Sunday, December 30, 2012

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Today was one of those perfect winter days: cold, but sunny with bright blue skies. It was a great day for a family walk in the ravine behind our house. My parents and our 13-year-old niece joined the four of us and Daisy. 

The last few years we've had very little snow but so far this winter we've had TONNES of snow. It made for a challenging but lovely trek in the forest.

It was also a great opportunity for my 19-year-old son to test out the camera he got for his birthday. He took a gazillion photos during our walk and I'm looking forward to seeing them. In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite pictures from today.

The photographer. 

That first hill is a bit of a challenge.

The girls. I love how it looks like my niece is dancing in this shot.
You can't really tell from this photo, but we made Daisy wear a sweater. She spent the first ten minutes rolling around in the snow, trying to remove it. 

I know I've said this before, but I am so thankful for the beautiful ravine forest in our neighbourhood! 

Friday, December 28, 2012


During the Christmas Holidays I've had time to read, read, and read some more. Paradise. I've always been a bookworm, I don't remember a period in my life during which I didn't have a book or two by my side. One of my fondest memories of growing up is the Saturday morning trips to the library with my family. The book limit at the time was seven and I never left with less than that. I remember feeling like I was in seventh heaven when my parents let me loose in the children's section. I loved comic books, especially Tintin and the French series Astérix et Obélix, Boule et Bill, Le club des cinq, Barbapapa and Gaston Lagaffe. 

As soon as we would get back from the library I would sink into the family room chair for a marathon session of reading. The only problem with comic books is that I would zip through them so fast that by the end of the day I would have nothing left to read!

That's me, circa 1970 something, with our family pooch. Don't you love the hair rollers?
Me again, a few years later, doing what I do best! You can definitely tell it's the 70s from the décor, can't you? 

Here I am in more recent years and I obviously still like to read sitting sideways on the chair.  

Unlike other kids who couldn't wait to open their presents to find toys at Christmas, the best gifts you could ever give me have always been books. I remember those Christmases where I would receive the books from the Anne of Green Gables series. The original is the one that most people know and love but I think I preferred the later ones about Anne growing up and having a family of her own. I always felt like I knew her personally and I was so sad when I had finished the last book, it felt like I was losing a friend. 

Now that I'm all grown up my love of books has not diminished. One of my favourite things is still to have a few uninterrupted hours in my chair to read. I also can't imagine going to sleep without reading for at least half an hour in bed. It's a good thing that I married another bookworm who definitely gets it. John has the same need that I do to always have a book on the go. As a child, his brother would be exasperated with him because John would rather stay in his room to read than go out and play. As you can imagine, we have books everywhere and the bookcases are overflowing. 

The bookcase in our bedroom. Now that I look at it, I realize it's pretty messy, I really should take some time to tidy it up.

We have two children, but only one of them inherited our obsession with reading. Our son had a brief moment of interest in books when he was younger but nothing like our daughter's constant need to read. In fact, she had a bunch of friends over lately and they marvelled at the bookcase in her room. They couldn't believe how many books she had collected over the years, and that only holds a small part of her collection! She keeps trying to get us to change the dining room into a library. Her dream would be to have bookcases on all the walls. Hmm, maybe that's not such a bad idea after all.

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers." 
Charles W. Eliot, The Happy Life, 1896

Monday, December 17, 2012

70 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

"One hundred bottles of beer on the wall, one hundred bottles of beer, you take one down, you pass it around, ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall..." Did you sing this silly song when you went on school trips or was that just the kids at my school who inevitably burst into this little ditty whenever we hopped on a bus? For some reason, I thought of this as we celebrated my father's 70th birthday this weekend. My dad received the perfect gift for a beer aficionado such as he: 70 different beers from around the world.

As soon as we had all arrived at my parents' place for his birthday dinner, we sent him down to the wine cellar to get the beer. Everyone waited with cameras in hand to see his reaction. And this is what he saw when he opened the door. A whole heck of a lot of beer!

Dad reading one of his cards. 

The traditional spaghetti and meatball birthday dinner. Just as I always have boeuf bourguignon on my birthday, my dad has spaghetti on his. 

No, Dad, I'm pretty sure there aren't 70 candles on the cake! In the forefront is a lemon meringue pie, which is also a birthday tradition.

My dad is a very cool guy. You'd never know by looking at him that he's 70, I'd say he looks at least ten years younger. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that he's always been into sports and has never stopped working out. On even the coldest day in February you'll find him heading for Gatineau Park to do some cross-country skiing (there's no way I could ever hope to keep up with him). 

As a dedicated high-school teacher he coached football and, later on, my son's soccer team. In his youth, my dad was even scouted by an NHL farm team. But my dad isn't just a great athlete, he's also quite brilliant. Dad had a long career as a high-school math teacher and he definitely has a remarkable math brain, but that doesn't mean that he's only interested in all things math. He also has a very creative and artistic side which shows up in his many interests. Just take a look at the incredibly beautiful gardens he designs. He can put together a bouquet of flowers like nobody's business! Also, he taught himself to read and speak German and to play the saxophone. He is interested in the world around him and always learning new things. I'm sure that's a big part of what keeps him young.

I inherited a few things from Dad: my blue eyes and fair skin, for instance. My love of travel and of nature, my competitiveness and perfectionism. (I'm working on that last one.) However, much to his dismay, I most definitely did not inherit his math brain. And I'm pretty sure my talent for dance didn't come from him!

But at his very core, the thing that defines my father the most is his enduring love for his family. He would do anything for his wife, daughters and grand-children, of that I am absolutely certain.

So, who wants a beer? I think my dad has one or two to spare.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Scenes from the weekend

It snowed big, fat, fluffy flakes.

Amélie made delicious apple and raspberry muffins.

My mom came over to help me make Christmas tourtières.
Five tourtières ready to be baked.

We decorated the Christmas tree. The kids call it our hoarder's tree because we have so many decorations. We couldn't even fit all of them on the tree this year. I guess we'll have to get a bigger one next year!

And of course the weekend wouldn't be complete without a walk in the forest with Daisy. 

What I did not do this weekend: buy Christmas presents. Oh well, there's lots of time left to do that, no need to panic, right? right?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Real or faux?

If you celebrate Christmas you've probably had to make the decision at some point to either buy a real tree or invest in an artificial one. For my family, it's a no-brainer, a real Christmas tree is the way to go. It's a tradition I can't imagine ever giving up. 

During the 80's my parents briefly had an artificial tree because that's just what people did back then. My sister and I were very pleased when we convinced our parents to ditch the fake tree one year and to start buying a real one again. What I find interesting, is that the pendulum seems to be swinging back in favour of artificial trees. When I ask friends why they decided to go that route I find that most of them mention the convenience factor. I suppose it is less labour-intensive to put together the tree that is stored in the closet rather than go out and chop one down or stand in the freezing cold of the grocery store parking lot to buy one. I understand their point, but it's not enough to get me to change our family tradition.

For the last few years we've been going out as an extended family to a Christmas tree farm in Navan. Part of the fun is walking around the large property, trying to find  the perfect tree. This "perfect" tree often ends up lopsided and bare in some spots but it is well-loved nonetheless. Also, you just can't beat the smell of a real Christmas tree in the house!

I've posted a few pictures from two years ago. Sadly, it's raining today, so I think it will be a while before we get the picture perfect snowy day that is essential for proper tree picking. 

Setting off on our tree-cutting adventure.

Still searching...

Found it!

Some of the eclectic ornaments we've collected over the years, many of them hand-made by the kids when they were little.

So what about you, I'm curious, do you have an artificial tree or do you prefer to buy a real one every year? Let me know in the comments section below.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Walk in the Forest with Daisy and her Buddy

One of the reasons we bought our house about 15 years ago was because of the stunning ravine forest which is right behind our backyard. We have been going for walks on the ravine's trails since the kids were little. It is truly a paradise for nature-loving people and, especially, their dogs. 

For a few years now I've been meeting a good friend for a walk in the forest on Sunday afternoons. Unless life gets in the way, we escape for about an hour with Daisy and Mustee. It's a great way for us to talk about what's going on in our lives and to get fresh air and exercise at the same time. The bonus is that Daisy and Mustee have a blast together. As soon as Daisy sees Mustee at the front door she knows it means only one thing: Walk! It's all I can do to keep her calm enough to put on her leash. Once we're in the forest though, the leash comes off and they are free!

Daisy and Mustee, best buddies.

Happy dogs. There's so much good sniffing to do in the forest.

The dogs like to lead the way on the paths.
The trees are bare but I still find the forest beautiful in November. 
 I just love the sound of walking on dry leaves. Pretty soon, the ground will be covered with snow. 
The only downside to the walk, is how dirty the dogs get. Not sure if you can tell from this photo that Daisy is absolutely filthy. She's not a big fan of bath time, however it's a must after running around in the forest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lotions and Potions

I was excited to find this pretty package in the mail today.

But when I brought it upstairs to try on I found this...

And it made me think that maybe I have a bit of an obsession with moisturizers. Am I addicted to them? Maybe I'm a lotion hoarder. Or maybe I'm forgetful and think I've run out so I keep buying more. More than likely, I just like to smell good. And the strange thing is that, despite trying new products, I keep coming back to the same perfect lotion every single time. This one.

There's something magical about this product. I get compliments whenever I wear it and my co-workers comment that they know I'm at the office because they can smell oranges down the hall. Anyway, for whatever reason, this just works with my body chemistry, whereas most perfumes don't. I'll find what I think is the perfect perfume and after a few hours I can't stand myself and have to go wash it off. 

So I will likely always be a body butter kinda girl. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go rearrange my moisturizer collection. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scenes from the Weekend

A few cappuccinos were consumed. This penguin mug makes me smile.

I made applesauce. It was so quick and easy, it made me wonder why I've been buying it all these years.

Daisy got a rubber chicken. Squeak, squeak.

And I bought a new skirt from Joe Fresh. Black lace over beige lining, scalloped hem and ribbon waist. And the best part? It was only $39. Isn't Joe Fresh awesome? You go to the grocery store to pick up some coffee and cereal and you come back with a pretty skirt!
I read the December issue of Vanity Fair, cover to cover. Now I'm all caught up on the 
goings-on of wealthy, eccentric people.
And after that, it was on to the Holiday Edition of Food and Drink. The entire magazine is chock-full of delicious recipes and stunning photographs. One recipe I really want to try is the Milk Chocolate Lemon Meringue Tarts. They look absolutely droolworthy.

Mid-November means switching over to our cozy L.L.Bean flannel sheets. The only problem is that it makes getting out of bed in the morning that much harder. 

Sunday afternoon, Daisy went for a walk in the forest with her best buddy, Mustee.

Here's to a fun and relaxing weekend. Hope yours was too. Monday morning, I'm ready for you!

Friday, November 16, 2012

I am not a cat lady!

Seriously, I never thought I would own a cat. I was always firmly in the "I'm a dog person" category. And now, look at me, I have not only one cat, but two.

 Sugar and Kiki. Why do cats like boxes so much?

How we got the two cats is serendipitous. The big guy, Kiki (more on his very feminine name later), showed up under our deck about 9 years ago. My husband was mowing the lawn when he saw a little head peeking out from under the deck. There was the skinniest, dirtiest, saddest looking animal ever. John decided to ignore it at first, but after going by three times he decided he couldn't keep pretending the poor thing wasn't there. He went in to tell our daughter what he had found and within minutes she was on her knees with a can of tuna, trying to lure the little guy from under the deck. 

It took three days, but she finally got him out and into our house. Let's just say that a feral cat isn't exactly relaxed when he is brought into a strange house for the first time. Within seconds he was climbing the drapes and trying to escape. I was ready to give up and tell everyone that it was a nice try but this cat did not want to be saved and we should just bring him back outside. And then, Kiki did something that changed everything. I was lying on the couch when all of a sudden he climbed onto me, snuggled around my neck and purred. Yup, you guessed it, we owned a cat! 

Of course, not knowing anything about cats we assumed he was a she (it's hard to tell, really!) and that's how our big tomcat got the sweet girlie name Kiki. Oh well, I'm sure he doesn't mind too much. Anyway, my husband compensates by calling him the Kikster or Kikiman.

Kiki does not look impressed. He is not a big fan of Daisy.

He has turned out to be a very sweet and snuggly cat. Here he is a with our son who was sick at the time. Kiki just seems to know who needs a bit of extra attention and will hang out with them.

Not only is Kiki a snuggly cat but he is surely one of the smartest cats around. If I can ever figure out how to post a video I will show you how he is able to catch the treats we throw him with his two front paws. It is really quite impressive and I'm convinced that if the Whiskas people ever see a video of Kiki he will become a star!

Kiki is so smart he's probably figured out how to take pictures with that camera he has his paw on. I'm sure one day I'll find pictures of the photos he's taken after we've all gone to bed.

Okay, well, that explains the first cat but what about the second one? Seriously people, if someone sent you a picture of a kitten who needed a home and who looked like this, what would you do?

How could anyone resist those eyes?
So that is how this tiny little kitten who fit into the palm of my hand became a part of our family. Despite her size, Sugar was one feisty little thing right from the start. In fact, within a day she was play wrestling with Daisy. At first I was worried she'd get hurt but we soon realized that Sugar was one tough chick! 

She did need quite a bit of extra care because she had been separated from her mother before having been weaned. Thankfully, I was not working at the time so I could hand feed her throughout the day.

Sugar is now a grown cat but she really does act like the little sister of the family. She follows the other animals around all the time. If one of them goes out, Sugar is sure to be right behind them. We also joke that it's a good thing she's pretty because she just isn't very smart. For instance, we've tried teaching her Kiki's treat-catching trick. We throw the treat at her and she closes her eyes, which means the treat falls on the floor and Daisy eats it. Every single time. Sigh. It's okay because what she doesn't have in intelligence she makes up for in cuddliness. 

And that, friends, is the story of our little menagerie and how I became a dog AND cat person.