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!

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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?).

Busy nothings

Life in sleepy Elmvale is ticking along quietly. The garden is now only 80% weeds. Slowly, slowly we are making progress on house projects. Barbecued broccoli is my new favourite food. And there are orange popsicles in the freezer.

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The beautiful thing about summertime is that there isn’t anything big and exciting to report. Instead, life is a series of non-events. Here are some recent ones:

Toby turned 100,000 kilometres

Can you believe my little Honda Fit, Tobias, has aged 40,000kms since I got him? I hardly know where the time and distance have gone. JF gifted him to me about this time last year, and my life has been infinitely more mobile since.

Tobias' widgets the other day.

Tobias’ widgets the other day.

I exercised a few times

Confession: my January health revolution never happened. Instead, I gained a remarkable 10 pounds over the winter. So, I’ve given up on self-guided fitness regimes, joined shame-inducing Zumba classes at No Borders Fitness, and started briskly walking with colleagues at lunch. I also do weekly lifts, squats and planks at Swift Fitness, the most sophisticated garage gym I’ve ever seen. And I hate burpees.

My choir put on a show

Le Choeur de la Clé, the francophone community choir I belong to, put on a love-themed concert late May. It was great fun. I even performed in a trio with my lovely cousin Nicole and dear old friend Joël.

My view, every Tuesday night during choir practice

My view, every Tuesday night during choir practice

JF and I went garage sale-ing

As you all know, there is nothing I love more than old or dead people’s cheap stuff — except maybe barbecued broccoli. Toronto garage sales are expensive and infrequent. Their Elmvale counterparts are far more fun and plentiful. Plus they often come with ¢25 cookies baked by little old ladies. My favourite find was the scarred wooden duck/target I purchased for a steep $2. I called him Ferdinand, and he lives on my front porch.

In the words of Fanny Price (movie edition), “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

 

Ode to Cantores

This past Tuesday I attended my before-last practice with Cantores Celestes, a choir based in Bloor West Village that I’ve been singing with for about two years now. I walked into the church late and sweaty — clattering about the pews as I frantically dumped my purse, pulled off my jacket, and assembled my sheet music.

The women of Cantores Celestes, in all their splendour

The amazing women of Cantores Celestes

Finally scurrying up the steps to join the 50 or so women already rehearsing on stage, I paused to take a few restorative breaths and open my ears to the music. Being a mostly punctual person, listening to a piece in progress isn’t something I’d had the opportunity to do much before.

They were singing David McIntyre’s Ave Maria. Which, when you’re actually performing it, kind of sucks. The rhythm is hard and the harmonies aren’t normal. I’m pretty sure I look like Neve Campbell in Scream when I’m singing it. Terrified.

But standing there in front of my fellow choristers, you would never guess any of that. They were producing really lovely, beautifully cohesive, warm music. As Jackie would put it, a fitting ode to the feminine nature of the divine.

I’m not a religious person, but there is something very powerful about a large group of hard-working, smart, strong women just enjoying singing together. Sharing a purpose. And there’s something even more powerful about them celebrating another woman through song.

When they finished the Ave Maria, I took another breath and made my way to my usual spot in the third row, already feeling refreshed and forgetting the cares of the day.

Going to choir practice is kind of like going to the gym: getting there is a slog, but you never regret it. In fact, you leave lighter.

Actually, you know that feeling you get when you rock out in the kitchen with a wooden spoon? Well Cantores is often like that, but to Fauré and with a bunch of friends. We sing every piece — even the Ave Maria — with gusto. Kelly, our Director, puts every inch of her heart behind each concert. Which is why I’m sad that our concert in Perth on June 29 will be my last.

My work friend Tina shared this quote by Anatole France with me on my last day: “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves.” I’m really going to miss this part of my Toronto self.