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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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My sister and her two daughters came down to visit (Dec 26 to 30) and as usual, we prepared ourselves for the whirlwind they bring with them. 🙂 We had lots of outings and activities planned and although traditional winter activities weren’t in the cards (we don’t have any snow!), we still enjoyed the outdoors.

We watched holiday movies as well as Harry Potter 3, listened to lots of music (both Christmas and pop songs the girls were into these days), had an “Austrian-themed” dinner (for the Sound of Music) with kerchiefs in our hair. Chris didn’t want to wear any lederhosen. 🙂 We did lots of holiday crafts including painting tree ornaments, making snowflakes and ballerina snowflake skirts, painting nutcracker figures, and more.

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The tree:

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We went to the ROM where the girls enjoyed the dinosaurs and animal exhibits. We visited the Canadian wing as well and the girls got to make origami figures at one of the workshop tables as well. We got to hold snakes (Life List item crossed off – woohoo!). The one I held was a black rat snake from Ontario. He was heavier than I expected:

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Then we brought the girls skating at the Harbourfront Natrel rink (great view of Lake Ontario here and very festive with lights and music):

 

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We had a holiday turkey lunch followed by more skating at Bronte Creek Provincial Park. This rink was much less crowded and a good size.

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On Monday we went to the Metro Toronto Zoo to see the winter animals. It was much less crowded than our summer visits so in a way, it was more enjoyable. We visited the giant panda exhibit (here from 2013 to 2018), reindeer, a very playful polar bear, a snow leopard, red pandas, an adorable arctic fox, arctic wolves, and many more!

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After the zoo, we went to the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre which was pretty awesome for Lego fans. There are a couple of rides, 4D movies (4 movies that play in rotation), different games and play areas themed for the various types of legos. They had cool displays of Toronto landmarks in Miniland:

 

 

 

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The girls in the Lego Friends area:

 

 

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The whole area is probably a parent’s worst nightmare with lego pieces all over the floor hehehe but it was fun. Of course we got to build some stuff ourselves. Go Habs Go!! 🙂

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Another great visit!

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