22 December 2006

A good year

The shopping is done and I’m officially on holidays for the next 10 days. Current mood = ecstatic!

Looking back, it is hard to comprehend all that has happened over the past 12 months. This time last year, Daniel and I would faithfully visit the construction site of our would-be home. It’s hard to believe that last Christmas all we had was a hole in the ground; now we have a wonderful house that is truly starting to feel like home.

As 2006 draws to a close, I can’t help but feel a little emotional. It was an exhausting year but it was also a wonderful time that I will always look back on with many fond memories: the excitement building up to the move; the tiring job of setting up the house; watching countless buddies tie-the-knot, getting married to my best friend of seven years; getting to know my parents as a woman and starting an exciting new chapter of life.

In short, this year has made me realize how lucky I am. I’m truly happy! I feel as though I’ve reached some sort of invisible goal or desire that I never knew existed. For once, everything feels right in my life. It’s a wonderful feeling.

As Daniel and I celebrate Christmas this year, we will both breath a sigh of relief. We’ve come a long way! I have no doubt that 2007 will bring a whole new round of adventures for us, but I’m confident that it will be a great year…albeit a little more relaxing…thank God!

20 December 2006

Making sense of Christmas...

Am I the only one that is perplexed by this whole Christmas thing? The radio blurts out songs about perpetual happiness, sugarplums and jolly fat men. People shell out $$$ they don’t have on huge plastic lawn ornaments and twinkle lights.

Christmas is such a strange time of year. It’s almost as though we force ourselves into a false sense of conviviality and good cheer, wishing strangers “Happy Holidays!” as we plow through them in shopping malls in a desperate attempt to buy the latest gadgets for our loved-ones.

I must admit, I too get swept up in the so-called Christmas spirit, but have you ever stood back and truly examined people at this time of year?!? It’s frightening!

“Tidings of comfort and joy….?” “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…?” Where do people come up with this crap?

For many people, Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year. It is often a painful reminder of the things or people that we no longer have in our lives. Parents put on brave faces as they assure their children that Santa got their letter, wondering all the while how they will be able to afford the season’s latest gimmick. To put it plainly, Christmas is not always as holly-jolly as Mr. Ives tells us.

Don’t get me wrong…I am not anti-Christmas in any way, shape or form. I love giving and receiving gifts like anyone else. But sometimes I can’t help but laugh at the utter ridiculousness of this time of year. Here’s the sad part…we’ve missed the boat entirely!

Where have the nativity scenes gone? Why are stores selling Santa tree toppers, rather than stars? What happened to the true meaning of the day? I’d be curious to know if the children of today even know what it’s all about…

I am ashamed to say that I have become just as guilty as the majority. I’ll take the time to scout out that perfect tacky novelty gift, yet I’ll opt out of Christmas mass. For a person who was born and raised Catholic, this is pretty terrible.

How did I and so many others get swept up by the all-consuming, money pilfering, version of Christmas? When did we start placing less faith in God, and more in the almighty buck and eight tiny reindeer?

Before you drive yourselves crazy or broke this holiday season, step back and think…am I making too much out of this whole day? Food for thought….

08 December 2006

Battle of the bulge

With Christmas just around the corner, the temptation to gorge on copious amounts of sugar-laden goodies is often overwhelming! From office parties, to family dinners and socials with friends, December is a veritable cornucopia of bad, yet irritatingly addicting, food.

Each year, I am a victim of holiday overindulgence - one truffle is never enough, sugar cookies are an excellent breakfast and candy canes are the perfect alternative to brushing one’s teeth after meals. Okay…maybe I’m exaggerating a little…

What is it about this time of year that clouds my usual ‘health-conscious’ tendencies? Where exactly does reality go? All of a sudden, it’s as though we enter a magical world of sugary delight where scales and vegetables no longer exist. Why do we mutter the words, “Ah sure, It’s Christmas…one more won’t kill me,” and think that our actions are justified?

This year I am fighting back! I am determined to overcome the all-consuming pressures of Christmas…pardon the pun.

Rather than spending hours spooning sugar and batter onto cookie trays, this year I’ll put my energy to good use at the gym. While others sip their fattening cocoa in front of the t.v., I’ll be rowing my way to a better body. I long to rid myself of the old oversized sweater, inevitably worn on the 25th to hide the effects of my overindulgence. I want to be able to smile sweetly and say, “No thank you, I don’t like Ferrero Rochers.”

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The battle of the bulge is a difficult undertaking at this time of year. It seems as though everything and everyone is plotting against me. I am surrounded by temptation wherever I am –colleagues shower me with treats at work, the t.v. taunts me at home with Swiss Chalet Festive Special adds…even the gym manages to promote fat-laden food! Does it seem strange that a cardio fitness room looks down on a snack bar that permeates the air with the scent of fries? So not cool!

It’s only December 8th, and I’m already starting to feel the strain! To make matters worse, my lovely (albeit annoying) husband decided that he should bring home a mammoth size bag of chocolate-covered almonds from Costco. Obviously, our definitions of “necessary” purchases differ drastically.

Pray for me. With a bit of luck and a truckload of willpower, hopefully I’ll get through this season relatively unscathed. The only chocolates I plan on eating, are the laughable portions that I get from my advent calendar each morning.

04 December 2006

A touch of nostalgia

It was yet another busy weekend for the newlyweds. With Christmas just around the corner, it looks as though we won’t be doing too much relaxing until 2007.

On Friday, we kicked off the weekend in fine fashion. Dan and I both worked overtime (grumble), then slowly inched our way home through the freezing rain. By the time we finally reached Orleans, I started to feel the nasty makings of a cold….perfect!

By seven o’clock we managed to sit down for a romantic meal of soggy stir fry and “less than spectacular” wine. As if all this wasn’t appetizing enough, the meal was accompanied by some wonderful snuffling noises, compliments of my runny nose.

So dinner was a bit of a bust...it happens. But this wasn’t going to deter me from my main goal of the evening – setting up the Christmas tree! Unfortunately, hubby had to submit a job application that evening so I was stuck flying solo for a while. No problem, I’m a seasoned veteran of the artificial tree setup!

I made some herbal tree, blasted the Christmas tunes and set myself to the monotonous task of unfolding hundreds of little wire branches. As I sat there, singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," the strangest feeling came over me. I was crying! Not soft or silent rolling tears…we’re talking full-on ugly crying!

It was as though reality suddenly hit me - I’m married…I have a house… I’m not at home for Christmas… I’m not a little girl anymore (although the crying may convince you otherwise). It was truly a strange sensation! All of a sudden I wanted to be a child again, safe in the comfort of my parents protective arms and not a care in the world.

My mother always warned me that I would have a weepy/ “freak out” moment some time after the wedding. I remember laughing when she told me about being in a similar situation shortly after she marraied my father. “Not me! Not ever!” was my credo. I remained dry-eyed on the day I left home and on my wedding day; it was a point of personal triumph. Now, over two months after the wedding, I'm sprawled at the base of my Christmas tree in a sickly, sobbing heap...pathetic!

It’s strange that something as simple as a Christmas tree managed to hit home. Perhaps it's just the whole feeling of nostalgia that this season seems to evoke? It felt strange to set up the tree without by mother by my side, the two of us belting out carols and inevitably arguing over the proper placement of tinsel. How was I to know that I would miss such things?

Poor Dan must have felt horrible. Of course I’m happy that we’re married! I’m really looking forward to creating our own memories and starting new traditions! But, for just a brief second, I was overcome with such a tremendous sense of loss. I guess this is why it is so important to enjoy every second of your childhood…because you’ll never get it back. On the plus side, I can look forward to the day when my own children will come along and hopefully be able to enjoy the things that I treasured so much.

After a quick boohoo nostalgia trip on the phone with mom, I dried my eyes and returned to the Christmas tree with a fresh perspective. Together, Dan and I placed the angel and the ornaments on the tree. When it came to the tinsel, I couldn’t help myself. “Don’t hang it like that for God’s sake….do it like this...” Some traditions just never die!

Once the decorations were complete, Dan shut off all the lights around the house and we sipped hot chocolate in front of our illuminated tree – our very first Christmas together…the first of many!

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20 November 2006

Magically delicious

Saturday’s meal was a wonderful success. Good food, loads of wine, full tummies and happy friends! Dare I say, I’m actually starting to enjoy entertaining!

I have to admit, I ended up going the easy route with appetizers. I planned the menu with good intentions but time was not on my side on Saturday. Instead, I opted for some paté, Vinta crackers, grapes and brie cheese. It was a lazy and easy alternative, but always a crowd pleaser nonetheless.

The Tikka Masala turned out beautifully. I’m still not entirely sure what I ended up adding to the sauce, thanks to several glasses of wine. I’m quickly learning that, if you are the cook, it’s probably better to do the bulk of your drinking after the meal is complete. This being said, perhaps it was the wine that inspired me to start throwing spices in the curry at random. I have a vague recollection of what I used, but it turned out perfect! Maybe I do have a cook’s intuition after all?

Despite my tipsiness, I managed to pull of a good meal. The curry was accompanied with a bowl of basmati rice and a garden salad with apple wedges. I actually got comments on the lovely presentation…me…can you imagine? Not bad for a girl who considers “ham on a bagel” good eating.

Dessert was a simple affair. I ditched the fried plantain idea, as hubby said the produce wasn’t looking so good. Instead he picked up a chocolate pecan cake with caramel drizzle. Yummy, but I could have probably done better myself. Of course, Dan had to buy a mammoth-sized cake (I think it’s a guy thing). It is now occupying the entire top shelf of fridge and stares me in the face every time I open the door…I can hear it taunting me.

All in all, I’ll give myself a B + for my meal on Saturday. Next time I’ll have to leave myself more time to prepare appetizers and dessert. I tend to get carried away with cleaning; it’s hereditary.

Lessons learned:
  • Chopping veggies and preparing meat before guests arrive was a good idea…no mess, no stress!
  • Drink in moderation before cooking!
  • Have “good” spices on hand in case of drunkenness (Thank God I didn’t use anything sketchy)
  • People really DON’T care whether you baseboards are clean or not.
  • Have hubby do the cleanup – Go raibh mile maith agat, a ghra!
  • Relax & Enjoy – you are among friends!
  • 18 November 2006

    Another foray into the wonderful world of cooking

    Tonight I am hosting yet another dinner party and, dare I say, I’m looking forward to cooking!

    Last week’s meal with the parents was a huge success. I made two gorgeous mesquite pork loins, steamed asparagus with grated Parmesan and roasted potatoes. All very easy, but tasty nonetheless.

    Tonight I will be making a classic Chicken Tikka Masala, served on a bed of basmati rice and paired with nann bread and spring salad. For appetizers, I will attempt toasted coconut shrimp in curry sauce. I’m hoping that this won’t be curry overkill but it should be passable seeing as everything is fairly mild. I saw the recipe online and thought it would be fun to try.

    Desert is an ongoing debate. I am considering doing fried / caramelized plantain with peanut butter ice cream. Not sure how this pairing will be with the curry, I still have to work that one out. Maybe just a simple sorbet would do the trick?

    Keep your fingers crossed. Hopefully I won’t botch the entire meal. We are cooking for good friends of ours who have fed us countless times. Now that Dan and I finally have a home of our own, we really want to treat them to something special.

    If all else fails, we DO have an obscene ton of wine! Yes, sadly alcohol is always a backup plan…

    Other plans for the day:
    Clean house….bleh!
    Pick out blinds for master bedroom…FINALLY!

    (Maybe I’ll get to sleep in past sunrise on weekends now?)

    16 November 2006

    Paving our way to happiness

    Very exciting news to share today! At last, our street is getting its final layer of paving! Perhaps not so exciting for you, but Daniel and I are ecstatic.

    Ever since we moved into the new house, we have had to battle with mud and guck on a daily basis. Walking down the street has always been a precarious task, due to huge mud-filled potholes and puddles. The street cleaner passes on a regular basis, but its efforts are always in vain…more water invariably leads to a bigger mess.

    We had pretty much given up on all attempts at cleanliness. Washing the car was purely nonsensical, as it would always end up covered in dirt seconds later. Keeping shoes clean was also a pipe dream. Try as I might, I could not contend with the thick & sticky clay that would cling to everything. I admitted defeat and sacrificed a beloved pair of shoes as “mail fetchers.”

    While there is still some ongoing construction around the house, I think that this final layer of paving will help cut down some of the mess. I look forward to the prospect of going for a jog without slipping and sliding, and finally being able to walk to the bus stop in style. Perhaps I am too vain for my own good, but I simply abhor wearing sneakers or rain boots with skirts and suits!

    Hopefully the paving will be completed today. If the crew are still out when I get home this evening, I may even hug one of them!

    Yup…the joys of homeownership at its finest. I need a life.

    15 November 2006

    Piñatas a plenty!

    The gaming world has gone mad, and so has my hubby! Those who know Dan well will readily admit that he’s a bit of a geek. In no way do I think that this is a negative thing, but it is sometimes cause for confusion.

    Daniel is a complex man. His tastes and preferences tend to lean towards the odd and eccentric…and I’m not referring to myself!

    My hubby loves his computers games. Second to me and the guinea pig (hopefully), they are the loves of his life! Nintendo, Game Cube, PS, PS II, X-Box and so on….he has them all! While I do not understand his fascination with gaming, nor the burning desire to spend hard-earned money on such things, I am happy that he seems to find such immense joy from sitting in front of the TV, eyes strained and fingers flying at breakneck speed…can you tell I’m not a gamer?

    Usually I embrace my husband’s geekiness; it is one of many quirky things that I love about him. This being said, I do question some of his game choices! Dan presents an interesting dichotomy; his games always seem to come in two different forms - uber violent…or cracked-out children’s games! The latter seems to be the current craze.

    For the past two evenings I have sat in bemused silence, watching my husband play the strangest game that I have ever seen – Viva Piñata. How can one sum up such absurdity?!? Essentially, the premise of the game is quite simple: the player is responsible for planning and managing a garden for piñatas…yeah… The more attractive the garden, the more inhabitants and piñata animal species you will attract. Strange but remotely cute right? Here’s where things get interesting; you are also responsible for the mating and breeding of your piñata population. Each animal/ piñata has its own bizarre mating ritual – the rabbit piñatas purr, flap their tails, then proceed to do an Irish jig…riiiiight….can we say acid trip?

    Essentially, the fate and destiny of your piñata colony lies directly in your hands. It is your own little piñata ecosystem to manage with care. Much like real life (ummm…minus the whole piñata garden thing), the species exist according to the old theory of survival of the fittest. On occasion, the weaker and smaller piñatas will be killed or attacked by bigger inhabitants. When a piñata dies, all that remains is a pile of candy which the other piñatas proceed to snack on….very disturbing!

    My hubby is enthralled by this game and has already managed to build an impressive colony of piñatas. This being said, his rabbits (a.k.a. Bunnycombs) keep getting eaten by a visiting fox. Very, very sad…poor Bunnycombs! I have to admit, even I have started to concern myself with their plight!

    So there you have it folks. Not even two months after the wedding and our marriage is already reduced to quite nights spent in, attending to a damn (yet strangely alluring) piñata garden. What is the world coming to?

    Want to find out more about this messed-up game, visit their website

    14 November 2006

    Check your daily Citizen

    It turns out that my opinion piece re: Remembrance Day touched a few hearts and turned a few heads. After much prompting from family & friends, I decided to submit the article to the Ottawa Citizen. It wasn’t long before I received a phone call from the editor, asking for my permission to run the piece in an upcoming paper. There are still no guarantees that this will make it to print, but it looks like a good possibility.

    I can’t describe how excited I feel at the prospect of seeing my article in the paper. It feels amazing to know that my opinion was compelling enough to grab someone’s attention. This is the first time that I have ever felt empowered to write such an article, let alone send it in to the paper. I feel as though this has sparked something inside of me - a small flame that has always burned beneath the surface and has been hidden for far too long.

    For the first time in ages, I feel passionate about writing. I’m not referring to my typical “fun” blog entries or my techno-laden articles at work, I’m talking about truly writing from the soul.

    Back in high school, I was often reputed for my “strong” opinions. I was debate captain for several years, as well as a member of the impromptu speaking team. Yup…I was a politics geek. The students voted me, “Most likely to become Prime Minister” in the yearbook. I always seemed to be passionate about some burning issue. Everyone assumed that I would never change…myself included.

    I tried to pursue my passion in University; I entered the honours program for communication and political science. While I enjoyed my courses for the most part, they did not often provide me with the opportunity to express myself freely. Papers were always written within the constraints of guidelines, predetermined topics and university writing manuals. While I always excelled in my assignments and research papers, I often felt that they were uninspiring – just the typical philosophical drivel that professors devour with fervor.

    I always thought that my career would finally provide me the opportunity to tap into some of that misplaced gusto. I was very fortunate to find a government job in the field of communications directly after graduation. I was excited at the prospect of writing again, outside the realm of university papers. However, I soon discovered the many creative limitations that exist within the government. While I find the R &D sector fascinating, my knowledge of the subject matter is rather limited. I want to be passionate about science and I want to tell people why our research is valid, however I often lack the tools, resources and creative license to do so. This problem is also compounded by the fact that many scientists are not communicators, thus they do not comprehend the importance of talking about their research or justifying its value. The challenges and limitations can get quite frustrating.

    Writing the remembrance article has reminded me that I don’t have to be stuck in this stagnant position. I simply have to find the time to express myself through other means….writing articles for the paper is just one simple solution..freelance work is also a possibility.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed re: the Ottawa Citizen. There is no guarantee that they will run the article. Just keep checking those papers for the next 7-10 days! Not everyone will agree with my opinion, but that’s a risk that I have always been willing to take. At any rate, this will be one more notch of experience to add to my belt and one more small accomplishment to add to my portfolio.

    10 November 2006

    Remembrance...no place for politics

    I saw a story on the evening news the other day that irritated me to no end. In conjunction with Remembrance Day, an Alberta store is selling white “Peace Poppies.”

    The white poppy project is spearheaded by the U.K.-based Peace, Pledge Union (PPU). The PPU is an independent / activist organization that preaches non-violence with a shared aim to work towards creating a world free from war. Subsequently, as you can imagine, they do not support the war effort (past nor present). Their pledge reads as follows:

    “War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.” ~ PPU pledge

    Proceeds from the white poppy project go towards the PPU and their various activist campaigns. Proceeds from traditional red poppies are given to the Royal Canadian Legion to support veteran care initiatives. Many feel that peace activists are hijacking our long-standing symbol of remembrance. For veterans, this is a blatant insult and a slap in the face that contradicts the very principles of Remembrance Day…I fully agree without hesitation.

    Remembrance Day, is simply that - it is a day to ‘remember’ the brave men and woman who lost or risked their lives in order to defend our nation, our freedom and ideals. It is a day to reflect, to mourn and to appreciate; it is NOT a day to protest or politicize.

    People died for us, they made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the lives that we live so freely today. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with the war effort or not, these soldiers command respect for their selflessness and bravery. How many of us can honestly say that we would make the same sacrifice for our nation? Not many, I gather.

    Perhaps I am biased because both my grandfathers were active in the war. My maternal grandfather drove a tank throughout the war through some of the bloodiest battles of Italy in WWII. He seldom spoke of his time in Europe; my mother thinks that the memories were too painful for him. I have no doubt that he lost many friends on the battlefield and it was something that haunted him for the rest of his life. I wonder what he would think of the white poppy?

    I also wonder what my great uncle would think. The only memory I have of him, is an inscription on a war memorial in New Brunswick. Dead at age 20…do you think this is how he and his fallen comrades wish to be remembered?

    In no way am I knocking the concept of peace - it is a desirable goal. I have no problem with people voicing their opinions and promoting a better alternative to war; I think it is a positive message that needs to be spread. However, I think that November 11th should remain a day of remembrance and not an opportunity to argue the validity of war.

    I am 25 years old. I have never known war. I have grown up with all that a child could want or wish for. I have a family and education. I have a country that I am proud to live in and call home. All these wonderful things exist, in part, because of selfless individuals who answered the call. I owe them a debt of gratitude, we all do.

    Tomorrow I will stand at the Cenotaph in Ottawa and applaud our veterans. I will be wearing a red poppy, not a white one. I will not think of politics. I will not judge. I will simply remember.

    09 November 2006

    And now for something completely different

    For those who know me well, they will readily agree that I am not the world’s best cook. To be more exact, I’m lacking in the creativity department when it comes to food. I don’t mind being in the kitchen, but I never seem to have enough time to whip up something new. Meat, potatoes, veggies, casseroles, I have a tendancy to lean towards to the eating habits of my grandparents - the basics. I always have well balanced meals, but they are severely lacking in…tastiness. When I want to go bold and daring, I buy asparagus!
    Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, sometimes I’ll branch out and cook up a pork loin or homemade spaghetti…but that is the extent of my Martha persona.

    I’m not quite sure where I adopted this cooking apathy. I’m usually not a lazy person and I adore baking! For some strange reason, putting together a creative meal just isn’t my forte. I always clip recipes with good intentions, but I never seem to get around to trying them out. Here’s the funny part – I love different food! I’m not the least bit picky and I tend to lean towards something “different” when eating out. At home, however, I usually fall back into that old familiar tedious menu.

    Daniel and I both work long hours on weekdays, and often participate in extracurricular activities in the evenings. I suppose this is the root of my problem. Very often we are snatching food, or shoving it down our gullets as we fly out the door. Grocery shopping is always done in haste (due to my own impatience), so we always tend to grab the old reliable staples. Each time we leave the store, I chastise myself for not spending a little more time in the spice aisle.

    This past week, I finally managed to break away from my bland food slump! I have quickly discovered that it is better to do groceries on a full stomach, this way I am more prone to browse the aisles rather than rampaging through the store with only one thing on my mind…”Must get home! Must eat!” I am far more tolerable after I have been fed…quite similar to my guinea pig actually….

    Daniel and love treating ourselves to a meal out every few weeks, and perhaps this is what inspired us. As strange as it sounds, our local pub has a wonderful curry that we are both addicted too. Every time we eat there, one of us exclaims, “Boy, we should make this ourselves sometime;” usually the other nods in agreement, and the impetus ends there. Luckily, our post-restaurant visit to the grocery store seemed to motivate us this time!

    Like thirsty nomads heading towards an oasis, Daniel and I both beelined for our world cuisine aisle…our salvation at last! Curry, black bean, coriander, noodles…all of a sudden we entered a whole new world of potential tastiness! Who knew that this little gem existed right within our own grocery store?

    After careful deliberation, we walked away with some basmati rice, naan bread, black bean paste, tika malasa and butter chicken sauce. Nothing too crazy, but it was a wonderful baby step.
    I am proud to say that the butter chicken sauce has already been put to good use. It was ridiculously easy to make, and tasted wonderful. Seeing as this was my first attempt at a curry, I decided to play around by adding in some matchstick carrots, garlic and finely chopped green pepper. And for my final burst of creativity, I sliced apples as a side dish (along with the naan and basmati). Surprisingly, the pairing worked out really well. Daniel and I loved it! I have been eating leftovers for the past few days now and still have not tired of it.

    Hopefully, this is a first step in inspiring me to cook more original meals. I am having my parents over for supper on Sunday and plan to prepare a different curry from scratch this time. I may be extra ambitious and try making my own naan bread too. Yes…it does seem like a lot of curry for one week, but I want to surprise them with something new. Hopefully all will go down well, as my father detests the smell of curry – I hoping that the taste will change his opinion.

    By the end of my curry-overkill weekend, some good ‘oul meat and potatoes may actually be in order. At least now I know that there are easy and tastier options out there. Work nights may never be same…

    06 November 2006

    Le Weekend

    The weekend is over and I can’t help but feel somewhat disgruntled. Sadly, Daniel and I were not able to get into the annual Food & Wine Show on Saturday. It turns out that half of Ottawa had the same idea in mind. One look at the three-hour queue in the freezing cold, and I knew that it wouldn’t be happening for us this year….le sigh!

    Luckily, we were able to meet up with some friends and had the last laugh as we sat drinking wine in a warm apartment. Who needs lineups for samples, when there’s a huge LCBO just around the corner? And so…we killed a few bottles while watching a Dane Cook DVD. If you haven’t seen this comedian, you need to! I’m not sure whether it was him or the wine, but I laughed until my stomach hurt. Classic!

    The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning our horrendous mess of a basement. Everyone who comes to visit the new place always remarks upon its cleanliness…little do they know that we have been shoving everything into the unfinished portion of the house. Unfortunately, however, it is not a simple case of “out of sight, out of mind,” because this also doubles as our laundry room.

    I love my husband; he’s a wonderful, brilliant and caring man. This being said, he is also a terrible packrat! I am quickly discovering that we have a strong difference in opinion when it comes to deciding what is “useful” and what is not. Several boxes of ancient computer parts does not seem logical to me, but alas…we still have them! Some battles are not worth fighting.

    With a few heavy duty shelves, some boxes and a ton of compromise, we managed to take reign of our basement once more. I am proud to say, we can see our floor again and I now have a clear path to the washing machine and clothes line.

    Next weekend: more cleaning! The snow is coming and we need to fit our car into our tiny hole of a garage. With all this newfound space in the basement, I have a feeling that we will be chucking our garage clutter down there for the winter. One solution leads to another problem and we are right back to where we started…go figure. At least we tried!

    02 November 2006

    Booze, ghouls and hordes of chocolate

    I am proud to say that Daniel and I have successfully survived our first Halloween. We had both been awaiting the big day with childlike anticipation for the past month. Nothing short of tacky, our front yard was decorated to the hilt: tombstones, glowing footprints, intricately carved pumpkins, skeletons, spider webs, red lights, a goblin and (la piece de résistance) a fog machine! Pair all of this with spooky music, and you have a veritable fright fest! We would have done the Griswolds proud.

    Despite the fact that Daniel and I still live near a construction zone, not to mention the fact that we are surrounded by selfish “Halloween Scrooges,” we ended up doing remarkably well for our first year of haunting. We managed to attract roughly 40 kids, many who were on route to the more developed streets further down. Next year I anticipate our numbers will double; can’t wait!

    And now…time to vent… What is it with people who hide at home and close their lights on Halloween?!? I can understand not handing out candy if you live in an older neighborhood where there are few children, but in a young community replete with kids?!? Our development is literally crawling with little ones, yet I was amazed to see how many houses ‘clearly’ weren’t participating in Halloween. Is it really so difficult to hand out candy for an hour? You don’t even have to make that much of an effort, just a small inexpensive bag of candy will do!

    When I think back to my childhood, I have such fond memories of Halloween. My brother and I would go out “Trick or Treating” for hours. It seemed as though all the houses in our neighborhood were decorated, people made more of an effort and went out of their way to give the kids something special. I can’t help but feel as though the children of today are being cheated. It seems as though everyone is less charitable these days…or maybe this is all due to the fact that more parents are working?

    Some people may roll their eyes at Daniel and I for spending so much on Halloween, but we think it’s a worthwhile investment. Can you put a price on giving a child good memories? For me, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that we have made a kid laugh or made his/her experience a little more exciting. I want us to be known as that “cool” and zany couple who always do something special each holiday. Oddly enough, these are the kinds of things that children remember…

    End of rant….

    In other news, Dan and I held our first official Halloween / house party over the weekend. Not too shabby for our first attempt at hosting 17 people – stellar costumes, spooky lighting and plenty of homemade munchies and drink (three cheers for hubby’s minty champagne punch). Dan and I are blessed with wonderfully creative friends who aren’t afraid to throw themselves into character. As extra encouragement, we decided to design a trophy for best costume. It was a tight race between Tony Clifton (Man on the Moon) and a drag figure skater…très inquiétant! Kudos to Jasen (a.k.a. Tony) for winning the top prize…that swagger was WAY too natural!

    For your enjoyment…some of our enthusiastic party goers…

    26 October 2006

    Boo Toronto!

    I repeat, “Boo Toronto!” For many Ottawa residents, this becomes a familiar chant during the cooler months. That’s right folks, hockey season is back and guess who will be sitting in a corporate box for tonight’s game vs. the Leafs??? Meeeeee!

    Sadly, I can’t take credit for these great seats…but my awesome husband can! One of the many perks of working in IT for a private company is that you can actually accept gifts from clients. Seeing as Dan recently purchased a whole whack of equipment from a vendor, they are rewarding him with highly sought-after tickets to tonight’s game. It is my unfortunate duty, as his wife, to accompany him to this evening of fully-catered / cushy bliss. Sometimes, I don’t know how I manage….

    I’m hoping that I will be able to contain myself at tonight’s game. I tend to get…animated!?! Something tells me that I’ll have to refrain from my usual colourful language. I may have the advantage of anonymity among the other spectators in the box, but Dan actually has to do business with these people. Oh yes...I’ll smile sweetly and say all the right things, but on the inside I will be seething with my hatred for our opponents! "Boo Toronto!”

    Cross your fingers, hope we slaughter them again!

    25 October 2006

    Happily married...and going places!

    It’s official, Daniel and I are now “legally” married. We celebrated our second wedding this past Sunday. Technically, all we did was visit the Parish office to sign the certificate, but I’m still milking it for all its worth. It took all my willpower not to show up at church in my dress and veil. I thought it would be a good laugh, but Daniel assured me otherwise. I’m starting to think that I’m going through wedding withdrawal…I better sell the dress so that I’ll stop mooning over it anytime I pass by the spare closet.

    With the wedding out of the way, Daniel and I have started to look towards the future and plan out our list of “things to do before we decide to have kids.” This isn’t a formal or written list per say - it was more of a wine-induced, philosophical discussion. These things tend to occur more, since returning from NOTL …wonder why?

    Daniel and I both decided that we would like to take another vacation in the future. It was a simple idea with no concrete plans or stringent timelines. We would probably head south in the winter and stay at an all inclusive resort…fairly generic for many Canadians. Little did I know, only a week later, we would be booked on a 9-Day Southern Caribbean Cruise.

    Spontaneous vacation plans seem to be a forte for Daniel and I. We toss different ideas around, then..WHAM…all of a sudden we are sitting in front of a travel agent booking something completely random. This is how we ended up going to Ireland two years ago. We were wandering through the mall and I noticed good deals on Irish vacations – one hour later we had an entire holiday booked.

    Daniel and I had originally discussed cruising when we started planning for our honeymoon almost two years ago. We quickly decided against the idea, because the itineraries and prices did not work out. From that point onwards, we put the whole cruise notion out of our minds. Now, dear readers, fast forward to this past weekend…

    Daniel and I were at my parents’ house for family dinner / birthday celebration for my brother’s girlfriend. As we were eating, my brother started talking about a cruise that they recently booked for March 2007. 9 days in the Southern Caribbean, huge boat, freestyle itinerary….sounds good to me! I jokingly threatened to book Dan and I on the same cruise, to which my brother surprisingly replied, “Why not? You should! It would be fun!” Hmm…why not indeed? After a quick review of our finances and swapping info with my bro, Daniel and I found ourselves booking a cruise.

    In only 24 hours, I managed to book our cabins, separate flights, and a pre-cruise overnight stay in Miami (yet another snap decision). I honestly never thought we’d be taking a cruise, and I certainly never thought that that it would be with my brother and his girlfriend. I’m totally stoked now. This is going to be such an awesome vacation and it will be a nice chance for all of us to hang out and get to know one another in a different sense.

    Only 156 days until we set sail…not that I’m counting yet…

    20 October 2006

    Here comes the bride...AGAIN!

    I loved getting married; it was awesome. In fact, Daniel and I had so much fun that we decided to get married “again” on Sunday! Come to think of it, I’m not 100% sure that we are married right now…

    Yesterday afternoon, Daniel received an urgent call from our parish church. Apparently, we didn’t sign the actual marriage certificate…only the register. Being new at this whole wedding thing, neither Dan nor I knew any better; we just signed whatever was given to us.

    I wasn’t quite sure how to react to this news – somewhere on the verge on tears and laughter. The lovely receptionist tried to quell our fears by telling us that we are still married in the eyes of the church. As far as I understand, we just aren’t legally Mr. & Mrs. Who cares about those legally-binding contracts right?

    Apparently, this mistake is not uncommon. Sometimes the officient will forget to have all the paperwork signed…not the end of the world really. All we have to do is go to the church and sign the certificate. At first I was a little irritated by this, but now I can see the humour in it.

    I get to marry Daniel twice…sort of. We had a big public ceremony, and now we have a private one. This is a blessing in disguise, as I’ve been looking for an excuse to put the wedding gown back on. Can you imagine if we actually showed up in our finery? The image is priceless!

    Perhaps Daniel and I can celebrate two anniversaries per year? There is a lot of merit to this idea…double the flowers, gifts and jewelry. Come to think of it, that’s an excellent idea! It is officially decided: September 23rd and October 22nd are the dates!

    I best get back to work now. After all, it looks like I have another wedding to plan!

    16 October 2006


    Why must weekends fly by so quickly?!?

    Surprisingly, my plans to relax worked out rather well. The bulk of my weekend was spent in pajamas, cheerfully loafing around the house. I did manage to get some house work done on Friday (still no laundry) but Saturday and Sunday were designated days of laziness.

    One of my major accomplishments this weekend was assembling a wedding album with our professional photographs. While this isn’t a strenuous job, it does require a good deal of time and consideration. After sifting through 335 photos, I was finally able to select roughly 100 photos for printing.

    Daniel and I decided to do something different rather than a conventional album. We didn’t want something that would sit in the basement collecting dust. Instead, we are having our photos professionally printed in a hardcover coffee table book. It’s more modern, takes up less space, and gives visitors something nice to look at.

    Unfortunately, I cannot take credit for this idea. Once again, I was inspired by the wonderful and highly resourceful ladies of the Weddingbells online forum. For those you planning weddings, get onboard! Weddingbells.ca will put you in touch with an amazing network of women who are planning weddings, or have already been through the process. If it weren’t for this forum, I seriously doubt that my wedding would have as nice as it was. It’s an amazing pool of knowledge and ideas!

    After reading some positive reviews, I decided to check out http://www.mypublisher.com/ This is an amazing site that allows you to download free album making software and order the final product online. I was truly impressed – simple to use, yet plenty of design options to satisfy personal taste. It didn’t take me long to come up with a funky 58-page wedding book…so much better than anything I could have scrapbooked. (I don’t have that kind of skill or patience). I’m very excited to receive the finished product. The great news – 50% all purchases over $100 until November! Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a different way to display photographs. I may do the same thing with the honeymoon shots…

    Overall rating for this weekend, A+

    We capped everything off yesterday, with a nice country drive and a visit to the Third World Bazaar in Manotick Station. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves eclectic international décor. I picked up a gorgeous mirror from Bali, along with some beautiful coral jewelry. If Dan hadn’t been with me, I probably would have come home with a box full of random stuff. I don’t think he’s keen on the mirror because it’s “different”; I adore it! I wanted to get an African mask, but that’s where he drew the line. (They scare him apparently?) I’m learning to pick my battles…

    14 October 2006

    Just chillin...

    It’s Saturday morning…as you can guess all attempts to sleep in late have failed. It seems as though 8:00 am is the magic number; I can never make it past this point. In all fairness, I would have slept later if it hadn’t been for a phone call from my father-in-law….grumble, grumble. Oh well, I’ll take 8:00 am over 5:30 any day.

    Right now Daniel is at his father’s place, helping him tear out a huge evergreen tree that is easily three stories high. I will be very relieved when this is over because I have horrifying visions of my new husband falling out of the tree, or getting crushed under the falling trunk….I know, I know…dramatic!

    I am reluctant to start the day. I’m still in my jammies, sipping on hazelnut coffee and eating a chocolate chip bagel smothered in cream cheese… total gluttony! I’m going to see how long I can keep up this act before nagging guilt to do the laundry takes over. Either way, the house is close to spotless and I think the rest is well deserved.

    I am currently sifting through 335 gorgeous wedding photos. Daniel and I got all the prints and digital negatives back from our photographer last week. I am immensely pleased with the result – the photos are gorgeous. Now comes the hard part…how to pick a favourite? I’m trying to select 30-50 of the best shots to put in an album or coffee table book. The task is not easy, as I love all the pictures. There are some gorgeous / dramatic posed shots, but I tend to the love the ones where Dan and I are hamming it up…to me this is more indicative of our relationship. I’m about as romantic as a bucket!

    Hopefully I’ll make some headway with the album this morning. I am bound and determined to have these pictures ready to display soon, as people are driving me nuts! Everyone wants to see the pictures, but these things take time. Perhaps I’ll burn some images on to C.D.s and send copies to everyone in the wedding party?

    Not too much else planned for today. This afternoon, I hope to check out the Third World Bazaar in Manotick. This is an annual event that takes place every fall for roughly 4-5 weekends. The concept is awesome! Each year volunteers travel to various third-world countries to buy handicrafts directly from artisans. They bring the items back to sell them at the Bazaar and proceeds / donations go towards various philanthropic organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières. It’s an amazing opportunity to pick up something funky and eclectic for the house, all for a good cause! For more info, check out the website: http://www.thirdworldbazaar.ca/

    Other weekend picks… buy the latest Rachael Yamagata CD, grab a bottle of wine, sit back and enjoy. If you enjoy the likes of Norah Jones, Sarah Slean and other moody music, then you are certainly in for a treat! Amazing “chill” factor.

    Just a sample of some pretty awesome lyrics – “I Want You”

    You sat down next to me, like poetry to wine
    Our window looked upon a yellow neon sign
    I took your hand while you decided what to do
    The only kiss, I ever miss, I shared with you
    The other cities hold a memory still of a place
    But, when I dream of London, I can only see your face

    I want you
    Or no one
    No one else will do
    You, or no one
    No one is the only one
    To fill the empty space I hold for you.
    And on that sappy note, here's a few pics of the new Mr. and Mrs.

    13 October 2006

    Wine + Couch + T.V. = Happy

    At long last, Friday has arrived. It’s lunchtime and I’m already counting the hours until I get to go home and relax…bar my plans to cook supper, clean the guinea pig and the bathrooms….

    My overall goal for this evening is to be sitting in front of the TV by 8:00 p.m. I vow to drop whatever I am doing at that point and vegetate for the remainder of the night. For someone who does not know how to relax, this is a highly ambitious plan! I typically try to set these little goals for myself and always end up multitasking – i.e. Watching TV while exercising on the elliptical, ironing, sewing, and more recently, writing thank you card for wedding gifts. Tonight the hands shall remain idle; this is my promise to you dear readers!

    Part of my Friday enthusiasm is also due, in part, to my recent discovery of a new television program. Normally I’m not one to get hooked on new shows, but I have fallen madly in love with “Men in Trees”. It’s nothing deep or perplexing – SCORE – with just the right amount of romance and quirky characters. Critics are calling it a mix of “Sex & The City” and “Northern Exposure”…not too far off the mark in my opinion. If you are looking for something light and airy with a few good laughs, I highly recommend it.

    I also have to admit, the show has an additional draw. Introducing my guilty little Friday night pleasure:

    12 October 2006

    Two days until the weekend…not that I’m counting

    Yet another rough morning in the Tomka residence. My intentions are always good; each night I set my alarm for 5:30am. Unfortunately, my body has a completely different notion of wakeup time. This morning it took three attempts before I was able to haul my sorry self out of bed. Sleep…such a lovely sounding word…

    Now that the wedding is over I hope that Daniel and I can start to relax a little. Looking back over the past few months, it occurred to me that we haven’t had a full weekend to ourselves since we moved into the house. Perhaps this is why it has taken so long to finally feel at home in my new surroundings…I haven’t truly been able to enjoy them.

    So far the lineup for this weekend is sounding perfect. A little house cleaning, decorating and maybe some art shopping. With the multitude of HBC cards we received for the wedding, I am positively itching to buy some new things for the house. A good trip to Home Sense is also in order. Poor Dan…not exactly his idea of fun…

    In other news, Halloween in just around the corner! I am already brewing up some ghoulish ideas for the house and can’t wait to see how my creativity will snowball. For those of you who do not know me, I am an absolute Halloween fanatic! It is my favourite day of the year and I wait for it with childlike anticipation. I think my obsession has only gotten worse as I get older. The fact that I am a first-time homeowner does not help matters.

    Dan is also a big child when it comes to this time of year. He shares my disturbing love for scaring the bejesus out of little children. He is one of those “mean” people who will sit as still as a statue, grotesque pumpkin of his head, lying in wait for his next young victim….so very amusing.

    This year we will be hosting our very first Halloween party. We have already picked out our costumes and are now looking for spooky interior décor ideas. Something tells me that we’ll be fabricating a dead corpse this weekend. Last night I had a stroke of genius…why not suspend a body from our stairway so that it hangs in our atrium??? Classy! In my opinion there is no such thing as TACKY when it comes to Halloween décor. It’s the one day where you can act certifiably nuts and get away with it.

    Perhaps some of my readers have some cool Halloween tips??? If so, please post!

    10 October 2006

    Another first

    It’s Tuesday and I had to reluctantly drag myself out of bed this morning to make it into work. Current mood….exhausted, sick, yet happy.

    Last night marked yet another first for Daniel and I. We are pleased to say that we pulled off a very successful Thanksgiving dinner for our families – 9 people in total.

    The day started out on a shaky note as neither Dan nor I could figure out how to get the dman neck out of the turkey; this is when I wish I would have paid more attention to my mother’s cooking demos when I was a child! I had no problems pulling out the heart, liver and turkey butt (sorry, no other way to explain it), but I was stumped when it came to the neck. To make matters worse, the turkey still felt frozen on the inside…despite 2-3 days of thawing.

    I am ashamed to admit it, but I had to put in a frantic call to my mother to seek her advice. Here is the even sadder part…she was over at the house within 10 minutes and it took her no more than 2 seconds to rip the neck off. Great! Just great!

    Once the neck was removed from Mr. Gobbles, it was smooth sailing. I shook off my embarrassment and redeemed myself by cooking an awesome turkey. After a little basting, lots of butter, garlic and some poultry seasoning…things were clearly going much better. Between Daniel and I, we made enough food to feed an army. Once again, it seems that I am lacking in estimation skills.

    All in all, it was a great evening. Loads of tasty food, happy bellies, and a ton of wine. I’m not quite sure how many bottles we killed…lets just say that we no longer have much left over from the honeymoon. No complaints here, it was nice to treat people to something a little different rather than the usual $8 staple of Jackson Triggs. Yes my dear readers…we have become impossible wine snobs.

    Dinner was followed by the first official family viewing of our professional wedding photos. We are immensely pleased with the results and are still having a hard time picking our favourites. Luckily, we own all the original digital files and unmarked proofs, so I can do any enlargements myself at home. Maybe I’ll play around with some different editing effects too. I love photography and would be perfectly content if snapping photos all day or playing with Photoshop.

    The rest of our weekend proved to be just as busy. On Saturday, I was a bridesmaid for my friend’s wedding at Beantown Ranch. It was a gorgeous day and the fall colours were at their best – a very cute and cozy country setting. It was quite the contrast to my urban wedding, but I thought it was beautiful and very appropriate for the time of year. The bride was radiant and I thoroughly enjoyed getting dolled up for the second time in less than a month. All in all, it was a fun night. I made a complete buffoon of myself by dancing the whole night like a wild woman…even with random strangers (Sorry Dan).

    I have one mandate when I am in a wedding party: DANCE! I have been to countless weddings where bridal parties sit off on the sidelines chatting with their friends. This is terrible, because it doesn’t inspire other guests to get up and have a good time. The remedy is quite simple….slap on a happy face and boogie down. It’s amazing how others will get up and dance once they realize that they’re not alone. I have no problems breaking the ice, or pulling others onto the dance floor with me. Luckily, there were a good number of dancers at this wedding (kudos to Sandy the MC) so we were able to keep the tempo up all night. Very fun! I have no doubt that the relatives of the bride and groom think that I’m certifiably nuts. Who am I to argue?

    So there you have it…my jam-packed weekend! I managed to survive it, but came out with yet another terrible cold. Plans for next weekend…RELAX! This will be the first opportunity to truly sleep in several weeks. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get to sleep until 8:00am! The possibilities are endless….

    04 October 2006


    Only one week into the marriage and I’m already biting off more than I can chew. Back in August, I ambitiously told both our families that I would cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. At the time, it seemed like a wonderful notion; the wedding would be over and I’d have more time on my hands…WRONG!

    I failed to realize one important little detail, I’m exhausted! Sure the honeymoon was a nice break, but reality kicked in once we got home. The house is a mess, there’s tons of laundry to do, and I’ll be busy in another wedding this weekend. I’m not sure how I originally planned to fit in grocery shopping and turkey cooking. True to my word, however, I’m not backing down! For my bridal shower, my relatives equipped me with a roasting pan, baster and assorted bird cooking tools…either way I was destined to cook this meal.

    Enter problem #2 – I don’t know the first thing about cooking a turkey! Sure I have a vague idea, but I have never actually done this before; Mom always took the reigns on this one. I’m worried that my own attempts won’t measure up. I’m not a bad cook per say, but I’m not one of those culinary geniuses either. My fears are also compounded by the fact that I’ll be cooking for 10 people. It will be the first official large family dinner of my married life.

    Hopefully a trip to the local butcher will quell my fears. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll end up coming home with a huge monster of a turkey. I have never been good at estimating and always seem to err on the side of caution when cooking for larger groups. I inevitably end up making enough food to feed an army. We have a tiny kitchen and the fridge is already filled full of pies…don’t even ask me where I’m going to put the damn bird! As Scarlet O’Hara said, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

    03 October 2006

    Back to drudgery

    The honeymoon is over and I reluctantly hauled myself into work this morning. Waking up at 5:45am was not a pretty sight. It always amazes me how quickly my body gets used to sleeping in a few extra hours. But alas…all good things must come to an end.

    Our last day in Niagara-On-The-Lake was blissful. The sun finally made an appearance and we were able to take in a few more vineyards. On Sunday we decided to visit a smaller scale family estate winery - Reif. By this time, I’m sure that either Daniel or I could have given the tour, but it was still neat to see wine production in a smaller setting. The estate itself lacked the “castle-like” atmosphere of some of the larger wineries, but it did have a certain charming German flair to it. Oddly enough, this is where we ended up spending the most money…2 bottles of wine, a hand-painted terra cotta wine cooler and a funky cheese dome. I’m an absolute sucker for wine themed handicrafts. Can’t wait to entertain with these out on the table!

    Following our tour at Reif, we decided that I wasn’t nearly drunk enough, so off we went to Inniskillin winery. This was probably one of my favourite places, due to the fact that the layout was conducive to exploring on your own. I particularly loved the huge wine tasting barn. We were fortunate enough to receive a free tasting voucher from our generous B&B hosts, so I partook in some more tasting. Three glasses of wine and 30 minutes later, I was well and truly drunk. I was surprised that the samples were poured quite liberally. Seeing as Daniel was driving, I also had his share of samples. I must have made a funny sight, weaving around the vineyards, tipsy as you please.

    We decided to forgo any further tours or tasting session that afternoon; instead we merely dropped by other wineries to purchase a few bottles of vintages that we can’t get back home. The car was definitely heavier coming home! Our wine rack is bursting!

    Our final afternoon in NOTL ended on a romantic note, with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and a late dinner and drinks at the Angel Inn. It was the perfect evening for our last night in town, cool, crisp and clear skies. I’ll miss the relaxing atmosphere, but will treasure the few days that Daniel and I had there. And now…it’s back to reality.

    Getting home was a bit of a revelation. It’s only starting to hit me now…I’m married. Now that I have no wedding to plan, I can’t help but feel a little sad. Life is moving forward now and it’s on to the next stage.

    01 October 2006

    One more day in paradise

    Technically, yesterday was supposed to be me and Daniel’s last day in NOTL. The original plan was to head back to Ottawa this morning, and give ourselves Monday to clean the house and get ready for work the next day. Instead, we decided to prolong our stay….to heck with housework for a change.

    The past few days here have been very relaxing. Despite the fact that I am only in my twenties, I am already starting to make plans for my retirement here. Old period homes, huge trees, gorgeous flowers and sprawling vineyards - not too shabby in my books. It’s the kind of place that just makes my fingers itch to write.

    On Friday, Daniel and I decided to stay in town and check out some of the wonderful shops. Actually, this was more my idea than Dan’s…I kind of just pulled him around. The husband and wife thing is working out great – haha! The shopping here is fantastic...sure it’s pricey, but there are so many little eclectic boutiques. It’s a good thing Dan was with me, otherwise there’s no telling what I would come home with.

    Friday afternoon was a definite highlight of our time here. Both avid theatre lovers, our trip would not have been complete without a visit to the Shaw festival. We were fortunate to get decent last-minute tickets to “Arms and the Man”, a fabulous Bulgerian / Serbian wartime comedy written by George Bernard Shaw. The characters were wonderfully written and the performances were all the more memorable. The entire audience was in stitches for the full 120 minute play. The standing ovation was well deserved – it was one of the most enjoyable performances I have seen. Highly recommended for anyone visiting NOTL!

    After the theatre, we ended off the evening at Tetley’s restaurant. This was a funky little basement dining room serving awesome cheese fondues. Very cozy and very yummy!

    Then it was back to our cozy B&B for a seat on the verandah with a bottle of wine and some fresh bakery treats.

    And now, here is Dan to tell you about day three in NOTL:

    So while the shopping was a PILE of fun, we decided to hit some more wineries on day 3. For the first one, we went to Jackson-Triggs. We were told that it was a very modern facility, with not much “old-world charm” to it. However, we were also told that the tour was fantastic. So we went, and it was probably my favourite winery so far! It was a very new building, designed to look like an ultra-modern farmhouse. Everything was brand-new top-notch equipment, and the tour guide was probably the best we’ve had to date. I would definitely recommend Jackson-Triggs to anyone who goes to NOTL.

    The other vineyard we saw was Peller Estates. This was another nice looking Estate-style winery, but the tour was a waste of money. We got to see the fields and the barrel cellar. Woo. If you go to Peller, just wander around the outside on your own, and save yourself the $5.

    Two wineries was pretty much my limit, and Jenn was a bit drunk by that time, so we decided to do something that didn’t involve drinking for the rest of the afternoon. This region has two forts, Fort Erie and Fort George. Fort George was right near us, so we went to visit it. We got there right in time to see a musket demonstration, and then got a tour around the place. It was pretty neat, they had recently redone the place in the 40s, but it still looked very authentic. You could walk around the earthworks, and climb on the cannons, it was a good time.

    We decided to book Monday off of work so that we could have an extra day to relax, or do with as we please. We were thinking of going through 1000 islands and staying a night there on the way home, but we instead decided to stay an extra night at NOTL, and see some more wineries. 1000 islands is fairly close to home compared to NOTL, so we decided to make the most of our trip out.

    Jenn mentioned it yesterday, and when you look at it, this trip will probably cost us as much as a cruise. Ah well. I had a good time, and I’m glad we decided to come. We’ll cruise some other time. --Dan

    29 September 2006

    Farewell falls...hello wine country!

    Bad blogger! I know everyone…I missed a day! Give a girl a break; I’m on my honeymoon after all.

    Yesterday Daniel and I said farewell to Niagara Falls and drove into the very soggy yet beautiful wine country. We have been awaiting this part of the trip with baited breath for quite a few days now…too bad about the miserable weather. Either way, it’s gorgeous here in NOTL and we’re making the most of it.

    Rewind now, back to Wednesday. Daniel and I spent our last day in Niagara Falls strolling through the botanical gardens and the butterfly conservatory. I can safely say that I have now found a new favourite place on earth. The gardens were breathtaking, enough to make any British garden enthusiast applaud. The real highlight for me however, was the butterflies! Imagine yourself, walking around in a large biodome, surrounded by hundreds of rare and beautiful butterflies. Needless to say, it was quite a surreal experience. I was awestruck by some of their vibrant colours and their apparent lack of fear of human contact. Some butterflies were even landing on people, offering some pretty spectacular photo ops. Can’t wait to upload the shots! This was the perfect way to end off our last day in Niagara Falls. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking of visiting – it’s worth the trip alone!

    Back to honeymoon day 4 now, and Daniel is taking over the blog!

    Jenn has hopped in the shower, so I’ll tell you about day 4. After another big buffet breakfast (I can feel my arteries hardening), we checked out of the luxurious Gigantic Hotel, and hit the road. It was rainy and miserable out, but we still decided to see a few wineries on the way to NOTL. We stopped first at Chateau Des Charmes, a beautiful family-run estate winery. Rather than wait three hours for the English tour, we took the French one. It pays to be bilingual! After the tour, we had a very tasty sampling of some of their wines. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, 11am is a fine time for drinking.

    From there, we headed out to the Hillebrand winery. Even though it was raining, our tour guide took us through the fields, and we tasted some of the different grapes...right off the vine! We finished off the tour, and again had a generous wine tasting. We even mixed ice wine with sparkling white, which was very good! I had to give most of my wine to Jenn, since I still had some driving to do. Did I mention that they were generous with the tastings? Jenn got the brunt of it, and walked out with wobbly legs.

    After that, we headed into the town of NOTL, and checked in to our quaint little B&B. We did a bit of shopping, and had a pretty good dinner in an English pub – The Angel Inn. This was quite a neat experience because the pub is housed in the oldest operating Inn in Ontario, dating back to 1819. With dark timber, an open hearth and resident burly publican, it looks like it came straight out of a movie. The kind of place you would expect a good ‘oul bar brawl to break out. Then it was back to the B&B to relax with a tea on the porch, and to bed early to get ready for the next day!

    26 September 2006

    Niagara Falls...day two

    Dan and I are just back from an action packed day out on the town. We woke up bright and early to enjoy an amazing buffet put on by the Embassy Suites...very yummy. I won't be surprised if we each put on an extra 10 pounds by the time we get back home.

    Our first stop of the morning was a tour behind the falls. Daniel and I had both done this before as children, but it was something that we were excited to do again almost fifteen years later. I think you have a deeper appreciation for these things as an adult. We had fun getting drenched and managed to capture some great shots.

    The rest of the day was spent walking, walking and more walking! We made our way to Clifton Hill..or "tacky district" as I like to call it. This is where we spent the bulk of our day, visiting the Guiness Book of World Records museum and Louis Touseau's wax museum. The latter was so much fun. Some of the models are truly life-like. Can't wait to get home and upload the photos!

    This evening Dan and I shared a romantic dinner in the revolving restaurant at Skylon Tower. The prices are questionable as the food is mediocre, but the view is spectacular! I was a little thrown off by the rotating floor. Going to the bathroom after a bottle of wine proved to be intresting, as it is difficult to get one's bearings once you return to the rotating floor. All of a sudden things are not where they were before you left. A unique experience, but I'm not sure that we would repeat it again. Our dinner at the Fallsview Keg last night can never be topped as far as I'm concerned.

    After our adventure in the rotating restaurant, and a date with a beautiful bottle of Chateau Des Charmes Pinot Gris, Dan and I headed back to Clifton Hill to partake in some cheesy tourist traps. Feeling a little more courageous, we decided to try out the "Castle Frankenstein" horror house....complete with live actors scaring the bejesus out of tourists. I'm still not sure whether the alcohol made it better or worse. Either way, a good number of expletives were issued.

    Our final destination this evening was none other than the infamous "Ripley's Believe it or Not" museum. No trip to Niagara would be complete without some form of 'freak show'. Actually, I found this to be one of the most enjoyable tours so far. Both Dan and I have a penchant for the abnormal, so we were right at home and having a good laugh at the stupidity of others. I still can't believe what some people will endure for a few moments of fame and glory. No thanks! I rather pay $30 to laugh at them.

    After a romantic walk back to hotel, along the illuminated falls, we are now happily resting our weary feet. That massive whirlpool tub is looking good right about now. ..perhaps followed by more wine and a seat near the fireplace and lounge chairs overlooking the falls. Yes...I could get used to this indeed!

    25 September 2006

    We took the plunge!

    We're married! Hard to believe that the big day has already come and gone.

    September 23rd was an absolute dream come true! We could not have asked for a more beautiful day...it far exceeded all of my hopes and expectations. There were few tears on my part, just a giddy sense of happiness and excitement. It was truly the best day of my life.

    I can't get into all the details at the moment because hubby and I are on our honeymoon (yes...I'm a dedicated blogger) As I type this, I am currently sitting in an amazing suite overooking Niagara Falls.

    Day one of the honeymoon has been fantastic. Dan and I left Ottawa at 8:00 am this morning and arrived at our hotel at 14:30. The room is gorgeous, with a view to die for. I'll be sure to post pictures once I'm back home, but let's just say that everything has been decadent. Huge tub, marble walk-in shower, fireplace, king bed, wall-to-wall window, etc.!

    We haven't had much time to venture too far today, but we did have an excellent meal at the Keg which is attached to our hotel, overlooking the falls. I'm not usually a red meat kind of girl, but this was without exageration, the best steak I've ever had in my life. It was the next best thing to...well....you know.....

    After supper, we headed out into high winds and managed to get no further than the Casino. Good thing we dropped in because, in only two minutes, we managed to win $170 on a slot machine. Needless to say, we walked out of there with our heads helf high and a spring in our step. No regrets about the expensive dinner....nor the drinks that we enjoyed afterwards. It's gearing up to be a great week!

    12 September 2006

    Sniff, sniff...only 11 days to go...

    Luck of the Irish my arse! The wedding is less than two weeks away and my stupid body has decided to crap out on me…big time!

    This past weekend I went away to Montreal for a friend’s bachlorette party. Being with a bunch of party animals, I got next to no sleep whatsoever. - I think I totaled 6 hours over a two-day period. It also didn’t help that I got stuck in a torrential downpour on Friday while boarding the train. I spent a lovely 2 hour ride soaked down to my underwear and shivering in the air-conditioning. We had a blast, but I’m definitely paying for it now.

    I’m fortunate in that I don’t get ill often, I’ve rarely had stomach flu, no chickenpox, no measles, no whooping cough, etc. However, I somehow seem highly susceptible to colds. The moment I begin to feel overtired… achoo!

    Right now I’m sitting at work (on coffee break) and I feel as though my head is full of bricks. My eyelids are watery and droopy, my ears keep popping, my nose is beyond blocked and my glands are swollen. To sum it all up, I feel terrible!

    I’m scared to death that this cold won’t clear up in time for the wedding. When I catch colds, they always seem to linger for longer than normal. Combined with my dreaded monthly visitor, I’m sure I’ll make one hell of a beautiful bride.

    I’m very discouraged right now because I need to complete a million different little tasks for the wedding, yet I can barely muster enough energy to breath. Daniel is a big help to me, but I don’t expect him to finish all my little nitpicky craft projects…too hard to explain when you have a certain vision in your head.

    I totally didn’t need this on top of everything else right now. I know I need to rest my body, but there is so much to do. My boss told me to go home, but things are really busy on the work front too. I want to accomplish as many things as I can before taking holidays for the wedding and honeymoon. It’s enough I have to take off this Friday to go pick up my wedding gown in Carleton Place.

    So there you have it. Not a very optimistic post. I’m hoping my tune will change in a few days. In the meantime I’m pumping myself full of fluids, vitamins and decongestants. It plain old sucks! I can’t get excited about the wedding right now because I feel so crummy.

    29 August 2006

    Tied in Knots

    I recently received a wonderful book at my bridal shower entitled, “Tied in Knots.” It is a satirical look at weddings and all the pomp, pageantry and fuss that goes along with planning…only to end in disaster.

    Reading this book has really helped put things into perspective. It doesn’t matter how much effort you out into planning, little glitches will always arise. And here’s the real kicker….who cares?!? Reading about these wedding blunders, really makes me realize that even if things don’t go according to plan, it is my attitude that will make the day. So long as Dan and I both show up and say I do, that is all that really matters. People will laugh at the mishaps and remember the bride and groom who smiled through it all.

    A few nights ago, I looked at my “To Do” checklist for the wedding and almost had an aneurism! However, upon closer inspection, it doesn’t seem all that daunting anymore. Yes, there are a lot of little craft projects remaining, but the bulk of the day is already planned. I am determined not to stress about the little things anymore. With less than 4 weeks until the wedding, I have to remind myself to step back, breath and enjoy the ride. After all, I’m only going to get to experience this once in my lifetime.

    Things on the home front are starting to settle down nicely. Dan and I have started to decorate and the walls are looking a little friendlier. Right now, my main concern is trying to find room for everything we received at the shower! I have a feeling that a major basement overhaul is in store. I wasn’t planning on doing this until after the wedding, but we may have to see to it this weekend. I despise clutter, so I’m feeling a little overrun right now. It probably doesn’t help that Dan and I have an elliptical trainer lying in the middle of our t.v. den…half built.

    Dan always tells me that I wouldn’t be happy unless I had something to stress over. I’m starting to think he’s right!

    28 August 2006

    The Final Sendoff

    Less than one month away until I become a Mrs. I know that the day was quickly approaching, but I think it only truly hit home this weekend.

    Saturday was a day that I shall treasure for the rest of my life. My friends threw me a beautiful bridal shower at my mother’s house and it was more than I could have ever hoped for. I was blown away by the work and thought that went into planning. Without exaggeration, it was the best shower I have ever attended…and not just because it was my own. I truly felt like a queen that day and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many friends and loved ones. My favourite gift was two beautiful drawings that were made by my adorable little cousins. I am proudly displaying them on my fridge and Dan jokes that it’s a premonition of things to come – haha.

    After the shower, the party shifted gears – BACHLORETTE party! A group of girlfriends and I met at a restaurant downtown and then hit the dance floor at a popular club nearby. My awesome bridesmaids took care of everything and I was content to be led around for the evening, dressed to the hilt in a veil, “Miss Bachlorette” sash, Mardi-Gras beads and a “Bride” button - just the right degree of tacky!

    The party at the dance club was sooooooo much fun. There were three other brides there celebrating, as well as two bachelor parties. I won’t get into specifics but you can probably picture the scene...pure chaos...pure fun! I was a little more mild than the other brides (thankfully) but I still had my fair share of beverages and speaker dancing. It was fun to relax and act silly for a change. The girls managed to capture some “classy” moments. I have no doubt that there are some excellent blackmail photos floating around out there.

    All in all, an A ++++++ weekend. I had an awesome time and it was the perfect sendoff into married life!

    And now, for your enjoyment….the future bride (a.k.a. Brazen Hussy)

    01 August 2006

    We have grass!!!

    Yes, sadly these are the things that excite me lately… I was very happy to arrive home yesterday to see a yard full of lush, bright green grass. The dirt was really starting to get depressing. I guess we should count ourselves lucky because others have been waiting for grass for almost a year. Two weeks doesn’t quite qualify as a hardship.

    While I am perfectly happy seeing green, I’m starting to worry about another type of green….money! In this abnormally sweltering heat, we have to keep watering the lawn 24/7. We were warned to keep the sprinklers on for at least two weeks solid. I am dreading our first water bill! Add on yet another expensive trip to Home Depot for various water dispensing tools and you’re looking at a pretty large investment. We may not be able to clothe ourselves next month, but at least we’ll have awesome grass!

    Aside from the greenery, not much else has progressed on the home front. I still battle with mud puddles every morning and am resigned to the fact that there is no saving a certain beloved pair of shoes. They have no been relegated to “mail fetching” shoes.
    This is pretty much the only time I will set foot on the street…unfortunately necessary seeing as I have to fetch bills…double blah!

    I dream of the day that I can go out jogging again. Daniel and I eat very healthy, but the lack of outdoor exercise is driving me nuts. Lethargy is starting to settle and I find myself drinking beer more frequently…one of the adverse side-effects of living with a man. At this rate, I will be popping out of my wedding dress.

    31 July 2006

    Love is in the air

    This past weekend, wedding season officially started for Daniel and I. In addition to our own big day, we will be attending 5 other marriages this year. It seems as though the old adage, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” holds true for many of our friends. We like to do things at the same time; not that I’m complaining at all…wedding are fun!

    On Saturday, Dan and I made the long drive to Waterloo to attend the wedding of an old high school friend. It was a nice weekend away and a much-needed break from all things “house”. The wedding was held at a pretty lake-side club. It was small, intimate and very comfortable…a very nice change from the typical huge conventional affair. I was especially fond of the “old-school” kids’ games that were placed out on the tables for guests to enjoy – Barrel of Monkeys, Hungry Hippos, Operation, Connect Four, etc. It was definitely a nice touch of fun and nostalgia for anyone who grew up in the 1980s.

    My only complaint from this weekend would have to be our lodgings, or rather our neighbors in the next room (Thankfully nobody from the wedding we attended). Turns out we had some very loud and voracious lovers next door. It was pretty disturbing but we had a good laugh about it. Things were a little less funny, however, at 2:00 am when Dan and I woke up to crying and screaming. I still have to idea what was going on, but the woman certainly didn’t sound happy this time. I tried to catch snippets of their conversation, but she was sobbing too loudly. Definitely not the happy lovers we heard before we headed off to the wedding. I’m still perplexed….

    So there you have it, the “Coles Notes” version of my fun but strange weekend. Daniel and I are gearing up for yet another wedding next weekend. Two of our best buddies are getting married and we’re very much looking forward to sharing in their special day. Dan is “Best Man” and I’ll be playing the role of “MC”. Slightly nervous as I’ve never done this before, but I’m sure I’ll ease into it once things get rolling. Typically I love speaking, but this makes me nervous for some odd reason. I guess I just want to ensure that I help things run as smoothly as possible. If not, the bride can seek revenge on my own wedding day, seeing as she is one of my bridesmaids

    25 July 2006

    Return of the mud....

    This morning’s jaunt to the bus stop proved to be even more challenging than yesterday. My old nemesis, mud, made a repeat appearance.

    Last night the house got pounded with yet another thunderstorm. Because our house backs out on a field / forest, we don’t have anything to buffer us from the elements. The fact that we still don’t have eavestrophing also doesn’t help.

    Sleeping last night was next to impossible. It’s difficult to remain asleep while your windows are rattling, even more so when you don’t have blinds blocking out the flashes of lightening. I always wonder why I insist of sleeping closest to the window… perhaps this is a lesson….

    Today I decided to better prepare myself for the trip to work. Donning an old pair of pants and a T-shirt, I was ready to take of the messy construction zone. Stupidly, I still insisted on wearing my nice sandals. Vanity always seems to reign, no matter how rational I try to be.

    There were more puddles and potholes to avoid this morning, however I’m quickly learning where to step. No mystery mud holes for me today thankfully. My sandals still required a quick wash at work, however I managed to keep the majority of my toes guck free. I think I’ll have to invest in a more sensible closed-toe shoe. I can’t go through this ritual every time it rains….and it rains a lot!

    I found that yesterday seemed exceedingly long. Work dragged on and all I could think about was going home and enjoying my new environment. It seems that Daniel and I have been running around since the day we moved; I feel as though neither of us have truly had the opportunity to enjoy the house yet. We still have an unopened bottle of Champagne in the fridge that my father gave us as a housewarming gift. I look forward to the day that we can finally sit down, relax and celebrate.. A day to vegetate would blissful.

    24 July 2006

    A messy return to work

    Back to work today to filter through copious amounts of emails and phone messages…joy! I always hate the first day back after a vacation. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth while because I always have to work doubly hard to play catch-up.

    Leaving home this morning felt strange. I was not looking forward to the prospect of finding my new bus stop and adding an extra 10-15 minutes to my usual commute. To make matters worse, because it is a new development, the express bus does not run often; this means getting up at the crack of dawn to make sure I get downtown on time.

    I started off Monday in fine fashion today – tired, cranky, sore….muddy.
    After taking special care to dress up and look my best, I grudgingly made my way down the street to the bus stop. Because we had heavy rain showers during the night, the ground was awash with mud. Being extra careful not to ruin my favourite sandals, I slowly picked my way down the street. I started to breath a sigh of relief once the bus stop came into view…alas, to soon! A huge truck came rumbling down the street, causing me to step aside. I put my foot on what looked like a dry patch of dirt, only to discover a deep mud hole. Plomp! My beautiful sandals sank beneath the mud. After freeing my feet and sandals, I tried to rub mud off on the pavement to no avail. Turning back home was not an option otherwise I’d miss my bus and be late for work. So there you have it, my first day back at work began with a dirty and uncomfortable ride to work… bar the strange looks from fellow commuters.

    I hope that Dan’s day is going better. While I sat caked in mud, Dan was comfortably sipping coffee and playing computer games back home. I really must learn to adopt his morning ritual.

    22 July 2006

    House = Work = Exhaustion

    Work, work, work! Turns out I’ll need a vacation from my vacation. I knew that moving into a new home would be busy, but nothing could have prepared me for everything that has happened over the past week.

    For the most part, everything major has been handled. The appliances are working and all of our furniture was delivered and assembled with no problems. Dan has become a master furniture builder and I’ve discovered a newfound talent for drilling drywall. All in all, with the guidance of friends and family, we are starting to learn about the ups and downs of homeownership. So far we’ve had the developer in to look at a leaky kitchen sink and crooked countertop. We are quickly learning that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”…it pays to complain!

    Living in a new house has proved to be challenging. I’ve had to ignore my aversion to clutter and messy environments. I’m quickly discovering that dust is impossible to get rid of right now, especially seeing as we still live in a construction zone. For now, I’ll have to be satisfied with general tidying and unpacking our remaining bits and bobs. It’s a slow progression but I’m getting there.

    I can truly say that the house is starting to feel more like home now. Dan and I have only been in the house for one week and we have already hosted two dinner parties. It was nice to finally be able to give something back to my parents. There’s a certain degree of pride that comes with having your folks over for dinner, a sense of accomplishment, sort of like assuring them that they reared you well.

    With house matters well on track, I was able to refocus some of my attention on the wedding today. Our cake has been confirmed with the baker and I went out to Carleton Place for my 2nd fitting this morning. You know you have an awesome Maid of Honour, when she gets up at 6:00 am on a Saturday to drive you out of town for a 10 minute dress fitting. Very happy with the way everything looks now. I have to make sure to maintain my current physique, otherwise I’ll be eating my words in two months time. No pressure whatsoever…

    18 July 2006

    Home Sweet Home...almost...

    Daniel and I moved in four days ago and I’m only getting to my computer right now…serious withdrawal!

    The past few days have gone by in a blur. I can truly say that I now know the meaning of exhaustion. I don’t think that either Dan or I have ever been so tired and sore. Moving beats you up both physically and emotionally; I totally don’t understand how some people willingly move every few years. No thanks! I’ll stay right where I am.

    All in all, I can’t complain about the move too much. Everything went really smoothly. We got the keys early on the 14th and had everything unloaded at the house by 16:00 that afternoon. We were very fortunate to have a wonderful crew of friends and family helping us out in the sweltering heat and humidity. My parents were amazing, bringing food and taking time to help clean the kitchen. To my dismay, it seems that NOTHING was cleaned since our last home inspection over 2 months ago.

    I’m not sure that everything has hit me yet. Today was the first day that the house started to feel like home. Now that things are starting to take shape, curtains are up and boxes are emptied, it’s starting to feel a little more permanent. After three days of suffering without central air in 33+ C weather, we were very happy to get our air conditioning installed yesterday. Dan doesn’t deal well with humidity, so having the AC is a godsend. It makes working on the house much more bearable.

    Nothing much more to write right now. I have a huge roman tub calling my name and beckoning me to soak my aching feet. For your enjoyment, some pictures that my father took during moving day. Note the bedraggled and surly look.

    Daniel arrives with the truck and brother helps unload:

    Grabbing a bite to eat with mom before the boys arrive with the truck. Mom looks hot and I look annoyed. My father thought it was a "special" moment to capture: