Wednesday, January 24, 2018

So...second post regarding Resolutions and a new Five-Year Plan:

New Year Resolutions, 2018
(1) continue to rediscover self – a permanent goal. Lifelong!
(2) continue to tick the bucket list – another lifelong goal. Who could tick them all?
(3) maintain family, friends, and professional contacts – The extended family database was passed to a nephew and a cousin. Maintain my copy and contacts for our immediate family. Organize and make better use of professional contacts.
(4) continue to travel together, alone, and in groups to new places, for interests, for fun – as we have. No plans made; exploring options. Eventually to the UK, Europe, and parts of Canada we have yet to visit; more trips to BC; and back to Australia at some point. Over several years. Possibly Nashville in the future.
(5) dance and play - ukulele, classes and practice, and BalletFit - plus French – try Rosetta Stone again! Call Boleo (6 tango classes still to do.) Major goal: play ukulele well enough to play my own songs. Perform as often as possible. Accept all opportunities.
(6) repair body as well as possible through healthy diet, exercise, and with medical help – Continue GF, eat more vegetable-based diet, exercise more often (walk 30 minutes daily plus BalletFit weekly.) Continue monthly massage, pedicure, and physio exercises. Look after teeth and eyes. Follow up skin treatments.
(7) write one hour daily minimum: blog, tweets, fb, mail, email, stories, & songs – nope! See short term goals for social media first. Be more organized in terms of what I write and when. Submit more often to songwriting competitions and literary publications. 
(8) sort one hour daily minimum - be flexible! Office bins, photos, cupboards, clothes, etc.
(9) continue weight loss with healthy diet, less booze, more exercise. Do not stress about it!
10) budget and plan for me, us, family, and future – continue to transfer surplus funds to family expenses monthly. Continue to put $ aside monthly for projects (Wild Cat 2018). Keep books up to date, prep taxes a la Gold accountants for registered business and joint tax returns. Increase revenue from cds, royalties, music, writing, performances. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This will be a series of posts as I develop New Year Resolutions and Five Year Plan

First an evaluation of the resolutions I made in 2012, 6 months after I retired. I will jump off of a progress report in 2014. I definitely feel a new 5-year plan coming on. Let’s see how I'm doing now. 
(1) continue to rediscover self – yes! I created and met new challenges. Some I simply abandoned.
(2) continue to tick the bucket list – yes! I recorded some songs (Celtic Cat 2015, Cool Cat 2017) and travelled to the red centre of Australia. Other items remain or are vague, stalled, or replaced.
(3) maintain family, friends, and professional contacts for us and Mom – ah! Mom passed away in 2015 at the amazing age of 101, 4 months, and 9 days. Last year, I sent the extended family database to a nephew and a cousin for use in hosting family gatherings. However, I will maintain my copy.
(4) travel together, alone, and in groups to new places, for interests, for fun – yes, to St. Lucia, Dominican Republic, Portugal, Florida, and Australia. In June 2012, I went to France with the Jacksonville Women. I attended ASN conferences in the USA each fall. We visited BC, Ottawa and various Ontario spots.  The big trips were to Australia - 1 month in 2012, 2 ½ months in 2016.
(5) dance and play - tango and ukulele, classes and practice - plus French - get Rosetta Stone, join a bilingual MeetUp – oh, boy! Dropped tango, pilates, and dancefit due to my knees. BalletFit works! Also physiotherapy. In general, I abandon exercise unless called for. I took ukulele from Judy and loved it. Now I take a weekly class with Mark and slowly improve. But it seems I cannot practice! Just as I cannot go beyond the first Rosetta Stone disk, Started 3 times. Not bilingual, me!
(6) repair body as well as possible through healthy diet, exercise, and with medical help – yes! Replaced the knees in 2014! Learned that I am intolerant or sensitive to either wheat or gluten according to my GE, which helped explain why I lost so many symptoms and so much weight when I started eating GF in 2014. I have retained the weight loss ever since and swear by GF for my gut. 
 (7) write one hour daily minimum: blog, tweets, fb, mail, email, stories, & songs – nope! Still sporadic. But productive at times.
(8) sort house one hour daily minimum: Sun Playroom, Mon Office, Tues Gable Room, Wed Bedrooms, Thurs Bathrooms, Fri Kitchen, Sat Basement – did this for awhile during my first year of retirement. Good to reapply, but not so much room by room. I will think about this point.
(9) resume tracking WW Points Plus and weekly meetings – ack! Forget WW or other weight loss plans. Better eating, new knees, and more activity does it. 

10) budget and plan for me, us, family, and future – yes! We developed a good system for tracking family spending. I may never catch up but do contribute each month. But I also put $ aside for my music and writing projects. In 2017, I registered with an artists' accountant for my registered business (another tick!) which makes tax season tolerable and I do not miss anything.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kakadu Camping Day 4 Much Later!

Aaaannnddd here we are almost two months later back home in Canada since October 4. A crazy October followed by a mournful November. More about all that in later blogs, or perhaps I will just move on. However, I do want to finish writing up our amazing trip to Australia July 26 to October 4. So let's start with a very simple summary of Day 4, the final day of our camping in Kakadu. I have quoted here the review I wrote for Trip Advisor. 
A wonderful and moving experience, not to be missed! As soon as Locky picked us up at Jabirru we were in for a treat. He obviously loves the land. We saw jabirrus, brolgas, a sea eagle and other birds. At the Cultural Centre, he introduced the artists - it was a honour to meet them and to watch Glen work. The print room is brilliant. Norma explained how the women were splitting and dying pandanus leaves. (Our aboriginal guide) Michael, who took us up Injalak to see the extraordinary galleries of cave art painted over the centuries, was patient and kind with me as I tested my new knees on some of the more daunting paths. Locky met us for lunch high on Injalak. When we descended, he gave us plenty of time in the gallery where I bought beautiful fabric items and admired the paintings and weavings. Locky delivered us safely back to our Darwin Hotel in the Lords Tour van. I am so glad we chose the 4-day Kakadu camp trip with this tour as our 4th day. What a great day!
My package of leaflets and guides for the rest of our trip is here in front of me, ready to prompt memories that I will want to share with you. But right now, I have to make dinner, pick up a friend, and head for Toronto and 120 Diner. My producer, Chris Bikett, and his wonderful band, play for his Tuesday night residency 10-11:30 p.m. I can't miss that. Talk to you again soon. I promise.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Way Outback Camping in Kakadu Day 3

The previous evening, Kim had told us that the walk into Jimjim Falls would be the hardest yet, over boulders to a slippery rock entrance into the waterhole. She also said that Twin Falls was not running at all, so the group would not be going there. Well, I had no intention of getting halfway to Jimjim and having to turn back to wait in the heat by the van. No. By morning JD decided to join me in skipping the trip to Jimjim Falls. We were not alone! It turned out that several others had made the same decision - about half of the whole group is my guess. JD and I were dismayed to find the rare rude helper at the reception desk of Kakadu Lodge was a young Canadian woman. She was less than helpful in giving us directions to the Bowali Cultural Centre. Sure enough, following her directions, we walked along the highway and made a wrong turn. We walked a long way down a dirt road until we hit a deadend. Sigh. We turned around and headed back.

The Crocodile Hotel was a short way further up the road. Dripping with sweat and desparate for shade, we headed for the mouth-like entry. What a relief. We walked into a fabulous gallery of Aboriginal art. Furthermore, we were able to watch a painter working on a new brolga painting. With a little help from the receptionist, and a better map, we found our way to the Bowali Cultural Centre. It was midday at this point, making for a very hot, shade to shade, far too long, walk through the bush to the centre. On our way, we met some of the other campers on their return. There it was at last and well-worth the trek. A coffee shop, documentary film room, museum, and a shop/gallery. I didn't buy anything. But Katie in the shop/gallery explained the mimis to me. She also recommended that we talk to Dave at Oenpilli re our old bark paintings. We watched a doc about croc control, went to the museum, had a cup of coffee, and walked back to the Crocodile Hotel. There we detoured to a bakery where we saw two uniformed gents in an SUV.

We bought a bit of lunch and cold drinks. I asked one of the men if he would be driving past Kakadu Lodge. Both men gallantly offered us a ride to our gate, which was in fact only a short way down the road. No matter! We really appreciated the lift. Anyway, it turned out that they were teachers who take Aboriginal students on field trips. Perhaps we met them in Palm Valley on our Glen Helen tour!?

Thankful to get back to camp, we put on our bathing suits and spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool with others who skipped Jimjim. Eventually, the folks who did go joined us along with Kim, until she called us for dinner. As we lingered at the table, Kim told us that the 4-day group would go to Arnhemland with another guide on Day 4 while she and the 5-day group would leave for Katherine at dawn. This news was kind of upsetting and unexpected - we thought we would separate after the day at Injalak. So, it was back to the bar and pool for the final camp night and goodbyes to many. By the end of the evening, M and A had set up a fb page for our group and as a way to keep in touch.

Way Outback Camping in Kakadu Day 2

As soon as we finished breakfast Kim drove us to the Yellow Waters Cruise. This was on a billabong which is part of the Jimjim waterways. It becomes a huge floodplain in the wet season. Even at the end of the dry, looking from the dock, the water stretched off in all directions around and through thick vegetation. In the distance we could see a field where a small herd on brumbies (wild horses) grazed. As luck would have it, and such luck remained with us throughout our stay in Australia, the guide on the cruise boat was absolutely fantastic. When he caught on to the fact that several in our party were interested, he made sure to point out birds as well as crocodiles along the way. Female crocs kept a territory of 20-30 metres along the banks. So we saw lots of them. The big 4.8 metre male cruised along beside us at times. Funnily, he ducked underwater in distain for the advances of one female. The birds, too numerous to name them all, kept us busy looking here and there. A comb-crested jacana walked on thin stilt legs over the huge lotus leaves. A brilliant tiny azure kingfisher posed for photos. And our barge glided up to the bank so we could see the perfect little basket that was a willy wagtail nest. Somewhere during the cruise, a lone water buffalo stood in the brush close to the water, never quite revealing his entire enormous self. The canopy above the seats on the deck cut the direct sun, making it comfortable. We stayed out on the water for the entire morning.

We had lunch back at camp Cooinda then quickly packed and cleaned the tents and cookhouse. It was another long drive to Kakadu Lodge at Jabiru. Along the way, we took in Nourlangie, a good walk and climb that gave us some idea of the way Aboriginal people lived in this place over the centuries. Kim was pretty well-versed in the lore. At the start of the walk was a sign featuring six photos. But 3 had been removed. That followed the tradition of removing the name and image of someone after death, the length of time depending on the customs of the particular community. Hoever, one gentleman, Big Bill Niedjie, instrumental in the development of Kakadu National Park, and its recognition as a heritage site, held his wake before he died. He told his people he would find hs way back to country in three days. Bill declared that they could restore his image and use his name then. He wanted Kakadu and its stories shared with visitors. We visited several caves and rock art galleries. Kim told the stories very well.

It was hot! By the time we made our way to Kakadu Lodge, we were ready for a break. This campground was crowded and at the edge of the grounds, with the wash house quite a walk away. But in the centre stood a bar and pool, encircled with a hedge, lawn, tables and chairs. We quickly organized the tents and headed for the pool for a refreshing swim.

The walk and climb up Ubirr was even more spectacular than Nourlangie. The aim was to watch the sunset from Ubirr but there were a number of rock art galleries along the path to the summit. As we left the main gallery we found an observer above us - a small grey walleroo. Beautiful thing! With a bit of effort, we came up onto a plateau, a flat open space cut with a few rock walls. The final height, which promised a 365 degree view loomed above us. And a lot of people were heading up, including families with small children. However, a bunch of us skipped the final climb, settled onto a low wall with our cameras, and the sunset was beautiful anyway!

Once the sun was down, we quickly descended in the twilight, the afterglow. It was quite dark by the time the stragglers made it back to the van. Kim whipped up another terrific meal and we all tucked in. After dinner, the evening was quieter than the previous one. The wash house was busy with showers after the heat of the day, and the two climbs. It was early to bed that night.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Way Outback Camping in Kakadu Day 1 p.m.

Kim made up for breakfast by taking us to lunch at the mango place. I don't remember its name, unfortunately - Kim told us we could get the best mango smoothie in the world there, and she wasn't kidding. We rode through mango orchards to get there. They are one of the few harvests that thrive in that part of the country. I added a bag of dried mango slices to my stash of snacks. This was the one lunch we had to buy - the food and coffee was excellent!

Lunch finished, we set off on the long drive into Kakadu National Park, much of it over dirt roads. We began to see more and more termite mounds among the trees and in open fields. We stopped at a viewing boardwalk which encircled a huge cathedral mound (yellow) on one side of the site, and a field of magnetic mounds (grey) on the other. The cathedrals, as you might expect, are like tall rounded towers piled one upon the other, deep and wide and high. The magnetic, on the other hand, are wide shallow peaks so thin in the top half you would think they would break in a stiff breeze - more a wall than a mound. Appoarently, scientists tried turning them off their north-south axis and found the internal temperature changed immediately.

Warned that it was our last chance if we wanted to enjoy a drink by the fire that night, we stopped at a roadhouse to buy snacks and booze - a 4-pack of Jack and Dry (gingerale) for me. At last we arrived at Cooinda campground in Kakadu. I think we crossed the South Alligator River to get there - a notorious crossing where many people stuck in high water have had to be dragged out of car windows to safety by one of the tour boat operators. Lots of crocodiles! All branches of the Alligator river are tidal and the crossing was dry when we drove over it. What crocs there were kept their distance. At last we reached Cooinda Campground in time to select tents and make our beds - no swags under the stars. It was already too hot and humid for such heavy sleeping bags. Once our tent was ready, I set out to gather a bit more firewood and made the mistake of picking up a small log infested with green ants. Man, do they bite when disturbed! I tossed that stik away and added my meager bits and pieces to the pile. Kim made dinner quickly and I had a big plate of roasted veggies, avoiding the beef and veggie substitute on offer. JD and some of the others discovered that they could find small wolf spiders on the path by making their eyes gleam with flashlights. The campfire roared under the stars and I helped one of the women toast mashmallows - she did not like the burnt sugar result, funnily enough. I wonder what she had expected!

The night was stifling, so underwear was enough. But sometime in the night, I pulled the sleeping bag up over myself and slept under it until the sun crept into the tent.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Way Outback Camping Aug 29 to Sept 1 - Day 1 a.m.

We booked this tour with Viator but it was a Way Outback Australian Safari tour. So, stumped by GF and the fact that I also cannot eat beef, Viator had me call Way Outback directly. The woman I spoke with there was very kind but could not quite get the no beef thing. Perhaps it was my Canadian accent because I also said that I needed GF or wheat-free food. I told her I could eat around any beef that was served. She told me to bring the GF items with me. But it turned out that Way Outback loaded our guide, Kim, with GF Weetbix, pasta, and vegetarian meat substitutes as I was down as GF and strict vegetarian. Good thing there were other vegetarians and folks willing to eat the veggie sausages and burgers, cause they had wheat in 'em! Anyway, with my GF bread, snack bars, and banana chips to go with everything I could eat that Kim served, I was absolutely well fed all four days.

We threw our duffles in the trailer, and climbed on board with our backpacks and water bottles, to greet our fellow campers. By the time everyone was collected, the little bus was full - Kim plus 17 passengers. It looked like an interesting mix of ages and genders, couples and singles, and a number of nationalities. Let's go!

Our first morning was a trip into Litchfield National Park, almost directly south of Darwin. We made two stops there.
I joined in for a lovely swim at the first gorge, which I think was Florence Falls. The waterhole was wide and quickly deep with a sandbar just far enough out for my skill and stamina. The trick was getting in as the last step down into the water was too much of a reach. The rail made a handy place to hold while I lowered my butt into the water and then pushed off onto my back. Easy-peasy, especially since the water was not cold at all. We were all but dry by the time we got back to the bus. However, at the second gorge I just waked to the lookout to see the beautiful Wangi Falls. It was a long way down and up and Kim warned of slippery rocks at the water. So I stayed at the top, got changed and waited in a shady spot until everyone returned to the bus. Perfectly happy to skip the short swim there.

Kim made up for my breakfast circus by stopping for lunch at the mango place. I can't remember the name of the place - Kim told us we could get the best mango smoothie in the world there, and she wasn't kidding. She drove through mango orchards to get there. They are produce that thrives in that part of the country. I added a bag of dried mango slices to my stash of snacks. For this one lunch we had to buy ourselves, the food and coffee was excellent!