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 life well lived

My avô (grandpa) died a few weeks ago. I loved him very much, so I’m still quite sad.

This is my grandpa, Dinis Rebelo. Isn't he handsome?

This is my grandpa, Dinis Rebelo. Wasn’t he handsome?

The end of his life was hard. He spent five years in a dementia ward. I still can’t bring myself to say his death was a blessing, but I’m glad he’s free of that place.

When he first got there, he walked around confused, running his hand against the wall and staring at all the blank people. With time, he became one of them. He lost the ability to walk, forgot our names, and stopped feeding himself. I cried the first time I watched him read the Toronto Star upside down.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It robs people of dignity, history and identity – three things that were vitally important to avô.

I prefer to remember him as he was most of his life: proud, handsome and sharp as the tools in his garage. He was a farmer, winemaker, Maple Leafs fan, devout catholic, carpenter, volunteer and family man. You can read more about him, if you’d like.

For over ten years, avô was our neighbour. He helped my grandma care for us after school. In my gangly years, he drove me to basketball and picked me up after piano. He was at my recitals, tournaments and graduations. In many ways, he was another parent.

I was going to write a post about all of the happy things that have happened lately. There have been many! But somehow, that just didn’t feel right. My grandpa lived life well. I needed to acknowledge that – and him – first.

If you have potent red wine or beer on hand, fill a tumbler to the brim and toast Dinis Rebelo. He was a good man.

Serving alcohol - as he always did when there were guests

Here is my grandpa serving alcohol – as he always did when there were guests.

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!

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 biased introduction to the towns of Simcoe County

Many of my Toronto friends remain confused about Elmvale’s location. I routinely get asked if it’s near Blue Moutain or Huntsville. The answer is well, kinda. It’s somewhere in between.

Here's a map with Toronto, Blue Mountains, Elmvale and Huntsville, for context

Here’s a map with Toronto, Blue Mountains, Elmvale (in green) and Huntsville, for context

I think of Elmvale as the centre of Simcoe County. Not the cultural or economic centre (that’ll be the day!) but the actual geographical centre. We live 20 to 30 minutes from the following places: Midland, Orillia, Barrie and Wasaga Beach. Here’s my uninformed, totally biased opinion on those four hubs.

BARRIE (south of Elmvale)

SpiritCatcher_1024x768

Spirit Catcher

  • Claim to fame: nearish to Toronto. Also, where I work.
  • Populationish: tough to say because it grows by 1,000 every time someone sneezes. Maybe 150,000?
  • Cool stuff: surprising number of decent restaurants, Sir Games-a-lot, waterfront park, great Mayor, Georgian College
  • Less cool stuff: sprawl, unreliable transit

MIDLAND  (north of Elmvale)

Midland, retro edition

Midland, retro edition

  • Claim to fame: Martyr’s Shrine and Ste. Marie Among the Hurons. Also, where I lived in my teens
  • Populationish: probably about 15,000 most of the time, but 100,000 in July and August
  • Cool stuff: lovely downtown, random murals, cheap real estate, Midland Cultural Centre, awesome bowling alley, proximity to Penetanguishene (another cool town)
  • Less cool stuff: Lots of poverty. Also the waterfront could be nice if it didn’t have the grain elevator, lumber yard, giant mineral pile, busy road, graffiti and drugs

ORILLIA (east of Elmvale)

Opera House

Opera House

  • Claim to fame: Casino Rama. On the way to Muskoka
  • Populationish: guessing 30,000ish?
  • Cool stuff: great downtown, Mariposa Market, Mariposa Folk Festival, Stephen Leacock museum, OPP headquarters, opera house
  • Less cool stuff: keeps trying (unsuccessfully) to compete with Barrie – do your own thing, Orillia!

WASAGA BEACH (west of Elmvale)

The beach

The beach

  • Claim to fame: duh
  • Populationish: maybe 10,000 in the winter a zillion in the summer?
  • Cool stuff: the beach, the kitschy stores around the beach, proximity to Collingwood (which is lovely), paintball, go carts and mermaid hotel sign
  • Less cool stuff: driving through sucks. Also, noisy motorcycles zoom past my house all summer to get there.

In conclusion, if you’re planning to visit me OR Simcoe County (which you should!) there’s plenty to do. I suggest you go to all of the towns listed above, but also: