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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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We wanted to take advantage of the fall colours while they were still at their peak and headed to the Terra Cotta Conservation Area this morning. We got there just before 10am and the parking lot only had a few cars. We decided to follow the Terra Cotta Lane (about 3.5km around the lake) and took our time taking in the sights, listening to the rustling of the leaves, taking some photos and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Fall. Best time of year.

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Hmm. which way do we go??  🙂

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Look at that reflection…wow

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Hardly anyone on the trails at this time of the morning…

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Chloe…enjoying a solitary stroll through the leaves 🙂

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Every colour of the rainbow in this one 🙂

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Holy moly… Always remember to look up – gorgeous.

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And down too… 🙂

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Chris and I – it almost looks like a fake background…lol

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Zach with his branch/sword 🙂

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Chloe taking a rest on a log

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Peekaboo!

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After the hike, we headed over to Downey’s Farm Market and had some lunch (grilled cheese, chili and warm apple cider), checked out the pumpkin patch and picked up some goodies at the market. We got fresh baked pumpkin doughnuts and two kinds of fudge: chocolate and maple bacon. Everything smelled and tasted great. It was cool today and we had some snowflakes – didn’t last very long though. 🙂

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Back at home sampling the goodies:

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This year we had family down for Thanksgiving. Since it was only a couple of days, we made the most of our time together. The fam (sister and her two daughters, plus my brother and his wife) arrived Saturday in time for Thanksgiving lunch. My sister-in-law, her husband and their two kids who live nearby also arrived for lunch. We were 11 in all: 7 adults and 4 kiddos. I had my first kiddy table (and none of the kids are mine lol).

I cooked everything the day before (except the turkey). I started the turkey at 5am so it would be ready for lunchtime. I changed up the menu this year:

  • Ciabatta buns, butter
  • Wild mushroom medley (cremini, button, shitake mushrooms with shallots, garlic, parsley, sherry vinegar, olive oil)
  • Roasted red onions (olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh thyme)
  • Red and yellow baby potatoes with butter, thyme, salt and pepper
  • Maple-glazed carrots and rutabaga (glaze: maple syrup, butter, brown sugar)
  • Green beans with gremolata (lemon zest, salt, pepper, shallots, garlic, pine nuts)
  • Turkey (stuffed with lemons, thyme, salt & pepper)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Sweet gherkins
  • Pickled beets
  • Greek salad provided by sister-in-law/husband (thanks!)
  • Dessert: Lemon meringue pie, Apple pie, Cinnamon coffee cake
  • Wine: Thirty Bench 2010 Benchmark

Pics of the kiddy table and grown-up table:

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After lunch, we headed out to enjoy the fall colours and hiked from Webster Falls to Tews Falls and back in Hamilton (Ontario). The scenery was just beautiful. I was able to capture some great pics of fall foliage.

Gorgeous tree in the parking lot:

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Webster Falls:

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We got to enjoy all the colours of the fall rainbow including greens and yellows:

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Oranges:

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Reds:

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Even all of them together:

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Kiddos horsing around 🙂

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Lone red leaf

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The sun created a cool effect on this one at Tews Falls:

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Captured a couple at the top of the falls:

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Pretty trees:

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Surrounding area back at Websters Falls, reminds me of an English garden:

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Under a weeping willow:

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Sunday, we headed to Stonehaven Farm for farm goodies, picked our pumpkins and played in the hay maze. Uncle Mark and I played tag with the kids in the hay maze – fun! When we got home, we had leftover turkey and fixings for lunch then started decorating our pumpkins. We chose to do sugar skulls this year for a change – they turned out pretty good:

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Having fun at the pumpkin patch:

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It was supposed to be a gloomy and cool day today with a risk of showers but we decided to brave the winds and possibly wet weather anyway and headed down to Hamilton to hike a short section of the Bruce Trail that connected Sherman Falls to Tiffany Falls.

We decided to park on a small stretch of Lions Club Road that fit about maybe 5 cars and after a couple of U-turns and false starts, we found the entrance to the trail – which was right under our noses if we had started in the right direction to begin with. 🙂  Good times.

We don’t come down to the Hamilton area to hike very often and enjoyed what the area had to offer. They’re known for their waterfalls so we ticked two off of the list with today’s outing.

We started at Sherman Falls. There were 6 of us in our group: 4 adults and 2 children. Although the Bruce Trail is typically more rugged than the trails found in conservation areas, no one had any trouble today. There were a couple of rocky areas with a few steep steps here and there but very manageable for the most part.

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The leaves haven’t fully started changing color here yet…but there were some red and yellow stragglers on the ground  The water was a bit low (typical for this time of year vs in the springtime) but it was still nice to see the small rapids and “babbling brook” sounds of the water trickling by. We only encountered a couple of other people at Sherman Falls and passed a few small groups along the trail to Tiffany Falls.

We saw some cool things along the way – like these HUGE mushrooms:

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And this gnarly tree:

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Side trail to the falls!

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One of us being brave:

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Closer…

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Closer…

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He made it back to the trail safe and sound. 🙂

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Tiffany Falls:

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We hiked about 6 km total and got to enjoy a real fall day outside in nature. Great way to start the autumn season!

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