Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Walk in the Forest with Daisy and her Buddy

One of the reasons we bought our house about 15 years ago was because of the stunning ravine forest which is right behind our backyard. We have been going for walks on the ravine's trails since the kids were little. It is truly a paradise for nature-loving people and, especially, their dogs. 

For a few years now I've been meeting a good friend for a walk in the forest on Sunday afternoons. Unless life gets in the way, we escape for about an hour with Daisy and Mustee. It's a great way for us to talk about what's going on in our lives and to get fresh air and exercise at the same time. The bonus is that Daisy and Mustee have a blast together. As soon as Daisy sees Mustee at the front door she knows it means only one thing: Walk! It's all I can do to keep her calm enough to put on her leash. Once we're in the forest though, the leash comes off and they are free!

Daisy and Mustee, best buddies.

Happy dogs. There's so much good sniffing to do in the forest.

The dogs like to lead the way on the paths.
The trees are bare but I still find the forest beautiful in November. 
 I just love the sound of walking on dry leaves. Pretty soon, the ground will be covered with snow. 
The only downside to the walk, is how dirty the dogs get. Not sure if you can tell from this photo that Daisy is absolutely filthy. She's not a big fan of bath time, however it's a must after running around in the forest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lotions and Potions

I was excited to find this pretty package in the mail today.

But when I brought it upstairs to try on I found this...

And it made me think that maybe I have a bit of an obsession with moisturizers. Am I addicted to them? Maybe I'm a lotion hoarder. Or maybe I'm forgetful and think I've run out so I keep buying more. More than likely, I just like to smell good. And the strange thing is that, despite trying new products, I keep coming back to the same perfect lotion every single time. This one.

There's something magical about this product. I get compliments whenever I wear it and my co-workers comment that they know I'm at the office because they can smell oranges down the hall. Anyway, for whatever reason, this just works with my body chemistry, whereas most perfumes don't. I'll find what I think is the perfect perfume and after a few hours I can't stand myself and have to go wash it off. 

So I will likely always be a body butter kinda girl. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go rearrange my moisturizer collection. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scenes from the Weekend

A few cappuccinos were consumed. This penguin mug makes me smile.

I made applesauce. It was so quick and easy, it made me wonder why I've been buying it all these years.

Daisy got a rubber chicken. Squeak, squeak.

And I bought a new skirt from Joe Fresh. Black lace over beige lining, scalloped hem and ribbon waist. And the best part? It was only $39. Isn't Joe Fresh awesome? You go to the grocery store to pick up some coffee and cereal and you come back with a pretty skirt!
I read the December issue of Vanity Fair, cover to cover. Now I'm all caught up on the 
goings-on of wealthy, eccentric people.
And after that, it was on to the Holiday Edition of Food and Drink. The entire magazine is chock-full of delicious recipes and stunning photographs. One recipe I really want to try is the Milk Chocolate Lemon Meringue Tarts. They look absolutely droolworthy.

Mid-November means switching over to our cozy L.L.Bean flannel sheets. The only problem is that it makes getting out of bed in the morning that much harder. 

Sunday afternoon, Daisy went for a walk in the forest with her best buddy, Mustee.

Here's to a fun and relaxing weekend. Hope yours was too. Monday morning, I'm ready for you!

Friday, November 16, 2012

I am not a cat lady!

Seriously, I never thought I would own a cat. I was always firmly in the "I'm a dog person" category. And now, look at me, I have not only one cat, but two.

 Sugar and Kiki. Why do cats like boxes so much?

How we got the two cats is serendipitous. The big guy, Kiki (more on his very feminine name later), showed up under our deck about 9 years ago. My husband was mowing the lawn when he saw a little head peeking out from under the deck. There was the skinniest, dirtiest, saddest looking animal ever. John decided to ignore it at first, but after going by three times he decided he couldn't keep pretending the poor thing wasn't there. He went in to tell our daughter what he had found and within minutes she was on her knees with a can of tuna, trying to lure the little guy from under the deck. 

It took three days, but she finally got him out and into our house. Let's just say that a feral cat isn't exactly relaxed when he is brought into a strange house for the first time. Within seconds he was climbing the drapes and trying to escape. I was ready to give up and tell everyone that it was a nice try but this cat did not want to be saved and we should just bring him back outside. And then, Kiki did something that changed everything. I was lying on the couch when all of a sudden he climbed onto me, snuggled around my neck and purred. Yup, you guessed it, we owned a cat! 

Of course, not knowing anything about cats we assumed he was a she (it's hard to tell, really!) and that's how our big tomcat got the sweet girlie name Kiki. Oh well, I'm sure he doesn't mind too much. Anyway, my husband compensates by calling him the Kikster or Kikiman.

Kiki does not look impressed. He is not a big fan of Daisy.

He has turned out to be a very sweet and snuggly cat. Here he is a with our son who was sick at the time. Kiki just seems to know who needs a bit of extra attention and will hang out with them.

Not only is Kiki a snuggly cat but he is surely one of the smartest cats around. If I can ever figure out how to post a video I will show you how he is able to catch the treats we throw him with his two front paws. It is really quite impressive and I'm convinced that if the Whiskas people ever see a video of Kiki he will become a star!

Kiki is so smart he's probably figured out how to take pictures with that camera he has his paw on. I'm sure one day I'll find pictures of the photos he's taken after we've all gone to bed.

Okay, well, that explains the first cat but what about the second one? Seriously people, if someone sent you a picture of a kitten who needed a home and who looked like this, what would you do?

How could anyone resist those eyes?
So that is how this tiny little kitten who fit into the palm of my hand became a part of our family. Despite her size, Sugar was one feisty little thing right from the start. In fact, within a day she was play wrestling with Daisy. At first I was worried she'd get hurt but we soon realized that Sugar was one tough chick! 

She did need quite a bit of extra care because she had been separated from her mother before having been weaned. Thankfully, I was not working at the time so I could hand feed her throughout the day.

Sugar is now a grown cat but she really does act like the little sister of the family. She follows the other animals around all the time. If one of them goes out, Sugar is sure to be right behind them. We also joke that it's a good thing she's pretty because she just isn't very smart. For instance, we've tried teaching her Kiki's treat-catching trick. We throw the treat at her and she closes her eyes, which means the treat falls on the floor and Daisy eats it. Every single time. Sigh. It's okay because what she doesn't have in intelligence she makes up for in cuddliness. 

And that, friends, is the story of our little menagerie and how I became a dog AND cat person.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Driving in Italy (not for the faint of heart)

On our recent trip to Italy we picked up a rental car in Rome so we could drive to Florence. With our trusty little Fiat Panda we were able to explore half a dozen villages in Tuscany. It was lovely to have the freedom to explore on our own but, admittedly, at times it was quite terrifying! 

Apparently, the 130 km speed limit is merely a suggestion, and so are stop signs. Oh, and if you leave a few metres between your car and the one in front of you I guarantee someone will see it as an invitation to squeeze in. The driver needs nerves of steel and the passenger...well, let's just say that sometimes the best thing to do is to close your eyes and hope for the best.

I hope I haven't discouraged you too much about the driving experience in Italy. In any case, if you speak to my husband, Mr. Nerves of Steel, he'll tell you to go for it and have a blast. 

 Below are a few photos we took of some cool cars we saw on our trip.

Our little Fiat Panda. Still quite amazed that we got it back to the rental agency without getting a single scratch on it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget

Today is Remembrance Day and I am thinking of some special people in our family. My husband's father, Frank J. Rapp, was an officer during the Second World War. Unfortunately, I never really got to know my father-in-law as he was already quite ill when I started dating my husband. Frank died before our first child was born and that has always been a source of sadness and deep regret for my husband. He would have loved for his father to meet our children. 

From all the stories I have heard over the years, Frank was a wonderful father and doting grand-father to the older kids in the family. Apparently, he is also the person from whom my husband inherited his legendary sense of humour. 

This is my father-in law arriving in Utrecht, Netherlands, as Commanding Officer, Signals,
1st Canadian Armoured Brigade. He landed in Sicily, continued in the campaign in Italy, then Holland and Europe, after serving in the Far North  before the war. While he is no longer with us, we think of him often, and while our kids never met him, they have been hearing stories about Grandpop and his sense of humour since they were little.

But the story doesn't end there. My mother-in-law, Helen Rapp, also served during the war. At 15, she left her hometown of Shumacher, Ontario to work in a munitions factory in Hamilton. At only 16, she pretended to be 18 so she could join the Canadian Women's Army Corp. In other words, she was one of the original bomb girls! Pretty brave don't you think?
Helen Rapp, in 1944, as a Sergeant Major in the Canadian Women's Army Corp. This is where she met Frank as she was in charge of the office at Army Signals when he returned from the war to take command.

And the story continues. A few years after Frank passed away, Helen met Jerry Bowen, a veteran of the Navy during World War Two, and of the Korean War with the Vandoos. He is a fellow volunteer at the Canadian War Museum. You can certainly see how they feel about each other and we are so happy to have him
 in our family as stepdad. Thanks to our kids, he has always been known as Grand-Jerry. 

And there you have it, in a few words I have tried to capture a small part of the story of the people I am thinking of today: Frank, Helen and Jerry. A sincere thank you to them and their fellow veterans for their bravery and sacrifice. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pretty Craft to Brighten your November Day

November can be a dreary month. The leaves are off the trees, the flowers in the garden are long gone and most of us haven't started decorating for Christmas yet. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to brighten up our November days, does it? 

Here is a super easy craft I made today using a few Mason jars, a little bit of greenery, some berries I picked from a shrub in my garden and three floating candles. Simply place a bit of greenery at the bottom of a Mason jar, then fill it about two-thirds full with water. Drop in a few berries (cranberries would work well) and a floating candle and, voilĂ , your home is a little prettier and brighter.    

Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

This past weekend we celebrated my birthday at my parents' house. Have I mentioned that my mother is a brilliant cook? In fact, I think she missed her calling because nothing makes her happier than cooking a delicious meal for a big bunch of people. And a big bunch of people is what we were for my birthday feast. There were 17 of us at the table for dinner. Yes, 17, and my mom didn't bat an eye. As usual, she prepared a restaurant-worthy meal which left all of us stuffed but oh so happy!

At least my mom didn't have to wonder what to make for dinner, as for the last 35 years or so, she has been making the same meal for my birthday. A boeuf bourguignon worthy of Julia Child is what I decided was my favourite meal when I was a little girl and so every year it makes an appearance.  

The massive amounts of boeuf bourguignon, simmering on the stove top. Many a bottle of red wine was sacrificed for this dish.

The beautifully-set table.

This was a simple, but delicious dessert prepared by my aunt and uncle who were visiting from out-of-town. Heavy cream, yogurt and lemon were served inside the hollowed-out lemons. Very refreshing after a big meal. But the dessert extravaganza was only beginning...

The tiramisu birthday cake was heavenly. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the apple cake and the pumpkin pie, the latter having been baked by my little nieces. Yup, we like dessert quite a bit in my family. 

A glimpse of the tiramisu.

It was a feast to remember, made even more memorable by the people sharing it with me. Now, anyone out there need a cook? Give my mom a call, she's the best! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Doors of Tuscany

I'm not quite sure why I like old doors so much, but I always end up taking lots of pictures of them when I'm on vacation. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'll be adding on to our memory wall in the dining room with some of our photos of interesting doors in Tuscany. Here are the top contenders.  

My favourite is the dark green door with the yellow wall. That shade of Tuscan yellow is pretty much perfect. Does anyone else out there take pictures of doors when on vacation or is that just a weird thing that I do?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Memory Wall

I'm a bit obsessed with decorating. In fact, it's not good for me to stay home for long periods because it makes me want to repaint, move things around and buy new stuff. Just ask my poor husband. I've lost count of the number of times he's repainted the walls to satisfy my ever-changing whims. Sorry sweetie.

I've found that one of the easiest ways to add interest to a plain old wall is to put up a picture gallery. I've done one in our dining room but it's still a work in progress. Someday I hope to have the entire wall covered in meaningful photos, paintings and family mementos. This is so much fun to do. 

We recently had our floors sanded and re-stained so we had to remove EVERYTHING from the first floor. That was not fun at all. It also meant that I had to take down my picture gallery so it didn't get damaged. It's a good thing that I took a picture of the finished product before taking it apart because otherwise, I would have been up a creek trying to put it back together. 

Starting to put the memory wall back up. I had left the nails on the wall so it took no time at all to put everything back.

Nearly done.

Ta Da!

I will be adding to the wall soon with some pictures we took of beautiful old doors in Tuscany. As I said in previous posts, I went a little crazy with the camera in Italy so I have way too many pictures of old doors. Eventually, I'll have to sort through them and choose my favourites.

Our 17-year-old daughter, who has loved painting, drawing and decorating since she was little has put up a memory wall in her bedroom. I love going in and getting lost in the memories as many of the pieces are her own paintings, some from when she was itty-bitty. 

A small section of her wall
I love this painting which features her beloved Nounou the bear as a superhero. She has had Nounou since her 1st birhday and he has been all over the world with us. In fact, we have pictures of him lying on the beach in Hawaii with a flower tucked behind his ear. Lucky bear!

 One of my faves. She did this drawing in answer to the question: "What would you like to be when you grow up?"

The memory wall above her bed which is always evolving. This is a fun and easy way to display meaningful photos, drawings and mementos in a child or teenager's room.