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I got these fresh eyes, never seen you before like this…..

It is January and a time for a few New Year’s resolutions or just plain turning over a new leaf. I have never been partial to drawing up a list and then going on a guilt trip when one falls by the wayside. So instead I hope to look at my life and the people and places in it with a pair of ‘fresh eyes.’ I am not even sure what it could entail although I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

One thing I hope to keep fresh in my heart is the gratitude I feel for my family. The Morkel clan are a strong group of individuals with definite opinions and ideas. One is reminded of this when they all come together over a holiday and we get to live under one roof. The family dynamic takes time to formulate as everyone has been living and running their lives independently. Then suddenly they are all back home and I have to remind myself that I have grown up children. I look around the table at our gorgeous brood…..and know that my job is done.

Time to look with fresh eyes......

Time to look with fresh eyes……

It’s like the first time when we open the door……

Those of you who follow my ramblings will have walked the road through our recent move to Vancouver and the rejuvenation process of a long in tooth 70’s style house.  Well this door is still open! The creative juices were fired into action when our new car began to slip down our steep driveway and into the garage! That was all we needed! We had only just replaced the two cars that had met their demise after their collision with a gigantic moose! The men rushed up to the road and came up with a plan. The wooden ‘chocks’ were brought out and our precious vehicle was propped up against them. Discussions ensued and plans of heated driveways, steel ramps and raised levels were bandied about. So there is sure to be a fresh look at how we access our house in the near future.

My God, you’re beautiful……..

We have a beautiful piece of riverine forest here in Vancouver but it comes with its responsibility and needs constant attention. There are branches that fall and leaves that block drain pipes. I would not have it any other way though…..As part of our revamp of the property, we called in the assistance of an arborist to assess our handsome trees. Regrettably we have to fell two old Hemlocks. They stood tall at the entrance to the house for the last 80 years. These stately gentlemen are diseased and threaten to fall on our newly renovated house. Can you imagine it? After all the toil of these last few months, I shudder at the thought. Hopefully we can honour them in some way. Possibly a useful bench made from their wood positioned in the place where their roots once grew. So I will be needing my fresh eyes and possibly a fresh back as I tame and enhance my forest garden.

Its human nature to miss what is under your nose……

The beauty of the Vancouver mountains still makes my heart leap. Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and the Lions Peaks are all in my view as I drive back up from the North Shore. I see their rugged snow-capped peaks and I have to pinch myself. I actually do live here.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

 

 

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Like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion…..
My hand works skilfully up and down the clear window pane. A stray hair blows across my face and I stop and gaze out towards the river. It lies dormant with its thick ice cap and dainty snow crystals that cling to the surrounding trees. As with all tasks that are repetitive, it helps to keep in the rhythm. Up and down the soft cloth soothes…..it will be the last time. I reach down low to the small finger prints of the twins. I falter and then continue with my stroke. One swish and the sticky marks have been erased. It has begun. I have begun the process of cleaning, sorting, throwing out and the packing of boxes.
My power is turned on……

A rekkie in Vancouver this last week.....

A rekkie in Vancouver this last week…..

The Groot Trek Mark 2 will be a mere 3500 km from Toronto to Vancouver. We rush around and get our house ready for the inevitable Show Day. We replace light bulbs, make lists and run backwards and forwards to donate accumulated ‘things’ to the thrift store. Personal items like our cherished family photographs are all safely packed away. The house needs to appear to prospective buyers like a blank canvas. What a hard task that is! It is as if Maison de Morkel never existed. In our hearts it still does and I remind myself that it is healthy to visit all this sentimentally. The downsizing has begun…..
This is my fight song…….
“I can do this.” I tell myself as I round the corner on my way back from the lake. It is strange……the other day I was priding myself on my exceptional navigational skills. I know all the short cuts and seldom get lost. The monotone voice of my SATNAV used to be my constant companion but her job is in definite jeopardy. I finally have a sense of belonging here in Oakville. It has taken almost 5 years for that wonderful state of ‘I belong here’ to kick in. But as life has it, one must never get too comfortable or feel just a tad complacent. Immigration has certainly taught me to accept change and CHANGE I must….. It does not help to fight this new state but rather to channel my energy into preparing for our new life in Vancouver.
Starting right now I will be strong….
We leave behind our 2 sons and our dear friends. My heart feels heavy at the mere thought of it. One gets used to keeping your family close when you do this ‘country hop.’ It is going to seem strange not to have them popping in for a chat, dad’s steak or mom’s pasta. We are so grateful to the friends and neighbours who have been there for us. They have shared all our trials and tribulations. It is a bitter sweet move as the rest of our family awaits our arrival on the other side. I see 2 little faces running up our driveway.
No doubt Jack and Kate will make new finger prints on our Vancouver abode.

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Christmas with the family in Toronto 2015.

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The vision of the snowy coy wolf played over in my thoughts. It had slunk through our garden that afternoon and played havoc with our resident squirrels. It was 3 am and besides my lupine visions the anticipation of the family visit made sleep impossible.

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Our resident coy wolf

“That’s it, I give up!” Sleep was not about to quell this excitement. My hand turned the door handle and I crept out of the bedroom.
I might have mentioned before that the men in my house are phlegmatics. Thank goodness they are made this way, as it keeps this mother in check! But it has its drawbacks…… in that there is always another day to get something done. The word ‘hurry’ does not exist in their vocabulary when it comes to certain things. Wave a cricket or rugby ball in front of their eyes and we have a whole different story! I must add that when they do get to the ‘difficult jobs’ they are all done in record time. But I have to be patient and to wait for the spirit to move them. This is indeed my repeated life lesson!
One of the ‘difficult jobs’ that I needed help with, was to move the contents of the guest room down 2 flights of stairs to the basement. This was all in preparation for the arrival of the rest of our family which included our 16 month old twin grandchildren, Jack and Kate. It was count down as there were 4 days to go before their visit. This somewhat impatient Nan had plans that were not about to materialise without drastic action. So I began to softly move what I could. The side tables, bedside lights and bedding were part of the cargo. I crept up and down the wooden staircase. I was not deterred by the announcement by my now awake- family that they were going to call the ‘WHITE COATS’ to come and fetch me. Apparently this 4am furniture removal around the house was enough to signify that this mother was losing it. This Nan was on a mission! All it needed was a couple more trips down the stairs. The downstairs suite was taking shape….
I sat down with a steaming cup of coffee and admired my handiwork.
The larder is full, Christmas lights are strung up, stairs have been made twin- safe and all the relevant furniture has been moved. We await touchdown at Pearson Airport with 2 little scally wags as part of their precious cargo. These grandparents are ready for action!

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Kate and Jack up to mischief….

This comes with warm wishes for a special holiday season with your family and friends. May you be restored and ready to jump into the New Year with renewed vitality. This Nan is going to lie on her back for a few days in the New Year to recoup!

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“Press it down firmly.” The command was shouted from the side of the house. This was serious…..

There was a project in progress and the men in our house were finding a use for all the heaps of snow that had gathered through our brutal Canadian winter at the back of the garden. We did not know what to do with it anymore! The shovels whooshed to and fro as our recycle bins found another function in their somewhat restricted portfolio. Gone were the heaps of trash that had filled their bellies but instead white fluff lined their insides. The brilliant blue plastic receptacles caught the filtered light through the forest of maple and elm trees.  I stood at the top cocooned inside our warm house and admired my design team. They had pulled on their snow gear with their heavy snow boots too. All this cold weather paraphernalia did not seem to restrict their agility as they considered which consistency of the ice cold material would be most suitable for the job.

Heaps of snow....

Heaps of snow….

“What on earth were they up to?”

I had no idea what was being constructed and was drawn to stand and stare. One thing was for certain….. These men were focussed and on a mission.  It was being well orchestrated with method   and had a definite plan. They would stop, lean on the snow shovels, discuss and then work on. It was reminiscent of a road crew but with a whole lot more motivation! I watched and waited. The compacted blocks were turned upside down and the ice brick slid out. Each had a position in the plan. The wall of snow began to immerge. By this stage I could not contain myself any longer and further investigation was definitely warranted.

Josh gets a piece of the action too.

Josh sizes up the material.

“Oh these things weigh a ton!”  I shouted as I lolloped down the side of the house in heavy snow boots to get a look in on the action. The debate then ensued as to what these master builders were creating on this freezing cold day.

“It looks like an igloo. No, I think something more majestic…..a mini Zimbabwe Ruins!” They were not about to let on and just kept me in limbo.  I had a distinct feeling that they did not know what would eventually materialise out of this pile of snow. But it was getting colder and this engineering feat would have to be completed in haste. The pace increased and I waited with baited breath. Slowly it   become apparent as the last snow brick took its position. A name was written up on the side……….a snow bar!

Cold weather activity.....

Cold weather activity…..

It was perfect complete with a glistening sheen of the ice that had already formed along the top. But like any construction, it needed the hands of a lady to add a few of the finer points. So the odd decorative piece and some lighting was added to the master piece. Now all that was needed was to christen this baby!  A few willing friends were summoned to help us with the task.

A perfect evening.

A perfect evening.

It was a perfect evening…..not too cold and not too warm. We did not want our snow – bar to melt or sublimate for that matter!  The fine snowflakes drifted down and we celebrated our creation, life and most of all a special family birthday. It was after all the beginning of spring.

Time to celebrate......

Time to celebrate……

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The turkey has enough butter stuffed under the skin to make Nigella blush and the gluwein is simmering away on the stove. Our tree sparkles from the front room……

The trees lay stacked up on the side of the road bursting with the promise of Christmas. The Douglas Fir, White Pine, Scottish Pine and the Blue Spruce….the choice was endless. Which one would it be this year? We had driven along Highway 8 through the greenbelt along the escarpment. The vegetables stalls had given way to the sale of Christmas trees, no more pumpkins and asparagus but rows of fuzzy green. Much thought and effort goes into the right choice of Christmas tree here in Canada. Families deliberate over how tall it has to be, the shape and whether it will shed its leaves. We stop the car at a nearby diner to grab a coffee and notice a little boy as he gazes up at the tall frame of the chosen tree.
“Dad, this is the one!”

The excitement and wonder beams from his face. The practical dad contemplates how he will tie it onto the roof of the car. He paces out the length and works on his plan. Mother has a faraway look on her face as she recalls the Christmases past and is envisaging this tree with the family decorations. There were heirlooms that are brought out each year and a few new additions to add to the sparkle. My coffee steams as I make my way through the brisk air. I pull my hood over my head and feel the fur trim snug against my face. My thoughts go back to 3 young boys that gathered around our tree back in South Africa. It will be the turn of our grand children soon!

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

The bare deciduous trees that shook off their leaves in the fall are tinged with snow. The evergreens cling onto the soft white powder like a cake does to frosting. The sun slips down behind the hills early as we wend our way back home. The snow illuminates our path and the houses twinkle with Christmas lights. Bright white lines the roofs, iridescent blue around the doorways and soft red sparkle in the shrubs. Fresh garlands accentuate   the wooden slatted porch and rustic White Birch reindeer guard the front door.

It is Yuletide in Canada and a time to make memories with family and friends. There will be a special place near our tree this year for those who are no longer with us. They will be  greatly missed.

I wish you all a joyous Christmas!

A white Christmas.....?

A white Christmas…..?

 

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Another year another turkey……

“Which one do you think would be better?”

My question was directed at an experienced looking housewife. She had tossed the birds around, examined their weight and made her decision. I marveled at her expertise and the swiftness of her decision making process. After all she had been doing this for years and I had 3 years under my belt!

“ Should I go with the 7 kilogram one or should I go a bit bigger?” The humble pasty- grey bird peered safely up at me from the supermarket fridge. Much deliberation went on.  A few women had gathered around me now and eagerly offered this newbie advice. More questions were asked and preference for white or brown meat was discussed. This was a serious matter. Eventually the decision was made and it was unanimous.

“So this is the one then.” I heaved the 10 kilogram bird into my shopping cart. My back muscles twinged under the strain. It was one hell-of-a fine bird!  Of course I won’t mention this to the family. There is no need for them to know that I was ably assisted by my experienced new helpers. After all, us girls stick together!

My shopping cart trundled off to the check out. The humble bird’s destiny had been sealed.  It was bound for the  Morkel’s Thanksgiving table.

 

 

Cheers!

Cheers!

It is our third Thanksgiving here in Canada and it is probably one of the best times of the year. People scurry around and prepare for winter. Gardens are cleaned up and anything that could be ravaged by the extreme temperatures is packed away. The leaves have begun to add colour to our walks around Oakville. Roads and paths are covered with ‘the drop’ and we notice and appreciate the hues of orange, yellow and the red. We savour the swansong of summer in the form of Fall and recognize that the burst of colour will have to tide us through till Spring next year!

Josh is sue that a skunk lurks nearby....

Josh is sure that a skunk lurks nearby….

But for now we celebrate the bounty of the harvest and all that it brings with it. One such event is Thanksgiving where a feast is held. Each family prepares a sumptuous meal to enjoy with family and friends. Around our table this year will be our adopted Canadian family.( I must add that they have not had much say in the matter….they are family whether they like it or not! ) I am thankful to them for all the support that they have offered us in this our new country. Distance dictates that a few people will be missing from our table. Our family from the US and our beautiful brand new grand children will be with us in spirit.

God only knows what I would be without you……

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The tiny hand stretched and grabbed my thumb. The grip was inexperienced and relied on reflex. It opened out again and the slender fingers bounced back to regain their position. The delicate skin was soft and new. It belonged to my ten day old grandson, Jack, and I marvel at the life force that emanates from his tiny 2 kilogram frame. Oh how I relish those words…. ‘ my grandson!’ There are tell tale physical signs of his lineage too. The shape of his mouth, his ‘Morkel chin’ and a few other bits and pieces that I feel certain he would not want you to know about. No doubt they will be pulled up for an embarrassing anecdote at a 21st or some such like event. There are bound to be some ‘streke’ that will be displayed in a fractious toddler. I expect that will be all ouma’s fault. I have come to realise that in an all male household, I have to take ownership of ‘my streke.’ One thing is for sure it will certainly give him character!

A tiny hand....

A tiny hand….


She nuzzled up close and opened her eyes. It was as if those one week old deep blue eyes were sizing me up. So who do we have here? She watched me move and turned her head slowly towards me. I jabber on and she listens attentively. The tiny rose bud mouth puckers as if she is dying to add to the conversation. This is my grand daughter Kate. Oh to have a little girl in our family!She is soft and feminine and already has her dad wrapped around her little finger.


It is my watch and as their Nan I keep a close eye. I observe these 2 new little people and notice that Kate appears to show an interest in the family that tends her. Her deep blue eyes track me across the room. Jack on the other hand gazes out of the window and picks up on the movement outside. I wonder to myself if this is indicative of the little personalities that we shall soon get to know 


Kate  is curled up next to me on the couch and Jack is in his ‘swing seat’ on my left. The little bodies sigh and squeak softly. Peace reigns for the moment and all is right with the world. The twins are asleep.

 

Nan on duty....

Nan on duty….

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My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue:

An ever-lasting vision of the ever-changing view.

She sat by the window in the sun. The cloth draped across her knee and the sheen of the thread glimmered in the fading light. She held the linen up once more and examined the stitch she had just worked into the pattern. The thread was running out and she picked up her tiny silver embroidery scissors with the duck- head handles. The creamy rich thread was measured and cut and the scissors slipped back into the embroidered pouch. Safely stored for the next time she would need to snip the cotton. She held the thread up to the light as she carefully pushed it through the tiny hole of the needle. Gently the needle and thread went back into the fine pattern that was beginning to take shape. She pulled off the thimble and placed the square across her lap. Her hand stroked across the pattern as she checked for imperfections.

A smile broke across her face as she held it up towards me.

“What do you think?”

Hand embroidered designs adorned our gifts.

Hand embroidered designs adorned our gifts.

Time seemed to stand still when mom did her handwork. She would sit on the sofa with a cup of tea and her basket at her feet. Usually there would be a dog or cat curled up with her too. When no one was around, her creativity would allow her to go into her own world. It was there that she was able to think about her family near and far. I used to watch her as she lovingly created articles for us all.  Many hours went into the deliberation over the choice of colours and materials. Before too long her experienced hand had produced yet another fine handmade article.

 

Colourful rugs...

Colourful rugs…

It had all started when we were children. I remember my Scottish outfit with the plaid waistcoat. She had stitched a matching one for my older sister. I can so remember my protestations of having to wear the same ‘hand me down’ outfit for a few seasons. I must have been about eight but I was conscious of what I wore even then! The bright yellow sundress with the appliqué tulips around the hem was one of my favourites. But the best of all were the evening dresses mom turned out for her girls. I felt like a princess at my school leaver’s dance. Mom had recreated a fine paisley corduroy Doctor Zhivago cape. She had made the long coordinating dress too, but the cape was what really thrilled me. It brought back scenes from the movie ……the Russian landscape and Lara rushing through the snow. Oh I loved that film! Mom knew how to satisfy my romantic fantasies.

Mom indulged me with my romantic fantasies....

Mom indulged me with my romantic fantasies….

As I walk from room to room around my home I feel my mom’s presence. Mom’s handwork reflects the love she felt for her family. I am surrounded by her quilts, blankets, cushions, scarves and paintings. I selfishly miss her not being here with us but know she is safe and at peace.

 

A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold.

A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold…..

The Morkel christening robe.......

The Morkel christening robe…….

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She ran down the stairs and a door slammed shut. I heard a shout and then another loud bang. Mother was up and running around the house with a ‘flea in her ear.’ This is what my dad called it when mom got the sudden urge to turn the house upside down and to clean everywhere. As a young child I did not see the need for all this order and cleanliness but I tagged along with it. I knew full well what the consequences were if I did not! I definitely did not want to get into the firing line.

 So we all dragged ourselves out of bed and marched around and joined in on the holiday spring clean. What a way to spend my first day of the holidays! All this cleanliness had certainly not been part of my envisaged plan. I often pondered the merit of all of this and why it had to be saved for our holiday. Why could it not have been done during school time when we had domestic help? But in mom’s wisdom there was a plan…… It was only many years later that I realized this was her way of getting some kind of discipline and routine instilled into all 4 of us kids over the long holidays. After all, we were a lively and headstrong bunch and we all pulled in different directions. What a marathon task it must have been to get us to ‘tow the line.’

There were electric cables lying around with my brother’s latest invention. Tennis rackets and sport equipment strewn around from my sister following her passion. Cricket bats and fishing rods and other little boy paraphernalia lay all round the garden left by my youngest brother. Then added to the mix my dolls with their latest homemade dress ensembles would get in everyone’s way.   So a holiday would have been a nightmare with us all trying to do our own thing. But once we were ‘pulled into shape’ we were much easier to handle.

Those were the early years. Later on as we matured mom was able to share her creative side with us. There were wedding dresses that were carefully sewn for us, pots of her famous marmalade were stacked up on the shelves or she would sneak away and paint in her studio. She was warm and welcoming and our house was always a hive of activity. She spoilt us with the most delicious meals and always made a fuss over our birthdays and special festivities. She had the most amazing capacity to love and welcomed all her grand children and great grand children into her fold.  

Our dear mother slipped away peacefully today and is up there with my dad dancing among the stars. She will be delighted to be reunited once more with her handsome pilot. I am so incredibly grateful for our wonderful mom and the love that she gave so freely.

You will be forever in our hearts.

Moments to treasure....

Moments to treasure….

Our beautiful Mom....

Our beautiful Mom….

 

 

 

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As this is my 100th blog entry I am going to allow myself to indulge a bit……

From the magazine ‘The Neighbours of Olde Oakville”

 

The South African Experience in the Great White North: Meet Anne Morkel

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Some journeys are measured in time, like marriage, careers, and parenthood. Some journeys are measured in accomplishment, like owning your home and building a community reputation. Then there are the good old-fashioned journeys measured in globetrotting distance. Anne Morkel has taken all three, the latter her most recent. The South African ex-pat moved with her husband Phillip and two youngest sons Bryan, 27, and David, 18, to Oakville in 2011, and the journey has been one of cultural idiosyncrasy, personal, and professional exploration. She reflects, “We chose this, and we came to stay. If you come to another country, you have to make this your home. You can’t live with one foot in one country, and one in the other.”

The decision to leave her home, including family and friends, was not an easy one. But when Phillip was offered, in Anne’s words, the “most amazing job offer,” the Morkels knew they had to seize the opportunity. Though it has proved to be a creative period of what Anne calls “disruptive innovation,” the choice to leave South Africa meant leaving much of their lives behind. Anne had a hard-earned reputation in her community as a teacher of Science, Life Skills, and Afrikaans. Living in a new community without it was a humbling experience, as Anne shares, “Not that I was arrogant, but I had a reputation and profession. I was a well-known, integral, functioning and useful individual. There’s an adjustment process.”

Coming to Canada was an opportunity to build that reputation again, and Anne certainly has, adding, “It’s been humbling, but exciting. The process has been energizing. Canada allowed me to be my own person. It’s wonderful… and quite frightening!”

When the Morkels arrived in Canada, there was a bit of a honeymoon period. “The first three months were like we were on holiday!” she laughs. That holiday soon ended, and a little bit of homesickness set in, especially when winter hit. One of the only ways to get through that shift was to lean on her South African roots. Says Anne, “I have a lot of respect for Canadians, for Canadian resilience. It’s not an easy life. South Africans are tough in the sense that we’ve had to cope with different things. We come equipped with a strength of character.”

To deal with the challenges of a new country and new landscape (both physical and metaphorical) Anne looked for little bits of home where she could. “You buy stupid things like crisps because those are the things you miss,” she adds, laughing. But beyond that, Anne needed to find where she belonged in her new community. “You learn to survive. I learned to become grateful for friends and warmth, and that we’ve been accepted. We didn’t expect that. We didn’t know what the reception would be like.” 

Ever the professional, once Anne got her bearings, she began seeking new ways to put her skills to work. Her philosophy was simple, “You need to get out there and make your mark. You have to find something to fill that void,” and so she pursued a talent that lent itself perfectly to her big move: writing. She began as a travel writer, documenting her move with entries and photos (with the occasional cameo from Josh, their chipper and sprightly Jack Russell!) on her blog that underscored the enormous journey from country to country, and culture to culture.

Anne continued writing her blog and chronicling her time in Canada, and eventually caught the eye of Eve Hemming, a South African writer who was compiling an anthology of South African ex-pat writer’s work. Much to her family’s great pride and esteem, two of Anne’s pieces can now be found in Eve Hemming’s book: 

 Scatterlings: A tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales.

When she isn’t writing, Anne is out enjoying everything Oakville has to offer. Whether it’s going for a walk or trying skiing, or simply enjoying her new neighbourhood, she takes an active role in her new life and has absolutely no time for complaining. She states quite emphatically that winter is “A little long, but you have to get on with it! Oakville is lovely, there are a lot of trees, and the people are so receptive.”

As for Morkel family goals, Anne and Phillip are still waiting to get their oldest son, John, 30, to Canada. Middle son Bryan is pursuing his Professional Engineer Status, and David is just finishing school. Anne adds, “It’s not easy to move a 15-year-old, but now he’s playing sports he’s never played before and he’s going to the UK with his Rugby team.”

Next up for Anne will be taking her own goals off of hold and getting back to achieving them, perhaps even setting new ones as she says, “Now I’m ready to fly.”

 

My famous rusks...

My famous rusks…

 

 

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