Sunday, August 31, 2014

Four Trips in Four Months: Final Installment


What a summer it's been! The final installment of "Four Trips in Four Months" saw Trudy and I travel to London, Ontario for a week. We flew to Detroit, grabbed a rental car, and drove up to London.

On the plane (left); heading to Canada (right)

This trip had a few purposes: 1) to attend a conference at UWO; 2) to see my dear friend Alison get married; and 3) to visit with family and friends.

The conference was a graduate student gathering at UWO entitled WUGSOM (Western University Graduate Symposium on Music.) I gave my paper on the first day of the conference.

WUGSOM program.

Looking back on things now, I am really happy with how everything went! It's been a while since I got up in front of a group of people and did anything. It was great to see that I could still do it! This marked the first time I did any kind of public talk about my dissertation. It felt great to talk about the project I'd been working on for so many months now.

The title slide of my presentation.

How fitting that my presentation would be centered on a travel theme...

It did me good to be back at UWO. I must say, though, it was surreal to be walking around campus with a BABY in tow. I couldn't help but think back to THIRTEEN YEARS ago when I first stepped foot on campus to begin my undergraduate degree.

Such a beautiful place.

I pointed out to Trudy some important spots -- where Mommy and Daddy first started dating (our beloved Sunset Street houses) and where we got married (in Medway Hall.) Again, totally surreal but awesome. It's amazing how powerful place is... and Western holds some of the most powerful and important memories in my life so far. I felt really grateful to be able to share that with Trudy.

On Saturday I saw my beloved friend Alison get married.

Beautiful family! Congrats, you three!

The ceremony was at her home, in the backyard. My god, she was a STUNNING bride. I was so thankful to have been able to join her for such a magical and memorable event.

Trudy and I were able to do a lot of visiting with family and friends on this trip! Highlights include Trudy having a chance to hang out again with her cousin Zoe and a trip to Brantford to see Trudy's buddy Noah and meet little Miles.

Zoe and Trudy read a book (left); Noah, Trudy, and Miles tinkle the ivories (right)

The Brantford trip was really special to me. I call Noah, Trudy, and Miles "The 19th Club." They were all born on the 19th of months in close succession in 2013. Noah was May 19, Miles was July 19, and Trudy was August 19. I count their Mamas among my favorite ladies (not to mention their Dads are pretty cool, too). These folks are very special to me since we were all pregnant together for the first time.

Trudy also got a lot of snuggles from her Amma and Bopa. They (and Bryn's sister, Joellen) helped me out tremendously while I was at the conference - many thanks!

Trudy loves her Amma!

Before I knew it, we were back in the car, headed for Detroit.

Windsor/Detroit border, heading back into the US.

We stayed overnight near the airport and flew out early the next morning. The flight back was amazing. The plane was 30% full, so we had an entire ROW of seats to ourselves! I brought on Trudy's car seat and we had lots of space to spread out.

Baby on board!

This flight marked Trudy's 20th plane right in her short little life! What a frequent flyer. Other than Trudy developing a wicked case of diarrhea and a bit of a cold, we had a wonderful trip.

Four trips in four months. Done.
I think we're going to stay put now for a little while!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trudy turns one

TRUDY!

I am the mother of a one year old!
Happy Birthday, dear one.
It's hard to believe what we were doing a year ago today.


The past year has challenged me and thrilled me in so many ways. Both Bryn and I feel that Trudy is the best "thing" we've ever done; she's such a bright light in our lives. She brings us so much joy and happiness! 

We hosted a small party for Trudy last weekend. It was a wonderful gathering!


Trudy had a chance to spend some time with her BFF Lola, who turns one only a few weeks after Trudy. The party featured lots of good food, drinks, and conversations. It was as much a celebration for Trudy as it was for me and Bryn: we survived our first year as parents!


Now, I love celebrations. I love giving gifts. I wanted to make Trudy's birthday extra special by making her a gift -- something that we could both enjoy together. One day, while out on a walk, I found a box thingy on the side of the road. When I came upon it, I immediately thought I could repurpose it into an amazing puppet theatre for Trudy. I think it was some kind of candle shrine? It had some black on the interior which I would guess was from candles burning and it smelled very "artificial," if you know what I mean.


Repurposing my treasure ended up being a big project. I took the entire thing apart to see if the structure would work without the back wall -- an essential step so that it could be transformed into a theatre!

All the parts got sanded. 


Next step was priming. Another big job.


A lot of finnicky painting, several trips to the hardwore store, and one stop at Michael's for paint later... VOILA. A Trudy-rrific puppet theatre to celebrate a special little girl's first birthday.


We have it in her room now and it's a great forum for puppet shows. Thanks to Bryn's Dad for making the puppets! They were a very thoughtful gift to Trudy for her first Christmas.


Off to celebrate the day with my favourite tiny human!
And then, tomorrow, we're off on another adventure...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August Updates

Visitors

Bryn's sister, sister's special man-friend Matt, and our niece/their little one Zoe (6.5 years old) came up from Costa Rica this past week for a visit. It was a great chance for cousins Zoe and Trudy to spend some time together! The highlight of their stay was a trip to the Miami Zoo, where we saw all kinds of amazing animals. I really loved the rhinos and giraffes. Trudy told me that her favourites were the monkeys.


While visiting, the crew headed down to the Keys for a weekend visiting some friends. Trudy and I stayed back to watch the pugs and to give me a chance to get some writing done. I also took that opportunity to bake in anticipation of Trudy's upcoming first birthday party. What a brilliant idea... home alone with 13.5 dozen small cookies and brownies... whose idea was that?!


The coconut cookies on the left are going to be party favours and (what's left of!) the peanut-butter-stuffed mini-brownies on the right will be served during the party. (The recipe says they're cookies but I think they are far more convincing mini-brownies. I cooked 'em in a mini-muffin pan and they turned out great.)



School Stuff, Life
I am happy to report that dissertation writing is HAPPENING and going well. I managed to knock out first drafts of two chapters over the past few weeks, thanks in HUGE part to Bryn taking on a lot of Trudy duties. It's really nice to have him at home to take her when I need to get some writing done. Trudy also makes the BEST writing break. There's nothing like a dance-party with an almost-one-year old to take your mind off a stubborn passage or difficult section of writing.

I try to get outdoors when I can. It has been SCREAMING hot lately which makes it difficult. Trudy and I love to go walk by "our pool" to check on the progress. I'm thrilled to update that the pool is opening on AUGUST 16th (!!!!) and has a few hours of lane swimming each day. The flyer I picked up from the community center says that it is restricted to kids over age 3, but I'm hopeful I can convince them to let me take Trudy in to the splash pad. I am going to go the first day it is open to check it out. I CAN'T WAIT.

I don't get out as much as I'd like to anymore for long bike rides or runs. I'm trying to get as much writing done as possible while Bryn is home to help out with Trudes. I did get out for a ride two weekends ago to my favourite spot out by the water.


I love that view. It never gets old.



Food

I got a spiralizer to try out making veggie noodles and whatnot. It's an amazing contraption that turns things like zucchinis and sweet potatoes into noodles. It also has a chopping blade that can come in handy for veggie prep. I've been spending a lot of time learning about its possibilities by reading this site. My first recipe attempt was Mediterranean Zucchini Noodles. Sounds delicious, right? Zucchini noodles with olives and artichokes and feta? Who wouldn't love that. Well, me. I somehow forgot in my excitement to SPIRALIZE that I don't really like zucchini unless it's mixed into something else (like veggie enchiladas or in a pasta sauce.) Thankfully Bryn loved the recipe so it didn't go to waste. I am going to try again later this week to make a Brussels sprouts and bacon dish with sweet potato noodles.

I've been making a lot of "power bowls" lately for lunches. I cook up some quinoa in the rice cooker, saute a bit of kale on the stove top, and then mix those together. I put a bit of meat on top (whatever we have left in the fridge), some raw veggies, nuts, and a bit of sauce (usually teriyaki sauce or something like that.)


They are easy, nutritious, and excellent fridge-cleaners.

While Bryn's family was visiting, I made an old favorite for dinner: Ranch Chicken Chili in the slow cooker. That is a recipe that never disappoints.

I also made an Eggless Chocolate Cake for dessert; it was easy and delicious. There's still half of it in the freezer (along with the 13.5 dozen cookies mentioned earlier.) I'm really testing my willpower here.

To balance the sweets, we've been eating salad whenever we can. I like to prep six or so at a time so they are always in the fridge, ready to go. 


We had some friends over for dinner about a week ago. We made peas and cheese (an FSU family favourite, thanks to Neil) and a lovely almond cake with blueberry compote and whipped cream for dessert. 


Oh, and I tried this recipe for stuffed buffalo chicken breasts a few nights ago.
 It was a big hit and went very well on top of a salad.



Trudy


Our little love nugget continues to grow like a weed. She's constantly eating!


Trudy's really starting to develop a hilarious little personality:


She loves to shake things and dance and ga-ga-ga as much as possible.
She's a maniac (on the floor.)


Next up: TRUDY TURNS ONE (can you believe it?) and the fourth and final installment of "Four Trips in Four Months."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Two weeks in Canada in July, or "The GREAT Great Grandma Trilogy of 2014"

Let's celebrate for a moment - this is my 200th blog post!

Where has the time gone?  I wrote my first blog post in April of 2006. I did a few entries in 2007 and 2008. I did not write any in 2009. 2010 saw the beginning of me taking this blog more seriously; it was also the year I started sharing my postings with a wider audience via Facebook.

200 postings have seen me gain and lose a large amount of weight. They've seen a marriage, a baby, the completion of several degrees, and lots of moving, cooking, eating, exercise, traveling, triumphs, self discovery, and struggles.

This blog has been such a helpful tool for self-reflection and for connecting our lives with friends and family who live far away. Thanks for reading!



Here comes the third installment of...


A quick summary of this trip: over the course of two weeks in early July, Bryn, Trudy, and I traveled from Miami to Toronto to Winnipeg to Kenora to Winnipeg to Toronto to London to Toronto to Fort Myers (unplanned airplane detour due to weather) and then home to Miami.

Just over two weeks of traveling brought us face-to-face with the following relatives (listed here from Trudy's perspective):

3 Great Grandmas
2 Grandmas
2 Grandpas
7 Great Aunties
8 Great Uncles
2 Aunties
2 Uncles
2 Cousins
...oodles of first cousins, once removed and a whack of second cousins

Family included Brackens and Rivingtons (Jillian's side) and Hughes and Georges (Bryn's side), oh my!

Here's a recap:

July 2, 2014

We flew from Miami to Toronto. Trudy, as always (it seems--lucky us), was a wonderful flyer. Bryn's Uncle John picked us up from the airport and we stayed with John and Bryn's Auntie Joanna for this one night in Toronto. It was a wonderful visit, as always! They are spectacular hosts and great conversationalists. We had a barbecue in their backyard with Bryn's Oma. Bryn's Uncle Dave stopped by for visit, along with a few other friends and two very special surprise family guests!

Good times with good folks.

July 3, 2014

After a good but quick visit with Joanna and John, we packed up and headed back to the airport. (Thank you again, guys, for transporting us around and taking such good care of us!) 

We parted ways and jumped on a plane to Winnipeg!

At the Toronto airport... so much stuff!

Another great flight brought us to Winnipeg. My parents met us at the airport--they'd driven over several days from Victoria, BC! We (including my sister and her family, who were also flying that day) were meeting in Winnipeg to head out together for a week in Kenora leading up to my cousin's wedding. 

July 4, 2014

While in Winnipeg, we stayed with Bryn's Uncle Ivan, Aunt Angela, and their two kids, Thea and Toby. It was a great opportunity to visit! Trudy had a chance to play with Thea, and Toby, who are both really neat kids--I hope Trudy grows up to be just like them. They're fun to be around, sweet, and smart. I think their super-cool parents must have something to do with it...

Cousins

We stole away that afternoon for a Rivington (my side) family reunion-of-sorts at my Grandma Rivington's condo. Grandma would not be able to attend the wedding in Kenora, so this was her chance to spend time with the family. This was Trudy's first opportunity to meet her Great Grandma Dorothy!

Four generations!

We returned to Ivan and Angela's that night for a viewing party of their new documentary about mosquitoes in Winnipeg. It was a great night! (Thank you, Ivan and Angela, for housing and feeding us. It was a wonderful visit and it meant so much to us to see you all!)

July 5, 2014

We traveled this morning to visit Bryn's Grandma George. This was Great Grandma visit #2, and Trudy's first time meeting Grandma George. We also had a chance to visit with Bryn's Uncle Doug and Aunt Liza! It was a wonderful morning. (Thank you, Doug, for driving us around and for facilitating this visit! It was great to see you, even if it was a brief visit.)

A very George reunion.

Following that visit, we reconnected with my parents and my sister for brunch before heading out to Kenora for a week. (Does anyone else hear "Yakety Sax" playing in the background or is it just me?) We convoyed in two cars. My sister's kids slept all the way, while Trudy had a small nap and then entertained herself with an apple.

Sleep, sleep, foooooooooooood

July 6-11, 2014

The nine of us stayed for a week in a wonderful lake house just outside Kenora, ON on Lake of the Woods. It was a beautiful spot. (HUGE thanks to my parents for putting this all together, driving us around, and making a truly wonderful, memorable family vacation possible.)

The lake house.

Beautiful view from the dock.

A pelican flying away.

One of the many glorious sunsets!

We spent the majority of our week in Kenora at the lake house. We took a trip one day over to Rushing River Provincial Park for a swim and picnic lunch, and took a few trips into Kenora for groceries and for one nice family lunch. Thanks to my parents babysitting, Bryn and I also got to go out for dinner with Greta and Mark at the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company.

The weather was a bit chilly at times (spoken like a true Miami girl) but it didn't keep us from spending as much time outside as possible! We had a chance to do lots of swimming, canoeing, and fishing. Trudy was amazing in the cold lake. I hope she grows up to be a fish like her mommy (and her Grandma!)

Outdoor fun.

I can't remember what the finally fish tally was, but Mark definitely topped the leader board. One of Greta's fish was big enough to eat -- nothing beats lake Pickerel! Yum.

Mark and Greta catching a fish (and the sun!)

Aside from all of the outdoor activities, the lake house was a great chance to cook and eat together, to play cards, to talk, and to watch the three cousins play together.

Trudy, Henry, and Lulu

July 12, 2014

Wedding day, on which my cousin Chris married the woman of his dreams. Mom and Dad attended the ceremony while the rest of us stayed back with the kids for nap time. 

Congratulations, Kaela and Chris!

We got all gussied up and headed over to my Uncle Jim's house for the wedding! Trudy in a bonnet... I know, right? Why had I waited this long to put her in one? Too adorable.

All dolled up! Thank you, Auntie Ariane, for Trudy's outfit!

Uncle Rob, Mom, Uncle Jim, and Uncle Ted (the four Rivington siblings)

Grandpa, Grandma, and Trudy at the reception

We were able to stay just for a few hours of the reception. Trudy was fussy, I was really tired and, as things tend to go at weddings, dinner had not appeared by around 7pm (nearing Trudy's bed time.) We had a 45-minute drive back to the house where we were staying, so we not-so-covertly sneaked out the back of the reception tent. I was sad to only a very brief visit with the Rivington clan, but was grateful to at least have a chance to reconnect with a few relatives, if even just for a short while. From what we saw, it was a beautiful reception and Bryn, Trudy, and I wish Chris and Kaela all of the happiness in the world! 

July 13, 2014

We drove back to Winnipeg this day. Bryn, Trudy, and I got on a plane to Toronto while Greta and family flew back to Victoria, BC. My parents began their long drive back to Victoria. (HUGE thanks again to my Mom and Dad for shuttling us around. It was such a wonderful trip and I'm glad we got to spend so much time together.)

Upon arriving in Toronto, Bryn and I picked up a rental car and drove to London!

July 14-15, 2014

We had a quick but absolutely wonderful visit in London! Trudy loves her Amma and Bopa so much and I'm certain the feeling is intensely mutual!

Laying down some phat beats on DJ Trudester's kool keyboard.

It was a short visit -- just enough time for me to head up to the University to chat with my dissertation advisor, and for some family time with Amma, Bopa, Jonny, and Cass. (Thank you, Amma and Bopa, for babysitting so Bryn and I could hang out with Jonny and Cass. We love you all so much.)

July 16, 2014

We drove back to Toronto, dropped off the rental car, and connected with Bryn's Auntie Trina. We stayed with Trina for a night, and had a great chance to visit with Trudy's Omama (the third Great Grandma in this trilogy, who we also saw briefly at the beginning of the trip.)

Visiting with Omama
Trudy with Auntie Trina (left); down by the lake (right)

A big thank-you to Trina for driving us to and from the airport, feeding us, and for giving us a place to stay! It was so nice to have some time to spend time with you.

July 17, 2014

We boarded a plane back to Miami. We had a temporary diversion to Ft. Myers when we were unable to land in Miami due to weather! Needless to say, we eventually arrived and were thrilled to be home.

And that's that! What a trip it was!



Coming up next (or next-ish, most likely):
Trip #4 (the last!) in the series, later in August -- stay tuned!