Tag Archives: family

Top 10 Things I Like to Do on a Long Weekend

10- Slow down the pace

To me there is nothing better than just chilling, listening to classical music, sipping coffee and enjoying the peaceful silence of a holiday morning when everything is closed. Monday to Friday is always so busy. The extra day in a long weekend is for me, an extra chance to recharge.

9- Give the cat some extra attention… when she is looking for it

Usually by mid-day Monday on a long weekend, Miss Ivy is a little sick of having me around, but I’m certain she appreciates the bonus time to play and spend time together.

8- Indulge a little

While I generally stick to a healthy eating plan, a long weekend is a nice opportunity to break up the routine and maybe have a “cheat day”… especially if the long weekend includes a major holiday that involves feasting.

7- Reading

Usually, I read before going to bed. But whenever the opportunity arises to chill and read in the morning or the middle of the day is a serendipitous pleasure every time. Long weekends seem to offer that freedom of extra time to slow down the pace and check out a good book. Continue reading

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Spring Cleaning: Not Just for Spring Anymore

Not too long ago, a friend asked me what I was up to over the weekend and one of the first things out of my mouth was “spring cleaning”. His laughter spoke volumes because at the time, we weren’t anywhere near spring.

The issue, as he pointed out, is that spring cleaning seems to get slipped into conversation 52 weeks of my year. He is right. If I were to promote spring cleaning, my slogan would be “spring cleaning: it’s not just for spring anymore”.

Who has time for spring cleaning in the spring?

After 4-5 months of grey skies, snow, ice and cold temperatures, we Canadians come out of our wintry shells and spend time outdoors to do something …anything!… to get away from the confines of the 4 walls we call home. As much as we may enjoy hibernating and cocooning on the couch with Netflix, ketchup chips, poutine, crispy bacon or anything involving maple syrup, when we don’t HAVE to cocoon anymore, we are outta there!

After being caged up for a season and a half, we become possessed by a heightened appetite for freedom.

When the days are getting longer, temperatures are soaring and our long underwear has been put away for the season, why would we stay home and clean? With the calendar filling with invitations to barbecues and outdoor festivals popping up every weekend, spring cleaning in spring seems so wrong on so many levels.

The season of choice for spring cleaning defies logic to a Canadian. Continue reading

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Christmas Traditions, Past and Present

What is it about the holiday season that has us so deeply entrenched in tradition?

Is it the reminder of the eager anticipation we felt on Christmas morning, waking up to see what Santa brought? Is it the feast for the senses throughout the month of December? Is it the reminder of a simpler, gentler time?

Or is the totality of the experience, combining the recreation of old familiar traditions with the new experiences that get woven in as the fabric of our lives changes?

Here are ten such traditions that have formed an important part of the holidays for me over the years:

10. Shopping
I recently blogged about how shopping in December is so much fun, I now shop in November. But in all seriousness, I do have very fond memories of being a store clerk in my high school and university years and how much I enjoyed helping last minute shoppers find the perfect holiday gifts. In those last days leading up to the big day, there was magic and electricity in the air that made time fly, helping customer after customer ring through with their purchases and hurry out the door to their family, friends and festivities. I enjoyed that role of a sort of Christmas Elf so much, things may come full circle as something I might reconsider in my retirement years.

9. Christmas cards
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail. As I got older I realized that it was impossible to see everyone over the holidays unless I had my own magic sleigh, 8 reindeer and unlimited time. Sending cards is that opportunity to tell someone that I am thinking of them, even if we don’t see each other that often, as well as the chance to convey my best wishes for the new year. True enough, electronic cards, email and texts can still convey the message so much more efficiently, but I still like the ritual of the mailbox and the “Aww!” moment of opening a card, reading a nice greeting and the joy of the ongoing connection with the sender. Plus, when I find a perfect card that captures an inside joke, makes someone laugh, or strikes the right chord in one way or another, it can be a beautiful thing.

8. Baking
Is there anything that helps to stir up the memories of Christmas past than the sweet smell of baking favourite holiday treats? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I do find myself puttering in the kitchen more than usual, reviving old favourites to bring to potlucks, parties or to give as gifts. When that sweet smell gently fills the house, it really does whisper “Christmas is coming”. Date squares, pecan squares, butter cookies and rum balls, are just some of the traditional indulgences that I revive annually. Continue reading

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Breathing New Life in Family Photos

beginfamilyIn my recent post “Blogging… More Than Words“, I mentioned how blogging became more than just about the writing, it also rekindled my love for photography.

In doing so, I found myself digging through old photo albums looking for photos to scan. Whether it was to add to my own collection of stock photography for future blogs or to post on social media to breathe new life into old memories, it has been a fun journey.

But along the way, I noticed that some of the albums from the 1970’s and 1980’s were starting to deteriorate. In a few albums, the sticky “magnetic” pages were starting to get yellow. In some cases, the pictures themselves were changing colour. In others, the pictures weren’t coming off the sticky pages at all. I then felt like a surgeon using any flat headed tool I could find in my tool box or art supplies, to delicately remove pictures from the albums without damaging them.

I was reminded that these albums probably date back to a time before photo albums mentioned “acid-free” pages. Who would have thought that the albums intended to save memories of family and friends might have a limited life span themselves. Did anyone see this coming?

And so began the unexpected project of taking all of the pictures out of the albums that were showing signs of age.

The activity became a fun walk down memory lane, reliving the good old days with family, friends and colleagues. But the clock was ticking as I did not want these precious photos to suffer from more damage. Continue reading

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Would I Come Back As a Contractor?

Revolving DoorAs the countdown to retirement marches on, surprisingly, the question of whether I would consider coming back as a contract employee comes up at least once per month. The question always makes me smile.

Given that retirement for me is still a few years away, I find the best answer to the contracting question is something along the lines of “Thanks for the vote of confidence! We’ll see when the time comes.”

First and foremost, I take it as an amazing compliment. I know I worked very hard to build a solid career based on quality work, strong ethics, working well with colleagues and maintaining a positive attitude. To me, the contractor question is one that fills me with validation and gratitude.

Over the years I have seen many of my colleagues retire and then come back a few years later for short contracts, sharing their vast corporate knowledge and expertise. It is always a pleasant surprise to see their smiling faces and renewed energy at meetings. Parenthetically, I wish they would stop looking so darn refreshed after a few years away from the office. It makes me very envious!

However, I think it is very natural to dream and fantasize about a time when I can truly reap the rewards of a retirement that I worked a lifetime to build. I look forward to the sense of complete freedom where going to bed promptly, getting up with the alarm, dealing with traffic, and commuting in heavy snow or freezing rain become optional. I look forward to having choices I can make, purely in the moment.

To me, my first priority when I decide it is time to retire is to do just that: enjoy the fruits of my labour: Continue reading

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My Top 10 Easter Memories

As we head into the Easter holiday weekend, the memories of Easters past started flashing before my eyes. Maybe it was the delirium induced by a sugar rush of Easter treats that have been in such great abundance in recent days, but when I stopped to think about it, there were just as many great Easter memories as there were great Christmas memories.Easter

The best part is that my Easter memories often stem from their simplicity and their timing. With the floating holiday, Easter sometimes feels like winter while other years it feels like summer. Easter is often associated with the beginning of spring and the approaching end of the school term. It also heralds a period of coming out of our winter cocoons and opting to spend more time outdoors. And of course, there are the Easter treats… some years, too many of them, undermining the New Year’s resolutions, if they were still in effect.

Here they are, my Top 10 Easter memories:

10. My first road trip to Montréal
While I can’t say for sure the exact year, maybe it was 1990, it was right after I had moved out into my own apartment. It was the first time I had rented a car for the weekend with the purpose of a same day trip to Montreal to take in some sights, food and shopping. It was a great taste of independence and doing exciting grown-up things. I vividly recall a beautiful sunny day, the road conditions were perfect, even though there was still some snow on the ground, but I had a lovely day enjoying the charm and warm hospitality of Montréal, the first of many trips to come.

9. While it usually meant a long weekend of studying for exams, it also meant that the university term was almost over.
It was always difficult to stay in and study for exams when the urge to break out and enjoy the spring-like weather was tugging at me. Just the same, I knew that school was almost out. Bringing the books outside to study seemed like a fair compromise.

8. 6:00 a.m. Easter egg hunts
As an only child, waking up early and keeping myself quietly entertained (often, just watching cartoons) until my parents woke up was a weekly weekend ritual. Easter Sunday was really special as I recall waking up, finding the basket and hunting around for Easter eggs that my Mom would have hidden the night before after I went to bed. I recall my huge excitement every time I found one and then shushing myself to keep it down and not wake up Mom and Dad. Continue reading

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In Honour of Grandparents’ Day

Even though my four grandparents are no longer with us, there is no shortage of triggers that keep their spirit alive through a flood of great memories. Those reminders seem to present themselves daily, whether in the way I cough that sounds like my paternal grandfather or in the way I blow my nose that reminds me of my maternal grandfather. More recently, there is also a certain way that my cat Ivy replies to a question, in a very soft meow, which sounds just like my maternal grandmother’s inflection.

In those moments, I really miss them.

Even though specific childhood memories with my grandparents get a little foggier over time, they remain fond ones. In particular, when my parents wanted a bit of grown-up time whether for a day of skiing or a weekend getaway, I would get dropped off at my maternal grandparents’ house where music, laughs and good times were in limitless supply. Having been the only grandchild on that branch of the family tree for a good 16 years, there was lots of play time, talk time and time to share with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family. As much as they say it takes a village to raise a child, I could not have asked for better.

I will be forever grateful to my grandmother who always seemed to be happy to have me over, even if it meant getting out of bed early to greet me at the door in her nightgown and robe on a cold Sunday morning. I fondly remember precious chats with her over hot chocolate, while the rest of the family slept in, then getting whisked off to church for the 10:00 service. I admit I was a pretty quiet little kid when it came to church, but my worst sin was letting my wet winter boots drip on the kneeling bench and my grandmother magically pulling out of her purse tissue after tissue, like a magician, to mop up my mess. Yet I still remember getting rewarded with a Caramilk bar at the candy store on the way home, for being good.

My paternal grandparents lived several hour away, so our relationship was based on annual visits and long distance calls. It is sad we did not have more contact, but we made it work. I remember my grandfather as a strong, proud, dignified man and my grandmother as having the biggest heart in the world, and missing me terribly due to distance between us, often smothering me with kisses throughout our visits. Continue reading

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