The Traveling Beans

Eat| Travel | Learn…All Over The World


Why we De-Schooled our Kids

It is still the beginning of the school year here in Canada and I know there are a few of you  crazy  brave ones who have decided to take on homeschooling your kids for the first time.

First of all…were you getting bored of all that personal quiet time you had while your kids were at school? Was uninterrupted coffee dates with your girlfriends getting a little dry? I see. You needed a challenge. I get it. I was there once too.

It took me a solid year of researching and reading about and talking to other homeschool parents before we made that leap too. I was so gung-ho that I pulled my kids out of their amazing, little francophone school where they were learning a second language, had made friends, and looked so damn cute in their little wooden desks singing “Bonjour Mes Amis, Bonjour”.

I had this pie-in-the-sky idea of what our home learning experience was going to be and charged into my first homeschool convention to soak up every bit of wisdom and teaching tips I could find. After a day of seminars and 4962 booths of curriculum sellers, I felt like a Maserati about to take off on the indy 500….only with glazed eyes, enough curriculum to get us through 15 years of grade 1 and 3, and a new respect for the sales skills of a certain religious sect that still dressed like Little House on the Prairie.

On my return home I unloaded the haul of curriculum and my kids came running to help sort through what looked like fun…. from the outside. I sat back amazed at their obvious excitement of all the knowledge I was going to fill them with and let them peruse the awesome textbooks they were going to love learning from. They quickly tossed the academic stuff aside and went straight for the science kits , puzzles, and art supplies squealing like it was Christmas morning.

Zoe ripped open the art supplies and quickly disappeared to practice getting paint and oil pastels on the one good section left of the playroom carpet. While Mayah ripped into a science kit for learning force and motion immediately breaking a crucial piece needed for the experiments to happen. She  looked up at me with horror expecting an angry outburst and I knew I didn’t want to ruin homeschooling before we even started so I took a deep breath and said something really wise like  ” OH NO! You have broken the most important piece!….(lowering my voice from shrill to calm) I mean….which….is what this kit was for (legitimate eye twitch). Your motion… caused a force… which snapped this piece in half. So good job learning force and motion!” .

YEAH! I was going to rock this homeschool mom thing.

Our first real day of homeschooling was magical, I mean stupendous amounts of learning happened, I mean we made big headway and set the bar high….for the first 5 minutes.

I woke up with a grand plan; Get the toddler busy so he doesn’t interrupt, make a healthy breakfast with fruit cut into little letters, put on some classical music because it isn’t just for the baby Einsteins, lay out our awesome lessons for the day and wait for my eager little students to arise fresh and ready to be studious.

It looked a little more like this….two bites each of breakfast and then the little angels run off to watch TV and fight over the remote control because one wants to rule what everyone watches and the other needs let the world know( at the top of her lungs) that she was fit to make big decisions like watching Hannah Montana over Peep and the Big Wide World.

I clearly needed to handle this and get my kids back to the table to learn so I pry the remote from their death grip, turn off the tv and demand they treat each other with respect…AND to stop grabbing the remote from each other. To which they replied in unison “well you just grabbed it from us!” .


It only took 15 meltdowns, 22 arguments, and some good old-fashioned bribery to get the little…um…scholars back to the table where I began my first attempt at filling their little buckets with important and exciting things like learning latin roots of words, math drills, and spelling skill because I needed to produce super human spelling B champions so the world could see that homeschooling IS a good idea for us.

It literally only took about 4 seconds before I heard ” I hate this. It’s boring. Can we go play?”

“Is it the Vivaldi?” I thought and went to change the music to something more motivating like AC-DC only to find my toddler in the kitchen teetering on the third highest drawer handle with a handful of wet coffee grinds he had freshly scooped out of the filter and was flinging freely all over the white kitchen. Meanwhile, as soon as my back was turned, the girls army crawled to the playroom to find their toys.

This is when I discovered that maybe homeschooling was not really my thing but was too afraid to say it out loud, for fear that someone might realise that maybe parenting was also not really my thing and perhaps I should not be in charge of making decisions…like how to best educate people.

So I had a choice;

  1. Pack my bags and go find new kids who were good at homeschooling
  2. OR….Add vodka to my morning coffee so my sense of humour could shine through
  3. OR…get help from a local homeschool support group

As tempting as 1 and 2 were I did go to the support group where I showed up to only listen and maybe ask a question or two and find out how everyone else taught their kids latin and produced spelling champions.

I was asked to share my story and immediately cried….because my crazy had no self-control and I explained, while sobbing, how I clearly had made a big mistake taking my kids out of school and how I was ruining them and that they would be better off being raised by wolves because I am not cut out to be a homeschool parent and probably should just hand my kids over to the government while I am at it so I don’t make any other life altering decisions that crush their future chances of a normal life.

When I finished my explanation I waited for their response. I waited for them to tell me that I was right and there was still time to put my kids back in school. I waited for them to high five my crazy and hold me until the mental health professionals showed up.

What I received instead was this;

  1. Empathy – We know how you feel because we have been right where you are
  2. Honesty- This is one of the hardest things we have done too…but it gets better and it can be life changing….in a good way
  3. Teaching – We have come to understand that homeschooling is as much about what we learn and let go of and model for our kids as it is for them to learn AND it is rewarding when we live that truth

Then they told me about something they did called De-Schooling and a light came on. A big, bright, I think I found Jesus light came on.  In order for this to work, I needed to shed an old idea about what learning looks like. There needed to be a monumental shift between my lifelong view of education only happening from filling in blanks and memorizing textbook knowledge to one of igniting a spark in hopes of creating a flame of desire that leads to lifelong learning.

De-Schooling meant putting away the curriculum and take some time to get into a rhythm of being together. I needed to get to know my kids as learners and find out how to best light that spark that would lead to a flame.

So we packed up the giant stack of curriculum and headed to the library to find some Living Books to read aloud as the kids played or as we snuggled up in my big bed. I spent time cooking, and hiking, and shopping, and playing games with my kids and started to see what really piqued their interests and when they asked questions we searched, together, for the answers.

This was perhaps one of the best times in our now 9 years of homeschooling and allowed all of us to get into a new rhythm of life where learning happened a little more organically and looked less like “school” and more like inspired learning. We waited until the second half of that year to introduce curriculum and kept it simple with a math program and some writing  and reading practice.

De-Schooling was the pause that needed to happen so we could all (kids too) shed our world view of education and allow the space necessary to build trust and openness. After all, home is where our kids come to rest and to be nourished. To be safe and cared for. To be real and vulnerable and live wholeheartedly. When all of this can happen, they will be open and when they are open…when we are open we learn the best.

BTW- Zoe is now in grade 12 at a Fine Arts school( she stepped back into public education in grade 11) and although she still gets paint in my carpets, I am extremely proud of the amazing young woman she has become. The spark is definitely now a flame of passion for fine arts and she is thriving in a public school situation with a confidence I never had at her age, getting top grades and excitedly applying for University. I only had to get out of her way and watch her go!

Mayah continues to pursue her education from home and bypassed grade 9 to get a head start on grade 10 ( her choice). She is a goal setter, extremely ambitious & competitive, and an excellent example  of how self-directed learning works. University is also on her radar and in spite of living in a house of artists who seem to thrive on chaos, she has her next ten years mapped out in a neat and orderly fashion. Again….I only needed to facilitate her learning not force anything her way but De-schooling had to happen for me to see the value and set the pace.

Ethan and Sophia are in Elementary level and by God’s grace and lots of coffee, I continue the homeschool journey and learn how to best parent each of them.

Some resources that have helped me;


We HS Eclectically and glean from Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education.


The Homeschool movement can give thanks to Ivan Illich because along with john Holt, he inspired many to step out and look at education in a different way


This book was one of the motivators for me to begin my homeschool journey and Gabor Mate is one of my favourite human beings for his work with addicts and mentally ill in Vancouver’s downtown east side.

* Just a note to say that even though I am writing about my personal experience and craziness, my husband and I are a team. Although he was pretty uncertain about the whole homeschool thing, in the beginning, he works hard at his career to make it possible for me to remain home and to homeschool and has come to see the benefits and fully support the idea.

Cheers my friends and whether you homeschool or public school I wish you a great year and hope you will share your stumbles, joys, successes and parenting life with me!

Tasting wines in Gigondas France

Red Wines to Drink for Under $15

Hey, friends!

How was your week? Happy to be back in the swing of things with your kids back in school? We are in our 9th year of homeschooling and have 3 out of our 4 kids learning at home this year. Every year is different and I actually really love that about our homeschool experience.

So whether you send your kids to school, homeschool, unschool, world-school, or are simply a life long learner….let’s raise a glass to cheer each other on making it through another week!


This week’s WINE-DUP is all about easy drinking, yummy reds you will find for $15 or less.

First I have to tell you how ironic it is that I am writing about red wine when I cannot actually drink it right now. My Fibromyalgia is in full swing so I am needing to minimize inflammation triggers and for some reason, red wine has turned on me. I know this will not stop you though and I hope you will share with me what you chose to drink this weekend!

Here are my picks and many of these came from Facebook friends who shared with me their faves;


    This is in number one position because you actually get a whole litre of wine for a little under $15 and is one of my husband’s go-to for a daily glass.  Elegantly ripe, berry aromas and pleasant acidity  make this Italian red  an optimal food wine but I can assure you that it can be enjoyed with or without food, right honey?



    This one is suggested by my Sister-in-law and is another great pick. I Love the coffee, espresso, mocha nose! This full-bodied, delicious red wine is made from South Africa’s signature Pinotage grape, a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir. This wine is dry, but it finishes with delicious flavours of dark chocolate. This is a luscious and chewy wine with a smokey finish that you can purchase for under $13!!


    My friend Irma says this Malbec is a great choice and for only $12.99 I agree. With intense ripe red fruits aromas, spicy , tobacco notes from the 18 months ageing in French oak barrels, this is a great buy. The tannins are firm enough to serve alongside a grilled meat dish but again…you can drink on its own and still enjoy.


    Remember the song Suzie Q?  Well, probably no relation but now you have the song in your head while you wine shop! Your welcome. This hot little Aussie number is actually named after the winemaker john Quarisa who says “You just can’t take life too seriously”. Amen, John! And thank you for making this easy-going red with youthful fresh ripe berry fruit flavours with some well-integrated vanillan oak. This wine was suggested by my FB friend Donna and I think both her and John Q would suggest pairing this with good friends and lots of laughter!  OH btw it is listed at less than $14


    This one came to me by a few friends who say they love this sweet, easy drinking red. I have never tried this one…that I am aware of…but for only $8.99 it is worth a try. Produced in Canada by Constellation wines, you can expect aromas of sweet black cherry, strawberry and candied fruit; off-dry with the same flavours as detected on the nose. Thanks Ladies for the suggestion!


    If cuddling up with a hot Spanish number is your thing then let me introduce you to Carinena.  This wine really over delivers in value, offering up sophisticated flavours of red berries, cherries and plum. A complex structure and smooth tannins round out the wine, leaving a soft vanilla and spicy aftertaste to linger until the next mouthful. It sells for about $13.99 and was recommended by my friend Chris Meads. Thanks Friend!


    This Big House Red lives up to that old Fruit Bomb moniker that you’ve come to expect. It starts with a nose full of blackberries and raspberries, with hints of leather and spices. The palate is clean, exhibiting flavors of cranberries, roses and a touch of rhubarb. This finish lingers, with flavours of vanilla and a touch of dark cherries in the finish. Can’t argue with $11.49! Thanks for the reminder on the Big House Karyn!


Cheers from The Bradburn’s!

Why I Teach my Kids About Residential Schools






When I was a kid in school, we were still called Indians. Which is funny because;

  1. We are not from India
  2. We are actually Metis
  3.  I was about the whitest looking kid in my family….let alone my neighborhood

Being raised in the 70’s in an aboriginal-ish family and community meant I learned first hand how written history did not completely line up with actual reality. Hollywood taught me that we were either roving savages that needed to be tamed or wise elders with a feather headdress that spoke in stunted English  about stewarding the earth.

My Elementary school taught me about all the brave European explorers who came to find wealth in this new land , made” friends” with the Indians, had a big feast we now call Thanksgiving and then lived happily ever after. Now I know that I was never really good at math, but things weren’t really adding up to Happily ever After in my world.

People in our community made fun of Indians with jokes about being drunk and destitute….like it was a choice.  This was personal and added to how I viewed myself….especially since my own father struggled with alcoholism.

I could see ,even as a child, the hopelessness, and despair that bound our family and many others. Home life for me and many other kids was at times rife with addiction, violence, and abandonment.

But Why was this happening?  Why were 8-year-olds in my neighborhood sniffing glue? Why were entire families full of violent bullies? How were  kids in Juvie at the same time that their parents did time for drugs and sometimes violent crimes? Why was it happening in so many  families and at the same time others did not have this problem?


Well….the answer has come to me many years later  as I process my own life. The answer? Shame.

Heaps of shame.

Enough shame that entire families were in bondage and sometimes entire communities that had thrived for hundreds of years before, lived a level of despair that caused their people,  to almost become extinct.

Some of the kids I went to school with were  the children and grandchildren of people who had been stolen from their homes as kids and raised in residential schools. This meant their caregivers, as children, were beaten, taught “dumbed down” lessons in school, starved, sexually abused, had needles poked through their tongues to force them to not speak their language, and forced to assimilate to a warped version of Christian culture.

Some never saw their own parents again and moved to the city after “graduation” to try and carry on in their lives….without help for the healing that needed to happen…without the words to even describe what they had experienced. It was buried and forgotten until someone finally told their story.

Story was the beginning of healing.

Story is always the beginning of healing.

Story was the door that needed to be opened so that truth could find its way out.

Story is also how we can make sure it never happens again.

So this homeschool year, I will share with my kids what happened. I will open the door for the conversation about our past as a people in this country, how far we have come, and how far we can go.

For my teens….we have already had many discussions about this part of Canada’s past and as I do my own soul work I will continue to model for my kids the importance of owning our story.

For my elementary aged kids, we will read these books ;





Arctic stories is a great intro to Northern First Nations culture and storytelling. This is a trio of stories about a 10-year-old girl and one of the stories is how she is sent away to school “The nuns did not make very good mothers and the priests, who were called fathers, did not make very good fathers,” Kusugak writes.

Fatty Legs is about 8 year old Margaret who desperatly wants to learn how to read and so asks to go to residential school. This story shows how Margaret refuses to be defeated by the mean nun.

A Stranger at Home is the Sequel to Fatty Legs where Margaret returns home to find things have changed. Great depiction of the struggle to re-integrate back into her community and culture.

No Time to Say Good-Bye takes place in the Southern Gulf Islands of BC’s West Coast.This is a humorous and sometimes sad collection of stories based on real life accounts as re-told by the Tsartlip First Nation’s survivors.

My Name is Seepeetza is a living diary acocunt of how Seepeetza was taken from her home in the 50’s and placed in a Kamloops Residential School.

As Long as the Rivers Flow is the Authors first-hand account of the final summer before being taken from his home. His story shows how he was thriving in his home education with the wisdom of his Kokom (Grandmother) and his ability to care for wild animals and wildcraft medicinal plants.

We Feel Good Out Here is a beautiful autobiographical account of life in the Northern community including the residential school experience. “The land has a story to tell, if you know how to listen. When I travel, the land tells me where my ancestors have been. It tells me where the animals have come and gone, and it tells me what the weather may be like tomorrow.”

In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school.

She spends her last days at home treasuring the beauty of her world — the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather’s paddle song. Her mother, father and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. And so Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.

Richly hued illustrations complement this gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace all around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss — a loss that native people have endured for generations because of the residential schools system.

This moving sequel to the award-winning Shi-shi-etko tells the story of two children’s experience at residential school. Shi-shi-etko is about to return for her second year, but this time her six-year-old brother, Shin-chi, is going, too.

As they begin their journey in the back of a cattle truck, Shi-shi-etko tells her brother all the things he must remember: the trees, the mountains, the rivers and the salmon. Shin-chi knows he won’t see his family again until the sockeye salmon return in the summertime. When they arrive at school, Shi-shi-etko gives him a tiny cedar canoe, a gift from their father.

The children’s time is filled with going to mass, school for half the day, and work the other half. The girls cook, clean and sew, while the boys work in the fields, in the woodshop and at the forge. Shin-chi is forever hungry and lonely, but, finally, the salmon swim up the river and the children return home for a joyful family reunion.

Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn.

The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read.

Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

Rosé from Burgundy, France

It’s Time for the


We made it through another week and with the full moon fever (argumentative children), piles of laundry (does it ever end?), prepping our house for selling (ACK!), AND packing for our Alaskan Adventure (YAY escapism!)….my sanity is holding on by a shred.

A  fine, fine, very fine shred.

This means I am looking forward to a lovely glass of wine to kick off the week end and with this heat, it’s a gonna be a rosé . (Like my Italian accented, broken English using a French word? I am pretty much able to speak broken English in 5 languages. Amazing right? :P)

Anyhoo….here’s our week end WINE-DUP! with some of my faves to help you find a yummy pink to drink in every budget and remember pink wine isn’t ‘just’ for breakfast anymore!

$20 and Under


This Portuguese lovely little, fresh and fruity rosé was a great find from Trader Joe’s and at only $6.99 I suggest buying 2 or more and inviting your friends to help you drink, because I don’t like to recommend drinking alone…you know ….after 4pm


A pink from South Africa that is an absolute delight for only $11.99 . Lightly floral on the nose and citrus on the palate makes this a no brainer for entertaining or to drink with your sweet thang under the light of the moon. ***note- screw top for easy beach drinking….I like how they think 😉


Chile is a go-to for in-expensive, quaffable wines. This Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon rosé is made from organically grown grapes from the “San Luis de Alico” organic vineyard. We are talking delicate and fresh with an intense palate of ripe fruit and aromas of red berries. At $14.99  this fresh and fruity  is an easy pink to drink.


This Italian pink bubbly is 85% Prosecco and 15% marzemino with aromas of berries and cream. It is slightly tart with just a kiss of sweetness making this a fantastic summer drink. At only $18.49  I would bring it as a hostess gift for your next summer bbq or drink at your beach side picnic out of a sippy cup like decent parents do.

JOIE – ROSE 2015

Who would I be if I did not include the leader of BC rosés?  Heidi Noble from Joie is one of my wine heros ( do you have one of those? If not, Heidi is your new hero. You’re welcome.) She crafts rosés in the Okanagan Valley that are as fine as the French and great for food pairings.  This Joie rosé is fresh and fruity with a slight spiciness….exactly how my husband would describe me….this BC beauty is only $18.99 and one of my all time faves.



I love me some French rosé…lets face it, they invented this beautiful drink so….

Here is how the BCLDB explains this lovely;

All the grapes were picked on the early edge of ripeness, during the cool night time hours, and go direct to press. Aromas dance between summer flowers, wild strawberry and cherry and herbs de Provence. ( I know right? combined with BC herb you can write like this too!) These same flavours carry through on the palate but in a more delicate way. The palate is surprisingly broad and rich, though not at all heavy, and finishes with mouth watering acidity. Great wine for only $19.99 cad

Prices are in Canadian Dollars so imagine the prices are much  less in U.S. and UK

Have a favourite rosé? Share it with me!!!

***Disclaimer – The Traveling beans are in no way promoting drinking in the morning or using alcohol as a crutch. This is meant to be a fun read and hope you can see it as such.


8 Things that Surprised us about Europe

We googled the heck out of this trip before we stepped foot on an airplane, read Lonely Planet guides, and got advice from many who had gone before us. However, there were still some things that came as a surprise.

  1. Scotland actually does have a cuisine!                                                        I was prepared for deep fried everything from fish to chocolate bars….it is actually a Scottish thing.We knew we would be tasting haggis and tatties ( still not sure what that is) and were open to what ever other surprises came our way. However, what surprised us most is that we actually ate quite well. You see, the French had a great influence on the Scots ( and vice versa) and you will find hints of cassoulet and cream sauce served with game and fish. While in Edinburgh, we had some fab food on the Royal Mile at a place called The Amber Room. Items like Isle of Bute smoked salmon and lobster figs and smoky bacon took us on a taste journey from sea to highlands. They also have a killer collection of Whiskey to sample. At our friends place in OldMeldrum we BBQ’d Venison sausage and tried a fine haggis….which I had to address….will post a video for your comedic pleasure, but basically had to read a Robbie Burns poem in my best(worst) Scottish accent. All in all we ate well and enjoyed the stunning scenery in Scotland!
  2.  We felt very safe in Paris…well all of France really.                                   We had heard, like everyone, that Paris especially is unsafe. We were prepared to limit our travels and activities and almost did not go to Paris. We had a stern talk with the kids about safety and staying close (still wise) and watching for pick pockets.  Once we got out and began exploring the streets of this beautiful city, we quickly saw that Paris is a peaceful city. We walked the streets at night and we even got to the point where our teenaged daughters were allowed to go off and shop and sight see with out us. I still had moments of paranoia because past events and media sensationalism have shaped my thinking. I even expected an air of anxiousness amongst the locals and that could not have been farther from the truth. So thankful we did not act out of fear and spent time in this beautiful city!




We loved walking the streets of Paris at night and especially loved turning a corner and seeing this beauty all lit up!


3.We were told that driving in France and Italy was a bad idea because the roads are crazy narrow at times and we thought it was going to be like this IMG_5477We also  heard that the French and Italians are crazy drivers and that streets and highways are packed, but actually once we were outside of the major cities like Paris ( BTW we drove the round about at Arc du Triumph and lived ) it was easy breezy. Really glad we drove because we saw so much more and had the freedom to pull into spots of interest when the desire arose. The other surprise on the highways though was the amount of toll booths. We knew to expect them just had no idea that they would be like every 15 minutes (*exaggeration) or so it seemed AND you pay by kilometre. So anything we saved driving a diesel vehicle we made up for in tolls. Here is a link to learn more about tolls and routes to avoid them : Driving France      *The other thing to note is that we ate quite well along the way and even the gas stations have a great selection of foods. Just don’t expect coffee to be North American sized 😉

4. The Size of Elevators Our apartment in Paris was on the 4th floor and we had A LOT of luggage and sometimes our bodies hurt from walking endless hours on cobblestone streets. So the elevator was something we looked forward to….but it meant 2 at a time or one and a piece of luggage.  BTW this was not an exception and until Italy, this was the size of elevators every where we went 😛

Teeny elevator in our Paris apartment

Teeny elevator in our Paris apartment



5.How emotional I became at the WWII war memorials We stood on July 1st (Canada Day) with our Canadian flags in hand, on Juno Beach. This is where Canadian men, some as young as 17 and 18 years old, after a rough sail across the English Channel,  jumped off a boat to face immediate German machine gunfire. Chris’ grandfather was one of these brave men. We walked the beach and toured the dugouts with other Canadians and two of which currently serve in the Canadian military. I asked them what it meant for them to see this place to which they replied with a lump in their throat ” We are humbled by the courage of these men”. We thanked them for serving our country and I could no longer hold back my tears. I knew that the freedom I experience today and the fact that I stood as a Canadian on that beach came at a great expense and I was (we all were) beyond moved.


Poppies lined the streets against the wheat fields down to the beach photo credit: Stephanie Bradburn



Chris standing on same spot his grand father fought in WWII #Juno-beach


Family shot (minus our eldest) on Juno Beach Canada Day 2016


Photo of what our men faced that June day in 1944


Canadian soldiers trying to find cover in German gunfire

6.Eating Gluten Free My daughter Zoe is allergic to gluten and we were concerned about her having food options while on the road. Although Scotland and France had tons of options in grocery stores, the restaurants (96% of the time) were annoyed when we asked for a gluten free menu or when asked if they had GF options. Italy , on the other hand, was totally on board with offering gluten free menus and options. Every where we went from the smallest mom & pop spot to tourist spots to fine dining had a separate GF menu and always went out of their way to accommodate us.

7.No Coffee on the Go We had a hard time shifting our North American Starbucks carrying habits, to the European slow down and drink your damn coffee habit. Our poor Scottish friends could not believe we left their house one morning with coffee mugs in hand to drive the countryside. *BTW- the drink holders in the car we rented was more the size of a beer bottle than a coffee mug so there was spillage. Malcolm (Scottish friend) felt our pain and bought us a couple of travel mugs that fit nicely  so we could maintain our coffee addiction 😉  We did find Starbucks in Paris and Glasgow and went there mostly for the free wi-fi, but also left with coffee in hand. By the time we got to Italy we were use to espresso shots and actually miss the deliciousness of Italian Coffee

8.Public Drinking The French and Italians do not cruise around with their coffee, but they most certainly can be found walking the streets or sitting in parks enjoying a bottle of wine or beer. Our gas stations in North America are typically linked to coffee shops where in France and Italy you are more likely to be able to leave with a bottle of wine or beer than you are with a grande coffee! Italy especially, we laughed that petrol stations all had bars where people stopped to grab a beer and a panini. They also had great espresso but always served in glassware so we had to stop and enjoy. The learning to slowdown and enjoy our coffee was actually a blessing and we hope to continue this back home.

*****BONUS Surprise…..okay I forgot one so editing this post and adding…..Pepperoni pizza is NOT a thing in Italy. Back home my 10 yr old son lives on pepperoni pizza and anything that requires copious amounts of ketchup. Soooooo to his surprise (and ours) peperoni is actually a pepper. Salami pizza was close enough and actually changed my son’s taste as he now prefers the yummy flat bread style pizza with less cheese and a bit of salami.

Would love to hear about what surprises came your way in your travels!


No Whiskey for You…and other Scottish tales

First, you should know that my husband Chris , by profession, is a drinker….or better known as a Sommelier. He is mostly an expert in wine and beer, however, his scope of experience includes all things brewed, fermented and distilled. So when we were invited to tour the GlenDronich Distillery in the Scottish Highlands I noticed a new little twinkle appear in Chris’s eye. He counted down the days and planned our trip around this very special opportunity.

I offered to stay home ( back at our friend’s place in Old Meldrum) with the kids because surely a whiskey distillery is no place for the wee ones and I was already tired of the complaining over who gets stuck in the back seat of our tiny little compact minivan. Granted the roads in Scotland are stomach-droppingly narrow so the cars need to fit, but just not really designed for normal sized humans & families of more than 4 people (and their stuff). So every outing was a fight as to who first called the middle seat and if I had a dollar for everytime a fight broke out…

“This is part of real life learning” Chris reminded me, ” Plus we get to see the Highlands and the shaggy-haired cattle and maybe shopping” . He was pulling out the world schooling and shopping card and using my argument against me. Smart guy!

So we stuffed our kids into the mini, mini, minivan with promises of cool souvenir shopping along the way and headed up into the emerald green hills of the Highlands.

Mist hung in the trees as the sun found it’s way setting everything aglow. Once again we were taken by the stunning beauty of this area wanting desperately to capture every turn on camera, but not wanting to take our eyes off the landscape for fear we may disrupt the experience. This kind of travel has forced us into having fresh eyes and into staying in the moment. What a great feeling!

Word on the street was that GlenDronich is one of the best around and this added to our already budding excitement. We had experienced a ton of winery tours so this was going to be new and I had no idea what to expect.

The signs pointed us down a long road through farmland and into a picturesque Glen of what seemed like a wee village. This was GlenDronach. Peaceful, lovely, and steeped in history.

The kids were all happy to be out of the car and seemed happy to explore the distillery with us. We were given a warm welcome by Jeanine, our very knowledgeable tour guide, and led into a room with rich wood and arched windows and seated at a harvest table. She gave us some time to watch an introductory video about the history of GlenDronich which the kids, bless their little hearts, actually sat still and watched beginning to end.

We then toured the facility and learned the process of how to make a fine whiskey. The tour started out by the stream that ran through the property and we learned about the community that thrived around the production of this product. Whiskey was seen as a farm product like any other and entire economies were built upon its premise. Distillers were originally the monks who were craftsmen in their own right and highly respected, but others began to learn the art and an industry was born.

Each distillery seemed to house a taxman placed by the King to make sure this profitable industry paid its share. Certain rules are still in play like the leaving of empty broken barrels in the very place they fell to prove there was spillage and not theft.

The kids liked the stories of the “angel’s share” in the cellar. Along the barrels and stone pillars showed black streaks and was once thought that the evaporating liquor was in fact taken by angels. They also learned about the relationship the distillers had with the parliament of cruks (birds) that nested in the cellars. These birds would quack and flutter at the sound of anyone approaching which benefited the distillers so they knew if the taxman was approaching.

At one point in the tour, our littlest bean was overwhelmed by the strong smell of fermenting grains. She still talks about the smells on that tour and we all remember how each element from the smoked peat to the fermenting grains to the oak barrels lends itself to the process as well as represents a grander part of the landscape. This type of learning etches itself into our memories making the lessons real and lasting.

The tour ended in the tasting room and as Jeanine lined up the special glasses and pulled out bottles my husband looked like a kid on Christmas morning. I let her know that it was a bit early in the day for me to be tasting and to just pour for Chris to which she replied: “Are you the driver?”

My darling husband was the only one insured on our rental car…do you see where this is going?

Our next lesson was on how Scotland does not allow the driver to taste….even a little snip….at whiskey houses.

It may have been a tear in his eye and maybe it WAS a speck of dust. No one knows for sure, but our poor sommelier who waited weeks for this tasting had to stand back and watch me have wee sips of the very healthy pours of 21, 25, & 30-year-old whiskey. Every time I spit my taste or dumped my glass into the tasting bucket I heard the whimper of his soul, dying , just a little more each time.

All was not lost as Chris did get to experience the nose as did each of the kids as they learned how to smell the characteristics of the drink. Not to mention that once they learned about his profession we were some of the few invited into the original cellar where hundreds of barrels aged. Our guide told us not even she had ever stepped foot inside that cellar. So that was special. Plus she did send him away with small sample bottles of some of the whiskey that was poured for me. I am not much of a “whiskey before noon” person.

Anyway, we now have more motivation to return to Scotland and next time I can learn how to drive on the other side of the road …Lord help us all 😛




Waiting for the movie to start

Waiting for the movie to start

A tour of the property

A tour of the property

The copper stills are different at every distil;very and are an art unto themselves

The copper stills are different at every distillery and are an art unto themselves

The excitement builds as we edge our way closer to the end of the tour

The excitement builds as we edge our way closer to the end of the tour

The teens enjoyed the tour and checking out the copper tanks

The teens enjoyed the tour and checking out the copper tanks



Watching the fermentation process

The barrel room behind glass....not able to photograph inside

The barrel room behind glass….not able to photograph inside

Tasting 18 year old whiskey was a first for me and quite smooth.

Tasting 18 year old whiskey was a first for me and quite smooth. There were barrels that aged for over 35 years…imagine how much happens in 35 years as those barrels sit and wait for their time.

Named after the Parliament of cruks

Named after the Parliament of cruks

The Tartan of GlenDuronich

The Tartan of GlenDuronich


Learn more about GlenDronach here :

More on their Whiskey and history

The influence of religion on whiskey:

Visit Scotland:

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