2018 – Year In Review

2018 brought with it so many joyous moments – 365 days sprinkled with happiness and memories to treasure. We wouldn’t know the value of happiness however if life wasn’t also accompanied by sorrow. While there have been so many reasons to be thankful this past year, our family also said goodbye to some very precious souls.

We began 2018 with our cousins amongst a whirlwind of vacation prepping.

January was filled with tobogganing trips, chilly but serene dog walks and finally an escape to Curaçao where my sister and her fiancée tied the knot during sunset on the beach. It was picturesque with a gazebo of soft linens fluttering around them and garlands full of bursting with hydrangeas and pink roses. After the ceremony we dined beside the ocean in the warm evening breeze. It was pure bliss! We spent the rest of our week floating in the ocean or lazing in the sand. We swam with sea turtles and danced under the stars. Back in Canada, winter was long and we relished any moment the sun provided even the slightest warmth on our faces.

By the time Spring finally got here, we couldn’t wait to get outdoors. I began walking the dogs twice a day and enjoying my morning coffee on the porch or in the backyard gazebo. During these times our cats or rabbits were allowed in our fully enclosed yard with me and they too seemed completely elated to be outside in the fresh air. Then, just as Spring was turning in to Summer, we lost our eldest rabbit Ollie. This boy was the purest soul and despite having numerous health problems, he exceeded all veterinary expectations and gave us 9.5 wonderful years. I was heartbroken to loose this very special boy but my heart was also full of gratitude for all of the stolen time we had together. His partner Willow was also grieving so I moved her in to a pen in our rabbit play area so that she could safely interact with Honey and Sebastian.

Summer was hot. Even with the breeze off the lake most days were

unbearable unless we were on the water. I walked the dogs early, often letting them swim while I walked down the beach back to our house. For our 11th wedding anniversary my husband surprised me with a getaway to Niagara Falls. It had been almost 10 years since we’d last been – I know we are SO old! Not much had changed on Lundy Lane but we did visit Bird Kingdom, the Butterfly Conservatory and went go kart racing on the new speedway. The biggest surprise though was an evening cruise along the falls complete with fireworks at sunset! It was spectacular!

In late August my tenacious Aunt Shirley passed away. She had been suffering for some time so we were filled with a mixture of grief and relief that she was no longer in pain. Despite her ceremony being held on a long weekend, the service was full. She had touched many lives and certainly lived an interesting one herself. During those first weeks after her death I felt like she was everywhere. I slowly began to realize just how many things I did and appreciated in my daily life because of her. I will forever remember enchanting garden tea parties, picking mint for our tea, random travels to spot Trilliums and collect chestnuts for clackers, dressing Goose, and the random quotes and pressed flowers she would send in the many birthday cards I got each year.

During the first week of September, Carina joined the family. A friend of

ours had a neighbour who was leaving their rabbit outdoors in an unsecured crate. The rabbit had been found running around the neighbourhood on multiple occasions so my friend asked if she could take her and find her a home. Since Ollie had passed away and I was working on bonding Willow, Honey and Sebastian in to a senior bun trio, we had an empty pen ready to go! This beautiful girl immediately stole our hearts. She was curious, sweet and loved to be snuggled. Now that she’s had time to settle in she enjoys exploring during floor time, doing binkies and hopping up on the couch to cuddle with us!

Our family came together in the peak of Autumn to celebrate the union of my cousin and his bride. It was a beautiful ceremony in an absolutely stunning venue. Autumnal decor of willow branches and leaves lined long tables and bouquets full of wheat sprays, hydrangea’s and mums were situated around the building. There was no official reception, just a sit down brunch with good company and mulled cider. It was perfect.

Then just after Canadian Thanksgiving we very suddenly had to put our 9.5

year old Golden Retriever down. Over a few days he went from having a slight limp in his front leg to being in critical condition. Diagnostics revealed he was full of cancer and he had deteriorated so rapidly that the kindest thing to do was to let him go. Even now I write this with tears in my eyes because Murray was my heart. He was the most incredible boy and an extension of my soul. When my anxiety and depression became crippling and I was waking in the middle of the night in silent panic attacks, gasping for air, Murray would suddenly come running up the stairs and be at my side. We all loved him unconditionally – his big bear hugs, the bounce in his step, how he would look back at me every so often on our walk smiling. I don’t think my heart will ever recover from losing such a precious boy and it’s certainly made the last few months of the year a struggle for us.

Only a few weeks after Murray’s passing, Genevieve was playing with a neighbourhood dog when he accidentally barrelled in to her, taking one of her canine teeth with him! So off we rushed to the emergency vet, our baby girl bleeding profusely in the back seat. Thankfully they were able to get her on pain medication quickly and reconstructive surgery was done overnight. She was due for a dental and x-rays showed a few rotting teeth so we had those removed and the others cleaned while she was under. To our relief, everything was a success and Genevieve was back to her normal self in no time. These two such extreme experiences in such a short time frame however, left us quite shaken.

And then, some light at the end of the tunnel. It had become clear to us that

Genevieve was desperately missing her play mate and brother. She liked to play with us and she was an expert snuggler but we couldn’t brawl and chase her around the yard like Murray could. No matter how much we tried we could never replicate what it was like to have a friend that was her own kind. Even with walks, she began to get restless around the house, getting in to this or that and bringing me items constantly. Having always been a two dog home, life felt that much more incomplete. We had planned to give ourselves some time and get through the busy-ness of the holidays before beginning the application process for another dog but by mid-November I found myself contacting Golden Rescue to see if they could begin the search for the addition to our family.

On November 26th, along with several other families, we anxiously waited at Pearson Airport for our girl #2924 Zahra to come through the doors at customs. Golden Rescue takes in surrenders both locally and internationally while continuing to expand in Canada. When I had begun the application process they had two dogs that were not yet spoken for but who they were hoping to add to a flight from Egypt and we both fell in love with Z’s sweet little face. If you’re interested you can watch a short segment that CTV News did including some of my footage from that day here. Yup, that’s me giggling away in the background. She was full of love and happiness and energy and it took just a few days before her and Gen were chasing one another around the yard. We still miss Murray with all of our hearts but are so glad he sent us this sweet little love to make us feel whole again. She has a lot to learn but is perfect in absolutely every way.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to our very sweet guinea pig Tristan a few days later. He passed unexpectedly during the night with his buddy Kodiak by his side. It was quite a shock but I’m so glad that I got to be his forever mama after he was born at the rescue and then later returned with his brother. Over his years with me he really came out of his shell and would run to the front of his pen for head and ear rubs when he heard me come in to the room.

Then before we knew it, it was December and we were surrounded by the

chaos of the holidays. Christmas trees and the scents of baking and lights and holiday markets and family get togethers….it was a whirlwind of activity! It always goes by in such a blur, even more so when you’ve added a new high strung pup at the same time! We ended the year with a trip to Fort Henry to see the magic of Lumina Borealis (totally worth the trip) and toasting to 2019 with a great group of friends.

Of course I couldn’t possibly include every wonderful moment from 2018 in one blog post. Throughout the year we also celebrated two 50th birthdays and one 30th, welcomed our first niece in to the world, completely redid

our front gardens and main hallway staircase, had adventures with friends, explored new places with the dogs, watched sunsets, spent time with family, toasted marshmallows by campfire, celebrated the engagement of close friends, spent days at the beach and nights under the stars. It was truly a beautiful year to remember.

Watch it all here.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2019.

Happy New Year!

**As an aside, I have been a long time volunteer for Golden Rescue. They are a wonderful non-profit organization that relies solely on donations to give Goldens the care and life they need. Please consider making a donation by clicking here.**

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Fall Focus

What is your favourite season?

For me – it has always been Fall. Fall is a welcome relief after the heat of summer. It’s full of fresh, but still warm, air and sunny days. The days get shorter but still seem long enough and the chilly nights invite us to embrace all things warm and cozy. Landscapes become a stark contrast as trees meet cloudy skies and nature explodes in all of it’s brilliant glory. It brings with it thoughts of corn mazes, wagon rides, Thanksgiving, Halloween, the pumpkin patch and family. I can practically smell the mix of cider and leaves and pumpkin spice as I sit here typing and thinking about it all.

As the first day of Fall creeps up on us and I think more and more about all of the exciting moments just around the corner, I realized Project Life just wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted all of my Fall stories told. That’s when I came up with the idea of Fall Focus.

While I don’t have a solid plan for Fall Focus yet, I do know that I am not going to put pressure on myself to document every day of Autumn. Instead I want to use Fall Focus as a way to magnify certain events and experiences throughout the season. So many of the finer details can be easily missed with the busyness of life and thoughts of Christmas creeping around in the background (I think we can all admit we’re already getting excited about December Daily!). Not only do I want to experience as much of Fall as I can but I want to capture it and put it in a special place that I can go back to and reflect on.

I plan to begin Fall Focus on the first official day of Autumn and see where it leads me. Officially Fall doesn’t end until December 21st but as I will be elbow’s deep in to December Daily and the chaos and joy of the holidays by that point, I thought a more appropriate time to finish would be November 15th. Or perhaps I will feel all of my Autumn stories have been documented by Halloween. If any of you would like to participate and are in the US, you may feel that just after Thanksgiving would be a good time to end. Since this is a new concept, I don’t have it all planned out, but to me that’s just part of the fun.

As I go I will make sure to update you with my progress – feel free to follow along or create your own Fall Focus album. I am truly thrilled to have found a way to share my Autumn memories and excited to begin!

For more updates on life, follow me on Instagram @KrystleChantelle and Facebook @KrystleBlogs. #2018FallFocusKC

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Rediscover The Butterflies

A few weeks ago I was walking the dogs mid-day around our neighbourhood. During this time of year I avoid the water front trails because the ice is melting off the lake and the trails themselves turn in to a snow-mud-pond-slushy mess. It’s necessary to keep our puppers safe and clean but also makes for a boring and monotonous outing.

Now we have lived here for almost four years and once I made a route in my head, I NEVER changed it. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit. I’m also a walking bundle of anxiety and even the simplest of new things can send me in to a spiral of panic. So I’m not sure what was going on in that brain of mine on this particular day, but when I got to the T at the end of the neighbourhood – where I always, always turn right – I went left.

The dogs bumped in to me, totally confused. They knew to go right because we ALWAYS go right. I continued to veer left, calling them to join me. Once they realized we were going somewhere new, they picked up the pace and were practically pulling me down the street.

We ended up in the neighbourhood next to mine. It’s about 25 years older than ours with some beautiful, mature trees and unique looking homes. I took one street and then the next. I even stumbled on a small wooded area with some benches and walked through it. There were two squirrels chasing one another and a few birds singing away. I followed the trail which cut to yet another unfamiliar path. We took our time, taking in our new surroundings. Four years and I had never thought twice about what was down here. It was so close to familiarity that I could see the backyards of some of my neighbours and yet until this moment, to me, it may as well have not even existed. The dogs of course were thrilled to have new terrain to explore. We took one street which wound to the next and eventually back to the main road. Once we had ended back at the T, we continued home.

On the surface this may seem like such a mundane afternoon to blog about. ‘So what, she took her dogs on a walk’, you may be thinking to yourself. And it’s true, this was the same thing that I do every day, except that this particular day it wasn’t quite.

By the time we were back home, I had a big goofy grin on my face and actually felt exhilarated. Butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I resolved to change our walking route more often. That tiny, minute, last second decision to try something new had brought me joy, something that had seemed hard to come by recently with a seemingly never-ending Canadian winter.

It brought the dogs joy too. They had a blast exploring new territory and even flew in to the house all giddy, looking for my husband, no doubt to tell him all about their adventures. Before anyone says something, no, I don’t actually believe my dogs can talk….although I do occasionally give them their own voices. 😉

Life gets busy and sometimes we end up on autopilot without even realizing it. We like to think we thrive on routine but if you don’t shake it up once in a while, you’ll never allow yourself to discover something new. Take it from me, even the smallest of experiences can be good for the soul.

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Corn Mazes, Apple Picking & The Pumpkin Patch

It’s that time of year again when the leaves are in their glory, the air has chilled and the nights grow shorter. I excitedly await October’s return every year, so you can imagine just how thrilled I was to be back at the Pumpkin Patch looking for the perfect pumpkins for Hallowe’en.

This year we wanted to find a farm that was closer to home but still had some fun things for us to do. We stumbled across Cricklewood Farm in Brighton while doing a search online and were even more excited when we found out that we could bring our two Golden Retrievers, along with us.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day! We began our farm adventure by unloading the dogs and heading to the corn maze where we spent close to an hour getting lost between rows and rows of leafy stalks. We did hit a few dead ends and once or twice may have followed our dog’s suggestions to take a ‘short cut’ through the maze but overall we all had a lot of fun!

We hit up the apple trees next. As we stood between branches mixed with foliage and those round jewels of goodness, it dawned on us that we had never been apple picking before! We quickly filled our barrel before realizing that we had perhaps gotten a little carried away – how would we eat them all?! Turns out we got through them in less than a week. Every one was perfection and tasted a million times better than anything we had gotten from the store.

Finally we made our way to the pumpkin patch, me with Genevieve and Murray in tow and Duncan with the wagon. There were so many to choose from! We ended up finding two large pumpkins and a cute little one before making our way back to pay for our goodies.

All in all it was a great day! The dogs were completed exhausted after their farm adventure and spent the rest of the day curled up on the couch, snoring away. Duncan and I wasted no time delving in to our big bag of apples! Now, we just need to do some serious pumpkin carving and we’re all set for the big day!

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Happy Birthday Canada!

This past weekend, Canada celebrated it’s 150th birthday and we couldn’t let such a special occasion pass us by without joining in on the festivities! Plus, we currently have our super awesome godchildren here with us for most of the month which gave us another excuse to get out and have some fun!

The day actually began in a panic when I noticed one of our Golden Retrievers (Murray) waiting at the front door of our house. It turns out that our back gate had popped open in the night and our other Golden was nowhere to be found. Out Katy and I ran, barefoot and in our pj’s, to track down Genevieve. After a jog through the neighbourhood, we ended up at the lake where there was still no sign of her. Turns out she found a backyard BBQ to crash and made friends with some neighbours down the street from us. They had her on a leash and were trying to track down her owners wh

en another neighbour noticed us clearly panicked, with leash in hand. Apparently she loved everyone at the party and when she was returned to us, seemed pleased to have made so many new friends.

Shortly after we met up with some friends to take the dogs for a swim and a walk before heading downtown for ice cream and to check out the fair and festival. Unfortunately just as we made it to the pier, there was crack of thunder and a bolt of lightning followed by torrential rain. By the time we made it back to the car we were all drenched.

Thankfully by the time we were finished with supper, the skies had cleared and it surprisingly turned in to a beautiful evening. Once again, we met up with our friends and headed down to the waterfront to finally enjoy the carnival. We couldn’t have asked for a better night! Music, sunset ferris wheel rides, games and fireworks to cap off the evening, were the perfect way to celebrate our wonderful country and enjoy the first long weekend of the summer!

And because we were having so much fun, I vlogged the entire day for you all! Enjoy!

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Every day I fight. I fight to get out of bed. I fight to love myself. I fight to leave the house. I fight to socialize. I fight for happiness. I fight to exist.

If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. If you are struggling, it is not weak of you to seek help outside of yourself. Talk to a friend, a family member, a co-worker, your doctor, your therapist, me.

I know how it feels to have your mind ripped in half – to feel like you’re losing control – as well as the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with the inner turmoil taking over every waking thought. I know what it feels like to wake up unable to breathe – to feel like you’re drowning over and over again, unable to catch you’re breath, when in fact, you’re safe and in the comfort of your own home. I know what it feels like to spend endless nights unable to sleep at all, consumed by racing thoughts of what needs to be done, what you haven’t accomplished, what isn’t in the right place, conversations that didn’t play out the way you wanted, what you should have said, could have said, what could happen tomorrow. I know how it feels to be so paralyzed with fear of what could be, that you can’t even bring yourself to start your day.

And then one day I woke up. I realized that I was worth more than the depression, anxiety and OCD led me to believe. It had wormed it’s way so slowly in to my life that I almost hadn’t even noticed it was there, until suddenly, it had consumed me in full. I decided to fight back. I decided that while mental illness may be a part of me, it does NOT define who I am. So I took a leap of faith and got help. It was terrifying and embarrassing to share my most inner thoughts and fears, but it was one of the best things I ever did for ME.

My path to wellness may not be the one that’s right for you, but healing begins with accepting yourself. It begins with seeking help. It begins with breaking that barrier and starting the conversation. YOU are worth it.

Peace, light and love to all. xo

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Love Is In The Air At The Cobourg Winter Festival!

Valentine’s weekend began with a beautiful bouquet of flowers! Although my husband knows roses are traditional, he had them add lilies in because they’re my favourite.
Then we spent the chilly weekend at the Cobourg Winter Festival where they had professional ice carvers sculpting gorgeous works of art, ice skating and wagon rides! Typically we don’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day but these events were all free and a great way to bring us out of hibernation!

The wagon ride took us around the small and beautiful town of Cobourg. 
Where we couldn’t resist stopping at a small sushi restaurant and ordering their delicious vegetarian platter! 
And before the day was over we strapped on our skates and did a few laps around the rink!

Although it was incredibly cold, Hubby and I had a ton of fun! It was a perfect and unique way to spend some time together!
This post is going up a few weeks late because unfortunately right after a great Valentine’s Day weekend I came down with the flu!

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Week 5

Day 29: This is what happens when you decide to walk the dogs during the peak of a snowstorm.
Day 30: ‘Snow…is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment, where is it to be found?’ – J.B. Priestly
Day 31: Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.
Day 32: Celebrating my brother-in-laws birthday on Superbowl Sunday. Do you like the shirt Hubby picked out for him?
Day 33: Snow day with my loves!
Day 34: Bunny bum!
Day 35: The best way to embrace winter is to snowsuit-up and play in it with those you love!

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Birthdays, Chili & Snow Days!

 This past week we celebrated my brother-in-law’s 23rd birthday while enjoying vegan chili and watching the Superbowl! It was great to get together with the family, drink too much and enjoy some good food! 
We love to eat our chili with tortilla chips and Daiya cheese sprinkled on top! And of course the best part is always the leftovers! 
The rest of the week brought with it a ton of snow! Hubby had to take a snow day on both Monday and Wednesday because the roads were too bad to go anywhere! We have so much snow now that it’s become a challenge finding a place to put it all, as the snowbanks have gotten so high! 
But, we try to make the best of it. Winter will come around every year whether we like it or not so it’s best to just suck it up and have some fun! 
Hubby and I snow-suited up and had a blast hiking and playing with the dogs this week! With their thick, water repellent coats, they are built for this weather!  They love to run and roll in it and will try to catch the snow in their mouths as it falls! 
They had a great time digging tunnels, trying to find their ball, and attempting to catch the snowballs Hubby and I threw for them! And who says we’re too old to play in the snow too?!
And of course, a fresh snowfall brings so much beauty with it!
By the time we made it home through the knee high snow we were all exhausted and ready to cozy up in front of the fire with a good movie.
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Week 4

Day 22: Slow cooking one of my favourite winter meals – vegan butter chicken!
Day 23: It smells so yummy in my house!
Day 24: Saturday shopping for the Home with Hubby!
Day 25: Lingering leaves still hanging on.
Day 26: Big icicles down at the lake.
Day 27: Winter is cold and harsh but also so beautiful!
Day 28: So proud of my husband today who made the decision a year ago to tackle something that made him self-conscious – his teeth. Although I love him no matter what getting braces was a big step for him and today the process is complete!

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