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Archive for the ‘Good Times’ Category

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.

Pictionary

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

Cheers!!

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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.

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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

Directing

  • 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

Cinematography

  • 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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Day 11:

We headed down toward Sydney and went to Glace Bay to visit the Miners Museum which was very highly-recommended and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

We ate some lunch at the Miner’s Village Restaurant then popped over to the museum. We checked out the exhibits which were very informative and interesting. The piece de resistance was the Mine Tour. After donning hard hats and capes to protect from the low ceilings and dampness, our guide (a former miner) provided an introduction and history about his experience during his long career in the mines. Abbie was incredibly engaging and the stories he shared really made things come to life. Then, off we went into the mine!

For a bit of the way down, we were able to stand up but once we got into the mine itself the ceilings were 5′ high and 4′ at times. We were grateful for the hard hats! We crouched along the way and it was hard to imagine working an entire shift like that, let alone day in day out.

We learned about the different jobs that the boys, men and animals handled in the mine and learned about the labour disputes that were common at the time. It was very disheartening to hear about the control and the practices the companies participated in. This tour was one of the highlights of the trip.

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Food List Items: Fish Burger

Day 12:

Today we headed south to the Fortress of Louisburg which is a reconstruction of the fortified town and fortress of Louisburg. I’m a big history buff  and enjoy pioneer and heritage villages but this one took the cake! All the staff are in period costumes and in character throughout the entire village. And the village is huge. We arrived at 9:45 and left at 3:30! There is so much to see and do, one can easily spend the whole day there exploring all the buildings, chatting with the staff, participating in the activities offered, at whatever pace you like.

After taking the shuttle from the visitor centre to the fortress, our first stop within the walls was the bakery where they explained how much bread they prepared for the soldiers rations and they even had buns and loaves for sale (half whole wheat/half rye for the lower class, half white/half whole wheat for the upper class). We must be lower class since we bought a whole wheat/rye one and snacked on it as we toured. 🙂

There’s a short history on each building in the booklet they provide upon entry and what it’s purpose was back in the day. In buildings that provided a service (e.g. inn, bakery, etc.) there were staff on site to provide information and tell stories. For the buildings that were citizens’ homes, they often included an exhibit such as household goods, the history of building/materials, the history of the excavation, etc. Excellent use of the different spaces and everything we experienced or visited was fantastic.

My favourite part was eating at the inn/hotel where the menu was simple (soups, bread, cheese, ale, wine and a couple of heartier meat dishes, other beverages and some dessert options). All served on metal plates and cups, only with a spoon and the largest napkin I ever saw (it was used to cover yourself with to protect your clothes). Seating was family style on long tables and we met some great people at lunch. I loved it.

The homes often had gardens in their yards with actual produce and herbs growing. some had farm animals (geese, goats, chickens, sheep, etc). On the military side of things, there was the barracks, the bastion, the governor’s apartments and the ramparts. All very interesting.

We decided not to take the guided tour and preferred to roam around at our own pace. We did however sign up for the rum tasting, which was in the Inn and led by the most hilarious “servant” ever. She played her part perfectly and explained how the rum business came to be and how the different classes in the town partook of the rum. We enjoyed two samples – one straight and one mixed with punch. All in the setting of an inn back in the day. It was awesome.

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Fantastic way to spend our last day in the Maritimes!

Food list Items: Crab Cakes

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Day 8:

We took the ferry from PEI to Caribou, NS to begin the next leg of our trip and the one I was most excited about: Cape Breton! After the ferry ride we stopped for lunch in Antigonish then continued on to Baddeck. We stayed at the Silver Dart Lodge and it was amazing, from the view to the food at the restaurant on site (McCurdy’s) – great spot to kick off our Cabot Trail adventure. We took a stroll in the town and walked along the water near the lodge prior to dinner – it’s very scenic, peaceful and relaxing.

View from our room:

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Trail near the lake:

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Reading on our deck the following morning, after breakfast and before we headed out:

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Food List Items: Seafood Fettucine (including Digby scallops, mussels, shrimp), Cape Breton desserts (apple crisp, bread pudding, oatcakes).

Day 9:

We headed onto the Cabot Trail and made several stops for photo ops at the lookouts along the way. We stopped for lunch (Main Street Restaurant & Bakery – You Gotta Eat Here), then at the visitor’s centre in Ingonish to pick up our park passes (Cape Breton Highlands National Park) and got ready for a day of hiking. The first trail was a very short (but steep!) one – the Freshwater Lake Lookout. steps almost all the way up but the view was so worth it.

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Next, we stopped at Ingonish Beach where the trailhead of the next trail was and we took pics of the beach while we were there – very pretty!

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The second trail was the Freshwater Lake trail and it was about 1.7km and flat.

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We didn’t see much wildlife here and certainly no coyotes.

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The next stop was the MIddle Head Trail. This was a trail aloong a peninsula and the views were amazing. It was about 4km all in all.

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We came across this guy – not sure what it is but it was quite large:

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Doesnt this look like a mermaid sitting down, hidden behind some leaves:

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This little guy was munching away right by the boardwalked section of the trail and wasn’t scared of us at all. Cutie:

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Another “don’t be an idiot” sign:

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We stopped for dinner then drove up to Cape North where we stayed at a B&B for the night. It was so quiet in the night up in the middle of nowhere. 🙂 It was great!

Day 10:

We had a great breakfast and met some fine folks at our B&B. We were off to an early start since our target today was the Skyline Trail, 9.2 km of trail and the chance of seeing a moose. (We didn’t see any but the trail had amazing views!). There are two options for the trail – you could take the “right” for a more rugged (and longer) trail experience, of the “left” for a gravel path (and shorter) experience to the boardwalk/steps at the end of the trail. We opted to start with the right and come back on the easy one.

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It was windy up there!! We had to remove our hats or the wind would have done it for us. 🙂 We grabbed a bench and stopped for a snack and water enjoying the view, then headed back.

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That would have been us at the top of the ridge – this is the view from below:

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Stops at Lookouts on our way to Cheticamp:

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After lunch in Cheticamp, we headed down to Inverness to stop at the Beach boardwalk which was gorgeous – on one side there was the beach and on the other, a golf course. Wow!

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Then off to Margaree Valley to the next stop at the Normaway Inn. The property is absolutely beautiful – it felt like we were at summer camp. 🙂 We had dinner reservations on site and enjoyed that and relaxed for most of the evening.

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I also loved the tech-free room – no TV, no phone, they had wi-fi and this radio (functional with a hidden cassette player in the lid).

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There was a claw foot tub in the bathroom. 🙂

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I don’t know which was funnier – knowing that the lid opened up and most “kids” wouldn’t have known that, or that we knew how to work the cassette (which most “kids” definitely wouldn’t know how to do… Hahaha 🙂

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The next morning, we took a walk around the grounds and this cat escorted us all the way and back. 🙂 Cue the animal whisperer (Chris).

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Off to Sydney for our last leg of the trip!

 

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