Christmas: Take Three

OK, it’s the last Christmas, I swear! It’s time for Christmas #3 in Moncton with my immediate family on my dad’s side! Plans changed quite a few times, but the final decision was that everyone would come up on December 29th to have supper and open the gifts in Moncton, everyone would sleep over and they would head back home the following day.

Initially, Max and I had planned on also coming to Moncton on December 29th, but with the weather report announcing snow and not having bought any groceries other than the turkey, we figured it would be best to head home the night before.

We got up around 9AM on this third Christmas morning and headed out to do groceries and errands. Although we put off most of the errands because we were worried that the turkey should have been put into the oven before we left.

After all the food was purchased, as well as an aluminium tin to cook the turkey, we got right down to it! Max started on the Turkey while started prepping all the veggies. We were kind of nervous about the turkey, because I usually always make it from frozen, whereas some people never do because most turkey’s aren’t made to be cooked from frozen. And the thing is that I wasn’t the one who purchased the turkey, so we didn’t know for sure if we could in fact cook it from its frozen state.

We took our chances and did it anyway. As Max was walking from the counter to the stove, he noticed something dripping on the floor… There was a hole in the aluminium roasting pan! He rushed the turkey back to the sink, swearing under his breath. Damn, that means we’re going to lose more time since we have to drive back to the store to get a new one. But then I remembered that Julie owned a large casserole dish that the turkey might actually fit into. It’s not as good as a roasting pan, but at least it would mean we could put the turkey in the oven right away. So we decided to try it out and were happy to learn that it did fit in the casserole dish! Into the oven the turkey went, and we moved on to the next thing on the list.

We kept working like this all afternoon, exchanging responsibilities as time went by, and making time to finish all the errands we still had to run before everyone arrived. We were pleased to find out that everyone would only be getting there after 6PM, so that gave us just enough time to get everything done and ready for when the guests arrived.

On the menu was turkey, salmon, mashed potatoes with the skins, carrots & turnips, homemade coleslaw, homemade stuffing, gravy, extraordinary dip, cranberry sauce, and pudding chômeur. Katelyn also brought a carrot loaf for dessert as well. And let me tell you, everything was absolutely PERFECT! Flawless! Every single part of the meal was mouth-watering good, cooked to perfection! I couldn’t get over how well it all turned out!

I was also overcome with happiness when I looked all around me to see myself surrounded by such a wonderful family once again. My dad, my step-mom, my brother, my step-sister and her boyfriend, my step-brother and his girlfriend, and of course, my main man Max. Oh, and Kovu the cat, who was actually behaving for once. We shared this delicious meal. We shared stories and laughs.We shared smiles and drinks. We shared love and joy.

But we also shared gifts! As soon as we finished the meal, Max set up a fire and we went straight to opening presents. We all sat down around the Christmas Tree, Katelyn as the designated gift giver. For a moment, I forgot that they had already celebrated Christmas together in Sydney, so most of the gifts were just for Max and me. There was one gift from Max and me for everyone else, but they waited to open them after we were done. So I went first and received this beautiful keychain that says “I love music.” Max was up next. He opened up a gift that had a gas card wrapped up in it! I then opened another gift, some brand new kitchen knives!! This was the only gift I had known about and was excited to open. I was surprised that I had other gifts, because we were minimizing Christmas this year. But as always, dad always made sure we had a bunch of gifts to open regardless. Among the gifts, I received money, grocery gift cards and gas gift cards. But the funniest one was by far the last one I opened. I couldn’t believe the coincidence because Max and I had literally just been talking about needing one a few days ago. They got us a butter tray! Haha! Oh, and I musn’t forget to mention Max great gift: a straight blade razor!

Then we moved on to the gifts for everyone else. Most were all homemade, and I was hoping they would like them/that they would fit. And of course, my family was so happy to receive thoughtful handmade gifts, they couldn’t believe I had been able to do all that work in that small amount of time. (More about this will follow in my next blog post)

Of course, the night wouldn’t have been complete without a good round of Cards Against Humanity. Oh the laughs we had!! There were so many good answers too, it was hard to choose. The best one of the night was by far: “Crumbs all over the god damn carpet.” Good times! XD

As the night came to an end, I reflected on all these wonderful moments spent with my three families. Each was unique, and special. Each was absolutely unforgettable. They may say that Christmas only comes once a year, but there are rare exceptions and that’s how I know I am blessed to be able to spend quality time with so many incredible and loving people. Until next year!

Christmas: Take two

Christmas time isn’t over yet! We are now Halifax-bound for Christmas #2 at my mom’s place. For those of you who don’t know, my parents split up when I was younger and they are now both married so I’m lucky to say I have 4 fantastic parents that I get to visit during the holidays! Plus let’s not forget that we just spent Christmas #1 with two other great parents in Charlo, NB. Seriously, best Christmas ever!

We hit the road for Halifax on the morning of December 26th. The drive from Charlo to Moncton is about 3 hours, and the drive from Moncton to Halifax is approximately 2.5 hours. We figured we would stop in Moncton for at least an hour so we aimed to leave Charlo by 9AM. As always, we left an hour later than planned, but it all worked out fine. Our stop in Moncton was pretty quick too, we just went home to make some spaghetti and then did a drop-in visit at Jeff & Janice’s place. It was great to see old friends, even though it was just a quick visit.

When we arrived to Halifax, supper was done and all warmed up on the stove. Yum! Of course, we didn’t just barge in and stuff our faces; we were actually polite enough to say hello to the family, sit down and talk for a bit before being served some stew and vegetarian chilli. And no meal would be complete at my mom’s house without having some homemade pie for dessert! And my favorite too: Mémére Boudreau’s Homemade Apple Pie!

OK, now let’s get down to business! Our tradition in Halifax is to open up all our little stocking gifts the night that we arrive, which had almost always been on December 26th now that I think of it. So my brother, Max and I sat down in front of my mother’s enormous Christmas Tree – I just need to take a second to let you all know that she downgraded from 4000 tree lights to 2500 tree lights this year – and she and Steve passed us our stockings filled with goodies and treats. We started unwrapping them at the same time, and tried not to keep opening the same gifts all together. There was a great variety of gifts, including a toothbrush and toothpaste (always appreciated!), deodorant (even though I have a billion already), some amazing hand and body lotion from Lush (YES!), among others. Max even got a batman spatula in his stocking – and his reaction is priceless!! And yes, my mom did get it on video.

As much fun as that was, Max and I had to get to work on wrapping some more Christmas gifts that we still hadn’t done – keeping in mind that this is because I hadn’t had time to finish them before we left from Grande Prairie, so I had been working on them during our travels/visits to family and friends. But then when we were finally done with all of that, we made our way back to the living room, wrapped ourselves up in a nice homemade blanket and watched A Christmas Story. I had never seen it before and according to Max, it was the best Christmas movie ever. I will say that it was actually a lot better than I thought it would be, so I’m glad we took the time to watch it together and spend some time with my mom and step-dad.

The next morning was the big day! Or… the second big day! Max and I woke up early-ish because I had to run some errands at the mall and it was the first day of Boxing Week sales. The mall opened at 8AM, but I figured maybe we could just head over around 10AM because it would be busy regardless of what time we went to shop. And again, we ended up leaving an hour later than planned, but it all worked out. Initially, I was going to spend the money my mom and step-grandma had given me for my birthday. They told me to buy something with the money and then let them know what I had gotten, but as soon as I received the money, I knew I wanted new make-up. The only problem was that there weren’t any make-up shops in Grande Prairie, so I saved the money until we got to Halifax and headed straight to Sephora once we were at the mall. Hello paradise! Don’t worry though, I actually just spent the amount of money that they gave me, although I paid about 5$ for the taxes of my own money. I am definitely way too excited to try out some new looks!

After we were done at the mall, my mom asked us to pick up some BBQ sauce and apple sauce at superstore, so we tried to get there, got lost, kept driving up Robie Street, turned around, and finally found a superstore on Quinpool. We decided to grab some grub while we were there and brought it back home to eat for a late lunch.

Then it was time to start getting ready before all the guests arrived. I was unaware at the time, but turns out mom had invited everyone to come in earlier than planned since it was giving bad weather that night. Because of this, Linda & Don (my step-aunt and step-uncle) as well as Amy, AKA Nanny Mills, decided they wouldn’t be able to make it over for supper. The roads were already getting bad by mid-afternoon, so we definitely understood why they made the call.

The first ones to arrive were my step-brother Jay and his girlfriend Nancy. It was really great seeing them because I don’t see them very often given that our schedules always conflict. They live in Newfoundland and usually come home once or twice a year, depending on circumstances. We sat down and chatted with them for a while until the rest of the gang arrived. In came my step-brother Luke and his wife Vicky, along with their two daughters Maggie – the birthday girl, might I add! – and Libby. Then came my step-sister Hayley, her husband Darren, and their kids Blake, Layla and Edmund.

After everyone arrived, it wasn’t even 4PM yet! My mom then suggested maybe we could open the gifts before supper. Layla was ecstatic about the idea so we all agreed and sat down in the living room, excited to see what Santa had brought for everyone.

My mom took on the responsibility of gift giver, whereas Max was appointed to be garbage bag man. We started off with gifts for the kids so that they could play with their toys if they got tired later while the adults opened their gifts. They all got some really cool stuff, from Monster High toys to beautiful fancy dolls, to Star Wars legos and so much more! As for my siblings and I, we got clothes, kitchen appliances – HELLO FOOD PROCESSOR! – and gift cards galore. Of course, we all got nice individual gifts that we mentioned we would like, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened my big gift from my mom and step-dad… They bought me an I-phone 5!!! Mind. Blown.

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As if this wasn’t enough, we all got cards from our parents and we each got a card from Nanny Mills. They usually give us a little bit of money or a gas gift card, which is always very appreciated. But this year, they went all out and both cards contained a very large sum of money!! My eyes filled with tears, although I tried to keep them in. I couldn’t even hug Nann because she didn’t make it over that night. I gave my mom a real tight squeeze and couldn’t thank her enough. It was too much, honestly, but we’re all in a place in our lives that we could really use that money, and I know that’s why they gave it to us. I am so blessed to have such an amazing and generous family. I can’t believe there’s still one Christmas to go!!

After all the crazy excitement from opening all the gifts, we sat down in the dining room for a delicious supper that my mom cooked all by herself. There was so much food, I couldn’t decide what to eat! And as always, I just filled my plate to the brim with every kind of food you could possibly imagine that would be served for Christmas supper – minus the meat, of course. We were also served “special juice,” which is not alcohol if that’s what you were thinking! It was sparkling apple and peach juice, absolutely delightful!

Oh, and since it was Maggie’s birthday, we made sure to have some ice cream for dessert! It was served after everyone had eaten to their heart’s content, alongside some apple pie, cherry pie, and vanilla ice cream on top. I knew my stomach could take no more, but my eyes said “Oh my God, eat that! And that! AND THAT!” So I did. And I once again regret nothing.

Everyone ended up heading home by 7PM, which was good timing because the weather just got worse as time progressed into the night. The rest of us spent a quiet night in. We forgot to take full family picture earlier, so we did that with just me, Max, my brother and my mom. Let me just point out that Max is incapable of taking a nice picture, so my brother decided he would help me try to get him to smile for picture. We’re standing in front the of Christmas tree and my brother is behind my mom, who is taking the picture. All of a sudden, my brother pulls something out of his pocket and starts throwing them at us.

“Look! Q-Tips!!”

I almost fell over laughing. The end result:

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Our best attempt at taking a picture together.

We sat together in the living room for a while, watched some TV and chatted. Then Max and I were in the mood to play Minecraft so we hung out in my bedroom while I also worked on some last minute gifts for Christmas in Moncton. We also watched a movie together and stayed up late talking about all the amazing moments we experienced these past few days. It was so overwhelming, and talking about it just brought up tears of joy. I love my families so much.

And speaking of family, it wouldn’t have been a trip to Halifax without seeing our second mom, Bonnie! She stopped in to visit the following morning and we spent a few hours on the couch catching up, chatting about our lives and what we’ve been up to lately! She also met Max for the first time – that is, if you don’t count the time we Face Timed on Thanksgiving day. It was so great to see her, especially since I’d been gone for a while and we hadn’t kept in touch much.

Next up on the visiting list was Nanny Mills since she couldn’t make it out to the family supper the night before. On the way there, we had a nice surprise: Maxime got to FaceTime with his mom in Moncton, where they were having a family supper with the Bernards. We got to say hi to everyone and send them warm wishes during the holidays, despite the fact that we couldn’t make it to the get together.

We made it Nan’s house and said goodbye to Max’s family. We headed inside with the gifts we got for her and were greeted with warm hugs and smiles all around. My step-brother Luke and his family were there but they were just on their way out so we did the whole hi-bye bit and then sat down in the living room to chat with Nan.

We talked about so many things, and she told us lots of stories from when she was young. Max was hanging off the edge of his seat, he was so interested by all that she had to say. It was his first time meeting her as well, so it really gave him a chance to get to know her.

After spending some quality time together, Remi told Nan that we had some Christmas gifts for her to open. Max & I got her two small gifts, and Remi got her a card with a gift inside. She unwrapped the big gift first – it was only big because I couldn’t find a smaller box. Inside, she found a framed picture of Maxime and I – the only nice picture we have ever taken together. I knew she liked getting pictures of the whole family, but since we couldn’t get together with anyone else for a picture, I figured I could give her one of me and my better half. She was really happy about the gift and couldn’t believe she still had one more to open! The second one was a gift card to Dollarama, her favourite place to shop. She was giddy at the sight of it! I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, but I knew that’s what Remi had gotten her as well, so I waited for her reaction when she opened his card.

“Oh my land!!”

She starts laughing.

“I’m going to have such a good time at the Dollar Store! Oh my land!”

And with that, we said our goodbyes because it was already starting to get late and we were supposed to head back to Moncton right after supper. We made our way back to my mom’s place, making a quick stop to the Dollarama ourselves for a few small things.

As we were parking into my mom’s spot in the parking lot of her apartment building, Maxime looks outside and says to me “Hey, isn’t that Marielle?” I look over and I concur, it is her! I stick my head out the window and start waving. Maxime gets out of the car and waves as well. What are the chances?! Turns out she and her boyfriend Jo live in the same building! We hugged and talked for a bit. Holy jeez, we hadn’t seem them in quite a while, and I never would have imagined running into them at my mom’s apartment building! It was getting pretty chilly outside though and they were just arriving from a trip so we wished them a Happy New Year and ran inside to warm up.

Back at my mom’s apartment, we heated up some leftovers and started packing all of our stuff. We once again had more than we came with, but we managed to pack everything and just had one extra bag to bring back. And off we went, Moncton-bound again!

Christmas: Take One

It’s Christmas Day! It’s Christmas Day! Holy crap, it’s CHRISTMAS DAY!

In case it wasn’t clear, I love Christmas. I love stuffing my face with as much food as humanly possible. I love giving and receiving gifts. I love Christmas music, Christmas tree, Christmas lights and all sorts of Christmas decor! I love the snow and the cold. I love being surrounded by family and friends. I love everything that comes with the end of the year, including making wonderful memories with loved ones. And this year, I get three separate Christmas celebrations!

First one up: Christmas Day in Charlo. But it wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas Eve! December 24th wasn’t quite as eventful as it had been in my childhood – we used to celebrate Christmas with my dad on Christmas Eve – but it was still one I won’t forget any time soon. We slept in pretty late that morning and got up to make ourselves some lunch. We spent the afternoon prepping for Christmas celebrations, which includes last minute gift wrapping. Please note that I have never done this in my life before given the fact that my dad has everything done and ready by mid-November.

After that, we honestly spent half the day making supper, which was only ready around 7:00PM. Not surprisingly, it was absolutely amazing. Max’s mom made ham with a fudge glaze + quiche for me, Max made scalloped potatoes and veggies with his dad, and Emilie made dessert. It took us about 30-40 seconds to scarf down the food, get up, fill our plates again, and stuff more of that delicious meal into our food holes.

We hurriedly started getting ready as soon as we were all done eating because “Midnight Mass” was at 8:00PM. It was taking me forever to do my eyeliner and I thought we were going to be the last ones to be ready, but as we rushed upstairs, everyone else was finishing up as well and we all headed into the car together.

Christmas mass in another town was an odd experience. On the plus side, it was in French, just like back home, so it was comforting to know all the prayers and the procedures. Everything went pretty smoothly, although lots of funny moments arose during the ceremony. According to the Bernard family, “The pastor must have been drunk!” Good times.

When the mass was over, we all headed back to the Bernard residence together, but not before saying hi to lots of locals on the way out. We got back to the house around 9:20PM and broke out the Bailey’s right away! We spent some time together upstairs, warming up with our drinks, telling Christmas stories, talking about cherished memories.

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Max sipping Bailey’s, as sophisticated men do.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas Eve if someone didn’t keep asking every ten minutes if they could open one gift tonight – Emilie & Maxime, I’m talkin’ ‘bout you!

So we did sit down huddled up in the living room so that everyone could open one gift. T-Gene went first and was pleasantly surprised to receive a Christmas CD by Pentatonix! We put the CD on right away before continuing with the gift opening. Next up was Mama Bernard who got a Tim Horton’s Gift Card – you can’t go wrong with that!

Max opened his gift next and was so happy! His gift was a combination of his two favourite things, as well as his least favourite thing: Batman, Legos, and waking up.

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As for Emilie, she got an adorable Kraft Peanut Butter Box set including a Smoothy Teddy Bear! Too cute!

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But the night wasn’t over night, oh no no! I feel so blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas among a family of incredibly talented musicians, to say the least. We eventually all landed downstairs and the jam session began. It was fantastic to hear the different styles of music that everyone played, but the best part was by far a three-part harmony arrangement of If I fell by the Beatles, sung by Max, Emilie and their dad. If you haven’t already seen it, you have to check out their video performance here.

We finally went to bed around 2:30AM, exhausted but excited for Christmas morning! Max warned me that nobody would be awake early though. Knowing me, I figured I would be wide awake by 9:00AM.

I wasn’t off by much. I was rolling around in bed until I could bare it no more, and when I checked my phone, it was 9:45AM. I poked Max for a bit to see if he would wake up, but to no avail. I scrolled through Facebook and lazed in bed for a bit.

After bugging the crap out of Max for a good half hour, he eventually stopped falling asleep and we talked in bed for a bit. All of sudden, we heard a beeping coming from outside the bedroom door.

“Is that…?”

“That’s Batman!”

Max jumped up and went to grab the Lego Batman alarm clock that was sitting right outside our door! I figured the culprit must be upstairs waiting to open her gifts…

Breakfast was up first though! Celine made us two delicious breakfast meals, neither of which I know the name of. Regardless, she is a fantastic cook so it was no surprise that the meal was nothing short of amazing.

We all took our time eating and everyone made sure to have seconds. And when all the eating was finally done, we crawled over to the living room to sit around the Christmas tree. Celine and Emilie went straight to work and handed out gifts to each of us, and we opened them one at a time. I was surprised when I was given a big Christmas bag addressed solely to me! I honestly wasn’t expecting any gifts – keeping in mind that everyone in the Bernard family had agreed that they wouldn’t be buying any presents this year. It was great to participate in the fun that is gift opening! And I got lovely stuff too! A pair of nice pyjamas and a set of epicure spices! Some of the gifts the family got were fantastic too, especially the handmade wool socks that Max and Emilie got from their mom! Celine, I’m still waiting for mine… 😉

But now I need to take the time to underline/bold/italic/super-duper-fragalistically emphasize the BEST part of this Christmas – also, coincidentally, the BEST Christmas. This year, I can’t even count my blessings because they are so numerous, it overwhelms me. I am so thankful to have been able to celebrate such a joyous holiday with such wonderful people, most of all, my incredibly boyfriend. I will say that I was not impressed by the fact that he played a little trick on me and packed a fake gift to put under the tree, however, he quickly more than made for it by hauling my real gift upstairs. Even by looking at the package in his arms, which he had poorly wrapped, I couldn’t really tell what it was. He sat it down in front of me. I smiled and started to rip some of the wrapping paper. I gasped with piece of paper I tore off and couldn’t even make it half way. Oh. My. God. I kept repeating it over and over, smiling so hard my cheeks hurt. I felt tears slip down my face. HE GOT ME A FUNCTIONAL VINTAGE TYPE WRITER!!!!!!!!!

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OK, OK. I’ve calmed down now. We finished opening all the gifts, so now it was time to get to work! We all got assigned duties and tasks to accomplish for the big Christmas supper that was being hosted at the Bernard’s humble abode. We got to work right away, some taking their shower first, some prepping veggies, others prepping meat. We set up an extra table, made dips galore, rearranged the fridge about seven times, and set the up the main table with enough chairs for every guest.

Ouf, finally finished with the preparations. Max took advantage of this opportunity to take us out to the pit to show us his fancy gun and impress us with his explosives. I was surprised, but every one of us – including Celine – actually took the time to try out firing the shotgun. And the explosion was pretty cool too. Check out this quick video I took of Max firing at the tannerite.

Back at the house, everyone is getting ready for company to arrive – OK, the women are getting ready, and the men are watching TV. Soon thereafter, the guests started to arrive! Typical me, I spent most of the night entertaining the kids, playing with their Frozen Dolls, playing games on their new I-pads, and showing off my and Maxime’s Minecraft skills! They set out the dips and veggies first, so me, Emilie and the kids jumped to the appetizer table and may or may not have stuffed our faces. There were so many, and they were all just so good! But don’t worry, we made sure to leave lots of room for supper and most importantly: dessert.

The main meal of the night was called Cipaille, made from scratch by none other than the chef of the house, Celine. She also made végépaté for me – OMG OUT OF THIS WORLD! – as well as quiche and lots of veggies and salads, including my all time favourite: Coleslaw. ❤

We ate and drank, and ate, and drank. So. Good. And dessert… I can’t even type about it. There was so much food. And I wanted to eat it all. So I did. I regret nothing.

To sum, Christmas number one was a whopper! I cannot contain my excitement. I am ecstatic about the fact that I get to relive wonderful moments like these another two times this year!

Last minute departure

It’s Tuesday night, 6:30PM. I texted Max to ask if he wanted to order pizza for supper because I was too lazy to make anything. He got home moments later and ran downstairs.

“We’re leaving tomorrow.”

UHHH OK!

I had made no arrangements. I hadn’t packed a single thing. I hadn’t bought any snacks. I hate being unprepared.

We went to pick up the pizza, scarfed it down in about two minutes, and I sent out messages right away to see where we could stay along the way. We didn’t want to stop in Saskatchewan so we knew we would have to leave really early to be able to get to Winnipeg at an acceptable hour. I readjusted my itinerary to leave two days earlier than planned and changed all the timeframes. Set time for departure: 4AM.

After some quick planning, we decided we would get snacks first, then pack clothes and accessories, and then organize the car. So we got right to it and actually managed to do everything within an hour and a half. Pretty impressive. Of course, I was constantly wondering what I had forgotten, because I had surely forgotten something in all this rush.

By 10:30PM, everything was ready to go except Maxime’s stuff. He had spent half his time debating which gun to bring home for Christmas so none of his clothes were packed yet – not that it would take him very long in any case. We brought half the stuff to the car that same night. The rest were either electronics or expensive items that we didn’t want to leave in the car overnight.

We slept well, but not nearly enough. Waking up at 3:30AM was painful to say the least. I had planned on making breakfast but my body decided otherwise. I dragged my butt upstairs slowly and spent the next half hour loading the car and double checking everything to see what I could have forgotten. Max got up pretty last minute and packed his guns and backpack, then we hit the road – by which I mean we immediately went to Tim Hortons, and then we hit the road.

We made very few stops other than for gas and take out, and we ended up making it to Chantal & Rob’s place in Winnipeg by midnight. We were pretty thankful to have arrived, although we did feel bad to getting there so late given that they were both working in the morning. Chantal stayed up to welcome us and we chatted for a bit before promptly passing out. Oh, and I was pretty happy to spend some time with their cat Beast again. What a cutie!

Next destination was supposed to be Blind River, ON. We set off at 6AM, which was a little later than planned, but I had already warned Lois & John that we might arrive quite late in the night and they had said they would leave the door unlocked for us so we weren’t in any rush.

The roads weren’t great, but they weren’t that bad. We made it all the way to Marathon, Ontario, which is about 6 hours before Blind River, and then we were stuck in a line-up of traffic. Max went to figure out what was going on and we learned that a plow had driven into – yes, INTO – the bridge that led out of town. The only bridge out of town. Time to look for a hotel…

We stayed overnight and actually got more than 4 hours of sleep, so that was a plus. Max got up at 6:00AM to go to the bridge to see if it was open yet. He came back minutes later to let me know we were good to go. Another plus: we had a free continental breakfast with our stay at the hotel so after I got dressed and packed all our things, we headed down the hall to eat. As soon as we were done, we crammed everything into the car and we hit the road by 7:30AM.

Oh, and for those who were wondering, yes, I did send a message to Lois & John to let them know we wouldn’t be able to make it to their place that night. The morning after, Lois replied and said they had prepared lunches and snacks for us and that they would leave the door unlocked if we wished to stop in on our way through. She even said she would try to get off work to come see us if we did stop by, so I told her the approximate time we would be at the house and hoped it would work out.

By 2:00PM, we made it to Blind River. We had toughed it out and hadn’t stopped for lunch so we were getting pretty hungry. Max pulled into the driveway and seconds later, Lois drove up behind us! There were hugs all around and introductions were made. We hurried inside, chatting as we walked, and sat down to eat some delicious sandwiches. As always, we were treated like kings and queens, offered some sticky buns that John had made for breakfast as dessert, and it was just perfect! And before we would finish our meal, John shows up to the house as well! We stayed to talk a bit but knew that if we stayed too long, we would be getting to Montreal quite late. So despite the quick visit, we thanked them very much for having us over and made our way out the door. But of course, we couldn’t leave without getting lots of goodies for our trip. Lois & John had packed three full grocery bags of food and water as snacks. Lois said “This should be good until you get to Montreal.” And let me tell you, I’m still eating Oreos today!

Our next stop was Ottawa. Max’s friend from high school was there and we had planned on stopping there to eat supper with her and her boyfriend. Unfortunately, we were running behind schedule since we had initially planned on leaving Blind River at 9:00AM, as opposed to 2:30PM. But we just kept changing the plans to make sure we could stop in to see them and grab something to eat as well.

There was one more hick-up in the road before we could get to Ottawa. We were near Sudbury, ON, and there had been an accident. It must have occurred right before we arrived close by because there was only one police officer blocking the road and he was quickly trying to get everyone to turn around. Well the thing is that we aren’t exactly locals so we had no idea how to get around the incident. Max parked the car on the side of the road and tried to get some directions from the officer. He wasn’t the most helpful lad but he did bark out a town nearby where there was another exit to continue on our route. We left right away and tried to figure out the rest with our GPS on Max’s phone.

Finally made it to Ottawa at 10:15PM! We met up with Max’s friend at Moxie’s, which wasn’t too hard to find – thank God. We had a great meal together and shared lots of laughs. It felt good to be out of the car and to relax for more than 5 minutes before getting back on the road.

We said our goodbyes about an hour later and hit the road, en route to Montreal! We sent an update to Max’s sister to let her know what time we would arrive and we hit the road.

It’s 1:30AM, we’re in Montreal. Emilie’s apartment was easier to find than I had remembered. But now came the worst part: looking for parking. Fortunately for me, I have an amazing boyfriend who decided it would be best to drop me off at the apartment and he would go looking for a spot. I dragged our bags upstairs and was greeted by Emilie at the door. I dropped our stuff in her bedroom and we chatted in the living room while waiting for Max.

I was surprised – but glad! – that he knocked at the door only 10 minutes later. Let’s hope the spot that he found isn’t in a no-parking zone because I would much rather not get a parking ticket tonight.

We talked for a while until everyone was yawning and we could barely keep our eyes open. Emilie generously offered to let us sleep in her bed, and she took the couch for the night. And what a comfy bed it was!! I slept like a brick.

When I awoken by the alarm at 8:30AM, I felt refreshed. And that doesn’t happen too often while traveling. So I got up and started getting ready. I made sure to wake Max and tell him what time it was. We had planned on leaving around 9:00AM or 10:00AM.

I took my shower, cleaned my face and got dressed. I went back to the bedroom. Max is sleeping. I wake him up again and tell him what time it is. He acknowledges what I’ve told him. He says he’ll get up in a few minutes.

I return to the bathroom and do my make-up. I also started cleaning up our stuff to get everything ready to leave. It’s 9:30AM. Max is still sleeping. I wake him up and tell him the time.

“OK, I’m getting up.”

“…”

*Snoring*

“MAXIME! GET. UP. NOW!”

Ok, I yelled it in French, but the point being is that I yelled because I was starving and we were supposed to leave at 10:00AM by the latest.

He got up somewhere around 9:45AM and we woke his sister in the living room. She got up and made us these delicious sandwiches with egg, cheese and veggies. I’m actually drooling a little thinking about it right now.

We took our time and stayed to chat with Emilie for a while that morning. By the time we did hit the road, it was close to noon, which meant we would get to Charlo, NB around 10:00PM, including pit stops.

The roads weren’t great, and even with the few pit stops that we made, we still only got to Charlo by 11:00PM. By the way, Max’s parent’s had no idea we had even left Alberta, so it was a surprise arrival.

We were greeted with smiles and warm hugs at the door. As always though, Max’s mom had a feeling we were on our way, but she didn’t think we were going to be arriving that night, so our surprise was still a success!

We were pretty happy to have arrived. We sat down and talked with them in the dining room for a bit before dragging the essentials into the house. I continued talking with Max’s mom while he and his dad went downstairs to set up the Murphy Bed that Max had build himself in the spare bedroom.
When we finally laid down to rest our weary eyes, I passed out almost immediately. We had a great trip crossing the country together, but now comes the best part of all: spending lots of quality time with all our family and friends for Christmas!

xo

Last huzzah in Alberta before Christmas!

Well, this past weekend was our last weekend in Grande Prairie before heading home for Christmas. And we all know that calls for celebration, so I called up some of our friends – that’s a lie, I sent them a group message on Facebook – to invite them all over for supper at our place on Saturday night.

I was a bit nervous about the supper given that I was making a vegetarian meal, and most – ok, all – of the invitees were big time meat-eaters. I was a bit disappointed when Max suggested that he could also make tacos, assuming that they would all choose the latter and leave my dish behind in a cloud of dust – figuratively, of course. While we were buying the ingredients, I suggested maybe we should just stick with his meal as the main course and I could just make an appetizer, but he kindly convinced me that I should make it regardless, and that – in his opinion – it was a great meal that most guests will probably enjoy more than tacos.

I started the day off by prepping a nacho dip – my all time favorite “Mexican” meal. I got everything ready, with a little whisking help from my manly boyfriend, and stuffed that huge casserole dish into the fridge to cool during the afternoon. Next up was errands, AKA buying the forgotten items: nacho chips, avocado, and an orange pepper.

I already had the (best) dessert prepared from the night before: Aero Bar Squares! In case you’ve never had this, do it. It’s absolutely amazing, and it’s so easy to make!

Note to self: post a link up with the recipe. Everyone should try this shit out, it’s the best thing you’ll ever eat – if you like chocolate, eagle brand milk, graham wafer crumbs and coconut.

After we got back from buying the stuff we had forgotten, we got to work prepping everything for the main courses. Max thawed out the deer meat – yup, you read correctly, deer meat for tacos – and I started cutting up the veggies. We popped everything in the oven by 6:00PM and were expecting all the guests to arrive between 6:30PM and 7:00PM.

After texting and messaging them on Facebook a few times, everyone finally arrived a little past 7:30PM. Fortunately, we love them so we forgave them for being late. There was actually an extra guest as well named Tim, who had just landed from Ethiopia! We later learned a bit about his trip and how he almost died from a bacterial infection just last week. He was very fortunate to have been driven to a hospital where he was actually able to get proper care for the infection.

When everyone did arrive, we were all pretty hungry so I broke out the nacho dip, which was devoured immediately. Max grabbed some plates and glasses for everyone, and brought out my Tex Mex Casserole onto the kitchen table so that we could all serve ourselves. As always, Max was right, and everyone said the casserole tasted great. According to the others, the tacos were great too. I can’t comment on them, seeing as I’m a vegetarian.

During the meal, we ate, we laughed, we shared stories. It was a great time and I was so glad to be able to get to spend time with everyone before we headed back to the East Coast for the holidays. But the night wasn’t over yet. At this point in the soirée, Amanda suggested we all go to her place to play Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 in her basement. We all thought that sounded like a ton of fun, but we weren’t sure how we would all get there given the fact that almost everyone had been drinking.

Fortunately for us, Max, who hadn’t been drinking that night, came to our rescue.

“Do you guys all wanna ride in the back of the camper?”

No other words were needed, they practically all ran out the door. We cleaned up a bit and headed out.

Now, maybe I should have given a brief summary of what everyone had consumed that night. Tory had two drinks; Angel had three; Amanda had a whole bottle of wine; I had half a bottle of wine; Matt was drunk before arriving; Tim was buzzed but mostly just tired; and Max was sober. So now picture all of us riding in a 1970’s camper, in the middle of winter, in Grande Prairie. The ride was not the smoothest, and some among us paid the price.

We made a pitstop at No Frills, both to get booze and to get gas for the camper. Just as Max was pulling up to the gas station, Matt hurled into the (non functioning) toilet and ran outside. Apparently, Angel is faint of heart, so seeing Matt puking induced her to vomit in the parking lot as well. And I guess that she thought it would be a great idea to call Tory – who was inside buying more alcohol with me and Amanda – while throwing up. We ran back to where they were parked and could hear her laughing, pausing for a second, and then throwing up, only to start laughing again. “Clean up on aisle nine…”

We did make it to Amanda’s though, after having dropped Tim off at his hotel. Angel decided to take a nap in Amanda’s bed, and Matt eventually passed out on the couch in the basement while Tory, Amanda and I played Super Mario Party. I totally pwned everyone, and turns out I get really competitive and obnoxious when I’m drunk. Good times.

After a few rounds, everyone was just about ready to pass out, so we called it a night and drove everyone to their respective homes. It was definitely a great last huzzah in Alberta before Christmas.

I GOT A LABEL MAKER!

For those of you who don’t know me that well, I’m kind of obsessed with being organized. I do the whole meal planning/budgeting/home organization/stock piling/frugal living lifestyle. All the food that I own are in containers and organized in cabinets by size. My clothes are either hung up in order of preference, divided into sections – sweaters, shirts, dresses – or in my dresser, divided into sections by drawers and containers. I’m a mason jar-a-holic. My bathroom cabinet looks like Bed, Bath and Beyond displays. So you can imagine my excitement when my boyfriend suggested I buy a label maker!!

I got it yesterday afternoon. And it was on sale! – duh, I don’t buy anything if it’s not on sale. Typical conversation with Max when I get home:

“Can I print the first label?!”

“I forbid you to print the word ‘Penis’ as our first label.”

“It’s not penis… hehehe.”

“Oh my God, you’re gonna write something horrible and put it on my face!”

He did in fact print the first label, and I got very worried when he left the table without showing me, walked to the counter, and pulled his pants down.
“Check it out.”

He shoved it in my face to show me:

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Har-har.

And ever since then, I’ve been thinking about the numerous things I could label. Mostly I got it to organize the kitchen, but it’s like I’m out of control! I want to label everything!!

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I pretty much love my label maker.

Volunteering

So last week I decided enough was enough; I had to get out and do some work, even if it was unpaid work. There’s actually a really useful website in Grande Prairie concerning volunteering that you can check out here. It’s where I started browsing to figure out how I could get involved in the community, all the while doing something I like.

The first thing that struck my eye was the Art Gallery. Most of the people I’ve met in town aren’t so much the artsy type, so I hadn’t really taken the time to immerse myself in arts and culture since I got here. I sent an e-mail to the Art Gallery to let them know I would be interested in volunteering some of my time to help out, although I had no clue what to expect in terms of what kind of work I would actually be doing.
Turns out they’re super organized and all I had to do was fill out a form to let them know what kind of activities I would like to help out with, how often I would be available to volunteer, etc. Super easy, super quick. A few days later, I made my way over to the Montrose Cultural Centre – and yes, I did get lost. I met up with this warm and friendly employee named Melanie who gave me the grand tour of the different galleries. We also talked for a bit to get to know each other, and she introduced me to all the staff.

My first day on the “job” was on Wednesday. I arrived to the gallery a little early – I didn’t get lost this time and I even found free parking! I was introduced to a woman named Sabine that morning and was told that I would be helping her out. They had already explained that my job was to take pictures of the art projects to keep for archives, but it was great to have someone explain what exactly they were looking for and how it would all go about.

After I was all set up, I got to work with this AMAZING DSLR Canon camera – holy God, I’m almost scared to Google the cost of this camera. The picture quality was impressive and I couldn’t help but feel envious that they had this incredible piece of technology and yet no one seemed capable of using it to its full potential. In any case, I had loads of fun playing with that for a few hours, even if it was just simple pictures of art work on a white platform.

The battery of the camera actually died about an hour before I was done my volunteering so I went upstairs to find someone who might be able to help me out. Sabine and another employee went looking for the charger while I chatted with Melanie at the front desk. Once they found the charger, they went to get that set up and Sabine put me to work on another project that consisted of deconstructing old projects so that they could reuse the materials for new projects.

But enough of the boring stuff…

Today is when the real fun started! I’m going to be completely honest: I was not looking forward to today. All week, I was debating whether or not I should make an excuse and ditch the plans. I don’t know why I felt so uneasy about the idea of it, but part of me kept saying “I don’t want to do this!” I’m not sure if it was the pressure of having to work with kids again, if it was just the fact that it was finally turning into a commitment, or what. Regardless, I was feeling it. The doubt, the assumption of anxiety that was to come. But I convinced myself I needed to be willing to reach outside my comfort zone, expand my horizons and to get involved even when it feels difficult. And you know what? I am really happy I did.

I got there a little past noon because – surprise, surprise – I got lost again. I met up with Sabine right away and we went down to the classroom in the basement so that she could explain the steps of the activity for today. She hadn’t had lunch yet though, so she went to eat and I continued taking photos of the art projects.

The kids started arriving a bit earlier than we expected, but Sabine is a pro and had set out sketch pads for the kids to draw in during free time. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I handled myself at the beginning. I kept assuming I wouldn’t know how to react to interacting with english kids, but I actually felt pretty comfortable and tried to connect with all of the kids by talking with them and asking them questions about their art work and about themselves. You could tell that they really loved being there and were all super polite and well-behaved.
We started the activity as soon as the two last kids settled into their seats. The theme of the activity was “Trees,” based on the exhibit we would be visiting later that afternoon. The kids started off by using oil pastels to outline tree trunks on their paper. Next up was painting the background in 3 parts using water colours. I was both surprised and impressed that each of them had a different perspective about the project. They asked lots of questions to see if they could use a different style, or mix different colours, or use different materials, etc. As they progressed, you could really see how unique each piece was, even when you compared two sisters who obviously liked to create the same style of art.

We wanted to give the water colours time to dry, so Sabine explained to them that we would now be heading upstairs to go see all the art in the exhibit currently on display. This is the main reason she said she would need a volunteer. She was worried that most of the children had never been in an art gallery before and therefor would have a hard time obeying all the rules. They were fantastic though, and always eager to learn more about each piece of art that we observed. Sabine asked them lots of questions too as she explained the meaning of the different paintings and sculptures, and the kids always gave great answers. I actually stopped for a minute to take some picture of Sabine leading the group and it hit me. I am having so much fun right now.

I had told Sabine that I would be heading out at 3:00PM that day, even though the activity wasn’t over until 3:15PM. When it was time for me to go, she asked everyone to say goodbye to me and I almost teared up seeing all those cuties waving and shooting goodbye.

I can’t wait to volunteer there again!

New roommates

This morning, as I was stuffing half a cookie in my mouth getting ready to head out for errands, two men walked up to me and introduced themselves. ‘Well, that’s weird,’ I thought to myself. I assumed they were random guys who crashed here last night given that there are two spare rooms in the house. It is only hours later did it come to mind that they might actually have moved in last night. And well, turns out they did.

I’m horrible with names, so let’s call them Chatty and Noddy. There was actually a third guy at some point, I’m not sure if he also lives here or if he was just hanging out with Chatty when I met him. But anyway, turns out Chatty and Noddy are brothers. Noddy used to live here last year with his dog. According to Max, he was a horrible tenant and Mike (the landlord) had said that he would no longer be letting anyone rent rooms here before of the mishap with this guy. You can imagine then that Max wasn’t thrilled to know that not only did we have new tenants, but that one of them was the same guy who had convinced the landlord to stop renting. So much for that.

But I’m not judging them by what I’ve heard. Chatty seems quite nice. We spoke three times so far, mostly just chit-chat, but he still made an effort to be friendly and polite. I don’t think I actually had a conversation with Noddy, but Max spoke to him briefly after they both got home from work. I didn’t feel like there was tension in the air, but it might build up from here on out. Here’s to hoping it won’t.

On the bright side, both Chatty and Noddy will be working long hours every day and we won’t see them very much. I’m also hoping that they’re just working a short contract and staying until that contract is over. Sure, they seems like nice guys, but they are two extra men that are now living in the same house as three other men and me. Mike (the landlord) hasn’t been home in almost a week, so at least that’s less traffic. And if I hadn’t mentioned it, the original roommate, Andy, is a hermit crab so I only see him when he gets home from work, specifically at 5:15PM every week day. Now that we’re 6 in the house, it’s starting to feel crowded, especially in the kitchen – AKA my favourite part of the house. We somehow have to fit all of our food in one fridge, make more space in the cabinets, and hopefully not step on each others toes when it comes to cooking. And we all know more men means more mess.

However, I will say how delightfully surprised I was that they cleaned the upstairs bathroom! It smelled wonderful, and everything was sparkling white. This is just an assumption, but I have a feeling that Chatty is the tidy one, whereas Noddy is sloppy and leaves all his stuff lying around.

I don’t mind cleaning up after others if it’s just once in a while, and it’s just a bowl or a spoon. But I’m worried that if I keep doing it, they will never get into the habit of picking up after themselves, or worse, they have no cleaning habits and don’t plan on getting any. If it comes to the point where it’s total chaos, I suppose I will try to confront them. Luckily, we’re heading back home in a little over a week so at least I won’t have to deal with that – if it does become a problem – for much longer.

Edit: Noddy’s name is Wyatt. Still didn’t catch his brother’s name.

My 25th Birthday

Can you believe I am now a quarter of a century old?! I certainly can’t! Time has flown by these past few years, but I made sure to take the time to enjoy every moment of it. I am especially grateful for the cherished memories from my 25th birthday yesterday, which I got to celebrate with my boyfriend Max here in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

In case you hadn’t read further on, Max’s birthday was just over a month ago, and I had lots of surprises lined up for him. After having eating his favourite meal for supper, eating his favourite dessert, and opening all 25 of his gifts, he sat there and said “How am I going to be able to top this?!” I’m a pretty lucky gal because he is the type of man who will definitely take that as a challenge, and it is rare that he does not succeed when he sets goals for himself.

Unfortunately, both he and my step-sister Katelyn initially thought my birthday was December 5th, so I got spoiled a bit in advance. Max was smart enough to ask me two days prior to my actual birthday to confirm the date, and so he proceeded to ask if I wanted to celebrate on the 5th, given that it was Saturday. I told him it made no difference to me, whatever was best for whatever he had planned. He told he would check on some things and then let me know.

We woke up the morning of December 5th quite late, and let me tell you, it felt so great to sleep in for the first time this week! I’ve gotten into the habit of getting up when Max gets up for work (6:30AM) and getting breakfast ready to get a good head start on job applications and art projects every day. I should also mention we’ve been playing Minecraft every night this week until midnight, and my body is not used to get only 6 hours of sleep. (Side note: I freaking love Minecraft!)

We were too lazy to make breakfast/lunch that morning, so we decided to go to Subway since we needed to go out to buy a few things as well. I got a few art supplies that were on sale, and we also made our way to NAPA and got some oil and an oil filter. My first birthday gift: a (much needed) free oil change from my wonderful car-savvy boyfriend! He spent the rest of the afternoon working on my car while I got some work done on a few Christmas gifts.

Although my birthday celebrations were in fact filled with love and joy, I received some bad news from my mom that afternoon. My heart stopped as I read the following text:
“Steve took more seizures. In ER right now.”

For those of you who were unaware, my step-dad Steve had a liver transplant in August 2014 and suffered seizures as a side-effect from the anti-rejection medication. He was prescribed with medication for the seizures right away, but has had two separate episodes this year and landed back in the hospital.

I managed to keep my shit together, for the most part, but it really pained me to be so far away this time. If I had been in Moncton, NB, I could have driven to see them right away. But now I’m 5000kms away and the only support I can offer are encouraging words by phone or by text.

I ran to the garage and told Max right away. He was almost done with the car and came inside afterwards to make sure I was doing alright. We sent a message to my mom and Steve to say that we were sending love and positive thoughts. She replied soon thereafter to let us know that a CT scan had been done and that there was no signs of bleeding and no tumours, both of which were good news.

My mind was more at ease and I felt relief knowing that things were looking a bit better. Max asked if I was up for going out, or if I would rather spend the night together at home given the circumstances. I decided it would do me some good to get out of the house, and I figured he had something great planned.

Our first stop of the night was Ernie’s Sports Experts. I haven’t owned proper winter boots since I was approximately 12 years old, so he told me he was buying me a good pair for my birthday. He also made mention that these would be necessary for my birthday surprise. I was intrigued to say the least. And as if it was fate, we found the coolest looking pair of boots right away. I know I would be buying them, that is, if they had them in my size. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m tiny, and so are my feet, so I basically never buy shoes because they don’t come in such a small size. As always, I asked for the smallest size they had, which the salesman explained could be 5 or 6. He went to check and I had my fingers crossed. The look on his face was not promising as he walked back towards us. “I only have a 6.5” AHH! But I want them so bad!! You know what, I’m gonna try them anyway! I sat down and pulled the boots on, admiring their beauty. I touched the tip of the boot to see how they fit, and it was actually pretty good. I was wearing thin socks and there was a bit of space left, all of which could be filled in my some cozy wool socks. Done, I’m buying them. Or rather, Max did!

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Next up was a pitstop at OMG Cupcakes for dessert. Don’t worry, we didn’t spoil our appetite by eating them before supper. But speaking of supper, IT WAS AMAZING! Max took me to SOTO Teppanyaki and Fusion Sushi, where we watched a young Japanese man cook our meal in front of us. He even asked me to light the onions on fire with his lighter and he scared the crap out of me by banging down on the grill as I was about to ignite it! We laughed pretty hard. I did manage to light the onion tower though, and what a sight! He proceeded to throw a piece of brocoli at each of us (total of 3 couples) that we needed to catch with our mouths. Only Max and one of the other guys succeeded, but it made for a few good laughs. Everyone except me had ordered Chicken Teriyaki. Being vegetarian, I ordered Grilled Tofu. All of our meals were served with miso soup, a small salad, rice and veggies. The others also got some shrimp as well, which was a nice surprise. I don’t know about them, but mine was absolutely delicious! I had to force myself to stop eating when I was full, it was just so good! And I’m so grateful to have a boyfriend who is always willing to finish my plate so we never waste any food.

Part of me was regretting eating so much because I had no room left to eat the cupcakes we had bought! And to make things “worse” – please note the sarcasm, as indicated by the quotation marks – Max took me to a candy store after supper! We walked around, sang loudly in harmony with the music on the radio – as we always do – and gazed at all the different types of candy! After much debate, we settled on two or three different kinds each, and Max paid for our purchase. I can’t be the only one who constantly thinks: “I can’t wait to be hungry again!”

We made a quick stop to visit our friend Benoit after our candy-land aventure and chatted with him for a bit. They snacked on some of the candy and dessert, whereas I was trying to convince my internal organs to digest faster.

The night was topped off with an intense night of Minecraft. Max even found Redstone Ore, but we had no idea you had to have Silk Touch to be able to break it down and actually receive the Redstone! We did manage to make a huge garden and get some farm animals to follow us back to our house. Yeah, we’re nerdy like that!

OK! That was only the half of it! Now it’s time for Sunday! Our alarm is set for 6:30AM because Max said we needed to be ready for 7AM. This is new, because Max is not a morning person. Now I’m really excited!

Typical me, I was up at 6AM so I decided to start getting ready early, then crawl back into bed and poke at Max, hoping he would wake up. He actually sleeps like a brick and as always, he pressed snooze twice on the alarm. When he was somewhat conscious, he rolled over to kiss me and wish me a Happy Birthday. Unfortunately, he passed out again immediately after. I woke him and told him I was turning the light on. He grunted but did not protest. He eventually crawled out of bed and we got dressed to head out. He had already prepared his backpack the night before, and apparently, we were bringing a shotgun too. I couldn’t keep thinking “Please don’t take me hunting for my birthday… Please don’t take me hunting…” We went upstairs to grab some snacks and we packed up the car. Of course, any activity would be incomplete without Tim Hortons, so we stopped at the nearest one to grab breakfast and some drinks.

“Do you want to know where we’re going?”

“No, it’s supposed to be a surprise!”

And surprisingly, I managed to not ask a billion questions – out loud – about the destination and I did not ruin the surprise!

We drove for quite a while though, and different ideas of what it could be kept rolling in my mind. “Is he taking me to watch the Northern Lights?” “Are we going to BC like I suggested last week?” “Are we driving to Calgary?” “ARE WE GOING TO BANFF?!” Ok, ok, stop trying to figure it out!

I’m not very entertaining when I’m tired, nor when I’m in a moving vehicle, so you can imagine I was pretty boring during the drive. Luckily, caffeine makes Max very talkative so we ended up talking for hours and it made the time go by pretty quickly. We made a pitstop in a town called Grande Cache, and fortunately for him, I have no idea where that is on the map therefor it couldn’t ruin the surprise as an indication of where we were going.

Another hour or two down the road, we came to a booth and the man asked where we are headed. Darn, I guess this is where the surprise ends.

“Jasper.”

“WE’RE GOING TO JASPER FOR MY BIRTHDAY?!”

“Surprise!”

I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t that far from Grande Prairie, and it was one of the places I definitely wanted to see while I was in Alberta! Especially during the winter!

Max went on to explain that we would go eat lunch at a vegan restaurant in town, and then we could walk around for a bit before possibly doing another activity he had planned. He didn’t know if we would be able to do it though because he had tried calling to get more information and there was never any answer. I told him it didn’t matter, just the fact that we would be able to take in so many beautiful sites was more than enough! And of course, Max packed my camera so that we could take nice pictures throughout the day.

We got to town around 11:30AM and made our way to Coco Café. There, we shared a delicious meal and ate to our heart’s content. Judge me all you want, but I ordered one of my favourite café lunch items: grilled cheese! It was so delicious with avocado and a side of Roasted Garlic and Pumpkin Soup. Max had a grilled chicken sandwich with a beet and corn salad on the side. He had also ordered an elk sausage, but turns out they had run out so he also had a grilled cheese.

Once we finished eating, we made our way to the town’s information centre. Max wanted to take me for a ride on the SkyTram, but turns out it closed for the winter in November. Dang! But the Parks Canada employee, Peter, kindly suggested other activities and places to visit in the area. We thanked him and walked back to the car.

“OK, so I had two other things planned out. One is to go to the BC border to take a picture to finish your Cross-Canada road trip, and the other is to go to a scenic area by a bridge overlooking a lake and all the mountains.”

I was so excited, I almost cried.

We decided to head to the BC border first, which was only about 15 minutes out of town. Here I am in front of the final province of my cross-Canada road trip:

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Note to Julie & Remi: I will photoshop you guys eventually. 

Of course, such a trip would be incomplete without Max suggesting doing something silly. He absolutely wanted to climb the mountain goat on of of the signs, to the point where he asked me to go get some rope in the car. Uhh, no. We made due with angle adjustments to make it look like he was on the sign.

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Max mounting the Mountain Goat. 

Our final stop before heading back was by far the most beautiful. We drove out into the woods and stopped at a few different places. The first was Lake Patricia, where people were actually skating!! Max was so disappointed he hadn’t thought of bringing skates. As for me, well, I flat out suck at skating and was quite content with just admiring the natural beauty of the lake and the mountains surrounding it.

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Lake Patricia – Jasper, AB

The next stop was to view Pyramid Lake, both from the shore and from an island across the bridge Max had mentioned. As always, I started to get cold, but tried to take it all in, because it truly was breath-taking. Take a look for yourself:

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Pyramid Lake – Jasper, AB

When it got to the point that I could no longer feel my toes, we decided it was time to head back.

During the trip back, we talked about lots of stuffed, but we did start making plans for Christmas break! I won’t go into any details quite yet because nothing has been confirmed, but more information on our travel plans will be posted on the blog soon enough!

To sum, my 25th birthday was absolutely incredible. I received messages from friends near and far, and I even got two birthday cards in the mail! I got to share wonderful memories with my main man who never ceases to amaze me with his kindness and thoughtfulness. I am so happy to be in such a great place in my life and I just want to take the time to say thank you to everyone who is or who has been a part of my life. Each and every one of you has shaped and influence me in some way or another, and you’ve all made me proud of the person that I’ve become.

Christmas Preparations

Tis the season, and Christmas is just around the corner! Part of me is incredibly excited to go home and see family and friends in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but part of me is dreading the long drive during Canadian Winter. Hopefully El Nino will do its part and winter won’t be quite as bad as other years.
I’m actually quite surprised about the weather here in Grande Prairie, AB. It’s only snowed once since I got here a month ago and the temperature has been really nice, even above 0 most days this week. I suppose it’s probably a good thing since it’s giving me the chance to get used to the brutal cold that is to come. On the bright side, it seems to me an area that has less snowfall than the East Coast. Moncton was already hit with a large snowfall just the other night. But enough about the weather; let’s talk about Christmas!

This year, I have decided that every gift I am giving will be handmade. I can’t go into much more detail about that, or else it would ruin the surprise. But it’s been really great to work on so many projects these past few weeks, knowing that I get to wrap them all up and give them to my family and friends. I have a little more than half of the gifts done, just a few more to go. And I am just now clicking in that I have about 3 weeks left to finish everything. Worst part: I still have no idea what to make/get for my boyfriend. All ideas and suggestions are welcome!

What I did accomplish though was to make homemade Christmas cards! If anybody would like one, please feel free to send me a message with you address and it should arrive within 3-5 business days!

Homemade Christmas Card

I also started decorating this man-filled house. Seriously, there are absolutely zero decorative things in this abode. I bought a few things to get into the Christmas spirit, most of which is just in our bedroom. I also grabbed some branches in the woods when we went to cut down the Christmas Tree and told myself I would make a wreathe or some kind of decor with it. Progress on said project: haven’t even taken it out of the garage yet.

But it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and I love curling up on the couch at night with the Christmas Tree lit up, cuddling with my other half. Life is pretty great right now. 🙂