4 Little Piggies Went to Market

Hi strangers!

It’s been a while since my last post. Earlier in December I got to celebrate Christmas in several amazing and festive ways and then unfortunately, before I was able to blog about any of it, I got sick. First with a brutal cough, then just when I thought I was in the clear, I came down with Labyrinthitis. I won’t go into how crushing and debilitating this insane illness is, only that you literally lay on your side for a week and any time you move, you experience the most severe vertigo, dizziness and nausea. It’s like being very drunk and sick all day long. So looking at the computer for any amount of time was basically out of the question. Which resulted in the blog break! (And even more annoying, an unanticipated work break) But now I’m back! I’ve been moving around for a week and I can finally focus enough to read books, blogs and most importantly, Facebook!

So – lets jump into our one horse open sleigh time machine back to the start of December, when some special ladies and I hit up Toronto’s Christmas Market in Toronto. The market is set up in the Distillery district and is Christmas incarnate. It was so pretty and sparkly and fun, but like seemingly everything these days, it was just so busy and had such long lineups there were some things we just didn’t go for. Like the churros. Everybody said to get the churros. But the lineup would have taken us half an hour to get through! So instead, we drank delicious hot chocolate and had amazing creamy mac and cheese. We sang carols with the Victorian carollers and we danced the Little Women traditional Christmas dance made famous by Winona Ryder (Or more specifically, Kari did this whilst excitedly running into passersby).

We were lucky enough to have Ashley and Brodie staying with us that weekend, so after the girls and I had our fill of Christmas fun, we met up with the boys at C’est What on the Esplanade where we had drinks and dinner and good times. Very lucky to see this crowd as often as I do – especially when the Ottawa folk come to visit!

Ugly – Lineups! I wish I was a billionaire who could rent out markets and fairs for my own personal use like McDreamy did for Reese Witherspoon at Tiffany’s in Sweet Home Alabama…

Awesome – Despite the crowds and lineups, it’s really hard to squash my Christmas Spirit. Any place that’s so full of Christmas decorations, lights, sparkles trees, carollers etc. is OK in my book. Extra bonus for going with awesome ladies.

The Annual Ladies Christmas Party: Eggnog Snog Blog

The title would imply that this blog is about kissing Eggnog in British speak. It is not. I lied.

This week has been pretty crazy work-wise, so I was very excited to let my hair down and host the annual Ladies Christmas Party this weekend. This party has been been an annual occurrence for the last 6 years at least, and it’s always the most festive, fun time with all the girls. Over the years, this party has featured Gingerbread Playboy Mansions complete with “The Girls Next Door” cast printed out and stuck on the plastic lawn, Christmas Tacos, viewings of straight-to-video Holiday Movies starring the Olsen Twins, gifted fart machines and infamous photos of all the attendees pretending to sleep or pass festive gas. Needless to say, it’s always my favourite Christmas event.

This year’s potluck festivities included delicious contributions of KFC, 4 layer dip, yummy strawberry salad, a cheese plate and puff pastries as far as the eye can see! And for the finale, Sara brought homemade cheesecake pops which were decorated all festive-like. We watched Love Actually and spoke in British accents and then watched Little Women and laughed at Claire Danes (sorry Kari!). There was an awesome gift exchange where we all stole and received gifts (which I did a terrible job of documenting…) and all left with fun presents!

This week is my last at work before the Holidays, and I’m hoping it will be less frantic and provide a nice, gradual transition into the break (It won’t, but a girl can dream). After that, it’s a trip home to Kingston to celebrate with Family and some Holiday time with Toronto family too. Maybe I’ll have so much free time, I’ll blog a little more frequently! WON’T THAT BE A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE?!

Ugly:

The “Forever Lazy” I received in the gift exchange. It might be ugly, but it’s philosophy is beautiful.

Awesome:
The cheesecake pops. And seeing all my ladies – Merry Christmas beautiful ladies!

The Final European Chapter

We made it!! After more than a year, I have finally motivated my lazy ass to blog the final chapter of my Europe trip!! I promise, after this I will stop living in the past. I feel like a hibernating bear crawling out of his cave of Europe photos after a whole year of comfy slumber. Time to catch some fish.

Sooo…the final leg of our journey after the relaxing Benalmadena beach trip was a few days of urban culture in Madrid. The first thing we did after surviving the packed bus trip to the city center was unload our bags at the hostel and head down to the restaurant square to have a pint.

The first thing we noticed in Madrid was that we actually needed to use our limited Spanish. No one spoke English and after spending a week in the British stomping grounds of Benalmadena this seemed somehow shocking to us. It was was a welcome change of authenticity, so we busted out our Spanish/English dictionary and actually started trying.

We took a walk to the Royal Palace of Madrid, watched a Bride to Be wade through an ancient fountain in a strawberry costume and enjoyed the Spanish sunset. After the sun went down, we began our hunt for food. First we stumbled upon the Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel Market) which was incredible, with food stands offering a wide variety of every food and dessert under the sun, but it was packed and we were looking for somewhere to sit down and relax. So we continued happily roaming the streets and even happened upon a few surprises along the way like the hard apple cider slushy cart (Waupoos slushy anyone!?!?!?!) and a sausage snack stand! As you know by now, our previous Spanish tapas experience had been been less than satisfactory along the way, so we were searching for something authentic but maybe a little more our style. We found exactly that at an amazing restaurant that served unique tapas like walnut and brie on a baguette smeared with caramelized onion jelly and smoked salmon with dill and brie (again…I love brie)…it was perfect. We also loved it for it’s young, fun, atmosphere – it was like the Dundas and Ossington of Madrid. I can’t find what street it was exactly, but if you Google map “cafe majaderitos Madrid”, that’s the street we were on. You know, in case you’re going to Madrid.

The next day we woke up at 9 to start our day. When we left our hostel, we realized that in a city where everyone goes to sleep at 4am, no one wakes up until 11. Especially on a Sunday. We traveled the streets searching for a cup of coffee on our way to ‘El Rastro”, a flea market said to be the largest in Europe. No coffee was to be had until we reached the market, where thankfully one of the 3,500 stalls served Jamie’s and my lifeblood. We spent several hours at this market, which was surprising because I assumed after a couple hours, Jamie would fold as many men do in shopping situations. But he bravely explored with me, as we looked for gifts for loved ones, interesting antiques and various markety snacks, even when it started pouring rain.

That afternoon, we went to The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum where we saw some of my favourite artists’ works up close. We were going to go to the Museo del Prado which is the most famous Art Museum in Madrid, but we kind of ran out of time, chose which artists were our personal favourites and most of those works were in the Thyssen. It was amazing until the museum started to close and we had to leave…then we went for a walk over to the Museo del Prado and took pictures there as if we actually went inside. Which we didn’t. We hung around on the grassy hill and people watched, then walked back to our hostel through the Parque del Retiro, a big, pretty park next to the Artists Walk. We soaked up the sunset and took as many photos of random architecture as we could because tonight was our last night in Europe. We finished off the day at the same restaurant as the night before, got gelato and went went to sleep.

The next day, we had a fancy shmancy breakfast to cheer us up because we were leaving.

This was the best trip of my life so far (hence why I spent an entire year focusing on it) and I feel really lucky because a lot of people never get to get to experience a trip like that in their lifetime. It also proved that Jamie and I travel well together, which I’ve heard is not always the case with some couples. We are in the process of trying to decide where to go next, so I’ll let you know when we figure it out. But for now, I’m going to try this new thing called blogging about what’s currently happening, not what happened a year ago. We’ll see how that goes 🙂

Ugly:

Not being in Europe.

Awesome:

One of my favourite parts of Madrid was seeing paintings which I’ve admired since I was a small child, in person. I’ve been to art museums before, but I don’t think I ever saw paintings in real life that I’ve been staring at for my entire life in books. I saw paintings by Picasso, Dali, Degas, Renoir, Vermeer, Van Gogh and it was awesome.

Next time on Ugly/Awesome: Who knows!? It’s back to blogging real time!

The Long Lost Barcelona Post

I’m alive!! I’m sorry to have worried anyone who thought that I may have fallen off the Earth or was possible abducted by otherworldy beings.

Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I have had a slightly rough time in life since I last posted. But all is well and good now and I finally feel happy again. Happy enough to continue sharing all my Awesome moments with you. And my Ugly ones.

SO!! I left you in agonizing suspense after my last post. I had just shared the lovely Wedding of two of my best friends in France, and had promised to impress you with tales and photos of Spain. So that’s where we begin today. I’m very sorry if all the summer imagery makes you sad because it’s so gross outside in real life.

After staying up until 5am the night of the wedding, we left at 7am the next morning to catch our flight to Barcelona. So if you’re wondering why it looks like Jamie and I have been beaten in our eyes, don’t worry – it’s only exhaustion.

After we found our hostel and got settled, we forced ourselves to take the subway to the Sagrada Familia so we would not be tempted to go to sleep for the next 48 hours and miss all of Barcelona. So we dragged ourselves there and I’m so happy we did. It was like being on Star Trek when they land on a futuristic alien planet where all the architecture looks like weird half plant/ half building madness. Except it was real and Antoni Gaudi had designed it all back in 1883. He must be from the future. Perhaps he is a Terminator.

After roaming around this place in a delusional state for a few hours, we floated back to our hostel where we landed in bed for an afternoon Nap.

Cut to 3 hours later when the loudest noise I have ever heard wakes me up and propels me across the room in fear. I realize the ruckus is coming from outside, so I open the doors to our little terrace and down on the ground to the left, coming closer and closer are 20 people dressed in Yellow T-Shirts playing the drums. They’re all in sync and playing the same song. It reminds me of Braveheart. Behind them are another 30 people, just following them down the street. It is BIZARRE. I think “How interesting – a traveling drum troupe”. All of a sudden, I hear a second, different song and I look to my right and coming down the tiny alley is a group of 20 drummers in Green T-Shirts. I suddenly realize I’m involved in a deadly Spanish Drumming feud and the battle is about to occur directly below me. What actually happens is the two groups drum at each other aggressively for a very long time. It’s a lot like krumping. It all seems very scary, but in the end no one gets hurt because it’s just dancing.

By now I’m more awake than I’ve ever been in my life, so Jamie and I head out for Mexican food in Spain. Obviously.
The night life in Barcelona is unreal. I think Jamie put it best when he said “Barcelona would be a really great place for single people”. Nevertheless, we had a great time with our never ending supply of Cava despite being not-single.

The next day, we head to the famous Las Ramblas where we stumble upon a little cafe that serves me the best chocolate croissant ever made. It should have been bronzed. We go to the biggest, craziest food market called La Boqueria where you can buy any food on earth and also sit at little counters and eat gourmet street food too. It was very wonderful and smelly.

We walked around and bought some art, we walked down to the harbour and we went to get Pizza at a restaurant recommended by our lovely friends, Chuck and Gabie.

Sadly, that’s all the time we had in Barcelona, so we packed up our bags and left for the airport to catch our plane to Benalmadena, next to Malaga at the very bottom tip of Spain.

UGLY:
-Horrible raccoon eyes.
-Our first tapas experience in Spain. The Mexican restaurant choice came afterward (MUST EVERYTHING be fried into balls?).

AWESOME:
-Pretty much everything else. I love the architecture in Barcelona and we had a great time exploring. This was also when we both realized neither of us know any Spanish. Olé!

– Do Jamie and Caitlin survive the treacherous night-drive from the airport to Sea-side Benalmadena??
– Is Benalmadena the tropical paradise they expected or is it more akin to an Irish meeting ground for underage alcoholics and sun-burnt diabetics?

FIND OUT NEXT TIME ON UGLY/AWESOME!

Total Eclipse of The Heart

They’re here! The photos of the actual wedding have arrived!

Now that I look back at them I realize that potentially I was having such a good time I may not have stopped to take as many detailed shots as I should have, but what I do have, I love!

Kari and Will were married on May 19 at Chateau de Roussan in Saint Remy. That’s right, they got married in a castle. And it was just as incredible as you might imagine.

Although I didn’t capture as much as I should have in pictures, I’ll give you a brief play by play of the day. The guests arrived at the Chateau by way of a magnificent driveway lined with gigantic trees that appear to be hundreds of years old. At the Chateau, everyone mingled in the gorgeous lobby and on the grounds until we were ushered towards where the ceremony would take place. The chairs had been set up on this little plot of green garden beside the chateau. It had a stream running behind it which was home to swans. SWANS.

The ceremony was beautiful. It was very personal and their officiant, Karine, told the story of Kari and Will as if it was a fairy tale, using each of their unique perspectives to pepper the story with plenty of real life quotes and confessions. It was actually very entertaining to listen to, unlike several other wedding ceremonies I’ve heard (on TLC…). There were also readings from Will’s best man, Rory and Kari’s Maid of Honour, Laura.

After the ceremony, we took pictures in front of the Chateau and let Kari and Will go off to take their own pictures while the rest of us sipped on Pink Cava and stuffed our faces with amuse-bouches (which included mushroom, green bean and tomato mousse in shot glasses…YUM)

Then we filed into the reception area which was a lovely outdoor tent behind the Chateau with a dance floor and a French band that sang classic love songs and French diddys. We had a delicious dinner which was Kari and Will fancy (super fancy) and yummy dessert all the while being entertained and touched by speeches from various loved ones, a photo slideshow made by Kari’s sisters and a very sweet video made by the best man, Rory (with help from his lady, Brandy). They also played the shoe game where the Bride and Groom sit with their backs to each other, each holding one shoe from the Bride, and one from the groom. Then they are asked questions such as “who does more housework” and “who hogs the sheets” and they answer by raising the shoe of that person. It proves to be quite hilarious.

After lots and lots of wine, the dance party began with the traditional first dance between Kari and Will. They were so wrapped up in their own romance that they didn’t even notice the disco ball had been set to flash multicolour lights around at a much faster pace than the slow song they were dancing to. It was almost as special as when the French Band/ DJs played Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” during the throwing of the bouquet. These were my favourite wedding moments. The dancing went on laaaaaaate into the night, and I believe I can speak for everyone when I say the whole night was pretty awesome. Will and Brodie even performed an encore performance of their man dance. The icing on the cake, however, was the late night cheese table that came out with crackers and baguettes and every kind of cheese imaginable at around 2am.

Jamie and I rolled ourselves into bed around 5am, with our alarms set for 7. The next day, we would be racing to the airport to catch our flight to Barcelona, Spain.

Ugly:

Absolutely nothing. Except the sunburn I got yesterday but that has nothing to do with the wedding.

Awesome:

Everything about the wedding! It was so lovely and I feel so lucky to have been a small part of it. Thanks Will and Kari for asking us to be a part of your day (week)!!

Was Blind, But Now Cassis

So, we’re almost through France! haha

This is the last post before the Big One. The Big One of course refers to the post that documents the reason we were all in Europe in the first place – Will and Kari’s glorious nuptials.

But we had so much fun before the wedding, I must include it all!

So, our photos begin in Saint-Remy de Provence, the little town where we were staying. The cottages were a five minute walk from town, so we did a little exploring. Saint-Remy is famous because Van Gogh spent one year at the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Remy and it ended up being one the most creative years of his life. He produced several of his best paintings there, including Starry Night and Self Portrait. I didn’t get to go in the asylum but a little bird told me it was a primary setting for the boys’ wedding photos.

Next on the agenda was a big group field trip where almost all the guests who were staying in Saint-Remy got on a big tour bus together and visited two local wineries lead by a real oneologist (wine expert man). We were taught how to properly sample wines like Frenchmen. Although we were also told to spit all the wine out which I’m pretty sure no one did. After becoming appropriately sloshed for the occasion, we were then bussed to Les-Baux-de-Provence which is a gorgeous fortress town built right into the Alpilles mountain range so it appears to be almost falling off the mountains. After exploring the castle town and getting lost in its mazes and buying what I thought to be a quaint and unique tin of cookies (until I saw the stores everywhere and realized it was a chain), we all went to dinner at L’Hostellerie de la Reine Jeanne. It was here that everyone thought to sample a sweet liquor and no one liked it but me. And thus I was left to do a little more sampling which was perfectly fine by me. Dinner was lovely, the company was awesome and the evening ended with an appearance by Will and Jamie’s alter-egos “The European Ascot Men”.

BEACH DAY! I was so excited for this day I could barely contain my beach excitement and it was well worth it. I love laying on beaches. It is my favourite. Because I am so paley pale most people assume I hate the sun, but in fact we love each other, I just have to get used to the sun before we hang out for an extended period of time. Cassis is like the glamourous beach-side condo life of the rich and famous. That’s what it feels like. I loved Cassis because of the views and the colours, I loved it for the little shop that sold $4 paninis and hamburgers (The least expensive food we had seen yet in Europe) and as Jamie and I went with Brandy, Natalie and Misha, the company was pretty awesome too. The beach is white, the ocean was blue. It was amazing. The end.

After Cassis was the Barchelor/Bachelorette Parties. The Bachelorettes were supposed to be meeting in our cabin, but as luck would have it, Brandy, Danica and myself were taken hostage by the restaurant employees where we were having dinner and we given costumes and shots of minty alcohol. Every time we attempted to leave, they would share with us another shot- this time a mix of apple juice and champagne. Delish. Needless to say, we go to our cottage with a group of 15 ladies who had started the party and were well into having a blast by the time we got there. To our surprise, the boys arrived shortly afterwards and the Bachelorette party turned into dance party for all. Once again, another epic European party was to be had. It was also the first time many of us had seen what was to become the infamous “Will and Brodie Man Dance”.

The next day was to be the last day of rest for everyone before the BIG day, so we played it cool with a delicious lunch in Saint-Remy (Do you SEE the size of that goat cheese??!!!) and some shoe shopping and pool resting to top it off. We had a nice little get together with everyone down by the pool and then it was time.

Ugly:

How pale I still was after being in Hot France for a week. Very evident at the beach surrounded by golden brown tater tots. (Don’t worry though, this subject will make an appearance in the “Awesome” category shortly).

Awesome:

Real vacation moments. Moments that mean I can never again say I’ve never been on a real vacation. Relaxing, exciting, never will get to do again moments.

And in non-Europe news, I get to go to Vegas to coordinate a video shoot in a couple weeks, so….fuuun! Probably won’t have any time for fun stuff as it will be all work, but just going is exciting to me!

Only 716 Days Until the Mayan Apocalypse!

Happy 2011!

Remember when we were all so scared of Y2K? That was fun.

Well, it’s back to work I go this week. After the Christmas holidays, I always dread work way more than I should and then I get to work and I think “this is not so bad”. I get to drink free coffee all day, stick on my headphones and listen to my new “Little Women Soundtrack” (jealous much?) and wrap an old lady scarf around myself to keep warm and snuggly and this week I bought a bunch of cheese and meat and olives and such for antipasto type lunches. Of course, all this comes with a bunch of nagging work to do, but that is beside the point. The point is that every year I get all anxious leading up to the first day back after a long break as I’m sure most of us do, but when I get there, it’s fine. I like work. Now, I can’t say that much for all of you, but I really love free coffee.

So my Mom’s birthday is January 1st. Therefore, I generally try to hang out with the fam on New Years, which this year, meant going out and dancing till all hours on Thursday the 30th. We went to The Merchant in Kingston where there was a wicked live band called the Trevor Walsh Group with a lead singer (I’m assuming Trevor Walsh…?) who somehow in one night managed to sound exactly like several different bands. I’m not a huge AC/DC fan, but I’m impressed when someone goes from doing a perfect impression of them to doing a perfect impression of Johnny Cash. It’s called range.

On New Year’s Eve, my mom and dad and I ate so much food it should be illegal and played board games because we are the coolest people you know. My dad chose Trivial Pursuit which he won, my mom chose The A-maze-ing Labyrinth which she won and I chose Scene It (duh) which I won. Very telling of our family, I think. Then we watched the ball drop in Times Square on the TV and I marveled at how Ke$ha looked very similar to how I had looked the night before while dancing. Am I proud or ashamed? Proud.

The next morning we went for celebratory birthday brunch at The Grizzly Grill with my grandparents and uncle. That afternoon after watching Sherlock Holmes, singing birthday songs and eating carb-free birthday cake, I packed up my extremely full bags and head back to Toronto. It was such a good holiday, and I loved the break, but I was slowly getting more restless doing nothing. It was time I got back to my normal life or I may have physically turned into a sloth.

Ugly:
Absolutely zero phone reception in my house in Kingston. It’s a dead zone. The only place I could get reception was the bathroom, so I made a habit of texting in the tub. It was actually amazing. But still…ugly.

Awesome:
When I got back to Toronto, and walked into my apartment, I saw that Jamie had bought a portable dishwasher while I was away! Not exactly a “Christmas Present” but a super awesome surprise nonetheless. I HATE DISHES.

Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Goose…

Merry Christmas to all!

As you can probably guess, I’ve been too busy being choc-full of the holiday spirit to bother updating my blog (let alone, taking showers, getting dressed in real clothes, eating anything other than turkey and chocolate, etc.), but now I’m back! And I have so many Christmasy photos, I won’t add a lot of word-filler especially because I know only a few people actually read the words around here anyway (I love both of you.)

The first set of photos is from my Toronto Ladies Christmas. This would be our…4th? Annual Christmas party hosted by yours truly and it’s the only hosting event I get very excited for. It has all my favourite things: President’s Choice cheese puffs, shrimp rings, Sara Aelterman’s delicious desserts, ladies, presents, Home Alone, Love Actually, plaid, wine, cheese plate with fancy crackers, famous shepherd’s pie by Celeste, Christmas crackers with the fun hats, posed photos.

The second set of photos is from my family Christmas in Kingston. It’s just me and my mom and my dad in the morning, but then my Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle come over for dinner. My mom spares no cost when it comes to decorating the house. That’s where I get my addiction from. So, I feel it is necessary to make your house feel like a movie at Christmas because that is what I know.

Ugly:
I wish it would have snowed just a little while I was here…I do love the White Christmas look and seeing snowflakes falling outside, etc. This year wasn’t entirely un-white but it was very diverse.

Awesome:
-Coming home to see friends and family I get to see very little of.
-Being extremely lazy. Jamie says the holidays are a time for exercising while you have the time. I say Jamie is on crack. Slippers forever.