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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.

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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 about everything. He has bursts of energy then conks out and basks in the sun. 🙂 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. 🙂

 

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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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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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!

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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:

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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!

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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. 🙂

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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!

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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!

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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:

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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. 🙂 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.

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Baking is hard work:

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

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We had an impromptu coloring session:

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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. 🙂  But then I’d end up looking like Santa, so, no.

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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.  We left out some cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

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Maddie read Twas the night Before Christmas to us. 🙂

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We managed to take a pic of the tree after Santa came 🙂

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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. 🙂  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!

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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. 🙂

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

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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.

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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!
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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. 🙂

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

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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. 🙂 A year to recover should be enough. I think.

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We welcomed my sister and her two daughters for a visit this past long weekend. We had all sorts of fun activities lined up, got to catch up on their shenanigans, enjoy some summer fun and had a blast!

They arrived on Wednesday night and spent Thursday shopping in the neighborhood (I was working on Thursday). We went out for dinner at Paramount (local middle eastern food – so yummy) and watched the movie Splash. Flashbacks!!

On Friday, we had a whole day planned outside; since my husband was working, we stayed out of the house. Our first stop was a local farm we visit regularly called Andrew’s Scenic Acres to pick our own berries (we picked blueberries and raspberries), enjoy the scenery, pick up some treats at the market (can’t resist butter tarts), visit the farm animals and have some fresh berry ice cream (or frozen yogurt) – delicious! I tried the black currant this time and it was amazing.

My nieces Sienna and Maddie with their berry picking baskets:

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Maddie posing with the flowers 🙂

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Our second stop was at another local farm called Springridge Farm. We had lunch (LOVE the Ploughman’s Lunch which includes cheeses, cured meats, pickles, fruit bread with apple butter, cherry tomatoes and blueberries), then had fun in the kids’ area visiting the animals, took a wagon ride, watched the kids have a blast while we chatted. We popped into the market to shop and I ended up buying a few things (jars for the bathroom, a nice teacup, some salt water taffy and a smell-good sachet). We were not done yet! We headed over to Rattlesnake Point for a hike – we did the red trail and the yellow trail – about 4km in all. It was a gorgeous day for a hike and the girls did well on one of the more rugged trails they’ve done while visiting.

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Not quite sure where this little guy is going… 🙂 hihihi

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Pumpkin patch – will soon be teeming with pumpkins:

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On Saturday we had a group day trip planned with my sister in law and her family: We all headed up to Blue Mountain for lunch and had fun visiting the village. The kids did a scavenger hunt throughout the village and participated in a drum activity in the center square – that was fun – everyone got into it. We then headed up to the Scenic Caves (the kids were dying to go back) – it’s such a cool place. Highly recommended if you’re in the area – keep in mind a bit of agility is required to get in and out of the caves but everyone we ran into did just fine. We headed back to the village for dinner, watched the fireworks on our walk back to the car and headed home, waaay after bedtime. 🙂

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On Sunday we went to the Westfield Heritage Village in Rockton, a pioneer village with over 30 buildings and people in period dress explaining how they performed tasks in various jobs back in the day. What a great place! We took our time and visited each building, chatted with the staff who were super friendly and knowledgeable. The kids played old-fashioned games in the green space  in the centre of the village. The village was hosting their annual ice cream festival and we got to enjoy fresh pie and homemade ice cream as well. What a great day! We got back home and had a barbecue on the deck. Then we watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (as you know, the girls are huge Harry Potter fans and we hadn’t seen the last movies in the series together).

I really enjoyed learning about the different jobs and tasks around the village. My favorite parts at the village were the gardens, the cabinetmaker, the general store, the school and the outhouse. LOL

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Outhouse – the luxury of a 2-holer:

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The smokehouse:

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Since their return flight left in the afternoon on Monday (a stat holiday in Ontario), we did some shopping to pick up the new Harry Potter book at Chapters along with a few more items. We swung by Walmart as well, then back home to pick up the luggage then off to the airport!

We ate too much, walked too much, slept too little but we’ll see the gang again at Thanksgiving!

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2015 in pictures

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I can’t believe a whole year has passed already! I enjoy taking the time at the end of the year to look back and see how many Life List items I managed to complete and which resolutions I was able to stick with.

Below are the Life Items I crossed off which brought my total to 289 completed of 436 items:

  • Participate in the “23 and Me” DNA initiative – we received our results early in the year and loved reading our reports – very cool and highly recommended!
  • Arm-knit an infinity scarf. I began by watching the YouTube video that everyone was talking about and made myself a scarf, after several false starts. I then ended up making 6 more for Christmas presents. 🙂
  • Cook rabbit
  • Roast a goose – It’s in my fridge as I type this – I’ll be making it for Christmas dinner this year.
  • Started this: Learn 5 Homestead Skills. This year I wanted to get back to basics and learn some basic homesteading skills. These were the skills I had aimed for this year:
    • My first ever square foot garden: I had previously been strictly a container-gardener but made the leap to the earth and it turned out great! I successfully grew a TON of veggies and can’t wait to expand next spring. Last year’s crops included cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, beets, green beans, onions, basil and spinach. Delicious!
    • Learn to preserve / freeze / pickle / can:  I didn’t end up canning or preserving unfortunately. But – I made refrigerator pickles with the jalapeno peppers that were quite yummy. I also froze several ready-to-cook meals – which is great for busy families, but it turns out, I prefer taking the time to cook things fresh the day of. I actually look forward to that part and am lucky enough to have the time to do so.
    • Learn to make soap: Well, I bought a soap making kit at Michael’s and that turned out pretty well. I put it together, it was called soap, so I’m counting it. 🙂
    • Make bread: This was a fabulous discovery for me. I’ve made several loaves now and see this as being a staple in our kitchen for years to come. Healthy, simple, wholesome goodness. Best bread ever.
    • I also had “make jams and jellies” on the list but never got around to doing it. There’s always next year!
  • Make a homemade beauty product – see point 3 above which sorta counts. Plus, I made a “gardener’s scrub” with sugar that I can’t wait to use next spring. I also gave some as a gift for Christmas. 🙂 Can’t wait to experiment with different scents.
  • Have my dream backyard. The deck was finally completed in the spring. We enjoyed it all summer and it was awesome. We spent countless hours out there, enjoying the sun, the bbq (made my first pulled pork with the smoker – woohoo!), the firepit. Enjoyed it just us, with the cat, with friends and family. Amazing.
  • Go snowshoeing: We booked the “Snowshoe through the vineyards” for a special Valentine’s Day outing and lunch at Thirty Bench. It may have been the coldest and snowiest day of February but we had a great time and fell in love with snowshoeing.
  • Travel to Alberta: This was a work trip to Calgary but I’m still counting it. 🙂
  • Visit all parks in the Halton Conservation Area (Crawford Lake, Mountsberg, Hilton Falls, Rattlesnake Point, Mount Nemo, Kelso). This is where we go hiking for the most part. Love the parks during the different seasons but especially in the fall.

Not too bad all in all. This was the first year in a really long time that we didn’t travel anywhere; that was due to us wanting to pay off the deck as quickly as possible. We already have plans for next year which will cross off a few more items in 2016.

With regards to my book, movie and cooking yearly challenges, I did great on one but terrible at the other 2:

  • Watch 50 movies in 2015: I’m currently at 64 with a week to go. Done!
  • Read 40 books in 2015: Sadly, I only managed to read 17. This is primarily due to my new job that I started last January which is a work from home role. That eliminated my daily train commute (where I did most of my reading).
  • Cook 40 new recipes in 2015: Only 12. My creative efforts were channeled into other areas this year, which is OK. I’ll be more realistic with next  year’s goal. 🙂

Now – how did I do on the resolutions I set out for myself? Pretty good:

  • Eat Real Food / Eat Local and/or organic: We’re really doing great with this. After watching a couple of food documentaries (Food Inc. and Fed Up) and reading some books on the topic (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), and getting really pissed off about the state of the food industry in North America,  this wasn’t difficult at all. We rarely eat anything processed and bypass the middle aisles of the supermarket all the time. Less meat (even had a couple of vegetarian weeks recently), actual food, buying local, buying organic, buying from local farms. Easy peasy.
  • Only eat out (or order in ) twice a month max. This has been working well too. It got more difficult when we had company or there were birthdays or whatnot but for the most part, we tried to stick to this.
  • Increase fitness level: I failed miserably on this front. Although hiking is great, I only do this on the weekend. I need to find something else that I enjoy doing to keep fit in the week and during the cold months.
  • Complete a 10km walk/hike: We did two this year. One was at Hilton Falls for a 12.5km hike. The other was the return hike between Rattlesnake Point and Crawford Lake – about 16km. Nice!

Well, that sums up the past year. Now I get to plan for next year. Fun times!!

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