Traveling Light for Business: Smart Ladies’ Edition

Happy Canada Day!

You see a lot of stuff out there on how to travel appropriately for business trips, but I find the majority of it seems to be geared towards the business MAN as opposed to the business WOMAN. Sure, there’s some stuff out there. But I thought I’d add my two cents to the mix, and tell you the things I’ve learned as I’ve adapted from being a sloppy student to a smart businesswoman traveling the continent. Some of you smart gentlemen out there might find some of these tips useful, too.

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Before I started this job I was no stranger to traveling across borders alone, and a lone female pretty much always attracts extra attention from border security. Once, on my way from Ottawa to Providence RI, I noticed that I was being tailed through the Newark airport by a genial security official. When I turned around to ask if I could help him, he asked me to follow him and I ended up in an interrogation room. The conversation was cordial, and everything was in order, but the nice security official told me that young females traveling alone tended to raise a few flags because it’s a less than usual circumstance and historically women have been used as mules for all sorts of weird stuff simply because they tend to look less suspicious. This was shortly after 9/11 mind you, and I haven’t been followed through an airport in a while. Anyway, in the intervening time I have picked up a few tips and tricks for traveling easily and lightly that you might find useful in your own travels, be they for business or pleasure.

Checked versus Carry-on Baggage

If you’re traveling for business, chances are you’re only going wherever you’re going for four days or less, and you’re probably going to be on a schedule. Plus if you travel often, your tolerance for sticking around airports waiting for suitcases and for paying extra cash to check your bags is pretty low. So I always vote to carry on all my luggage. When it comes to carry-on bags, there are a variety of available things out there that you can use, but a little roll-able suitcase will be your most versatile option. There’s debate as to the practicality of four wheels versus two wheels, but I opted for four, as being able to shove the suitcase in front of me in crowds is definitely a benefit I didn’t have with my old two-wheeled version. A caveat of the four-wheeled cases is that the wheels stick out more, which take up more space, and they’re more likely to get damaged when you check the bag (but of course we’re not checking our bag so we’re cool).

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When buying a new carry-on bag, do your research first. Check out the baggage size limitations for all the airlines on which you travel, and select a suitcase that will fit requirements for all of them. I brought a measuring tape with me when I bought this one from Swiss Gear and made sure that even with the wheels included it conformed to the smallest standards of all airlines. I also picked a case with soft sides to ensure that it could be crammed into tight spaces with a little extra force.

I also never carry a purse on board with me when I travel. I have to bring my laptop with me for work so that’s already two items on board including my suitcase. If I had to deal with a purse as well I would get totally frazzled, and I never understand it when I see ladies getting on planes carrying purses, suitcases, laptop bags, and then a series of shopping bags. I like to get to my seat as soon as possible, jam my stuff where it fits as quickly as I can (I always take advantage of sky-check or gate-checking if it’s available), and then I’m in my seat and out of the way so others can board the plane and we can leave on schedule. So all my travel documents, wallet, Kindle, etc., get shoved in my laptop bag. That way I only have two bags to worry about when getting myself around.

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I do bring a smaller bag for going out and about when I’m at my location. Usually it’s a small clutch like this one, or it’s a larger canvas purse that rolls up easily to fit into my suitcase. Once I reach my destination I decant some of my personal items out of the laptop bag and into the clutch or purse.

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Packing light, packing right

Here is where I think business women have the advantage over business men – our clothes tend to be smaller and are more often made out of stretchy materials that don’t wrinkle. That means that I can simply roll up all my favourite work dresses (always roll all your stuff – it takes up less space and prevents a number of wrinkles) and shove them into my suitcase and they’ll be ready to go, no worse for wear, when I arrive at my destination. Men’s dress shirts and suits tend to need to be carried in a separate garment bag and then ironed once the travel is done and that is way more work than I am willing to put into my clothing while on the road.

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I always wear sneakers when I’m doing the actual travel – I’ve done my fair share of racing through airports to make connections or adjust to gate changes and I know that doing it in heels is a recipe for disaster (I also have the slightly pessimistic view that if I survive a plane crash I’m better able to negotiate the crash site and surrounding wilderness in comfy shoes). This also means that I can pack a pair or two of flats in my suitcase and they take up barely any space at all.

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One thing I do recommend if you’re staying anywhere for more than one night is to unpack your clothes and hang them up or put them in the drawers made available in your hotel room. For one thing, it helps to air them out and let out any wrinkles they have from sitting in your suitcase, and it keeps them from mingling with any of your dirty clothes. Plus it beats waking up late in the morning and having to rummage through your case to find what you want.

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Know your needs

Everyone is different, but we all have certain things that we aren’t comfortable doing without while traveling. Because I like to be prepared for every eventuality, and because I don’t want to run the risk of having to search a strange city at a late hour for some necessity, I tend to over-pack when it comes to my toiletries. I have a sizable toiletry case here that fits snugly in the bottom of my case because it’s rectangular. I keep a whole double set of toiletries in here that are separate from my toiletries at home, so that when I have to travel on short notice I don’t run the risk of forgetting what I need. I also have small travel containers full of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, Tums, etc. – anything I can anticipate needing at any time.

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I also bring along my own shampoo and conditioner, because with my sensitive skin I can’t trust that I won’t react badly to the complimentary items the hotel supplies. When I do this I run the risk of dealing with leaked shampoo all over my other stuff due to pressure changes when flying or rough handling of my bags. So that’s why I use GoToobs, which I’ve had for a million years and I take them every where I go. These flexible tubes are made of silicone and have a tight seal so they never leak. They’re also really easy to clean out at the end of a trip. I highly recommend them.

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I travel enough that I spend a decent amount of time sealed inside air-conditioned hotel rooms and more often than not the air is super dry after being recycled so many times. I don’t have a picture of this but I like to travel with one of my two travel humidifiers, which also fit nicely in my suitcase and require a standard bottle of water to function. I have this one from Bell + Howell and this one from Air-o-Swiss and they’re both great.

Another essential for me is my Kindle.  The Pie bought this for me for Christmas the first year we were married so it’s an old-school version but for me it’s the best thing ever. I read very quickly and will easily go through three or four novels in a four-day trip. Rather than haul all those heavy and space-taking books all over the continent it’s easier for me to carry my Kindle with its thousand books. The bonus is that it charges with the same cable as my cell phone so that saves me some space as well.

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The final item that I often bring with me but don’t always use is a bathing suit. Most (though not all) of the hotels I stay in have pools, and I absolutely love to swim. And especially when I’m traveling in [arts of cities where perhaps it’s not the smartest idea for a lone female to go out wandering about in the evening, the pool is always a good option to get a daily dose of exercise in a safe and secure manner.

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As long as you keep your on-the-road practices simple and practical you should be just fine. Safe and happy travels!

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A Day in La Manche

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This past weekend, Mrs. Nice, Papa John, the Pie and myself braved the occasional clouds and drove about an hour south of St. John’s to La Manche Provincial Park.  For those of you off The Rock, while “la manche” is French for “the sleeve” (and is often used by the French to refer to the English Channel), instead of pronouncing it in French fashion, “la MAHnsh,” you say it Newfie-style: “la MANch.”  Just roll with it.

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Anyway, La Manche Valley, La Manche River, and the geographical area are teeming with various forms of wildlife and blah blah blah and it’s all very interesting and you can read a bit about it here.

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We went on a wee hike to see the river and the waterfall and the lilypads and whatnot and it was all very pretty.

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BUT THE COOL PART was trekking along the trail that leads to the abandoned village of La Manche.  I don’t have any photos of the trail itself because I needed both hands and my full attention to keep my balance.

But then all of a sudden you’re in a ghost town!

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La Manche was originally settled by just one family in the 1840s as a seasonal fishing settlement.  For about a hundred years, this isolated little inlet community survived storms and resettlement efforts, fishing through the seasons.

c. 1900, from Newfoundland Salt Fisheries
c. 1960s, from East of Eden
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Taken Saturday (2013).

There was a suspension bridge connecting the two sides of the inlet and passing over the waterfall, and a school, post office, and wharves and flakes for drying fish.

One of the more original suspension bridges, c. 1952

The population never went above 55, because La Manche is really hard to get to — hence the efforts at resettlement by the government.

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The southern shore doesn’t get a huge amount of storms, in relation to the rest of Newfoundland, but when it does, they’re doozies.  High winds and rough seas would often force their way into the inlet, causing damage to the settlement, and often wiping out the suspension bridge connecting the two sides.  But of course the hardy folk who lived there rebuilt, every time.  As with most small fishing communities in Newfoundland, life wasn’t easy, but they did it.

La Manche Rock, c. 1930 from MUN MHA.
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La Manche Rock, c. Saturday. It’s quite large.

It all came to a head, though, in 1966, when a particularly vicious storm wiped out the bridge, the wharves, the boats at anchor, and most of the buildings in the tiny village.  Surprisingly, nobody died.  After that, the  inhabitants agreed to be resettled elsewhere.  At this point La Manche was converted into a provincial park area and the coastline section was designated as part of the East Coast Trail.

c. mid-1960s, from Geocaching.com

Now all that remains are the foundations of the houses and storage buildings that once were.

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It’s an interesting mix of newer concrete-and-rebar slabs built above the older foundations made of hand-hewn slate dragged up from the shore and anchored on solid bedrock.

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I think one can safely assume the slate chunks were hauled up from here.

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This is the newest incarnation of the suspension bridge, opened in 2000 (they tend to fall down occasionally during storms).

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Mrs. Nice flat out refused to set foot on it. She’s that blue dot in the background.

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Here was as close as she would get.

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For more information about La Manche, you should check out the following:

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Environment and Conservation: La Manche Provincial Park

Memorial University of Newfoundland, Maritime History Archive, Resettlement: La Manche

And, if you wanted to do some more research on Newfoundland’s Southern Shore communities, I have discovered this ROMANCE NOVEL set in La Manche.  No, I have not read it.  But I kind of feel like I should.

Moving Tips: Packing It Up

You might know that the Pie and I are moving back to Ottawa in the middle of August.  Now, I’m not a professional mover or anything, but I have moved.  Often.  And because of my fancy set of organizational and OCD skills, I have helped most of my friends move, often more than once. Heck, I can even park a truck.

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Oh yeah. That’s between the yellow lines. Just.

Many people find moving to be extraordinarily stressful, but in my opinion that’s simply a result of poor planning.  I have certainly participated in some BAD moves when helping out friends at the last minute.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  So beginning today I have for you some tips I’ve picked up over the years that might help you out, whether you’re moving down the block or to the other side of the world. Today we’re going to focus on the packing process itself.

Re-use, re-use, re-use!

Commercial packing materials are bloody expensive. So if you know you’re going to be moving in a few months, start hoarding your materials. This nice brown packing paper came with something I ordered online, and was very handy in wrapping my fragile items.

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You know what also makes good packing material? Wool. Cotton. Fleece. Here I used a winter scarf to line the bottom of a box containing fragile items. An extra bit of padding goes a long way.

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This scarf makes a great buffer around the edges of the box.

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This one is nice and long and goes around a fragile object enough times to make it safe.

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Don’t move old dirt.

Wash yo’ stuff before you stuff it in a box.  Give everything a good wiping before you stow it away.  No sense in transporting old grease and dust to a new place.

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Put like with like, and stuff within stuff.

You got photos displayed everywhere? Great. Put them all in the same box. Makes it easier to find later. Stack them so they pack nicely. Putting all similar objects together will strengthen them and also make your packing job much more simple.

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Got small or fragile stuff?

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Put it inside other stuff to protect it.

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Heavy stuff on the bottom. Always.

This is just simple physics. If you don’t want your stuff getting broken or dropped or otherwise messed up, put the heavy stuff at the bottom of the box.

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Also remember that the bigger the box you fill, the lighter the stuff is that goes in it. If you can’t lift the box, then chances are a mover (your friend or a professional) isn’t going to be too happy about carrying it either.

Empty space is a bad thing.

Do you have negative space in your box? Fill it the heck up. Even if it’s within an item.

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Remember that any empty spaces in your box allow other items to shift, which could possibly damage your stuff.

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Make sure your boxes are all packed to the gills and secure. A good way to do this is to put smaller items inside a smaller box, packed tight …

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… and then put that smaller box inside a larger box.

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And then fill up any extra space with something squishy.

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Once the box is sealed you should be able to shake it back and forth and not hear anything rattling around inside. If you can hear something, you need to re-pack that box.

A good label goes a long way.

This may seem super OCD to you but it is crucial that you label your boxes properly. Firstly, label your boxes on the SIDE of the box. They’ll all be stacked on top of each other and people can’t read the top if it’s got another box on top.

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Secondly, put your NAME on the boxes. If your moving company is putting your stuff in a big truck and taking it somewhere else, chances are the company is moving someone else’s stuff at the same time. Best way to ensure your boxes don’t get mixed up is if you label them with your name.

Thirdly, put an arrow on the box to show the movers the right side up. No sense in opening boxes upside down!

Fourthly, you’ll want to number your boxes, and create a box inventory. I know, it seems over the top, but it’s a good idea.

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If you number the box, then you’ll know right away if one of them is missing. And if you label the box with the items inside it and the room it is supposed to belong in, then moving day will go that much smoother for you.

A box inventory is also crucial if, like us, you are putting a large number of your items in storage for the short term. This way you don’t have to go opening every box when you are looking for Aunt Mabel’s wedding present.

More tips to follow in the coming months!

Vancouver Ho!

On home turf... sort of.

Today the Pie and I head west yet again.  This time Papa John and Mrs. Nice have flown in to babysit Grenadier while we attend Atlas and Krystopf’s wedding with my parents.  We will be starting off on the mainland, and then after the wedding we’ll make a trip back to Victoria to catch up with some old friends, whom I haven’t seen since the early 1990s, and old landscapes, which I haven’t seen since 2001.  I look forward to showing the Pie the place where I spent an awesome five years of my life.

Posts will be as regularly scheduled, plus daily tidbits from the marvelous technology that is in my magic phone.  Then a nice trip digest upon our return.  See you then!

Portland in Review

Marriott View

Aaaand we’re back. Hard to believe that I woke up Monday morning on one side of the continent and then I went to sleep at night on the complete opposite side of the continent. Four airports in four different states/provinces and two different countries, and a four-and-a-half-hour time difference later and here we are in St. John’s again.

The trip was GREAT. Doodle and the Cyclist got married and we were so happy to be able to be a part of their beautiful day. The weather was awesome, if a little hot, and nothing went horribly wrong. And I got a new camera out of it.  What more could you ask for?

New camera

When we arrived in Portland, the Cyclist picked us up and took us to the apartment he and Doodle share, where Doodle was in the midst of getting her wedding mehndi done. Mehndi, if you didn’t know, is that lovely temporary henna tattoo that goes on your hands and feet. You can read more about it here.

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We crashed and burned at this point, having been up for what felt like forever, and Doodle went to bed with toilet paper on her arms to protect the design.  This is the next day, when the Cyclist helped her scrape off the dried henna paste with a credit card.  You can see that the design is a bright orange at first, and it will darken over the next few days.

Henna

That first day the Pie and I wandered about and tested out the new camera a bit.  This is a shot of him actually smiling (sort of), which is rare in photos I take of him.  Normally he just looks grumpy.

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Portland is famous for its many bridges that cross the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.  This is the Steel Bridge, one of my favourites.

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And the Freemont, which is Doodle’s favourite.

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Portland is also an interesting mix of old and new.  I love old business advertisements painted on the brick buildings.

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At this point the other bridesmaids started to arrive, and we surprised Doodle with a dinner at Jake’s with all her female crew from town.

Jake's

Next day we set off for manicures and pedicures in the morning (my first experience, and I may well be addicted now) and then back to Doodle’s place for mehndi in the afternoon. Here is Sam, one of the bridesmaids, getting her henna on.

Henna

What a beautiful job!

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The artist, for those of you in the Portland area, is Wendy Rover of Roving Horse Henna and she was lovely. I think you have to be lovely if you are hanging over someone’s body for the better part of an hour.

Here’s me getting mine done.

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And the final result:

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In case you’re wondering, getting this stuff done is a very pleasant experience. Wendy mixes tea tree oil and all sorts of goodies into her henna paste, so it feels cool and refreshing on your skin, not itchy at all. Of course, you have to leave it on for several hours, and you can’t bend your fingers in case the drying paste cracks. So it makes things interesting when you are trying to do things later on in the day. The Pie managed to shoe horn me into one of his new hoodies (we went to the Nike employee store and took advantage of a deep discount and Oregon’s tax-freeness, hence my full Nike attire) and we got some ice cream to eat in the sun. This was when I discovered that eating ice cream while exposing henna to the sun is a good way to make it all fall off.

Nike'd up.

I also made the mistake of discovering my new favourite store, Cargo Imports. They specialize in new and old Chinese imports. I may have purchased some things. The Pie was particularly taken with the sinks made of petrified wood.

Cargo

And I loved the hundreds of tiny apothecary bottles in a big glass case.

Cargo

And then I had to go and pet a corgi puppy. His name is Winston.

Portland Corgi

Which meant that by the time we got back to the apartment my henna paste was a lost cause.

So this is what it looks like when the paste is scraped off.

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And it will darken, and look lovely and brown.

Henna

The day before the wedding, we took Doodle on her “bachelorette,” which was a tour of three local wineries.

Vintages

This first place was where Doodle and the Cyclist got engaged.

Vintages

This was indeed a tire swing.

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And an absolutely enormous cookie. I saved half for the Pie.

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And this is Mount Hood. I’ve been there.

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Some barrels.

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And some more barrels.

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And some vines. No grapes yet.

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It was a beautiful sunshiny day and pretty much all of us (Doodle excluded) got a sunburn.

Vintages

Then before we knew it, it was the wedding day!

First we had our hair done …

Dosha

… and then our makeup. Doodle of course didn’t need much — she is a very beautiful lady.

Dosha

Here’s a closeup of Doodle’s henna, nice and dark.

Dosha

Then it was off to the World Forestry Center to get ready for pictures and the ceremony itself.

World Forestry Centre

We did pictures before the ceremony to save time, but first Doodle was dressed in traditional kimono by an old friend of her mother’s.

World Forestry Centre

All set!

World Forestry Centre

While she was being photographed outside, the Cyclist arrived with his posse. We ran interference and made him cover his face so he wouldn’t see her before he was supposed to.

World Forestry Centre

Then it was time for the wedding dress.

World Forestry Centre

We all took a turn at the laces, but Sam did it the best.

World Forestry Centre

And then things started to get busy and I had to be photographed as well so this is my last photo of the wedding.

World Forestry Centre

But it was such a great experience. I’ve known Doodle since we were fourteen, so it was really neat to see her all grown up and to see how fantastic she and the Cyclist are together, and to meet all her really nice West coast friends. Sorry, I’m gushing. I’ll stop now.

On our final day in Portland we decided to check out the Portland Pride Parade, and it was a really good day for it. Not hot like the day before, but warm enough that everyone, even those who were scantily clad, was comfortable.

Portland Pride

I must have taken two hundred photos of the parade, which was fantastic. You can see more of them on my Flickr page starting here. It was really nice to see so many religious groups out in support of their parishioners.

Portland Pride

The old cars were something to see.

Portland Pride

Portland Pride

Portland Pride

As were the costumes.

Portland Pride

Portland Pride

Portland Pride

And there were so many colours!

Portland Pride

Portland Pride

Portland Pride

This flag in particular caught my eye.  I am thinking of making a DIY out of something similar.

Portland Pride

And so many loving families out and about. I think this is my favourite photo of the bunch.

Portland Pride

What a great trip. The Pie and I can’t wait to go back!

Desperate times, desperate measures

First my siblings-in-law come to visit.  Then on the day they leave I fly back with them to Ottawa for Chel’s wedding.  So if I miss a post between 25 May and 13 June I’m sorry.  It’s life.  It gets in the way.

Back on the Rock!

O Frabjous Day!

Today Gren and I head to St. John’s to live with the Pie.  Gren and the Pie can’t wait to meet, but it will be a looooooong journey there.

Very tiring.