Archive for the ‘Good Times’ Category


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It’s that time of year already! I get to look back to see what I was able to accomplish on my Life List. Most of the items were related to our trip to Italy and I also managed to complete a few others:

  • Travel to Italy
  • See the Sistine Chapel, Italy
  • See the Colosseum, Italy
  • Travel to Tuscany, Italy
  • Enjoy pasta and wine in Italy
  • Take a train in Europe
  • Eat pizza in Italy
  • Have gelato in Italy
  • Travel to 50 countries (increased by 2 for Italy and The Vatican: 20 done, 30 to go)
  • Have a proper English tea: We went to the King Edward and it was a fabulous splurge
  • Participate in an Escape Room: I was with colleagues in Ottawa and we had a fun time trying to escape – we almost made it!!
  • Cook a whole fish: I don’t know why I had never done this before but I finally tackled it. Not a fan of all the little bones, but it was tasty!

For my annual book, movie and cooking challenges, I did pretty good:

  • Watch 50 movies in 2017: I’m currently at 57. Overshot this one very nicely! 🙂
  • Read 30 books in 2017: I’m currently reading #17. Not stellar and it’s not because I selected really big novels either. I’ve just been doing other things (watching movies apparently!). May have to reduce this next year to be realistic.
  • Cook 30 new recipes in 2017: I’m currently at 27 with a few days to go. It might happen.

My list is now at 310 completed of 441 total.

Next up: Revising the list and planning next year’s To Do’s!

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One of my favorite traditions is that each year, we acquire one ornament that represents a highlight for us that year, whether it’s travel-related or a specific activity – it can be anything that reminds us of great memories for that particular year. For that year’s Christmas, we place the selected ornament at the top of the tree. We choose to forgo a regular “topper” like a star or angel in favor of something meaningful to us. Every year when we decorate the tree, we place our memory ornaments and it brings back great memories. 🙂

On our tree, we hang those ornaments (we’re at year 9 so far!) as well as homemade rustic ones that I made (Christmas tree twigs and ribbons, cinnamon sticks wrapped in plaid ribbon and paper snowflakes). There are some “regular” ornaments too and a couple of others that have a special spot (gifts from friends).

See below for our traditional annual ornaments:

2009: At the end of 2008, we moved from Montreal to Toronto but our washing machine didn’t make it and we survived, hilariously, without a washing machine for 40 days. Thankfully we had a ton of clothes but the pile of laundry was never as big as that year! We had to commemorate the event. 🙂 (Note: This was the year we started our annual ornament tradition and our move was such a big change for us that we needed something to commemorate it and the washing machine saga fit the bill.

2010: One of the activities we started enjoying since we now lived so close to Niagara on the Lake was wine tasting. The region is well-known for wine. We went to a ton of wine events and festivals that year which sparked a new hobby / passion.

2011: In 2011, we had an amazing time on a vacation where we visited Grand Cayman, Orlando and Cozumel and had a blast. We named the worm Alonzo after one of the hosts of the Amazing Cozumel Race activity we did. So fun!!! Not to mention the 2 Margaritavilles we stopped at and had a blast with nachos, margaritas and singing along to Jimmy Buffet songs.

2012: This year we went to Alaska which blew our minds. The untouched scenery, incredible wildlife and feeling like you’re the only one around for miles made us fall in love with the place; we can’t wait to go back. We’re still in awe. We picked this ornament up at a local artisan shop – it’s made with wood and reindeer and beaver fur. Love it.

2013: One word: Paris. Fabulous trip where we saw spectacular art and historical monuments and ate delicious food. Truly a trip of a lifetime…we seem to have a lot of those! The ornament depicts the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arche de Triomphe, all places we got to visit.

2014: Again, one word: Hawaii. Another incredible trip. We named this hula-girl ornament Hana after having driven the “Road to Hana” on our trip which is a well-known scenic drive – gorgeous views, fabulous food and culture. We visited Kauai and Maui; we preferred Kauai because of it’s natural beauty and it’s still relatively untouched by tourism (at least in 2014).

2015: In 2015, we did a lot of exploring in the conservation areas and hiking trails near our new house. We try to get out and enjoy nature as much as we can and that year, we really outdid ourselves and got out there during all four seasons.

2016: Last year, we took a road trip around the maritimes and explored New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI, The seafood and scenery were to die for. The loop around Cape Breton will always be a highlight – just beautiful. We still order goat’s milk soap from the Great Canadian Soap Company; we stopped there on our trip and met the goats so of course, we have a bond now. 🙂

2017: This year we traveled to Italy and boy, did we ever have an amazing time. We ate all the food, we drank all the wine, we visited so many gorgeous places, saw amazing art, met fabulous friendly people. This is another spot we can’t wait to return to. But for now, we’ll daydream while peeking at the ornament that we picked up in Florence.

Looking forward to what 2018 will bring! We already have a cruise to the Greek Isles planned (plus Croatia and Montenegro) and I suspect that might be where we pick up next year’s ornament. Opa!

Here are some of our other special ornaments that brighten our holiday tree:

I gathered sticks from the nature paths around our house, bought some Christmas ribbon and made little tree ornaments. 🙂

Cinnamon sticks hung with plaid ribbon – smells good and looks adorably rustic:

I love paper snowflakes. I can’t help it.

This was a gift from a friend back in Montreal (thanks Olga!!) I still hang it on the tree every year – I love to cook. 🙂

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Our family loves board games. We grew up playing on birthdays, summer vacation, Christmas, rainy days and many times just because it was fun. Us kids have fond memories of playing The Game of Life and Backgammon for hours on end. I played with my mom almost every weekend for years and we got excited to try new games that came out. I remember playing Yahtzee, Scrabble, Scotland Yard, Payday, Clue, Stratego – you name it. For games that needed more than 2 players, we made up our own rules.

As we all got older, the games changed but the wish to play never did. Over the years, new favorites came up and with new games coming out every year, there are always some new winners in the bunch.

Below are our favorites that we seem to play on a regular basis; some during our monthly “game nights”, others typically during the holidays.


This is a hilarious when you set it up with paper/easel and markers and sit around the living room so everyone can see the drawing. We’ve kind of transformed traditional Pictionary into Win Lose or Draw. We still split into 2 teams (often guys vs gals). The competition is fierce and both the artists and the doodlers have good chances of helping their team win!

Trivial Pursuit

I think we’ve played about 8-10 different versions of this trivia game over the years. It’s always been a favorite. In our family we call the pieces “wedges” that you put in a “pie” but I’ve heard other names being used in other families (like “cheeses” and “slices”). Many laughs have been had over the years and the occasional shock-and-awe gasp that one of our family members knew the answer to a particularly obscure question. Great game!

Apples to Apples

This is a more recent addition to the repertoire. The first time we played, we laughed til we cried. There are 2 decks of cards, one that’s in a stack (Descriptions) and the other gets dealt out to the players (7 to start). One player selects a description card (usually has an adjective) and the other players place one of their cards face down that matches the description card in an accurate or funny way. The player who selected the description card chooses the best one out of the bunch.  It can be downright hysterical.

Cards Against Humanity

This is also pretty new and is similar to Apples to Apples but with a bit more snark/sarcasm. This one has two decks of cards, one in a stack and one that gets dealt out to the players. Each turn, one player picks a card from the stack (black card with a description or fill in the blank) and the other players place one of their cards face down they think best matches the black card. But the key here is going for funny, slightly immoral and hilarious combinations. Not for the easily-offended. Samples below

There are so many more: Charades, Taboo, Guesstures, Telestrations, Scattergories, Cranium, even plain old cards.  We have a whole cabinet full of games to tap into whenever the mood strikes.

The goal is to get together and have fun, enjoy good company, great snacks and have a good time!

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Christmas makes me thirsty. As do many other things…like Christmas shopping, caroling and Tuesdays. 🙂

I like to enjoy a festive cocktail especially during the holidays when happiness and excitement are in the air, everyone is in a god mood and revelry is rampant. Good times!

I came across this post and found so many recipes I wanted to try all in one spot that I wanted to share it with all of you! Look at these White Christmas Mojitos…

And Cranberry Margaritas? Yes please!!

And who can say “Jingle Juice” without smiling? No one. I dare you.

Check this link out from our good friends at Country Living to discover some fun new cocktails to try for yourself this holiday season: 30 Easy Christmas Cocktails – Best Recipes for Christmas Alcoholic Drinks


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It’s that time of year! Once again, I went on a mission to watch all the nominated pictures so I feel pretty good about my picks. In summary, for the big categories: I felt that due to the lack of really AMAZING movies, the results will be skewed, primarily towards La La Land. It was good – different, good story, nice imagery/cinematography, nice music, likable actors – BUT – put it in another year against really great films and I don’t think it would do as well.


That said, there were some standout performances this year. Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea gave a somewhat subdued performance and his character was so tightly wound throughout the movie that I physically felt it build up and snap at the end. Not many performances can do that. In my mind, the only other contender is Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge but that’s not the typical Academy fare for Best Actor. But again, if you pair either against Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, Sean Penn in I Am Sam or Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, they would lose.

I feel like Denzel keeps playing the same character over and over again. I’m over it. Best Supporting Actor will likely go to Mahershala Ali for Moonlight, due to lack of competition and to reward the film for something. It was very similar to Boyhood. Been there done that, but this time with 3 different actors.

For Best Actress, Emma Stone was good in La La Land but again, I think she’ll win mainly due to lack of competition.  Regardless, I’m a big fan and I’m happy that she was in the right place at the right time this year to win it. Best Supporting Actress is clearly Viola Davis for Fences – without question. Just give it to her already.

And animated short HAS to go to Piper – what’s not to like? Adorbs. Watch it here – just 4 minutes and you’ll be smiling at the end.

Below are all the nominees with my official picks in red:

Best Picture

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight


  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Adapted Screenplay

  • Arrival, Eric Heisserer
  • Fences, August Wilson
  • Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
  • Lion, Luke Davies
  • Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney

Original Screenplay

  • Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan
  • La La Land, Damien Chazelle
  • The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
  • Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan
  • 20th Century Women, Mike Mills

Animated Feature Film

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

Foreign Language Film

  • Land of Mine (Denmark)
  • A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
  • The Salesman (Iran)
  • Tanna (Australia)
  • Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Documentary Feature

  • Fire at Sea
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • 13th


  • Arrival, Bradford Young
  • La La Land, Linus Sandgren
  • Lion, Greig Fraser
  • Moonlight, James Laxton
  • Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Film Editing

  • Arrival, Joe Walker
  • Hacksaw Ridge, John Gilbert
  • Hell or High Water, Jake Roberts
  • La La Land, Tom Cross
  • Moonlight, Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

Production Design

  • Arrival, Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock
  • Hail, Caesar! , Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh
  • La La Land, Davis Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
  • Passengers, Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena

Costume Design

  • Allied, Joanna Johnston
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colleen Atwood
  • Florence Foster Jenkins, Consolata Boyle
  • Jackie, Madeline Fontaine
  • La La Land, Mary Zophres

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • A Man Called Ove, Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
  • Star Trek Beyond, Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
  • Suicide Squad, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson

Original Score

  • Jackie, Mica Levi
  • La La Land, Justin Hurwitz
  • Lion, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
  • Moonlight, Nicholas Britell
  • Passengers, Thomas Newman

Original Song

  • “Audition (The Fools who Dream),” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls, music and lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster
  • “City of Stars,” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • “The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story, music and lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
  • “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana, music and lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Sound Editing

  • Arrival, Sylvain Bellemare
  • Deepwater Horizon, Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli
  • Hacksaw Ridge, Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
  • La La Land, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
  • Sully, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Sound Mixing

  • Arrival, Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
  • Hacksaw Ridge, Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace
  • La La Land, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Mac Ruth

Visual Effects

  • Deepwater Horizon, Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Justin Billington, and Burt Dalton
  • Doctor Strange, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould
  • The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon
  • Kubo and the Two Strings, Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould

Animated Short Film

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

Live Action Short Film

  • Ennemis Intérieurs
  • La Femme et le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

Documentary Short Subject

  • Extremis
  • 4.1 Miles
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

Good luck!

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