In Category: ‘random’

May 2, 2016 Orchard Friends

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile – you’ll know every year we do a photo session in our friend’s orchard with my girls “soul sisters” and one lone “soul brother”. Today was the day! But before I post the photos from today… here’s a look back!

2008… (LINK)

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Caden was too little to keep up with the girls running that year! SO here’s one of the poor guy sitting with them

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2010… (LINK)

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2012… (LINK)

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2013… (LINK)

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2014…. (LINK)

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2015… (LINK)

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And finally… 2016…

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Caden really, really wanted a “Serious face” photo. He puts up with a lot with all girls – so we humour him!

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And a little of what goes on behind the scenes. It definitely does NOT get easier the older they get. These kids are ridiculous when they’re together. Here’s the “Bloopers”.

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Celebrating life and love,


January 23, 2016 Maui

Started this new year off with something I’ve talked about for years. My two long time friends, Cherie and Monica, and myself have wanted to do a trip together to celebrate being 40 while we are all in our 40th year. We had a window from my birthday in December to Cherie’s birthday in April where we are all 40! We kicked around ideas of places for months and months. Then one night late in November – we decided we better decide, found a seat sale and… the rest is history! We decided on Maui for a couple reasons. First – Monica now lives in Edmonton and had the least amount of time off for the trip – we decided we’d need to go somewhere west to maximize her time. Second – Cherie hadn’t seen her brother in three years – and he was going to be in Maui the time we were looking at going! We wanted to stay within a budget that we would have spent going to an all inclusive – and by splitting costs like our condo and car, and minimizing costs of food and such we were able to do it! YAY! Here’s a lot of photos to look at this trip – they are a mix of “real” camera photos and iphone snaps!

The trip started the evening of January 13 when Cherie and I flew from Toronto to Calgary. Yay! This was actually happening!!

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We met Monica in Calgary – yay!! She of course had made a new friend, Eileen, so we had to get a group photo of us all! Then we headed to a hotel for the night where we were able to chat and catch up before our early morning flight to Maui! Great way to start the vacation!

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Now I had been to Hawaii once years and years ago on a layover home from Australia – so I should have known better – but I was shocked how far Maui was! There was a 5 hour time difference from home and the flight from Calgary was 7 hours! I was expecting about a two hour flight from Alberta. Whoops! But it makes sense once you arrive – it really does feel like you stepped into a whole new world!

We arrived and made our one splurge – after we did a lot of bartering and talking them down! We upgraded to a Mustang convertible! So fun!

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We started meeting some fun characters in our travels – including the artist who designed the rolling stones trademark design. Ruby Mazur was a lot of fun to chat with and gave us some great tips for travelling Maui.

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We finally arrived at our condo which was just north of Lahaina (near Kahana)- right on the ocean which was amazing! We slept with the only the screen door shut most nights and one night I even got splashed by a crashing wave we were so close! We loved having breakfast on the patio each day and watching whales from the condo.

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We then went for a walk and explored the beach around the condo and more heart to heart chats…

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We decided to go up Haleakala volcano to watch sunrise on our first morning as our bodies still wouldn’t have adjusted to the time difference so getting up at 3:30am wasn’t as painful. We left by 4am and got there just in time for sunrise. I would recommend going even earlier though as people line up for a good view long before sunrise. It was frustrating to try and get a good view between all the other tourists! Most people are very friendly and cooperative and would share their space -but some were super territorial and not as friendly. We were at about 10,000 feet at the top here – and so we were above the clouds! It was incredible watching the sun peak through the clouds. And then one of the park staff came out and gave a Hawaiian blessing as the sun peaked and told us all to go out and make the most of this day! A great way to start the day! We definitely had to bundle up as being that high up before dawn is cold!

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While most people were quick to leave as soon as the sun came up – we took some time to explore and hike a bit. Totally recommend this as it’s just beautiful up there!!

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We spent that afternoon enjoying some beaches – and then visiting with Cherie’s brother and his family. We went snorkelling with Chris – and even saw some sea turtles which was fun!

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The next day we took as a relaxing day – spent the morning snorkelling and enjoying beaches… and then we decided to go out to see the blowhole we had read about. As we drove, we saw a neat little spot on the side of the road we had to stop at. It felt like we were deep in a magical rainforest!

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We spent so much time here we had to hurry to the blowhole before dark. We were the last people there – and it was pitch black when we hiked back up to our car. Not recommended to go so late – but definitely to go! It was so cool to watch!

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The next morning was another early start. After much debate – we decided to do the Road to Hana. Some people raved about it – while others told us to skip it. We decided to see what we see and to agree we could turn around if needed. The “Road to Hana” isn’t so much about getting to Hana ( a small little town) but about enjoying the drive and the stops along the way. The drive can be intense – as one website says “The Hana Highway (HI-360) has 620 curves and 59 bridges. The road leads you through flourishing rainforests, flowing waterfalls, plunging pools and dramatic seascapes”. I was the driver on the trip – and I’m just thankful I got these two through the drive safely! The best advice we received is to decide ahead of time what stops you want to make (do your research!) and don’t get sidetracked. You definitely don’t want to get behind in your schedule and be driving these roads at night!

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The Twin Falls was our first stop and I couldn’t resist jumping in!

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While I swam, Monica and Cherie grabbed breakfast here – we all got a great start to our day!!

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Keep your eyes open along the road to Hana! We wanted to see the Painted Eucalyptus trees but didn’t know where to find them – but when we spotted them we had to pull over! They were on private property so couldn’t get as close as we’d like – but wow! They are beautiful! Rainbow coloured trees – wow! Nice work, God! Definitely saw his creativity on this trip!

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We then went to Wai’anapanapa State Park along the road to Hana – a favourite spot for all of us! With it’s black sand beach, caves, blowhole, lava rocks and cliffs – it was a great spot! We enjoyed our lunch here too at the picnic tables. We could have stayed all day here.

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And lots of quick stops at waterfalls along the way…

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The last stop we made was the Bamboo Forest. We really debated on if we wanted to see the Bamboo Forest or the Seven Sacred Pools – our time before sunset was getting close and we knew we had really limited time so could only see one thing. We decided that we hadn’t seen bamboo yet but had enjoyed several waterfalls and pools so we would go to the Bamboo Forest. It was a tough walk up if you’re out of shape like me – it’s only about a mile – but it’s ALL up hill climbing old stairs the whole way. Once we arrived in the bamboo forest it was so dense it got dark inside! It was magical! We wish we had time to go on to the waterfalls and such – but our light was quickly going! On the way to the bamboo forest we passed this amazing huge Banyan tree!

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We then had to decide – do we finish the loop and take the lower half of the road back or do we turn around and go back the way we had come? Everything we read talked about how treacherous the road could be – we talked to several people along the road to Hana and they all agreed if you take it slow you can do it. WE decided to go for it. I think Im just starting to release the breath I was holding now! Definitely the most intense driving I’ve ever done – right up against cliff rocks on one side – and the ocean on the other side. Most of it was only wide enough for one car. The hardest part though was driving it at sunset meant the sun was right in my eyes blinding me! I started to honk around some of the corners as I was driving blind with no way to know if someone was coming. A HUGE sign when we finished this drive!

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The next day we packed up our condo and drove Monica to the airport. We saw SO many whales this trip – most from our balcony. This last morning of the three of us we sat on the balcony for over an hour and watched multiple whales jumping, splashing and playing right in front of our eyes! I didn’t want to leave to get my camera so I will have to trust Monica and Cherie got the photos!

It was such a joy to all three be together for this trip! Wish I had counted how many times we had said “We are in Maui!!” or “Wow!” or “we have the best husbands ever!!” (so thankful they could stay home to watch the kids!)

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Cherie and I decided to spend the rest of the day at the beach – we went to Baldwin Beach which was phenomenal. Now looking at this photo of Cherie walking out to the water I see the warning flag to the right of her. That water was WILD – we thought we’d go in quickly to cool off. Get beyond the breaking point and we’d be fine. Don’t be idiots like us – we both got walloped by the waves HARD and have a new appreciation for the strength of water.

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Speaking of the power of water – we then went up to Jaws just up the road from Baldwin Beach to watch some incredible surfing. Jaws is hit and miss for waves – but we were fortunate to be there for some of their great waves! Yay! It was amazing to watch the surfing at sunset – and to have humpback whales breaching in behind the surfers!

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A surfer with a whale splashing in behind!

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Some were crazy enough to boogey board on these waves!

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And of course lots of wipe outs!

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A little ukulele music by a random musician at sunset was a nice treat.

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Our last night together, Cherie and I camped on the beach at a campsite. It was great – except for the roosters! Fortunately we are both deep sleepers! I had brought a tent with me and Cherie brought sleeping pads and blankets. I forgot bedding so I just used my clothes – ha ha. Fortunately it worked as we were in a warmer climate!

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My last day… my flight was at midnight so after a morning on the beach, and returning the car – we went and spent the afternoon with Cherie’s brother’s family again. We enjoyed beach time and I enjoyed a shower before getting on the plane!! I did a photo session of their family that night too which was a lot of fun! More on that to come! All in all it was an amazing trip full of incredible scenery topped only by the great company and conversations. I prefer a trip where I’m seeing and doing and exploring, to only lying on the beach so this was perfect for me!! I absolutely love Maui – how can you not love a place where their greeting “hello” and “goodbye” is “Aloha” which means LOVE.

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Celebrating life and love,


jefferson%20journey zpswuhchnuu Jefferson Journey: Travel Tips

This past summer my girls and I did a 12,000km road trip all across the United States with people joining us along the way (my husband, my mom and my dad). I’ll be sharing about our trip over time here – to follow it you can search the “Jefferson Journey” category!


So, I have been wanting to blog about our trip this past summer – but haven’t had the chance yet. I figured I just need to start! The first thing I thought I’d write about is some travel tips as I’ve been asked lots of questions! If you don’t know – the girls and I did a 12,000km road trip this summer across the United States. We camped along the way – and had my husband, my mom and then my dad join us a different places along the route!

The number one question I get asked is “how did you know where all to travel to?

Research. I probably spent double (or triple) the time planning the trip than I did driving on this trip. Our first destination we knew was the Grand Canyon. So we would put that into Google Maps. You can see there are two routes there the same length of time to travel – so we decided to do one each way. Then we would start to break the drive into bite size pieces. I figured 8-9 hours a day would be about our maximum to drive in a day as it was usually just me as the only driver. Didn’t want to get too tired. So I would look on a map for a good place to stop, and then for something interesting to do each day. Lots of googling. Researching. Searching. And then some more googling.

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I would then print out our plan for each day – the map and step by step directions (just in case the GPS konked out) to our “fun stop” that day and to where there were some campground options. Now, this went out the window day one when we hit a traffic jam and got way behind schedule and had to stop before we had planned. You definitely have to be flexible!! I probably changed our route 100 times before we left as I kept finding something else I’d like to see. We definitely couldn’t see everything so had to weigh our options and pick the best. Hard to do!

Because we didn’t have a set end destination (everywhere was our destination!) – where we were going to that day became our goal. Instead of thinking – only 40 more driving hours to go! We could look at the fact we only had three hours until we stopped at our first interesting pit stop – and then four hours after that to go to camping. Bite size pieces.

Some packing tips…

We bought dry erase markers – the girls can then write on the windows with these and just wipe them off! Some things we used them for…

-keeping score of random games we played
-practicing math (clearly my idea not theirs)
-x’s and o’s
-memorizing verses (writing them out)
-and random doodles!

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We also brought those small suction cup soap holders for inside the shower from the dollar store. Each girl had one on her window – and this was a great place for putting the dry erase markers, sunglasses, phones, etc.
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A few campgrounds we stayed at did not have showers and were more primitive. I’d highly suggest dry shampoo to avoid the greasy hair look! And while on this topic – baby wipes are divine when there’s no showers available.

A blue tooth speaker was one of our favourite items with us. We love listening to audio books and music while we drive – the blue tooth speaker allowed us to listen easily.

We wanted to keep camping simple – did not want to be blowing up air mattresses each stop, but also did not want to be sleeping on the ground! We bought these spongey floor mats that lock together. They would cover the floor of the tent – leaving just a small space without them at the door of the tent for our shoes and such. No rolling off your mattress or blowing up air mattresses. Worked for us! And kids had fun putting it together in a different pattern each night!

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I did not want to get into a big clunky stove and such – so we brought our Coleman one burner to cook on. It’s surprising how much you can cook on this little thing! And being so small – we could use it at rest stops, parking lots or even on the beach – very easily!

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We were living out of the car so everything packed had to be minimal – we even left our pillows at home and just brought pillow cases that we could stuff with our sweatshirts and such!

Speaking of minimal packing – a few things we overpacked on…

Books. I know – I am usually of the philosophy you can never have too many books but in this case… we did. Madi narrowed down her first packing list of 23 books down to about a dozen. But she still did not get through all her books – I think next time we’ll go back to our kobos (even though we all prefer paper books). Or allow them 1-2 books and agree to buy a new one once they are completed as a reward.

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We also packed too many clothes – as much as I travel, I’m a terrible packer! I knew we were going to have hot weather as well as cooler weather. Need shoes for hiking and also for the beach. And so we needed a variety of clothes. But we did not need a wide selection of each item! I’d pack less next time and do more laundry!

I had printed off a ton of fun car games and activities. An activity/info sheet for each state. Car bingo and other car games. And so on. I had tons and tons of options for the kids. Honestly? Most went untouched!!

Some car rules…

We have done a few road trips with the kids now (across Canada, out to the east coast a few times, around Iceland, etc.) and our number one rule is – if someone needs to stop and use the washroom we ALL use the washroom. Even if you don’t think you need to. Because without fail – you will need to as soon as we get back on the highway!

We have always had a no electronics rule on our road trips. No watching DVDs or playing video games. The trip is about the journey not just the destination – so look out the window! The girls were allowed to bring their ipod for photos and music though. And another rule we have is music is for us all to hear – no plugging in earphones and tuning the family out. They’ve grown up with these rules so they’re fine with them!

We started our day with a bit of a routine… we would read a Psalm, pray for safety and then listen to “my” music. I was the only adult for much of the trip and had to keep my sanity in tact. If the day started on a poor foot – the rest of the day was a mess too!

Likewise, there was a no audio book until I’m on the highway rule. I find the excess noise of a narrator and characters while I’m trying to navigate city streets in a foreign place a little overwhelming! Until the car was on the highway and things were going along smoothly – no audio books!

I am a Diet Coke fanatic – but we had a “water only” rule for drinking on this trip. Was hard to do – but felt so much better!

Each spot in the car had it’s role – front seat passenger had to help with navigating maps and GPS. Back seat passenger had to hand out the food and drinks from the cooler. Likewise, at our campgrounds everyone had a role. I’d make supper and get things organized while Madi would set up the tent and Eden would lay out the mats in the tent and sleeping bags. This made things go so much smoother!

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Oh! And a super helpful tip from my dad! If you are a Canadian driving through the States you know that it’s such a pain when they ask for your “zip code” at the gas pump because we don’t have one! I use to use “90210″ as my zip code because it was the only one I knew. icon smile Jefferson Journey: Travel Tips Now that doesn’t work anymore. The secret is… take your postal code, remove just the letters (you’ll have 3 numbers remaining) and add “00″ to the end. Works like a charm! For example – my postal code growing up was P7C 4T9 – so I’d enter 74900 as my zip code! No more having to go into the gas station to prepay because I don’t have a zip code to use at the pump!

Now that you have a glimpse into the “how” of the trip… we can start the fun of reliving it over the next few blog posts!

Celebrating life and love,


September 15, 2015 TIFF weekend to remember

Apparently I’ve become one of “those” people.

We all have friends who’s birthdays stretch for a week. A month. Or in my case… six months.

Now, since my work in Africa I’ve come to realize that aging is a luxury many are not granted – so I have lost all embarrassment at telling people my age. This year in December I will turn 40.

I also got over the fact that society tells me I’m suppose to lie about my age when my friends and family threw me a surprise “Half Birthday” party in June! No hiding my age now!

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This past weekend, my sister gave me my birthday gift early… tickets to TIFF! TIFF is also celebrating it’s 40th year – and everywhere we went at TIFF was “Happy 40th” or “40″ signs… naturally, we assumed they were all for me. So thoughtful. (On a side note – even if I’m not embarrassed about my age… maybe I should be by the fact I seem to have only one outfit looking at this pic below and the one above).

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I’ve had lots of friends asking what exactly TIFF is – so thought I’d try to explain and share a bit about our time there!

TIFF – or Toronto International Film Festival – has close to 400 films shown and debuts many major films for the first time. There are different types of screenings – Premieres (where the film is shown for the first time ever and the director and cast is usually on hand) right on down to small outdoor screens. This article from People Magazine explains TIFF well – LINK

Our first film was Friday night – since we were going in against rush hour, we take the train. The rest of the time we drove. Always fun to go into the city for a change of scenery. The whole area of TIFF has an energy and festival feel to it! The streets are closed and there are vendors and music and free giveaways and pop up shops galore! It rained pretty much the whole weekend – but that didn’t dampen our fun! The last photo shows us in the Andy Warhol photo booth – with our rainy frizzy hair and still laughing!

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All of our films were at Roy Thompson Hall – amazing venue. Our first film was “Eye in the Sky” with Helen Mirren. We knew the least about this one, and so were a little less excited about it. We knew it was a war movie – which could mean blood and gore (yuck) and that it was set in Nairobi, Kenya. We liked that fact as my sister, Marcie and I had been to Nairobi together just a few months ago. Because it was a Premiere, the director and a couple of the cast came out ahead of time and shared about the film. The director, Gavin Hood, shared how a film of his a few years before had been awarded the “People’s Choice” award at TIFF – and how it changed his life. Suddenly people took notice, he gained distributors for the film and was able to go on and make other films. He was really emotional sharing about it – so naturally I got choked up. Dame Helen Mirren is sheer grace and beauty. And Barkhad Abdi had us all laughing with his “let’s get going!” as they were anxious to watch the film. Mirren had refused to watch it earlier as “how would she know what parts she likes?” without an audience’s reactions.

This film was excellent – a perfect blend of humour along with the harsh reality of modern day war. The real debate was what the value was of one life… it was powerful. I was quick to place my vote for this one for people’s choice – amazing film I’d totally recommend!

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After our film, was the Premiere of the Martian. We had tickets for it the next day – but wanted to see if we could catch a glimpse of the cast. One thing I do want to stress – is Marcie and I both love our celebrities and Hollywood gossip.. .but we do not love the idea of “hunting” celebrities. We both felt when they walk the red carpet – that’s part of their job in doing their promotions. But we did not want to stalk them outside of their hotels, restaurants and parties like we saw being done. Many people stood for hours and hours to catch a glimpse of stars – we would simply go and maybe be wayyyy down the line and not a direct view, but our sanity was still in tact! And as you’ll see at the bottom of this post – still paid off for a great photo op! icon smile TIFF weekend to remember

So, after our film Friday we went over o the red carpet and were able to catch Matt Damon, Sebastian Stan (“Bucky” from the Marvel movies) and Jessica Chastain – both excellent in the Martian. Another GREAT movie. Set on Mars, and Matt Damon is left behind presumed dead… but later they find out he’s alive. Decisions have to be made to go back for him or not. Again the question of the value of just one life. Could not imagine anyone but Matt Damon in this role. It was nice how they all waved at me directly. They must have known it’s my 40th.

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The next morning we went back in, and watched the Martian (which I mentioned above). And then we saw “Miss You Already” with Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette. This was the one I expected to like the most – a chick flick about two besties. Probably my least favourite of all the movies. Still good – but not as powerful as the others. But that’s okay – I got to see Drew who I love! I really think we’d be BFF’s and I like to pretend in this first photo it’s her surprised face when she sees me there. Sort of how she reacted when she saw Toni on the red carpet after her. They went running to each other hugging and squealing like she wanted to do with me. And Toni – incredible actress and so, so stunning. Her hair and her yellow skirt – wow! They were exactly how you’d expect them to be when they spoke about their film. Toni was witty and articulate – Drew gushed and was sugar sweet. Toni explained that this was like giving birth to the film so all of us watching were the film’s doulas. ha ha.

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Then that was suppose to be it… but we had entered some contests where you post a selfie and use a certain hashtag. In this case it was for L’Oreal. Well – what a surprise when I got a comment on instagram that I had won tickets and to come pick them up! When we went to pick them up they took us up to their VIP lounge overlooking the red carpet (super cool)… and then let us choose our tickets. We decided to come back the very next day! And the tickets were also for a Premiere. That meant we would have 4 tickets on opening weekend – and 3 of the 4 were world premieres! We kept saying – I think we won the TIFF lottery! Never get such great tickets – it’s so tough to get tickets at all! And for all of the premieres we got seats on the main floor centre. Score again!

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Sunday we went back for one last show – first day that was not raining. Still chilly though!

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We were watching “Freeheld” with Ellen Page and Julianne Moore. Two actresses I love! It is a true story about a same sex couple, where one partner is a longtime police officer who is dying from cancer and wants to pass her pension on to her partner. It was the legal battle that went along with that struggle. Julianne Moore absolutely deserves an Oscar for her role (has any actress won back to back? She won last year too!). Ellen Page is adorable in it too. It was powerful to have the real people the story is about there also. The cast – especially Julianne Moore – constantly directed all the applause to them. Michael Shannon was a giant compared to Ellen – loved when he pointed down at her as one of the movie’s producers. She’s soooo tiny! When a Premiere ends, the cast will stand in the front row of the balcony to applause and usually a standing ovation. It was clear that at the end of the movie Ellen and Julianne had been crying and moved by the film as they stood to applause – and again they directed our attention over to the real people the story was about.

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Julianne hugging the real life woman the story is about who’s partner Julianne played in the movie.

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I have decided walking the red carpet would be the wost experience ever. Everyone reaching for you, screaming your name, and photos! photos! photos! Argh!

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And now for the story everyone has been asking me about!

Friday night as soon as we got there we wandered around – and saw people lining up along a red carpet. We asked who was expected – and everyone said “Sandra Bullock”. We thought it’d be fun to see her but had to get to the movie we had tickets for. We let ourselves stay for about ten minutes before we had to leave. We were wayyyy down the line along the red carpet so didn’t expect any interaction – but may get a photo of them getting out of their car. The road is closed off – but the police would let through the star’s SUV’s. Each time an SUV pulled up the crowd would speculate who was in it. The windows are so tinted you have no idea until they open the door! Well no one was expecting George Clooney to get out – he is a producer for Sandra’s new movie but no one knew that. He got out and all you could hear was people yelling “it’s George!” all through the crowds. And then, he came down the entire line of people waiting alongside the red carpet – right down to where we were way at the end. Talking to everyone and super friendly. These photos were with my 50mm lens – no zoom, he was right there!

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When he got to us, I realized I wouldn’t have time to get a good picture with my “real” camera so I put it away and had my iPhone right ready and set for a selfie. He came up and said “how’s everyone doing? Is everyone okay?” Just friendly and fun… and that voice! I asked if we could grab a quick photo with him – when he said yes, I had my camera ready to go. He said “Wow! – you know how to take photos! You’ve got skills!” Little did he know I’m actually a photographer… ha ha! Marcie said I should put that quote on my website. Hilarious.

And here it is…

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And that was how we kicked off our weekend at TIFF! Everywhere we went people would talk about who they saw – when we told them we even got a photo with George Clooney – they’d high five us and get excited. One woman in line asked if she could share it on her facebook page! ha ha. Love people’s enthusiasm!

Such a fun weekend! Great gift – thanks Marcie!!

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Celebrating life and love,


July 26, 2015 Here we go!

Today is the day. The day a new adventure begins. People have told us we’re crazy. And asked us “why?” And all I can think of is “WHY NOT?”

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Today – the girls and I get in the car and start on a journey of about 9,000km. People keep asking us where we are driving to… and that’s difficult to answer because there’s no point on the trip where we say “now we are at our destination – let’s turn around and go home.” The entire trip – each day – is the destination. Mark will join us in a few days (work gets in the way of personal life sometimes!). But for now – us girls are heading out. A little west. A little south. A little crazy.

I’ll be trying to post as we find wifi (we are camping the whole way) and sharing – because these posts make up my travel logs. Help me to remember what I’ve seen and felt. Travel inspires me – and I feel makes me a better person and photographer. So, the car is packed to capacity, the GPS is on, cameras eager to see… and we are off!

A couple quick photos of the prep….

Some how dogs “know” when you’re leaving…

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And I told Madi to pack some books – she chose 23. Then I took a different approach “whatever you can fit in your bag you can take” – rookie move. It’s packed so full and weighs about 100 pounds. All books.

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Celebrating life and love,


October 28, 2014 Paying our Respects

One week ago I watched the news from Ottawa unfold in shock. And along with the rest of the country, I was glued to listening to the coverage (which was excellently done!) of the death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

And then to hear he was from Hamilton! That hit home again – he was from here. Made it so much more personal.

When the body came from Ottawa last week I wasn’t able to go. And I regretted not attending.

When they had open visitation for the public I wasn’t able to go. And I regretted not attending.

I try to live with no regrets – so last minute, I decided I needed to go to the funeral processional today. And it wasn’t just that I wanted to – it felt like a “need”. A way to say “thank you”.

I pulled my daughter out of school for the morning (my other daughter was away on a field trip) and we had – what I like to call – a “real life field trip”. I am a big supporter of education – but recognize not all education can take place inside the walls of a school.

As we headed out the door, on a whim I grabbed my camera. I’m so glad I did as it was such a powerful experience. I realize not everyone is able to attend – so I was happy to be their “eyes” for them – it was an honour.

Rest in Peace Nathan Cirillo.

I love that Hamilton has had it’s patriotism rejuvenated through this experience. Every city bus had “Lest We Forget” on them. Flags everywhere – and those on poles at half mast. People were decked out in Canada attire and red and white.

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And then the processional began. The atmosphere was a mix of sadness over such an untimely death, and pride for our country and our uniformed servants.

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In the back of this photo I realized after is Nathan’s son – wearing his daddy’s hat.

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As we left I looked back – and as far as I could see – was a sea of uniforms. And I got a little choked up. And then this plane from the Warplane Heritage flew over just as we got to our car.

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Tonight, hours later we opened the door to head out and saw double rainbows! Eden cried out “Look, mom! Lest we forget!” When we got in the car she said “Mom! I have to find the right song for this moment.” She put on “If I Die Young” – and belted out these lyrics as we looked at the rainbow:

“Lord make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors
Oh, and, life ain’t always what you think it ought to be, no
Ain’t even grey, but sheburies her baby

The sharp knife of a short life
Oh well, I’ve had just enough time

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song”

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Celebrating life and love,


October 11, 2014 Thanksgiving

I love the season of Thanksgiving – we have so much to be grateful for. To take time to stop and intentionally give thanks – love it. And this year the weather has been perfect for celebrating amongst the Fall colours. So when my girls had a PD day on the Friday of the long weekend – it was time to get out and explore! We are fortunate to live near Hamilton “Waterfall capital of the world” and within a short drive we enjoyed not one – but four amazing waterfalls! We had planned to visit a couple more too but our energy was spent and we were ready to curl up at home with books by the end. We’ll save those falls for another day!

Here’s some of my munckins on our day of exploring….

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Celebrating life and love,


February 21, 2014 Memories of Quebec

For the last couple of Christmases, we have started a new tradition with our girls. We realized they don’t need more “stuff” and instead wanted to give them a memory. So, the tradition is now that they get one Santa gift and then a memory from mom and dad. This year – we said we’d take them to somewhere I’ve wanted to go to since I was their age… Quebec Carnival! The girls have loved visiting Quebec in the past – but had not been in the winter. And Eden had been asking to go see the ice hotel…. so it was time! We just went this past weekend – we joked it was our “Valentine’s/Family Day/Christmas” weekend. Whatever it was – it was a lot of fun! My girls – Madison (11) and Eden (9) are going to help tell about some favourite parts in the blog below. (Please note these are personal pics – some from our little point and shoot – but wanted to share our little adventure with you all!)

We left on Valentine’s day after school and drove to Montreal. And then Saturday morning finished the trip on to Quebec City. We love doing road trips – the girls and Mark love listening to audio books. I can not seem to get in to them – so while they listen, I read. icon smile Memories of Quebec

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The snow in Quebec was crazy – I thought we had a lot of snow this winter! There was SO much snow! Huge snowbanks and piles of snow everywhere. This image is of a fence that you barely even knew was there!

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And then it was time. We arrived at the Carnival!!

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“My favourite part of my Quebec trip was the carnival. I liked going to the carnival because it is a once in a life time opportunity because it is only held in Quebec once a year. They had amazing opportunities and awesome rides. ” (Madison)

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We tried lots of fun games – one favourite was this one – sort of like curling and lawn darts combined!

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We went up on a big ferris wheel – great view of this section of the carnival!

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We were so impressed by the ice and snow sculptures – we took advantage of the sculpting station and tried to create our own. I think we all gave up before our creations were done – much harder than it looks!!

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One of our favourite things was this human foos ball (spelling?) game. We were all strapped in so we couldn’t move and played a round of human sized table top soccer – so ridiculous and fun! We didn’t get a great picture of it because we were all playing – but here’s a photo from my iphone of it!

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We all loved the tube rides!

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Okay – here’s my dorky moment. (Well, one of many). I’ve always wanted to meet Bonhomme. We saw him – and I literally went running over. And hugged him. There was a big crowd and I’m surprised Mark even got a photo of me. Also surprised that my family did not disown me.

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“One of my favourite things at the carnival was the ice slide they had it was entirely made out of ice! It was an experience I’ll never forget.” (Madison) The ice slide was one of my favourites too! You sat on a sled and whipped down this bumpy course racing against one other person. It just so happened when it was the girls turn to go the marching band had just started up! Fun! And even though it was a long line – no one seemed to notice because they had a couple of heated tents – the first one was handing out chapstick and hand warmers – and the second one was a photo booth! Then you exited the photo booth and it was your turn to go! So fun! You can see the girls on the ice slide in this little instagram video HERE

Then we were waiting for the parade, and saw people ziplining through old Quebec – right over the main street (that was closed off for the carnival). We asked how much – included in the carnival pass!! Sweet! I held our stuff well Mark and the girls zipped over top of me. They were the last ones for the day – hard to get photos as they whip by against the black night sky, in dark colours – but you get the idea!

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“I enjoyed zip-lining. I enjoyed this because of the thrill, it felt like you would fall any second. Also it was really cool because it was dark and snowy.” (Eden)

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Then it was the parade!! I unfortunately didn’t have a wide angle lens on – and it was snowing so hard I wasn’t about to change it outside – so there aren’t a lot of photos of the parade. Let me just say though – it was spectacular! The best parade I’ve seen – and the snow just made it extra magical! Every single person in it gave 150%! It was incredible. And also incredibly cold! We all had to give in and admit defeat – after a full day out in the cold, we had to go warm up. It was hard to pull ourselves away!

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Eden having a hard time leaving – look how snow covered her dark hat is though!

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Another thing we did was go to the Ice Hotel (Hotel de Glace) – wow! I wondered what all there would be to see at a hotel we weren’t staying at. It was beyond amazing. It’s always between -3 and -5 degrees. It is cool but bearable. The sculptures and carvings are breathtaking!

“I also liked the ice hotel with all the cool (ha ha) rooms and the beautiful designs. What surprised me the most was there was a room based on the movie Frozen!” (Eden)

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The chapel at the hotel – stunning!

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An amazing vacation full of great memories!

Celebrating life and love,


November 20, 2013 The Maggies

Our family loves road trips – and this summer we decided to head out on an adventure. Since we are in the process of adopting (see more about that HERE) we never know when our family might expand to include little people who might not enjoy a long road trip so decided we better do this!

I know. I know. It’s November. Everyone is thinking of Christmas… and I’m blogging about a summer vacation? I finally have the time to sit down and go through images though – and I like to blog about it as it’s a personal record for me also. So bundle up on this chilly winter night and enjoy some pics of summer! icon smile The Maggies

We finally settled on a place I’ve wanted to go for a long time. Iles de la Madeleine – also known as the Maggies. My dad had spent some time there with work and his descriptions of it had long intrigued me. We couldn’t find very much info on the Maggies – but thought we’d give it a try! The Maggies are actually part of the province of Quebec – but to get there it’s a 5 hour ferry ride from PEI. So this meant we drove to PEI, and then took a boat to the Maggies. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect – but I will simply say it was magical. If you like to see a place that is entirely authentic – virtually no tourism – then this is the place. We were on the island a week and in that time we saw one other license plate that was not from Quebec (from NY state). The island is french – not french like Montreal or Quebec City where it seems just about anyone can easily switch to English – this is french where they often don’t speak a lick of English. There are no signs directing you to tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants – maybe because the restaurants and hotels are scarce and the tourist attractions are everywhere. Amazing beauty – at any point you are within reach of the water and amazing beaches – and usually you’re the only people on the beach!

But let’s see some pictures!

We love road tripping – lots of books to read and audio books to listen to! This summer our girls were on a Percy Jackson (Madison) and Warrior Cats (Eden) kick so they were whipping through those as the miles went along.

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We love random tourist stops – like the world’s biggest axe – and this one was the world’s longest covered bridge.

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There goes Mark and the bikes through the bridge while we girls jogged the footpath for a stretch!

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Finally we got to Prince Edward Island. We love PEI and have enjoyed a few family vacations there – but this time it was just a stopping point. We stayed with a good friend of mine – and fellow photographer – Rachel. We had one night and then it was off to catch the ferry! Rachel took us to a “kitchen party” where we danced and laughed!

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The next day we loaded the ferry and headed off on our adventure!

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Bye bye PEI!

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5 hours on a ferry… fortunately they had lots of different areas to hang out in and board games and such. It was fun!

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Our first glimpse of the Maggie’s – in that gorgeous evening light – took my breath away. The coloured homes along the islands started to pop up. The Maggies are actually an archipelago – a cluster of islands and you can drive from island to island.

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The first night we stayed in a hostel as we arrived at 8pm and wanted to start on a good night sleep! The rest of the time we camped in our tent. There are barely any trees and so it is always windy!! We went inland a bit (you know – a whole 5minutes from the water rather than on the water) and found a treed camping ground and camped for the week! Once we arrived at the hostel we dropped our bags and set out on foot to explore. We were already in love at this point.

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The next day we picked an island and a beach and headed out to explore. This beach listed in the one tourism booklet we found – was a bumpy dirt road that seemed to go on without end. The directions were by landmark and not road name. We started to wonder if we made a wrong turn – but eventually came upon a great beach where we were the only ones. Beautiful sand dunes that we ran up and down and white soft sand!

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We then found another beach – red cliffs on one side and white cliffs on the other, white sand, a lighthouse and… no one in sight. I was loving this.

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The colourful houses are everywhere – and you saw so many interesting combinations of colours (and people outside painting and repainting their houses – must be tough to keep up those vibrant colours on such a windy island!)

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Another beach we went to that week was I think my favourite. 12km long – gorgeous, pristine white sand… and again – no one in sight. We walked and walked and walked – and saw no one. A few days earlier they had had tehir annual sandcastle contest and somehow miraculously they still stood (with a few dings from the wind).

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My little book worm took lots of notes on the Maggies.

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Another day we took a hike and enjoyed amazing views!

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This next series of three crack me up. So typical.

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Another day we explored the red rocks at low tide – such fun!

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We took another hike – had to hike down a beach to get to these cliffs and rocks and incredible views!

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One thing the one tourism booklet we had mentioned was the Acadian festival. If there’s anything I love it’s a festival. We asked everywhere and no one knew anything about it. Then we were in a shop (where we had just asked if they knew anything about the festival) and heard this racket. The festival had arrived. Cars and vans and trucks all decked out in the Acadian flag and colours did a “parade” (drove in a line honking and honking and honking). It was so fun! ANd loud.

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A beautiful night down at the docks!

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Our last day we rented e-bikes and explored the island right until we had to load for the ferry. We went out to some new beaches we hadn’t tried yet and had an amazing last day!

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Farewell Maggies!

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And just to prove I was there – one image of my favourite guy and myself.

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We loved the trip – it was so much fun and a really beautiful place. In ways it reminded me of Iceland (you can see a few pics from that trip HERE if you scroll down) – totally untouched, not commercialized, authentic and pure. We would totally recommend the Maggies!!

There may be a part two to my vacation pictures – Mark and the girls drove home after our time in the Maggies, and I stayed behind to photograph a special wedding with Rachel in PEI. That turned into sometime that I explored PEI and Nova Scotia – a treat to end the trip!

Celebrating life and love,


July 20, 2013 Eden

Today my Eden turns 9. This is a magical year… her last one ever in the single digit numbers. My baby girl is growing up.

I adore Eden… she is easy to love. She walks into a room, and you instantly want to snuggle with her. She has a way of loving people large and sneaking into their hearts until before they even realize it they’re fully smitten with this imp. Her name means delightful and she is just that. We had a great chat recently about finding her place to give back – and I reminded her that she is a delight and brings joy to people. That is an important role in this crazy, messed up world!

Another thing I love about this little one is she simply is Eden. She does not try to fit in and do what others do. She knows herself, and doesn’t waiver. She wears what she likes, listens to the music she likes (Forever Young by Rod Stewart and “Rains down in Africa” are what she usually lists as her favourite songs), and (sometimes to my frustration) acts how she likes (she loves to burp – usually the alphabet and at the most inappropriate time). I can remember a girls club she went to last year, the kids were all told to bring their favourite outfit for a fashion show they were doing as part of a lesson. Eden brought pajamas that were hand me downs – way too big and a big rip in  the leg. I tried to talk her into a “trendy” or “cute” outfit  - but she loves these PJ’s and how they feel and that was that. That’s Eden. She knows what she likes. At her birthday party this year I showed her a few ideas for her birthday cake I could attempt to make, and she replied with  “Mom, I don’t mean to offend… but you know what I’ve always wanted and dreamt about? A cake with roses on it from Zehr’s.”  She didn’t want any words on her cake. She just wanted roses. The lady at Zehr’s kept saying “not even happy birthday on it?” Nope. Just roses.

The other thing that really stands out about my little Edie is her genuine love and concern for people. She cares so deeply for people and loves them with her whole entire being. I can’t really put this into words – but watching her love people is a beautiful thing.

And now she’s nine. As much as it makes me sad to see my girls grow up – I’m excited to watch them become their own individuals and each stage of life is so exciting. I love this girl and wish her the happiest of birthdays!!

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Love mom  xoxoxox