Friday, December 30, 2005

Stef's Annual Christmas Update Letter

For those of you who have received this by email, my apologies for repeating myself. For those of you I forgot to email, my apologies, but here it is now.

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Hey everybody,

Oops - Christmas seems to have come and gone before I had the chance to send this out. Anyway, hope you've all had a successful year and are all healthy. Ready for the annual update? It's been a busy year for me; I hope you're sitting comfortably.

Christmas last year was a little different for the Titcombe Family. Little Darcy (my niece) made her first visit to Montreal over the Christmas holidays. It was quite a different atmosphere with a baby around. I'm looking forward to Christmas dinner at my parents this year, just to see how Darcy will react to all the people, presents and food!

As many of you will already know, in February I spent 2 weeks in Panama volunteering at a girls' orphanage and a seniors' residence, both run by the Salvation Army. It was a most enriching experience and I look to repeat it in 2007. If you're interested in looking at some of the pictures, have a look my flickr site.

In March I was able to join my group at work for the annual ski weekend. With a little arm twisting, I was able to bring a friend with me and we had a fabulous time at the spa. Nothing like a spa day complete with massage to make a girl feel great!

At the beginning of July, Nick, Sue & Darcy spent a week in Montreal. I noticed a huge change in Darcy from December to July. I also took a whole bunch of pictures.

In July and August I spent three weeks in Europe. First a week in England, visiting with my pen-friend Jilly and her family. What a riot that was! Her 3 girls are all growing so fast and are lots of fun to be with. Jilly and I managed to do some serious damage at the shops in Liverpool!! From England I flew to Switzerland and spent a week with Yvette and her family at a farm in the Emmental Valley. We experienced all kinds of new things – milking goats, the stench of pigs, treks up mountain sides and swimming in the river. I don't know who had more fun – her kids or me! It was great to spend such quality time with Yvette, Andy, Kolina & Dylan. After that I spent a few days with my Grandmaman in Vevey, an aunt in Bern, a cousin in Basel and finally back to Zurich for a few days before heading home again. Three weeks passed far too quickly…

September saw me on a road trip with my parents to Windsor for a visit with Nick, Sue & Darcy (starting to sound like we see an awful lot of each other). We spent a long weekend at their place and lots of time spoiling precious little Darcy. Oh yeah, and taking more pictures!

Suddenly fall was here and to provide a little pre-Christmas cheer, I got a group of women at work involved with providing some Christmas presents for the young girls in Panama that I met in February. Keith, our fearless and ever patient organizer from February's trip, made a quick trip down to Panama with hockey bags full of goodies. Lots of pictures were taken and I'm glad I was able to help out a little.

And there you have it! Lots more has happened too, but those are the highlights. If you want to catch up with me during the year, check out my blog. Plenty of ranting and raving going on there.

Thanks very much for all your cards and pictures of you and your kids - but I have to admit it kind of freaks me out that so many of my friends have children now! Please keep in touch. I always love to hear from those of you I haven't seen in ages and also those I do see more often. Wishing you and your families the best energy, health and successes for 2006.

Much love,


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Happy Anniversary, Yvette & Andy!

Happy Anniversary to Yvette & Andy! 15 years ago today ... remember the snow?! I also remember having a little cry during the ceremony. It was a small wedding, but it was cozy and loving.

15 years, 2 kids - how does it feel?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Post Christmas, Pre-New Year

It's now a couple of days after Christmas and still a couple of days before the New Year. Have you had enough yet? I have. Enough food, enough drink, enough days off. Believe it or not, but I was glad to have a purpose when I got up this morning. Getting myself to work was (oh I know I'm going to hear about this ...) a pleasure.

Anyway, for those of you that I've seen, heard from or talked to - thanks for your thoughtful cards, pictures and letters, the food we shared, the time we were able to spend together or the time we spent chatting. I wish I could see more of you, but distance seems to play a huge factor in so many of our lives. Thank goodness for the internet, right?!

For the record, I'll have my annual update letter available here soon.

Oh yeah, and here are a few pictures of Christmas at the Titcombe's, featuring Darcy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New career?

Came in to the office early this morning (well, my usual 8am) and dropped off nearly 20 cookie bags on the desks of my team and some friends. They seem to be quite the hit and much appreciated. It's funny how different people have different tastes and therefore, a different favourite cookie. A couple of people have even asked if I'd be willing to take orders for next year!

Wonder if this is the beginning of a new career? Naahhh ...

Oh, what a good Auntie I am

In Monday's mail I received a nice family Christmas picture from my brother. Also included was the most adorable wallet-sized picture of my niece, Darcy. So adorable a picture that, believe it or not, I promptly pulled out my wallet and placed it inside.

But wait - it gets better! Yesterday at lunchtime, I pulled out my wallet and proudly passed the picture around to my friends at the table. They (I'll admit it) were shocked that I had a picture of a baby in my wallet. I told them it was a first for me. We all had a good laugh and then they declared that I was finally becoming a real Auntie, pictures in the wallet and all.

PS - I can't wait to see my little niece! They'll be here on Saturday!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tweedle Dee Dictionary, Part 15

Boobonnière/Bombonnière: candy filled pouches generally given out at weddings, i.e. bonbonnière

My face on this one must've been priceless. I asked Tweedle Dee "boob-what"?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Tummy Trouble

'Tis the season for upset stomachs. This weekend was a little much for me. Too many meals out, too much rich food all equals a wobbly stomach.

Friday I didn't eat at home. All three meals were eaten out of the house and I ate of a bunch of foods I don't usually eat in one sitting, let alone one day.

Breakfast: fruit salad, mini croissant, scrambled eggs.

Lunch: shrimp, smoked salmon, egg salad wraps, tomato and cucumber salad, cold pizza, raw veggies with dip, cake.

Dinner: More egg salad wraps, more tomato and cucumber salad, chips, more raw veggies with dip, a chocolate.

Saturday I had dinner at our firm's Holiday Party: sushi and smoked salmon, cream of mushroom soup, grapefruit granité, mahi mahi with sauce, mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, mousse cake, coffee.

Sunday night I had a tomato and mushroom pizza with a friend after being all cultural and going to see The Nutcracker in the afternoon.

Monday: my stomach let me know that it can take no more meals out, fast food or other such junk. I'm back on the plain cereal for breakfast and the plate of salad for lunch with a few fruit for snacks. Tonight will be a little soup with a piece of toast and some tea. I'm hurtin'.


As requested

For Sue: Cranberry Noels, originally I had seen Martha make them on her show. I lost her recipe but found what I believe to be the exact same recipe online. I've used it for several years now.

I can't seem to find my recipe for the almond bark/brittle. I'll have to give my recipe books a thorough search.

For Nick: Bruti ma Buoni (aka the Toblerone cookies). Not the real Italian Brutti ma Buoni cookies, but a Canadian Living version. Anyone I've ever given this cookie to has been in awe of it. One of my favourites.

Let me know if there's anything else.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Me and my big mouth

So here's the story. Tomorrow we're having a floor-wide party at work. Those of us that have decided to participate in the festivities have been separated into groups. Each group has to bring one dessert which will serve 12-15 people.

Being the organized person I am, I sent out an email to the people in this group of mine (who by the way, are all professional staff earning about a million times more than me) asking if anyone would volunteer to buy or prepare a dessert. No response. I waited until the end of the day, and then bit the bullet and sent a reminder with an offer to prepare something myself if I didn't hear anything from the group by the end of the day Thursday (which is today). Well, in about 5 minutes, I had responses from all of them saying "Thanks, please take care of this!".

What the hell was I thinking? Like I haven't done enough baking this year? Like I have time to make a cake tonight? (I'm going to a yoga class after work.) Why did I offer to bake something? Why didn't I just say I'd buy something and the team could pay me for it? WHY??? I've obviously got something wrong with me. Sheesh.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Baking

So far I've got 9 kinds of cookies (ok, well, 2 of them are chocolate barks) ready for Christmas. It was a bit of a push last weekend to get so much done, but I'm glad I did. Now there are just a couple more to do and then I can start putting the cookie bags together.

Hope you're all ready to gorge yourselves.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tweedle Dee Dictionary, Part 14

Maybe I'm just hanging out with the wrong crowd, but here's an expression I have never heard used before.

"Please note that I will be leaving the office at 4:30 today to do a few messages."

Messages? Do you do messages? Don't you run errands? What do you think?

Winter has Arrived

It's not December 21 yet, but for all intents and purposes, winter has arrived. At least in Montreal. The sidewalks are half covered in ice and it is treacherous walking. Oh joy.

How much longer until spring?


Last night I opened my front door and was greeted with the overwhelming stench of gas. Not just someone farted kind of gas. I'm talking scare the crap out of you because you think your house is about to blow up kind of gas. Before I even had my coat and boots off, I had my head in my cupboard over by my water tank sourcing the smell. I was sure it was coming from the drain. (I was right, but I'll get to that in a minute.)

Next I placed four frantic phone calls. First to my parents (no answer), second to my Dad's cell (no answer), third to my Mom's cell (no answer) and finally to my brother, Eric - who answered! I was so happy to speak to a person! Unfortunately, he doesn't know much about gas leaks or plumbing so all he could tell me was to call Gaz Métropolitain. It was what I did eventually, but not before more frantic calls. Decided to call my parents again, this time leaving messages at all three numbers because there was still no answer. (Just where my parents were at 7pm on a Monday night is beyond me. Shouldn't they just be at home???)

Anyway, I knocked on my neighbour's door and asked her if she had any weird smells in her place. She didn't but offered to come and have a sniff at my place. She smelled the gas the minute the popped her head in. Luckily she is one of the people on the condo board, so had the keys to the "special" doors in our building. We then made a little tour of the building to see if we could smell gas coming from anywhere else. Nothing. Not a whiff. Then she told me that maybe one of the owners upstairs would know because she had a gas stove in her place. So, we knocked on her door and asked the question. Nada. But she did have the number to call in case you smell gas.

What happened next was nothing short of impressive. I called GazMet, they answered on the second ring, I spoke to the guy in English and he responded in flawless English (shock!) and within 30 seconds told me (a) that there had been a gas leak in the area late that afternoon and (b) he'd have someone at my place in about 30 minutes to check out the situation. 15 minutes later my doorbell buzzed and there was the most polite, patient (and dare I say good looking) GazMet guy. He spent the next hour testing for gas leaks in my place (thank goodness I keep a clean home!), throughout my building and outside my building. Finally, after testing with two kinds of machines, he agreed that the smell of gas was coming from the water drain behind the water tank and probably because the drain was dried up. He then showed exactly where the smell was coming from and explained why the drain dried up and even showed me how to put water in it to stop the smells from coming up. Within 5 minutes of him pouring a couple of litres of water down the drain, the smell was already dissipating. Then he told me to open the window and air the place out. I was embarrassed to tell him that I couldn't because the windows were frozen shut, but I did anyway and he ever so kindly asked if I wanted him to do it for me. I did. And he did.

The thing I'm so impressed about is that someone showed up so quickly, the guy knew what he was doing and he was polite. I was expecting some cranky old fart, to be rude and arrogant and pawn me off with a bunch of excuses. The service I got last night was the complete opposite.

My heartfelt thanks go out to M. Riendeau (GazMet guy) and whoever I spoke to on the phone last night. You were both awesome! While I didn't exactly sleep well last night (up every hour checking for smells), this morning there was still no smell and I will consider the problem solved. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Date 7 Report

Yesterday afternoon we were supposed to meet at this coffee shop close to the Atwater Market. Being the punctual person I am, I arrived about 10 minutes early (1:50pm), by the time 2:15 rolled around, I was starting to get pissed that this guy hadn't shown up yet. I checked my phone, called the voicemail service. Nothing. By 2:30 I was mad. Called his cell, no answer. Left a voicemail stating that I'd been at the meeting place since 2:00 and that if he wasn't there in the next 15 minutes, I'd be leaving. 2:45 - still no sign of this guy, still no call from him. So I left another message telling him that I was leaving. And I left. Oh yeah, and now it's Monday morning and there's no email from him either.

Analysis: 0/10

PS - In the unlikely event that he ever reads this - Daniel you're an ASS!!!

Date 6 Report

Don't freak out now. I'm still dating Guy #3, but am also still meeting other guys.

Saturday night, Guy #6 took me out for dinner. Yes, a Saturday night date! Now I'm a pretty independent kind of woman, but I'll admit, it was awfully nice to be treated to an enjoyable evening out. That is until mid-way through dinner he came out with a number of sexist and racist comments. Things could have gone quickly downhill from there, but I managed to steer the conversation onto more superficial matters. Also, forgive me - but there's something a little weird about a 45 year old living with his mother ...

Analysis: 2/10 - mostly because of the sexist/racist comments.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Tweedle Dee Dictionary - Question of the Week

This couldn't wait until next week. Here's a doozy for you.

Question: "Stephanie, you speak Mexican, right?"

Answer: "If you're asking 'do I speak Spanish', the answer is yes."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tweedle Dee Dictionary, Part 13

This week's entry is an expression used incorrectly, rather than a word.

Used of it. Example, "You’ve just got to get used of it". I believe the person means to say 'used to it'.

Monday, December 05, 2005

One too many Down Dog

Saturday I dropped in on a yoga class to try out the Joy of Yoga studio in the hope that it may be the place where I take a class this winter. It was a great class. Invigorating and energizing. Much more challenging than my regular Tuesday class at work. So much so that now, even two days later, I'm still feeling some muscles I never knew I had. Guess this is a sign I need to be a little more active ... I'm putting it down to one too many Down Dog.

I gotta to tell ya though - I came out of there with a smile on face T H I S big.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Off to the Races

Good luck to Sue, my sister-in-law, who is running her first 5k race this weekend in the Santa Shuffle.

The purpose of the Santa Shuffle is to raise money for the work of the Salvation Army at Christmas time.

At the same time, my brother Nick (who by the way, is also Sue's husband), will be running against his work colleagues in the quest for an iPod nano.

Good luck to both of you!

Date 3 Report - Update #3

This will be the final update on Guy #3. We went out for the third time last night. Things are progressing well, so I have decided not to discuss what happens between us on my blog anymore.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to Jilly & John. They're celebrating 15 years of marriage today! It seems impossible that so much time has passed.

Of course, it also seems impossible that Jilly and I have been pen-friends since we were 10, but there you go.



The clouds were still tinged with pink from the rising sun this morning on my way in to work. It was beautiful.