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So here we are – it’s time to plan what I’ll be tackling from my Life List next year. Since we already know where we’ll be traveling to, those will likely get crossed off in 2019. I also have some food-related and skills I want to tackle.

This is the list for next year:

  • Stay in a cabin or lodge in the woods
  • See Lake Louise in Alberta
  • Stargaze in a dark sky reserve (Jasper)
  • Visit Banff, Alberta
  • Visit Jasper, Alberta
  • Drive the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
  • Hike in the Rockies
  • Hike to one of the tea houses in the Rockies
  • Learn to crochet
  • Knit a pair of stockings
  • Knit a shawl
  • Grow a fruit tree
  • Attend a paint & wine class
  • Make yogurt
  • Make cheese
  • Make homemade pita bread
  • Try canning
  • Make fresh pasta

I’ll be keeping my usual “annual” goals but have adjusted (greatly lowered) my reading one since I’ve been spending a lot more time doing other things:

  • Watch 50 movies
  • Cook 30 new recipes
  • Read 10 books

Can’t wait!!

 

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My sister and her two girls came down to spend the holidays with us again this year. They arrived on Friday (flew into the Toronto Island airport) and for dinner we had rigatoni with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil (by request :)), followed by buche (yule log). We headed out for a stroll in the neighborhood to admire the holiday lights. Once back home, we watched Daddy’s Home (first time for Chris and I, it was cute) and everyone got settled and went to bed.

Saturday we braved the mall and went shopping for some last-minute gifts – we went early and avoided the crowds (and we all wore our plaid flannel shirts :)). We ate lunch at Jack Astor’s, then back home to get ready for our evening at Westfield Heritage Village; a pioneer-style village where the staff dress up in period costumes and explain how a village ran back in the day. I love that place and learning about all the “old-time jobs”, with old-fashioned decor – super fun. We swung by Boston Pizza on the way home and hit the sack.

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Sunday we spent outside enjoying holiday festivities downtown. We had brunch at Eggspectations, then visited the Fair in the Square at Nathan Philips Square where they had a Christmas market, outdoor skating, food and drinks (mulled wine!). I bought some wool leg warmers at one of the stalls. Cozy!Β  Our next stop was over at the new winter festival Aurora at Ontario Place by the lake. They did an amazing job – it was gorgeous. There was a market as well (bought the girls stuffed alpacas and myself an alpaca sweater – love it). We had some food, warmed up under the heaters then the adults went over to the bar (warm cider) while the girls went tubing. We peeked at the skating pond (beautiful) but everyone had their fill from skating earlier in the day. We all went on the carousel and the mini-train. We loved the mystical world with all the lights – it was gorgeous. Great new winter festival to add to the holiday festivities in the city. Back home and everyone crashed.

Nathan Philips Square:

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Aurora:

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Monday (Xmas Eve) was baking day – we made kovas (nanaimo bars), ginger nut cookies and double chocolate chip cookies with mint chips. Everything turned out great and they were all gone by the time the family left later in the week. The girls also helped me with making lunch (chicken and Greek salad). After lunch, we headed out armed with an outdoor scavenger hunt game and walked through the neighborhood to Starbucks, then made our way back. If your family is into games but want to spend time outdoors, this game is awesome and kept everyone busy along the walk.Β  Luckily my sister brought her Christmas light necklace (equipped with working flashing lights) to drape over a mailbox so we could count the “decorated mailbox” as found on our hunt. πŸ™‚

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We got back home, had our usual charcuterie, cheese, crackers and other goodies for dinner, watched Daddy’s Home 2 (again, first time for Chris and I – funny) and got everything ready for the big day tomorrow. πŸ™‚

Tuesday was Christmas Day and after a morning opening gifts, we enjoyed our turkey lunch with all the usual fixings. We all ended up playing the new games Santa brought. Mad Gab (you have to read a card out loud that’s made up of words that sound like something else) – tough to explain, even tougher to play. We also played Hearing Things and had a blast – one player wore headphones with sounds that blocked out noise while your teammate whispers a phrase and the headphone-wearer tries to read their lips to guess what they’re saying. This was hilarious!! We ended the night watching The Holiday and snacking on holiday treats – even the cat joined in resting in his bed in front of the fire.

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Wednesday was Boxing Day and we headed down tot he King Edward hotel to have afternoon tea. At this tie of year they have a festive “Nutcracker Tea” and it was awesome. The finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, jam and lemon curd and pastries – everything was yummy, festive and filling. Back home, we played Christmas charades, then off to see Mary Poppins Returns.

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Thursday was “big breakfast” day including scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. Followed by ornament-making – this year we made pine cone ornaments with berries and branches, topped with plaid ribbons. They turned out pretty well!

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After we got off the ship, we spent the day in Venice doing some shopping before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Athens where we spent the night then caught a hopped flight to Kalymnos, the island where my retired in-laws now live.Β After the cruise, it was nice to relax at a slower pace and enjoy the sun, sea and family.

We went to the beach, relaxed on the patio, had fun with the cats in the area that my in-laws take care of, explored the main town Pothia, visited a beach and restaurant in Palionisos and generally ate, napped and chatted with the fam. As a bonus, we got to stay in one of the newly renovated apartments that my in-laws started renting out this summer – it was amazing!

Then came Zorbas.

Let’s not travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season anymore, we said.

What could possibly happen in the Mediterranean, we said.

Well, little did we know that cyclones can happen, on rare occasions, and some even head straight for where you are! Apparently with climate change, these will happen more and more so we’ll likely avoid the warm/tropical band around the earth between August and December from now on. Lesson learned.

Late Tuesday (or was it Wednesday…) we started hearing news reports about the possibility of a cyclone – or medicane (hurricane in the Med) – forming in the Ionian sea so we kept an eye on the weather reports to see if it would line up with our travel plans later that week. Otherwise it was business as usual.

We ended up leaving a day early just in case our plane was grounded due to winds (common when flying from Kalymnos to Athens) and because there are only flights 3 days a week, we feared getting delayed several days and missing our original flight home. We took the ferry to Kos instead on Friday, then flew to Athens and spent an extra day there prior to catching our flight to Toronto on Sunday. Everything went well but it was rainy on those two days. We relaxed, ate and slept some more, pampered ourselves at the Sofitel on our last day, rain shower, room service and all. Not a bad way to recharge before coming home. πŸ™‚

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Fraternizing with the local wildlife πŸ™‚

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My turn

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This was our patio on the last day hehehe We made lots of friends.

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Dessert at the hotel on our last day – how cute is this?

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Palionisos Beach

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Harbour in Pothia – that’s my yacht out front πŸ˜‰

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Day 8: The highlight of this stop was the Game of Thrones tour. We’re big fans of the books and the show and to see some of the locations where some scenes were filmed was pretty awesome. πŸ™‚ For those of you who don’t know, the old town of Dubrovnik was the setting for King’s Landing as well as Qarth. Scenes filmed there include the scenes in Blackwater Bay, Cersei’s Walk of Shame and the steps of the Sept of Baelor, the House of the Undying, many market scenes in Kings’s Landing as well as various other scenes (Myrcella departing for Dorne, Cersei and the return of her daughter (who she doesn’t know was dead at the time).

But before we got off the cruise ship, the fun started in the theater on-board where the passengers gathered to be called for the tours. As the Game of Thrones folks exited the theater, we were greeted by cruise ship staff ringing a bell over our heads as we headed to Deck 4 crying out “Shame!” Super fun. πŸ™‚

We met our guide and she led us to what is known as the “Red Keep”. The fortress itself is a nice building, but seeing the spots where King Joffrey spoke and the views familiar from the show made it even more memorable.

After exploring the Keep, we headed into the Old Town which turned out to be a very cool walled medieval town. We made several stops in the town, our guide showing photos of the scenes in the show so we can see what was original and what was CGI. It was really interesting. She added in some history of the town including the recent war they endured and that the town still shows marks of. We got to see the staircase where Cersei did her walk of shame – which, it turns out, was filmed in 3 separate areas of the town!

When we climbed the city walls, we saw amazing views of the town plus the House of the Undying where Daenerys was looking for her dragons. Super cool.

We climbed the city walls (a lot of stairs both up and down) and got to see amazing views of the town. It’s very beautiful.

We swung by the GOT store and picked up a couple of t-shirts (I’m not a Princess, I’m a Khaleesi :)) and had a photo op on the Iron Throne. (See below). We strolled around the town a bit more, then returned to our meeting point.

I would return to see some more of the town. Lots to see here.

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The Red Keep

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Sansa and Little Finger spoke here

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Cersei waited for the return of her daughter here

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Joffrey spoke from up there

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Entering the old town

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Passing through Pile Gate

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Walk of Shame staircase – part 1

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Chris, not looking the least bit ashamed

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Inside here is the staircase where Daenerys meets the Spice King

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Walk of shame – Part 2

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Walk of shame – Part 3

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Protest speech filmed here

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Walking along the city walls

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Red Keep from afar

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Where Daenerys looked for her dragons in the House of the Undying

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My rightful place πŸ™‚ Inform the Realm.

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Day 7: We had booked a tour that took us to the neighboring island of Delos, the birthplace of of Apollo and Artemis, where many ruins have been excavated (and many still to be discovered). But first, the wind. The WIND!! Crazy windy.

We took a boat to the island of Delos (THEE-los) and our amazing guide brought us through the ruins, bringing history to life and letting us come along for the ride. It was amazing to see the ruins that had been excavated, right next to the unexcavated area which was much higher (level of the earth/ground). Everything was left where it was discovered.

Our guide explained how Delos came to be, how trade flourished and how the people lived.

Such was the importance of the island that In the 5th century, during the 6th year of the Peloponnesian war and under instruction from the Delphic Oracle, the entire island was purged of all dead bodies and it was decreedΒ that no one should be allowed to either die or give birth on the island due to its sacred importance and to preserve its neutrality in commerce, since no one could then claim ownership through inheritance. Immediately after this purification, the first festival of the Delian games were celebrated there.Β (Ref: Thucydides, III,104.)

The ruins themselves were wonderful to see, from the trade section, to the theater section, to the houses, the temples, the terrace of the lions (from the people of Naxos). There is also a small museum where the original lions are kept, as well as the original mosaic from the largest/richest house.

After our tour, we took the boat back to Mykonos town and had some lunch, then wandered the streets and did some shopping then headed back to our shuttle to the ship.Β  I don’t know if I’d return here – perhaps once they’ve excavated more of the Delos ruins as there are still a ton buried there.

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Cistern

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Theater

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Theater groupie πŸ™‚

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Cats on the island keep the mice/rats in check.Β 

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The original mosaic is in the museum on the island (tiger)

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Staircase – very cool to see one of those

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Terrace of the lions

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Original lions in the museum

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Original floor mosaic

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Mykonos town

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Day 6: Holy Moly. What a beautiful island. This was my favourite port. We had booked a tour that included visits in Oia, Pyrgos and Fira as well as a Greek celebration for dinner, with Greek music and dancing.

Our guide Lena was phenomenal – engaging, funny, interactive, she brought us to less-crowded spots and lesser-known gems. She shared lots of great information about the island. Fantastic. I took lots of pics here because everything looked like a postcard.

Our first stop was in Oia, the picturesque blue and white town where we snaked through passageways and stairs to make our way through. Just beautiful. There were a few busy spots but only here and there and nothing unmanageable. We simply enjoyed walking through the town, gaping at the beauty of the views and enjoying window shopping. Truly a marvel to see.

The next stop was in Pyrgos, a smaller village where we visited a church, even got to stand on the church roof for some great pics of the island, walked through “the labyrinth” of small streets and learned about the local life. More amazing pics here. We headed to a nearby restaurant (more like a hall) where we were treated to a Greek buffet style dinner with all the trimmings, were entertained by Greek music and dancers, then many people joined in the fun to learn how to dance and the evening ended with the breaking of plates and a whole lot of Opas! Good fun!

We ended in Fira, where we browsed the town and shops on our way to the cable car to get down to the tender boats. I can see myself spending more time here; I felt like we only discovered the tip of the iceberg – or the caldera in this case. πŸ™‚

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Approaching Santorini

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Beautiful

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Kitty sleeping next to his breadstick πŸ™‚

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Wow.

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Donkeys!

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There’s a lounge chair with my name on it in there…

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Holy moly

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Simple yet beautiful

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Dinner – was delicious

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Opa! What a mess LOL

 

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