32 gifts

Early winter kicks me in the shins every year. I can’t help feeling glum as the merriness of Christmas fades and I look ahead to three cold, hard, vacationless months. Plus, I’m pretty sad and anxious for the world right now.

I temporarily banished the doldrums this morning, with what’s become a January tradition: listing some of the highlights of the year gone by — one bullet for every year of my life.

In 2016 I…

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

  • Performed in a band
  • Skated the ice trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park
  • Celebrated my amazing grandfather, Dinis Rebelo
  • Had pancakes at the Wye Marsh Sweetwater Harvest Festival
  • Replaced the ugly mudroom ceiling with handsome beadboard
  • Hugged Odie on his one-year anniversary with us
  • Had my first Thai massage
  • Travelled to the top of 30 Rock to watch the sunset
  • Checked out a California beach
Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

  • Learned to throw an axe
  • Got awesome false eyelashes
  • Bought my first king-sized bed
  • Came second in the five family nerd tournament
  • Joined Weight Watchers and lost 15 pounds
  • Attended my 10th Festival du Loup
  • Hosted an epic garage sale on my birthday
  • Started the world’s longest bathroom renovation
  • Went to the ballet
  • Spent time with my avo
Hanging with avo usually looks like this - except add food

Hanging with avo usually looks like this – except add food

  • Attended my first night time santa claus parade
  • Danced with mom, Yève and Elise on international women’s day
  • Got to level 23 in Pokémon Go
  • Powered through a few injuries and illnesses (concussion, poison ivy, an epic battle with a nettle tree)
  • Partied with the Lefaives at JoAnne and Dan’s 40th anniversary party
  • Bought a new mommy mobile – Linda the Forester
  • Greeted many friends’ adorable new babies
  • Drank margaritas the size of my head in Mexico
Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

  • Started focusing on our little family — quitting several volunteer roles
  • Helped good friends move into their first home

Somehow I forgot to post my list from 2015, but here are those from 2014 and 2013.

As usual, counting my blessings makes me feel a heck of a lot better. 2016 may have been a shit year for the human race, but it was a great one for me. Thanks to everyone who played a part.

xo

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Ring the bells that still can ring

Sometimes, I think that having a child is the ultimate selfish act. Lumpy (the squirmy artichoke-sized human in my belly) didn’t ask to be conceived. I wanted to create him or her.

In my darker moments, I worry that I am casting Lumpy into an angry, dying world. Governments are moving too slowly to rescue the earth from climate change. People seem selfish – consuming more than ever before. Fake online communities are replacing real ones. The news is filled with hate, fuelled by inequality.

My mother tried to make me a good citizen of the planet. I imagine myself teaching Lumpy to volunteer, make sustainable choices, be kind to all humans, and fight for positive change.

I cling to the hope that the next few generations will be better stewards of the earth – that they will bridge false barriers like religion, nationality, gender and race to move forward together. Maybe Lumpy will be the one to end humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels. Who knows?

I always try to choose optimism, but it can be an uphill battle.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen lately, because I think he really saw people and relationships as they are – imperfect, but somehow beautiful. For my sanity, and for Lumpy’s wellbeing, I will try to focus on that beauty.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Watching my weight

The wedding dress is just an excuse. I’ve wanted to shed the Elmvale 15 (a.k.a. the pounds I gained when we moved here) for almost three years.

I’m a strong woman. I try my very best to think and speak positively about the way I look, even on the days when I put my pants on backward and feel like regurgitated peanut butter. I don’t aspire to perfection. I just want to feel good and healthy again.

I’m happy to report that as of yesterday, I reached my preliminary goal. I’m back to the slightly less depressing 175 lbs I was when I lived in Toronto and walked all the time. My pants fit better. My blouse buttons are no longer popping off.

My stretch goal — 160 lbs — feels far away. But for the first time in years, I’m headed in the right direction: down instead of up.

You see, I joined Weight Watchers in March. We have a love-hate relationship, WW and I. I love seeing results. I hate not being able to eat brownies. It loves when I stick to my daily point allowance. It hates when I deviate for major holidays, special occasions, or particularly delicious-looking rice krispie squares.

How could anyone NOT eat this adorable Easter cake made by my aunt Fina?

How could anyone NOT eat this adorable Easter cake made by my aunt Fina?

In any case, we’re making slow and steady progress, despite the occasional regression into fat, sugar and carbs.

What I like most about Weight Watchers is that they, ahem, watch you. You literally attend meetings every week. And those meetings literally start with a weigh-in.

I cringe every time I step onto that scale. That moment — that exact second when I see the numbers climb higher and higher — is why I try to stick to the program. Who knows how long I’ll stay motivated; perhaps as long as I’m seeing results. But so far, so good.

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

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

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.

The view from here

I’ve struggled to write lately, because there’s at once so much and so little to say. Life – full of to dos, visits and meetings – is blasting by at warp nine. Yet, it all feels rather pleasantly humdrum.

But instead of letting you believe I’ve been eaten by Odie, my blog left to wither tragically, I thought I may as well share some updates from Elmvale.

1. The Lefaive girls are back in business

Gen has returned from the distant land of Guelph to eat mom’s food and work at ye olde Disco Harbour. It’s been great to see her more regularly.

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2. Odie is a sweet terror

He playfully flattens all children. JF says his wagging tail feels like a bludger to the crotch. He also accidentally crushes your toes when accosting you for affection. On the upside, he now knows how to sit AND walk on a leash (little victories!).

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3. Wedding plans are progressing

We have a location, a tent, a caterer, flowers, a dress and an officiant. Plus a lovely friend has offered to make 100 invitations by hand. Please make note of their loveliness when you get yours.

4. We’re regularly visiting the sands of our youth

We splurged and bought a Tiny Township beach pass for Tobias. I’m pissed at the cottagers who erect barriers (physical and metaphysical) to keep locals out – my family has been using these beaches a century longer than yours! – but glad this option for pseudo access still exists. Here’s to the smell of coppertone.

3183_10151304130796177_1713857898_n5. I joined another board

Yes I know, I was just whining about how busy I am. But I couldn’t say no. It’s with La Clé – an organization that’s vital to the health and well-being of the local francophone community. I’m delighted to represent both my hometown and my age bracket.

6. My garden has expanded

Helena and Owen devoted a whole day to helping me create a new garden bed in the yard. It’s looking a little sparse, but (finally!) intentional.

7. My choir did another concert

Minus a few terrifying bars, it was quite good. We were mostly on key and everything. And I always feel good after singing with friends.

8. The 2015 Humber High reunion took place

The gals from PR school do an annual general meeting. It always includes food and shenanigans. This time, we had a big breakfast then went to Body Blitz, sat around in warm water all day, and talked. It rocked.

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here's last year's AGM

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here’s last year’s AGM

9. I painted a wolf

Or rather, a wolf cutout, at Quest Art. Several acrylic-splattered howlers, including mine, will be available at le Festival du Loup through a silent auction benefiting both the gallery and local francophone musicians. Win win!

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10. We bought a Roomba

This shouldn’t be news, but this little round robot is so beautiful to me. He whirls around, bumping into furniture, happily beeping and sucking up dirt. We’ve named him Rambo and I dedicate this song to him.

I think that’s kind of it, folks! I figure since I’m getting as granular as dirt on my floor, it’s probably time to stop. The road goes ever ever on (how many nerd references can I fit into one blog post?).