The hardest part of leaving…

I love cats. There I said it. Now don’t get me wrong, I pretty much love all animals and that love has lead me to far off places around the world to see them (though the honey badger still remains elusive despite three trips to Africa).

One of the most challenging decisions has been what to do with my beloved Hiro and Bella. We adopted these two rescue kitties at a time when we thought our exit from Canada was still far away.

However, once our exit plan was accelerated we were set with the challenge of what to do with them. We desperately wanted to bring them with us – but the road blocks were not in their best interest and we feared would do them harm.

In the end – we have found two wonderful homes for them. A newly married couple for whom Bella will be their first fur baby together as they embark on their adventure. She is a very smart girl and will thrive on the single attention she will get (and will no doubt challenge her new parents as she searches for little plastic bags and carries them proudly).

Hiro has been adopted into a family with a little girl who was hoping for a brother. He will be a patient teacher who will be so laid back and just love the cuddles he gets as she whispers her secrets in his ear. His stealth mousie retrieving skills will no doubt be honed and he will get the exercise he needs with some serious play time.

As crushed as we are to say goodbye to these two fur balls – we know they are in great care – and this is the best for them.

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It’s Official!

20 years and the plan is now less than 7 weeks from realisation. We have just had our 10 year Visas approved for Malaysia and on September 10 – we will be jetting our way on to Penang.

We are now in the short strokes of wrapping up our lives here in Canada with most of the big things taken care of (house, belongings, paperwork, medical files etc.) and the small things of packing up and away still underway.

What I am noticing more and more is how our social calendar is suddenly filling up rapidly as people want to connect before our departure. And that tells me what a wonderful life we have been living here.
Amazing people who have had an impact on our lives are stepping forward with cheers of support – and some very candid ones are telling us “don’t go – I will miss you – but go!” It is so very charming and endearing and has us realising how we are not alone in this next step.

I have come to understand how very much we have been part of an extraordinary community of people – in all aspects of our lives. It is not often one hears of how we impact others, and gets incredible expressions of love for that impact. As I think on it – it happens during eulogies – which is far too late.

So my thought on this is very simple – the give the gift of who you are often and willingly – and express your appreciation of the gift of others given to you.

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Planning the Big Move

So how do you get rid of most of your worldly goods that you have accumulated over a few decades, sell your house and find a good home for your kitties?  Recruit an awesome project manager – that’s how!

I was starting to panic a few weeks ago with all the work we had to do to make the big move.  Sleepless nights, lists running in my head, bits of paper everywhere – I was freaking out.  My ever logical left brained husband inquired as to my insanity (he is not wholly unaccustomed to it) and we “scheduled a meeting”.  That is to say we sat down at his computer as he pulled up Microsoft Project – and we started writing everything down to our timeline.  We assigned tasks and responsibilities – which means I don’t have to harp at him about remembering to do things.  I have what I need to do – and he has what he needs to do.  We are both very stubborn and independent people – who are not great at being micromanaged.  I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing – “not my circus, not my monkey”.

So we are plugging away through the project deadlines, adding things as they come up and feeling a real sense of accomplishment as we cross things off the list.

Selling the house was obviously a big place to start, and in January of this year we set the deadline for the second week in April when we returned from Namibia.  For three months I cleaned and decluttered for the house sale – but also knowing that we needed to not just store things – but get rid of them.  Our home is weird and modern and very atypical – and we were expecting it would take 3-6 months to sell – even in this hot real estate market.  Fortunately it only took two weeks and it means we can enjoy the summer in our home before closing.  Our agent Carmen Muscat – made sure that all was in order (and she obviously had our best interests at heart).

Day by day our “things” are disappearing – sold, donated or given to people we care about.  It is a process as the house and our souls get lighter and lighter.  Jacques the pack rat is even discovering new ways to miniaturise his various photography and computer technology bits.  We have a family sharepoint site with all of our paperwork going digital.

One of the last challenges will be to find a home for our beloved cats Hiro and Bella.  The length of travel, the quarantine, the lifestyle and the landlords all make bringing them with us impossible.  We are heartbroken – but hoping to find a furever home for them.

This is an iterative process – and I for one am grateful that we have had the time to do this well.  With two highly organized people and an end goal in sight – here is hoping we don’t forget anything!  I am going to miss my label maker…

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On Becoming Global Nomads…

In 2007 Jacques and I travelled through Southeast Asia and the Middle East for 9 months and blogged about our trip on this site.  In 2009 on a beach in the Bahamas we decided to set a date to become global nomads – travelling the world, exploring cultures and people.  We agreed to April 1, 2018.  In the Fall of 2015 I read a book called Planet Boomer by Jim Herrler and Ellen Ma – two Canadians who compared life in Canada with life in Southeast Asia.  It spoke to exactly what we were looking to do.  I wrote an email to Jim and Ellen with a suggestion for their second edition, and started an email correspondence letting them know that our plans were a couple of years out – but their book was helpful.

Well, fate has a way of just shaking you up!  A confluence of events meant that by January 1, 2016 Jacques and I were determined to make our dream a reality – two years early.  We began the process of winding down here in Canada, selling our house and most of our worldly goods.  We have applied for MM2H Visas for Malaysia through an agent, and are just in the process of waiting for them to come through.

By the end of September we intend to land in Penang, Malaysia, find a place to live and hang out and explore that part of the world. Why Penang?  The book makes some compelling arguments about the cost of living, health care, weather, food (my weak spot), language and the like.  From Jacques’ perspective, there will be new birds to find and places to photograph and explore.  From my perspective it will be an opportunity to learn a new language and try my hand at the local and diverse foods.  We loved SE Asia when we travelled the area back in 2007.  It is sufficiently different to make it an interesting challenge.

When we can, we will blog and video our experiences here for those who want to follow along…in the meantime – lead with your sense of wonder!

And if you want to see an interview with one of the authors – check this Interview out!

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Saltwater Pool to Natural Pond Conversion

Sometime in the last year or two we decided that our saltwater pool had become a pain to keep up, was sorely needing an upgrade, and was costing us about $600 a swim based on the little we used it.  My significant other wanted to fill it in and be done with it.  I on the other hand, really loved the look of water in my yard.  We had to come up with a solution.

After much research I figured that putting marbelite on the pool would run us about $15,000 and last 10 years, repainting the concrete would cost about $7,000 and last 5 years, and filling it in would just be the end of our marriage.

Ever resourceful, I started to think about what the pool could be used for and how we would find enjoyment in it.  Our yard is very naturalized with lots of big trees, and critters like deer, racoons, ducks, coyotes and a whole myriad of rodents with good publicity (squirrels and chipmunks).  Since we try and do what we can by keeping these creatures around, and our birdfeeder is the best bistro in town – I thought about changing our pool to a pond.  Hubby thought this was a great idea since he could toss fish in and do a bit of fishing off the deck.

I noticed that many places in Europe seemed to go this route, but there was no one in the Toronto area who seemed to do this regularly.  One call to our landscape architect Lisa Mactaggart of Arium Design Group, and suddenly I was inundated with info.  Lisa did our landscape plan about 12 years ago when we moved in.  Little by little we have been implementing her vision.  This was never in the plan – but her enthusiasm and research had us thinking we could do this.

Lisa introduced us to Jean-Marc Daigle and Simon Ackles-Dold of Genus-Loci.  The conversation began as we met and discussed the possibility.  It seemed at first to be a real challenge – but Jean-Marc and Simon really wanted to take the time to do their own research and think things through.  Over the winter we would get periodic emails as they kept looking at not only design, but also what would thrive in our climate.  In some respects, I thought they did not think we would go through with it.  I thought they would be too hesitant to take on the project.  Sometimes a leap of faith by both parties has you meeting exactly where you want to be.

In the early Spring after about 6 months, Jean-Marc and Simon came back with a plan, a budget and the confidence to apply all their traditional pond expertise in a non traditional application.  With a contract signed, work began very quickly.

The guys decided to use the existing pool equipment to filter the water, along with an additional biofilter, a nutrient scrubber and an ionizer.  With this configuration we decided that we did not want the maintenance of fish and their “output”, so that idea was put on the backburner.

The big problem was of course the concrete pool itself.  This was solved by engaging Barry Pitman and his team at Ontario Protective Coatings.  Barry prepped the pool and sprayed a black, fast setting liquid liner to seal the concrete.  I was amazed at how tidy the kept the job site and how in less than 3 hours, the pool looked fantastic.  Barry told me that his work in Central America had him spraying pools all the time.  As I looked at the pool I had a moment of thinking “I could stop right here and be really pleased with the outcome”.  Marbelite?  Paint?  Liners?  Forget it – this stuff is magic!

Then came the mechanical.  Our wonderful electrician Tom King stepped in and rejigged the pool house.  He removed the almost dead heater, and provided electrical for the new equipment and the low voltage LED light for the fountain.

Also rounding out the team was Ted from Blue Hawaii Pools.  Ted reorganized all the filtration pipes and made sure that the old salt conversion system was disengaged.  We also moved the old pool jet up a couple of feet and added an exterior drain pipe to make winterizing the system easier. 

The next day, Genus-Loci started the actual build.  Douglas fir walls in the shallow end contained the aquatic plantings.  The walls were filled with sand and a stone, and a little flagstone path was created so you could walk from the shallow end into the deep.  The plants include horsetails, pond lilies and submergent aquatics.  The Indiana Sandstone fountain was also secured in place. 

Our home is very modern, in the Brutalism Style.  It is certainly not for everyone.  One of the things we have always tried to do is to respect the architecture of the house.  So creating a natural pond that actually looked like a natural pond would really not do.  Genus-Loci really understood that point, and ensured that every element was not only natural and blending into the forested landscape, but had a simple elegance and aesthetic that we as homeowners appreciate.

In two short weeks, the project was completed with no major headaches or hiccups.  Overall it was extremely well managed and Simon or Jean-Marc were constantly on-site.  To be truthful, because the work site was so clean, I could hardly tell they were even working except for the progress I would see every day.

From our perspective, this project was an resounding success.  It encapsulates our vision and we cannot wait to see the plantings grow and thrive over the coming months.  There is no question that most people thought we were crazy to undertake such a project – many did not see the logic in transforming a pool.  However, the end result is something we will truly enjoy more with little maintenance and possibility of still jumping in and cooling off.  Only this time, we will likely be joined by a pair of ducks or a few tadpoles.

Genus-Loci has great photos at

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