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Thursday, December 23, 2010

At the ACC for the first time

So finally I made it to a Leaf Game at the ACC. They played the Habs and *Gasp* they won. A crew of Santa Clauses were in attendance (probably had a few elves in the audience too. The ice surface seems smaller than I expected by the game was fast paced and quite exciting. Most of the goals were scored at our end of the ice too. The entertainment at the breaks included a very very funny Tim Hortons pee wee ice hockey game (with more kids falling rather than skating on the ice) and several interviews with a few retired Maple Leafs from Wendal Clark, Johnny Bower, Tiger Williams, and Darryl sittler This I understand is a tradition at these Homecoming games. Not a bad night out!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

TIFF late reviews

It has been a few months since TIFF but I thought I would share my list of films seen. Naturally, a comprehensive review of each movie would be impossible at this stage. I really should have kept all those scribbles notes in one place.

The loud and rowdy movies:

1) Bunraku: A "pop up" comic book movie based on a Japanese paper art form. Basically an old fashioned tale of two strangers coming together to rid the town of its "bad" influence. However, there are no guns in this world. A gunfighter who fights without a gun and a Japanese warrior who fights without a sword. The mixed visuals of theatre staging and miniature sets combined with the choreography of the fight scenes made this a crowd pleaser at Midnight Madness premiere.

2) Super: Holy gory Batman! Rainn Wilson carried this quirky dramedy with his charismatic humour and honest portrayal of a ordinary man who decides to become a superhero (or at least where a costume and do heroic/vigilant deeds) in order to save his wife from her old habits (and her pimp). Ellen Paige is his very very juvenile sidekick and has some of the randiest scenes in the movie (and we still love her). A touching tale that charts the growth of "super"hero.

3) Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen: Chen Zhen, one of China's famous folk heroes, has been portrayed by Bruce Lee (Fists of Fury) and by Jet Li (Fist of Legend). In this movie, he gets the Donny Yen treatment. Suspend your disbelief as he climbs walls with his knives and disarms German soldiers with his bare fists...all while outracing bullets. What a entertaining spectacle. Yet I was surprised to a learn about China's role in World World one . Several thousand peasants were set as porters for ammunition and food for the front line Allied soldiers. The sheer power of "fists" are conveyed by reverberations of the screen. Less poetic than Yip Man but nevertheless, a wonderful tribute in this the 70th anniversary of the birth of the martial arts legend and actor Bruce Lee.

The Strange:

4) Cave of Forgotten Dreams: The magic and mystery of the cave paintings in Southern France are brought to full glory by Werner Herzog in this 3-D production. We witness by gentle candle light, bison, cave lions, deer, horses and other prehistoric animals dance across the walls in this "Proto-Cinema" (as Herzog laughs). The distinctive hand print signature of the artist is also known but not the reasons for the creation of this wonderful prehistoric "Sistine Chapel". Several additions of how the caves were found (professional "scent" finders), use of prehistoric tools found in the area, and the various theories of h0w such art defines humanity (then and now) make for a mesmerizing experience.

5) Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives: I can't even begin to describe this film. Just watch the fantasy unfold and let the images wash over you. Sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, sometimes funny. The jury at this year's Cannes have certainly picked a challenging Palme D'or winner.

6) Black Swan: A psychological thriller from the same director as the Wrestler, Pi and Requiem for a Dream. It will send a few chills up your spine but somehow, I wasn't as surprised by or even captivated by Natalie Portman's descent into madness. You do marvel at the sadistic nature of the ballet world and incomprehensible body image disorders as well as the athleticism of the art. A fine work but not really sure it is really original.

The sad:
Actually, in every year, this seems to be the category where most of my movies fit. I'll have to make a conscience effort to find a few "lighter" films at next year's festival.

7) Never Let Me Go: Based on the novel of the same name, this is a quiet, understated, poetic and yes, tragic film about facing mortality and examining the relationships which define us. The pacing of the film will certainly challenge some viewers as will the contents of this futuristic story set in a historical setting.

8) Into the Wind: Basketball star Steve Nash and his cousin Erza Holland made is hour long documentary tribute to Canadian hero Terry Fox. His now legendary run for Cancer in 1980 is chronicled from its anonymous start on the east coast, to the hardships and close call in Quebec, to the rise of Terry's celebrity in Ontario and to its final and tragic conclusion as his osterosarcoma returns. From interviews of family and friends and from his own words (which are revealed for the first time), the all too human side of this Canadian hero is exposed as is his enduring spirit and inspiration to future generations of cancer survivors, Canadians and athletes.

9) Hereafter: Clint Eastwood's European film starts off in Thailand with the all too frightening re-creation of the Tsumani of 2004. Weaving the three stories of three charaters from America, France and Britain, we witness the effects of death and near-death experiences on their lives. The well crafted scene however, fail to generate any emotion from the viewer. As the plot lines dove-tail, the viewer is left feeling ambivalent about what the fate of these characters may be.

10) Rabbit Hole: Based on a play of the same name, this movie is a master class in acting. The movie Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play a couple trying desperately to move on from a terrible family tragedy. They fight, they struggle, they push each other away, they attend a support group, they attempt a reconciliation, they confront the perpetrator of their tragedy, they are masterful in this very human and very honest portrayal of grieving in all its functional and dysfunctional forms. It wouldn't be surprise if both the leading actors were celebrated during the upcoming award season.

This concludes part one of the TIFF review.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Glory that was Greece

It has taken me about two weeks to finally get up the mental energy to complete my travel thoughts on Greece. There were various drafts on the glorious ruins, fabulous meals and stunning views. Our journey encompassed the breath of Greek history from the early Cycladic civilization, to the Circle graves of Mycenae, to the height of Athenian democracy, to the Roman colony days, the lost years of the Ottoman occupation and the re-birth of Greece as an independent state.

It was a pleasure to take in all this history for which stated first as bed time stories told by my parents. The tales of Aesop, the trials and tribulations of the Titans and Olympian gods, and the adventures of Thesus, Jason, Odysseus, and other Greek heroes were fully realized in this trip. The pride that the Greeks have in their culture is quite evident. There has been a return of their diaspora from the lean post-WWII years. New found wealth in tourism seemed to fuel this growth. However, it is tempered by reports that Greeks are proud tax-evaders. The "black money" that rich Greeks see as their right. Quite disturbing to Canadians who already feel greatly overtaxed. Equally unsurprising that the Greek economy is in such bad shape despite the obvious signs of wealth.

Despite such complications, I would gladly return to Greece and specifically to the islands of Crete, Kos, Corfu and perhaps those islands closer to Turkey. There after all can't be too much vacation!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Travelling through the Peloponnese

The sites of Ancient Greece may be quite deteriorated but they still managed to amaze. Contemplate the design, organization and creativity of these ancient civilizations...will anything we make today last 100 years much less 1000. Well, maybe our garbage. The beehive rock tombs of Mycenae (nicknamed the Tomb of Agamemnon by the dubious H. Schliemann) were as impressive as the imposing Lion's Gate were with its gigantic lintel (weighting the equivalent of a B-52).
The strangest stone architectural element is the omphalos of Delphi. Meaning the navel in greek, the omphalos denoted Delphi as the centre of the Greek world. Mythologically, it was the "egg" that Rhea (Zeus' mother) wrapped in a cloak for Cronus to swallow. Cronus feared his children (likely his male children) would become too powerful and kill him. Cronus later regurgitated the omphalos (and the other Olympian gods) after the induction of a emetic by adult Zeus. What followed was the clash of the Olympians and the Titans.
The real discovery was that the much photographed temple at Delphi was not that of Apollo by that of Athena. The oracle of Delphi sat in a dark cavern beneath the Temple of Apollo. It was to this Temple of Apollo that pilgrims journeyed from all over Greece (and beyond) to to hear their fortunes. The temple of Athena and Tholos (that round structure to the left) are where the pilgrims first came to purify themselves before seeing the oracle.
Nevertheless the view from Delphi was spectacular. Perhaps the pilgrims came here for the view too. Another suprise as the discovery of other special games and competitions. The Pythian games, a set of competitions like the Olympic games, were held here every four years as well. The winners in this case received laurel leaf wreaths (emblematic of Apollo) where the Olympic game champions received olive leaf wreaths (symbols of Hercules). The trek up the Delphi site was steep but not overwhelming even in the heat of this Greece summer. But there will be more majestic views of Greece to come...

Monday, July 19, 2010


It has been a whirlwind tour of Athens....actually a more of sunbaked tour. However, the top classical sites have not failed to disappoint. Walking in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks through the Agora and the Acropolis has been (multiple superlatives) spectacular and simply marvellous. Standing in the Theatre of Dionysius where Sophocles and Aristophanes staged their plays, walking on the Panathenic way where Plato and Socrates and standing in front of the Acropolis where Pericles viewed his finest building commission are the highlights of a lifetime.

Known as the crowning jewel of Athenian democracy, the Panthaneon on the Acropolis has endured many trangressions. Desecrated by early Christians, then converted into a church, converted into a mosque, bombed by the Venetians and finally bought over in a fire sale by Lord Elgin, the monument has certainly lost some of 5th century glory. Yet, it's a classical beauty of perfect proportions. The Greeks certainly are working hard to restore here (and other adjacent temples and sites). Certainly the New Acropolis Museum is a modern wonder to behold and also a political plea for the return of the Elgin (Parthaneon) marbles.

It's not all history, ruins and museums though. There was shopping in the Plaka for a pair of custom fit leather sandals at Stavros Melissinos, the poet sandalmaker of Athens and the best souvaki ever at Thanasis. Next stop is a trip though the Peloponnese.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The end of my stash

For nearly four years now, I have been trying not to use plastic bags when shopping. Declining them at first brought strange looks from the cashiers especially at the Chinese supermarkets. I had quite a number of cloth totes (from so many conferences) to haul my groceries and other purchases.

Then, in late 2007 came the grand opening of Milton's Superstore, the first supermarket in Canada which did not sell or dispense plastic bags. Pretty soon, everyone was catching on to the trend. Every major supermarket is selling some type of branded tote.

Then the Halton region introduced the green bins for composing in 2008 (in addition to the blue bins which have been around forever). So, I started using a compo stable bag for my kitchen waste. Gradually over the years, the number of plastic bags I needed to collect the garbage throughout in the house diminished as items were diverted to recycling and composing. This is somewhat ironic as the homes I have lived in has increased in size over the years.

So that stash of plastic bags which had filled nearly two large black garbage bags has been whittled away. Today, I reach into the bottom of that last black bag and grabbed the last plastic bag. Now, what was going to do with this thing again?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Oyster Bed from The Starfish

Oyster Bed
Originally uploaded by divinemissladybird
Ms. Foodie and I had a hunger for oysters. Last time, we sampled the offering from Oyster Boy. We decided to try The Starfish. What a fabulous idea. After suffering with pill-induced esophagitis for a week, I was ready to dive back into the world of enjoying my food. The one bright side of this experience is I have probably loss some weight from eating less and eating more slowly.

These oysters were so fresh and tasty. So need for any sauce or garnish. What better way to complement our oyster tasting but with some alcohol. In this case, a 2007 California Zinfadel which seems sweeter after the oysters were gone.

This was followed by a personal favourite of mine: moules and frites.
The mussels were in a creamy, white white sauce with thyme. Simply splendid. What an excellent way to catch up with an old friend. The Starfish is an Irish themed restaurant. The perfect setting to discuss our future visit to the Emerald Isle.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On a wet, cold and rainy in New York City, we decided to take in the great indoors that only NYC can offer. Wandering through the galleries of the Guggenheim and taking in a late lunch at the Wright, the restaurant in the museum itself: freshly tossed greens, parsnip soup, grilled haddock, striped bass, green beans with almonds and brussel sprouts with bacon. So good and so fresh.
We then took in a broadway musical at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Angela Langsbury and Catherine Zeta Jones in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. We had killer seats which were four rows from centre stage. It was a fabulous performance by all.
Then, it was off for a late dinner at Perilla restaurant. Winner of Top chef's first season, Chef Harold Dieterle, prepared some excellent dishes: braised pork belly, dungeness crab salad, sumptous grilled calamari, tea steamed duck breast and fried cod. What a great meal and great way to end our trip to NYC.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Canadian Girls own (and rock) the Podium!

I am so proud of our Canadian women at the Olympics in Vancouver. Yesterday was a particularly fine example: gold and silver medal won in women's 2-person Bobsled, silver in short track relay race, and a bronze in 5000m long-term speed skating. Clara Hughes's bronze in particular was impressive. She is the only athlete to have won multiple medals in both the summer (cycling) and Winter (speed skating) Olympics. Wow!

So then, why isn't she on the front page on every Newspaper in this country? Why is the result of the men's hockey game (Russia versus Canada) which was not even a semi-final or final game the headline.

The Canadian Olympic team sent more men (115) than women (91) to these games. Yet, the women have won 75% (11.5) of all medals at these Olympics which is up from the 67% of all medals at the Torino Olympics. The total medal haul for the Canadian women is set to increase again as they are likely to win gold in hockey tonight. In this hockey obsessed nation, the men's game seems to be more celebrated than the ladies. One sports commentator had uttered that if the men did not win the gold in hockey, the Olympics would be a failure for . Canada. What Poppycock and what an insult to the rest of the Canadian Olympic team!

Is this statistic of women winning more medals than the men reflective of gender equality in Canada? To be sure, Canadian girls are encouraged to take up every winter sport from figure skating to skiing to speed skating...and even hockey is socially acceptable for a girl to play in country. There was nearly equal funding for men and women on the Canadian Olympic team.

Even so, why are the Canadian women outperforming the men. Much has been made of the greater depth of field in men's sports compared to women's. In addition, the success of women in Olympic sports has not translated into commercial success. In fact, professional sports in North America is entirely dominated by men. It would seem the only place for women in sports to excel in (especially winter sports) are the Olympics. Yet on this world stage, the Canadian women do seem to shine serving as role models for women in this country and across the world.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How's this for co-ordination? My nail polish matches my new Kate Spade bag! It was a quick and fabulous two days at the Woodbury Commons. All the big names were here. La Perla, Coach, Prada, MaxMara, Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Ann Taylor, etc. Great discounts to be found at a few stores for those who were prepared to search, be patient and carry the appropriate coupons.
Now, we have moved into rainy NYC to view the Guggenheim and have lunch at the Wright Room. Like the Bilbao, the building itself seemed to be as important as the collections it houses. The void (the spiral staircase centre) seems to be an attraction in itself for the crowds and performing artists. The impressionist, post-impressionist and mordern collections were carefully laid out in the galleries tucked into the corners on each level. The negative space of the void provides the negative space for the mind to reflect on the works at each level. A splendid afternoon activity!

Friday, February 19, 2010

What a week!

Never again will I complain about the winter blues. First, the week started with the opening of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. a week ago. Then, it was the start of the Chinese New Year. The year of tiger has always been treated with caution. I have an adopted aunt who was given away by her own family to my paternal grandmother to bring up because she was born in the year of the tiger. The alleged fear is that tigers bring bad luck to a family i.e. they consume i.e. kill other family members. Later, my grandmother regretted this decision as she blamed the birth of two grand-daughters in the year of the tiger (my sister and a cousin) on her own actions. The curse of superstition!

However, the year of the tiger started very well for Canada. Gold medals for both the men and women won on home soil in the Olympics which is first! Hurrah! For my mother, my friends Noel and Desi, and I, it was a very special night at the gorgeous Four Seasons Centre of the Performing Arts. The world's (and certainly mine) beloved opera, Carmen, was performanced with loving care by a gifted Antia Rachvelishvili in the lead role. Why do I love this opera? The power of the music, the boldness of the character and the brash sexuality of the production have always impressed me. The opera epitomizes all great passions of life: love, lust, passion, revenge, violence, sex, obsession and of course, great music.

Before Carmen, most operas were based on royalty, gods and respectable members of the establishment. Carmen (which is latin for song) is a rebel, a women of "loose morals", a gypsy, and a honest and unapologetic free spirit. Certainly, she is the most unlikely subject of a opera. It is hardly surprising to learn that in its first performance in front of a conservative Parisian audience in 1875 was a flop. The opera was denounced by critics. Most likely the establishment were somewhat afraid of what influence Carmen may have on their daughters and wives. Poor Bizet, the composer, is alleged to have died of a broken heart (heart attack) never to know the wild success the opera would become.

Don Jose (Bryan Hamel) and a few of the company's French needed some work but the voices of all the lead players were fantastic. Only Paul Gay's Escamillo (the toreador) did not hit meet these high standards. The orchestra was fabulous and there should be a special shout out to Rory Macdonald, the peppiest conductor that any of us had seen. In fact, the animation of this performance was somewhat of a distraction from the performance on stage. Bravo to the COC. Ole!

So, how do you top off such a great week....head off to NYC for some shopping and a night on Broadway!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Riddle is solved

Chaos down to 8.3lbs this January from 18lbs (last March 2009). We have chalked this up to rigid proportion control which was started by Mr. Hippo last spring. Now the truth is revealed. The cat has Type II Diabetes. It was quite shocking to see her weight plummeted a further pound over the Christmas holidays. Then the tell tale signs of increasing voiding and drinking emerged in early January. A quick blood test confirmed the results and now she is has started a regime of insulin injections administered by me. Her kidneys are fine but I think she has suffered a little neuropathy as her gait is visibly altered. Her energy level however has increased noticeably since the insulin was started.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking for a refund on my Avatar ticket.

You may not be able to ignore the phenomena of "Avatar". The dedication of Cameron to this movie and the expertise of its execution are a credit to movie making. The movie generated the most amount of employment in Hollywood during a time of recession and now likely will generate the most revenue as well. These factors alone may be enough to secure a Best Picture Oscar.

I went into this movie with very low expectations. There has been so much publicity about this movie and how it may represent the future of movie making. One should always be skeptical when such hyperbole is spouted. Is Avatar the future of cinema? Certainly not the future I would have anything invested in. It is an imperfect offering of the 3D age.

The critique about a "1st draft script" was well justified. Stereotypical characters fill this movie : gun/violence loving military man, plucky army chick, greedy corporate type, noble savage. Sadly, even the gimmick of 3D adds no further dimension (no pun intended) to the members (chief, shaman wife, rival warrior) of the Na'vi tribe nor to the other members of the human cast either.

The dialogue is similarly unimaginative. The single moment of humor and wit lies in the name of the ore that is so precious: Unobtainium. Movies like Avatar are about the spectacle, that WOW factor. The thoughts, ideas and indeed the inner world of our characters should be demonstrated with actions. Instead, James Cameron reverts back to the "voice-over" from our lead man Jake. Very lazy storytelling.

The plot is equally unoriginal. A "white" messiah infiltrates the natives, thinks he can win them over, the baddies come along and our white messiah (painted bright blue now) comes to the rescue of the natives. You've seen this before in Dances with Wolves, Dune and even to some degree with District 9. That last movie at least had an interesting twist in its narrative. So Avatar is just another movie about the white man's guilt from plundering the riches of North America and destroying the native American culture. Yawn.

So, even with low expectations, I tried to enjoy the movie. This is movie that was suppose to be about the awesome experience of 3D. Like Jake being connected to his avatar via the pod, the audience should be similarly immersed into the world of Pandora. Our neuro-cortex would be bathed in the detail and colours of Pandora's fauna and landscapes, especially its extraordinary airborne mountains.

Even taken at its most superficial, the film doesn't offer is any real imaginative leap. Like most "Eden" fantasies (think Jurassic Park), we do encounter dragon-like dinosaurs, sabretooth like mammals, massive awe-inspiring trees with the weird insects. The film doesn't glow as its visionary palette is both conventional and narrow. Remember the visual effects of Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the soft hues and lighting effects that highlighted each scene. Cameron should be taking lessons from Peter Jackson here.

The 3D capture also can't seem to keep up with the action. The movements are often blurred and the motion is somewhat jarring. This unfortunately, all combines to create a nagging low level of nausea which started about 30 minutes into the film and culminated with a not unsubstantial retro-orbital headache by the end.

Perhaps the real innovation of Avatar is in the future of gaming but it certainly offers nothing to narrative cinema, creative storytelling, imaginative dialogue and thoughtful exploration of humanity.

I have no doubt that many will see Avatar more than a few times. I also have no doubt that many more such 3D spectacles are in the works. To avoid disappointment in enjoying a 3D spectacle, I would recommend you wait for a better production. Visually, the world of the Pandora is all undeniably dazzling. Ultimately though, it seems a soulless one.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A fun movie and a fun weekend.

I was downtown with a colleague of mine (Red) to attend a conference on malpractice yesterday. It was well attended by nurses, doctors and lawyers. This type of conference usually leaves me feeling sick to my stomach and suffering from an paranoid that lawyers (and sometime patients) are always out to get doctors. I was most surprised to leave the conference without the need to reach for some Maalox or Ranitidine or a glass or two of wine. I am beginning to understand that providing a reasonable standard of care for patients particularly with regard to good communication and documentation go hand in hand with making a defensible case. More importantly, it seems that the MORE OB program may be part of the key to correctly systematic errors.

Dinner consequently at Nota Bene was a delightful experience as usual. Crispy chicken skin, Japaneses seabreem with shitake mushrooms, truffles and quail's egg, B.C. Black Cod with Chinese mushrooms and vegetables. My colleague shared the appetizer but had chicken breast and creme caramel.

Mr. Hippo is still recovering from his cold and is finally on antibiotics after more than two weeks of coughing and sneezing. Most surprisingly, I am still well. This weekend, we watched a really really fun movie for both the young and the old: The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I hadn't read the Roald Dahl book as a child but I suspect this delightful story had been adapted to the screen with the usual quirky Wes Anderson humour. The "dysfunctional" family theme of Wes Anderson's cinema is present once again....along with a lots and lots of hi jinx. In a world overwhelmed with CGI, this use of old school stop animation and nostalgic storybook atmosphere was a most welcomed change. The excellent voice performances of Clooney, Streep, Gambon and Schwartzman further animate the surprising adventures of Mr. Fox and his family and friends. I didn't just want to watch this movie, I wanted to climb in and play in it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


I hadn't seen Fiddler on the Roof on the stage. I thought I remembered all the songs. However, I was left in tears by the end of the second act. Life for the Jews of Anatevka is hard and bitter but yet they managed to find some joy and celebrate it.

I too have made my own joyful discovery in Mr. Harvey Fierstein's performance. He inhabited Teyve, the milkman so completely I forgot about Zero Mostel's voice from the soundtrack and Topol's film role. This is not to diminish the efforts of Mostel or Topol but really to demonstrate the power of Fierstein's stage presence. His swagger, his personality, and in short his joy de vive enchanted the audience at the Canon Theatre.

There were also many strong performances from the remainder of the company particularly the daughters of Teyve. Mazel Tov to all.

In a second Jewish feature this week, I saw the Coen brothers' film "A Serious Man". Now, I have only recently become a fan of the brothers. A Serious Man follows the very ordinary troubles of Larry Gopnik in 1967 Midwestern America: his wife leaves him, his son is experimenting with pot, his brother freeloads off him, he agonizes about getting tenure, etc. He struggles to find meaning in his life and consults no less than three rabbis.

There is no discernible plot but that really isn't the point. Seeking to understand why we make the choices we make, what choices do we have, why things happen to us, how should we behave, and how to cope with the absurdity of human existence....that is just a slice of this black comedy. I also suspect the film is highly autobiographical (the Coens grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota) and highly reflective of the Jewish life in 1960s Midwestern USA.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Winter....really in 2010

Every year for the last few years, I have travelled out west to Winnipeg to see my in-laws. And every year, I seem to pick the frostiest part of the winter season to make the journey. Yesterday for instance, the temperature was -45 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. To be truthful, I don't think I could really tell the difference between -20 and -30 degrees Celsius. Cold is cold.

There was relatively no issue with checking in, my carry on baggage or security check in despite the new security relations stemming from the attempted Christmas Day bombing. However, I was taking a domestic flight. So, what's there do in Winnipeg? Relax in the great indoors, catch up with your in laws, drink, eat, drink, eat, watch a few films, catch up on my sleep....the best kind of holiday.

There is much to be said for seeing your in-laws once a year. Lots of merry making and lots of food and lots of stories. Mr. Hippo's father (Hippo Sr.) had news from his trip to Trinidad. This was his first visit back since he first left the island nation for England more than 50 years ago. He returned to bury his brother whom he hadn't really spoken too for many years too.

More surprisingly was the discovery of a nephew that Hippo Sr had never knew of. This boy was not only his brother's son but his cousin's son i.e. the nephew was also his second cousin. Many family secrets had been uncovered recently by another cousins' attempt to construct the family tree. For example, one uncle had fathered children with two sisters.

Secrets run in all families. This year, I discovered an estranged cousin of my mother's uncle who now resides in New Zealand. She has made contact with a few other family members including my sister. All this family time has peaked my interest into constructing my own family tree.