decembertwelveontwelve

I have been motivated this year to post regularly and with thought every month this year because of  #photographinghappiness.

However even inspired, I find myself falling behind…like this post being more of a twelveontwenty than a twelveontwelve.

Herniated disc, kid with appendicitis, Hanukkah and Christmas chaos, moving a household. Damn, sometimes life comes at you quickly. You need to eat it up.

I feel like the chaos is gently captured in every month that I post.  I would love to sit down and throw together a collection of perfectly curated images, with similar colours flowing through beautifully minimalist settings bathing my shyly smiling subjects with a magical light…

Instead, month after month,  I offer you arena lighting, dog fur, days without photos taken because my back decided to remind me how old I am getting and a child I had to pay to pose.

And then just the other night at a gathering, a friend the made a comment that struck me, a comment about how lovely my world looks on instagram. As I was lying on the floor at that moment to alleviate pressure on my asshole L3/L4 bulging disc, which has near crippled me for the last three weeks, that struck me as ironic.

I WISH my world was all perfect, with time to do my nails, and lose 15 pounds, with me not be afraid of driving in the snow and to get the damn dishes in the dishwasher. My life is messy and rushed with a fair bit of yelling and tons of worrying. Always with the worry.

Funny how we see things differently from the inside.

So all that to say, in this twelfth month of posting my #photographinghappiness, I look back and see that while I am not living a life well curated, I am consistent. Consistently what, I am not sure…but let’s run with happy;). The thing with projects is that you do not always realize the role they play for you until you have put some space between them and you. I think I will like this year very much when I can look at it with rested eyes.

That will happen, right?

Thank you Rachel Devine for bringing #photographinghappiness to life. I know it has been a challenging year for many and I have enjoyed very much the moments that have been shared by the women in this group.

And I leave you with these photos. Twelve of them. One I would love to caption appropriately ( which would be highly inappropriate ) but can’t.

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Have a wonderful Christmas everyone, and fingers crossed that 2018 brings light and joy and fun and happiness to us all.

 

 

 

 

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octobertwelveontwelve

 

Like everyone these days it seems, it feels like I am on the go all the time. When I got away for a few days this month, I wondered what it would be like to just not come back…just to stay where the waves are.

But obviously that is not an option. So back I am.

This month has been filled with work and volunteering and lots of time in the car and traffic and not enough time at home. Lots of noise.

We finally got back to Sanibel to down to check on our place, post hurricane. We were fine, but my god…on an accidental road trip we found where Irma’s wrath really landed.

We went looking for alligators and we found Everglades City. While we were on the edge of town, deciding which airboat ride to take for our little holiday jaunt, we did not know that less than a kilometre away, pure hurricane devastation had happened.

A guide at Jungle Erv’s made mention of the hurricane in an off hand comment, saying that if you wanted to really see what a hurricane could do, then we should take a drive through the town.

Off we went on our airboat ride, flying through mangroves and meeting a three legged girl gator and her huge gator boyfriend. Pure fun and Florida kitsch. We looked at the t-shirts and alligator key chains and got back into our comfy rental car. And then took that drive the employee suggested.

Well.

Shit.

Everglades City was inundated during the hurricane. It lies at sea level, an original fishing area, tucked away on the edge of a national park. Many of the residents have lived there forever and many of the homes are trailers. They did not stand a chance against Irma. Many residents stayed and witnessed their homes and properties be destroyed, escaping with their safety and practically nothing else. During the flooding, their waste management system was overwhelmed and let loose a dangerous mix of waste into the rising waters…waters that flowed through homes and lives, making a terrible situation even worse.

Piles of belongings lay along side the road. There was an area ( it is still there ) that the locals ( according to local media, because I have read everything about this town now ) began calling Mount Trashmore – a mountain of toys, mattresses, clothing, furniture, broken pieces of hundreds of homes, waiting to be taken away, unusable, defiled by the waters of the storm.

The people of this area are self sufficient, many having weathered many hurricanes, and they did not get the help they needed as fast as they should have for a few reasons. They still need help. Homes are condemned and unliveable. Temporary housing still needs to be organized. Businesses are closed. Businesses that need to open. The school is open but kids are living miles away in homes of family and friends while their own homes sit empty, bare of all their belongings, waiting for the recovery to start.

It is one thing to see photos of devastation on CNN. It is completely another to see it first hand. I can not even imagine what Puerto Rico is experiencing if this is what a town an hour away from affluent Naples looks like.

And what are the people of Everglades city saying? Come and see us, help us get our businesses back up and running, come spend your money here and let’s get back to normal as fast as we can.

So, that is what I will share…anyone going to Florida in the near future, go to Everglades City. Take an airboat ride at Jungle Erv’s. Buy the t-shirt and the alligator key chain ( I wish I had ). Visit the Everglades National Park ( it is aiming to reopen partially for the upcoming winter season ). The seafood is supposed to be amazing…but I could not find any restaurants that were open. They are all damaged. Hell…just stop at the gas station, fill up and buy snacks. Help support these people get back on their feet. It is going to take time.

Here are some articles about the devastation in Everglades City:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/10/11/people-everglades-survive-thrive-wake-hurricane-irma/752666001/

http://www.fox4now.com/weather/hurricane/everglades-city-post-hurricane-irma#id7

http://www.naplesnews.com/story/weather/hurricanes/2017/09/19/hurricane-irma-bacteria-too-numerous-count-everglades-city-floodwaters/677441001/

http://wlrn.org/post/everglades-city-residents-still-without-temporary-housing-after-hurricane-irma-storm-surge

The irony of beginning my month of images with picture perfect photos of homes and ending my month realizing what the dirty reality of losing your home looks like is not lost on me.

I did take photos in Everglades City, but I have chosen not to share them. There are many images of loss out there and I did not want to add to the noise. And those are people’s lives in those piles. It felt wrong.

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twentyfouronfourteen

Funny how that time thing works…it just keeps moving forward, regardless if you can keep up with it or not.

Two twelveontwelve months have passed, both with extraordinarily good intentions. Both foiled by, oddly enough, Florida.

In August we got away for a quick mini ( meaning with one kid instead of three ) vacation to Orlando. Any other photographers want to describe how AWESOME hotel internet is when you try and upload multiple files? For those not in the know…it is abysmal. Like beyond bad. So, aside from fitting in four parks and one rocket launch, I did not manage to post for August. I meant to, I really did…

And then this month, which was already more than full with birthdays and school for the kids and business trips for my husband and many shoots for me, was completely derailed by Irma. Who could pull themselves away? We have homes and huge sentimental attachment to a little island that was in the path of Irma and I spent all of last weekend glued to CNN ( god…even FOX ) and twitter ( thanks @sanibelnik! ) watching and waiting and watching and waiting to see if we would even have an island to go back to.

Florida. It is always Florida.

So, in honour of this sunshine state that so messed with my state of mind this summer, I am dedicating this whole darn post to Florida.

The first twelve images are from our recent trip to Orlando. Yes, a pilgrimage to the parks of Disney and Universal. I have a child who is not a fan of mascots. Let’s just say that I might be down playing his complete and total aversion to anything in costumes with that previous statement. So when he felt that he was ready to face his fears…we took advantage of this window of enthusiasm ( this same child may have a mother who adores pretty much everything about the Magic Kingdom ). Unfortunately, that window slammed shut somewhere between Thing One and Thing Two at Islands of Adventure and then became locked and never to be opened again with the Jamboree Bears at the not so Magical Kingdom. Oh well…the rocket launch was awesome. No mascots at the Kennedy Space Center…thanks SpaceX!

The second twelve images are a nod to the beauty of our little spot in paradise that was spared during Irma. I shared many of these images on instagram during the storm and can not express how thankful I am that the damage received was no worse. That said, minutes away, the damage was severe and plentiful and there remains right now a great need for post Irma support.

I will add some links after the images of  charities and organizations offering their support to South West Florida, the Keys and the Caribbean Islands.

So, Florida, we love you. See you in a few weeks.

 

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One day he will love the magic. One day.

We should have just gone to the beach…

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My kids have spent their childhoods here. I love this place.

But Florida ( and the Caribbean ) need help now.

These charities are taking donations and will get the money to the people who need it.

F.I.S.H. of Sanibel – Captiva

CROW ( Animal Rehabilitation )

Key West United Way

FLKeys SPCA

GoFundMe – IRMA ( Consolidation of Multiple Caribbean Charities )

Virgin Unite

 

 

 

julytwelveontwelve

I am writing this post late. Vacation and bad internet get in the way of doing anything properly in the summer. As it should.

And as I write this, I have no idea which photos I am choosing to share this month.

Rachel, the mom of #photographinghappiness, spoke about memorializing your life in photos after she and her family experienced a heartbreaking loss recently. For me that means capturing the people you love living and laughing and being. The big moments, the little moments, the special and the quiet. Even the mad and the sad and the disappointed.

In my group of friends, as in any large group of friends, there have been many life changing losses.  And when these terrible times happen, I always find myself scrambling for images – smiles, laughter, togetherness, love, humour – anything to not let that person go one more bit. And there are never enough photos. Never ever.

I think this is why I take so many damn photos. Even when I know it is not enough.

I don’t think that I really took anything outstanding this month, but what I am offering up is a ollection of life as it happen to us.

Edited to add: So even in selecting these images I realize I am missing so much and so many.

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JUNETWELVEONTWELVE

The #photographinghappiness theme this month revolves around food.

My month revolved around soccer and baseball and birthday parties and proms and more birthday parties, leaving little room for foodie-ness.

Instead, this month I have decided to indulge myself in a delicious walk down memory lane. It was actually food photography that led me to become a contributor for Dabble magazine several years ago…a little Quebec brie, a well worn wooden cutting board and some good natural light was enough to give me a chance to travel to France and capture food, wonderful food, from Albi to Honfleur. Fritons de canard, les bulots, coeur de neufchâtel cheese, canard à la rouennaise ( pressed duck ), racine des reglisses…and of course the custom of the trou normand.

So much to learn and so much to photograph. I am by nature rather shy in new situations but within a day, I found myself standing atop a chair in a restaurant in Toulouse, surrounded by amused patrons as I captured a beautifully presented soup…on the floor.

After ten days of extraordinary meals prepared by dedicated and talented chefs, a trip to a five hundred year old wine cellar, a Normandy cooking lesson in Le Havre, dining atop a hill in a medieval village, a renewed appreciation for apples and a love of Calvados and a magical dinner in a Michelin Starred restaurant, I was happily sated.

Well, until the next food adventure appeared. I always have room for just a little bit more.

I do love my food. I hope this comes through in my collection of twelve images this month.

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My friend Jen’s home

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L’Ancienne Auberge, Puycelsi, France

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Farmer’s Market, San Diego

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L’Ancienne Auberge, Puycelsi, France

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Mont Tremblant, Quebec

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Les Terras Neuvas ( closed ), Fecamp, France

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GoldenEye, Jamaica

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Le Bistro du Port, Honfleur, France

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Made with love

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Fairy Floss

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La bete a pain, Ahuntsic, Montreal

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My kitchen, carrot cake

 

Curious about any of the restaurants, dishes or details I mentioned? Here are the links:

L’Ancienne Auberge in Puycelsi, France

Le Bistro du Port in Honfleur, France

La Bete a pain in Ahuntsic, Montreal

GoldenEye in Oracabessa, Jamaica

For pressed duck, La Couronne in Rouen

For Calvados in Pays d’Auge, Normandy, France

 

On to July and a new month of images.

Bathroom Reno Update (Iphone Version)

Look, all Instagram pretty!

Look, all Instagram pretty!

A few months ago I posted about a renovation we were going to undertake…and how I feared it.

Well, the time is here. The leak that propelled us into the sphere of renovations would not stop, despite all our best attempts. The fact that the shower would only pour water into the downstairs hallway when I showered will forever be a sore spot for me.

We are in the middle of the job right this very minute, camped out in the boy’s bathroom, while our bathroom is being rejuvenated…renovated…reconfigured even. The dust and mess is not bad, our contractor and his team are great and thank goodness for the guiding design hands of the gang at Lux Decor because without them? This would be one fugly bathroom redo.

Things I have learned is that you never know what you are going to find when you open the walls up. In this case, at least we were assured that the renovation was justified as we discovered a ton of water damage, soggy wood and soaked concrete. Our shower was finished and heading to the point of mold and disaster.

moldymoldymoldy

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Also? When the walls are opened up, you do not want to close them. Let the sun shine in on our new shower space…and new glass and new doors. Yikes. Sunshine is expensive.

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We are totally going to just put it back the way we found it…

Oh wait...didn't there used to be a wall there?

Oh wait…didn’t there used to be a wall there?

We are still committed to the plan to update the existing cabinetry and keep our bath, toilet and vanity…but I have to be honest…the urge to change everything is strong.

Oh, well that is a half truth. Because if I had to actually make a design decision? It would never happen. Shopping for all the fun stuff? Is not fun for me. I suck at it. I went for a shower head and ended up like a dear in headlights. THE CHOICE. How do people decide? I had to leave the store. I could not handle it. I think shopping for a vehicle is easier than shopping for a new shower system. Who knew there was so…much…choice??? The best decision I made was letting someone else make the decisions using my somewhat paltry input (herringbone floors! Apparently that is all that I was able to share in my 200 Houzz master bathroom idea book) and elevating it with their innate design genius.

This one?

This one?

Or this one?

Or this one?

Or this one?

Or this one?

Or this one?

Or this one? ( Spoiler…it ended up being none of these )

Today some of the walls are being closed up, the shower floor has been poured, shower niche has been niched and a drain style chosen ( who knew drains had style???). We are getting closer! We have been lucky…our experience so far has been way more Bryan Baumler than Mike Holmes but it certainly is no Fixer Upper! This is a dirty job, with surprises around every corner…or rather under a ton of plywood and hiding in drain pipes. Ick. Ick. Ick.

Sometimes you have to deal with the ugly before you get the pretty, just like in real life I guess;)

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I will be prettier in a week, I swear…

 

The irony of this whole thing is that I was going to document every bit of this reno in high res, wide angle, hell maybe even HDR  interior photographer style. Well, that is not happening. When you are in it? You use your phone, you shoot at night and you do not see the creative beauty in the dust. Only dust.

 

 

This Way to the Magic View

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I feel really badly that I did not share a post about last year’s Ouareau’s Women’s Weekend before I left for this year’s Women’s Weekend.

It was just selfish of me. Maybe I just did not want to share my pumpkin spice cake, homemade and dripping with fresh icing. Or perhaps I feared having to share my nostalgically rustic yet oh so new cabin with anyone other than my sister.

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Or maybe it was the fact that I wanted to up my chances in winning next year’s weekend at the BINGO party. It didn’t happen, I remain a three time loser.

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Okay…I just did not want to share Laukie ( therapy dog and puller of wagons extraordinaire ) with anyone.

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I apologize. I am sorry you missed out on it all.

But, there is a bright side. There is another weekend coming up this weekend. If you move fast, there could be a spot for you in Haida or The Barn or UBG or even Cliffside!

Cliffside. Really.

Cliffside. Really.

And next year? Ouareau is celebrating 10 years of it’s Women’s Weekend! We have already been promised oodles of fun.

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I am wondering what more they can add? This year there was massage (thankyouthankyouthankyou Amber!), facials, archery, hiking, kayaking, swimming ( it was NOT too cold ), rug hooking, raw food demonstrations ( and eating ), fondant flowers on cupcakes ( and more eating ), time shared with Barbie and Laukie, her beautiful therapy dog discussing their experiences, Tanya from Village Cafe sharing her experience as a woman entrepreneur with life/ family balance, photography, ceramics and yoga, just to help you unwind from all the excitement.

And the dock. Really, what more do you need?

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Oh, and there was lots and lots and lots of eating. Meat eaters, vegetarians, lactose free, caffeine lovers, caffeine free types, mushroom connoisseurs…there was food galore for everyone.

I realize that in writing about camp this year, I have not even mentioned the fact that I owe my coming to this weekend to the fact that my daughter is the original Ouareau camper in the family. I have said for years that I feel that the freedom to be herself at camp, surrounded by unique minded, outspoken, capable women has played a huge part in developing my daughter’s beautiful independence.

I can only hope that something similar is rubbing off on me. Next year I am jumping in the lake.

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( For the record, I am totally not sponsored by Ouareau for any of this. Although I would pretty much kill for a Ouareau tuque if any higher ups are listening…)

My public school exit letter

Dear Public School System,

We are parting ways this summer. I entrusted my youngest to you and you have let him down. I happily listened to the promises of extended second language teaching, manageable class sizes and quality teachers. We were smug in the fact that we were lucky enough to live in the right zone for this school and were not in need of a coveted transfer from out of zone. We even had at our door busing ( the irony of this will be seen further on )!

How great – private school perks at a public school price I thought to myself.

Well, how foolish was I.

It is funny. The two times in my life as a parent that I remember feeling the most ill prepared, frazzled and out of my depth surround the education of my boys. While the situations are somewhat similar ( they are brothers after all ), the first led to a quick change of path within a receptive school system.

This time we were not so lucky.

I still wonder why, when in October, when I asked for insight into why my son was not thriving, we were not listened to.

And then again in December. December, when we started with our own investigation into why this little boy was…just being missed.

And then why in February, as the result of my phone call, finally it was agreed that he was not where he should be. But he is lovely, not a problem at all in class. By then we were well into the private process of assessment. Finally he was receiving some extra support at school…but to the detriment of his self esteem. See? He knew he was being pulled out because he was not as smart as his friends.

I know, I know…that is not the case, he is very very smart…but when you are 6 and being reminded daily that you are not getting the answers right, and that it hurts to write and that you didn’t understand what the question said…well, it is much easier to just slouch down in your chair, rub your eyes and tell your teacher that you are tired. That you can’t do it. That you won’t do it. And then he is just a little less lovely to his teacher, still nice but…

And then the long waited for IEP meeting. Is he getting enough sleep at home? Are you reading to him every night? And we know he changed teachers in the last 6 weeks of school but kids adapt. And he is an August 30th baby and a BOY. So…you know. It is just a case of maturity. He needs to step up. He will adapt. We don’t have many kids with his intelligence in resource. We will let next year’s teacher assess him without giving her too much information. We will reassess him in October.

October?

October?

No, no you won’t. Why? Because if we wait until next October, we will lose my son in your school. He will never be trouble in the class, he will never stand outside the classroom banging on the door, screaming at the teacher, he will never stab another kid with a pencil. He will just quietly fade away until he thinks he really can’t do what his friends are doing until the point he really can’t. It will be a quiet loss, but a very real one.

So, we as parents are left as the ones screaming at the teacher’s door. But we didn’t. We played by the rules and it took eight months to get a meeting that really led nowhere. Well, it led us out the door of the school.

Which is a shame because my kid has lovely friends in the school, and so did I. I was class mom. We were involved. We cared about the school. It was our community.

And when the school let us down in the worst way, the day the school lost him and sent him home to sit by himself on the stairs of an empty house, alone, sobbing for an hour and a half, we did not completely lose our minds.

Even then we did not leave the school. Although we did ditch that originally coveted bus service. We worked with you, biting back our anger and disappointment,  so this would not happen again to another child in our school community.

But dear school…you lost our son in another way. You helped him lose his interest in learning and now we are left trying to recover that spark he had at the beginning of the year, the one that had him curious and excited every day. This is why we must leave.

We simply can not afford another year in your public school. The price for my child is too high.

Decorating Paralysis

That is what I am suffering from right now.

I am sure Mark will be thrilled that I am finally explaining why we have had a huge hole in our main floor hallway ceiling for months ( okay…if you count the first hole we had fixed after the first leak…then we may be looking at over a year of hallway hole-i-ness ).

The hole has nothing to do with a lack of handiness around the house.

The hole has nothing to do with a lack of qualified professionals available to do the job.

The hole is not something we think adds to the rustic modern aesthetic I would like to aspire to.

No. The hole is evidence of my absolute inability to commit to fixing the problem because it involves decisions and choices and commitment.

While I spend hours photographing and mooning over beautiful rooms, capturing the details and workmanship and essence of what makes a room livable…I am terrified of one room. One master bathroom. Mine. Terrified.

The first part of my resistance started with the fact that this is a perfectly good bathroom. It is well designed with quality materials. It has lovely light. It has a shower that sold us when we saw it for the first time ( yeah, back when I swore never to live on the West Island. It is all this bathroom’s fault I am here). BUT. The shower is leaking. Big time. Although apparently only when I shower.

The water, seeping into the underneath of the tiles, drips down through the ceiling onto the hallway floor below, leaving puddles for unsuspecting family members to slip in. The poor dogs even bore some blame before we realized what was happening.

So, we need to tear apart our perfectly good-on-the-surface shower. Well, we needed to do this 9 months ago. But this is where the paralysis comes in. How do you choose? Floor tiles, wall tiles, shower floor tiles, shower wall tiles, fixtures, grout colour, porcelain, natural stone…so many decisions. Shower surround. Built in niche. Do we need a new countertop? New sinks? New vanity?

What if nothing matches!!!???

I do have a guiding light. The woman who created this bathroom.

18311452139_bd55a8adf9_k lux decor bathroom montreal quebec luxdecor @angelaauclair

Bathroom designed by Lux Decor, Pointe Claire, Quebec

And this bathroom.

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Bathroom designed by Lux Decor, Pointe Claire, Quebec

And THIS bathroom.

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Bathroom designed by Lux Decor, Pointe Claire, Quebec

I broke down and begged for guidance ( okay, I asked quietly because I do not want to abuse her talents in the name of friendship ) and she told me to grab a pen and start writing down a plan of design attack. It was genius. Now I just have to do it.

So, here are my befores.

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See? A lovely bathroom. That is now warping my downstair floors from a leak we can not fix. Sigh.

We are keeping the tub, and maybe the vanities, and the light fixtures (they are PINK!). The rest is up for discussion. Now to just do it. Let’s see if I have an update before another year passes. At that point it may be “bathroom designed by over the edge husband”.

It may not be such a good look. I better get on it.