Update: New Kitten

We finally picked up our new kitten. His name is Dante and he’s an Abyssinian, the same breed as our late pet Gizmo who passed last November. After several days without a little furry life in the house, we decided we wanted another cat, and we found this little guy. We picked him up this past weekend and had an uneventful (thankfully) 6 hour drive back to the GTA. We had brought everything (food, water, litter, etc) and it went well. We were eager to get him settled in and the last couple of days have been super fun.


We closed off the door to the basement until he gets settled with the main floor and the upstairs. He already knows where everything is (his litter, food, water, etc.). He already knew how to navigate stairs and is pretty gung ho when running up/down them. He loves food, playing, his kitty condo and is curious aboutΒ everything. He has bursts of energy then conks out and basks in the sun. πŸ™‚ He is still a wee thing (2.5 pounds) and cuteness overload is rampant in our house at the moment.

He slept with us both nights we’ve had him so far and didn’t wake up in the night to get into mischief (that we know of). Maybe we’ve been lucky so far. lol

We’re looking forward to more adventures with our new addition. πŸ™‚



Like every year, as soon as the Golden Globe nominees are announced, I start watching the potential Oscar Best Picture nominees (since they often align with the Globes). I’ve managed to watch all but one but since I’m not sure if I’ll be able to watch the last straggler (Phantom Thread), I figured I’d share my impressions for the big categories.

Best Picture – Nominees

  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Summary: You know how a movie can stay with you for weeks after you’ve watched it? Those are usually the ones that grab my attention and make my top picks. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is staying with me. I love Frances McDormand – she often plays a badass and this movie is no different.Β  The story was engrossing and the cast was great. Sam Rockwell’s transformation in the movie was very compelling. Woody Harrelson was also very good (he is everywhere there days – good for him!) It was an all around solid movie.

My second pick, believe it or not, is The Shape of Water. I know many people found it weird. And it was. But there was something really beautiful about it from Sally Hawkins’ powerful performance as a mute to the relationship between her and the critter, to the friendship between her and Richard Jenkins’ character, to Octavia Spencer. Another, all around solid movie.

I’m still torn about who I’d vote for between the two. I have a feeling the two lead acting categories will go to Three Billboards, and Best Picture will go to The Shape of Water for the ensemble to avoid a sweep of the top three.

The others were OK but in my opinion not Oscar worthy, although there were some stand out performances. There were many “middling” movies that seemed to make the cut because they ran out of great ones to choose from. It’s been like this ever since they increased the number of nominated films up from 5 so I guess it’s to be expected.

Actor in a Leading Role – Nominees

  • Timothee Chalamet
  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Daniel Kaluuya
  • Gary Oldman
  • Denzel Washington

Summary: Gary Oldman who played Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour is a shoe in forΒ this category. Enough said.

Actress in a Leading Role – Nominees

  • Sally Hawkins
  • Frances McDormand
  • Margot Robbie
  • Saorise Ronan
  • Meryl Streep

Summary: I’m torn here too between Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins. So tough. I think I’m leaning slightly towards Frances because of the emotion of the role. But Sally, as a mute, was able to convey so much power and emotion too, which could be considered a greater achievement than a speaking role. Very tough.


Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Willem Dafoe
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Richard Jenkins
  • Christopher Plummer
  • Sam Rockwell

Summary: I think Sam Rockwell has it. Although – it would be a hoot for Christopher Plummer to win, especially after stepping to replace Kevin Spacey and reshooting all his scenes.

Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Mary J. Blige
  • Allison Janney
  • Lesley Manville
  • Laurie Metcalf
  • Octavia Spencer

Summary: Allison Janney hands down as Tonya Harding’s mom.

I’ll post my full ballot closer to the Oscars – which is on March 4th this year. Set your PVRs. πŸ™‚

I was recently tagged by fellow blogger Abbey over at Three Cats and a Girl. *waves at Abbey* If you haven’t done so yet, go check out her blog! This tag is typically answered by avid readers but have questions that are a little bit all over the place and have nothing to do with books (hence the name of the Tag). Clever! πŸ™‚


Name a cartoon that you love.

Hmmm. Haven’t watched cartoons in ages… BUT Bugs Bunny has some pretty funny lines that went right over my head as a child but looking back now make me crack up with laughter.

What is your favorite song right now?

I’m still liking Havana by Camila Cabello – it’s so fun to sing along to.

What could you do for hours that isn’t reading?

Planning stuff whether it’s my garden, travel, my bucket list items… I am a Planner with a capital P and love lists of all kinds.

What is something that you love to do that your followers would be surprised by?

This is another tough one because I blab about just about everything I love doing on here. BUT – perhaps gaming is something I don’t blog about much. I’ve been a World of Warcraft fan for about 12-13 years. I’ve played all kinds of games (PC and console, even in arcades back in the day) – during the early days it was Super Mario, Sim City, Civilization, Castle Wolfenstein, Gauntlet. Then I went through a micro-management phase with Caesar, Pharaoh, Age of Empires, the Sims. Then my husband started playing WoW, I joined him soon after and the rest is history. I’m also currently a big fan of Scrabble on Facebook. I like words. πŸ™‚

What is your favorite, unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

EVERYTHING. I have a habit of making lists of things that come up in casual conversations that I don’t know the answer to but want to look up later. It could be about anything. It’s become much easier to find answers to things that arise in the course of every day life with access to the internet from a SmartPhone. One of my pet peeves is saying/hearing “I don’t know” and not making the effort to find out.

What is something unusual you know how to do?

Name all the countries in the world (196 independent nations!). I have always enjoyed memory games and when I was small it was reciting simple lists like Santa’s reindeer and the seven dwarves. I worked my way up to Canadian provinces, then with capitals, then the 50 states, then state capitals. I’ve now got the countries down (and can do them in about 10 minutes) and am now working on world capitals. πŸ™‚ Crazy, I know.

Name something that you’ve made in the last year.

I like making things and am pretty crafty . One of the nicest things I made last fall were lavender sachets from the lavender that we grow in our garden/yard. They smell so good and last a really long time. Can’t wait to make more!

What is your most recent personal project?

I’d say this is more of an ongoing one that I continuously work on and have been for years. Most of you already know about my Life List (or bucket list). It’s years in the making and no end in sight. πŸ™‚ Life truly is a journey, not a destination.

Tell us something that you think of often.

Oh boy – this is tough because my mind never shuts off. Let’s say the top 5 recurring topics these days are travel, retirement planning/investments, gardening, work and food/cooking.

Tell us something that’s your favorite, but make it oddly specific.

Slippers – I love slippers, and my favorite is the pair I happen to be wearing. I always have a pair of slippers in the house, usually more than one (at least one for warm weather and one for cold). Right now, I have a pair of real moose hide moccasins that I received as a Christmas gift last year that I live in when at home. Love them. πŸ™‚


I think I’m a little late to this tag and many have already done it…but if you’re reading this and feel like participating, consider yourself tagged! πŸ™‚

Garden Plan 2018

It’s been cold and snowy in my neck of the woods lately. BUT – since it’s time to plan for my spring/summer garden, I’ve been having fun buying seeds and planning out what I’ll be growing and where, focusing on when the temps will be warm again. It’ll come quickly and I want to be prepared. πŸ™‚

Without further ado, below is my square foot garden plan layout for this year – click on it to make it larger.

I will still do my usual plantings (albeit different kinds) of cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, lettuce, beans and carrots. Oh, and french marigolds to repel the bugs. I’ll be trying some new crops this year: cucumbers, zucchini, garlic (already planted this past fall), snap peas and blueberries. Plus, to assist with my life list item to make my own tea, I’ll be planting chamomile, lemon balm and mint (the mint in its own pot because it can be invasive). I’ll be getting a dehydrator to help with that task as well.

I did all my research and bought all the seeds this morning. I’ll be picking up blueberry plants closer to planting time and I think I’ll plant a couple of other types of basil in 2 of the squares for variety. The purple basils have caught my eye – imagine what a pesto made with purple basil would look like – stunning!

My plan is to cover the entire blueberry 4×4 bed with netting to protect them from the birds. For the basil, I’ll keep some for pesto and dry the rest for cooking. Same for the parsley – I’ll use some fresh and dry the rest. I’ll dry the chamomile, lemon balm and some of the mint to make tea (my favorite tea has all of those elements in it :)). Plus, gotta save some mint for the mojitos.

I love growing my own food and walking out into the yard to pick ingredients for meals – nothing tastes better than tomatoes warmed by the sun or a fresh picked carrot – it’s incredible how different (and better!) things taste compared to the store. I also enjoy babysitting my plants and keeping an eye out for them, trimming here, watering there, picking off pests (Japanese beetles, I’m looking at you). It’s incredibly relaxing, fulfilling and the bigger jobs provide a good workout too. Weeds are few with the square foot garden method because the “good” plants take up all the space and don’t leave any room for the weeds. It’s fabulous.

Here is my list of seeds so far:

  • Red small tomato: Stupice (stoo-pee-chay)
  • Red cherry tomato: Matt’s Wild Red Cherry
  • Yellow cherry tomato: Lemon Drop
  • Yellow cherry tomato: Champagne (Loved these last year – so much sweet flavor in such a tiny package – they’re like a half inch in diameter)
  • Black cherry tomato: Black Cherry
  • Basil: Genovese  (gold standard in basil – amazing for pesto)
  • Basil: TBD – One of the purple varieties
  • Cucumbers: Muncher
  • Zucchini: Green Zucchini
  • Garlic: Red Russian
  • Beans: Yellow Golden Wax (Bush)
  • Peas: Patio Pride
  • Carrots: Nantes
  • Lettuce: Red Salad Bowl
  • Lettuce: Buttercrunch
  • Chamomile: Bodegold
  • Marigolds: French
  • Mint:: Menthol
  • Lemon Balm


I am doing my happy dance!!! πŸ™‚

2016 Garden flashback:

Now that I’ve recuperated from the whirlwind that is my sister and her two daughters, I can write a blog post about all the fun we had during their holiday visit.

They arrived on the 21st on an empty flight and landed at Billy Bishop airport. With the news showing a jam-packed Pearson airport (busiest day of the year apparently), it made sense to fly to the island airport. Traffic was actually light due to many already being off work.

We got back home and everyone settled in. We made lunch (rigatoni with cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella) then had fun playing a rousing game of Christmas charades. The girls are getting old enough to play games that adult enjoy playing too. πŸ™‚ Fun!! We then headed out to Michael’s to get some holiday craft materials that we wanted to tackle during their stay (more on these later!).

We were also cat-sitting for my sister-in-law’s cat Dusty and after a nervous first day, he adjusted quickly and joined in some of the activities. πŸ™‚


The following day we were planning to go to the Distillery District to see the Christmas Market. During the day, we made the first batch of treats: Smore’s Cookies. They were really yummy and my kitchen helpers were awesome!


The girls also wrote their letters to Santa for Jingles the Elf to bring them to him. This is a kit that comes with magical paper (and a storybook explaining it all) that shrinks when you bake it (with the help of an adult) so they’re small enough for the elf to carry back to Santa. It was really neat! You can see the large letter in the first pic. Then, the shrunken versions in the 2nd and 3rd pic:


We also played 5 Second Rule, a fun and simple game where a player has to name 3 things that fit the category in 5 seconds. This was a lot of fun!


Next was our visit to the Christmas Market. We all hopped on the GO train, played a Christmas-themed version of the alphabet game all the way downtown and got to the market just as the sun was setting and the lights sparkled. πŸ™‚

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On the way back to Union Station, we stopped for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory and it was warm and cozy. Their Christmas decor was fantastic – just what we needed to warm up!


The next day we made the next batch of cookies; these were mainly for Uncle Chris: Maple Bacon Cookies. Holy moly were they ever good!


We made the first craft which was a 3d puzzle-like train made out of foam which was harder than it looked. On the box, they provide a suggested time to finish it (an hour I believe) and we did it in that amount of time:


We played a bit more charades then got ready for our “Christmas by Lamplight” evening at Black Creek Village. We drove: Drove to the village and drove Uncle Chris crazy with our carol-singing in the car. πŸ™‚ Ha! The village itself was beautifully decorated for the holidays and most of the buildings had something festive going on – see a more complete post here. In short, it was amazing. I’d go back in a heartbeat – highly recommended!!

The next day we made cinnamon-baked doughnuts. Oh my.


Baking is hard work:


Had Cadbury hot chocolate (best ever – all others have now been ruined):


We had an impromptu coloring session:


We finished up some wrapping to make sure we were all ready for the big day. We all dressed up and had a nice charcuterie, cheese, cracker and fruit dinner with cranberry orange punch (cranberry cocktail, orange juice, sparkling water, cinnamon stick and couple of cloves). I could eat it every day. πŸ™‚Β  But then I’d end up looking like Santa, so, no.



We watched a holiday movie (I lost track of which one!!) then the kids were off to bed to try to get some sleep before Santa’s arrival tomorrow morning.Β  We left out some cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.


Maddie read Twas the night Before Christmas to us. πŸ™‚


We managed to take a pic of the tree after Santa came πŸ™‚


Dec 25th – Christmas Morning!!!! Sue, Chris and I grabbed our coffees, cookies and doughnuts and the kids opened their stockings. They joined us for cookies, then tackled the gifts. πŸ™‚Β  Everyone was very happy. I loved what I received from kitchen goodies from Chris (a beautiful pan, cutting boards and tools that I needed) to an awesome winter scarf and Harry Potter slippers from Sue. It was a great success!


The girls spent most of the day playing; we took a break for lunch (leftover meats and cheeses), then we started on dinner! The adults kicked off the festivities with a bit of brandy. πŸ™‚



Then we watched The Sound of Music – it’s tradition! And off to bed!


On the 26th, after having eaten a load of treats and lord knows what else, we headed out to Crawford Lake to enjoy the outdoors and hiked the boardwalk around the lake. It was a cold one but we were all bundled up and pretty much the only ones there! Even the drive up was quiet and scenic.


We stopped for lunch at Boston Pizza on the way back home and made Christmas ornaments – we got the makings of this from Michael’s as well and these turned out great!

We braved the cold again the following day and walked the trails near our house on our way to Starbucks to warm up. We came across a dad and his son tobogganing in the area (we heard the dad screaming from a couple of blocks away) and he asked Sienna and Maddie if they would like a ride (to spare him from having to go again teehee). The girls were super excited to have a run. πŸ™‚


We had fun playing follow the leader on the way back to warm up. There was hopping and jumping involved. Luckily, no video. πŸ™‚


And that’s it! We survived another family visit, packed as many holiday activities as we could and from what I hear, the girls are already interested in coming back to Aunt Val’s next Christmas. πŸ™‚ A year to recover should be enough. I think.

2018: A Look Ahead

I reviewed my Life List and did my usual annual updates: I removed items that are no longer of interest and added in some new ones. It’s funny to see what items I added in the past (what was I thinking?!) and seeing new interests come up (how was this not on the list??).

We’ve already booked our trip for next year (Cruise to Greek Isles leaving from Venice, with stops in Santorini, Mykonos, Dubrovnik and Montenegro), so there are a few travel-related items I’ll be able to cross off.

Here is the list of things I’m aiming to tackle in 2018:

  • Celebrate 15 year anniversary (Woohoo!)
  • Visit Santorini, Greece
  • Visit Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • See King’s Landing, Croatia (where they filmed part of Game of Thrones)
  • Visit Venice, Italy
  • Visit St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy
  • Travel to 50 countries – will increase this by 2 (Croatia, Montenegro) to 22 (28 to go!)
  • Take 10 cruises – will increase this to 9 total (1 to go!)
  • Take a cruise in Europe
  • Make a craft for every season or holiday for 1 year
  • Make fresh pasta
  • Make my own herbal tea
  • Make a candle

And my usual movie, book and cooking challenges for 2018:

  • Watch 50 movies
  • Read 20 books
  • Cook 30 new recipes

Here are some of my updates:


  • Travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia – I’ve heard and seen a lot about it and am looking forward to seeing the old town and walled city.
  • See King’s Landing – Big fan of GOT and since I’ll be there anyway, it makes sense to stop and take a peek!
  • Travel to Venice, Italy
  • See St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice
  • Make a drip painting: It’s a technique that’s gaining in popularity and it looks pretty awesome. I can do it.
  • Visit Provence, France
  • Visit Carcassonne, France
  • Make my own herbal tea (I grow herbs, I like tea, I want to try to make my own)
  • Stay in a yurt – it would be fun!
  • Stay in a cabin or lodge in the woods
  • Take a train trip (e.g. The Rocky Mountaineer)
  • Visit Iceland
  • Hike in Algonquin Park


  • Travel to Egypt
  • See the Pyramids
  • Wine tour in Napa or Sonoma
  • Tour a chocolate factory
  • Have a near death experience
  • Go fishing