This past weekend we hosted a brunch for friends of ours. They got to see our house and we got to meet their adorable 5 month old baby girl. We had good conversation and food, and I took a few pictures of the table beforehand. I used the florals I did for my grandpa's 90th birthday (post HERE) to complete the decor. Here's just a bit of Saturday morning pretty:
Note to self - use tripod to avoid crazy angled photos...I can't take a straight picture freehand if my life depends on it!
Today we had a great celebration of my grandpa Charlie's 90th birthday (his actual birthday is in a few weeks). Here are a few pictures from the day:
Beautiful argyle birthday cake made by Kat Makes Cakes (delicious too!)
If her website doesn't work, you can find her on Facebook under katrina Salvador
Florals (my brother Adam took this one!)
This one is better. Typical Andrew.
Mom and grandpa
Grandpa and his 3 kids - his fav team is the Roughriders
(Wow my dress is inappropriate short with a bump)
Aunt Andrea with grandpa and dad
His first born
And the baby giving a great speech
My grandpa spoke so well! I love his stories.
Mom's cousin John (grandpa's nephew on the paternal side) spoke about his dad and grandpa
Mom's cousin Marian (grandpa's niece on the maternal side)
Family photos and albums from so many family members
Grandpa with his cake
Now for some randoms...
Movember growth...halfway done
(Matt can't do it this year because he has to wear a respirator at work in certain areas when he travels and you need to be clean shaven to get a complete seal)
Andrew, just because he likes to be on the blog.
This year, my brother Adam and his wife Jessica threw another Halloween Party. Jess' birthday is on the 30th (Happy 29th sister in law!), and so they've had many celebrations in the past few years, like this one from two years ago. I honestly didn't take many pictures of the party, since I left at 11 p.m. My feet were actually killing me, it wasn't the exhaustion, but my drive home I felt it kick in so I'm glad I left when I did. If people have pictures, send them to me and I'll add them here!
I love all the juxtaposiiton of their decor - beautiful straws and gory eyeballs
Blood and spiders and Kate Spade coasters (which I think I gave her)
Tiny skulls and glowing West Elm tree laterns
A gorgeous mirror in a sitting room with bloody hand prints
Lacey black making the front hallway eerie - see? Halloween doesn't have to be tacky!
Birthday Monster cupcakes I made for Jessica - Devil's Food cupcakes with buttercream
I used the Wilton grass tip for the hairy effect
My brother, the zombie. (Jess was Katniss but I didn't get a picture)
I also got to dress up my bump a bit - nothing crazy, but here it is:
Daytime - Skeleton baby (a girl!)
Last year a few girls from work, Marta, Dawn and I, headed to Marta's family cottage in Barrys Bay. I woke up one morning to a beautiful sunrise and spent an hour capturing these photos.
We went back this year, and while it was much more dreary and cloudy, I still took a little time to take a few pictures in the evening before the sun went down. Here's what I got (excuse the number of pics, I was just playing around with camera settings!):
Kit Lens Pics
50 mm Lens Pics
This year Thanksgiving was split between the farm in the afternoon with my family and the evening with Matt's family. Matt went to Indiana to see a Notre Dame game with his brother, dad, and uncle, so I met him at his families in the evening.
Ahh the farm - nice big open space in the country.
Aunt Yvonne with the newest addition, little Blake, my cousin's son.
Nice enough to stand around outside. Everyone pay attention to Jessica, haha.
Mom and I in navy (OMG I look huge here!)
Adam and mom
He's so photogenic.
Mom and Ashlin (aka my cousin Melissa's clone # 1)
Now to Oakville - teeny tiny Notre Dame jersey for little baby boy or girl.
PS - Matt and I match, haha, not planned.
Beautiful table setting and yummy 3-squash soup!
20 weeks - half way done!
A few pictures from the boys weekend in Indiana
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I know that I had so much to be thankful for.
The weekend before Thanksgiving Meg and I went over to Matt's grandma's house (Momma) to learn how to make pie crust and pies, in general. I know I could have just googled it, but she's been making pies for a long time and it was a nice afternoon to spend together.
32 apples. I still have some in the freezer to use.
Pie recipe (crust is on another page I think)
Momma mixed the dough while we peeled a sliced apples.
That's a lot of McIntosh apple slices!
Rolling out the dough as thin as possible
Getting thin dough into the pie plate without tearing is a two-person job!
Cutting off the extra edges
I'm sorry do you think pies are healthy? Crisco/lard/butter crust, sugar and more butter on top?
Mmm delicious though.
Cinnamon and drops of butter cover the sugar before the top crust gets done.
Meg is creasing the edges to make it all pretty
The finished (uncooked) product!
Pie # 2 is underway (we were pros by then)
Decided to try a basket weave top this time.
Baking is messy.
First pie (right) cooked, second pie ready to go (though I cooked it at home later in the week - left it frozen in my fridge until Thanksgiving, along with 2 other apple pies).
We also did pumpkin with ready-made crust. And pumpkin tarts - so cute!
And even more adorable with some whipped cream on top (at Thanksgiving dinner).
Oh yeah and I "outed" myself by posting this picture on IG and FB, not realizing how "bump obvious" I was looking.
Yep, we're expecting! Due at the end of February - pretty excited!!!
So this was our tree a week ago in the morning. Looks perfectly normal...
All green and leafy and summery
But this is what it looks like on the other side...rotted...so they told us it needs to come down.
There's a lot more to the story of how we found this out but it just makes me mad so I won't get into it.
We used Tree Doctors and this was our first guy out in the morning.
And it begins. Piece by piece.
They were really careful (as much as they could be) not to disturb the neighbours.
That was just the small branches.
So lonely looking without branches!
Our great crew!
Most of our tree is in there!!!
Hacking away at the pieces to put in the truck
The next day...with damage. 1 hole in fence and in shed (they will fix that). 1 big dent in ground...which they said they couldn't fix as it wasn't covered. That was annoying as they told us that day it WOULD be fixed for us. They also still need to come back and clean up a bit this week.
So overall Tree Doctors did a great job. They finished everything in 10 hours! They scaled the tree, they brought things down carefully, they worked really hard, and they were very friendly. Their quote was about half the cost of a few other places that were recommended to us. As I mentioned, they are fixing the damage to the wood, but they won't do the stone, so please be aware of that. No real way around it in a small space with a big tree anyway! I should also mention that they organized everything beforehand as well - they sent an arborist out, they submitted all the paperwork to the city, they scheduled everything once we heard from the city (about 10 weeks due to the ice storm backlog this year), and kept us informed as the actual day progressed.
We are also planning to plant a sugar maple in the corner by next year (as we must) to replace our sadly missing tree.
For the longest time I've wanted to paint the front door. It's a nice solid oak, and I love the knots and veins, and I didn't want to lose them. We decided to go for it, and here are the pictures:
Before: old picture of the door from about 2 years ago
Taping it up
Removed all the hardware too
There was a lot...good ol' Toronto house with 2 locks on all doors.
Ready to go!
Primed! We used an indoor/outdoor oil-based primer because it weathers better. It stunk like crazy - I had to leave. Luckily as soon as the first coat of latex was on you couldn't smell it anymore.
A few hours later and we were ready for our paint!
This is Benjamin Moore latex outdoor paint in Marine Blue - it has a glossy finish. There are 3 levels of sheen for outdoor and you usually want something pretty glossy for the front door. It makes it pop and it cleans well.
Okay this terrified me after 1 coat - it's NEON.
Also - like my old Women's health magazines used to tape up the window?
Definitely going to take a few coats!
Okay, now for the second coat, which was done the next morning.
We kept the door open with the screen closed until about 11 pm so it could dry as much as possible.
Second coat done - definitely going to need one more!
And 3 coats are done! Love that I can still see the grain of the wood.
We also sealed up the letter box as it was a bit open and without the screen would let winter weather in (COLD).
As usual, my photo-editing address-removal skills are incredible, haha.
It's definitely bright, though it doesn't seem this bright in real life.
Still need to take some inside pictures with natural light.
Problem a few days later - the white paint from the frame is transferring to our door...weird.
It's way worse now than it was when I took this picture.
We removed the weather stripping which we thought was causing it, but nope. Going to have to figure that one out.
Next project - remove the screen door permanently and fix the door frame. Also re-paint all the trim around the door and window. Next Spring we'll also strip the paint from the porch and stain it well, as the brown paint that's on it from the old owners is majorly chipping. I also need to get some Fall mums, though the geraniums in the planter are still growing like crazy and I never remember to water them.
But for now, I'm happy with my Marine Blue door!
On the Europe trip there was a lot of travelling - 2 plane rides and 8 train trips plus waiting around them all. I read 10 books and a few more the week after when I recovered from my travels at the cottage. Anyone who knows me well knows I love to read. Unfortunately during the school year my "reading" is in the form of audiobooks, on my 40-minute journey to and from work each day. That still counts as reading, I guess, but usually on my drive I'm looking for a series of books that will last several months. During the summer or any school break I devour books. So anyway, the books I have read recently, in no particular order (the order that's on my Kobo):
The coolest bookstore ever, in Paris
1. The Rise & Fall of Great Powers - Tom Rachman
This book started off very confusing - 3 timelines about the life of a girl from childhood to her mid-thirties. She has a pretty crazy life and all the supporting characters are really interesting. I can see this book being studied in school one day. It's a bit depressing at times but it has a nice ending.
2. The Book of Unknown Americans - Cristina Henriquez
This was a book I couldn't put down. Basically it's about the different families living in an apartment complex who are all immigrants from Latin American countries. You really are hoping the characters get what they need the whole book. Some stories are happy and others are not, and they are all woven together. An interesting look at what it's like to move to a foreign country and try to fit in and get by. Definitely recommend this one.
3. The Emperor of Paris - CS Richardson
This was another book with multiple story lines woven together. I bought a few centered around Paris. This one was okay - some characters I liked more than others, but it has a nice ending and the scenes the book paints are great.
4. The One & Only - Emily Giffin
Emily Giffin is one of those authors that I use as a go-to for beachy summer reads. Of course you probably know her writing from "Something Borrowed" and "Something Blue" - books that I think we all read in university. This one was actually a bit more of a mature theme for her writing - a book about a woman and the love she has for her friend's father. A bit of a taboo topic and sometimes you'll be cringing a bit with the thought but the characters really get to you.
5. The Harem Midwife - Roberta Rich
This is a sequel to "The Midwife of Venice" - once again following the journey of a midwife helping families with the birth of babies. The first book had a bit more in the way of midwifery, but I liked this book too. Always a dire situation that seems like it won't end well but does. This time the ending is even happier!
6. If I Stay - Gayle Forman
I just saw a preview for this book as a movie. Had no clue when I read it, and now idea of how it will translate to film as it is quite a short book. It's about a girl who gets into a car accident with her whole family and only she survives - in a coma she has to decide whether she wants to live or die. It goes back to various points in her life to tell the story of her family and friends, and also them at the hospital visiting her. Very teenage love story - very sweet.
7. The Painted Girls - Cathy Marie Buchanan
This was another Parisian book about two sisters living in Paris around the turn of the century and trying to survive as ballet girls with little money. I loved reading this one because there were so many sites mentioned that we visited in Paris, and the story is well-told. Definitely recommend this one.
8. The Winter Witch - Paula Brackston
I love a little paranormal fiction every once in a while, but at least this one is more of the adult variety versus the teenager stuff that's all over the place (though I'm guilty of reading many of those too). This one is about a young woman who does not speak who gets married to a man and moves to his village in Wales. You soon learn that she has a few magical gifts but she's not the only one in her new home. It's a "good versus evil" story with a little magic and a generally sweet story.
9. Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
As with "Gone Girl", Dark Places is another book that I couldn't put down. Even darker that her first, this book will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. About a girl who's family is supposedly murdered by her brother - flashes between her mom and brother on the day leading up to the murders, and her about 25 years later. Did her brother really do it? Read and find out - and seriously - you will not turn out the lights before you finish this book - it's very addictive.
10. Three Sisters - Susan Mallory
This is a nice beachy summer read where you wish that you lived in a quaint seaside town where you had all the money in the world to renovate a gorgeous house and just happen to have an even more gorgeous contractor helping you along the way. Very easy read and perfect for summer.
11. Bossypants - Tina Fey
I have wanted to read this for a while. At first I was going to get it on audiobook because I hear Tina Fey's voice throughout the book anyway, but I wanted it for when I went away and it was honestly less expensive this way. Her book is hilarious. I read this on the train from London to York and I was giggling the whole time - people were giving me looks. Highly recommended!
12. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? - Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling is funny in a different way from Tina Fey. I have a hard time separating her from Kelly Kapour or Mindy from her show, and her book is sort of funny in a silly, random way. A fun read - just like talking to a girlfriend.
13. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain
Another that took me a while to get around to, but I really liked it. My husband is a bit obsessed with Hemingway and other authors of that time (not surprising this occurred after seeing "Midnight in Paris"), and so reading this book showed me a bit about Hemingway's life (did you know he lived in Toronto for a while?) and his first wife, Hadley. If you know anything about him you know that they don't end up together in the end - writers are difficult - but it's still an interesting story.
14. 12 Years a Slave - Solomon Northup
I refused to watch the movie until I read the book, and now that I have I'm not sure I need to see the movie. The book was really good. An honest account of Solomon's life after being kidnapped and sold into slavery, though he is actually a free man. I know most have probably seen the movie, but the book is worth reading.
15. Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan
This book is hilarious and just great. An interesting look at how the lives of the rich and famous Asians are and how an american may not exactly fit in well to that world. Definitely recommend.
Book Recommendations from Audiobooks
- Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon - Davina Porter is an incredible narrator and these books are amazing. What makes an amazing narrator? Someone who changes their voice depending on the characters and you don't need to listen to "Jamie said" to know who is speaking. Davina Porter does this. She can sound like Claire one second with her English accent and then flip to Jamie's highland Scot's accent and you just get lost in his dreaminess. I read the first few when I was younger but wanted to re-read and so glad I did. I just finished "Written in My Own Heart's Blood" and loved it. Can't wait for the series on Starz to air this Sunday!
- Harry Potter series by JK Rowling - Jim Dale once again is an amazing narrator. Obviously we've seen the movies but I read this series after only the third movie had come out and have read it again at least twice since.
- Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris - I read a few books once again before True Blood came out. The first few books are better than the later ones, but they are a fun supernatural read about Sookie and all her vampire, ware, shifters, witches, fairies, etc.
- Anything by Phillipa Gregory - whether it be the Cousin's war or the Tudor line - her books are just great. I was in love with the sites and palaces in and around London because of her.
Other Series I'm Less Proud to have Read on Audiobook
- 50 Shades series by EL James - definitely make sure your windows are rolled up when you are reading this and stopped at a red light.
- House of Night series by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast - silly highschool vampire school books.
- Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - more supernatural silliness.
- City of Bones series by Cassandra Clare - I'm still going to read the one that just came out, though.
- Divergent series by Veronica Roth - the first movie was actually pretty good too!
- Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins - I actually liked these books, and I get all excited about the movies.
- Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer - this was the second series I read after Harry Potter - great for the trip to and from school way back in 2008. Now they seem silly looking back on it.
The south of France is absolutely beautiful, especially on the east coast. We took the train to Nice and cabbed it to Villefranche. My brother recommended a cab because of the hills, but you can take a train there for 6 euros (total) and it's a 5 minute walk to the hotel instead of the 50 euro cab ride. We took the train at the end when we went back to Nice (recommendation fail, Adam). What he did recommend well was staying in Villefranche instead of Nice. We actually spend no time in Nice at all - looked like a nice city, but we wanted to be away a bit from that and Villefranche was perfect. We were right at a harbour and close to Eze and Monaco by train or bus. You could also easily take the train to Cannes if you wanted.
View from our balcony of all the pretty boats
Sunset on the harbour. When we got there (around 4) we went right to the public beach just around the bay. It was nice to just sit in the sun and swim in the warm water for an hour or so before we headed back. Just what I needed.
Day 11 iPhone - hotel room at the Welcome Hotel in Villefranche (my brother and Jess stayed here on their honeymoon in 2012 and recommended it to us - it was great - right on the water and central to all the restaurants), the view from our balcony, dinner at L'Aparte on the street right behind our hotel - delicious, a little friend who stayed by me in hopes I would drop food (I named him Bouton), and me waiting for Matt to finish taking pictures.
On the walk to Beaulieu sur Mer to catch a bus to Eze - pretty flowers
Church in Beaulieu
This is St. Jean/Cap Ferat - a very exclusive place for yachts and to vacation in the south of France
Beaulieu would also be a nice quiet escape in lieu of Villefranche but there are less restaurants, though there are more Michelin-starred quite expensive ones in St. Jean.
We took the bus (#100) to Eze village (which is different than Eze sur Mer - by the sea) - this is up on a hill and the church is about half-way up to the very top.
At the top at Les Jardins Exotique - cacti!
Yeah okay let's everyone "summer" here next year!
Matt took all these garden ones - I hate that he's so much better than me without trying, haha.
I think Matt liked the colours in this picture?
On the way back to Villefranche
Day 12 iPhone - Beautiful streets in Eze, view from one side of Eze, our street at sunset.
I sort of had a meltdown on the way home from Eze - it took over an hour for our bus, the connecting bus drove right by us so we had to walk 45 mins home, all while I really had to pee but none of the pay bathrooms were working and I was just exhausted. We ordered room service and relaxed this night, haha, I did not want to leave.
Last day we went to Monaco - this place was just incredible...I wonder who lives here?
Walking through the gardens to the Monte Carlo casino
Hotel beside the casino - looks fancy!
Here it is - I thought there would be more of a grand staircase out front.
Lots of business and hotels in this city
More hotel views
Walked down to the harbour
Yachts - so many boats!
This is more my type of boat - a luxury sail versus a floating hotel.
Genetic research pays!
All the Monte Carlo hotels on the water
Sainte Devote chapel in the middle of all the high-rises of Monte Carlo
Back up to the casino lawn - view the sky!
Hermitage Hotel Monte Carlo - seen this in a lot of movies.
Day 13 iPhone - views of the sea from Matt's last run (he ran once in each place we visited - 6 times over 2 weeks is pretty good - I brought no workout clothes or shoes), me reading on the balcony in the morning (thank goodness for my Kobo because I read 9 books while away), 2 cruise ships in the harbour, yachts in Monte Carlo, the Monte Carlo Casino (Casino Royale!), a geeky concave/convex mirror shot for my science students, our hotel - Hotel welcome, drinks and nibbles on the patio, a few "last night in Villefranche" shots, gelato love, and random fireworks just outside our balcony to end off a great few days in the south of France.