My Cottage is like Christmas

Cottaging. Canada’s favourite pastime. For my American readers, no, I am not referring to a cabin similar to the one Snow White stumbled upon in the woods.

However, with my cottage this rarely involves casually hanging out with a few friends. My whole family is there. Grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, the whole gang! Just like Christmas, well, Christmas with my family.

With it being my grandparent’s cottage, there are a few stipulations. There’s no alcohol, no swearing, and no scandalous attire. It’s a real test of character and your ability to find entertainment and enjoyment in the mundane. Did I mention that you’re stuck on an island? There’s no sneaking out in the middle of the night.

Watch out, though. At my cottage, you will want to eat all the time. Mainly because there’s food everywhere. Dinner’s are always elaborate and involve the whole family sitting at a crazy long table. Don’t worry, no formal wear is required. Lunches are more casual, but they always involve dessert. Yes, there is dessert with every meal. You might even consider some of the breakfast options as desserts in and of themselves. There are also plenty of couches, not only because there are a crap-ton of us, but after your giant turkey dinner and pie, you’re going to need to lie down.

How do you feel about blackouts? With cottage blackouts, there’s no telling how long they’ll last. Maybe the power will return almost immediately. Maybe never. It’s good to be prepared for never. Aside from the need to overcome your fear of the dark, it’s important to know how to survive with lack of technology. And be prepared to eat your share of the ice-cream bars during lengthy blackouts. We can’t let them go to waste!

Creativity is key and a love of board games is a must. Ok, maybe you don’t have to love them, but you have to be willing to play. Once the sun goes down and the bugs come out, it’s time to retreat indoors.

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Grown Up Easter

Celebrating Easter as an adult is tricky. Society leads us to believe that Easter is for kids. It’s all about the furry little animals and egg hunts. If the kids in your family have grown past Easter eggs hunts, what do you do?

Planning an Easter egg hunt can be a lot of work. Most people would assume that this leads to the end of Easter egg hunts. Not in my family. Apparently, the alternative involves my grandma throwing a salad bowl full of eggs in all directions while the grandchildren run to collect them. Eggs are thrown everywhere. There’s really no telling where they’ll land. The floor, the dinner table, your drink. She really can’t see so well.

Even though we’ve grown, the tradition continues. However, we’re not collecting eggs to enjoy a sweet treat as much as we are trying to keep them away from the dogs. Although the dogs seem very excited at the thought of their own hunt, it wouldn’t really bring quite the Easter surprise everyone hopes for. Also, don’t forget to check your drinks for stray eggs and broken glass. Enjoy!

From My Crazy Relatives to Yours

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It’s Christmas time again. Well, it was. With grandchildren having their own children, our group has grown to about 40 people. Let me tell you, even when you know most of them, 40 people in your basement is pretty overwhelming.

Vivid Dinner Conversations

Each dinner is filled with unique, fascinating conversations. However, my family’s definition of “fascinating” tends to be different than most. This year, my uncle decided to tell one of the young ones a fun animal story. Kids like animals, right? I don’t know why she had such a terrified look on her face at the end. His mouth didn’t move to the side of his face. He just started keeping extra teeth there…for emergencies.

Spot the Uncomfortable Grandchild

Having old immigrant grandparents, you’d probably think my family get-togethers are filled with interesting stories from a time now read about in history books. Well, you’d be wrong. Yes, my grandparents lived in an extraordinary time; however, these are not the stories they decide to share with me. Instead, they love to sit me down and talk about the wonder that is the ocean. I bet you didn’t think someone could talk about the ocean for a half hour. Well, my grandfather can, and he sounds nothing like David Attenborough.

Thankfully, I have amazing cousins who keep an eye out for trapped grandchildren and come to their rescue. Although, when it was my turn to rescue my poor cousin, I was not so successful. I’m going to have to come up with a backup next time my “Oh hey, I think your mom needs you upstairs” gets shot down…

What Has Uncle Joe* Read About This Year

Speaking of uncomfortable conversations to avoid, I have this uncle. Lets call him Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe reads a lot of “educational” books. I use the term educational loosely as most of them are filled with crazy medical theories that make you want to scream, “No!”, but there’s no reasoning with, “It’s 100% true. I read it in a book.” Ok, Uncle Joe, wheat is the root of all diseases…and evil. Good luck with that…

This year did have a surprising twist ending, though. Unlike the usual, “When are you going to settle down and start a family?”, my grandmother told me, “Take your time. There’s too many people here already.” Okay…Good to know.

*His name has been changed to protect his identity.

My First (Authentic) Halloween

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Growing up in the country turns experiences like Halloween into a challenge. Living on a rural road with houses great distances from each other makes trick-or-treating tricky. Okay, maybe not so much tricky as it is dangerous. Only the brave or those with parents willing to drive, venture out that way. And with the lack of trick-or-treaters brings the lack of prepared homeowners who aren’t expecting visitors. If you’re able to get a front door to open, you’re more likely to end up with a box of raisins or a can of coke. Needless to say, I often travelled to the neighbourhood of friends or family to collect candy from strangers.

When most people grow older and stop trick-or-treating, they naturally transition into handing out candy. Problem. I still live in farm country.

Then this year happened. I received the rare opportunity to hand out candy to young, costumed travellers. Here are a few things I learned through my experience:

  • One piece candy is free. Two pieces of candy is earned with an exceptional costume or if you’re a baby. Three pieces of candy if my brother successfully scares the kid into wetting themselves.
  • Kids trick-or-treat for more than 30 minutes, so maybe don’t start shovelling out handfuls because you don’t think anymore kids will arrive.
  • Watching kids get the crap scared out of them by the life-like zombie (aka my brother who also grew up in the country and is clearly making up for all the years he felt deprived of this magical holiday) in the yard is more fun than handing out candy.
  • Some kids are dedicated enough to trick-or-treat in a little rain.
  • Choose a costume that keeps you warm or you’ll just end up covering your creation with a winter coat. This is Canada at the end of October, remember?

Victoria Day: A Belated Tribute

IMG_2433I realize it’s been some time since the Victoria Day long weekend (for you Americans, it happened May 18), however, since another fireworks holiday is fast approaching and I forgot I wrote this blog, I thought I would go ahead and post it for your reading pleasure (or not).

Like most North American families, my family loves fireworks. The thought of a holiday that lets you throw explosives  into the sky brings out all the feels. Give me a lawn chair, a blanket, a bowl of chips, and a spectacular display of fire in the sky and I’m in heaven.

Then came the discovery of the US fireworks superstore. It’s basically a Walmart, but all fireworks, every aisle. I no longer had to wait for a special holiday and an abandoned convenience store to suddenly transform into a”FIREWORKS FIREWORKS FIREWORKS” store. Let the stockpiling begin!

Don’t get carried away, though. There are still only three or four firework-appropriate holidays in the year. Don’t try to set off fireworks outside of those approved dates. Suddenly your neighbours will feel like they’re “under attack”. Wimps…

I’m not sure what fireworks have to do with the late queen’s birthday anyways. Although, aside from the name,  Victoria Day has very little to do with the queen. It’s not like we all gather around and say a few words about why we’re thankful for England and the queen. Streets aren’t filled with balloons with the queen’s face on them. Most people (I assume) don’t even know who Queen Victoria is. Full disclosure, I Googled her as I wrote this post. I had no idea she died so long ago.

To conclude this post, here are some random out of context quotes from Victoria Day with my family. Enjoy.

“Never underestimate the power of ‘this side up.'”

“It’s starting to rain. Just light the whole box on fire.”

“Lets try not to light anyone on fire this year.”

“There’s bucket pieces all over the lawn!”

Canadian Thanksgiving: It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3, (4, 5)

Canada-Flag-TurkeyCanadian Thanksgiving sneaks up on you about the second week in October. In Canada, we’re big believers in the long weekend. From May to October, you can count on a long weekend to get you through each month. Really, the only months that don’t have long weekends are March and November. If you’re a student, it’s really just November, but I digress. A month after Labour Day, you start to wish for another long weekend, and BAM, it’s Canadian Thanksgiving.

I can’t speak for all Canadians, but having celebrated my fair share of (Canadian) Thanksgivings, I feel that I am more than qualified to speak on the subject. This is for those who have never celebrated Thanksgiving, or have only celebrated it the American way. This is how my family celebrates Thanksgiving. It’s the way Thanksgiving should be celebrated. Yes, all other ways are wrong.

A Traditional (Canadian) Thanksgiving in 5 Easy Steps

Step 1: Food

Thanksgiving with my family starts out like most do. Everyone gets together at my grandparents for a traditional Thanksgiving spread: Turkey, Grandma’s famous mashed potatoes, rolls (fresh out of the oven), (glistening) vegetables, and the rest. Thanksgiving really isn’t the same without carbs. After we’ve polished off the main course, it’s time to move on to desserts. Yes, desserts. My favourite dessert is pumpkin pie surprise. You’re handed a plate that looks like a giant pile of whipped cream. You start to dig your fork in and SURPRISE, there’s a sliver of pumpkin pie underneath.

Step 2: Rabble-Rousing

This is the part of the day where my brothers pretend that they’re 12 (they’re far from 12) by playing with our younger cousin’s toys. It starts off with one of my brothers daring the other brother to do some crazy trick while the other one films it. Something generally gets broken. Sometimes it’s a skateboard. Sometimes it’s a physical injury that reminds them of their true age. This year, my younger brother tried to prove that he could jump a flight of stairs with a  child’s scooter. As you can imagine, it did not go quite as planned.

Step 3: Photo Op

Next is picture time. No, this is not where we all hang out in the yard and take selfies while jumping in the leaves. It’s quite the opposite. After we’ve eaten more than a small African village and changed into our stretchy pants, it’s time for the annual family photo. This is where we gather in the front yard and forget how to stand like normal people. Everyone get agitated standing for what seems like hours while the lighting is perfected. My dad will set the timer on the camera and sprint to his pose. This is repeated about 10 times until the photo’s just right. After all, this is the cover of our family calendar. And yes, everyone gets one in their Christmas stocking.

Step 4: Sleep

Find a comfortable couch and let the turkey comma set in. But don’t get too comfortable because before you know it, it’s time for another family fun activity.

Step 5: More Food

Yes, it’s time to eat again. Like my dad says, “Pack and stretch.” Why wait until the next day to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers. Let no dish go uneaten. That’s sort of our family motto… well, my grandma’s motto. That and you can never have/ cook with enough butter. The more butter, the merrier?

As Roughing It As It Gets (For Me)

IMG_0464Roughing-it really brings out your true self. Me, I’m not much of a camper. Don’t get me wrong, I have camped before. I did the whole sleeping in a tent, living like the wild thing. I even portaged. Mind you, I also managed to tip the canoe, knocking everyone’s stuff in the water. I think they learned a valuable lesson in survival.

I’m more of a cottager. In the summer, my family spends most of our weekends up at the cottage. Although many people envision a cottage as a luxurious summer home on the lake, ours is not quite like that. It’s a little more rustic than most. We do have indoor plumbing, but it’s not clean water. And with the laughable water pressure in the shower, you’re better off washing your hair in the lake.

As a kid, my siblings, my cousins, and I would play in the water all day, inventing creative ways to jump/ fall into the water. We’d play hide and seek, which is quite the challenge when you’re on an island. Now a days, our cottaging experience is a little different. We still play board games, but most of the time, we’re on our phones. When it rains, it thunders. When it thunders, it’s only a matter of time before your all sitting in a dark room. During the brink of every power outage, the first words out of anyone’s mouth are, “Charge your phones!” That, and, “Eat all the ice cream!” Seriously, you can’t have ice cream go to waste. If that’s not roughing it, I don’t know what is.

Good thing we still have the lake water to keep us grounded.