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….


….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.


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



…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.


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.


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.


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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Providence has a certain industrial beauty that gets me every time…

I’m going to tell you something that will aggravate you tremendously.

Then I’ll tell you a story that may cause you to reach through your screen, snuggle me close to your breast and tell me that these things happen to everyone, one day I’ll laugh about it.

First, the dagger throwing comment: I was one of those fortunate people who was blessed with acne-free skin. There has never been a period – high school, pregnancy, stressed out work situations – when I’ve gotten a pimple. It’s really nothing to brag about since I suffer from sub-Saharan level dry skin which comes with its own challenges. The silver lining though is that despite the occasional dry patch, skin blemishes have eluded me almost completely. So there you go, I hope your blades aren’t too sharp.

Now, before you throw them, hear me out on the rest of my story.

I traveled to Providence over the Memorial Day weekend to attend my 15-year reunion at Brown, and a few days beforehand, the spot directly underneath my nose became sore. “Strange, what is this thing?” I asked myself and willed it to heal with a combination of Cosmos-directed prayer and some cleansing turmeric tonic. Sensing a zit that was attached directly to my brain stem, I may have also used a few other techniques including toothpaste, baking soda paste, rubbing alcohol and raw cider vinegar.

Despite my efforts, the Cosmos didn’t hear my prayers, the baking soda was completely ineffective, and I woke up the next day to a spot that had doubled in size, developing a large white head. It seemed to mock me. I could practically see its little arms waving at me, telling me that it was likewise looking forward to seeing everyone at our reunion in a few days.

I searched for YouTube videos that would give me the desperately-needed advice to shorten my new friend’s lifespan. I also started to lurk on group boards where teens with cystic acne commiserated about their plight in life. The most common advice I came across was to do nothing – “don’t pop that sucker” they warned. It will lead to infection and scarring and a host of other tragedies.

So I left it, confident that in 3 days, the whitehead would get reabsorbed into my body and swallowed by a colony of white blood cells.

That evening Rodney came home from work and I put on my Wolf Blitzer hat, relaying the situation, and asking smart, probing questions about where it might have come from and how to best remove it. He agreed that things were looking desperate and told me to pop it.

Damn, now I was second guessing my strategy. Back to YouTube, where Dr. Oz told me that if I MUST pop it, at least use a sterilized pin. He then walked me through a technique too graphic to mention on a food blog. My kids, who were watching the clip over my shoulder, reacted with the kind of horror normally reserved for cicada invasions.

Out came the pin (which, of course, I did behind closed doors).

Long story short, just like the acne boards warned, I woke up on Thursday morning to see something under my nose that looked like a moldy pomegranate seed. It was angry and red with flabby skin surrounding a hard yellow seed. As a test case, I tried covering it with Bacitracin and concealer. Which just looked like a pomegranate seed covered with face paint.

I could only imagine my reunion conversations. “Oh, so wonderful to see you! Wow, you haven’t changed one bit!”

At this point, I was wondering whether I should cancel my reunion plans altogether, or if 24 hours was enough time to arrange for a cosmetic skin graft.

I emailed Rodney in one last plea for mercy.

“Questioning the reunion at this point.”

His response was that it wasn’t that noticeable…”and you have another full 48 hours until Sat morning when daylight is up on that piece.”

Having not seen “that piece” since he’d told me to pop it, I sent him a picture, subject line “You liiike your wiiife” (channel your inner Borat).

He did not.

At this point we both decided that my Friday night eveningwear for Campus Dance should be one of the following:


The obvious choice being Cara Delevingne in that sassy football outfit. I would probably wear that regularly if I looked like her and had a wardrobe full of football apparel.

I decided to go, independent of where my face would take me on Friday morning. And by some miracle (maybe the Cosmos were listening), it healed just enough overnight for me to look like a version of my former self.

And wouldn’t you know that all of that stress and self-pity became pointless when I drank a little too much red wine at dinner and passed around the picture that I’d sent Rodney. “Two days ago!” I hollered to my friends at the other end of our steakhouse banquet table.

Not my finest hour. Or the most mature…About as mature as strapping bottles of Gin & Jack to my shins with medical tape to avoid detection at our reunion event.


But I think that’s what college reunions are for, am I right? To leave the kids at home, let your behavior regress a little, and slosh around the old stomping grounds with good friends?

This place brings back so many fond memories, one of the defining experiences in my life. A few images that I took from my visit back to campus….

The Van Wickle gates

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Hey hey, it’s Earth Day!

And I couldn’t choose a better day to share some images of one of the most beautiful places on Earth – the Dominican Republic.

We were eager to head down to the Dominican this year – the first time we’ve taken the kids to a Club Med. Some of my fondest memories from my youth are from our vacations to Club Med. I used to love all of the activities – archery, sailing, circus trapeze, and of course, the shows.

While Rodney and I relaxed with some beach reads and Pina Coladas, we passed the activities baton to the kids who were more than happy to play in the pool and check out all of the fun sports on offer at the Mini Club.



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And what a place to spend a birthday:


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