being home – as in family home – is always a different experience, regardless of whether a lot or a little time has passed. There are always things that have changed. With people, with places, with myself.

Whenever I go home I catch up with my childhood bestie, Megan, and her three daughters. Our lives could hardly be more different – Megan has a family, a farm, a business, and at least 15 chickens. I, on the other hand, live in a city on the other side of the world, and am barely responsible for keeping myself alive (Sean does a lot of the cooking in our house). The girls are getting older, as apparently is normal for kids, and as I see them grow I realise I’m getting older too. This is weird because I don’t feel much different than last year or 5 years ago, but the girls are entirely new people every time I see them. Other people’s kids really stick it to me with the way they reflect the passage of time.

It’s a bit ironic that never having felt I had a home in any other place I lived, I now have two. It’s nice, but at the same time when I leave Sydney for Saskatoon or Saskatoon for Sydney, I can’t help but feel a bit adulterous. Sydney could never understand what I see in the quiet, living plains and skies of Saskatchewan, while Saskatoon couldn’t relate to the temperate, bustling, ocean life of New South Wales. They are two extremely different lifestyles, but somehow it really works. I’m really lucky that both of them take me.

This was my last trip home to Sask as an unmarried woman (dun dun dunnnn!). Before leaving Australia, people pointed this out to me as though it was significant, as if this particular trip should have a deeper meaning than an excuse to burn things in the fire and eat Saskatoon berry pie for breakfast. I didn’t think of this once while home, but now that the time is over and I remember their words, I suppose it is a good moment to pause, and reflect on the shape life is taking. In some ways, it’s a bit depressing – it’s become impossible to deny that the time-space continuum applies to me, just like everyone else on the planet. Life, with its growing, changing, ageing, dying, involves me too. That’s kind of heavy. But at this moment, I’m grateful for the pause to see it – at least for a very small moment – and appreciate the perspective.

Australians and the Snow

We are in the Snowy Mountains this week with Sean’s family. It’s winter here in Australia and we’ve left the chilly 15 degree July temperatures in Sydney for a frigid -2 degrees here in Thredbo. (Those of you reading in Canada will pick up on my sarcasm).

In an ironic twist of fate, my love affair with downhill skiing started here, in Australia of all places, only a year ago. It’s school holidays so crowds are horrendous, and the runs and snow quality are nothing like the Rockies, but I have a fondness for this place that provided the foundation for our western Canada expedition last year.

Many Australians have never seen or touched snow, so it’s almost as much fun for me to watch them in it as it is to play in it myself. There are many annoyances: unruly crowds, new skiers who can’t figure out the chairlift, parking lots full of anxious drivers circling at 4km/hr, but it’s all worth it to see them meet Snow for the first time. People laugh and draw their hands back, shocked at the cold. Kids throw snowballs, make snowmen, are overwhelmed by wonderment. It’s rare to get a glimpse of that kind of virgin awe in a world where information is always at hand and anyone can know everything. Seeing someone touch snow for the first time gives the observer a rare chance to view unrestrained glee and astonishment that can only come from experience. Watching them, I realise I’m fortunate to have grown up with so many cursed winters in Saskatchewan.

Australians don’t really “invest” in winter the way Northern Hemispherians do. With few exceptions, kids wear the same coloured coats: red and black for boys and pink and blue for girls. Aldi, a low-cost department store, sells these, keeping the same colours but changing the patterns each year. After 2 seasons on the snow I can effortlessly determine what fashion year any Aldi ensemble comes from.

The trip has been fun, with us exploring the mountain further now that we’re more proficient on skis and can go anywhere we like. We reached the highest lifted point in Australia the other day, with a view overlooking the brown valley of Snowy Mountains beyond (there’s really not that much snow, even with this being an absolute bumper year). Just like last year, I turned to Sean and said “Baby, this is cute!” Last year I hadn’t meant it sarcastically, it really did seem cute to me that thousands of people from around the continent flock to these big hills for a taste of the snow. This year however, after acclimatising the the constant climes of Sydney, I said it with affection. Even for a Canadian girl – perhaps especially for a Canadian girl – the snow holds a lot of magic.


People Are Good

$2521.11 is equal to:
10 years of rations for a refugee
2.8 years of school
34 generous sponsors
21 meals with rice as the main ingredient
Numerous mental slips
High degree of physical exhaustion
3.4kg weight loss (7.5lbs)
A huge lesson in gratitude
Appreciation for our common humanity

The Ration Challenge is over (though feel free to still donate if you missed doing so earlier!). When we started, Sean suggested putting our fundraising goal at $2500. I thought this was overly ambitious and extremely unlikely, but figured why not try? As of yesterday afternoon we thought we’d made a valiant effort, despite coming short when at approximately $1600. However, between the hours of 8pm Saturday and 7am Sunday morning, additional angel benefactors contributed a staggering amount to the cause and as of 10pm on Sunday night we’re sitting at an incredible $2521!

The experience of eating like a refugee was wonderful for both of us. We agree that we’ve come out the other side with a deeper sense of gratitude for the many blessings of our lives: abundant healthy food, clean water, constant home, safe transportation, healthy families, a peaceful country, nature at our doorstep…

The challenge was a great reminder of how living simply truly is the highest form of elegance and sustainability. We had no waste or packaging, spent little energy preparing or cleaning, and were appreciative of every morsel. We also now have a sense of how incredible acts of kindness from people who have little are. When you hear beautiful stories about displaced communities rallying together to bake someone a birthday cake or share rations, the true meaning of what it is to give from the heart is seen clearly. It’s truly inspiring and something I’m reminded to strive towards.

Breakfast was a lovely midday event of pancakes and berries with a cup of tea which totally blew my mind. Dinner was roast veggies and lamb shared with our good friends Sal and Brett. As we prepared, I couldn’t help but reflect on how lucky I am to have something to share.

A small thing that is so easy to forget: How lucky I am to have something to share.

My deepest heartfelt gratitude goes out to all supporters of our Ration Challenge and all other givers of time, money, food and heart. Thank you.

A beautiful life.

The 7th Day: A Day of Rest (because we can’t do anything else in this state)

Welcome to the final day of eating like a refugee. That’s Sean up there, holding the last of our food (oh, and a tin of sardines… but now that we’re this close I’m leaving them for Sean as I can see daybreak ahead).

Since yesterday I lost another 0.7kgs, bringing my weight loss to 3.4kgs or 7.5lbs. I feel like my body is reducing quickly now, and am sure that if I stayed on this diet I’d shed another 5-10lbs quickly. Thank goodness that won’t be the case – I’m not sure I could function if that happened. Already I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Despite our tired and haggard state, Sean had an audition this morning and we did a brief swim at Clovelly. The water feels a lot colder now, and the breeze cut right through me when I got out. I shivered and jumped from foot to foot, all the while conscious of how many calories I must be using, fully aware that a swim was only possible because I knew that rationing would be lifted tomorrow..

On our way to the beach we passed Iggy’s Bread, a local hotspot. Sean and I, while appreciative of the good community work Iggy’s does, often scoff at the people lining up down the block at 7am on a Saturday for a loaf of bread. Today was no different – it was perhaps even more impactful. I wonder at how people in such an abundant society, where bread and food are available everywhere,  choose to spend free time this way. You could take a photo of Iggy’s on a Saturday morning, dim the colour a bit and dress the people up from beachwear to parkas, and you’d think it was Russia in the 80s.

Throughout this campaign I’ve realised a very simple concept on a much deeper level: people need food. For all this simplicity, it shocks me that people still go hungry, that we don’t make simple, nutritious food available to everyone. It’s incredible to look at the way our food systems work. We allow so much waste, and we permit food marketing to children that will make them obese while undernourishing them. If you’re interested, search fatty liver disease in children, where liver damage due to poor diet results in a condition comparable to a seasoned alcoholic. Rates in the US sit around 2.6-3.2%… which is nuts. Peter Attia used to talk about this.

“First we eat, then we do everything else” – MFK Fisher

On the positive front, we’ve raised over $1700 from an amazing group of friends and supporters. From this incredible generosity we’re feeding a heck of a lot of people and Sean and I were able to earn two teabags and an extra serve of spinach (#thankyouthankyouthankyou). We’d love to keep that number growing and continue providing health and basics for life to more Syrian refugees. If you have anything to give, please head here to share what you can.

“…The people who give you their food give you their heart” – Cesar Chavez

The Day That’s 2 Days Away from Food

Day 6 of the Refugee Ration Challenge. Aside from meal times when we get very excited about fried rice & flour cakes, the day is grey. Mentally I’m blurry and emotionally I’m drained. The odd thing is that I know this state is a product of the food I’m eating, but I still look for some other, external incident that makes me so glum. Yet there’s nothing. Life is good – we have water, a safe place to sleep, family and friends – we’re just hungry and haven’t had a fruit or vegetable this week (aside from 170g of spinach that we shared, which sadly ran out yesterday).

I stepped on the scale this morning, and found that I’m down to 57.3kg – a 2.7kg (6lb) loss since the morning of day 1. Reading is difficult. I’m in the midst of a Cormac McCarthy book and his lack of some punctuation – easily adapted to in normal circumstances – is downright baffling in my mental state. I find myself re-reading pages over and over again to get the gist of things. It’s the first time I’ve ever been tempted to just watch the movie instead.

Tomorrow we’re going to see the NSW Waratahs rugby game and have rationed supplies accordingly. We’ll have rice-lentil-flour cakes and a thermos of weak tea (if we raise enough money by then to earn a teabag). It will be a real feast and I’m already excited. However, we need your help to get that (1) teabag! Donate now! (We love you!)

Rice Scares on the 5th Day

The effects of living on limited rice, lentils and chickpeas are being felt. I’m so fuzzy today that I nearly drove 30 minutes to a south-Sydney beach, convinced I’d left my bathing suit behind (it was in my backpack). I also had to take a serious time-out after I transferred our remaining 6 cups of rice to a new container, only to spill it all over the counter (I saved all of it in a tedious pick-up process, telling Sean that I “needed a moment alone”). Little things like this, which wouldn’t register in a normal person’s life, feel very… significant. I felt guilty, embarrassed, sad – not because anything was actually lost, but because I knew that if I’d spoiled the rice it would be a major downer for the next 2 days for both Sean and I.

While typing this, I realise I sound like a complete nutter – I suppose that’s the point. Feeling despair over a bit of spilt rice is almost funny, and even if it was unsalvageable, Sean and I wouldn’t really be any worse for it. Sunday would still come and we’d be fine. But it made me aware what it must be like to watch your family, your children be hungry and not grow up in a healthy way. I read a statistic about wasting and stunting amongst Syrian refugees. In Jordan camps the wasting rate is at 4.5% and stunting at 7.7% (by comparison, in Syria rates are 11.5% and 27.5% respectively). Even though the refugees in Jordan were clearly doing better, these rates are still shocking to me. The data I looked at is a few years old, but I’d be surprised if much has changed.

So far we’ve raised $1276 over the last five days that will go to Syrian refugees living in Jordan. This will feed one refugee for over 5 years. Or, put another way, It will feed nearly 20 people for three months. Clearly, a little can go a long way and any support is so welcome. (Act for Peace Ration Challenge)

Despite being regularly hangry, we’re hanging in there and have been surprisingly patient with each other over the last few days (I think this is good marriage prep!). Focus and sustained efforts feel highly energy consuming and the need for sleep is really the hungry rationista’s friend. Truly, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to deal with people, raise children and go to work on this level of nutrition. We’re so lucky to be able to do this by choice.


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