22 Years Ago While Watching ER…

I will always remember this. It was Thursday August 17th, 1995, we were watching ER and at the end of the episode I turned around and told Peter, I think I am having contractions? I had literally started my maternity leave a week before my due date in order to organize myself. Sarah had other plans, she was a week early!

We drove to the Grace Hospital in Ottawa and it turns out I was right. Approximately 15 hours later, Thing 1 was born. She was beautiful! I am biased but I will also remember that all the nurses kept on saying so and when our pediatrician came to see Sarah in the nursery he said to me, “She’s healthy, and she is beautiful!”

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3 weeks old.

Well, for the last 22 years this baby, child, young woman, has made her parents very proud. From the many academic and sport awards you have earned over the years to becoming a smart, beautiful inside and out level headed young adult who doesn’t take things for granted, we have always and will always be proud parents.


As expats parents who cannot see their children everyday, not a day goes by when Peter and I don’t think about our Thing 1 and Thing 2. One of the first question I get every day when Daddy gets home is, “did the kids call today? Any news from the kids?” As most of you know, we never hear much from Thing 2, (hint, hint, nudge, nudge. Still LOVE YOU Buddy!), but at least with Thing 1, we message almost daily and when she doesn’t message for two days straight I think something is wrong. Most of the time everything is fine, it’s just her Mama and Daddy going into withdrawals…

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Last time we were together on your birthday, Nice 2013! 

Dear Sarah, today is your birthday and again we are not together. You have no idea how much Daddy and I wish we were together to celebrate your birthday. This has been going on for many years now and you would think it would get easier with every year that goes by but it doesn’t! We MISS YOU VERY MUCH, NOUS T’AIMONS BEAUCOUP, BEAUCOUP and we can’t wait to see you.


Ma Cabane au Canada


Comme la chanson dit si bien,

”Ma cabane au canada, Est blotie au fond des bois…,                                                À quoi bon chercher ailleurs, Toujours l’élan de mon coeur,                          Reviendra vers ma cabane au canada,  Mais je rêve d’y emmener
Celui qui voudra me suivre, Viens avec moi si tu veux vivre
Au cher pays où je suis née, ma cabane au canada, J’y reviendrai avec toi
Nous rallumerons le feu tous les deux, Nous n’aurons pas de voisins…
Ma cabane au canada, Tant que tu y resteras
Ce sera le paradis, Mon chéri, A quoi bon chercher ailleurs
Je sais bien que le bonheur, Il est là, Dans ma cabane au canada. 

The dream has always been a cottage on a lake. Didn’t matter which lake, as long as it was in the Eastern Townships, near Owl’s Head and Orford and that Mama can have her morning coffee with her toes in the lake.

I am happy to report that after three solid years of searching, we finally found the place for us.

On August 30th we will take possession of this beautiful log home and officially become Canadian cottage owners. We are excited that this year, we will be able to spend Labor Day weekend there with ”La Famiglia”, and celebrate another Cooper Birthdays Extravagannnnnza.





Yes! The purple couch comes with the cottage. It was meant to be.







We can’t wait. Peter is already quoting and designing a dock for next summer.


Confession Time

I think it’s time for me to come clean and admit to my family and friends that I am addict. ”Hi. My name is Elise and I’m addicted to COFFEE!” Okay, I may not be a HUGE addict, but in order to function on a daily basis, I need to have a basic 2 large mugs of caffeine (sometimes 3) and I will leave you alone and go on about my day. If I don’t have the required amount I can get pretty nasty by 10 am. Just ask Mia Famiglia, they have witnessed this on several trips and it’s not pretty.

Best Latte

How did I come to this realization? About a month ago I told Peter that my coffee didn’t taste the same. It was just weird. Everyday my coffee was getting more bitter and well, just not good, not satisfying. Peter doesn’t care because he hates coffee so he would never notice that the coffee was starting to taste bitter.

I tried everything. I cleaned my coffee maker, twice. I tried all various kinds of coffees such as Illy, Lavazza, Percol, etc… I even tried some fair trade brand from Wholefoods that I probably overpaid for but hey, I’m desperate. Nothing changed.

Then last week, while I was talking with a bunch of Canadian women who have lived here for a while, and we were discussing my coffee intake, (while having coffee) and (yes I know, pretty lame but coffee rules my mornings and we were talking about this after our Wednesday morning walk so sue me!), one lady who has been living here for 30 years asked, ”Do you have a water filter? or softener? Did you look at it?” My response was, ”I think we have one in the cupboard in the kitchen. There’s this big box thingy that goes on automatically every once in a while…”

That was quite the revelation. I got home and realized that I hadn’t heard the water softener work in a couple months. Usually, the thing starts on its own and I never have to worry about it. In fact, up until about a year ago I didn’t know what this machine in the bottom of my kitchen cupboard was and someone said ”it’s your water softener.”

When Peter got home that night I was sitting at the kitchen island reading a water softener manual that I found on-line. In it I learned about putting blocks of salt and opening valves and ….I don’t know the rest it’s all a blurr. When Peter asked what I was doing I just said ”I think it’s the water softener that doesn’t work and it’s the cause of the water being so hard and my coffee tasting bad.” Peter who is probably tired of hearing about my coffee, opened up the water softener and let me just say, it was not a pretty sight. It was pretty mucky in there and there were no signs of blocks of salt anywhere.

The next morning I phoned around and after several phone calls I found out that no one wants to touch the particular model in our place. Too old and never worked well. One of the technicians I spoke to told me to disconnect it because this model tends to flood places. He was in the middle of explaining how to do so when I told him, ”No! NO!, Stop! I will not touch it. I do not need to learn about operating a water softener. I will call someone.” It was reminiscent of the British Gas technician trying to teach me about turning boilers on in this country. There are like 12 steps and you have to do a gig at the end…I don’t need this knowledge. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks and in this case, I am an old dog. I hung up and did what I always do, I sent an email to my land lady in Beijing and called the best general contractor in the city, Bart! Bart is the man! If he can’t do it, no one can!  Sadly, Bart is on vacay for three weeks but I am willing to risk flooding the place in order to wait for him. We will meet on Sept. 7th!

In the meantime, what is a coffee addict to do without a good cup of coffee? This is where I have taken this up a notch. Every morning when I wake, I have my one cup of mediocre coffee in the house and then, after 8 am when most coffee shops around South Ken have opened, I go for a run and reward my 5 km with a nice almond latte. I have been running different routes to see which place has the best coffee. So far the winner is Benugo in Hyde Park. Also the cheapest. So it’s a win-win and my addiction is satisfied and regulated and now I can happily say ”Hi my name is Elise and I am a functioning coffee addict.”