4

How this Canadian celebrates (American) Thanksgiving

7 years ago, the ex brought me to Buffalo, NY during the craziest time of the year – BLACK FRIDAY. We shopped, ate, drove around, saw the sights, celebrated our anniversary and shopped some more.  It was hectic, intense and busy.  The next year, we did the same thing.  The year after that we drove even farther down the road to Grove City P.A with a quick stop in Pittsburgh where we did all of the above and more.  Even after the year we broke up I wanted to keep up the tradition because it was one I truly enjoyed, so I brought my best friend and sister-in-law and every year since, Tammy and I have gone to Grove City to spend our hard-earned money on ourselves and Christmas presents.

This year will be no exception.  We have our room booked with the Holiday Inn and my car is gassed up, winter tires on and oil is changed!

Now all I need is my print out of the stores at the outlet and what time they open Thursday night (some open prior to Midnight – which is great cause now I don’t need to stay awake as long because the older I get, the harder it is to stay awake for 24 hours!)

My sister and I will head out Thursday morning around 10 am to make the 4-4.5 hour drive during non-rush hour times and check into the hotel just before 3:00.  After that we will drive to the BP gas station down the street which has a Subway Sandwich shop inside (the ONLY place open on Thanksgiving) and order our dinner for the evening.  We will drive our car across the street to the outlets, park and walk back to the hotel.  We do this because parking is next to impossible at night so this way we have prime parking when we are done our shopping (and to empty our goodies as our hands fill up).

Once back at the hotel, we will warm up, eat our Sub and watch the Jeff Dunham comedy show (it’s been on the last two years in a row so I ASSUME it will be on again).  We will take a nap (cause really when you START shopping at 10 pm, you need a nap), and wake up just before we need to leave to catch the shuttle to the outlets.

We strategically shop the back half of the outlet, dump our bags in the car and then drive around the whole outlet to the other end to find parking (guys it’s a REALLY long outlet).

We shop the top end of the mall and usually by this point we are both a bit delirious so we start to get really silly.  Standing seems an impossible task and waiting in line starts to feel brutal even though the lineups are down to a mere few minutes and at the top of the night it can be up to 30-40 minutes long. I’m usually singing or dancing to the Christmas music playing nostalgically in the background and Tammy is following me around like a poor puppy to tired and cold to complain.

Why do we do it – because we can.  Because it’s fun.  Because it’s our time together.  Because we finish our Christmas shopping in one weekend.  Because it’s crazy.

BECAUSE WE ARE THANKFUL.

Love

Nicole

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1

To blind to see

1B-William-Shakespeare

The United Way is a charity I have supported for years.  Since I started my job with the City of Toronto back in 2004 I have donated my time and money to this notable charity.  Every year from September to December the city (every division) raises money to support those less fortunate, who need help – for food, for shelter, for employment, for counselling, for love and for warmth.

This year, I decided to take on more responsibility and became an office ambassador – helping to raise the much-needed money for this organization.  Now in my division, times are a bit tough – we have all been a little overwhelmed with new technology that has come on board to eat us alive and people aren’t feeling very giving – but my team is trying and I am happy for every dollar amount raised.

Last night we had an event that not only tested my limits, but my patience and understanding.  A large group of us went to O’Noir (http://www.onoirtoronto.com/) for a dining experience like no other.

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Since their doors opened in Toronto in 2009, they have been giving Torontonians the experience of eating a meal – IN THE DARK.  When I say dark – I mean PITCH BLACK DARKNESS.  From the moment the door closes behind you, you cannot see anything.  Your other senses intensify and you suddenly gain a small understanding of what it would be like to eat – as a blind person eats every meal, every day of their lives.

Last night I went with 5 of my friends and the 6 of us were brought to a table, by the sweetest man/waiter, named Nasir.  Nasir is blind.  Like a majority of the staff members there, Nasir plays Host and Server to the guests at this restaurant completely blind to the world around him.  His ability to bring our large group to our table, seat us and then bring us our food and drinks was astounding.  His calm and gentle demeanour not only made me have even more respect for this industry, but made sure that I will be returning one day.

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Now on to some of the funnier incidents – because alcohol and dining in the dark, do NOT go together easily. My colleague (like the majority of us) had bought a glass of wine before being seated (and prior to being submerged into darkness) and as we were walking through the seating area – completely blind –  she was knocked by another friend and her wine spilt down the back of my coat (to be seated you walk one in front of the other holding on to their shoulders).  Once seated, I placed my wine to my left as is custom (I guess) and that same friend who knocked the wine onto my jacket reached over to give me the bread basket and instead of reaching high (to avoid hitting something) she slammed the basket directly into MY wine glass sending it flying into my lap (thankfully I was smart and wore all dark colours yesterday).  I spent the rest of the meal drenched in red wine and getting drunk off the fumes that I was no longer consuming.  I used about 20 napkins to clean up because of course I had to do everything by the sense of touch.

When I finally got my bread, I had to use the knife to spread a small cap of butter…after making a few attempts, I used my pointer finger to spread the rest of the butter over the bun and then gorged on it because it was warm and tasted SO good!

Our appetizer came next and mine was the Roasted Red Peppers and Seasonal Vegetables with Goat Cheese.  I love goat cheese, I will eat any meal that has goat cheese.  I wasn’t so sure about the red peppers but I figured why not.  It was delicious.  I successfully used my form and knife to eat this part of my meal and then used my finger to slurp up the rest of the cheese and dressing.  Some of my colleagues got the arugula salad and they all said it was really good.

For dinner I chose the Pesto Chicken Breast with Potatoes and Vegetables.  At first, trying to eat green beans (the vegetable) was quite the feat, but not one to give up, I paid attention to my fork and the feel of my fork gliding into whatever food it touched and soon I was sucking down green beans and digging into moist, flavourful chicken!  My colleague did get one green bean up her nose and we all died laughing because she was also enjoying her evening with her date for the night – Jack Daniels.

The potatoes were small chunks with a great seasoning and I am positive it took me about a minute and a half to scarf down my entire meal.  It was incredible.  My colleagues who got the Filet Mignon weren’t as thrilled, I guess some felt the “medium” was actually “medium rare” but overall were still happy.  The only way to really tell if you are finished your meal is to touch the plate around the edges and through the middle.  What an experience!

Dessert was the final course and all of us except my beautiful friend Sarah chose the chocolate mousse.  She chose the “surprise”.  The chocolate mousse was a huge, sumptuous, mouth-watering slather.  I couldn’t even eat it all – that’s right I COULDN’T EAT ALL THE CHOCOLATEY GOODNESS.  Sarah’s surprise was a caramel type cheesecake which she truly enjoyed as well!  Great surprise!  (note*** you can get any portion of your meal as a surprise).

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At the end of the meal, Nasir walked us back to the light and we all laughed and smiled about how wonderful our meal and our evening was.  Experiencing blindness is something that will live with me forever, the anxiety, the fear, the trust you need to put in others (both the blind and non-blind alike) gave me a small glimpse into the lives of those who live like this everyday.  I have taken Sign Language classes to support the lives of those who are deaf or hard of hearing and truly gained an understanding of deaf culture, but blind culture is 100% different and my respect level has risen.

I highly recommend anyone in Toronto, Montreal, New York, LA or any other city that has an O’Noir type restaurant to visit and try it out – take a chance, take a risk.  You only live once, don’t be too blind to see what opportunities are right in front of you.

Love

Nicole

3

Mother Nature you are being a bitch

This pretty much sums up my feelings

This pretty much sums up my feelings

Last year we had Ice Storm 2013.  It knocked out the power across Toronto and other regions in and around the GTA for days, ruining Christmas for many and causing people and communities to really pull together to survive and thrive.  It was cold all the time.  The snow came and went at a moments notice.  Everyone – even the winter and snow lovers, became miserable.  Fearing winter would never end.

Pretty and ugly all at the same time!

Pretty and ugly all at the same time!

I was on the verge of anxiety attacks every day!  I crave warmth, bathe in it, dream about it regularly and last winter was really rough.  My first winter/Christmas without my dad and the weather was really not helping! All I wanted was to feel some heat – thanks to my friend for coming to Cuba with me for my birthday so that I was able to get soak in some vitamin D!  The snow and ice and cold stayed with us through March and into April and I don’t know if anyone was sad to see it go.

Summer wasn’t all that great, no major heat waves which sucked and it rained quite a bit so I am still feeling a bit jipped!

Now its November – not even December and it is below 0 degrees and we have snow – Buffalo which is an hour and a half away has THREE FEET OF SNOW!  My contractor is stuck there because of the craziness going on.  Mother Nature is being a stupid bitch (and I hate that word, but seriously there is no other word that spews as much venom toward her than bitch!).  I remember winters where we didn’t get snow till AFTER Christmas.  Where it was cold, but not freezing.  Where we had days and weeks in between snow storms.  Now its mere hours…what the frig!?

This is gearing up to be another bad winter.  2014 isn’t out yet and it’s ending pretty crappy weather wise.  Even Simba isn’t impressed.  He has been peeing on my deck and not on the grass or patio because he wants to run back in so quickly – and he’s a damn dog!  If he can’t survive it, how am I supposed to??

Love

Nicole

3

Is it to early??

In September, when I was at the mall, I saw some Christmas items already placed out for sale.  The majority of the stores were prepared for Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving, but Christmas was starting to sprout its roots over Toronto. Even I threw up my nose in disgust!  I hadn’t even bought Simba’s Hallowe’en costume, let alone a nice warm Christmas sweater!

I never get ready for Christmas until after Remembrance Day, I was taught that it was disrespectful (though how I don’t know because really, I can respect soldiers under a twinkling Christmas tree!) however I wait.  Patiently I check off the days and after November 11th it’s no holds bar!

This year with my first house, I have a mantle and hence I have bought a garland to drape across it, some gold candles, a gold wreath for the door and I have also placed out all my Hallmark snowmen.  I have the few Christmas crafts up that I made as a child and this weekend my tree will go up and the rest of the house will be completed!

Some people thinks it’s to soon.  That December 1st is the first day that is acceptable to put up Christmas decorations.  If I were American I would agree because their Thanksgiving is the end of November.  Ours was October…why do I need to wait??  I like Christmas and it makes me happy.  Not a lot of things make me happy – truly heart warmingly happy, so I am going all out for Christmas this weekend!

Next weekend I will have started and completed my Christmas shopping with my sister-in-law, because we are doing our annual Black Friday trip and a week or so after that I will invite my oldest niece over to wrap presents and continue my dads tradition with her of Swiss Chalet and Christmas music!  It’s fun and fun = good!

My christmas cards have been signed and sealed for almost two weeks now, but I won’t mail them until the day I leave for Grove City, which means people will get them on December 1st.  I have over 40 cards to write out so I do it while I watch tv so I get them all done.  Also, I don’t give everyone the same card – I use different cards for different families as I buy a ton of cards after Christmas to save money.  I like them to be a bit more personal so some cards have special messages – my old stomping ground peeps all have a message this year because it’s my first Christmas not having it at my dads house, not living and waking up on Sedgemount.  This is hard, yet special for me.

Last Christmas was postponed due to Ice Storm Toronto 2013, so this year I am praying for NO snow.  I know, I know, I’m sorry.  I have to drive to my brother’s family’s house this year so I’d prefer no snow/ice to make the drive a little less chaotic – and wet – I hate wet dog smell and it’s the 18th of November and Simba has been out twice already with snow and he smells gross when he’s wet.  Just sayin’…

So if you are like some of my friends who have had their trees up and presents wrapped for weeks – good for you!  If you are like the other half who curse everyone whose thinking Christmas already – good for you too!  We can all do whatever we want and the good thing is, is that NO ONES opinion matters. This is a personal choice and I have made mine!

Have fun and love each other people!  That’s what this season is all about!

Love

Nicole

1

50% off!? Yes please!

My mom took me to the one place that has become dangerous thanks to my colleague and scrapbooking friend Sarah – MICHAEL’S!!

***cue scary music****

Mom needed to exchange some wool for a blanket she’s making me – thanks mom! And I was armed with … Wait for it …

A 50% off one item coupon!!!!

Oh mylanta! I have been wanting a 3X4 card punch for my 2015 promise of a Project life album. And with this coupon in hand I walked in…knowing I’d behave because Sarah said she’d take me on Boxing Day to really prepare for this dramatic task.

If you don’t know what Project life is then you are not into scrapbooking or Pinterest because its everywhere! I tried to do it this year because this was a crazy, fun-filled, lessons learned kind of year but I got overwhelmed and stopped. This year it is my promise to
not only do it but to finish it and display some of it on here. I am still praying that the new year will bring about a new baby so this is a perfect year to get it going on!

Stay tuned…ill be scraping and punching with my new card punch in hand!

Love
Nicole

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2

The Power of Touch

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Touch is the first sense we acquire, and it is a building block for our relationships. When you don’t have a relationship, it’s the one thing that goes missing from your life that you don’t even realize is gone until it comes back again in one form or another.

Everyone knows I am an extremely affectionate person.  I greet my friends and family with hugs and kisses and I constantly place my hand on someones shoulder, arm or leg if I am talking with them.  It’s important to me to be able to touch someone without it being weird or creepy or worse – sexual harassment!  Because I am so affectionate in my day-to-day encounters with those I love, I didn’t even realize I missed being touched until last night.

I had booked a facial with my Esthetician whom I have known for years and my favourite part of the facial is the 20 minute face and upper chest massage that they do.  During those quiet 20 minutes I was so relaxed and was just enjoying being touched.  Having someone rub my arms and touch my face were peaceful and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Think of it – I have been sick for six weeks!  When you are a child and you are sick, your mom or dad snuggles you and cuddles you to make you feel better.  When you are an adult and are sick, you have a partner who can snuggle or cuddle you.  I have had no one.  I lie on the couch, isolated and alone – well to be honest Simba has been obsessed with me since the day I got him and even more so when I am sick!  So to have Bessie rub my temples, my head, my shoulders, and my neck felt so good I could have cried.

It’s amazing what you don’t even know you miss until randomly you get it again.  Never have I once thought to myself these past few years of being single that I have missed human touch and affection, but a nice massage from someone I trust and BOOM it hits me like a ton of bricks.

Most of you won’t understand.  It’s not a sexual touch that I miss (well, maybe) but a personal one.  Those of you with children or spouses will have no clue as to what I am talking about or even fully understand; and while I am still not feeling well, for a brief 20 minutes I was utterly and completely at peace.

Thanks to Bessie for that

Love Nicole

2

I’m sick and under construction

I have had some complaints from friends and family, that I haven’t been blogging, that they have missed my exciting, thought-provoking blogs!  Okay, maybe they just said “dude you need to blog again”.  I do like to think that at times, my writing inspires people to have a conversation, to think and ponder, but to be honest with you the past couple of months have been a bit hectic and for about six weeks now I have had a cold.

I don’t have the flu, I don’t require bed rest or fluids or any special herbal remedy.  I have a stuffed nose and every once in a while my mouth goes completely, uncomfortably dry (from breathing through my mouth).  I have taken allergy pills with the thought that it was allergies (it wasn’t) and I have taken cold and sinus pills (which also didn’t work).  I went to my Doctor yesterday (after she made me wait over 40 minutes in the room) and she has written me a prescription as much as I am not keen on taking antibiotics, I am getting desperate!

The other issue I have had is that my house – that perfect house I bought that I figured needed minimal renovations – has been under construction.  Of course this past summer I had a massive deck installed with a patio area and just for the fun of it I have had my laundry room redone and a gas fire-place installed.  Why not right!?  It has been an exhausting endeavor and my house upstairs and down is a complete mess with  drywall dust which sticks to EVERYTHING. I have even bought a mop and a bucket instead of depending on my swifter wet mop cause it was doing nothing for my floors!  My frustration level is quite high with the mess my house is in.  About that perfect house – to bad it’s owner isn’t satisfied with perfection because now I have dreams and aspirations of a totally different look!  Although look at the fireplace – it’s SO pretty and takes up less space which makes me happy cause I always felt the wall jutting out was weird!

The "before" fireplace

The “before” fireplace

 

The "after" photo

The “after” photo

I also had the joy of my first holiday in my new place!  Halloween is not my favourite holiday, but it was fun to dress my house up in fall and Halloween decor!  I even carved two pumpkins and dressed up!  It wasn’t that great of an evening because it was pouring rain most of the night and I only had like 20 kids, but I am still happy with the way it went and I look forward to next year!

My "bat" pumpkin that was broken by a two year old

My “bat” pumpkin that was broken by a two year old

Pumpkins can smile right?

Pumpkins can smile right?

Simba totally loves Halloween!

Simba totally loves Halloween!

I promise to try to update more on my blog. I do feel bad, I want this blog to be a success and I am creating my own failure in that journey, but I will take on the task of updating you all on other interesting “Nicole” features soon!

Love Nicole