Thursday, December 25, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Nutcracker

I've always enjoyed doing "experience" gifts with my Grammie. There is no better present than spending quality time with someone you love. And, we always have a lot of fun together.

One year, during the holidays she mentioned that she had always wanted to see The Nutcracker. It did, in fact, seem to be a traditional thing to do at Christmas. So, I filed that away in my memory bank.

The next year when I saw that The Nutcracker was performing at The Imperial Theatre in Sarnia, I ordered tickets for the two of us to attend.

It was such a wonderful night together and memory for me to treasure. We enjoyed dinner at Swiss Chalet, the ballet and took the long way home so we could enjoy the Christmas lights on the homes along the river.

I hope you have enjoyed my 12 Days of Christmas memories as much as I have enjoyed remembering them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... Volunteering

I'm not sure who came up with the idea or why it came about, but in 1999, our family volunteered at the Inn of the Good Shepherd in Sarnia on Christmas Eve. I think it was related to Jo-Anne & Nick being unable to join us until the 25th. Regardless, it is a warm holiday memory that I think we should replicate.
our 1999 family Christmas photo

My mom acted as the coordinator - contacting the Inn and getting instructions, list of ingredients, and prepared the menu. We served up chili with garlic buns - comfort food on a cold night.

I love how our family worked together as a team while setting up, serving and cleaning up. We were able to share some love with people that particularly needed it at that time of the year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Potluck

This memory isn't one particular moment, but an annual tradition. I guess it started during my first year of working at The New PL. My friend Lisa and I were working on the morning show and decided to host a Christmas Eve breakfast potluck. It was AWESOME!

We had our staff lounge buzzing with people. We cooked up bacon, sausages, eggs, pancakes... we even blew a fuse and had to move one of the cooking stations to the hall. It was a great morning and people just loved coming together on this special day.

So, the potluck became a tradition. Over the years it morphed from breakfast to a full blown turkey dinner, with all the trimmings! As soon as the credits rolled, the newsroom was transformed to a family dinner table. We all settled into our roles - Jeff brought the ham, Jim did the potatoes, Scrappy made gravy and I always did the stuffing. Turkey duty rotated - depending on peoples' shifts.

I'll always remember teasing Ross relentlessly when he brought buns & butter. He put the butter in the fridge when he got to work (so it wouldn't spoil) and we had rock hard butter at dinner that ripped the buns to shreds. Poor Ross. He took a lot of ribbing over that.

The food was always great and the company even better.

Monday, December 22, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... Scentsational!

After Jesse was born, the Koiters invited me to join them on Christmas Eve and wake up with the excitement of Christmas morning with the boys. It has been a lot of fun...and chaos!

One moment, in particular, will always remain in my memory. It was just too sweet not to tuck in there! It happened about five years ago, so Jesse would be four or five years old.

Christmas morning arrived when my door flung open and light poured into the room. A little face was beaming at me, telling me it was time to get up. I wasn't quite ready to get up yet, so I told him to come and snuggle with Auntie Janice. He turned the hall light off and crawled under the covers with me. We talked about how exciting Christmas is and how he likes it when I sleep over.

He snuggled right up to my face, took a deep breath in and announced I smell good.

I asked "what do I smell like?"
"You smell like Auntie Janice".
Hmmm, well. That's interesting.
"What does Auntie Janice smell like?"
Another deep breath.
"Like candy".

Ha ha ha...I laughed and laughed and then we both got the giggles. A great way to start the morning and a moment I'll always remember. What a cutie.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's Holiday Memory... Hosting

My first Christmas in my house, I decided I wanted to be home for Christmas. It was also my Grammie's first Christmas not in her house as she had moved into an apartment in October. My first thought was to have her sleep over on Christmas Eve. However, the logistics of stairs and other mobility issues kept that from becoming reality. The idea of hosting did come together though.

Two of my cousins - Josh and Deidre - didn't have anywhere to be on Christmas Eve so they came to my place. We had yummy snacks, played Rock Band and laughed a lot. We all know that Santa can't come until you're tucked safely in bed, so we headed there eventually.

In the morning, my parents, Jo-Anne, Nick and the boys arrived and we cooked up an awesome Christmas morning brunch. After the dishes were cleaned up, we played a few games and relaxed for the afternoon.

This was also the same year my Aunt Peggy had been in the hospital for several months. She came home just in time for Christmas. My cousin Esther invited us to share their Christmas dinner. What a special time to celebrate someone we all love so much.

This Christmas might not seem memorable in any particular aspect, but these multiple moments added up to be one of my favourites.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Peanut

What a wonderful Christmas memory this is.

It was December 24th ten years ago. My friend Charlene and I were meeting Jo-Anne & Nick for breakfast at the Riverdale. It was a nice way to start a relaxing day and the beginning of the festivities of Christmas. After we ordered, Jo-Anne brought an envelope out of her purse. She had some photos developed (yes...back in the day when you developed photos) and thought I might like to see them.

As I flipped through the pictures, everything seemed  normal until I saw a picture of her & Nick holding three...magic markers? I couldn't quite make out what they were holding but it looked to be markers. I casually asked what that was all about. Her response brought me to tears. They weren't markers...they were pregnancy tests! There were three because she couldn't believe the results and wanted to MAKE SURE! I was elated.

The only problem was... I was going to Petrolia that night to attend the Christmas Eve service with my parents and the rest of the family. Jo-Anne & Nick wouldn't be revealing their news until the next day. I was bursting to tell someone, but I could not! It was a painful 24 hours until they arrived at our family Christmas and shared the surprise.

I clearly remember Jo-Anne telling all of us that the baby was the size of a peanut. From that moment on, Jesse has always been my Peanut.

Friday, December 19, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Fake Out

My brother John was quite a prankster as a youngster. One year, he had an idea to pull a prank on Connie for Christmas.

It was the year we moved into the new house and there were lots of leftover bits of this and that in the basement. Dad had recently installed a garage door opener and the box was just the right size for what John had in mind.
This Christmas photo was from approximately that era.

Connie had been asking for an electronic keyboard for Christmas and John decided to set his plan into motion. He filled the box with leftover bricks (naturally) and carefully wrapped the box. (see First Day of Christmas) Then he had mom write on a gift tag "to our musical Connie". The box was hidden under the pool table in the family room - but clearly somewhere Connie would see it before December 25th.

She saw the box. She took the bait. She thought she was getting a synthesizer! On Christmas morning, the presents were unwrapped one by one. It was finally time to get the "big" present from under the pool table. Connie excitedly ripped off the paper only to discover a box full of bricks and her brother laughing uncontrollably!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Gift

I've had the privilege of being friends with the ultra creative and crafty Karla Ann and over the years I have received some pretty cool gifts from her. However, there is one that stands out in my memory.

I believe it was the year we graduated from college. She was either working part time or not yet working - so she had a lot of time on her hands :) One day, she told me she had the best idea for my Christmas gift. However, it was going to take a long time to make it, so I'd need to be patient. would be sooo worth the wait.

I was curious. I asked questions. I asked for progress reports. I waited.
One of my favourite pages. She has a sense of humour!

Christmas came and went and the gift was not yet ready. What could she possibly be making? Well, it wasn't until the next Christmas that I finally discovered what she had been working on.

I was quite pleased with my gift for her that year. I had found a Vincent Van Gogh doll (with detachable ear) and Van Gogh mug that made his ear disappear when you poured hot liquids into it. I was pumped...she was going to love this gift. And she did! But, then I opened my gift. It was the gift.

She had created a 365 day flip calendar with each page being a different memory. She had carried around a notepad in her purse and when something would come up, she wrote it down. It contained birthdays of people that we like, snippets from our past and even a video tape. ( was that long ago) On days with a TV on the page, I got to watch what was on the tape. It was insanely creative and awesome. I still have this calendar on my desk at work.

What a friend!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... Christmas in Paris

I don't have to reach too far in the the recesses of my mind to remember this Christmas. It was only 2 years ago.

Around Thanksgiving, my cousin Carol Ann emailed me to ask if I'd be interested in meeting her in Paris for Christmas. I'd never had such a decadent invitation and I didn't know that I could really turn it down!

It was the first time I'd ever spent December 25th away from home before and I was concerned that I would be overly nostalgic that day. Well, I was worried about nothing. On Christmas Day, we had breakfast in bed, opened a few presents, lounged about in our pajamas all day, Skyped with family and then did a four course dinner aboard a cruise down the Seine. It was one of the best trips I've ever done!

Carol Ann & I were perfect travel companions - leisurely eating our way through the city of lights. It was a beautiful city to see at Christmas and a treasured holiday memory I can relive each year when I put the Paris ornament on my tree.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... I'll Love You Forever

Just three months after Jo-Anne & Nick got married, they moved to Thompson, Manitoba. They lived there for two years - in isolation. (look it's about 8 hours north of Winnipeg)

For their first Christmas away, they sent a box of presents to be unwrapped on Christmas morning. We all received handmade native moccasins and gloves - fully lined and trimmed with rabbit fur. There was one present, however, that Jo-Anne instructed me to keep until all the gifts were unwrapped. It was for Mom.

As she tore the paper off the gift, her eyes welled up with tears. It was the Robert Munsch book "I'll Love You Forever". She tried to read the book to the rest of us, but the tears were now spilling over onto her cheeks and she just couldn't do it. Steve ended up taking over and reading the book for us as we all sat weepy and missing our first sibling to leave the nest.

Looking back, I really admire the courage it took to move so far away from home. During their time in Manitoba, Jo-Anne taught herself some awesome cooking and sewing skills. It was tough having them away, but great having them back.

Monday, December 15, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... Snowed In!

Today's memory is from when I was about 10 years old. Grammie & Grandad came out to the farm on Christmas Eve and when it was time to go home, there was a snowstorm. They decided it was too risky to head out on the roads and hunkered down for the night.

Being "snowed in" can be a fun experience - as long as you're safe and with people you love. As a kid, it was so exciting to have unexpected guests on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning! I seem to remember Grandad bringing special chocolate for our stockings too.

When Grammie recounts the story, she likes to point out that the next day when they drove home the roads were just fine. But, out on the farm it seemed like "Siberia".

Sunday, December 14, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

As a naturally nostalgic person, I love reminiscing. This year I thought it would be fun to do the 12 days of Christmas memories. Just a few little tidbits that I remember from Christmases past.

So, to kick off my series... Learning to Wrap

Seems like an unlikely story, but I remember learning how to wrap presents from my brother John. I watched as he meticulously measured, cut and folded the paper. I would hand him bits of tape to keep it place.

He taught me how to fold the ends into a triangle and cover the ends of the box. He also taught me the importance of never showing a "raw edge" of paper. Always fold it over to have a nice seam.

John & I had a tradition for a number of years of going to Lambton Mall for moonlight madness. We'd get all of (or at least most of) his shopping done in one night. Usually I would help him wrap up his packages once we got home.

One year, I got to help him with a very special gift on that shopping trip. An engagement ring! He had already picked it out, but I gave it my seal of approval when he picked it up at the store. What an honour to be in on the secret!

Friday, December 12, 2014

I'm in a New York state of mind...

The anticipation of something great seems to last forever. The "something great" is usually over in a flash!

That is true of my recent trip to New York City. For a number of years, going to NYC at Christmas was on my bucket list. The thought of marveling at the intricate window displays, wandering Central Park with a light dusting of snow and just enjoying the magic that happens at Christmas in a city that has plenty of its own magic... well, the thought of those things was just so captivating! I wanted to experience it.

Last happened! There was no light dusting of snow - but I think, in the end, that was for the best. It was just as magical as I had hoped. We quickly learned to use the subway system, the difference between downtown and uptown and how friendly New Yorkers are! Everywhere we went, people were offering to help us find our way.

Seeing the window displays and Santa Claus at Macy's was a highlight for me. Miracle on 34th Street is, after all, my favourite Christmas movie! I also really enjoyed the Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes. It just seemed like the quintessential New York at Christmas thing to do. I loved it!

We crisscrossed Manhattan - on foot, subway, bus, boat, and double-decker bus! We managed to cram in a lot of sights. Some of my favourites included:
  • the 911 Tribute Centre
  • an evening cruise of the Hudson/East River
  • seeing Monica & Rachel/Chandler & Joey's apartment building
  • the Guggenheim
  • seeing Matt Lauer & the rest of the Today Show gang
  • a behind the scenes peek at Radio City Music Hall
  • experiencing the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre
Another favourite moment was one of the guides on our hop on/hop off bus. He was quite a character! He saw my reaction when he pointed out things of interest to me: the hotel the Beatles stayed at during their first trip to NYC, the building Tony Bennett lives in, etc. When he found out I love Paul Simon, he stopped the tour and got out his iPod. He wanted to play a song and see if I knew it. Clearly, he didn't think I was much of a fan because immediately I recognized the notes of the 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy). I excitedly told him we were staying near that bridge and I had my photo taken with it. I think he thought he was going to share some new information with me, but I had it covered. Ha ha. When it was time for us to get off the bus, he was disappointed. He wanted me to stay on his tour.

There were so many other moments to remember, but I can't share them all here! Already looking forward to my next trip back to this great city!

Friday, November 28, 2014


I love Christmas. I love the music, the twinkle and the magic that the holiday season brings. So, understandably, going to New York City at Christmastime has been on my "bucket list" for quite some time. I imagine it to be quite magical, indeed.

Earlier this year, I proposed the idea of a festive trip to the Big Apple to my mom and sisters. Unfortunately Connie won't be able to join us, but tomorrow I'm setting off with Jo-Anne & Mom to cross one more thing off my list :)

I'm so excited to see all the window displays, the rink at Rockefeller Centre and, of course, the huge tree! As luck would have it, one of my favourite performers, Tony Bennett will sing at the tree lighting ceremony. We have lots of fun stuff planned for the next few days. Can't wait! I'm one lucky girl.

Watershed Moment

Until now, my experience as a homeowner has been great. No major issues - other than picking a paint colour. I realize I have been lucky as other friends have dealt with roof, window or basement issues. Well, that changed this week.

On Monday night, I was getting ready for bed and realized there was no hot water. The power had been on and off during the day with those crazy-high winds so I wondered if something had flipped off on my tank. I grabbed my flashlight and headed to the basement.

Dad's first time playing Phase 10!
As I got about half way across my family room, I noticed a squish squish sound as my slippers made wet footprints on the carpet. Oh no. I opened the door to the utility room and saw water surrounding the hot water heater. I immediately turned it off and called Reliance. Well, no...actually I immediately called my Dad. Seriously, these are the situations Dads are made for.

The following 24 hours are a bit of a blur but it involved a parade of workers through my home. The carpet had to be ripped out and disposed of and I currently have industrial fans and dehumidifiers humming away downstairs. I finally got a new hot water tank at about 9pm.

Mom - killing time :)
My retired parents are nothing if they are not supportive. They arrived Tuesday morning with a shop vac in the trunk and ready to help. Apparently my optimistic outlook was not that realistic and when Dad saw my basement he quickly realized the little shop vac in his trunk was not going to be much use. They stayed with me for the rest of the day - for moral support. I can't thank them enough.

Although the saga is not finished (my basement is in complete chaos!) I'm thankful for small mercies. I'm especially thankful this did not happen while I'm away next week. And on the same day I was dealing with this, my sister-in-law called to tell me I had won $50 through a fundraiser at my niece's school. Now, it would've been really sweet if the cash prize had been enough to cover my insurance deductible, but I'm not complaining.

The current state of my family room

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shop 'Til You Drop

What better way to spend a Saturday than holiday shopping with a dear friend? Ya, that's what I thought.

Char and I had a great time wandering the stores at Great Lakes Crossing on Saturday. Such a great time that we were home hours later than we expected! But that's ok...we had a hoot.

A treasured tradition - dinner at Cracker Barrel - nearly did us in. Honestly... we had to take a detour and then missed our turn twice, but we finally made it!

Love getting out and experiencing the hustle and bustle!

Ran into Tony at the mall!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


This weekend I kicked off the festive season! Yes, it is a bit early to start the holidays, but I love Christmas! I say... go big or go home!

I had reserved Saturday a few weeks ago when my friend Laurie suggested we spend a day making Christmas cookies. It was such a fun way to step into Christmas (as Elton John would say) ...the holiday tunes were cranked, apron on, coffee in hand and we started measuring, stirring, beating, baking, icing...

There was a call to mom to check the recipe, a pretend studio audience, some botched melted chocolate turned into an impromptu "chocolate pizza" and a whole lot of laughs. What a fun day we had.

Time spent with Laurie is always the perfect blend of catching up on life events, heart to heart moments - combined with plenty of silliness and laughter.

After getting some holiday baking done, I decided it was time to put up my tree! So, on Sunday Jo-Anne & the boys came over for lunch and helped me decorate.

Decorating a Christmas tree with a 7 & 9 year old is a unique experience. We started with getting the lights on. Liam really wanted to help, so while Jesse & I untangled lights, Liam was stringing them on the tree. I knew something was amiss when he declared that he was done after about 30 seconds. I looked over to see a strand of 100 lights on one branch. LOL.

We finally figured out the lights and got down to business with the ornaments. The boys took care of the non-breakables while Jo-Anne and I hung the more precious ornaments. A few new ones this year include a Hershey Kiss from my trip to Pennsylvania and one from Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. I love the way the lights twinkle and create a beautiful glow in my front window.

So, I'm all set for the holidays now. Bring on Christmas!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Harmonies & Heroes

Fortunately, the week ended much better than it started. Despite the Jian Ghomeshi nightmare that has been unfolding this week, and the subject of my last post, I finished off this week with two of my favourite Canadians.

When I first heard Reid Jamieson singing on CBC's Vinyl Cafe, I was struck by how beautiful his voice was. Fast forward several years, a twitter exchange, a Vinyl Cafe appearance in the Forest City and his first concert here last year. This year, while on "tour-cation" with his lovely wife Carolyn, they made it a priority to come back to London and the East Village Cafe.

Seeing this duo on stage is nothing short of magical. Their voices blend together in perfect harmony - reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel. Their playful banter and stories about the roots of the songs they write, displays the love they have for each other and their craft.

They just finished their first record together - both song writing, both singing. Check it out here. I particularly like Drive.

On Friday night, I had the privilege of getting my book signed by Chris Hadfield. I was excited to learn he would make an appearance at the local Chapters and marked it on the calendar.

After following his adventure on the ISS via Twitter, I was quite taken by this incredible Canadian who, despite his accomplishments, took the time to explain space exploration and discoveries to the average Canadian. He had many Q&A sessions with students and produced short Youtube videos that explained simple things like brushing your teeth or getting a hair cut in space.

After reading his book An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth this summer, I was even more impressed with this hometown hero. Yep, I'd consider Sarnia close enough to use that term! In fact, when I told my Grammie about the book signing, she casually mentioned that she saw him several years ago at Tim Horton's in Corunna having coffee with his mom. (their family has a cottage on Stag Island)

So, armed with my brand new book You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes, I lined up with hundreds of others at the local Chapters to have my 10 second conversation with the first Canadian to command the International Space Station. I told him what an inspiration he is to all Canadians and how he had made Sarnia proud. I then received a firm handshake, smile and "thank you very much" and was on my way!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ghomeshi vs. CBC

This weekend, like so many other Canadians, I was shocked by the news that CBC had parted ways with Jian Ghomeshi.

If you know me, you know that I have a huge love for CBC radio. I've also been a fan of Q with Jian since its inception (as evidenced here, here and here.)

I loved the similarities between Jian and my beloved Peter Gzowski ...his smooth voice that I could listen to for hours, his interviewing style, the way he made all things Canadian cool. Q even took over the old Morningside time slot at 10am.

In the 7 years that Q has been on the air, Jian has attracted a new audience of CBC listeners. People that never before would have listened to CBC. Through social media and the Q Youtube channel, his show became so popular that it's now broadcast in other countries. That's pretty amazing.

So, when I got a text on Sunday afternoon informing me "CBC fired Jian" I couldn't believe it. I Immediately googled it and remained puzzled by the simple statement from our public broadcaster.

When I later read Jian's Facebook statement I was shocked. Of course, the topic has been under much scrutiny on the internet since Sunday and during this time, it has been tumbling around in my head. Because people know I'm a fan, they ask my opinion.

Well, I definitely think CBC made the right decision. I think there is more to the story than what we know... and we may never know the true story. But, the more information that comes out, the worse it looks for Jian. If these rumours are true, his actions are inexcusable and horrendous.

I know that media personalities are just that. Personalities. What you see in front of the camera (or behind the microphone) is a well-crafted persona they have developed and their off-camera reality doesn't always match up.

It's difficult for me not to separate the person and the personality. I will miss Jian's voice and interviewing style. He was an excellent radio host and did a lot to put Canada on the map. What a waste.

So, that's my two cents. I will continue to follow the story as it unfolds.

As a postscript, I've just read a Toronto Star article with further accusations. I'm afraid Mr. Ghomeshi has a very real and serious problem. I am sick to think this is the same person that hosted my beloved CBC radio show.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My First Corn Maze

Each year when the temperature dips and the leaves start to turn colour, I think "this year I'm going to do a corn maze". I know, it seems like a simple thing that I should easily be able to check off my list. But, for some reason the corn maze has eluded me!

Well, last weekend I was successful in my mission! To celebrate my niece Madison's birthday, we took a trip to Kusterman's farm. What an awesome day we had! Despite the chilly temperatures, the sun was shining and we had so much fun.

The corn maze took us about 2 hours but we both loved the challenge. We wandered our way through - looking for the various "stations" and completing the coordinating data on our paper. The theme this year was space, so we learned lots of tidbits along the way about the solar system, galaxies and the equipment used to get astronauts into the space.

We also enjoyed a wagon ride back to the pumpkin patch where we searched for just the right pumpkin. Madison really enjoyed checking out the animals, especially the budgies! There's tons of stuff to entertain kids of all ages at Kustermans - we had a lot of fun together and left exhausted!

Madison is such a great kid - full of facts (especially facts pertaining to animals!) and loves to tell stories and jokes. Thanks for the fun day Madison!

Monday, October 13, 2014


In the beginning, there was family. For the first few years of my life, family was all I knew. Growing up on a farm, my playmates were my siblings. The audience at my puppet show was my grandma. My mom coloured with me and taught me to read. My dad toted me around in his truck when he went to the mill.

But, as I got older and went to school, my circle expanded. And it keeps expanding. Over the years, I have been so fortunate to have such amazing people enter my life and invest in who I am.

When it comes down to it, though, it is my family that take the number one priority spot. These are people that have known me and loved me from the day I came into the world. We share memories of growing up together - the good and the bad.

This is what I'm thankful for this weekend. The people that make up my family. Who they are to me. The people they have become. I know I'm a sentimental, but I just can't help it. That's who I am!

We recently had some family photos done at the farm and I was so pleased with the results. Chris and Lynda Sit were a lot of fun to work with and the pictures will be treasured for years to come.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

They've Only Just Begun

I seem to be in the middle of a wedding blitz lately. Between September 2014 and March 2015 I have FOUR weddings to attend. Which is AWESOME! I'm a sucker for a good love story and weddings are the perfect way to celebrate.

Last weekend my friend Sabrina tied the knot with Peter. In fact, it was exactly one year ago that I found out about Peter - on September 20th. (crazy, but true) I love seeing these two together. They really compliment each other. The weather was perfect for their outdoor ceremony and the reception was the perfect mix of great food, thoughtful speeches, and a choreographed first dance. I was so happy to be a part of their special day.

One week later my dear friend Sarah married her sweetheart Mark. In true Sarah fashion, the wedding was like a fairytale. Every detail was breathtaking with awesome extras for their guests like Shaws ice cream, a MAC makeup tent and hand rolled cigars. No kidding! The event was stunning and I was honoured to share in their celebration.

Next up will be my fruzzin Josh. He & Melanie will tie the knot on December 20th, just in time for Christmas. It's been fun helping them with save the date cards, invitations and other ideas to help make their day special.

And the wedding I'm, perhaps, most excited about is Jodi & James. Jodi and I were roomies for a long time and she'll always be a dear friend. I'm beyond thrilled that she met James this year and in March they will be Mr. and Mrs.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jesse's Big Day

Last weekend I celebrated Jesse's ninth birthday with a ride on the Duc d"Orleans.

Jesse and I always have a lot of fun when we hang out and this was no exception. We headed down to Sarnia on a sunny but blustery day. Considering it was September 13th, it was COLD! That was a bit disappointing as hanging out on the upper (open) deck would've been a nice option. But the wind, and sometimes rain, kept us on the lower deck for most of the trip.

The Peanut, as I like to call him, did not let that effect his enjoyment of the trip. He soaked it all in! We had lunch on board and cruised down the river to Corunna and back. When we did venture out onto the deck, it was really fun to look down the river and see things from a new perspective.

After our cruise, we took a drive over to Port Huron. Jesse was really patient as we picked up a few things I needed in the States. We landed at Cracker Barrel for dinner. I know Mr. Jesse enjoys playing checkers and thought he'd like the table right by the fireplace for a few games. I was right. He's a tough competitor, but he won a game and I won a it was even.

When our waitress discovered we were celebrating a birthday, she let him pick any dessert on the menu! He was thrilled. I always enjoy my special days with the kiddos, spending quality one-on-one time with them. They are pretty awesome additions to my life!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reflecting on TIFF

As a fourteen year veteran of TIFF (in the words of the etalk reporter that interviewed me!) I feel obliged to report on this year's event. I have had a lot of feedback from friends and family that say they look forward to my TIFF photos each year. This year did not supply stellar results. However, it was a very fun day with friends.

In September 2000, my friend Lisa asked if I'd like to go to the Toronto International Film Festival with her. Earlier that year, she had returned from a trip to LA where she got tons of autographs outside Elton John's Oscar party. She was enamored with Hollywood and the idea of seeing the stars up close and personal. While I admired her book full of scribbles and the stories that accompanied it, I could not imagine why she wanted to go to Toronto. I asked "Who are we going to see? Jim Carey?" She then explained that TIFF was a big deal. Second, only to Cannes. Well, well...that changed everything.

Together with our other friend Janice, we booked a hotel and set off to do some star gazing. We were really not sure where we would end up, who we would see or what we were we came prepared, with ball gowns. Ha ha ha. So hilarious as I look back on the experience.

The first premiere we attended was for "Almost Famous" which remains one of my favourite movies. There were about 25 people there to see the stars parade in on the red carpet. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jimmy Fallon, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson... it was all very exciting. Fortunately we had left the ball gowns at the hotel.

After that first night, we picked up this new hobby and were riding the subway like native Torontonians - navigating our way to the different premieres. At the advice of our entertainment reporter, Janice Zolf, we had drinks at the Four Seasons hotel the next morning. (Drinks being $11 orange juice!) She suggested we might spot some celebs there. And, it paid off. Lisa returned from the washroom in a flurry of excitement, encouraging Janice & I to go to the lobby as Dan Aykroyd was there. We met Dan as well as Mike Bullard and Al Waxman.

Over the years, our "gets" got better and better until our books were filled with the who's who of Hollywood. The best autographs are the ones that come with a story. Like the time Keanu Reeves surprised us all by showing up in a cab. When Lisa dropped her sharpie and Sissy Spacek picked it up for her. When Benicio Del Toro paused to ask if I was ok when the people behind me were particularly pushy. When Pierce Brosnan spoke and took my breath away. And when George Clooney (best celeb ever) signed for hundreds of waiting fans with a broken hand!

Two years ago, Lisa and I decided we were retiring from this annual event. The crowds just kept getting bigger and you had to arrive earlier to get a good spot. And, sitting on the sidewalk isn't as easy as it used to be! So, in 2013 we did not attend TIFF. We both admitted that we missed the adrenaline rush that goes with that weekend. So, when my friends Karen and Kim asked about going with me this year...I said sure!

It was fun to take 2 noobies with me and show them the ropes. TIFF has become a huge deal in Toronto now with King Street completely closed down the day we were there. While we were waiting, we were interviewed by etalk, scored some free lipstick from L'Oreal and free coffee from McCafe as well.

We managed to snag a few autographs when the stars arrived, but happened to be in an area they tended to skip over. Boo to that. Tina Fey, however, walked straight toward me with sharpie in hand. She was ready...and so was I.

Another TIFF has come and gone. Will I return next year? Not sure yet. But, it is kinda fun that most any movie I watch, I can say ..."I have their autograph".

Thursday, September 11, 2014


September 11th is a date that will be recalled with infamy. It is one of those pivotal moments that is frozen in time. One that you'll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the dreaded news.

On September 11, 2001, I was working in the newsroom at CTV London. My shift started at 10:30am, just in time for the noon news. I was tuned in to the radio on my way to work when I heard that a plane had crashed into a building in New York. My first thought was that it was a small hobby plane and, though tragic, not a lot of harm done.

When I walked into the station, I was met by commotion in the hallway. People were gathered around the water cooler talking about what had happened. It seemed two planes had crashed into the twin towers in New York. There was a lot of confusion about the facts, with rumours swirling about multiple targets.

I walked into the newsroom and observed clusters of people gathered around TV monitors. Other than the audio from CNN, the place was eerily quiet. I made my way to the control room where our noon producer was watching her screen intently. "The tower just collapsed. I can't believe this!" She said it in disbelief. We were all in disbelief. The scenes on the monitors were like that of an apocalyptic movie.

I remember being scared. I wasn't sure why this was happening or what would happen next. I remember wanting to talk to one of my family members - but I couldn't seem to reach anyone. I remember my co-worker insisting this would lead to war and he would be drafted. I remember being unable to walk away from the constant barrage of information and horrifying pictures on TV. I remember that when I did walk away, I found myself in the staff lounge watching Sesame Street. It was the only channel that was not taken over by the carnage in New York.

We didn't produce a newscast that day. We flipped the switch to CNN and followed along with the rest of the world. In retrospect, I was situated in a really unique spot to observe the biggest news event in my lifetime unfold. Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The "unofficial" end of summer...

Labour Day weekend typically signifies the "unofficial" end of summer. Even though autumn doesn't arrive until mid September, there is definitely a shift that happens when the calendar flips. The kids go back to school, the days are shorter and it just starts to feels like fall.

As one last hurrah, I had some friends over for a campfire on Sunday night. At the beginning of the summer, I anticipated many campfires. A campfire every weekend. They are, after all, one of my favourite things about summer. Well, I had one on the July long weekend and one Labour Day weekend. Hardly one every weekend, but that's how it goes sometimes.

My brother had been describing some of the yummy pie irons they made while on vacation and I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea. So, I borrowed the  irons from my parents and stocked up on some "fillings".

The result was some tasty treats. We had pizza pie irons and all kinds of dessert concoctions. What fun. Especially for the pie iron virgins in the crowd!

Campfires always bring together good friends, good food and good conversation. This one did not disappoint. And, it turns out, it wasn't the end of summer after all! This week we've had some of the hottest temperatures of the year!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Discoveries

You never know when you will discover something new about yourself. For many years I would scrunch my nose at the mention of camping. That was not my idea of a vacation. The bugs, the dirt, a tent? No thanks.

As I alluded to earlier, my brother convinced me to join their annual fishing trip this year. At first I was apprehensive, but as the departure grew closer, I started to get excited. It was going to be a lot of fun!

After one week completely off the grid (cell service is spotty/limited in Northern Ontario once you're past Sault Ste. Marie and non-existent where we were) I'm happy to say that I've discovered a side of me that I didn't know existed. I loved it! The landscape was breathtaking and it was amazing to spend a week without the conveniences of home. The soundtrack for the week was lapping water, the call of loons and excited squeals when someone caught a fish!

My brother John is a like a hybrid of MacGyver, Bob Izumi and Survivorman. He is passionate about the outdoors and is a wealth of information about not just fish, but most living creatures and their habitats. With endless patience, he has passed on this passion to Josh and Kaelyn who at 13 and 10 are experts at tying lines, hooking worms and gutting fish!

I'd like to take a moment to brag - I caught the first fish of the trip! It was a pike and we threw it back, but still! My nephew Jesse (the group's youngest) caught the biggest fish - also a pike that we threw back. He was beyond excited.

The majority of our time was spent fishing but we also found time for playing some games, campfires and lots of stories from Grandpa.