Wednesday, September 06, 2017

First day of school

The first day of school gets less exciting as the kids get older. The difference between school and non-school is not nearly as pronounced. With Chloe's university schedule, she's home more than she was in high school. Spencer has spares so Neve's the only one who's actually gone all day.

All three kids started today, except Spencer only had classes in the afternoon. Last night we talked about doing a clever back-to-school picture with the girls sitting on Spencer's bed while he sleeps. Turns out Spencer was less enthusiastic with this plan than the rest of us which was evident when he forcefully shoved Neve out of his room this morning and slammed the door on her foot. But then I guess guilt crept in and he dragged himself out of bed, put his shorts on (he always puts on his shirt for the next day after his evening shower) and came down to pose for this picture. The hair didn't get combed; why bother when you're going straight back to bed.

So begins Chloe's second year of university. She's arranged her schedule pretty nicely with time for a few shifts of work as well. She seems to be in her element at university and loves all the planning and organizing involved in a new routine.

Spencer starts grade 11. In spring, he decided to switch from the full IB program to the partial program for this year but the schedule he got doesn't reflect that. So he has a bunch of class changes to make and since he's the opposite of Chloe when it comes to planning and organizing, I can see him doing full IB just to avoid going to talk to someone to get it changed. I'm going to let that work itself out because I'd kind of like him to stick with full anyway.

Neve started her new school today. She was pretty nervous but I think it went okay. She was pretty sheltered and comfortable and confident at her old school so it will be a bit of an adjustment getting used to so many new things, including late French immersion. She has a couple of friends from her old school in her class and a bunch more in other classes. By next week, she'll probably be loving it.

I am in the midst of a very busy work week, with two evening sessions for the travel program. Tonight we had a packed room of about 60 people interested in our Japan trip (not nearly all of them will book, but it was an excellent turnout). This is one of our most expensive trips ever and the response has been overwhelming so far. I did not see that coming. The more I learn about planning trips, the less I realize I know.

For those of you with school aged kids, I hope it's off to a good start and everyone's happy!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Andy Lake 2017 - Part 2

It's my second post in two days! Making up for lost time and anticipating very little time for blogging ahead. 

This year for the first time, we spent a second week at our beloved Andy Lake. You're probably not as happy about this as I am since you now have to look at another entire post of lake pictures. I just can't help it - it's so beautiful there.

We've never gone in August before - never mind at the very end of August - and I was worried it would feel like fall. But we were lucky and the weather was very July-like right until the last day or two. As usual, we spent our days on the dock, reading and swimming and eating junk food. Our evenings were spent in the sauna, kayaking, watching movies, playing games and eating more junk. I accomplished something significant: I finally finished the Harry Potter series this week. I read the first book about seven years ago and spread out the series until now. It's definitely not because I couldn't bear for it to end; it's just really not my favourite. Things are always stressful and Harry is always in danger. Neve became obsessed with Harry Potter this summer and read the entire series in about six weeks. She encouraged/pestered me into finishing, which I'm glad I did because people always looked at me funny when I said I'd been on book 5 for over two years. As if reading it wasn't enough, we had to watch the movies almost every night. Again, not my favourite. The things I do for my kid(s).

Chloe spent the first half of the week with us before heading back on Wednesday to work. Just like last time, it was sad when she left but I'm thankful she could spend four days with us.

My parents came to visit one afternoon. (My dad and Ron Swanson above) 

We cooked better meals than we usually do at the cabin, or at home for that matter. The favourites were portobello mushroom burgers with chick pea sauce and a cheesy perogy casserole. 

A pre-requisite game-playing photo. Spencer had to be forced, bribed and/or threatened to play games with us this time. That got tiresome so this was a rare moment of participation.

Neve decided to re-create her summer camp tradition of a morning polar bear swim. So every single morning, first thing she did was jump into the lake. I joined her every day except one, and Dale and Chloe each did it once. It was a great way to wake up and kick start the day.

Neve was looking forward to seeing the kittens again and at first things looked grim. There were no kittens in the garage where they were last time, and even worse, there were several tails lying around. We feared the worst but then later that day, all kittens were accounted for and Neve spent a very happy week in the company of her furry friends. The dismembered tails disappeared and remain a mystery to this day. Neve tried very hard to convince me to let her take a kitten home but I hardened my heart and stood firm.

Neve named this kitten Despacito

Things were winding down at the resort so it was a pretty quiet week. It often felt like we had the place completely to ourselves. It's so beautiful and so, so relaxing. I try to appreciate every minute because I know things change and the older kids may have summer jobs next year that might make it tricky to come and a lot can change in a year. But we'll do whatever we can to keep this tradition going.

But for now, here are the last three Andy Lake photos you'll have to see (until next year).


Sunday, September 03, 2017

Here comes the bride

I thought I had posted the below entry before I left for the lake last weekend. But somehow that didn't happen. So rather than take the time to edit and bring it up to date, here is a week-old blog post.


It's getting a little harder to keep telling myself there are still "weeks" of summer left. I hate the cooler nights, the yellow leaves on the ground (there's a certain type of tree that is already losing its leaves and I'd like to chop down all those trees in the night), pumpkin ice cream at Sargent Sundae and pots of fall mums. Don't you DARE talk to me about sweater weather and warm lattes; I can't be held responsible for what I might do. Maybe that's what all those stupid terrorists are so mad about. That's not even funny. But I'm trying to stay positive. That being said, I feel like there are a lot of things bugging me right now so it's almost time for a good negative post. I'll save that for another day.

I'm way behind on blog updates. I still have a half-written post about Croatia that will probably never make its way on here. Now that I've said that, I have a renewed passion to finish it after all. I've hardly even mentioned my niece's wedding and now my nephew is also suddenly married. One of Dale's nephews got engaged recently as well. Life does not stand still.

It's too overwhelming to catch up on everything so I'll throw in bits and pieces in shorter blog entries. Maybe. I don't like to commit to anything in summer.  And it's still summer!!

So here's a super quick review of my niece's wedding at the beginning of July ...

The bride taking a break on a set-up day 

Ever since Bailey was little, she always dreamed of a wedding at my parents' yard in the country. Sometimes dreams don't work out, but this one did. Not without a lot of hard work; an outdoor wedding in someone's yard is not for the faint of heart. Unlike getting married at a venue that holds weddings every weekend, every single detail from plates to port-a-potties needs to be taken care of which is pretty hard to do when you've never done it before. Janet and Bailey did an unbelievable job of planning and organizing and fortunately as time goes by, the little glitches fade into the background and the good, happy, perfect things rise to the top. I went out to help a couple of times the week of the wedding and it was fun to hang out with family while working on stuff.

The weather could not have been more perfect. It was warm and sunny with no wind. It was actually sweltering sitting in the hot afternoon sun during the ceremony; I was dripping with sweat. But I love heat so I will never complain about being sweaty and sticky.

My parents' yard is always beautiful in the summer but for the wedding, it was downright magical. It was so cool to see all the chairs and tent and decorations set up, never mind the 200 people who came to help celebrate. The next three pictures make it look like there were no guests, but they came later! I took no pictures during the ceremony because the professional photographer didn't need any help from me and my iPhone. But I didn't even get any really good ones of Darrin and Bailey, which I regret. Again, I'm sure the professional photographer has that covered.

Bailey was a beautiful bride and her groom looked dashing as well. Her dress was stunning on her and she looked so happy and radiant.

Tia also looked gorgeous as a bridesmaid - her hair and makeup were so on point I almost didn't recognize her. Not that she doesn't always look good of course; she just doesn't always wear that much makeup and have fancy hair.

The ceremony was short and beautiful, followed by dinner in a tent. There was a photo booth, outdoor games people could play, and ended with a dance under the stars and fairy lights.

The happy couple
Parents of the bride
Grandparents of the bride
Aunt & Uncle of the bride. These two made themselves very useful leading up to the wedding. They may be victims of their own success; now they'll be expected to do the same for all their other nieces and nephews' weddings.
Another aunt & uncle of the bride. These two just can't stop with the PDAs. 

Tia rocking her speech

Neve and her little cousins were flower girls/ring girl.
Shout-out to the hairdresser at Freshair who styled Neve's poker-straight hair into curls that lasted ALL day.

Giant Jenga game

The photo booth was a hit. There was a competition between the siblings and the in-laws (or out-laws), which I think the siblings won.

And there's our Christmas card picture. FYI those leaves are not yellow - the sun was setting and was reflected in the trees! I feel that it's very important to clarify that.

It all seems like a long time ago now. It really was an awesome day and it gets even better as time goes on! It was pretty special having a party like that in my childhood yard.

My nephew's wedding will have to wait for another day. Also, I don't really have much information on it since all I got was a picture text two days after it happened! It was basically an elopement which totally suits him and his new wife and we're all very, very happy for them. They are a great match and there's an little boy involved that we're all pretty crazy about too. I would have loved to see my sister-in-law Joan's reaction to the news. I'm pretty sure there were extra sunbeams of radiance from heaven that day, except I don't remember because I didn't even know a wedding was happening that day.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer bucket list

I copied an idea from Chloe and made myself a summer bucket list. I actually don’t love the words “bucket list” because it’s so over-used and “kick the bucket” isn’t my favourite way to refer to death. But since I haven’t thought of anything more clever, bucket list it is. 

I stole some of Chloe’s to-do items and some I thought of all by myself. They are all things that I’ve talked about doing for a long time, but for one reason or another, just never happened… inconvenience, laziness, or just not making it a priority. You know how things often sound like a good idea in advance but then when it comes down to it, it’s just easier not to go. Hence the list! I stuck it on my fridge so I won’t forget and have been slowly ticking off items. I’ve done pretty good with several still left to go…

Biking to my parents
I plastered Instagram with pics of my bike journey but here they are again in case you didn’t already see them. Dale and I have talked about doing this for a few years, but somehow summer slips away and then fall gets busy and then it gets put on the shelf for next year. We finally made it happen and it was way easier than we thought it would be. Years ago as teenagers, my friend Vonda and I biked from Rosenort to Assiniboine Park, and then Dale and I biked from Winnipeg to Rosenort a few years later. Both times, zero training was done. I think it was the first time on a bike that year in both cases. We had to bike for miles on gravel roads in the heat of the day and I’m sure we didn’t take water. I remember there being exhaustion and regret (more so in the trip Dale & I did). 

In the 25 years since then, my mind possibly exaggerated the difficulty of the ride and I viewed it as a monumental undertaking. We planned ahead. We didn’t train, but I ride my bike fairly regularly (Dale not so much). We left early so we’d be done by noon. We brought full water bottles and stopped halfway at Rob & Gab’s in La Salle to refill them. And it was easy! It was a perfect day - no wind and sunny and warm but not too hot. There were some long, not-very-exciting stretches but even then, the sights and sounds were pretty cool. I could have done with a little less roadkill though. Best of all, I have a brand new bike that is so much faster and lighter than my old one. It was only the second time I’d ridden it and it was awesome. The total distance was about 65 km, which isn’t really that far. It took us 3 hours and 22 minutes, but we could have done it faster. I stopped quite a few times to take pictures. 

My sister-in-law Jean is visiting from Florida and she went for a bike ride around the city that same morning and ended up biking the same distance as we did! And here we were feeling all proud and amazed about ourselves. Although Jean runs marathons and bikes very long distances so to be able to even compare ourselves to her in this one situation is pretty impressive.

This is a dirt bike jump near my parents. It looks ridiculously treacherous in real life and I can't imagine anyone actually trying it. The "Take at own risk" has been added recently. I feel like that goes without saying.

Yesterday, Janet and I went on another long bike ride to Beaudry Park in Headingly. There was a path the whole way: we took the Harte Trail to the Perimeter Hwy and after that things got a bit rougher but it wasn’t too bad. The whole thing was about 50 km. It was another gorgeous day and it was a lot of fun. I should’ve put that on my bucket list. I might add it just to check it off.

Speaking of biking, I recently read an article about this Canadian woman who bikes all over the world, often completely on her own. Now THAT”s crazy. But also very, very impressive. 

Aschenti Chocolate
Since chocolate is my favourite food, I’d been wanting to check out this place on Corydon ever since I read about it a while ago. They import beans from Cameroon and do the grinding and chocolate-making process all on-site. They sell a bunch of different flavoured bars, all with a few basic ingredients. The girls and I went and they owner was lovely. She gave us different samples and explained the whole process. They’re trying to bring across the message that chocolate can be a healthy food, not just candy. I really like that message. We bought a few bars and have been enjoying them in moderation, not only because they’re expensive compared to a Kit Kat, but also because you don’t need much to satisfy your taste buds. I often need just a little something sweet and one square of this is perfect. 

First Fridays
This is an event in the Exchange District on the first Friday of every month. Shops are open later and they have different things going on. This time they had a pop-up market in a back alley with different farmers-market type of vendors, which was really cool. We explored a few shops in old buildings and took the creaky stairs to the top - my favourite part. I didn’t feel like going last Friday but Chloe pushed it because it was on both of our lists and I’m glad I went. 

This is a new-ish coffee shop/bar in the Exchange that has a rooftop patio in the summer. So Blake & Kristin and Dale & I went one night. We took the stairs up several floors; it looked like we were going nowhere when suddenly we step onto this tiny, crowded patio. All eyes swivelled in our direction. Sadly I don’t think it was because we looked so awesome (which we did) but because we were old enough to be everyone’s parents. There was no one else over 28 (I know, that’s very precise). We tried to act super cool to make up for our age, but it didn’t help when Dale went to the bar to ask for a menu and found out this place is way too trendy to have a menu. They offered ONE type of cocktail, ONE type of beer (a Chinese one for some reason?!), and ONE type of wine, and no food. It made the decision easy. We sipped our ONE type of drink while looking at the city around us. It felt super urban and cool and it was pretty fun. 

If this pose looks a little awkward to you, you don't understand how tiny and full this patio was and how squished we were. But we're happy!

Unfortunately we were still hungry afterward so we went to La Roca and had appies and drinks and visited with Colonel Sanders, which is as weird as it sounds. It was a great night.

Neve and I had been drooling over the commercials for the Triple Truffle blizzard but when we got around to going to DQ, it was no longer available. Apparently it was the blizzard of the month last month. Instead we had the Salted Caramel one, and it just so happened to coincide with the Children’s Hospital charity day, so that was a bonus.

Yoga in the Park
There’s a free yoga class every Wednesday at 6:45 a.m. in Assiniboine Park. I’ve gone twice this year; the first time was really good except the teacher’s mic wasn’t working and the background music was really loud so it made it hard to hear. That part was much better the second time but it started raining lightly halfway through the class (this Wednesday) and kept increasing in intensity until the teacher ended things early. I had to bike home in the rain but a long hot shower warmed me up. I might try again next week.

Stay tuned for an update on the remaining items. I don’t think they’ll all happen but I’ll do my best.

In other news, we’ve been doing yard work. Ever since our play structure left the yard, we’ve had a rectangular area filled with sand and pebbles. Meanwhile, the grass under the trampoline was scraggly and ugly, so we decided to switch the two. We dug up the dirt and grass from the under-trampoline area and moved them to the former play structure site. Simultaneously, we shovelled the pebbles and sand and moved them under the trampoline (we moved the trampoline first!). That wasn’t as easy as it sounds. 

I ordered a load of 1/4 down to even out the area under the trampoline and there was enough left to cover the parking spot in the back too. I also got a couple of yards of mulch to refresh all the flower beds and space under our big front yard evergreens. All we need to do now is plant grass where the play structure used to be and plant some shrubs and flowers against the fence. You can see a glimpse of our work-in-progress in this picture:

We had Dale’s family over for his mom’s birthday yesterday. It was a beautiful evening - the weather this summer has been amazing (except for the rained-out yoga class) - so we took the dining room table outside and set it up on the grass. We put up lights and candles and built a fire later. It was a great evening.

All the grandchildren except Amy, who's working in Ontario

Keep on summering!