"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

I know I said "blog like no one is reading" but it's nice to know these people are

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Books of 2011

Okay, this is by no means a complete list but I thought it would be fun to try to list them by those read digitally on my Kobo and those in actual book form. More an exercise for myself as anyone else. My bookshelves are less crowded but I'm definitely not spending any less money (when will libraries get the rights to lend ebooks?) I was speaking to our local bookseller before Christmas and was not only she being hurt by the lack of snow (no tourists or skiers coming in to browse or buy) but because of ebooks she said that now, instead of ordering two or three of the bestsellers in hardcover she was only stocking one. I am as much to blame as the next bookworm. It is just way too easy to sit at home or anywhere else with wifi and download a book and especially the ones I read like some people go through a bag of chips in one sitting (see The Fever Series) and a few others I will only admit to here but I did buy my most favourite book of 2011 in hardback from her (see this post). The other downside is that you can't lend them to your friends but you can read my reviews for some of these on my GoodReads page which is linked to on the right under "I Just Finished"

Read in Book Form

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Best Laid Plans and The High Road by Terry Fallis

Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Read on Kobo

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers

Still Life and Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

A Whole Bunch of Very Funny Books by Jen Lancaster

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee

Another Bunch of Books by Elin Hilderbrandt

Confessions of A Bad Mother by Stephanie Calman

The Evolution of Jane by Cathleen Schine

Books I Started but Could Not Finish (digitally or otherwise)

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Illusions by Richard Bach

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain (One of the 100 or so that came pre-loaded which I haven't read)

Wow, that's a rather telling list isn't it? There are a few more that obviously aren't memorable enough for me to, well, remember. Seven real books versus over fifteen ebooks. Hmmm ... guess my dream of opening a bookstore one day isn't meant to be.

Funniest book ever from my funniest (and only) sister!
Check out it out here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Little Drummer Boy

This has always been one of my least favourite Christmas songs but I love this young man from Winnipeg's very Canadian version.

“People have been asking... so, yes, I played all the parts, sang, arranged and recorded the whole thing. I had my sister run the camera for specific shots, then I edited the video and posted it here!”
~ Sean Quigley

I hope you all have a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Words to live by

After stumbling across this I decided I have to sign up for the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop next spring. Started filling out the application two days ago but didn't finish and all the spots were filled yesterday. I have to be willing to take more risks and think less about doing it. I'll try to get in on the wait list.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Construction and Creation

Every year the kids and my Other Half build a Gingerbread House from a package but this year Number One Son found a recipe and instructions to build a Ski Chalet and so we decided to give it a try.

Step One - Baking

Step Two - Assembly

Step Three - Decoration

More blanket pillows

Santa's Little Helpers at the Parade

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Barefoot in the Snow

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

- Albert Camus

Friday, December 2, 2011

And, once again, I lost it

Last night as I was lying beside Number Two son before he went to sleep he dropped a bomb. This is his MO every night. He desperately wants me to "sleep with him" and when the boys were little this was my favourite time of day, I would lie next to them in their beds and fall into that wonderful half wake/half asleep place where you are warm and cozy and relaxed. The downside was that sometimes I would really fall asleep and then have to wake myself up to go get into my own bed where I would then be wide awake for the next hour or so but still it was nice. Now? it's a nightmare of demands from all three boys but Number Two has raised it to an art form. There are three kids (what were we thinking?) and only two parents. Numbers One and Two generally get into bed around the same time but I usually start by lying with Number One Son because he is younger, is ready first and calms down more easily than his middle brother. This is a sticking point, of course because although No. 2 doesn't like going to bed at the same time as his little brother he also doesn't me lying with him first. Problem with the logistics? Yes but, of course, he wants his cake and be able to sleep with it too.

So back to last night, my Other Half lay with No. 3 while I went into No. 2's room steeling myself for whatever issues might come up this time. It started out fine until he said, "I don't want to go to Vermont." Now he and I are going skiing with his team for a week, something he has been looking forward to for months. He counts the days off on the calendar and he has already started packing. Where the hell did this come from?

I took a deep breath and asked, "Why?"
"I just don't want to go now," he replied. Sticking his face into the pillow to hide.
Again, breathing deeply, I asked, "Why?"

Nothing. Now I was getting mad. He has been bugging us about ski trips and camps and everything else under the sun. His Christmas list reads like Best Buy catalogue and he has demanded everything under the sun from guitar lessons to workout classes which he does for a while and then gives up. I couldn't believe he was now saying he didn't want to miss school for a week to go skiing with his friends. He had already complained about the fact that we were driving with another mother and her son and sharing a condo with them to cut down on the expense and we would be making our own meals instead of eating out which had not endeared him to me. YOU ARE GOING TO MISS SCHOOL TO GO SKIING! What else do you want?

So now, ten days before we leave, you don't want to go? Huh? I lost it. Yelled about how ungrateful he is and how we don't have to go or maybe I would take one of his brothers instead. Finally he said, "I don't want to go because we have to play hockey and I don't even know how to skate and everyone is going to laugh at me."

This is when I should have calmed down, been understanding and made him feel better about his legitimate, if slightly ridiculous, concern. But I didn't. Instead I left the room and told his father to go in and explain why playing hockey while on a ski trip was going to be fun and not everyone will know how to play and it certainly isn't a reason not to go. He did all this and No. 2 calmed down somewhat and I did go back in and tried to be sympathetic but in the end I went to bed mad at myself, mad at my son for making me mad and generally feeling like once again I had let everyone down.

It's so hard. Right now it feels like there is no upside to this whole parenting gig and with Christmas around the corner the stakes are even higher. We are supposed to be fostering peace and goodwill towards all men and I can't stand the three junior versions I live with. I should be looking forward to decorating the tree and being together as a family and all I can think about is running away. My Other Half is incredible and he steps in when he knows I am going to lose it but what I need to do is break a really bad pattern that has developed around our house. One of jumping to conclusions, anticipating that someone is going to say something hurtful and generally being a very grumpy mother most of the time.

I should look at this week away with only one boy as a pre-Christmas gift. We will have time together, one-on-one. We are travelling with a fun group and I will have some time on my own while the kids are skiing and I will only be cooking for two not five. My Other Half and Numbers One and Three will have a more laid back time without us in the mix. It may, in fact, be the best thing in a while for all of us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Getting Crafty

Two summers ago my mother sold her parents cottage and in the clean out process I came home with a bag of old wool blankets. I said then that I was going to turn them into pillows and now, two and a half years later I have. Hopefully I can post photos of the others that my grandmother wrote her name in black marker across the Hudson's Bay Company label on - twice. They are the perfect gift for my Mum and aunt who never want anything.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Simple Things - The First 25

I know this has been done many times before and has been and will be done in a much wittier or more creative way by others but it was a quiet day at work so here are my 25 simple things. Wish that I had the time to illustrate them with wonderful photos, maybe I will ... someday.

  1. Sleeping in a freshly made bed
  2. Opening the first page of a book I couldn't wait to read
  3. The first snowfall of the season
  4. Listening to my children laugh or sing together
  5. Laughing with my brother and sister
  6. Paddling through the morning mist on our lake
  7. Sitting on the dock with coffee, the paper and a warm sticky bun
  8. The smell of a wood fire burning on a cold night
  9. An unexpected message from a friend
  10. The smell and touch of a just bathed baby
  11. Galloping across a wide open field
  12. Peonies, daisies and lilacs
  13. Hearing the perfect song at the perfect time
  14. The quiet of sounds muffled at night by a blanket of snow
  15. The smell of freshly baked bread
  16. Looking at their baby pictures with my boys
  17. Being alone at the cottage
  18. Being with friends and family at the cottage
  19. Plain white china
  20. Fall colours, cozy sweaters and leather boots
  21. The smell of the barn - horses, leather and hay
  22. Afternoon naps on the porch in the summer
  23. Afternoon naps under a cozy duvet during the winter
  24. Seeing an elderly couple holding hands
  25. Hearing silence and discovering that everyone is reading
What are the simple things you love?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Look Ma! My hand

My lifelong dream to become a model was fulfilled this past August when my SIL, a very talented photographer (you can see her work here) asked me to model for Suetables. You can buy any or all of these wonderful bracelets here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

If ever I loved a book by its cover, this is it

I didn't wait for the paperback edition or buy it for my Kobo and I haven't even started reading it yet but I just know.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Monday Musings

Had a fun night out on Friday to celebrate a friend's birthday on 11-11-11. First there was a delicious dinner catered by Azzura (I will have to try to recreate the maple-glazed gnoochi) then we went out in search of a place to dance which up here in November isn't easy. We did make it to the pub where seven lovely women of a certain - shall we say middle - age were all told by the scruffy looking bouncer at the door that if at least one of us didn't have ID none of us were going in. Really? Of course not one of us had even brought a purse and carried nothing other than a credit card since we had very responsibly cabbed it over. We all looked at the barely post-adolescent man-child at the door and said, "Seriously?" It's November, shoulder season for the restaurants and bars in our resort area, the pub was empty and we were seven, count 'em, seven credit card-carrying women on a Girls Night Out. Finally he relented and said he's let us in that night but if we came back again we'd better have ID. It wasn't even flattering, just annoying and silly.

The place was quiet but by 11pm it started to fill up with people who should be asked for ID and the band was good. They got us up and dancing with some Stones covers and then jammed the floor with lots of great eighties tunes. But by midnight I was fading, only downside of cabbing over was that I either had to wait for the others to call it a night or pay for a cab by myself to get home. I began to pretend to drink my beer as the others kept downing theirs and I stayed out on the dance floor to make sure that I wasn't going to be too hungover in the morning. Most of the others were staying over at the birthday girl's place but I was going home and mornings still come bright (at least since the time change last weekend) and early with my kids. The strategy worked and we even scored a ride home with a friend so not only did the evening cost me next to nothing I really did feel fine the next day and I had a lot of fun. So (note to self) always dance at least 20 minutes for every drink consumed that way you burn off the calories and pre-empt the hangover. And that, I will point out the next time I'm asked for ID, is something you only learn with age.

A phone conversation with my mother gave me a bit of a pause when she asked how I was and I replied that I was a little blah but probably just pre-menstrual. She said, "Oh, you haven't started menopause then?" No, I hope I haven't. Of course, that isn't a conversation we have had at all and I guess, kind of like the one we had when I was 13, it should come sooner rather than later. So, instead of pursuing it with her, I went on-line and found this book to read instead. I'll let you know if it helps explain the blahs.

Another recent Amazon.ca purchase has been a real hit around our house. I am now an Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day convert. The only problem is that while it really doesn't take long to make - it takes even less time to eat! This afternoon I am going to show Number One Son (the big eater) how to make his own bread, but first I have to go and buy the 10 kilo bag of flour. I will post some fresh-baked pictures soon.

Number One Son made it home safely from Colorado and had an incredible time. As a friend of mine said, "Don't you wish you were your own kid?" Yup, skiing for ten days with friends, stalking Lindsey Vonn on and off the slopes, snowball fights in the hot tub, that's the life I want.

Still trying to figure out Twitter but really can't justify the time. I have a couple of friends and bloggers whom I follow but I just don't get the whole #hashtag thingy. And really, unless you're some famous person who has fans hanging on your every move then who needs to know what you are doing minute-by-minute in 142 characters. Or is is words?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Empty Fridge Syndrome

Kyran over at Planting Dandelions has written a very timely post for me. In it she talks about trying to set priorities in her home, family, work and the outside world. As a SAHM who works two days a week I find it very hard to prioritize these days. Especially since the number one thing at the top of my To Do List every day is grocery shop. As some of you may know I have three boys and while only the eldest has entered teendom recently he is already eating us out of the proverbial house and home. My days are spent worrying about what to feed him as he is an athlete in training and very concerned about the quality of the fuel he puts in his body - no junk food or other fast fill-me-ups, he expects meat or fish, vegetables and all in vast quantities. I buy carrots and potatoes in ten pound bags, pasta is the over-sized no name brand, multiple bags of milk (it is sold packaged in three one litre bags here in Ontario) and I have started to look more closely at the half-off meat section (I know, but I figure if it's good until two days later than I can freeze it right away and it will keep)

And this is only with one eating like a teenage boy. Because my Other Half and I were so regular in the reproductive cycle, our boys are exactly each two years apart from one another which mean when Number Three is 13, his brothers are 15 and 17 and all will still be at home. The eldest won't be off to university until he's 18 which means I have at minimum two years when I will be feeding them all and if any of them decide to apply a fabulous programme they offer at our high school which I sincerely hope they do, they could be home for a fifth year of high school.

Now math was never my strong suit but here is my attempt at the calculations (Beth, you can let me know if I am being overly optimistic)

3 boys - ages 13 to 18
5 years x 3 boys = 15 years of teenage boy appetites

I can't even begin to calculate the sheer volume of milk drunk, bread toasted, cereal bowls filled, steaks consumed, carrots and potatoes peeled. It staggers the mind.

So, as for the list of priorities?

  1. Re-join Costco
  2. Make friends with an egg and beef farmer
  3. Invest in a new bread machine
  4. Encourage the boys to go fishing after school (the salmon are running as I type in the river right at our doorstep)
  5. Teach them all to make scrambled eggs, spaghetti and grilled cheese to start

I have often said that I don't want to be the mother-in-law who my daughters-in-law hate so now is as good a time as any to start them in the kitchen, Number One Son has already mastered the BBQ and is learning to follow a recipe. Next stop? The laundry room. After all, it's all about priorities, right?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday, Monday. Can't trust that day

I have been on hold with Air Canada for the last 20 minutes trying to figure out why my son was charged $150 for his three bags while his friend who checked in at the next desk was charged $50 for the exact same number of bags with identical contents.

I had to drag Number Two Son out of bed this morning and force him to pack his things for a three day class trip to the Outdoor Education Centre. This is the kid who has gone to camp for a month for the past three summers but for some reason he didn't want to go even though the weather forecast is great and his older brother had a ball when he went in Grade 6.

My Other Half and I had a little couple time this weekend when my Dad took the two boys for Saturday night. We went all out, as old married couples do and rented a movie, got sushi and sat in front of the fire. Went to bed early and enjoyed the extra hour of sleeping in. And when we went to pick up the boys around 10am we found they had gone off on a adventure with their grandfather which consisted of driving down the highway looking for cool cars and ending up at the Bass Pro Outlet where they bought a giant stuffed fish. We went home and planted some bulbs, put away the boats, put compost on the vegetable garden and had lunch outside on a patio. Bliss for a few extra hours.

No riding this week as deer hunting season has started. Despite the gorgeous warm weather it's definitely not worth the risk of getting shot at by some yahoo who can't tell the difference between a rider on a horse and a white tail deer.

Numer One Son has called every evening and seems to be doing well despite some drama amongst his roomates. Apparently one of the boys has never been away from home and can't sleep so his solution is too keep everyone else up. His mother's solution is to move my son so her's can room with another boy. My solution? Don't send your son on a trip like this if he isn't ready to go.

I have now been on hold for 35 minutes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

And he's off

Number One Son and his Dad in Colorado - age 6

I'm up at an ungodly hour because my Other Half and Number One Son left an hour ago to head to the airport. He is off on his first solo trip with his ski team to Colorado for ten days. Of course after saying goodbye - twice - I couldn't get back to sleep but luckily neither of the other boys have woken up yet. I am so excited for him but unbelievably nervous. Nervous about the airport, they have 15 kids travelling with three coaches and travelling nowadays is so much more complicated than when I took my first trip alone. Then, of course, there's the worry about the fact that they are going to train for ski racing and will be spending all day, every day careening down the mountain at crazy speeds. He has a North American plan on his phone so he can call and text us when ever he wants which won't be often enough for me but at least I can remind him to brush his teeth via text. He didn't take my advice to pack a pair of underwear and his toilet kit in his carry-on bag since for him the only priority is that the airline doesn't lose his ski or boot bag. Clean underwear be damned.

Back when I took my first solo trip to visit a friend in Colorado for Spring Break things were very different. I think we arrived at the airport less than an hour before the flight and my Dad might have even been allowed to come to the gate with me. Today they will be checking in two hours in advance in the hopes that they all make it through customs and security in time to board the plane. We had to make sure he has enough cash to pay all the baggage fees at check in on the way home even though the surcharges added to the cost of the ticket were already well over $100. But Number One is a seasoned traveller, he knows how to stand in line, remove his shoes at security and hopefully they will have a few luggage carts to carry all the skis since manoeuvring three bags through the customs maze will be tricky.

Carry on bag circa 1980 (14 year old girl)
  • Seventeen magazine
  • paperback copy of latest Judith Krantz novel
  • toilet and make up kit with lots of hair scrunchies
  • Le Sport Sac bag to hold everything
  • laminated birth certificate
  • American cash to shop at the GAP (which hadn't yet come to Canada)
  • reminder to buy film, take pictures and send post cards to my grandparents
Carry on bag 2011 (13 year old boy)
  • Archie comic digest
  • Kobo ereader loaded with sci fi series, iPod, Blackberry with three different chargers
  • sandwich, granola bars (since the airline only takes credit cards to buy food on board)
  • Billabong back pack to hold everything
  • passport, letter of consent to travel alone across the border
  • debit card to shop for gifts for his brothers ;-)
  • reminder to take pictures and send them in emails to his grandparents

So I will be spending the day nervously waiting to hear they have arrived safely or at the very least I hope to get a text ;-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Waiting for Winter

Wishful thinking (those are ski tracks going down a snow covered mountain)

No, there isn't any snow on the ground up here yet (thank god) and since right now I am waiting for a service call because the furnace conked out after we turned it on for the first time and tomorrow we have to go up north to close the cottage, I really hope there's none in the forecast anytime soon. We got my nephew on skates for the first time and hockey season has started for Number One Son. He is still playing goal and made the rep team where he is the only 13 year old. That is actually a good thing as it means that his teammates are big guys who can protect him from the other big guys. I don't know how he stands there as the puck comes hurtling towards him but he never flinches. We are also preparing him for his first trip with his ski team to Colorado. This is a huge deal and they are leaving in less than two weeks. He will be gone for 10 days and it is the first time he has travelled on his own. So far he seems to be okay with it, very excited and we have talked a lot what to expect, living with roommates and not flipping out if everything doesn't go exactly as planned.

Number Two son and I will be going to Jay Peak in Vermont in December for a week with his team which I hope will be a chance for us to have some one-on-one time since he is having a tough time with the kids in his class again. I really do look forward to ski season starting because they are all so happy skiing and racing every weekend (not to mention more than a few week days) and even if it means only having two days in the entire winter to sleep in (that would be Christmas and New Years Day) it's worth it.

PJ's first time on skates

So the weekend was full of wintery sports as we went down to the city to watch the CBC show Battle of the Blades. Funnily enough my three testosterone filled sons love watching this show which pairs ex-professional hockey players with ex-Olympic pairs figure skaters. Up until this season it has been male hockey players learning to skate with picks and tiny little figure skaters but now there is one female hockey player, Tessa Bonhomme who still plays professionally. It's a little bit cheesy as figure skating often is but it is the one show we all watch together every week.

Waiting for the show to begin

So when my Other Half realized that the producers of the show had bought a boat from us last year and he emailed to see if we could get tickets. We both assumed it was no big deal but it turns out it was. Normally you do have to pay to watch the show but we were not only given the tickets but put in VIP seats right on the ice. Stuck actually on the "island" around which the skaters entered and left the rink. It was very exciting but unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos during the show. We all had a lot of fun and was our first family night out in a while and although it made for a late night and a slow start this morning I realize we have to make more of an effort to do things like that especially getting my now very much small town boys back into the big city more often. How was your weekend?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bridesmaids and the Mother of the Boys

We finally watched Bridesmaids the other night, all of us, the boys included. Trying to find something everyone would like these days is difficult. Number Two loves anything that he thinks we would deem inappropriate, Number One won't watch anything even remotely scary and Number Three doesn't really know what he wants to watch but he knows it can't be for little kids. As for me, I hate blow 'em up, car chase movies. I don't mind a clever thriller a la The Italian Job and my Other Half, let's just say he sat through Something Borrowed for me without complaining.

So we ended up watching Bridesmaids which I thought they'd sit through if only to see the bridal salon/food poisoning scene and I was right. They loved it, Melissa McCarthy in particular. I am hoping most of the innuendo went over their heads and we did have to fast forward through the sex scenes but the thing that really hit home for me wasn't the whole over-the-top wedding, it was the friend who was the mother of three boys who needed a real Bachelorette Party to get away from the animals in her house. That, I could identify with. My house is all male, as I might have mentioned a few times. Even the dog, while neutered, is still a boy and, like most boys, he pees everywhere. My life consists of shopping for, cooking of and cleaning up massive quantitities of food (and only one of the three is officially a teenager) I do laundry every other day and it consists mostly of dingy, mismatched gym socks because they are always left on the floor where the dog finds and enjoys his most favourite snack (don't even ask what they look like when they come out the other end)

But the worst part in the movie is when the MOB talks about how everything in her house is "sticky" I don't even want to contemplate this stage. I remember reading a blog post a while ago (back when my boys were still cute and smelled like bubble bath) about giving teenage boys an endless supply of tube socks. At first I thought, I guess that makes sense, although for some bizarre reason my boys and all their friends only wear tiny little ankle socks, the kind I used to play tennis in, even in the dead of winter when they refuse to wear boots they have a half an inch of bare skin showing between their shoes and pants (they also grow at an alarming rate and I can't keep up with it so half the time their pants are floods) But I digress. Back to the tube socks. Apparently they are great containment vessels.

It took me a while to get it so I'll give you a moment.

Get it? I know. Gross. Really? That's what those long, stretchy socks that come in 12 packs are for? I don't even want to think about it. So while most women enjoyed the story of two best friends learning to appreciate one another, all I could think about was the fact that up until now the worst mess I have had to contend with is the one on the walls and around the base of the toilet. I am so not ready for Stage Two of Teenage Boys.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Oh, go fly a kite!

After spending two wonderful days with the grown ups in our family at the wedding, we returned home to rescue my mother and aunt from the kids. We arrived at my Mum's place in time to eat turkey leftovers, fly kites and hit a few balls.

Mum, my brother and sister and the boys

What to do when there's no wind

Staying out of harm's way

See the little black thing my brother is holding up? That's his blackberry, he videoed the entire kite-flying expedition including when the dragon kite "attacked" the ATV as they slowed down. It's the little things that amuse us.

An 11 year old boy's idea of heaven (notice the cool shades)

Measuring the apple trees we planted last spring in honour of each grandchild

Golf anyone?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Twenty-two years ago today

Today's weather is not as extreme as it was 22 years ago when I married my Other Half at my parent's farm. It rained, hailed, thundered and lightning lit up the sky and I remember it as perfect. But if I were to do it all over again (and who wouldn't?) there would be a few minor changes like a significantly smaller dress, less pouffy hair and I wouldn't make my bridesmaids wear those awful bows in their hair and I wouldn't have had a great big one on my bum. But I definitely wouldn't change the man I was smart enough to marry at the tender age of 23 and I have to admit that I don't know what I'd say if one of my sons wanted to get married that young.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Whirlwind Weekend

Well, I survived the week and it was worth all the prep to leave the boys with my Mum and get away to this lovely place for the wedding of my cousin to the Innkeeper's daughter.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and had brought a boat (as one does) so that we could get out on the water to explore my Other Half's old stomping grounds. He grew up summering in the Thousand Islands and I spend quite a bit of time there as well when we teenagers. That was pre 9/11 when you could jump in the boat with only a driver's license for ID and head over to A Bay (Alexandria Bay) NY for a night of partying and then boat home dodging Great Lakes freighters when you end up in the shipping lane by accident.

My brother, SIL, sister and BIL enjoying a tour of the Islands

My Other Half's grandmother's island which, according to family lore, was bought for either $10 or $1000 in the thirties. Either way is was a great deal.

Me and my little bro who I don't get to see often enough since he moved to the west coast

Same brother breaking into our room to get the cocktail supplies while I was out searching for wrapping paper.

Not a bad looking bunch

Much later that same night my SIL and I discovered that the bride had requested the local chip wagon be parked outside the reception. Can't think of a better late night snack after drinking and dancing than a gooey paper box of poutine.

The wedding was lovely and the dress I borrowed was perfect. It fulfilled my demands that it look as good as it felt. It was like wearing Lululemon yoga clothes while looking pretty damn good even in comparison with the twenty-somethings in very short dresses and unbelievably high heels. We made it home on Sunday in time to put two turkeys on the BBQ and had 13 sit down for dinner without a hitch. Monday we looked after our friends' two boys while they went house-hunting and then piled everyone into the car to head to my Mum's for a late lunch of hot turkey sandwiches which really is what Thanksgiving is all about - the leftovers. Of course, our foodie friends outdid us on that one by instead of using plain old bread, they made popovers, took the tops off, put the turkey inside with cranberry sauce and poured gravy over the whole thing. So happy that they are are thinking of moving up to our area to start a new restaurant.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's gonna be a helluva week

Now I have to be organized. Starting right now even though I am wasting time reading blogs and writing posts. I have today and tomorrow to get ready for Thanksgiving. Don't panic if you're south of the border, you didn't fall asleep and wake up seven weeks late. This coming weekend is our Thanksgiving up here in the Great (not yet white, thank god) North and I have to get everything bought, prepped and ready to go because my Other Half and I leave Friday morning for my cousins wedding and my Mum and Aunt will be staying with the boys until we get home on Sunday when we will have our turkey dinner. Not that it's really a big deal as we have never done an over the top, fully decorated and gourmet meal. But we also have friends who are thinking of moving up to our area coming on Sunday to join us and then go house hunting on Monday so that means that there will be the five of us, Mum, aunt, sister's three and four more guests for dinner. It's a five hour drive from where the wedding is so even if we skip the Sunday brunch it is going to be tight getting home and putting dinner on the table. And despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) my Mum did Thanksgiving for 30 years or more she no longer has any interest in the tradition. I am hoping I can leave her a list and Number One Son who is becoming quite the cook will be able to at least peel some potatoes and maybe even make the stuffing. We barbecue the turkey so it doesn't take up oven space and is done in much less time and it is so much tastier but I can't quite imagine my newly minted teenager sticking his hand in the bird to stuff it. Fingers crossed we can pull this off.

As for the wedding, I am looking forward to it, although what to wear is a little problematic on several fronts. One - the weather. It could be warm, sunny and a glorious fall day or it could be cold, wet and miserable much like today. What to wear? Open toed shoes? Stockings? Hell, I just put socks on for the first time this past weekend. I have two dress options, both black, and v-neck so I hope to find a really fun and funky necklace. When? I'm not sure as I work Wednesday and Thursday so it's today or tomorrow. Problem Number Two - what to wear? If I am honest this isn't a problem since it doesn't really matter what the 45 year old cousin of the groom wears since the bride is 29, a stylist who regularly appears on TV and the groom, 36 are both gorgeous, as are all of their friends. So again, what I wear isn't really relevant other than I want to feel and look good for myself and my date which is a bit of a struggle between being looking sleek and sexy both with the dress on and later when it finally comes off. But Spanx are a turn on, right?

So wish me luck on the pre-Thanksgiving organization front, the What to Wear dilemma and, of course, getting out of the house on Friday with the list of everything the boys have to do on the weekend - hockey, dry land training, friends over to play so they don't kill one another, enough food in the fridge for the never-ending eating they now do. It's never easy leaving even at the best of times, let alone leaving and coming home to a sit down dinner for 14. Oh well, it's two nights in this lovely place with my Other Half and hanging out with the grown ups in my family who make me laugh harder than anyone else. So wish me luck and Happy Thanksgiving and Columbus Day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How can you promise something you can't promise?

During the last week of the summer we stayed up at the cottage and experienced for the first time in my 45 years of cottaging the most terrifying thing - a cottage down the lake caught fire. Friends of ours who had just left our place to go home called to say there was a fire at the cabin across from theirs. We all jumped in the boat after calling the Park rangers (calling 911 is useless as there are no municipal emergency numbers for water access cottages on our lake and which are under provincial jurisdiction)

As soon as we were out of our little bay we could see the black smoke billowing around the point.

And then we saw the actual fire. In 15 minutes it had gone from the size of a campfire to this.

Boats from all over the lake were gathering in front of the site and within a half an hour the first plane arrived which was able to fill its pontoons with water and drop it on the fire.

We all had to admit it was pretty cool to watch the precision with which the pilots dumped the water on what was a very small area.

Fifteen or so minutes after the first plane arrived the second one flew in and it was a real water bomber that can fill its belly with thousands of gallons of water.

It scooped up belly after belly full of water and made at least 20 passes over the fire.

It looked huge to us sitting on the lake in our little boats. Fortunately the wind was off shore so the fire did not spread to the woods. If it had been blowing back into the trees it could have spread rapidly as the summer had been so dry. Our cottage is on the same side of the lake so conceivably it could have been in danger if it had turned into a real forest fire.

Although we stayed and watched the planes until the fire was completely out and we went back the next morning to see the damage - one cabin was completely destroyed but luckily the main one was untouched - our youngest was very shaken by the whole incident.

Over a month later he still asks me every night before bed, "Is everything is going to be okay?"
Then, after I reassure him everything is going to be fine he asks, "No fires, right Mum?"
And I respond, "No fires," but he then says, "You promise?"

I am not sure what to say to that one. I promise that we have smoke detectors (with working batteries) on each floor and they are hooked up to the alarm company and if they go off the fire department responds immediately (I know this because they did when cookies were burned) and we check to see that the oven and coffee maker are off before we go to bed every night but I can't promise him that there will never be a fire either at home or at the cottage and I hate that I can't promise him that. I can't imagine what it is like for a family who has lived through a house fire. How do they ever sleep again? How do they reassure their children that they are safe when they weren't? I guess it's something you can't think about too much like so many of the other dangers that surround us everyday. In the meantime we will continue to go through our bedtime ritual together as long as he needs to.

Betwixt and Between

That's where I am these days. I have three increasingly independent boys who come and go from my house but it seems that at least half of the time they still desperately need me. The first week back to school my Other Half was away and I worked until 6 o'clock two days so the boys were on their own after school and they did just fine. I asked Number One to make sure that Number Three either came home or checked in with him if he was going to a friend's house. It's hard for the youngest, most of his friends are the eldest and so their parents still pick them up at school and aren't comfortable with a nine year old making his own plans. I have no problem with him checking in with his older brother before he goes off to play and they all seem to be able to make it home before I do. Luckily we don't have any evening sports at the moment to rush through dinner to get to so if I get home at six I can still make dinner (but I do have to get better at planning meals ahead) and it is almost civilized eating at around seven. In fact, this routine seems to be working. Okay, it worked one week and this week we will try it again as the builder is off flogging boats in Northern Michigan.

It's trying to find a balance between being there for them and not being there too much. I know they fight more when I am around, vying for attention - good or bad. It is hard especially with the youngest because I feel like I am pushing him too early. The others certainly weren't making their lunches in grade 4 but then he also gets the perks of doing other things way before his brothers ever did. Number One will be travelling with his ski team in November to Colorado and after the fiasco that was the trip to the Provincials last March with tearful phone calls every night I will not be getting him a North American cell plan while he is gone. He will have to manage sharing a room with others, eat whatever is put in front of him and get over the fear that every other guy on the team is shaving while he still searches in vain for any sign of peach fuzz.

Number Two has gotten off to a better start this year, he likes his teacher and came home yesterday very happy that he had finished a math test second to the smartest kid in the class and thought he had done well on it. It was so nice to see him being positive about school after last year and although he doesn't have very many of his close friends in his class he seems to be okay with that. He knows he has to have a good report card at Christmas if he is going to be allowed to miss school for skiing and that coupled with a wish for a phone I think we have a great incentive plan in place.

Balance - parenting, work, socializing, health. We all want to do it all and we want to do it well. I am never going to be a Type A person despite the fact that I am the eldest in my family and an Aries to boot. I don't want to run a marathon or bike 100 miles. I am never going to start my own business and I probably won't ever write a novel (a memoir perhaps). I want to raise my boys to be young men who value school as much as sports and who appreciate one other. I want to be healthy and live long enough to know my grandchildren and be the mother-in-law I constantly make notes to myself about. I want to be able to spend time with my Other Half and see him achieve a balance in life and success in business. I want to be able to enjoy this beautiful place we live in and to travel again to the places I didn't get to BC (Before Children) I want to ski in New Zealand and sail in the South Pacific. All these things seem so unattainable right now but if the speed at which the last ten years flew by is any indication I know that the boys will be off living their own lives in the blink of an eye and my Other Half and I will have time for ourselves again. I often say that I couldn't have had children in my twenties like so many people did, I had too many things to do and and I wasn't ready for that resposibility. My thirties were hard with four pregnancies and three young children. My Other Half was seldom home and I ate, slept and breathed children.

Now I feel ready to begin to branch out again, test myself beyond familial waters, set some goals and dream a little of life BC (Beyond Children - I know there's no AC since they will always be my boys). And I know we have a ways to go, Number Three won't be launched for another nine years and we have the dreaded Teenage Years to survive first but in nine years I will be 54 and that doesn't seem nearly as old as it did even just a few years ago and from the looks and lives of the women I know who are in already their fifties - I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

iPhone Friday on Tuesday

My Other Half and I are heading out to a marine dealers meeting for the next few days so I though I would post a few of my most recent favourite iPhone photos. If you're a picture-taking nut like me it's so worth getting one just to be able to take such fun photos. They were all taken with the Hipstamatic App.

PJ at the net

Full Moon at Sunset over the Bay

On a Horse with a View

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My New Mantra

"Breathe deeply and love fiercely."

I read this in a comment at Flux Capacitor's most recent post. And it is my new parenting and, maybe even, life mantra.  

Breathe deeply - that's what I need to remind myself to do everyday. Along with this being the first week back to school (so far so good - touch wood) my Other Half left early Wednesday morning and I worked til 6pm Wednesday and Thursday. The boys did just fine, thank you. In fact, they did much better without us around to nag about snacks and homework. But the bickering continues, morning, noon and night. I have to remove myself from the room when they really get going. They can fight over anything whether it's relevant or not, whether they know anything about the subject or not. If one brother says the sky is blue, the other says it's turquoise and the third says it's cloudy.

Love fiercely - this one is even more important. No matter how hard it is and I know what we are dealing with now is nothing compared to what might be coming down the pipe as we enter the unchartered territory of adolescence. One of the first things I remember hearing from a parenting expert was about always giving "unconditional love" but sometimes that's hard to do when all you really want to say is, "I love you, except when you drive me completely and utterly around the bend." But I like "love fiercely" because it sums up how I feel when they are pushing me to the limit and still I know I have to love them. No matter what.

So, breathe deeply.
And love fiercely

It applies to so many parts of out lives. Doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Truly Horrible One

If you are lucky enough to have a cottage or country place you most likely have had one of these and like most truly horrible things they usually stick out more in your mind than the wonderfully good ones. I am talking about the dreaded horrible house guest. Now over the past ten years I have been spending most of the summer at our cottage as the de facto matriarch and I have hosted many, many guests. In the beginning the guests were made up of couples who came for fun, boozy weekends when we would eat, drink, swim, sail, fish, eat and drink some more. Everyone chipped in for beer and something to barbecue and we would all help cook and clean up. Later came the weekends of babies. My Other Half and I have a great group of old friends (see above boozey weekends) and we were lucky enough to all have children around the same time. Everyone would arrive with porta-cribs, exer-saucers, booster seats and baby swings. Again we would eat, drink, swim, sail and fish with interludes of nursing, diaper changes and soothing of various assorted colicky babies. Everyone pitched in and about the only thing we didn't share was breast milk.

Still later I would move up north for the entire summer with the boys and my Other Half would come up on Fridays and go back to the city early Monday morning. I would fill the weekdays with girlfriends and their kids. We'd sit on the dock watching toddlers pushing around toy boats in the water, preschoolers bravely jumping off the dock in their "lifeys" and we'd attach duelling jolly jumpers to door frames so the kids could jump while we cooked dinner, enjoyed a glass or bottle of wine. Again, everyone pitched in making chicken fingers, macaroni and s'mores by the campfire. Laundry was shared, counters were wiped and, as only with mothers, no one ever had to be asked to help, except the kids of course.

Now things are even easier. The first thing my friends ask when we plan a weekend is, "What can we bring? Other than wine, of course." They come bearing gifts of stinky cheese, a new recipe for pulled pork or all the fixings for make-your-own-pizzas. We cook, swim, eat, watch the kids learn to windsurf or dumping the sailboat in the middle of the lake. We have fabulous hors d'oeuvres on the dock and the occasional blender drink is whipped up. Even clean up is fun (for the adults) with the kids divided into teams for clearing the table and making sure all the boats are put away at the end of day. But every once in a while to my great, and perhaps naive surprise, a guest comes along who forgets that I don't run a full service hotel.

But this week one did. An old friend of the family's invited herself along with her hubby and two kids to the cottage presuming that we would put them up for the night before they dropped their daughter off at camp. And she went on to assume that they could stay with us for the three days while the daughter was away so they wouldn't have to drive back down to the city. I told her that this week was our only family time together before school starts next week so, while they were welcome to stay for one night, it wouldn't work out the other two. This, she said, was a problem since she really didn't want to have to drive two hours back to her sister's house. But for once I stood firm and repeated that we would be happy to see them for one night. How I regret those words now.

We had already made arrangements to go and visit friends on the day our guests were to arrive so I told them to make themselves at home until we got back. This might seem a bit inhospitable but remember, I didn't ask them to come and she had spent lots of time at our cottage growing up. I said we'd be back after 4pm as we had to stop for groceries on the way. (Hint, hint) We had already communicated extensively by email about the visit and she had yet to ask the first question every house guest should pose to their host which is, "What can we bring?" Even after the hint about groceries she still didn't bite so I bought more milk, dinner for nine people and three kinds of ice cream for dessert. We arrived back at the cottage to find the family making themselves right at home. They were all on the dock watching the seven year old boy paddle a kayak for the first time. They said hello and then asked if someone would take them on a boat tour of the lake. I offered my Other Half's services while I began making dinner. The son asked what we were having and when I told him chicken fajitas he looked confused.
I said, "You know, wraps with chicken, cheese, salsa and some veggies."
He replied, "Do you have any hamburger meat?"
I said, "Yes, I think I have some in the freezer. Would you like that in a wrap?"
"No," he replied. "I'd like hamburger and chips and cheese."
Okay, I thought, this is not a restaurant but it's only one meal. I can do hamburger.

Meanwhile the family was getting ready to go on their boat tour. Oh, did I mention they had no lifejackets for the kids? Now after spending all my life on one body of water or another the first (and only consistent) rule at the cottage is kids wear a life jacket in the boat and on the dock at all times. No exceptions. You never know how well other people's kids swim despite what the parents may say and it's never worth risking a child falling in when someone isn't looking. So we found a couple of lifejackets and off they went. My boys were being pretty good about these "random kids you invited, Mum" as Number Three Son delicately put it. And when they returned they even offered to play with them while I set the table. What were the parents doing while their children were entertained and their dinner was prepared you might ask? Well, they weren't offering to help on either front, instead they were both sitting on the couch punching away on their iPhones, occasionally looking up as I passed by with the plates or condiments. Then she got out her computer just as I called the kids in to eat and asked where she could plug it in to charge. This may be one of the few time I have wished we were further down the lake with no power.

We sat down to the meal and everyone seemed happy, the son with his hamburger meat and chips which, of course, now all the kids wanted. I poured myself another glass of wine and looked over at my Other Half who rolled his eyes discreetly. When the meal was over my kids cleared the table and I began loading the dishwasher as once again our guests sat down to what must have been terribly important business on their phones. Are they NATO ambassadors negotiating the truce in Libya? No, she's a sales rep and he runs some sort of automotive shop but I'm sure the emails they had to attend to were just as important as peace in the Middle East. We dished out ice cream to everyone and then I suggested the kids go and make a campfire for roasting marshmellows. I finished the dishes just as my guests finished playing, I mean, working on their phones and they all went outside to the firepit. I went to set up the kids beds and turn on the lights in the bedroom while thinking to myself, they can't possibly be this clueless. Have they never stayed at someone's house before? Do they show up for dinner parties without a bottle of wine or some sort of hostess gift? Should I slip an itemized bill under the door before they wake up in the morning?

I didn't, but I wish I had had the guts to. It would have read something like this


Thank you for staying at Hotel Le Cottage.
Please be advised the following items will be charged
to your credit card at market price:

Room Rate - Two adults, Queen Bed
Two children, Twin beds
Turndown and Maid Service
Dinner for Four in our Dining room
Boat Tour of the lake (a fuel tax surcharge will be added)
Childcare and lifeguarding (extra fee for lifejackets)
Outdoor Activities - campfire, star gazing and sing along
Breakfast and childcare before 8am
Boat taxi to and from landing with porter to carry luggage
Early check in and late checkout

A gratuity of 15% will be added to the final amount.

We hoped you enjoyed your stay at Hotel Le Cottage on the Shores of Smoke Lake. We request that all future reservations be made 6 months in advance so that we will have time to come up with a reasonable excuse to say no.

(Disclaimer- If you are easily offended or especially sensitive to posts such as the above just remember - a good bottle of wine goes a long way)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Winding down the summer

Feeling rather melancholy right now. Came down from the cottage yesterday and while we are going back up on Thursday I still feel like the summer is over and I missed the whole damn thing. I woke up early, before the sun even and came downstairs to make coffee and then crawl back into bed with my Kobo but once I was out of bed I realized how cold it was and I had an overwhelming urge to light a fire. Of course to light a fire I first had to get kindling and then I realized I had to clean out last winter's ashes which were up over the grate. By this time all three boys were up despite the fact that it's still wasn't even 7am. I sent them back upstairs to watch TV in my bed and promised to make muffins if they would just leave me alone for a little longer. I know that in exactly two weeks today they will not be up before seven, I'll be lucky if I can drag them out of bed by eight on the first day of school despite the fact that not one of them, not even the teenager (especially not the teenager) has slept in past 8am all damn summer. I have come to loath all my friends who say things like, "oh my kids sleep until noon" which is almost as bad as hearing, "My kids amuse themselves all day long while I work/read/garden." Who are these so-called kids? And where do I get them?

This summer has been a bit of a let down on most fronts - the business had been slow either due to the economy, the weather or both; Number Two Son had a terrible time at camp and probably won't be going back next year so I am already panicking about what to do with him for the month they are usually all away; despite my encouragement/threats not one of my children has made any attempt at calling a friend to do something on his own. They have hung around waiting for me to organize them. And now we are into the second last week of summer and My Other Half is planning on taking off next week (truth be told, there are no orders to fill so no boats to build) we had hoped to go away with the boys for a holiday but finances aren't conducive to spending money on anything other than groceries (which continue to increase exponentially in both quantity and price) so it will be the cottage and day trips which isn't so bad but not the break we were all hoping for and quite frankly, need. We live in a beautiful part of the world and as long as the weather doesn't turn autumnal overnight we canget out on the water, sailing, waterskiing and swimming. Not so bad after all.

I realize that the purpose of this blog, time and time again when I start out griping and end up thankful is self-directed therapy. Good thing too since it's way too early to pour a drink.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Campers

We spent a wonderful weekend with my Other Half's family. 18 people in three cabins and two tents. Lots of fun, food and craziness. As the summer winds down I feel like we are just getting started. Soccer finishes next week so we will be free for the last 10 days before the kids go back to school. I waffle between wanting these days to last forever and wishing we had year round schooling. Oh well, I guess that's why this post is labelled, "It's about family."

Leaping for Joy


Number Two up on water skis for the first time

Number One showing off

Finally - a real smile

My gorgeous nieces

The boats at Pointe au Baril

My Other Half in his element
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