Monthly Archives: August 2013

Supporting Each Other

elderly women holding hands on the beachOn one of my trips to Malaysia I noticed these two elderly women strolling along the beach in Kota Kinabalu. They held my attention for a long time. korean ladies in kota kinabuluThey both were very tentative about walking in the ocean, carefully putting one foot in front of the other in the sand and holding hands for support. They seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, their lovely surroundings and the beautiful day so much. supporting each other elderly women on the beach in malaysiaIt made me hope  I will have supportive companions in my old age so I can continue to enjoy new experiences. 

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The Paper Garden

Being Relevant

Retirement Advice From New Zealand

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Filed under Borneo, Reflections, Retirement, Travel

In My Lifetime

Two movies I saw in the last week made me realize just how old I am.

The Butler tells the story of an African American man named Cecil Gaines who worked as a servant in the White House. He was a butler to every president from Eisenhower to Reagan. The movie reviews the history of the civil rights movement both through the eyes of the butler who believes change can be brought about through legislation and his son who believes protest and civil disobedience are the most effective ways to gain equal rights for African Americans.

As I watched the movie it seemed hard to believe that during my lifetime African Americans used separate drinking fountains and movie theatres, hadn’t yet received full voting rights, couldn’t attend racially integrated schools and even in the White House were paid lower salaries than white citizens performing the same tasks.

Jobs tells the story of Steve Jobs and how he revolutionized the world of technology with the products from his Apple company.   Some might say Steve Jobs was a genius although after the movie we had a discussion about whether his success could be attributed to his intelligence or to the fact that he was a driven man, who worked obsessively and never gave up. 

As I watched the movie it seemed hard to believe that during my lifetime people did not have personal computers, or personal music listening devices, or smartphones.  As a high school student, I didn’t have any idea what e-mail, an iPad, texting, skyping, iTunes or digital photography was.

Two movies I saw in the last week made me realize just how old I am. 

Other posts to read………

What Will Our Grandchildren Think?

Obsolete Things

A Lament For Letters

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Filed under History, Movies

Eating Sticky Rice in Laos

eating sticky rice and dipping it in laosAfter living in Asia for years we were sure we’d eaten every kind of rice dish. On our trip to Laos we discovered that wasn’t true. In the town of Luang Prabang we visited the Tamarind Restaurant and tried sticky rice for the first time. Sticky rice is a type of short-grained rice.

preparing sticky rice in laosWe watched some women preparing sticky rice in Luang Prabang. First they soaked it for several hours in water and then placed it in a bamboo basket shaped like a boat. A fire was built in a large cracked crockery pot and when it had burned down to glowing embers a black cauldron filled with water was placed over the hot coals. The bamboo boat was gently laid across the top of the cauldron and in this way the rice was steamed for about half an hour. Later the women put the rice on a stone slab and kneaded it with a wooden paddle.eating sticky rice in laosThe rice had a glutinous texture by this point and it was placed in a narrow cylindrical bamboo basket with a lid. At the Tamarind Restaurant, they set one of those baskets filled with sticky rice in front of each guest. We took the lid off and grabbed some rice between our fingers and rolled it into a round sticky ball. The Tamarind served a variety of interesting dips to roll your rice ball around in before popping it into your mouth. There was a chili paste called Jeow Bong, a salsa called Mak Len, an eggplant dip called Mak Keua and a coriander and garlic sauce called Pak Ham. My husband Dave tried rolling his sticky rice in several types of dip before eating it.  Traditionally sticky rice is served with a group of snacks they call The Five Bites. At the Tamarind Restaurant, our five bites included dried buffalo meat, pickled bamboo, lemongrass noodles, spicy cucumbers, and tiny sausages.            

Sticky rice is very tasty and it’s easy to pick up in your hands. Perhaps that is why the hundreds of monks in Luang Prabang favor sticky rice as a donation when they are begging. Every weekday hundreds of orange-robed Buddhist monks parade through the streets of Luang Prabang just as the sun is rising. I got up one morning to watch them. The monks need to beg daily for enough food to sustain themselves.  Devout women were perched on wooden stools along the monk’s route. The women were holding bamboo baskets filled with sticky rice. As the monk’s passed by they bowed their heads, reached into their baskets, grabbed a large ball of sticky rice and placed it in the monk’s begging bowl. 

I’m as big a fan of sticky rice as the monks’ were. I think sticky rice is delicious. The only problem it presents is that when your meal is over your hands are just as sticky as the rice itself. Porcelain bowls of scented water and hot towels served by our Tamarind waiter at the end of our meal took care of that.

           Sticky rice wasn’t the only new rice dish I tried in Laos. I also saw homemade rice cakes being made. Hundreds were drying on racks outside people’s homes in Luang Prabang.

 I thought I’d tried every kind of rice dish possible in Asia. My trip to Laos proved me wrong. 

Other posts about Laos……

Bringing Hope to Laos One Family at a Time

Kayaking in Laos

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Filed under Food, laos, New Experiences, Travel


Five pencil thin women were discussing how great they think it is that a new modeling agency is hiring women with plenty of curves.

I was watching Good Morning America last Wednesday while I was walking on the treadmill at the gym.  I was intigued by a story about a modeling agency called JAG that is trying to break the barriers when it comes to accepting bigger women.

Apparently most agencies  hire models  who are size zero to two, but the majority of JAG models are size 12.  The Good Morning America segment featured interviews with Jennie Runk and Kamie Crawford two JAG models who talked about viewing women’s bodies as beautiful just the way they are and not worrying about the number on the scale everyday. 

What was ironic however was that there were five women at the anchor desk of Good Morning America discussing this story. They were all saying what a positive thing it is that women no longer feel they have to be painfully thin. Yet every one of those five women at the Good Morning America anchor desk was pencil thin herself. I  found a story online about a regular Good Morning America contributor named Tory Johnson who lost 60 pounds when she thought her job was in jeopardy because of her weight. 

Will the morning news show continue to merely give lip service to the belief that women in the public eye need not all have slim figures or will they hire more women who aren’t slender as a reed?

Other posts to check out……..

I Had My Toes Read

The Aviator’s Wife

What Will Our Grandchildren Think?

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Filed under Culture, Media

Kayaking in Laos

“ Head straight into the waves and paddle hard”, my husband Dave shouted at me. We were kayaking down the Nam Khan River near Luang Prabang in Laos. The day before in the office of the eco-tour company that organized our kayaking adventure I deliberately requested we take the trip labeled ‘easy’. I wasn’t interested in any white water rapid shooting. I just wanted to see the Laotian countryside from a river perspective.

The first part of our trip was deceptively calm and placid. The scenery was as interesting as I had hoped. Rounded rocks covered with lush green foliage and neatly terraced farm fields lined the river. Little boys were jumping into the water for their morning bath. Women in large straw hats were wading up to their waists holding bamboo cages they were using as fish traps.  Along the shore huge horned water buffalo were cooling off in shallow pools. 

Our first stop was the Tad Se waterfalls. It was the rainy season so the falls were running high and hard. A white watery torrent raged around leafy trees, across large rocky boulders and washed over bamboo bridges. Our guides took us to a beautiful pool at the base of the falls where the water was clear and cool. Sweaty from kayaking in the blazing heat we jumped in. If you stood just under a place where the water was gushing over the rocks it was like having a shower, the powerful spray pummeled your body like a strong masseuse.   

Our guides had brought along lunch. There was oily sticky rice rich with vegetables and spices that we ate with our fingers. We were ravenous after our paddling and swimming and washed down the meal quickly with water and large bottles of Beer Lao, the local brew that some say is the most delicious in Asia. For dessert there were small Laotian grown bananas.

We left the waterfall in pouring rain that lasted for almost an hour. I was drenched in seconds but it was a lovely reprieve from the humidity. The only time I was slightly nervous was when a couple of bolts of lightning forked down not far from us accompanied by ear-splitting thunder.   Just as the sun broke through the clouds we reached a set of rapids. The guides had warned us they were coming but I was sure they were joking.  The seething eddies and high white- capped waves in front of us were certainly no joke. I was in the front of the kayak and as we hit the first wave, muddy water washed over me and right into my mouth stifling my screams. My husband Dave shouted at me to “paddle hard and head straight into the waves”. Galvanized by fear I obeyed orders. It only took a few minutes for us to clear the rapids. We looked back to see that two British ladies who were also on our tour hadn’t been as fortunate. Their kayak had tipped and they were floundering in the water. Our guides had jumped in to rescue them and their belongings.            

We were more prepared for the next sets of rapids and after two more hours of paddling we arrived at our destination. We still had a long slippery trek up the high muddy riverbank in the blistering heat but I was just happy to be back on land.  

Although our trip had not been as ‘easy’ as promised, it was certainly a memorable chapter, albeit a bit of a scary one, in our Asian adventure story.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…….

Fair Trade Coffee and Hope for Laos 

Eating Sticky Rice in Laos

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Filed under laos, New Experiences, Travel

Devour the District- Food Tour in Winnipeg’s Exchange District

friendsWe sampled menu items at six different restaurants in our neighborhood on a tour called Devour the District. Read about it on my Destination Winnipeg site. 

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Filed under Food, Restaurants, Winnipeg

Walk At Hillside Beach

lone tree on lake winnipeg shore

two men walking up sandy hill making footprints

red tipped green leaf

three people on the shore of lake winnipeg

purple flowers

cousins in woods


caterpillar under leaf manitoba woods

gull on rock

lone tree on lake winnipeg shore

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Walk At Louise Lake

The Mink Bay Happy Jack Trail in Kenora


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Filed under Nature

Marrying an Heiress- Gilded Prostitution

This portrait of Caroline Fitzgerald by Edward Burne-Jones so intrigued me when it was on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery that I decided I had to know more about the young woman with the serious face it portrayed. What I discovered was fascinating. 

Caroline Fitzgerald – Edward Burne-Jones -1884

Caroline was nineteen years old in 1887 when her portrait was done by artist Edward Burne-Jones.  Two years later she became engaged to Lord Edward Fitzmaurice.  He was a member of the British aristocracy and Caroline was one of many rich American girls who became saviours for struggling British families who needed to augment their depleted incomes with the dowries of wealthy wives. The American families in return liked the idea of being connected to the British nobility.  

In this case, Caroline was considered fortunate to be marrying Lord Edward because his brother’s wife was the daughter of one of Queen Victoria’s cousins, thus giving Caroline and her family a somewhat distant, but still easily traceable connection with the royal family.

 I was able to find an article about Caroline’s engagement in the New York Times, July 10, 1889 paper and the headline read  To Wed A Lord.  Caroline was 21 at the time her upcoming marriage was announced, while her fiancée was 43.  The article mentioned she was one of many American girls who would be wed to British nobility during the upcoming social season.

I was unable to find a photo of Caroline’s future husband but did find a cartoon of him which appeared in Vanity Fair magazine with the caption “He doesn’t underestimate himself.” 

Edward doesn’t seem to have been the nicest man.  An October 24, 1909 article in the New York American called How Titled Foreigners Catch An American Heiress  warns American girls about scheming, heiress hunting European men and gives Lord Fitzmaurice as an example of one such villain who “shut his wife up in a gloomy house.” 

Poor Caroline.  Her engagement notice tells us she was well-educated and accomplished. She graduated from Yale College, the predecessor of Yale University, and was well-known in literary circles for her poems, translations and classical scholarship. She was a member of the American Oriental Society and had studied Sanskrit. 

Caroline Fitzgerald – Edward Burne-Jones -1884

You can see in the portrait she’s holding a book of poetry in her hands. In 1889 Caroline published her own book of poetry called Venetia Victrix and Other Poems. She dedicated it to poet Robert Browning and I found a letter Caroline sent to Robert Browning in August of 1889. It is in the Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.

Caroline was married to Lord Fitzmaurice for five years and after that was able to obtain an annulment on the grounds that the marriage had never been consummated. Hers was one of three transatlantic unions between wealthy American girls and European nobles that were annulled. Her marriage is sited as an example of ‘gilded prostitution’ in a book of the same name by Maureen Montgomery. Basically, American families were selling their daughters to earn admittance into the British aristocracy, and cloaking (gilding) the act in the aura of respectability with the institution of marriage. Luckily some happiness was in store for Caroline. 

Photograph of Caroline Fitzgerald taken in Florence by Mlle Angiolini

She went to Italy and in Florence, a young German archaeologist named Georg Karo fell in love with her. She enjoyed his company and that of his family.  Georg introduced her to the joys of cycling.  Caroline loved the culture and people of Italy. She worked together with Sir Frederic Kenyon on a book of letters by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, visiting Elizabeth and Robert’s old haunts and was able to meet their son. The book was published in 1897. 

Caroline Fitzgerald 1900

In 1898 she met Filippo De Filippi a doctor, accomplished mountaineer, explorer, geographer, and writer.  They married and lived in a Tuscan villa nestled in the slopes above Florence. She travelled with her husband to many places including Russia, Turkestan, and the Caucasus. An article in the Geographical Journal which calls Fillippo one of the foremost travel writers of his time talks about how Caroline explored the Orient with him. Their journey resulted in a highly descriptive travel journal that in particular gives a detailed account of the life of the Russian aristocracy before the Revolution. Looking up Filippi’s writings online I found that many of them list Caroline Fitzgerald as the English translator. They must have worked closely together. 

Caroline Fitzgerald second from right in the dark suit on a Himalayan expedition with her husband Filippo De Filippi who is to her left

Sadly Caroline died in 1911 in Italy but not before she’d had many adventures with her second husband. He said after her death, “my life is broken and has lost all significance.” Obviously, he must have really loved her. I’m glad Caroline was able to find some happiness after her disastrous first marriage. 

Caroline Fitzgerald de Filippi

 Caroline’s portrait by Edward Burne-Jones belongs to the University of Toronto and was given to them by her brother Augustine’s widow. Caroline’s family did have some Canadian connections. Her father William John Fitzgerald was a member of the first class of students at Upper Canada College in Ontario.  He went to study law at Trinity College in Dublin and returned to Toronto to practice.

In the 1860’s he moved to New York City where he married Mary A. White, the daughter of a rich merchant. They had three children. Their eldest was Caroline and she had two brothers Augustine and Edward. Caroline’s parents maintained homes in both New York and London, England. Interestingly, Caroline’s brother-in-law from her first marriage, Henry Fitzmaurice was once the Governor-General of Canada. 

Death-in-the-Age-of-SteamJust one more footnote. The Burne-Jones portrait of Caroline appears on the cover of a historical crime novel published in 2004 called Death In The Age Of Steam.  The Toronto Globe and Mail book reviewer said Caroline’s portrait was perfect for the cover of this meandering story of love and death. 

Other posts………

What’s A Portscape?

Portraits in Plasticene

A Tale of Two Portraits




Filed under Art, Books, History

What Are People Saying?

“Great news! No holding him back now!”, said Sandy when she saw the post about my husband Dave being able to give up his crutches. 

Kelly read my post about Camp Amache, the facility where thousands of Japanese Americans were sent during World War II.  Kelly said her whole family, including her grandmother were confined there. Kelly has visited the actual site and has some of the gaman art I wrote about in my post An American Nightmare.

Lori said my mother had been a pillar of the community in Steinbach and she was so sorry to hear of her death after she read my post God of Eve and God of Mary

After reading my post about the MS Walk Caryn said……….

Lovely post MaryLou! So glad this is becoming an annual event for our family to be together, share memories and most importantly continue to have Connie in our lives!

Millie said my post Safe and Inclusive Schools was beyond timely not to mention beautifully written. 

Many people told me they had gone to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, to see Forty Part Motet after I wrote a post about it.

I received many expressions of sympathy after I posted my Mom’s obituary. 

I was pleased the Mayor of Steinbach Chris Goertzen said he liked my Alphabet for Steinbach post.

After Bill saw my post about a walk at Louise Lake he commented, “You Canadians sure know how to live.”

The photos for our fortieth wedding anniversary elicited many responses. 

Priscilla said…..” Mr. Driedger looks just like David Spade.

John wished us a Happy Anniversary in Chinese.  婚姻四十周年快樂!

Kirsten said, “I was nine at your wedding and was mesmerized by how grown up you were. Now I realize you were only 19. Congratulations. 

Heather said, “Congratulations to two of my favorite people in the whole world.”

Cathy wished us many more happy years. 

A big thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this blog!

If you liked this post you might want to check out……

How Does Recording Our Lives Change Them?

What Are People Saying– September 2012

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Filed under Reflections

Folkorama Visit- 2013

We visited four pavilions at this year’s Folkorama. I’ve written about it on my Destination Winnipeg site.

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Filed under Culture, Winnipeg