Moving mountains, never mind they are just boxes

Well, it’s been another 7 months, so guess what time it is? Yes, that’s right – it’s moving time. Joe and I are moving to our own place. Again. A decision that has not come lightly and I am both loving and hating it the same time.

I hate it because…

Packing. I hate packing. I absolutely despise labeling and putting stuff in boxes, and making lists, and throwing stuff out and deciding what to throw out and what to keep. I don’t like packing, and organizing, and EVERYTHING ABOUT PACKING.

The actual moving is HORRIBLE. Something always goes wrong, something is always forgotten, and someone usually gets upset at least once. It is always a long day, and it’s always so tired, and after things are moved into the house, it takes days, weeks, months to unpack every single box…and sometimes things never get unpacked.

Although it is time for Joe and me to move out, I am going to miss living with Hanna, Josh, and Justin. They are good people and are awesome for letting Joe and I have a landing spot for a while. So that does go on the hate list.

AH! I'M SURROUNDED!

AH! I’M SURROUNDED!

Things I love about moving?

I have missed being able to be financially responsible enough to be able to afford to move out again and being able to have a home again. I am not saying that our current house is not a home, but that’s the thing, it is a home. It just isn’t my home. Our home. This is going to be a home for just Joe and me and that is something that we have waited so long to have again. I can’t wait to have all our kitchen stuff in the places that we want it, to be able to move furniture at 2 o’clock in the morning and not disturb people (yes I do that).

I miss being able to walk around not fully clothed. I, like Jacqui, do not like pants, so they are generally the first thing that comes off when I get home. But you cannot just take your pants off when you walk into a house that has 3 other people living in it…it would get VERY awkward.

Overall I hate the process, but as someone who has moved A LOT this is going to be the last time for a while…or so I hope. Wish us luck – I’m going to go pack another box.

~ Andreah

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Hiking Ontario

If you know me personally, you know that it is quite hard for me to stay still. And by this I do not mean that I fidget and fuss, but that I crave adventure and movement on a scale that most people just don’t understand.

While up to and including this point in my life, travel on a grandeur scale has not been possible – whether monetary tightness or family obligations or school requirements, or, or, or, there has always been something trumping my wild heart’s need to run.

That being said, I have not let that stop me from getting my fix when I can and instead, has made me quite the well-rounded guide for trails and destinations within our beautiful province that just have to be tackled. On a weekend or day off I am often up before the sun and off – solo or with company – hitting the open road with a destination in mind, ready to feed my soul the nourishment she craves of nature, adventure and exploration.

Wanting to get your feet wet with some of the best treasures I’ve found so far? Here are a few to get you started:

1. Spencer Gorge Conservation Area: This location contains some of the best hiking within a 30 minute drive of Cambridge, Ontario and boasts gorgeous views of the escarpment.

upper tews

Overlooking the gorge toward Tews Falls side

There are well traveled paths already available for the less crazy than me type (which lead up to the peak, featured in the above photo), or if you are willing to be a little more daring, (and slightly…illegal), then you should prepare for a 6 hour hike down the basin into the gorge itself where you can meander your way to the bottom of both sets of falls. This area can be reached through a gated off access point on the Webster’s Falls side of the trail, or near the rail way tracks at the bottom of the hill heading into Dundas. Come prepared with proper, sturdy footwear, some water, snacks and enjoy a day playing at the base of waterfall giants. Michael and I did this hike last in the winter and while incredibly challenging in full snow gear, totally worth it to stand in awe of this:

Feeling so small at Tews base January 2015

Feeling so small at Tews base January 2015

2. Beamer Memorial Conservation Area: This beauty of a spot was first visited on a fall day where I was feeling particularly restless and needed a new perspective. Not knowing where I wanted to head, I Googled ‘best Escarpment vantage points’ and this beauty popped up in the search results. It really is something to take in.

Lake Ontario for days

Lake Ontario for days

Roughly an hour’s drive from Cambridge, this trail is located in Grimsby Ontario and is part of the Bruce Trail system that runs along the Niagara Escarpment. There are multiple access points (I have found 3 so far) boasting views of the escarpment cliffs, terraces, Lake Ontario as well as the upper and lower falls. If you’re a bird fanatic, try to visit during the spring Hawk migration (roughly March 1 – May 15) where you can catch these stunning birds of prey on warm sunny days between 10:00am and 3:00pm.
New to hiking? From the main gate the trail is fairly flat, roughly 1.9km and easy to navigate for even the most novice hikers. With multiple lookout points and even more challenging trails leading into the basin, this area needs a whole day’s dedication if you can manage. If you’re able and wanting a little more challenge, climb your way down from the back entrance or end of the top trail from the front; here you will find the upper and lower falls just waiting for you to explore them.

Linda and I reaching the top of the lower fall deck

Linda and I reaching the top of the lower fall deck

3. The Bruce Peninsula National Park: While the furthest of my favourites, clocking in the drive at just over 3 hours from Cambridge, this breathtaking wonder located in Georgian Bay is well worth the drive. A part of the 885km of Bruce Trail, this section offers hikers the unique Northern landscape, incredible turquoise waters and four trails within the park to choose from.

That really is the colour of the water

That really is the colour of the water

As it’s located in the heart of a biosphere reserve, you’re sure to see your fair share of wildlife and interesting vegetation, massive rugged cliffs and limestone barrens. Make sure you make your way down to the Grotto – a natural cave on the shoreline that was formed from the waves from the Bay washing in over thousands of years.

Dancers pose over the Grotto #yogaeverydamnday

Dancers pose over the Grotto #yogaeverydamnday

If you’re feeling extra adventurous and the park just isn’t enough for you (ha, yeah right), head over to Flowerpot island via boat and spend the day on an additional 6.5 km of trail, admiring the natural sea stacks, navigating massive caves and touring the historic light station.

Kelso: Located in Milton, just a 40 minute drive from Cambridge and easily accessable from the 401, Kelso is a location I would consider when I am looking for a slower pace, less challenging climb.

From the mid-point, overlooking the top

From the mid-point, overlooking the top

Still providing great heights for views, it also houses 22 km of hiking terrain which is also suitable for mountain bikers looking for a challenge, 396 hectares of camping, and a network of incredible caves to explore. With the perfect Western views, Kelso is a great place to head with a picnic, your favourite person and find a spot to perch while the sky gives you an incredible show at sunset.

Sunset at Kelso

Sunset at Kelso

If you’re wanting the same proximity to home as Kelso but a little more adventure, on the alternate side of the escarpment you’ll find Rattlesnake Point, accessible from Kelso or a short drive, which hosts three rock-climbing areas and an additional 12.7 km of looping trails.

These are just a few of my favourite spots in our gorgeous province of Ontario – I’ll have to write a few posts to fit them all in as there are still plenty of places in Muskoka, Niagara, through Huron and Bruce Counties, Sarnia, etc. to be shared. What are some of yours? Any different ones you might recommend for me?

~ Toni

 

That time we were almost cast for TLC

Have you ever experienced one of those moments where time seems suspended in midair and you observe the situation you’re in from a slightly removed perspective and know somewhere deep in your bones that this is a pivotal moment? A moment with a fork in the road and it could change your life completely if you go one way, or it could stay the exact same if you go the other?

Well did that EVER happen to the Sisterhood last week!

Roughly a month ago, we were contacted by a development company called Crybaby Media out of NEW YORK CITY (yeah, New York, New York!) regarding a mandate that had been sent down from the TLC and Lifetime networks to find and cast families with four or more sisters for a new docu-series they were looking to develop.

You can imagine our surprise when our wee-baby, fairly personal blog put us on the map and got us noticed. Reading and re-reading the initial email we were all pretty convinced we were probably being duped and that it had to be a scam of some sort. Our mama was just worried we would John & Kate Plus 8 the crap out of our lives if we participated.

....I can see why she would be concerned.

….I can see why she would be concerned.

As with all big, scary, exciting news, we met immediately to discuss our stance and if we wanted to proceed with the Skype interviews they had requested and aired our concerns. We decided to see what the show was about and what we would be giving up to participate.

To say the initial process left us feeling like we were in good hands would be a stretch – scheduling conflicts and poor communication led us to really question the legitimacy of the opportunity. After expressing our concerns after being stood up and emailed after the fact to reschedule us – again – things seemed to take a turn for the better and we were finally able to Skype with McKenna from Crybaby Media.

The initial interview was for McKenna to get to know us more and see if there was enough about us as a Sisterhood that people could relate to and was the rawest of the process. We nervously accepted her call as we heard Skype ring through our set up laptop at the bottom of Julia’s basement stairs where quiet, decent lighting and stacked seating were available.

McKenna was friendly and warm which put as ease fairly quickly. She got right into it and asked us to round-robin introduce ourselves and give a snapshot of who each of is, our lifestyle, age and position within the Sisterhood. We were asked to describe each other, our childhood, our parents, what we do together for fun, what we do apart that makes us unique – the typical kinds of questions you would expect for a reality-based series participant to divulge about themselves. After about 20 minutes of us cautiously answering the required questions, McKenna let us know she would like to pass us through to the second stage and interview, which would be taped and then cut down to make our 2-4 minute ‘pitch’ video to the network.

We logged off the call with instructions for follow-up and instantly burst into a common commotion of chatter throwing around concerns, questions, statements and ideas for how to get all of this to process through our overloaded brains.

What just happened?

Did our little blog just set off a series of events for us that we could have never imagined? Did we even want to participate now that we knew what we’d be sharing with the world? How would this affect our lives and relationships? There were so many questions and unknowns it was hard not to get too ahead of ourselves. We were still reeling from even being found on this wide world of the internet and to be honest, our concerns for our little lives were beginning to surpass our interest in being cast.

Maybe a little too real for reality TV?

Maybe a little too real for reality TV?

After confirming our follow-up taped interview, we were provided a general guideline for the questions and style of answering in order to get a good cut for our final video. When the day of the taping came we met early to discuss what had come to the surface for each of us over the two days between interviews. We were sure to be honest with one another about what we were comfortable discussing and what we would rather not shed light on just yet – surprisingly there are still things about us that we are just not ready to let our readers learn just yet. We determined a good rule of thumb to be if we were comfortable writing about it here, we should be comfortable being honest and open about it on camera.

Our taping went really well and I think I speak for all of the sisters when I say that we might have benefited from the structure and style of the conversation more than anyone. In the 45 minutes of taping we were able to learn a little more about each other, what we want out of this blog, how we view the world, our childhood and each other uniquely from one another.

Most importantly, we uncovered that we wanted to raise our blog to be a community for people to come and experience what it is to be a part of such a tight sisterhood, to feel not so alone with the battles they wage daily, and to know that there are a bunch weirdos out there stumbling through this insanity that we call life just as awkwardly as any one.

We all didn’t express it then, but we were all filled with anxiety of the changes that may come into our lives if we were picked up by the network and it wasn’t an eager anxiety. Personally, I made sure to pray on it that if this was not meant for us or would not bring only light and love into our lives it would be removed from our hands to choose.

Please? Or, no thank you?

Please? Or, no thank you?

A day later we received an email stating we had been passed on and ironically enough were told we were not nearly “outrageous” enough for the casting – which if you’ve ever been to one of our family events you know this is not entirely true – however, we did take that as a compliment when we considered the network that had put out the mandate.

Can you IMAGINE if we had made it through!?

When we all found out about not making it to the next round there were shared expressions of relief – we weren’t exactly sure we were ready for TLC… or if TLC was ready for the likes of us.

So for now, we are your humble community blog, focused on sharing our lives with whoever happens upon us. Who knows what the future brings though – stranger things have happened!

~ Toni

Are we home yet? – Baltimore Trip Pt 3

We did it…. well they did it, but I like to think our specific cheering squad helped boost morale. If you could HEAR the screams from Ben, and how Toni almost lost her voice, then you would think the same too.

I don’t even know how to write this seeing as we are no longer in the play offs as the Patriots defeated us. Isn’t sports lingo great – defeated – how extravagant!

I was placed with the task of writing about our way home – but I didn’t want to.. I still don’t want to. I want to still be there, still walking around with the rest of the fans, basking in us winning, us still being in the playoffs, still seeing Ben jump down the streets with so much energy that he had to do push ups in the hotel room in order to get some energy out.

However, we came home…we drove…for forever…and ever. I almost got sick – seriously I suck at car rides. I had Gravol, fresh air and I am sure everyone was thankful for that.

There were some highlights of the way home, so maybe I should just let you know about those. Because I wouldn’t personally like to read a sad blog about coming home from a vacation where we were stuck in the car for hours on end!

In the morning, the bakery attached to our hotel had chocolate croissants that were FRESHLY made that morning. As everyone was packing up and getting ready for the day, and to sit in the car, I went to the bakery and got coffee and croissants and brought them back to our meeting point of the trip, Julia and Ben’s room. Now do I have pictures of these delicious amazing, goooooeeeyy flakey yummy pastries? No I do not – because we ate them before I could get a picture of them. They were so good – so darn good!

JUST KIDDING!!! Of course I have a picture – jeeze this isn’t amateur hour, we bought more!

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Yum-O look at those eyes!

We even bought more for the drive home, so the beautiful picture you see above is our second batch of delicious treats.

Another highlight of our whole trip was how friendly everyone was – even as Mike was setting the GPS for home, a man who noticed Mike walked up to the open window and asked if he needed help to get any where. He then proceeded to tell us the completely wrong way to get home, but that was not the point. The point was he wanted to help – he told us to go from his house, which we were no where near, to get to Canada.

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The way home was long, like I said before. But with a great seat partner, which I had, and a request to go SHOPPING – it was made more bearable!

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Seat partner extrodinaire – who even held my hair when I thought I was going to throw up!

We stopped in Pennsylvania to stretch our legs, get food and to get some shopping in. We stopped at Victoria Secret where Julia found the love of real bras again since she has stopped nursing, Toni also bought little goodies, and I bought comfy pj’s. I also had my first Macy’s experience where I found and bought a dress for my wedding shower, and Julia and Toni tried to figure out how to steal a very large mirror that was sitting in the change room.

seriously ... can't take them any where!

Seriously…can’t take them anywhere!

After we were thoroughly scolded for wanting a car break from the men who failed to book off the next day, we were scurried to Subway where the option for “double meat” was asked very cordially. I declined…and I am happy to report for all our heart and waistlines’ sake, no one got double meat.

We were then shoved back into the car and whisked back to the border. The car ride home was uneventful – we tried to get home as soon as possible for fear that the rental fairies would turn our Tahoe back into a pumpkin.

The rest of the trip was a blur of…

IMG_0194[1]

And this…

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With maybe a little bit of this…

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All in all it was a great trip – and I leave with you this amazing entrance picture of the great Suggs. Seriously, how bad ass is this picture!?

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It was a great trip, an amazing trip – and by far the best present I have ever given to Cody – even though the picture evidence that I have doesn’t really show it.

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This was after we won…I swear he loves me! Just kidding, love you babe!

~ Jacqui

Game Day! – Baltimore Trip pt. 2

Waking up in Baltimore on game day was a bit surreal.

We were actually going to an NFL game! A critically important-for-the-home-team-game. A game that both of my brothers-in-law and man had only dreamed about before this Christmas present plan was hatched. A game that a few short months before had been just that – a plan.

The sisters BBM’d our good mornings, agreed to meet shortly and got to getting ready for a hearty breakfast in preparation for an afternoon of beer and football.

Gathering in the hallway outside of our well-accommodated rooms in a row, conversation covered the beds in The Lord Baltimore hotel receiving mixed reviews, with the sirens and interesting screams from the streets below gaining a collective dislike. We were clearly in need of coffee and sustenance.

We decided to try out The French Kitchen, one of the in-house offered restaurant choices, for breakfast and quickly fuelled with coffee, eggs, steak, bacon, and of course carbs in the form of croissants, pancakes and lemon cake.

The internal entrance from the hotel

The internal entrance from the hotel

Our waitress was awesome and extremely friendly, we had the restaurant to ourselves, and even better the food was quick and delicious (and for the record did not have the side effects as the Hardee’s excursion of the day before).

Our fantastic waitress!

Our fantastic waitress!

The French Kitchen was a win in our Canadian books!

It even had this amazingly placed bush...

It even had this amazingly placed bush…

At this point containing the men’s anticipation for getting down to the stadium was next to impossible, so with a few last minute preparations to outfits to get game ready, we headed out on the short jaunt to Raven’s Walk for paraphernalia purchases and our first exposure to tailgating.

I would like at this point to revel in the fact that we were wearing t-shirts and jeans – IN DECEMBER – and at one point I even broke a sweat. In a t-shirt. In December. Best weather for game day, ever.

Best Ravens' fan vehicle, ever.

Best Ravens’ fan vehicle, ever.

We were quick to locate a vendor that sold the jerseys the boys wanted and one carrying the sweatshirts and must-have Raven’s face tattoos that the ladies desired and then headed towards the stadium with the growing swell of energy-filled fans.

All geared up!

All geared up!

This is my nightmare...

This is my nightmare…

Such an awesome moment

Such an awesome moment

Seats and beer acquired, kickoff was one cheerleading and one big-band performance away.

Now, here is where I am going to lose the part of our reading audience that came here hoping to read a play-by-play of what turned out to be a thrilling, once in a Ravens fan’s dreams type-game, however my ability to recall these details is lacking. Also, there are many websites dedicated to such a task.

What I do remember were the giant smiles on all of our faces as kickoff took place, and the cheers, screams and bellows that came from our row of 6.

These people <3

These people ❤

I remember the Browns’ fans in our section taunting us, the confused fan not knowing what team his loyalties laid with, the hot dogs that made Jacqui so happy and the beer that gave me the giggles.

Browns family, Raiders hat, Ravens jersey.... So confused

Browns family, Raiders hat, Ravens jersey…. So confused

Stadium dogs - cheers!

Stadium dogs – cheers!

I rememebr being worried in the third quarter as we lagged and it didn’t seem a win would be in our corner on our mini-vacation.

Worried in the third...

Worried in the third…

And mostly I remember the screams, cheers and excitement that came in the fourth when Flacco started throwing and we made a run for the win.

The best moment though came when the Ravens did win and it was announced that Kansasa City had defeated San Diego, meaning the Baltimore Ravens were headed to the playoffs.

They did it!!!

They did it!!!

The sound and feeling of the crowd of 72, 000 hometown fans erupting in celebration will forever be ingrained into my brain and heart – what a feeling! Even more to that, I got to experience it and celebrate it with 5 of some pretty damn important people in my life. Amazing.

Fans celebrating, players and families rushing the field

Fans celebrating, players and families rushing the field

Even writing about it now, I can feel the rush that came with those moments.

The walk back to the hotel was filled with play-by-play recaps of the most exciting movements both on and off the field and of course a pit stop for coffee. The satisfaction of the day still fresh on our faces, we returned to our weekend home-base and quickly decided on an evening in to cap it off.

We split off shortly to change into our comfies and reconvened back in Julia and Ben’s room (as it was most conducive to community hang outs) where we settled on taking a chance with room service.

Once dinner concluded, we were treated to a royal rumble between Jacqui and…well, everyone that she could egg on. The wresting match between Julia and Jacqui – which ended in a throat jab and face slap delivered by Julia – turned into a wrestling match with Cody, followed by a double threat gang up attack on Ben, which his injuries might lead most to believe Jacqui and Julia won that match. Ben even treated us to handstand push-ups at one point due to a bought of pent up energy wherein he expressed his desire to wrestle again…

Our evening consisted of a lot of this:

The throat jab

The throat jab

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….this went on for some time…

Cody got sucked in too

Cody got sucked in too

Poor #7 nipple....

Poor #7 nipple….

And even more laughter than we thought possible.

We all went to bed satisfied and happy that evening, well-prepared for the long drive home the next day.

~ Toni

Leaving, in a Tahoe! – Baltimore Trip Pt 1

When Ben and I first got together I knew less than nothing about football (American, that is…not to be confused with footie (Australian football), or soccer, or any other iteration). I knew it included a football, but that was it. I distinctly remember “playing” football in Grade 8. Our teacher put us on the field and then expected the magic to happen. For every other kid there, it did. For me, I stood in the middle of the field, completely lost and confused.

Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered my boyfriend, a.k.a. my now husband, LOVED football, LOVED the NFL, and LOVED tackling people. Yay! (Insert sarcasm here…and there…and above…everywhere, really.)

Over the 11 years of being together and the 8-almost-9 years of marriage, I have learned A LOT about football. I still can’t tell what kind of play the offense is going to run, or the defense is going to set up in answer, but the fact that I know who the offense is, who the defense is, which direction the ball is going, what down it is, and how many yards they have left until they get a fresh set of downs, is incredible…and is the result of hours and and hours and hours of watching football with my man. Also, bugging him incessantly with questions (like, why is it called the first down when it’s the 80th down they’ve had…or they ‘get a first down’ when they were just on a second down…and what the hell is going on?!). I can proudly say that I can hold my own in conversations about the game, that I have a favourite player (Hi, Peyton!!) and that I can cheer alongside Ben confidently, although I still pick the team he’s not cheering for just to be a pain (old habits, dying hard, you know).

So when Toni and Jacqueline hatched the plan to take the boys to a Baltimore Ravens game for a Christmas gift, it was an easy HELLS YEAH! The Ravens are Ben’s team and, in a funny coincidence, also Cody’s favourite team. Mike loves the NFL period, so it was a win-win-win (Andreah and Joe couldn’t come because of monies…and because none of us are rich, we couldn’t swing the coverage for them…it SUCKED that they couldn’t be there, but life is life, regardless of the NFL and the Ravens, and ROAD TRIP!).

A road trip means FOOD. And to kick it off, I baked a few treats…some scones, some delicious cranberry oat muffins, some healthy banana oat cookies, and, of course, some terrible for you but SO YUMMY milk chocolate chip cookies. Snacks were COVERED.

OH YEAH

YUM

For us to go, of course, it meant finding a babysitter that would be willing to hang out with our crazies for THREE DAYS. We have three kids under 6…that is not a small thing to ask. Luckily, we’ve got points with the mothers, and between our mom and Ben’s mom, along with some uber support from Grandpa Mike, we were able to leave our babies and embark on the 9-hour trip to Baltimore, Maryland.

The willing victims...I mean ROCK STARS.

The willing victims…I mean ROCK STARS.

We left at crazy-o’clock in the morning…can you see the clock in the above picture? That says 4:50 a.m., people. We mean business. Toni and Mike picked us up and drove the white Tahoe that they rented for the trip – it was the only vehicle big enough for everyone (all 6 of us) and our STUFF (Mike couldn’t see out the back, but that’s not THAT important…) – to get Jacqueline and Cody. Mike had actually won the rental at his work Christmas party the weekend before, which was a stroke of luck that saved us OODLES of money, considering we were taking the rental over the border and putting 837487436750 km on it. Even the Christmas party gods wanted us to go! SIGNS, BABY!

Jacqueline had never driven as far as we were driving, or traveled for as long as we were travelling, so she didn’t know what to expect. She DID however win the ‘best seat partner’ award from me, because she brought 14 pillows and 56 cozy, thick, soft, fuzzy blankets.

Hello, beautiful.

Hello, beautiful.

Our backseat was tight, because we have the shortest legs, but it was the most comfortable seat ever. Take your shoes off, put your head down, close your eyes, and voila! Road trippin’ naps.

The cool kids sit in the back

The cool kids sit in the back (our view)

Mike was driving, which he preferred AND it was what the insurance on the rental covered, Ben was his front-seat passenger, because this way he could hear conversations (otherwise, it’d be an isolated trip for him), Cody and Toni were in the middle, and Jacqueline and I were in the waaaaaaay back. Cramped, cozy, ROAD TRIP.

The middle trying to sneak into the back...everyone wants to be the cool kids.

The middle trying to sneak into the back…everyone wants to be the cool kids.

The first stop was for coffee. Exactly 15 minutes away from Jacqueline and Cody’s house. People peed, caffeine and breakfast were obtained, and then we were on our way.

The border was by far the most nervous part of our trip and happened within the first 90 minutes of driving. The border guy, who we weren’t dumb enough to take a picture of, was full of tight-lippedness. He couldn’t see Jacqueline and I in the back seat, so we had to pop up and say, “Here!” just like during attendance at school. He asked why we were going to see an NFL game…to which we had trouble answering because the answer was obvious. Mike said, “Entertainment.” Everyone held their breath. Then the super serious border guy relented and said, “Yeah, but why Baltimore?” Ahhh! Breathing can commence – he’s being FUNNY. (So scary). Big hump hurdled, onto the next!

Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can't make this stuff up.

Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can’t make this stuff up.

The next hurdle was crossing through New York state into Pennsylvania. While we were in the great state of Pennsylvania, we witnessed a car accident – the guy turning left decided to go regardless of the fact he had a red light…and the guy going straight through slammed into him, surprisingly. Moments after we left that intersection, we were almost hit by someone else running a red light, again trying to turn left. We decided to get out of that city and stop for some lunch. At this point I’d already had TWO naps (a Canadian side one, and a New York one…all in all, a GOOD DAY).

We decided to go to Hardee’s, a burger place that Mike had heard of and wanted to try. The hamburgers were just all right and the fries were CRAZY salty. In the end, it wasn’t anything special, and we all got the gift of fun pooping later that evening (TMI? TOO BAD).

Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.

Hardee’s: Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.

The best part about the road trip so far (you know, besides the lack of children and the napping)? The fact that it was SO warm. We left Ontario with winter coming at us, negative temperatures and lots of bundling required. We got to the States and discovered temperatures that required no coat and no boots. It was like springtime. SO AWESOME.

I had another nap (OH YEAH) and we made it through Pennsylvania, land of the no-stop-red-lights, and into Maryland, land of everyone-honks-while-driving. Our hotel was right downtown Baltimore and a mile away from the stadium, meaning once we got there, we could park and not have to drive again until we headed home.

You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

The hotel was beautiful – it had just been redone, so everything was clean and new and the staff were lovely. They originally booked us on two different floors, but then totally switched us all to the 12th floor so we could be near each other. Even though it must have been a pain, they were so kind about it.

Branded sheets? Fancy!

Branded sheets? Fancy!

Our room was lovely. Spacious. Had lots of room to sit on the floor, a huge king-size bed (we are queens here at home), comfortable chairs, a closet and bathroom. The only trouble? No fan in the bathroom. So all of those Hardee’s poops? Fodder for everyone. BLEH.

After we had settled in, we decided to go exploring and find some dinner. The first order of business was figuring out where the game would be the next day.

The Baltimore Ravens play at M&T Bank Stadium, which is right beside where the Baltimore Orioles play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They share a parking lot, they’re so close to each other.

(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner

(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner

To get to the Baltimore Ravens’ home, we had to walk through the Orioles’ stomping ground. Did you know that Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore? We didn’t either!

The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.

The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.

A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

And then, once we were steeped in Oriole and baseball lore, we made it to Ravens Walk, M&T Stadium, and all things FOOTBALL. Ben (and the boys) were in HEAVEN.

We MADE it.

We MADE it.

Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas

Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas in front of the stadium

Ben v.s. Ravens' football helmet garbage cans - who will win?

Ben v.s. Ravens’ football helmet garbage cans – who will win?

M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game

M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game

After getting our fill of Ravens’ pregame show, we headed off in search of dinner. We were all starving and tired (regardless of the 4587634 naps we had on the way down).

Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?

Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?

We settled on 17 Light, which was a restaurant in another hotel on Light Street. We had tried another restaurant, but the host didn’t seem too keen on doing his job (he answered the phone right after saying “Hi” to us), and then told us it was a 45 minute wait to be seated, even though it looked empty.

This restaurant, the one that served us delicious food, had a bartender/host who greeted us warmly. When he found out we were from Canada, he instantly said he had started watching a Canadian show and LOVED it. All of us were bracing for it – Corner Gas? Red Green? Nope. Trailer Park Boys. We told him that it wasn’t entirely indicative of what life in Canada looks like, but it was the perfect ice-breaker.

Our dinner spot...where we left our mark.

Our dinner spot…where we left our mark.

After dinner, we got some beer, some wine, and hung out in Ben’s and my hotel room, decompressing after the loooooong day. We watched the tail end of Fast Five, where Paul Walker was alive and Vin Diesel still had no neck (it was a no-neck off between him and The Rock…ripped, big, and neckless).

It was heaven to be away from home, to hang out with (some of) the sisters, and have no babies to care for. It was the perfect start to a vacation much-needed and football-filled.

Tune in tomorrow when Toni will regale you with tales of GAME DAY!

~ Julia

Much needed

There’s something to be said for taking a break.

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go (don't worry, I brought clothes too...)

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go (don’t worry, I brought clothes too…)

A breather.

Oh, hi, beautiful double bed and room all to myself.

Oh, hi, beautiful double bed and room all to myself.

A few steps back.

Hotel pillow mints have NOTHING on Laura and her welcome handmade card and wee box of chocolate

Hotel pillow mints have NOTHING on Laura and her welcome handmade card and wee box of chocolate

A rest.

The view out my window

The view out my window

And this past weekend I got to do just that. I got to go away, kid-free, husband-free, responsibility-free, and go up north a ways to a beautiful bay and take 48 hours to myself.

The cottage was beautiful – four bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and my absolute favourite feature, a wrap-around porch (my dream house has a wrap-around porch).

Adirondack chairs on a wrap-around porch in cottage country. Heaven.

Adirondack chairs on a wrap-around porch in cottage country. Heaven.

The itinerary was ideal and perfect – hang out with five other Christian ladies, eat, drink wine, enjoy each other’s company, play games, get silly, run, sleep, read, write and do a bible study (we focused on Loving Well by Beth Moore – I really enjoyed it).

Gift journal from Laura, because she loves us.

Gift journal from Laura, because she loves us.

The weather was perfect – hot sun and cool breeze on a black sand beach. Glorious.

Does this look like the end of September? It didn't feel like it.

Does this look like the end of September? It didn’t feel like it.

And it was just what I needed.

How I spent my (weekend) vacation - laying and sunbathing and reading and writing on the beach

How I spent my (weekend) vacation – laying and sunbathing and reading and writing on the beach

I needed some grown-up time. I needed time to cry with friends. I needed time to hug crying friends. I needed time to pray in a circle of women that get it. I needed to connect with other mothers of littles and biggers, ones who have been where I’ve been, who are where I am, who are living the life I aspire to.

Sunset with incredible women

Sunset with incredible women

I met a marathon goddess who has defied great personal loss and is filled with more strength than I ever knew existed. My heart breaks for her and is in awe of her.

I met a stay-at-home mom who is living a little life, a life much smaller than she dreams of, yet does it with such grace. I hope my little life looks half as graceful as hers.

I met a mother of FOUR, including twins, who has her SECOND book being published. She gives me hope that the drips and scribbles of my writing could eventually, one day, make it past my computer and my notebooks and live in published form without sacrificing the family I love so much.

I got to know a woman of God, of faith, of hard work in the church, of solid marriage and soul. She is working so hard to have balance at home and in love and in life and she’s successful most of the time and I hope that one day I can work in faith again and have that balance.

And I got to fall in love even more with my dear friend Laura, the mastermind of the weekend, the woman who brought the six of us together, who was brave enough to lead a bible study and loving enough to be the hostess with the mostess this weekend. THANK YOU.

I even snuck in a 8km run...in cottage country...at the beginning of fall...serious heaven.

I even snuck in a 8 km run…in cottage country…at the beginning of fall…serious heaven.

I got home last night, sleepy, content, missing my family, and restored for another round of this thing we call life (chaos, mayhem, bedlam).

There really is something to be said for a break. Hallelujah.

~ Julia

PS. GIANT shout-out of love to Ben who held the fort down for the 48 hours I gallivanted about. THANK YOU. I LOVE YOU. You rock. ❤

“So, what’s new with you?”

This question has been posed to me a lot lately, and honestly things have been up in the air so I was usually too stumped to answer.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks that I didn’t want anyone to know until Joe and I had figured it out and decided what we were going to do. After the deadline we set for ourselves hit its mark this past weekend, we had our answer.

We are moving back home, for me at least.

We are leaving some family to move back to another, and this is one of the hardest decisions of our lives, but we are solid, together and we are going back with our eyes open.

But, here’s what I’m feeling.

I’m confused, hurt, scared, excited, happy, angry, and just stressing myself in the end, but what else is new?

I’m confused because I still don’t know if this is the right decision.

I’m hurt because I feel like I am hurting other people, which is not true, because seriously everyone has been supportive, awesome, and honest as to their opinions.

Excited because the sisters really are excited about me coming home.

Happy because Joe and I decided this, and decided this together.

Stressing myself out, because it’s me and I can get a lot melodramatic at things.

In the end, though, this decision is just going to lead us in another direction we just didn’t think of. Edison found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb, but he never once said he failed.
Screen shot 2014-09-04 at 11.30.01 PM
I don’t think that this is a failure, this is not us running away, and this is not us being just scared.

This is just a decision we are making that is showing us a new route of possibilities.

Every big or small decision leads us to different roads and routes. Even Google maps has alternative routes to include things you may need or want to be a part of along the way.

We had to get to this decision as a couple, but Joe says that he came to this conclusion before me.

Joe says that, “The cards weren’t there, but we have a new hand and we will see how this hand plays out.”

I’m thankful for everyone who loves us. We know you will always love us no matter what.

~ Andreah

5 road trip essentials

While most people are busy bustling babies back to school, returning from vacations and stepping back into routine, Michael and I are off on another adventure together.

We’ve taken a week, which almost never happens due to work demands and responsibilities galore. In fact, this week off is to blame for my MIA status last week on the blog. Ramping up to take a week off for me means pre-working an additional week into the weeks leading up to any time off. It’s the nature of my industry and a downside that often has me debating if time off is even worth it in large chunks.

That is, it often has me debating until I am actually off and free to spend my hard earned time in any way I so desire.

And I usually desire some sort of road trip.

There is something so exciting about travelling to a destination and having almost total control over where you wander on the journey – whether carefully planned with every detail laid out or spontaneously throwing a few bags in the truck and see where we end up, there are only a few essential ingredients to a successful road trip:

1. Tim Hortons: It doesn’t matter if we’re heading to Toronto for the day or the cottage 8 hours away for a week, our trip must begin with a hot, steamy, caffeinated beverage known fondly as a cup of Tim Hortons coffee. This essential must have is always the very last stop for us before we leave town.

Life-juice

Life-juice

2. A good playlist: While we don’t see eye to eye about the actual road trip itself, Jacqui and I do agree that a must-pack item is good music, allowing for hours of car-dancing, singalongs and general entertainment. A good playlist is mandatory for any length of car ride, road trips especially and can take the time spent in the vehicle from a 5 to a consistent 8-10 in all around enjoyment.

3. Good company: Whether your loyal fur-bestie…

Bear <3

Bear ❤

or your handsome husband-to-be…

<3

…a good road trip companion can make or break your trip.  If you’re stuck with someone who lacks spontaneity, a sense of adventure and is a creature of comfort and routine, your road trip’s fun factor will take a severe nose dive with little chance of recovery. Finding someone whose road trip style matches yours will definitely increase your chances of a successful road trip.

4. Pee stop understanding: Michael and I have such an understanding – I respect the amount of liquid, yes even the life-juice named coffee, that I consume on a lengthy road trip, and in turn he respects when I finally cave and ask for a break for my tiny, tiny bladder. While I pride myself in my ability to manage the amount of breaks I need, compared to Michael’s camel style bladder, I’m usually the one waving the white-flag long before our journey is over.

5. Snacks: Another way to make sure you enjoy your trip is by packing the right variety and type of snacks and beverages. For lengthier drives, paninis, fruit and veggies are wise. The food available to you on the road is often fried, greasy and fatty which can cause you to become lethargic and zaps your energy levels – not to mention the number it can do on your stomach.  Stick with good, wholesome foods that travel well and pack the appropriate treats for when cravings hit so you can enjoy your time along the journey.

Our home for the week

Our home for the week

I hope this week treats you all well. For Michael and I, it will be spent camping in Charelston Lake Provincial Park, relaxing, fishing and spending a little quality time together – making sure to enjoy the destination, but more importantly, the journey.

~ Toni

Smiles to a stranger

Today I met a lovely woman.

Joe and I have been very busy getting rid of some scrap metal, and cleaning out some unwanted things from the apartment. One of these things was an old steamer trunk The Mom let me have when I first moved.

This is an old hefty thing, brown and gold, and it held blankets for most of the time that it was with me, and held toys when it was with our mother.

I was sad to see it go. I didn’t know if Value Village would take it, and didn’t really want to take it to the dump.

I knew it had memories, and not just ours, but from probably years past.

Maybe it used to hold treasures from someone’s past?

Maybe it used to hold an old wedding dress?

Maybe someone once packed it full of their most prized possessions in a move away from home?

I was bringing it out to the car and all ready to load it in, when a woman stopped me and told me how lovely it was!

I told her where it was going and that if she really loved it, that it was hers! She was so taken aback that she started thanking me over and over. She told me a bit about herself and her apartment, and how she was sure with a little attention that the trunk would live on to make many more memories!

We started talking more and I gave her my phone number and we made a plan that some time in the near future we would go have a tea or something.

It was such an awesome meeting, that I know I made a new friend.

My friends love that wherever I go, I always meet new people and always make friends, but it is so not hard. I just think of people as friends I haven’t met yet. Of course, I don’t always just randomly start talking to everybody, but when you get that feeling you just know that a smile can make all the difference.

Strangers

It was lovely to meet you Laurie, and I can’t wait for that tea!

~ Andreah