Monday, December 31, 2012

Auld Lang Syne

As my month-o-nog comes to a close
and 2013 draws near,
I think back to the paths we chose
over the last (accident-free) year...

Cayenne opted for Mountain Middle
for the next three years of school -
the wisdom of this is still a riddle,
although she finds it way cool.

Our gymnast Acacia has found her sport,
cartwheeling all over the place...
but flips in the house she had to abort
after kicking her Mom in the face.

After years of telling us how smart he is,
our Nick had a chance to prove it.
Turns out he's a chemistry whiz,
but now he has to move it...

... to Denver? to Phoenix? He's yet to decide;
in the balance our future hangs.
Either way it's an eight-hour drive,
while Nick learns all about fangs.

The fluffy white guy who wasn't meant to see four
celebrated the big one-two.
In human terms that's a full eighty-four
and he's still a-slobbering that goo.

As for me, my days are full:
home, work and the occasional blog.
With two pre-teens, I have no pull...
thus the month of eggnog.

Very, strong, eggnog.


Amid cliffs from which I'd like to toss Congress -
along with a few guns too,
a healthy new year, without much stress
is my sincere wish for you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cherry Mistmas!!


That's what I was left with once I'd searched for clues that started under the tree, and continued all over the house. Now I just need to unscramble the letters...

I was stumped for quite a while, partly because Acacia initially gave me some wrong letters... 

(Each photo had a clue stapled to it, like: This makes Dad happy but Mom cry. That meant the next clue was under the onions in the pantry. And each clue also had a few letters, so I needed to find all the clues to get all the letters. Fun!)

'Twas the night before Christmas...

The gift that brought tears to Nick's eyes... 

...the two-year Satcho calendar from Michel.

Relaxing Christmas Day...

Nick and Cayenne are preparing a special meal and the house smells divine!
(Potatoes from our garden.)

Guests at the Cofman Kennel. 

The Aftermath...

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Oh, and here are the letters uncoded. WooHoo!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I have a confession to make: For the past year the news I wasn't sharing was far more interesting than the news I was. And no, I'm not pregnant! It's almost as life-changing though.

When Nick and his plane collided with the earth, his teeth smashed together with such a force, he nearly severed his tongue. That saved his front teeth, but his molars fared worse and (once his broken jaw had healed) he spent a whole lot of time with his mouth open wide, looking up (dentist) Courtney's nose. Most people count the minutes until they can escape from their dentist's chair, but Nick isn't most people, and his thought was, "This is what I want to be when I grow up."

Just four months post-crash he was enrolled at Durango's Fort Lewis College - and that was when I first heard about all this. Yes: post-enrollment. (See anniversary post - 11/24/12.)

His first degree from Trinity was in Political Science and didn't include the advanced chemistry and biology courses needed to apply for dental school. So he spent the last year completing 10 courses and 9 labs - a very full load even for those students without a family and job. He performed brilliantly.

It's been a busy, exciting and sometimes tough year, with Nick flying and studying, me starting up in real estate - and both of us trying to keep the girls' lives as undisrupted as possible... And we just found out it's paid off.

Both Phoenix schools he applied to and interviewed with accepted him this week. They each received 3,500 applications for 75 spots, and Nick was chosen in the first round (the schools' top picks). What smart schools.

So starting at the end of next summer Dad is going to be 8 hours away. Not much different from when he flies, but dental school lasts four years!

I'm extremely proud of the dedication he's shown and his success so far...
but I miss him already.

One day at a time...

Here the pomegranate seeds soak in Grand Marnier before being slipped into our champagne the evening we shared the news with Michel and Ilona.

Here's to you, Nicolas!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Giving Thanks the Easy Way

It just wouldn't be a trip to Arizona if we didn't spend at least some of it pulling fine cactus spines out of Acacia's butt and legs and arms... She's drawn to them like Icarus to the sun.

Camelback Mountain on the busiest day of the year is not the walk you'd expect a group of Cofmans to choose on Thanksgiving. But it's beautiful, hot - and there was something fun about sharing that day with half the population of Phoenix.

I looked down at my vibrant four-year-old nephew hiking beside me, yakking non-stop, his strong tiny hand gripping mine.

"So when we get back to the hotel can you help me with something?" he asked.

"Sure. With what?"

His big brown eyes caught mine for a second, then looked back at the trail.

"Oh I don't know. When we get back I'll think of something."

Bless him. He was planning the next fun thing in his day, and although he didn't know what it was going to be, he was ensuring there'd be someone to share it with. He didn't need to worry though; with all 10 of us together again, there was always a friend around.

Ilona and Michel treated the family to a Thanksgiving getaway in Phoenix, where it was warm enough to enjoy the water slides, floating rivers, (pina coladas by the) swimming pools, and evening fire-pits (s'mores!). So basically, it didn't suck:

Cayenne has always had a hard time unwinding...

This photo cracks me up. 

Sam leading the way up Camelback Mtn.

 Almost a family photo... Alan was the photographer.

 Foosball! (That's me beating Nick at ping-pong in the background.)

 Way too much, really good food...

.. but not so much that Nick and I didn't fight over the last licks of decadent chocolate sauce.

This was the Untalent Show (their title, not mine!)

Good times!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

14 Years on the 18th Day

When an idea makes its way into Nick's brain, the seed lies seemingly dormant for eons. But internally it germinates and begins to sprout soundlessly until it becomes a fully blossomed creature. That's when I find out about it. His latest is a new face for the kitchen. And while I'm all about trading up our 25-year-old electric Jenn-Air, I wasn't prepared for his taking a hammer to the wall while he was still telling me the plan. 

"Do we really need to start now?"

"Why not? I've got it all figured out."

"Because we haven't done anything about it for six years, and today we have friends coming over for dinner. I'll bet it can wait a few hours longer."

But no. It couldn't. And by the time our guests walked through the door, the wall behind our small fridge (Part A of the Plan) had been knocked out, re-insulated, and re-drywalled. It was .75" wider, 4" deeper, and ready for a new fridge. 

It took us so long to do that because we'd always thought it would involve moving the load-bearing wall on one side of the fridge, and/or the cabinets on the other. With busting out the wall behind it, all we needed to do was trim some of the counter tile.

Which brings me to why I'm even telling you this story. With a dremel in one hand and the hose to an industrial vacuum cleaner inhaling all the dust in the other, my monocular husband cut that tile in such a perfectly straight line, I was awed. I was cleaning up construction debris on his blind side so he didn't notice me proudly staring at him, as he held the small dremel in position for a good twenty minutes without wavering, never straying from the Sharpie line. Not easy with one eye!

November 18, 1998, Mauritius.

Happy Anniversary to a man who continues to amaze me.

(I'm still working on getting him to let me in on his plans a little earlier in the game, but I've only been trying for 14 years. I'll just have to be as tenacious as he is!)


PS: Greetings to Nick's aunt and uncle Francoise and Philippe who are currently in Reunion, where we spent our honeymoon!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Aftermath

November 7, 2012.

"The Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!"

Nick slammed on the brakes, narrowly missing the two deer in the road, and everything came to a screeching halt - except the Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie. It kept going, flying off Cayenne's lap and landing somewhere under Nick's seat. We arrived at Ilona and Michel's for our election night dinner with a pile of dessert, but happy it didn't come with a side of venison.

I spoke in my first American Presidential election yesterday. I became a dual citizen two years ago and now have a voice to help make things better, and not just to complain with.

I exercised that hard-won right with pride.

But here's the thing: The two party system is so divisive it only had one direction in which to fester, and it has. The vitriol spewed by both sides in this election was so toxic it threatened very strong friendships, mostly through social media.

So I was looking forward to waking up to a fresh start: the phone unringing; no more garbage in the mailbox; no more hate on facebook. But this is what met me: Republicans blaming the loss on all the ignorant, uneducated minorities who voted for the socialist, Muslim Obama, because they wanted more free stuff; and Democrats relieved that the Confederates and the rest of those gun-totin', bigoted, my-church-will-rule-your-life rednecks didn't make headway this time. Those are serious charges.

Educated, respectable citizens were making these statements. Certainly not everyone, but upstanding folks from both parties. I'm thinking it's human - when you are 100% sure what you're voting for is right - to think that anyone voting for the other side must be a little retarded. In the true sense of the word. But humans were also born with the capacity to see things from both sides, even when the halves are polar opposite. We just need to allow ourselves to do that.

Now's the time to heal - our feelings for each other and the state of the nation. The only way that's going to happen is if Congress swallows the hate and makes decisions based on what's best for the country - and that goes for both sides of the aisle. Fingers crossed we're adult enough to do it. Or better yet, maybe we should approach it more like children...

Here's how the girls let me know they'd dropped one of my favourite bowls recently:

"Mom! Great news! 
It only broke into four pieces so we can totally glue it back together!"


Monday, November 5, 2012

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Lifting her head out of the latest Fine Cooking magazine Cayenne declared,

"So here's an excellent quote from me: 'Do what you love, do it well, but know what you're doing.' I've been on this earth 11 years. I can cook and I'm pretty good at it, but I still can't figure out if a scallion is seafood or a type of onion!"

You're doing just fine, baby girl.

Acacia and I are helping Cayenne recreate a scene from the Alice in Wonderland sequel, The Looking Glass for her Humanities class. There's blue masking tape, red paint and glitter all over the house. So glad Nick's in Phoenix at the moment. He abhors glitter.

Over the weekend, however, I would've been lost without him because in the 24 hours between 10:30pm Friday night and 10:30pm Saturday night, I played five hockey games, went to Carly's baby shower and showed some clients a house - which they decided to buy. :) For my reward, I got an extra hour of sleep as the time changed on us. I am not a proponent of Daylight Savings, but I sure appreciated it yesterday morning!

The girls are still getting the hang of it though, as this is how the conversation went last night:

Me: "Bedtime peeps - it's 8:30"

Them: "Really it's 7:30 so we have time"

Me: "Really it's 9:30 so chop chop"

Them: "Oh"

Me: "What're you doing?"

Them: "Making chai lattes"

Me: "With what?"

Them: "Cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and cloves"


Me: Well alrighty then

Gotta love Fine Cooking. :)


Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Treats No Tricks

Trick or treat!
Smell my feet!
Give me something good to eat!
Not too big, not too small,
just the size of Montreal!

The things that take up primo real estate in your brain are worrying sometimes. But that they can lie dormant for 35 years and then pop into your consciousness is pretty amazing. (For the record, we used to sing that song while skipping between the houses, but never at an open door. I do have standards, you know.)

Me at 9 or 10 yrs: "Trick or Treat!"

Neighbour Mr. Saulnier: "Show me a trick and I'll give you a treat."

Me: "Give me a treat and I'll show you a trick."

He hands me a piece of candy and I unwrap it.

Me: "Now you see it." Gulp. "Now you don't!"

I was very impressed with myself for scoring two treats at the Saulnier's. When I think about the entire pillowcase my-sweet-tooth-self used to fill with candy trick-or-treating in our neighborhood in Montreal, I realise that moving to Portugal was really a very, very good thing for me.

Halloween isn't the most meaningful of holidays, but it's proving to be a great opportunity to create fun family traditions and lasting memories (apparently).

City market's pumpkins were squishy this year. I wonder if they froze on their way to the store, or it's just too warm out?

Our Spanish Dancer

Some of the many neighbourhood kids enjoying a Chili Dinner at the Thomases pre-trick-or-treating

Dorothy. She wants to be a monster next year...
I'm thinking with those missing teeth she should've been a rabbit.

Fair Trade

Even the sky played along with its witch's hat on orange. :)

If you live in the candybelt (U.S. & Canada), I hope you had a hoot!!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Our Mountain Goats

Just in case any of you noticed Nicolas was not in the birthday party pictures, that would be because he took it as his cue to get the hell out of Dodge - I mean, took advantage of the amazing autumn to go climbing with his girls. They called at 9:15am Saturday morning from the summit of their second mountain. This being seven hours after I got home from next door, the same level of activity could not be said of me.

That summit marked Cayenne's 27th Fourteener, and Acacia's 23rd. Nick spent some great hiking time with the girls this summer, but if I'd posted about every climb, all my posts would've looked the same. I'm very proud of them though, so if you'll indulge me for a bit here, I'd like to share some of it with you:

Cayenne on the Spiller-Babcock Ridge, June 9, 2012

Acacia and I on Sneffels, June 15th, 2012

The girls and I popped up to Engineer on July 6th (just down the road from Durango)

The flowers on Engineer were gorgeous

 Acacia on East Babcock, July 12, 2012

While Acacia was on a road trip with her grandparents to visit her cousins in California, Cayenne and Nicolas spent a long weekend camping, and climbed four 14ers: Yale, Shavano, Tabeguache and Antero.

She said they were Easy Peasy. :) Good father-daughter time.

July 31-August 1 they climbed Snowmass and Castle.

I love this shot

The Red Rover enjoyed this summer

Although it looks like she's peeing, Acacia is actually unloading her latest rock collection.

Kind of ethereal with the sun rising behind them.

They also climbed Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Democrat, Lincoln and Bross.

On the most recent one they were reminded that the climbing season was probably nearly done. And while I'm sure someday they'll look back on their adventures in the mountains as some of their most indelible, my guess is they welcomed the snow.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stop This Ride!

Can someone please stop our planet for a week so I can get off this ride, catch up with life, and climb back on??? My apologies to any of you who have faithfully checked in to peek at what's been going on at Camp Cofman, only to hear the crickets chirp.

Acacia hit double digits on September 24th and it took about a week to celebrate it Acacia-style, starting with a double birthday party at Michel & Ilona's. With my 45th just three days later, we economized on the celebration - but not the food. Acacia requested anything with sausage and Ilona got to work on homemade Italian pizza fit to rival anything in the Four Corners region... That said, a new place downtown is about to open, so Ilona may have competition soon! Last weekend Petra and I enjoyed the parade of homes and Fired Up Pizza was on the tour. They served free pizza and barley vodka basil lemonades. Needless to say, it was our most lengthy visit on the tour and they were calling us by name by the time we left.

But I digress. Like her sister, Acacia got a bedroom makeover for her birthday - but I got smart this time and allotted three days to do it, so was less suicidal by the time it was done.

 Once the last pillow was in place, I realized this is the room I never knew I always wanted.

Cayenne helped make the box on the wall to the left of the window
for Acacia to hang her jewelry and store her nail polish.

Painting on the furniture and walls felt so naughty - like my Mom was going to walk in and flip out at any minute - it was pure pleasure!
(I found the mirror at a thrift store - this very heavy oak one was just what I was searching for - and because it was only $17.50, I didn't mind testing the paint idea on it. 
I had so much fun I went a little nuts on the rest of the room...)


Luckily, while I was busy making sure Acacia's birthday was just right, next door Petra was sending out invites to make sure mine would be too. Good times!!

Thank you Petra!