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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A merry little Christmas

As a Christmasaholic, I just can’t let this festive season go by without writing about it. I’ve been doing all sorts of merry and bright things these past few weeks.

Baking with the Rebelos

Every year for two decades, maman and aunt Fina devoted a weekend to making sweet treats – enrolling us all as sous-chefs. They’ve retired their aprons, but the tradition continues, led by my sister Alicia. My hands ached after a day of icing cardmom cookies, but I wouldn’t have traded time with my cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles and vavo for all the dollars in all the world.

Concert de noël 

I skipped chorale this season to keep up with wedding planning and volunteer commitments, but I couldn’t miss their show! It was held in my childhood church – a grand old thing, for a small village. My favourite moment was when everyone (audience included) sang Minuit Chrétien. I may or may not have shed a tear or two. This is the choir singing that song a few years ago.

Decorating our tree

Last year, our trip to Europe meant toning down the holiday cheer at our house. But this year, I went all out with local greenery : tree, garlands, poinsettias, boughs and branches. For years, my parents have been giving me an ornament every Christmas, so unpacking them is like dusting off years of stories.

Pulling out the record player

Records combine two of my favourite things: nostalgia and music. So I should have known it was love when, in our first month of dating, JF gave me a record player he’d refurbished himself. But it was only last month, when our friends Jacqueline and Fox gave us a vintage amplifier, that we were able to set it up. It’s been a joy, except JF is obsessed with this Cabbage Patch Christmas record from his youth.

First Light

Working as at Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons and Discovery Harbour in the summer was such fun. I loved bumping into some of my old colleagues and admiring the historic site by candle light. If you haven’t been to First Light, you really should.

Visiting with friends

A few annual festive shindigs make my heart glow. One is “Christmas around the world” dinner with Danielle, Joël and Naomi. The other involves our gang of dear Toronto friends, board games and shenanigans.

Craft sales

My belief is the smaller the town, the better the crafts. This year mom, Gen, Alicia, Donna and I went to the Victorian Craft Sale for the Midland OSPCA. It featured all sorts of kitschy and awesome stuff, plus free tea and cookies. I also checked out the Elmvale Christmas Craft Sale (organized by my neighbours) where I picked up the cutest little knit things.

Holiday movies

I think my very favourite Christmas movie (possibly favourite movie of all time) is The Apartment. But I dearly love Miracle on 34th Street (original, of course), Holiday Inn, Meet me in St. Louis, and The Bishop’s Wife. I also have a soft spot for Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Die Hard, A Christmas Story, Rare Exports and perhaps most shamefully, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

This weekend, the family parties begins. We’re spending time at mom’s on Friday, and with Lefaives on Saturday. Next week includes a jam-packed agenda filled with carols, cookies, stockings and enormous meals. Now all we need is snow!

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?).

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.

 

Scrumptious summer

I’ve come to accept – almost enjoy – my hectic pace of life. I work hard, visit with many beautiful people, volunteer a lot, keep a cleanish house, maintain a decentish garden and try (rather unsuccessfully) to squeeze in time for JF, writing, exercise, reading and music in between.

Still, there’s something about summer that forces even the busiest of bees to slow down. I swear every time I hear the hum of a cicada or the whirring of a lawnmower, my shoulder muscles relax subtly. Here are some highlights from the last few warm and wonderful weeks.

Festival du Loup

After months of hard work, the Festival du Loup committee (of which I am a lucky member) enjoyed a successful few days of great Franco-Ontarian music, local food, and cool artisans.

More cheap stuff

In my latest garage sale haul, I picked up an original piece by local painter Ila Kellerman as well as an ancient croquignole board.

Garage sale treasures

Garage sale treasures

A little romance

When my calendar is filling up, the first item on the chopping block is usually date night with JF. But lately, I’ve been making and enjoying a lot more time for us. Here’s a shot from our visit to Penetang’s “World Famous” Dock Lunch.

Me, stuffing my face as I always do on date night

Me, stuffing my face as I always do on date night

Omazing Ontario

We’ve also hung out on Tiny’s Beaches, visited Awenda Park with our dear friend Pascal, and eaten a lot of fresh local produce. My avo’s garden is dripping with beans and it makes me such a happy camper.

La belle famille

But my favourite event was Thursday, when dear friends and family surprised me with a patio party to celebrate my “new” job. I was so touched, and so delighted to see everyone. Thanks guys!

Some of my favourite people

Some of my favourite people

My house may be a little dirtier, but at this moment I’m feeling refreshed and relaxed. And for that reason, I say long live summer.

You get what you give

Volunteering is awesome. Maybe it’s my non-profit background talking, but I think everyone wins when you join a committee, sit on a board, or commit to a weekly shift.

A group of people sits around a table

I snapped this photo at the last 2014 Festival du Loup Committee meeting.

I volunteer to support organizations that do work I find valuable. But when I sign up, I know I’ll also get to meet great people, gain valuable experience, learn new things, watch my impact over time, and (big picture) build up my community. Plus there’s that “I’m awesome!” high-fivesque feeling you get at the end of a great event, meeting or project.

There are downsides, of course. My mom taught me that committing to something means giving it your all. Pile a few volunteer roles together (I can’t help myself!) and the result is a packed schedule. When I’m tired, I’d just rather sit on my couch and eat Cheetos.

But in the end, the pros always outweigh the cons, orange puffed cornmeal snacks and all. Especially now that I’m giving back to my community – the place that shaped me before unleashing me on Toronto in my late teens. My recent causes include:

Le Festival du Loup: I’m Franco-Ontarian, and this event brings frenchies like me together for a weekend of live music, beer, dancing and gossip. The tunes are toe-tappingly good – sometimes square-dancingly good. This year’s festival is on July 18, 19 and 20 in Lafontaine. We’re currently looking for sponsors, recruiting artisans, and figuring out how to sell tickets online.

The Midland Cultural Centre: North Simcoe is a secret hub of artistic greatness. We’ve bred authors, painters, musicians and everything in between. The MCC means all those talented people finally have a place to hang out, and an outlet to share their work. If you haven’t been to Saturday Open Mic or visited Quest Gallery, you should. Or better yet, sign up to become a regular box office or event volunteer.

The Georgian’s Got Talent (or not) Benefit Concert: What better way for me to give back to my employer than to help with its annual talent show/benefit concert? I’ll be singing and playing – which, frankly, is terrifying. All proceeds support Georgian College students who need a financial boost to get through school. Performances are on March 20 and 21 and you can buy tickets through Bear Essentials.

There are so many great organizations to get involved with around here, it was really difficult to decide where to direct my occasionally flailing enthusiasm. Some of my other local favourites include La Clé, Shelter Now, Chigamik, Community Reach, Waypoint and United Way of Greater Simcoe County.

Wherever you are, you’ve no doubt got similarly awesome local non-profits just waiting for someone with your skills and talents. If you’ve got time, consider diving in and helping out – you won’t regret it.

Francophonie

I am privileged to be able to call myself Franco-Ontarian. Yup, that’s a thing. We have a flag and even an unofficial anthem.

My father’s family has been living in Tiny Township, en français, for well over a hundred years. The school at County Road 6 and Concession 12 once had so many Lefaives attending it that they named the intersection after us.

The school at Lefaive's corner. That's right, we have a whole corner.

The school at Lefaive’s corner. That’s right, we have a whole corner.

The Lefaives eat tourtière (well, except me the rando vegetarian), play the fiddle, and wear métis sashes on certain special occasions. My mémère and pépère used interesting expressions like « va don plugger l’canar pour moé, ma belle » which losely translates to « would you plug in the kettle for me, dear? »

Mémère et Pépère, sur les plages de la Baie Georgienne.

Mémère et Pépère, sur les plages de la Baie Georgienne.

I’m proud of my heritage, weird idioms and all. I also applaud and support any effort to keep our language and culture strong. It’s hard work, but it’s important. Sometimes it feels like we are on a rickety french raft — or maybe a birch bark canoe? — in a sea of english, but we keep paddling. Now that I’m local, I’m looking forward to lending my slighlty wobbly paddling arm more often.

At the centre of that canoeing (?) effort is one of my favourite events of the year, le Festival du Loup. Organized by local people, it takes place at the park in Lafontaine: the core of the french community.

The festival was this past weekend, and I was delighted to be able to share it with my « France French » friend Sylvie. We volunteered Saturday morning, donning beautiful yellow smocks and fastening neon orange paper bracelets to people’s wrists at the entrance.

Sylvie, showing off the Festival du Loup volunteer smock.

Sylvie, showing off the Festival du Loup volunteer smock.

Minus a brief stint at the beach, we spent the afternoon and evening listening to live, french music. My cousins Kelly, Jill and Nicole performed as Ariko, my childhood crush and longtime friend Joël Forget played some of his original songs (one of them about me), and JF’s brother Damien Robitaille was the headliner.

Mes cousines, Jill et Nicole Lefaive, en pleine performance.

Mes cousines, Jill et Nicole Lefaive, en pleine performance.

Why do I love this festival so much? Because, in the words of Larry Lalonde, it feels like a great, big family reunion. Folks I grew up with come in from out of town and hundreds of people of all ages living in and around Lafontaine make a point of being there. It’s a great opportunity to catch up on gossip, re-connect with friends, and just enjoy dancing at the heart of a community I know and love.