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I once dated a guy from Australia. I won’t go into the details, but if you’d like to read more about that ill-fated situation, you can always check out this post where I discuss things like his fire-fighting skills and clinical amnesia.

This guy, let’s just call him D– once claimed that everything Americans do is done on a big scale.  Every movie theater is a Megaplex, every stadium screen is a Jumbotron, every soft drink is a 64-oz Big Gulp.

I acknowledged his point, responding that while yes, this is sometimes the case, America can also be quaint and lovely and not at all grandiose.

Take for instance the Fall Festival that we attended last weekend. The event organizers could have made it over-the-top and glittered with gold. But really, who needs to be the best Fall Festival in town? Not these guys. Modesty was the name of the game.

We were welcomed by some ghostly goblins. 

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And became acquainted with seasonal farm equipment. 

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Next we found a carousel…

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A Ferris Wheel…

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Carnival-moving vans with all kinds of amusements and curiosities …

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I don’t remember my first wedding, but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t invited to one until I was old enough to drive.

Weddings are fun, they’re boisterous events with family and friends and they always – always – have drama. This wedding was no exception, and I’ll spare you all of the gory details save for this little hint: the bride was ill. She’s now recovered and although she could have been in better health for her wedding weekend, she’s relieved that she made it down the aisle that day. We’re all relieved.

My sister got married over Labor Day weekend and I’ve been excited to share some of the pictures from the event since it took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

My girls were excited to pack up and travel to Canada, eager to be the center of attention in their brand new flower girl dresses.

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The wedding was held at the Prince George hotel in downtown Halifax, which is where we stayed for the entirety of our trip. There we spent time unpacking…

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Playing…

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Sleeping…

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Eating…

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I hinted last week that I’d come with lots of fun pics from our trip to Alabama, and I stuck to my word. Please forgive me for making this a long post, sometimes it’s hard to restrain myself.

Lake Martin in Alabama is one of our favorite annual trips – there is so much to do, to see, to drink, and to laugh about together as a family. When you marry someone, you marry their family, and I’m so fortunate that I found a group of people who are so incredibly fun-loving and warm-spirited.

It’s trains, planes and automobiles to get to Alabama every year….

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….but to fend of the relentless “are we there yet” questions, I just remind the kids that their favorite long-haired cats are waiting for them.

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For them, Alabama is about cat love. For me, it’s everything else…

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This is a shorter post this week as I just got back from a busy few days at a family reunion in Alabama. Looking forward to sharing those pictures with you guys next week, but until then I wanted to fill you in on a recent visit to a secret spot near our house on Greenwood Lake, NJ.

We’re lucky enough to live in a lake community that offers a great summer camp for the kids. They’ve been doing archery, cooking, pioneering, and have been taken on some fun local field trips. One of their field trips was to the Botanical Gardens in the Skylands area of Northern New Jersey, which is only a few minutes driving distance from the lake.

The kids came back with so many great stories about our visit that I wanted to see it for myself. So we found some free time on a Friday afternoon and made our way over to the gardens. I wasn’t expecting much more than a few beautiful lawns, but was taken by surprise when we walked into a nearly-private 90-acre wonderland.

We entered the gardens near the teensiest little hut that was apparently going to be used as one of the supplemental film locations for The Lord of the Rings.

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Once we were inside the gardens, we discovered miles of manicured lawns….

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…and fields of wildflowers.

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I heard some exciting news over the Winter. My sister announced that she’s getting married. It’s been almost 10 years since I tied the knot with Rodney and she stood by my side in Mexico as my Maid of Honor. And I’m thrilled that I now get to return the favor.

Carrie held her Bachelorette party in Toronto a few weeks ago and I flew up to spend a weekend with her and her closest friends. My Mum was nice enough to let me crash at her apartment even though she was traveling that week and I made sure to spend plenty of time on her patio, gazing out at the skyline.

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Lucky for me, she lives right next to some fabulous food shops and a standout liquor store. The government-run liquor store (LCBO) is built in a former Canadian Pacific Railway station which was modeled after the Campanile di San Marco in Saint Mark’s Square in Venice. It’s stunning, and makes shopping for booze, clearly one of my favorite activities, even better.

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With the liquor store’s clock tower as a backdrop, I spent Friday night with family, including the future Bride and Groom, eating grilled pizzas al fresco.

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With clouds accumulating overhead, and the dark skyline in silhouette to the West, we huddled under the restaurant’s blankets, drank coffee, and finally called it a night.

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The next morning, I hosted a brunch for the girls. I had a few hours of prep work before they arrived, starting with the purchase of my favorite summer Shandies at the Beer Store. I remember spending my teen years attempting to shop at this very store with my fake ID, unsuccessfully because even at 16 I still looked 12. Dial-A-Bottle was always more successful, where you’d order your booze by phone and by the time the driver had stocked his car, driven to your house, and realized that you might be (read: clearly were) underage, he’d overlook the issue and quickly pocket his cash.

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These days, I drink a little more responsibly; the bigger excitement was buying brunch food at the nearby Harvest Wagon. I came back with all kinds of treats: the most beautiful eggs – I found a mix of organic chicken eggs, plus some pale blue duck eggs and the most stunning, tiny speckled quail eggs:

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