Sunday, December 30, 2012

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Today was one of those perfect winter days: cold, but sunny with bright blue skies. It was a great day for a family walk in the ravine behind our house. My parents and our 13-year-old niece joined the four of us and Daisy. 

The last few years we've had very little snow but so far this winter we've had TONNES of snow. It made for a challenging but lovely trek in the forest.

It was also a great opportunity for my 19-year-old son to test out the camera he got for his birthday. He took a gazillion photos during our walk and I'm looking forward to seeing them. In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite pictures from today.

The photographer. 

That first hill is a bit of a challenge.

The girls. I love how it looks like my niece is dancing in this shot.
You can't really tell from this photo, but we made Daisy wear a sweater. She spent the first ten minutes rolling around in the snow, trying to remove it. 

I know I've said this before, but I am so thankful for the beautiful ravine forest in our neighbourhood! 

Friday, December 28, 2012


During the Christmas Holidays I've had time to read, read, and read some more. Paradise. I've always been a bookworm, I don't remember a period in my life during which I didn't have a book or two by my side. One of my fondest memories of growing up is the Saturday morning trips to the library with my family. The book limit at the time was seven and I never left with less than that. I remember feeling like I was in seventh heaven when my parents let me loose in the children's section. I loved comic books, especially Tintin and the French series Astérix et Obélix, Boule et Bill, Le club des cinq, Barbapapa and Gaston Lagaffe. 

As soon as we would get back from the library I would sink into the family room chair for a marathon session of reading. The only problem with comic books is that I would zip through them so fast that by the end of the day I would have nothing left to read!

That's me, circa 1970 something, with our family pooch. Don't you love the hair rollers?
Me again, a few years later, doing what I do best! You can definitely tell it's the 70s from the décor, can't you? 

Here I am in more recent years and I obviously still like to read sitting sideways on the chair.  

Unlike other kids who couldn't wait to open their presents to find toys at Christmas, the best gifts you could ever give me have always been books. I remember those Christmases where I would receive the books from the Anne of Green Gables series. The original is the one that most people know and love but I think I preferred the later ones about Anne growing up and having a family of her own. I always felt like I knew her personally and I was so sad when I had finished the last book, it felt like I was losing a friend. 

Now that I'm all grown up my love of books has not diminished. One of my favourite things is still to have a few uninterrupted hours in my chair to read. I also can't imagine going to sleep without reading for at least half an hour in bed. It's a good thing that I married another bookworm who definitely gets it. John has the same need that I do to always have a book on the go. As a child, his brother would be exasperated with him because John would rather stay in his room to read than go out and play. As you can imagine, we have books everywhere and the bookcases are overflowing. 

The bookcase in our bedroom. Now that I look at it, I realize it's pretty messy, I really should take some time to tidy it up.

We have two children, but only one of them inherited our obsession with reading. Our son had a brief moment of interest in books when he was younger but nothing like our daughter's constant need to read. In fact, she had a bunch of friends over lately and they marvelled at the bookcase in her room. They couldn't believe how many books she had collected over the years, and that only holds a small part of her collection! She keeps trying to get us to change the dining room into a library. Her dream would be to have bookcases on all the walls. Hmm, maybe that's not such a bad idea after all.

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers." 
Charles W. Eliot, The Happy Life, 1896

Monday, December 17, 2012

70 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

"One hundred bottles of beer on the wall, one hundred bottles of beer, you take one down, you pass it around, ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall..." Did you sing this silly song when you went on school trips or was that just the kids at my school who inevitably burst into this little ditty whenever we hopped on a bus? For some reason, I thought of this as we celebrated my father's 70th birthday this weekend. My dad received the perfect gift for a beer aficionado such as he: 70 different beers from around the world.

As soon as we had all arrived at my parents' place for his birthday dinner, we sent him down to the wine cellar to get the beer. Everyone waited with cameras in hand to see his reaction. And this is what he saw when he opened the door. A whole heck of a lot of beer!

Dad reading one of his cards. 

The traditional spaghetti and meatball birthday dinner. Just as I always have boeuf bourguignon on my birthday, my dad has spaghetti on his. 

No, Dad, I'm pretty sure there aren't 70 candles on the cake! In the forefront is a lemon meringue pie, which is also a birthday tradition.

My dad is a very cool guy. You'd never know by looking at him that he's 70, I'd say he looks at least ten years younger. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that he's always been into sports and has never stopped working out. On even the coldest day in February you'll find him heading for Gatineau Park to do some cross-country skiing (there's no way I could ever hope to keep up with him). 

As a dedicated high-school teacher he coached football and, later on, my son's soccer team. In his youth, my dad was even scouted by an NHL farm team. But my dad isn't just a great athlete, he's also quite brilliant. Dad had a long career as a high-school math teacher and he definitely has a remarkable math brain, but that doesn't mean that he's only interested in all things math. He also has a very creative and artistic side which shows up in his many interests. Just take a look at the incredibly beautiful gardens he designs. He can put together a bouquet of flowers like nobody's business! Also, he taught himself to read and speak German and to play the saxophone. He is interested in the world around him and always learning new things. I'm sure that's a big part of what keeps him young.

I inherited a few things from Dad: my blue eyes and fair skin, for instance. My love of travel and of nature, my competitiveness and perfectionism. (I'm working on that last one.) However, much to his dismay, I most definitely did not inherit his math brain. And I'm pretty sure my talent for dance didn't come from him!

But at his very core, the thing that defines my father the most is his enduring love for his family. He would do anything for his wife, daughters and grand-children, of that I am absolutely certain.

So, who wants a beer? I think my dad has one or two to spare.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Scenes from the weekend

It snowed big, fat, fluffy flakes.

Amélie made delicious apple and raspberry muffins.

My mom came over to help me make Christmas tourtières.
Five tourtières ready to be baked.

We decorated the Christmas tree. The kids call it our hoarder's tree because we have so many decorations. We couldn't even fit all of them on the tree this year. I guess we'll have to get a bigger one next year!

And of course the weekend wouldn't be complete without a walk in the forest with Daisy. 

What I did not do this weekend: buy Christmas presents. Oh well, there's lots of time left to do that, no need to panic, right? right?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Real or faux?

If you celebrate Christmas you've probably had to make the decision at some point to either buy a real tree or invest in an artificial one. For my family, it's a no-brainer, a real Christmas tree is the way to go. It's a tradition I can't imagine ever giving up. 

During the 80's my parents briefly had an artificial tree because that's just what people did back then. My sister and I were very pleased when we convinced our parents to ditch the fake tree one year and to start buying a real one again. What I find interesting, is that the pendulum seems to be swinging back in favour of artificial trees. When I ask friends why they decided to go that route I find that most of them mention the convenience factor. I suppose it is less labour-intensive to put together the tree that is stored in the closet rather than go out and chop one down or stand in the freezing cold of the grocery store parking lot to buy one. I understand their point, but it's not enough to get me to change our family tradition.

For the last few years we've been going out as an extended family to a Christmas tree farm in Navan. Part of the fun is walking around the large property, trying to find  the perfect tree. This "perfect" tree often ends up lopsided and bare in some spots but it is well-loved nonetheless. Also, you just can't beat the smell of a real Christmas tree in the house!

I've posted a few pictures from two years ago. Sadly, it's raining today, so I think it will be a while before we get the picture perfect snowy day that is essential for proper tree picking. 

Setting off on our tree-cutting adventure.

Still searching...

Found it!

Some of the eclectic ornaments we've collected over the years, many of them hand-made by the kids when they were little.

So what about you, I'm curious, do you have an artificial tree or do you prefer to buy a real one every year? Let me know in the comments section below.