Where to start?

So much has happened these past few months, I hardly know where to begin. Serves me right for waiting so long to post! Here’s a poor attempt at a recap.

  1. Sunny Mexico: After Christmas, we stayed in a small town called Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancun. The company, food and locale were increíble!
  2. Three kings: We toasted the magi with our friend Pascal, who I am convinced only recognizes this holiday because of this gorgeous French cake.

    La galette des rois. Probably the most delicious thing I've ever eaten.

    La galette des rois. Probably the most delicious and pretty thing I’ve ever eaten.

  3. Neil visite: My papa was in Canada for a week or so, which meant a visit with plenty of conversation and tea.

    Neil and tea

    Neil and tea

  4. Showered with love: I couldn’t say no to my persuasive aunt JoAnne when she offered to throw me a bridal shower. In the end, all I felt that day was love and gratitude for the amazing women in my family.
  5. Skating trail: Mireille, Patrick, JF and I went to Arrowhead Provincial Park to try the skating trail. Plus, we ran into an old high school friend.
  6. Recycled valentines: Some colleagues and I exchanged valentines of a different kind – second hand items from our homes and wardrobes. I scored lace, records, art and lots of other good loot.
  7. Smoked salmon-flavoured barf: After a fun meal out with friends, I spent over 24 hours vomiting. I will never eat smoked salmon again.
  8. Familying: We spent the February long weekend with JF’s family in Ottawa, which was its usual really really ridiculously cold self. Luckily our hosts were warm and generous.

    A walk through a park in Ottawa

    A walk through a park in Ottawa

  9. Francophone women unite! Local French-speakers gathered for a great concert (check out Cherry Chérie) and meal for International Women’s Day. I was accompanied by some female powerhouses : my maman, sister and mother-in-law.

    Gen and I at the gala

    Gen and I at the gala

  10. A smack in the head: Two weeks ago, I slipped on some ice and fell on my head – quite hard, as it turns out. The doctor told me to take several days off work without TV, books, phones or computers. It was terribly dull.

    I made the best of my sick days and snuggled with Odie

    I made the best of my sick days and snuggled with Odie

  11. Rebelo invasion: I hosted my sisters and cousins for a weekend of games and food. It was kind of like that scene from Home Alone where everyone is rushing around to get to the airport. JF looked like this the whole time.
  12. Hogtown: I visited Toronto twice. There were baby showers, meals out, meals in, and walks downtown. Thanks for the company, friends! Xo

    Jasel, Yishey, Rigden and I trying the selfie stick I got for Christmas <3

    Jasel, Yishey, Rigden and I trying the selfie stick I got for Christmas ❤

  13. Does Georgian have talent? I participated in (and sort of helped with) the Georgian’s Got Talent… or Not benefit concert. I definitely fell in the “or not” category, but enjoyed the whole event thoroughly.

    Two extremely talented Georgian students who performed in the show

    Two extremely talented Georgian students who performed in the show

  14. Wye Marsh? Danielle, Naomi and I went to the Sweetwater Harvest Festival. It was good fun, but I felt I was cheating on a) Tiny Marsh and b) the Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival.

    Danielle and Naomi, and some pancakes

    Danielle and Naomi, and some pancakes

  15. Whispering bells: We keep chipping away at wedding planning. So far my favourite element is the sparkly white knit bow tie my avo made for Odie.

    Odie's bow tie

    Odie’s bow tie

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There was also volunteer work, a friend’s adorable new baby, dog ear infections, breakfast with my grade school bestie, JF’s 30th birthday, Weight Watchers, house renos, and more.

With so many commitments and our wedding less than three months away, 2016 is shaping up to be “pleine a craquer” — full to the point of cracking. But so far, the adventures have been enriching, varied and plentiful.

As I thank baby Jesus for the end of snow and ice, I can only look ahead —to sunshine, tulips and forsythia.

Here's Odie at Tiny Marsh just over a week ago

Here’s Odie at Tiny Marsh just over a week ago

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Snow falling on Elmvale

It’s snowing outside and some flakes might just stick. It looks like a giant used an enormous sifter to sprinkle icing sugar all over Elmvale.

I’m sitting on the couch with Odie. JF is re-stringing his guitar. I’ve lit a few candles, cranked up Lady in Satin, and put on some slippers. We’re admiring the fluffy white puffs as they plummet from the night sky.

Odie's head and my slippers

Odie’s head and my slippers

For the first time in months, we’re enjoying a weekend with no plans in it. So far we’ve made a surprisingly cathartic trip to the Midland dump, watched the first three (decidedly unredeemable) episodes of Star Wars, and puttered around the house.

On quiet days like these, I’m so very grateful for everything I have: a caring partner, a giant smelly dog, a loving family, a rickety (but safe and warm) home, amazing friends, a good job, Tobias, and easy access to delicious doughnuts.

Not to mention the hundreds of knick knacks that bring me comfort and joy. I’ve just put up a few well-worn Christmas treasures. And I ’m so excited to hang our Christmas lights tomorrow!

I hope you’re just as nestled and cozy (and lucky) as I am, wherever you’re reading this.

xo

Brittle joy

I’m feeling philosophical this rainy evening. My giant, smelly dog is snuggled next to me on the couch. I’m drinking black tea with milk (a habit I picked up from dad) and pondering a pretty big concept: happiness.

I think I have a wellbeing spectrum. I can be mopey one week, incandescently happy the next. Some things (JF, Odie, family, friends) boost me up the scale, others (bills, illness, work stress) shove me down.

I’m fortunate to have spent more time in joy than in sadness. I think it’s because my mom trained me to find pleasure in little things like watching old movies, picking blackberries, and reading good books.

I work at seeing and recognizing those happiness-boosters every day, because they tip the balance in joy’s favour. And sometimes it is work – important work that prevents the bad stuff from swallowing me up. Joy can be brittle.

Today, I don’t have to work at anything. I’m feeling glad and grateful for so many reasons. Here are my top 10:

  • New stained glass window: For two years, we’ve lived with a broken windowpane over our front door. Now, thanks to local artist Renee Havers, our hallway is lit by a beautiful, coloured work of art.
  • Visits with good friends: I have a lot of kind, funny and smart people in my life. Lately, I’ve spent time with many of them over food or tea.
Mireille and I watched the Jays' game and coloured. It was pretty great.

Mireille and I (intently) watched the Jays’ game and coloured. It was pretty great.

  • Fall walks with Odie: I adore fall. And the colours this autumn have been spectacular, so I’ve been sporting my blundstones and sweaters on local trails, with my giant pup.
This is the route we take most mornings. It's been really beautiful lately

This is the route we take most mornings. It’s been really beautiful lately

  • Magic Mike and Mary: Turns out we needed a handywoman, not a handyman! Mary has already connected the two back decks. And Mike, a family friend, came by to install a back porch light. Thank you both.
Tada! Bigger and better back deck! (ignore the leaves, we need to rake)

Tada! Bigger and better back deck! (ignore the leaves, we need to rake)

  • My wedding dress is in: I’m trying so hard to be practical about this whole wedding business, but I was pretty excited to pick up my dress – a generous gift from my mom.
  • Lists of love: Some of my most prized possessions are handwritten lists of reasons I’m loved. I keep them in my wallet for those days when I’m feeling glum. Two friends recently created new lists that were truly soul-nurturing.
Toot toot!

Toot toot! Thanks Lainers.

  • New bras: Wearing these, I feel like a new woman. If you haven’t gone for a fitting, I highly recommend Secrets from Your Sister. They cost a pretty penny, but bras that fit are like shoes that fit – they just makes sense. 
  • Time with avo: My grandma makes me laugh and offers me valuable pieces of wisdom. I’ve really enjoyed seeing lots of her lately. She also made me these awesome, elven slippers. Thanks, avo!
Slippers knit by my grandma = awesome

Slippers knit by my grandma = awesome

  • Thanksgiving: A holiday for food and family – two of my favourite things. This past long weekend, I saw many beloved cousins and my old roomie Steph. I also checked out the Elmvale Fall Fair and ate until I had to undo my pants.
  • A clean home: We spent a full day giving the house a good clean, and it felt great. For those hard-to-reach nooks, we found a local cleaning lady who charges $25 an hour (cue Enya).

But as lucky as I’ve been lately, I’ll never take joy for granted. Because sometimes life can be tough as pushups after months of slothfulness, or as harsh as hail in May.

 

Updates from my little life

It looks like my blog has settled into a new pace – monthly posts. I hope you all don’t mind!

Here’s some recent news from my little life.

We’re eating well, mostly

JF and I decided to eat better and cut out wheat, dairy and sugar for three weeks. The goal? Reset our habits. So long tostitos dinners, hello buddha bowls! Minus a few slip ups (ahem, sweet potato fries) we’re doing quite well. My energy levels are up and I’m feeling less bloated. My doughnut cravings subside a bit every day.

Kale salad - yum!

Kale salad – yum!

We signed up for an organic produce delivery service

In Toronto, I always wanted sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program but couldn’t seem to find the right one. I thought Elmvale was a CSA-free zone until my friend Doug sent me this link. Organics Live is reasonably priced, all organic and mostly local. And they deliver to my house every Thursday. It’s only been two weeks but I’m in love.

We’re advocating for a dog park in Elmvale

We want a dog park in Elmvale for the Odester. He loves playing with friends at parks in Wasaga and Midland. Imagine how often we could take him if it was down the street? If you agree, email our awesome councillor Katy Austin to let her know. She’s at katy.austin@springwater.ca.

Wedding planning is progressing

We decided to have our shindig at JF’s parents’ house (merci, Elise et Roger!) for so many reasons. It’s beautiful, it’s free, and it’s close to home. I’ve also picked out my dress, selected flowers, sent out a bunch of save the dates (thanks Eunah!) and made a few decorations with family members. So far, it’s all still fun. Ask me how I feel in a few months.

This is a bad photo of Owen and I, but it kind of shows our photo booth wall

This is a bad photo of Owen and I, but it kind of shows our photo booth fabric wall

We’re looking for a handyman

After months of grappling with house renovations (mostly JF re-sealed windows while I puttered in the garden) we’ve realized we need some help. So if you know someone who does drywalling, painting and minor electrical, please send them our way!

First target - the dropped ceiling in the mudroom

First target – the dropped ceiling in the mudroom

A local artist is making a stained-glass window for our hallway

The pane of glass above our door has been cracked since we bought the house. We’ve just comissioned a serious upgrade. Local artist Renée Havers is making a piece that should look a little like the inspiration image below. In the meantime, we’re making do with plywood. Sad face.

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There are probably other things to share, but my brain’s settling into post-dinner Star Trek zombieness. Suffice to say, we are well.

A decade in review

I’ve already written about JF – the world’s handsomest franco-ontarian engineer. He’s my favourite human on this earth. And about a week ago, we reached our 10-year dating anniversary.

Here we are, aren't we adorable?

Here we are, aren’t we adorable?

To many grown ups, a decade of togetherness is practically nothing. My avo said « 10 years? That’s as long as I’ve had these pants.» But to us, it’s a third of our lives.

My mémère – a wise woman – used to cut out little phrases and stuff them into her address book, bible, and planner. When she died, I gathered those scraps of paper like precious gems. One said « love is a project.»

JF is kind, smart, handsome and funny. In our early love, days apart felt like months. But here’s something I think is true : even the shiniest silver loses its shimmer if you don’t give it a buff once in awhile.

At this stage in our relationship, we’re expert buffers. Our bi-weekly date nights are mini relationship tuneups. They remind us that we like spending time together. That in fact, we always have and (if we keep working at it) always will.

A retrospective

10 years ago I was at York University. JF was a the University of Waterloo. We started hanging out between summer work hours.

Nine years ago we started spending most weekends together, despite the distance.

Eight years ago, we both graduated. JF moved to Toronto and started work. I decided to do a post-graduate certificate in public relations.

Seven years ago…

Six years ago…

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Five years ago we moved into our place at Yonge and Lawrence.

Four years ago…

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Three years ago…

Two years we moved back to Simcoe County, bought a house, and I started this blog.

Here we are now! We have a dog and we’re getting married.

As I get older, the days go by faster. I’m so glad I have someone awesome to spend them with.

12 songs from my life

A few days ago, Kristin challenged her friends to summarize the soundtrack of their lives in 12 songs.

Next to the people and Odies I love — and maybe garage sales — music is my very favourite thing. I have several thousand CDs, 13,000 songs on my iPod, dozens of classical piano books, a musician father, and a long history of attending concerts.

Narrowing the huge pool of wonderful things my ears have experienced down to 12 measly songs was a daunting task. So with a nudge from my friend Elaine, I decided to pick songs that have been important to me over the years — not necessarily my favourite songs today — and post them in chronological order.

1. Simon and Garfunkel, Cecelia – age 6

When we first moved to our brand new house in Perkinsfield, the floors were so glossy and smooth that Alicia and I would sprint and slide across the dining room in our wool socks – inside out, for extra speed. For some reason, the game only worked with this song.

2. The Cranberries, Ode to my family – age 10ish

The first album I ever bought for myself was The Cranberries’ No Need to Argue. It was the year Santa gave me a ghetto blaster for Christmas. I would lie on my bedroom carpet, stare moodily at the ceiling, and listen to this on repeat.

3. Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, HCQ Strut – age 12ish

Suddenly, I loved jazz. None of that newfangled modern stuff with chords that hurt my ears. Just the greats. And this particular ditty always sent me to a happy place.

4. Chet Baker, I get along without you very well – age 13ish

This man. I think I was in love with him. I dreamed of going back in time and saving him from his addictions. Then we’d buy a cottage in the mountains where he would play and sing for me all day long. I may still be in love with him! Sigh. Perfect music to dream to.

5. Beck, Nicotine and Gravy – age 15ish

I’d heard Odelay, but Midnight Vultures blew my mind. It’s still one of my “if you lived on a deserted island” albums. And this song, with its fantastic layers, was a favourite. A Beck show is still on the bucket list. To Kanye, I say suck it.

6. Radiohead, No Surprises – age 17ish

When I was at my very lowest, I started my relationship with Radiohead. I’m not sure they contributed positively to my mental health, but they made music better.

7. The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pt. 1 – age 19

In my first year of university, I stayed with my aunt Fina and uncle Andy for a few days because I was dying of the flu. Fina made me soup. Andy cranked the Flaming Lips. And I got better. Every once in awhile, I still dust this song off and take it for a spin.

8. Wilco, Jesus, etc. – age 20

In my second year of university, JF – lover of mopey cowboy music – stepped into my life again. He made me a mixed CD with Bright Eyes, Antony and the Johnsons, Les Cowboys Fringants, Joanna Newsom, and this song. Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky show in Toronto is one of the best concerts I’ve been to. We love them still.

9. Elliott Brood, Only at home – age 23ish

For some reason, this is still one of my very favourite driving songs. I know all the words (or sounds? Pretty tough to tell what he’s saying) and always scream at the end.

10. Vampire Weekend, M79 – age 25ish

When this album came out, my ears were delighted. Harpsichord AND synthesizer AND xylophone, all in one sound? Amazing. I remember listening to this song in JF’s tiny little bachelor apartment at Avenue and Eglinton and making fried eggs.

11. Megafaun, The Longest Day – age 27ish

These guys opened for the Mountain Goats at the Opera House and this was the most lovely moment of the evening. We held hands. The rest of their set was lackluster.

12. La Roux, Sexotheqe – present

Lately, I’ve needed a dose of musical sunshine. Here’s a song that makes me bop around on the drive to work.

 

What’s your soundtrack?

My big, fat Franco-Ontarian wedding

The date will be June 11, 2016. Our dog will be there. It will be big and casual. There will be booze, dancing, fireworks and a potato gun. But that’s all I know about my wedding, so far.

Us an the Odester. We want this dude there on our big day!

Us an the Odester. We want this dude there on our big day!

Having a small Franco-Ontarian wedding without maiming hearts is impossible. We have 24 francophone aunts and uncles between us, plus 15 from our German and Portuguese factions. And I love my cousins — all billion of them.

I’ve helped plan many weddings. I’ve attended at least 30. We’ve talked extensively about our ideal day. I have a whole pinterest board about it, so it’s practically planned already, right? But with our guest list, it all boils down to what we can afford.

Right now, the big question is the venue. I’ve found a sum total of zero in-budget, non-ugly spaces that can accommodate 200 people that aren’t Elise and Roger’s backyard. Truly, all we need is a pretty field with electricity and space for a thousand cars. Is that so much to ask?

Still, we shall overcome. And however frustrating this first leg of planning is, it’ll be a lovely day with the people dearest to us. Or at least, a memorable one.