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Oh Canada! 10 Things I Learned About You Montreal!

Folks, it’s hard for me to admit this but I will…I’ve lived in Buffalo all of my life and have never visited Montreal and Quebec City. What the heck is wrong with me? Why not get the feel of Europe without the going to Europe? There is no time like the present they say…and off we went (my husband Evan and our daughter Caroline) and if you don’t mind, I’d like to share our trip with you. So here is goes…

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Outside the Notre Dame Bascilia

10 Things I Learned

  1. They speak French! Bon jour. Salut. Merci. It’s fantastic! I have gained so much respect for Montreal and Quebec City for preserving the French language. Montreal is the second largest city behind Paris for French speaking. Oui Oui!! What a beautiful language and hearing it spoken so easily and fluently only entices you to buy a Rosetta Stone package. It was so fascinating that you are greeted with a Bon Jour and if you respond with a Hello, you are immediately spoken to in English and visa vera. Imagine a city of bilinguals ! Who doesn’t appreciate a city that sets it self apart and holds onto their culture? The public school system requires French to be their central language,  but they will start teaching both languages in 1st grade. Again,how easy it would be to throw in the towel and make English their primary language. Students are required to attend French speaking schools and the only exception is if you are a temporary resident or attend a private school.Most people in Montreal speak both French and English fluently. This makes feel more cultured and adds some European grace to the city.

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    A little bit of French and a little bit of English. Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world behind Paris.

  2. Montreal and Toronto are rivals. I was not aware of this intense rivalry. Montreal had many of it’s companies move their headquarters to Toronto which has 6 million people and Montreal has 4 million. Montreal has the philosophy of work to live and in Toronto it is live to work. Montreal is home to a beautiful park system including Mount Royal Park is located on the mountain and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same person that designed New York’s Central Park and our very own Delaware Park. Montreal citizens love being outdoors, flowers, patio dining, parks and recreation, anything to enjoy life! They enjoy having extra money to enjoy life so much that they all prefer renting apartments and housing there, instead of owning, as owning has extra expenses such as insurance, updating, etc. They would rather rent and use whatever is leftover for enjoying their lives rather than being stuck in one place. They all move on the same day too- July 1st! Keep this in mind when traveling, for either a draw back, or free entertainment if you are there..haha! Disclaimer, I did hear the differences between the 2 cities from a Montrealer.IMG_5847

  3. Churches. Notre Dame Basilica, Saint Patrick Basilica, Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, and St Joseph Oratory of Mont Royal. I’m just naming a few, honestly, they are basically on every street corner. Destinations for pilgrims!! Strong Catholic Influence which still remains their number one religion. 67% of the populations are Christians and the majority of those are Roman Catholics. But, rates of regular religious attendance has reduced dramatically since the 1960’s. If you want to see impressive and jaw dropping splendor do not miss these magnificent churches.

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    Inside the glorious Notre Dame Basilica…over 2 million people a year visit.

  4. Montreal will be celebrating it’s 375 birthday in 2017. Yes, it was founded in 1642 and they are planning a big celebrations, they are redoing just about every road and fixing bridges, making the city even more beautiful than it is already.  As history has it, Samuel de Champlain set about creating a fur trading post, in 1642 the first real colony named Ville Marie was established. It became known as Montreal because of the tallest peak on the Island known as Mont Royal.  DSC_0850

  5. The Underground City. One of the largest underground networks in the world, Montreal’s underground city is a series of shops and tunnels which offer citizens cool shortcuts and safety from the cold in winter months. You can literally live underground if you wanted to. Only problem is, there is no map of the underground, the only people who generally know all ways around are tour guides and engineers, although most Montreal residents may be more well versed than you think.

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    Underground shopping

  6. Montreal was home to the 1976 Summer Olympics, you know, the Olympics where  Nadia Comăneci received the first perfect 10 in gymnastics’ history and Bruce Jenner won the decathlon. They were the first Olympics ever held in Canada, and it helped put Montreal on the map world wide. You can see the Olympic Stadium, pool, arena, village are all being utilized today, which is so much better than seeing pictures of venues falling into disrepair in cities where the Olympics were once held. Great job Montreal to keep using the venues.

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    Off in the distance you can see the 1972 Olympic stadium still in use today. It is covered now. It needs to be open air for the Olympics because the Greek Gods needed to be able to watch from up above.

  7. Montreal is actually an island.  I did not know this before I went there, but it is surrounded by water, and after this trip my family and I grew in your appreciation for the Saint Lawrence River and all it’s fresh water glory.DSC_0437

  8. Beautiful architecture gems built of stone and brick were required materials as opposed to wood. You see, past fires forced lawmakers to completely outlaw this scenario. It makes for darling walks in Old Montreal, cobblestone streets, ornate details each more unique than the next, all beautiful and well preserved. DSC_0846

  9. Maple Syrup.  85% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Quebec, Montreal’s Provence. The maple sap collected used to make maple syrup is also used to make all kinds of maple goodies including maple butter, maple candy, maple water, marinades and even maple syrup on ice where it is rolled up on a popsicle stick. I will admit it, we tried maple and pepper homemade potato chips, oh my maple! Those exceeded our expectations.

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    Yummy maple syrup products

  10. No big high risers. nothing can be built higher than Mont Royal. A reason for the city’s namesake, Mount Royal is a defining feature of Montreal. The mountain stands above the entire city, offering a great view of the skyline, and will stay that way due to building height restrictions which limit any construction from being higher than Mount Royal.

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    Bon Travail Montreal!

 

More Fun Facts

The french language was actually preserved because of the Americans. It was during the stages before the American Revolution when Britain first outlawed the French language in Montreal, Americans wanted to gain followers and a larger army against the British, and asked the citizens of Montreal to join their revolution. The people of Montreal at this time, did not know how the Americans would succeed, so they told Britain they were considering it. Through this action, Britain negotiated with them, saying they could continue to speak French if they did not join the revolution, which made the decision easy. Better to go with the evil you know than the evil you are unsure of, right? We won’t know, history has a beautiful way of influencing future, and as I mentioned earlier, I love how well preserved their language is.

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All stone and brick buildings…streets in Quebec City

Eat like the locals…poutine (think macaroni and cheese with french fries and gravy), ketchup chips, croissants, Molsons, Carlsberg, maple leaf maple sandwich cookie. Wait, they eat and drink all that in Canada yet they look so fit? Hmm, oh, yes, lots of waking and lots of it hilly. But they get offended when you say that “h” word (hill), they prefer everyone use the term mountain, as Mount Royal is the focal point of their city…the mountain!

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You guessed it…poutine

You know, we can all grumble, and in Montreal people grumble about their politicians, debts, construction, high rent, high taxes and cold winters….but as an outsider coming in you see the beauty with a pair of fresh eyes. You hear the tour guide say that the Catholic church is dropping in numbers yet the pilgrims come in the millions and there is not a single candle to light in Notre Dame Basilica. Look at what was done by those who came before us. So many looked for the greater good and put their hard work and talent into building these astonishing works of beauty in the churches, who set aside acres for parks, and built so much for the hosting of the Olympics and World Fair for all to enjoy today.

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The Holy Door of St. Anne De Beaupre

Keep your eye on the good that surrounds us. Stay amazed at the workmanship and sacrifices that were made for us and future generations to see and appreciate. Such beauty.

Thank you all for reading,

Sincerely Trish

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Montreal in the background.

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Montmorency Falls

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Look! It’s Samuel de Champlain…a fur trader who founded Quebec in 1608. Feels so good to remember all who have gone before us and given us all so much.

 

 

 

The Family

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Everyday with Natalie was special. “Natalie was able to make everything hard in life easier” said best friend Katie Sieben.

 

EPISODE 6. The Family. Guest Katie Sieben. Click Here:

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The family is the core of society. Nurture it. Value it. Love it.

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Natalie and Katie on another adventure.

 

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Here is the picture of the kids on our tour of NYC in 2006. Natalie was a junior in High School. Our kids had not left for college yet.

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Inside the chambers of the United Nations building, the large picture shows the family being the core of human existence. Excuse the quality of the picture. It was taken on 2006 on our trip to NYC.

The family is really the core of society and human existence. When the family goes so does society.

There are a few things that can contribute to a closer more united family.

1. Don’t expect so much from your spouse. How often do we say “I wish he would do this..or that..why can’t he finish what he started?” “I wish he/she was more like…” Go easy one at other. After all, there is only one God.

2. Slow down the busyness. Talk to one another, ask how their day was, engage in each others lives. It is amazing how much conversation and compassion gives us insight into what one another is going through when you gather together. Light a candle. Pray. Understand what everyone is going through. Soon you will be asking what you can do to help lessen their burdens.

3. Turn off the Technology. We love everything instant in today’s world. But the old cliche of good things take time, is true. Good, lasting bonds come through spending time with one another rather than constantly relying on distractions and short texts.

4. Love each other’s faults. It makes all of us who we are. Too often we focus on negatives on each other, but it is more important to remember how many positive attributes there are to a person.

5. Open your home to others, and make a family of friends. Because life is just too hard to get through without friends. They are the family we are able to meet in various stages of our life.

6. Enjoy the everyday moments. Contradicting what the word everyday leads you to believe, everyday moments will not be everyday. We grow up, we grow old. But to the eyes of a family, we all remain ageless.

Inside the United Nations building, Natalie took a picture of the mosaic of the Golden Rule.

Inside the United Nations building, Natalie took a picture of the mosaic of the Golden Rule.

The everyday moments of having a family are truly the most treasuring. It is when you get to know each other at their best. You learn how one another likes their breakfast in the morning, their favorite sleeping top, what kind of tooth paste they use, how they like their sandwiches for lunch, how they tell stories, and you become more attuned to their emotional cues, both happy and sad. When asked to think of a favorite memory of those we are so close to, in our families, it is extremely difficult to come up with one specific example. More often than not, it is the essence and aura of a person that becomes your favorite memory. The stability and predictability of knowing someone completely. A strong family helps you achieve that loving bond, and through those loving bonds we all hold so close to our hearts, we are able to translate that into our everyday life, and serve our jobs, our friends, and even strangers with the love we have received from our family.

Families are not necessarily only blood related, a family can be created from friends, much like Natalie, Katie, and their other friends in Richmond, VA, who are away from their traditional families. The built in support system from being part of a family, is there for you when things seem to be going well, and they are also there when things take a turn for the worse. One of my favorite things that Katie mentioned was how Natalie made anything hard in life, seem easier. I hope we all have someone in our lives, wether it be in the family God gave us or the family God led us to crete amongst our friends, who we can turn to when things get hard in hopes of relieving our burden.

 

 

When Pumpkin Meets Banana

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Beware. Pinterest is especially tempting and captivating with fall decor and recipes. Riveting. One monster snack, caramel apple pops, and pumpkin recipe at a time.

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Caroline’s close friend Sara came over to help make a batch.

     While, most of us are copying ideas, I have a daughter who has invented a pumpkin meets banana chocolate chip bread. Yeah Caroline!! No copy cat for her. Ok, a mix is involved. But she devised a Pinterest worthy bread that will knock your socks off. And the dear readers to poodlewalker get the first dibs. Like all good inventions, it kind of happened by accident. Caroline was looking for a pumpkin bread mix but only found a banana bread mix. She added a can of organic pumpkin and added chocolate chips with cinnamon and nutmeg. Whoa, is it good.

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Here’s the recipe.

1.   15 oz box of Trader Joe’s Banana Bread Mix

2.    1/4 cup vegetable oil

3.    2 eggs

4.    3/4 Cup Water

5.   1 Can Organic Pumpkin from Trader Joe’s

6.   Eyeballed amount of fall spices (About two Teaspoons Cinnamon and 1/4 Teaspoon of Nutmeg)

7.   1/2 Bag or Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Essentially, you mix everything in a bowl and then put it in a lightly greased pan, and it sure makes for a real easy clean up! Now, you’ll need to cook it for a little longer than the box calls for, because of the extra, dare I say…moisture, in the bread mixture. Time in the oven depends on the size of the container, so we usually stick with the tooth pick technique! Excellent in a muffin container, a mini bread pan, or as an entire loaf. This fall treat goes well with Apple Cider, Coffee, Milk, and most definitely hot chocolate.

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Who would have thought, banana and pumpkin. The end of one season and the beginning of another. Maybe the lesson we can learn is one so simple, most overlook it. That two unlikely things can complement one another and make a pair no one thought of. It goes without saying that we can translate this lesson into life. Maybe it is at work, when someone brings a new idea to the table, accept that idea and build on it to make a combination no one has thought of. Maybe it is an old shirt you found in your closet and want to try out with a new skirt, try it, it expresses your personality. And maybe it is a new friend, one who is different than others, not in your typical social group. As we can learn from the case of pumpkin and banana, that doesn’t mean that a great friendship cannot be formed. Because in the end, human connection, appreciation, and love is all anyone strives for, and it sure tastes good.

 

It’s Only A Shirt

     It was only a dinner yet the night was just beginning.

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Father Joe invited all in the St. Rose and St. Marks parishioners to a night at the Phoenix restaurant and it turned out to be so memorable.

      Recently, there was an announcement in our church bulletin that Father Joe was hosting a wine pairing dinner at the Phoenix restaurant for a set price. It would be on a Monday night when the restaurant is usually closed. What fun. The restaurant would be filled with only our friends and it was going to be a gourmet 5 course dinner. Why not?! No decisions need to be made – just conversation. Evan and I are active at the parish. Certainly we would know everyone there. Aww right. Not true. Don’t ever think you are a big shot. When we opened up the door to the restaurant, we looked at each other and said…do you know anyone? True we knew Father Joe and our friend Anne but very few others.

      Finding a table to sit was a bit awkward. But once you sat down and started being served wine and food; heck conversation started to flow. I remember thinking that the noise level went up substantially around course 3 and 4. It was around this time when a waiter bumped into Evan with a nice deep red wine. Maybe not bumped; maybe poured? No, no it was an accident. Dark red wine all the way down Evan’s shirt. Everyone gasped and waited for his reaction. To everyones surprise; he didn’t care. He wasn’t mad. He laughed and said…”Who cares??!! It’s only a shirt!”and then proceeded to dance in a circle and show off his mega stain. Isn’t it true that in every situation, we are given a chance to influence others in our response? The Chinese meaning of “crisis” has two interpretations: danger, and opportunity. In all siutations we have the ability to get angry when we are wronged. Yet, we also have the ability to make an opportunity for whatever we wish, a new joke between new friends, a learning experience, and the opportunity to influence others by our actions. But by laughing it off, and realizing that a stained shirt is nothing in the scheme of life, we can send a powerful message out there. Evan did not ask for the shirt to be cleaned. No, it’s just a shirt! I heard him say “I’m just gonna toss this baby”, right after I watched him leave a tip.

 

 

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No, this is not blood. It’s dark red wine that soaked his shirt, undershirt and skin. Laugh it off. Mistakes happen!! This is not life or death.

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Evan and his wine spilled shirt posed for pictures.

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Here is the 5 course menu with wine pairing. We passed around the wines we did not care for…no one was going to touch my Sauvignon Blanc.

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By the end of the evening, after a couple glasses of wine and a dirty shirt dance by Evan…the crowd had bonded and friends were made.

     Here are a few clues that you have too many shirts. Maybe you can’t close your closet or your dresser drawers. Maybe you have shirts at the dry cleaners and don’t even miss them. Maybe you find your self buying more hangers to hang up all your shirts. Maybe its time you and a couple of your friends go out for a few glasses of wine and get rid of some!!

    My message to you is anything can be tossed and nothing should not be taken too seriously. Be easy on yourself and one another. The seriousness of life will bring you down, but only if you let it. We all make mistakes, we all find ourselves in a crisis. But our job is not to make people feel badly about it, it is to accept a new opportunity, and who knows, you may find yourself happier and with a new story to tell because you did.

One is Silver and the Other Gold

      We are all familiar with the childhood song “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”  I found myself singing it a few times over this past weekend. You see as much as I enjoy the nostalgia and truly cherish visiting the same places we did as a family with Natalie, I find myself wanting to push myself to experience more out there. Not long ago in a previous blog of mine, I mentioned how special it was to visit Chautauqua, a place where our memories with Natalie are felt throughout. This week, I wanted to share the beauty of finding a new place, instilling a peace of mind combined with the absence of constant reminds of what we should be doing; the endless work calls, the dinner that needs to be made, house that needs to be cleaned. I mean the list goes on. The irony is, what we should be doing is taking care of ourselves and one another. One way to do that is to spend time seeing the beauty in this world, not only in familiar places we love and cherish, but also in new places to inspire us and open our minds. I’m not sure how to adequately explain what stirs inside me and, I am certain many, many others. For one, it’s an urgency to appreciate life and one another. It’s a desire to explore beautiful things in life and keep feeling alive. Just as I enjoy reminiscing and appreciating all that we were, a family so strong that I believed nothing could ever happen to us, there is a need to keep seeing the good out there and not to lose heart. “Make new friends, but keep the old” can relate to any scenario, cherish memories of vacation places as they are, without a doubt, part of what makes us who we are. Such is the urgency to learn more, see more, do more. There is the realization of the fragility of life and not to waste a minute. You simply yearn to keep living, loving and making a difference everyday.

      So, this summer, we discovered Skaneateles, prompted by a gift certificate by dear friends to Mirbeau Inn. Let’s face it, we can all say we want to go someplace till we are blue in the face but there’s nothing like an expiration date on a gift certificate to get you moving. We started the summer going there and just returned for another visit as a way to wrap up the summer of 2015. There is confirmation on how much we like this place; returning with no gift certificate. We took the mail boat cruise on Skaneateles Lake, dined at Elderberry Pond serving certified organic food in the lovely rehab barn with beautiful beam ceilings, went to a farmers market, shopped, walked and simply enjoyed the picturesque town.

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You cannot beat the gorgeous setting of the Mirbeau Inn dining view. Elegant dining. Beautiful Spa. This is how we kicked off the Summer of 2015.

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This picture may look fake yet it clearly exists. It’s all inspired by Monet’s own garden in Giverny. You feel like you just set foot upon a fairy tale. We both want to return.

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The mail cruise ship is not impressive until you set sail. It’s the smaller one on the left. It seats 34 people. It is run by Mid-Lakes Navigation tours. The cost is $26.00 per person. It leaves promptly at 10 am and returns at 1:00 pm. You can order lunch or wait till you get back.  Since it delivers US Mail, it’s not going to wait for you.

We set sail on a “picture perfect” day

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Appreciate life and one another. If you are fortunate to be alive – love one another.

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This is Pete delivering the mail. It’s heartwarming. The Lordes Camp run by the Catholic Diocese at the 10 mile point is the biggest customer. 6 bags of daily mail in and out and a can can dance from the campers on the dock to boot. The camp had let out for the summer when we cruised on August 28, 2015. It was all fascinating to watch. Crawling onto the boats bow to hand and receive mail to the Lake residents. 

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If you are looking for a charming and delicious restaurant tucked away you should visit Elderberry Pond. We had a delightful dinner and night there.

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Skaneateles Lake is 16miles long and has the highest elevation of all the Finger Lakes. It’s water is so pure that the City of Syracuse and other municipalities use it unfiltered.

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One of the beautiful million dollar plus mansions on the shore of Skaneateles Lake.

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Anyplace that has been around this long has to have staying power.

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One thing we noticed right away is the amount of public benches available for use. Another reminder that small acts change the world.

 

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Tucked in behind the Sherwood Inn is this hidden gem of a bakery. Evan could not get enough of the flakey pastries. Why look, there is Evan entering the bakery right now. 

      Now we are certainly not Skaneateles experts. I mean, I keep checking to see if I have spelled Skaneateles correctly. We have only spent two different weekends there. We cannot believe how refreshing it is to get away and how close it is to Buffalo. (2 hours and 15 minutes) But we are both a little confused about the beach access. We love the village, the shops, the restaurants, and the bakeries. The charm of this town is off the charts. We loved seeing all the glorious beach front property on the waterways. But we were looking for the ever popular “long walk on the beach”stroll. We still can’t figure it out but we will. Is there beach access at Skaneateles? Stay tuned.

 

 

 

The Comfort Zone

 

 

     Maybe the timing of this blog is off. But the message isn’t. It’s the end of the summer. School is approaching. Money is tight. Stress is in the air. Schedules need to be made. The last thing you are thinking about is going away for a week. We all seem to be pulled in so many directions. We need to organize and get the house in order. I have caught a few of my closest companions exclaiming “I need a cleaning person”,and “I guess I am the only one that does anything around here!” We all need comfort. I bet we all miss those days when we were carefree as children and felt complete by being comforted by our families and friends. Our ages have changed, but our souls have not. We are still renewed and comforted by the love our families and friends give us. I just want to remind us all to stop and reflect. Our life begins in a blink and ends in a blink, although some days seem unending and agonizing long, it changes before you know it. Changes happen inevitably, but that is part of the beauty of it. Although it seems crazy to go out, get school supplies for the twelfth year in a row, to clean out the closet one more time, and vacuum when you swore you just did it yesterday- – enjoy it, as life won’t always be this way. It is all part of the beautiful life we have been given. The kids will grow up, our parents get older, and life as we know it takes on a new look. There are countless good things happening, but the reality is, everyone on this earth will suffer challenges and difficulties too. There is no escaping it. Nothing prepares us for the absence of a loved one. It changes our world and it changes us. There is no textbook way to adapt to change, but when you believe, and you look back at the beautiful moments of your life with an open heart, you can find comfort in all the wonderful memories you have as well as ones you will continue to make in your life. This summer, I have found comfort in returning to the Chautaqua Institute just remembering how much Natalie enjoyed it there. It is a quiet assurance that “we did right” vacationing here for just a week each summer. Comforted, by the memories, the feeling I felt when I stepped onto the grounds as we did for so many years ago, knowing that we had the most beautiful memories there. We loved and laughed here. We made countless practical jokes here. We vacationed here with all generations of parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I left feeling inspired, nostalgic, and compelled to share the comforting messaging that life will be okay, even when the unthinkable happens. And sometimes all you need is just the comfort to go back and remember even if it’s just for the day.

 

Here she is... Natalie!! She is enjoying the rocking chairs at the Athenaeum Hotel in 2011.

Here she is… Natalie!! She is enjoying the rocking chairs at the Athenaeum Hotel in 2011. I just want to reach out and touch her hand.

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Father Tony Rigoli, OMI invited us down to Chautauqua Institute on Thursday, July 9, 2015 where he offered the 12 noon mass for Natalie. It was extra special knowing Father Tony was assigned to St. Rose of Lima parish when Natalie was a student there.

Hello Dad. I am so glad you started the tradition of coming to Chautauqua

Hello Dad. I am so glad you started the tradition of coming to Chautauqua even thou there was always work to do. The practical jokes we played there keep you alive in my heart and give me comfort. If you don’t have one, start a tradition of going away. It doesn’t have to be far. I am so grateful that our father did.

 

The Athenaeum Hotel. There is so much comfort in knowing that certain places and things seems to n

The Athenaeum Hotel. Picture taken in late August 2015. There is so much comfort in knowing that certain places and things never seem to change. Things will be ok but never the same without Natalie and my dad who really contributed so much to our happiness. 

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Here is Caroline braiding Natalie’s hair at an outdoors concert at Bestor Plaza at the Chautauqua Institute. Take time to be together. No one ever wished that they worked more.

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It doesn’t matter where you go..create a tradition of returning to the same place every year for a week was comforting to us. When you love and cherish each other, and take the time to be together, you have fewer regrets.

 

      My last picture on this blog post is a picture that Natalie posted on her Instagram account. It was taken at the Chautauqua Institute and gives me such comfort that she chose to use it on #tbt (Throwback Thursday). It makes me think that “we did right” and gave Natalie joy in spending a week in a familiar place with the comfort of her family who loved and cherished her so much. This is what life is all about..living, loving, giving and being together. Knowing we had all of these wonderful experiences…now that is my comfort.

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Just A Summer Job?

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Why did Natalie care so much about this little summer job? I now know why…Natalie’s life is her message to the world. Make every second, every opportunity count.

     There is No Such Thing As Just A Summer Job

     Of course there is no such thing as just a summer job. Every second of every day is a chance to influence and make the world better. If anyone taught me that, it was Natalie.

     For 3 summers, from 2008 to 2010, Natalie taught tennis in Buffalo for children aged 6 to 17 years old.  I remember Natalie putting so much into this little job and coming up with a “word of the day” along with games and obstacles courses to keep the various ages of kids and various levels challenged. She even played duck, duck goose and came up with countless tennis drills. She would make a special themed tennis cake to share with the kids. She laughed. She loved. She inspired. She kept careful attendance and had the kids help her decorate her special instructor notebook.  She waited with every child till they were picked up and never complained to the parents for being late. I remember thinking…why does Natalie care so much and put so much into this little summer job?  I’m embarrassed to say that I told her she was doing too much for this position.

     Well, I know why now. It has all been brought to light. Natalie’s life was her message to the world. Decisions that she made, to do more and care more for others, made a difference and we all have that capacity if we want to. It’s a choice we make. A lasting effect in other’s lives that can be big or small.

     People noticed. Lives touched. And now there is an award to a Buffalo youth in Natalie’s honor.

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Natalie’s message..Be happy! Smile and laugh! But push yourself to be more and live to know and serve God and others.

The AWARD CEREMONY

      It’s an informal setting at Delaware Park. Picnic tables, pizza, specially designed t-shirts, and cookies with a special Natalie message to “say something sweet” to others. It’s beautifully casual under the shade of trees. It’s not showy. It’s sweet and innocent just like Natalie. It’s filled with a good spirit just like Natalie. It’s everything that matters. I cannot begin to tell you how touched we were on August 15, 2014 when Mayor Brown declared it Natalie Lewis Day in Buffalo. The mere fact that it fell on the feast of the Assumption of Mary was a God nod that did not go unnoticed in our family. The second Friday in August is now the day set aside for the Natalie Lewis Character Award to go to a fun loving Buffalo youth.

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Natalie made tennis theme cakes to share with the kids at the end of each tennis session. Hard work and accomplishing something always called for a celebration in Natalie’s world.

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Summer photo of the PAL tennis instructors in Buffalo in 2010. Earl is still the man in charge of the tennis program.

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If you have the ability to make someone happy (and we all do)- Do It!

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Natalie was fun and made tennis theme cakes to share with the kids. She made people feel good with her smile and love of the sport. Hey, if you are alive..make someone’s day!

 I shared with the kids this year the 3 lessons of Natalie’s life I would like them to remember.

1. BE HAPPY

If you have the ability to make someone happy- Do it!

Hug them, write them notes, smile, laugh out loud, tell jokes, personalize gifts. Make people feel good if they accomplish something even if it’s little.

 

2. PUSH YOURSELF

Don’t expect results without hard work. I don’t know anyone who worked as hard as Natalie did in the pool, in the classroom, or in any employed position. Natalie woke up early. She had discipline and structure and a purpose to each day.

 

3. LOVE YOUR FAITH

Natalie was faith filled and knew God created her to make the world a better place. No one has your talents, your hair, your nose, your voice, your eyes, your mind, your story, your life. God gave it all to you for a reason and that is to use your gifts to make a positive influence on the world.

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August 15, 2014 – Mayor Brown declares it Natalie Lewis Day for the positive impact she had in the PAL tennis program and the youth in Buffalo. We loved that it shared the same day as the Assumption of Mary. Last year was so soon after the Hot Air Balloon tragedy that the ceremony was more somber until the award winner was announced. Lenore added spark!

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The first award winner! Lenore Brown. The award took her by surprise and she displayed innocent sweetness.

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The informal park setting for the PAL youth award is filled with the spirit of Natalie.

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A lot of joy when the 2015 award winner was announced. Taryn embraced it! Thank you to Modie Cox from the PAL office.

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Here she is..full of life and love..the 2nd annual Natalie Lewis youth award winner with all the current PAL instructors. Congrats Taryn.

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There is no doubt that the award winners are hand picked from heaven above! Taryn Koeppen was so surprised and happy…the first thing she said was..”I’m a swimmer too!! And I know all about Natalie from Fr. Joe!”

 

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Caroline is photographed with Josh. Josh was a PAL participant when Natalie was an instructor. Josh remembers Natalie’s smile, laugh and always telling him how tall and strong he is getting each summer!  He wanted to influence kids just like Natalie did for him. Now he is a PAL instructor and doing just that!

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Pictured here with the Chief of Detectives for the City of Buffalo, we would like to thank Dennis Richards.

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This picture! Only after someone casually took this picture of the 4 of us did we notice a picture of Natalie on the tree behind us. What a sign! Natalie is right there with us.  A sure sign that Natalie is interceding for us all and cheering us on to be the best we can be. God nod for sure.

 

 

 

#todayonmywalk

     Let’s face it, if I wasn’t a dog owner I certainly would not take a daily walk or two. I would attempt. But it would not be daily occurrence especially in the rain, snow and sleet. Even on beautiful sunny days, something always comes up. You know, you always have to go somewhere.

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My inspiration for the name of my blog and my appreciation to slow down and sniff on daily walks. Meet Rory and Lucy Marie. My favorite walking or strolling companions. We stop and smell the roses and take pictures. #todayonmywalk

 

     But, inspired by my dogs, this summer I decided to take a picture with my cell phone camera and post it on Instragram with the hash-tag #todayonmywalk.  It’s a fresh look and the same walk I have been walking for years.  It’s the ability to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us daily. The simple joys. Our two dogs enjoy stopping and sniffing and using all their senses on walks. As soon as I pick up the leashes near the front door of the house, the “ladies” start circling around in utter joy over a chance to walk the neighborhood. When we go for a walk, they act like they won a million dollars. But, we do something worth far more than that…we walk, breath, and appreciate the beauty we see everyday. This is Buffalo in the summer. I am going to keep this up for all the seasons.

 I do not take for granted the incredible happiness just having the ability to go for a walk with my favorite walking companions – Rory and Lucy Marie give me.

Now let’s look at some of the pictures that made it on #todayonmywalk

And follow me on Instagram at poodlewalker1. Thank you for reading.

 

 

This line-up of geraniums in large pots can be found outside a store on Elmwood Avenue. #todayonmywalk

This line-up of geraniums in large pots can be found outside a store on Elmwood Avenue. #todayonmywalk

A flower filled coffee table on the porch of a friends back yard. #todayonmywalk

A flower filled coffee table on the porch of a friends back yard. #todayonmywalk

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This bucket surrounded by little rocks really caught my eye. The whimsey flowers add to the “old fashioned” homey feel. #todayonmywalk

 

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I spotted this on the Buffalo Garden walk. I truly think it’s the prettiest window box I have ever seen. #todayonmywalk

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This house caught my eye because the house number is written out in cursive writing. Love it. #todayonmywalk

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Here you go, this is what you do with the unattractive tree stump on your lawn. Fill it with flowers. It stopped me in my tracks. #todayonmywalk

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Curb appeal. The double wreaths. The matching pots. The dog statue. The high ornate windows. Stop and stare. #todayonmywalk.

 

 

Rock On Rock City

Our society loves rocks. I can see why. Rock n Roll. Rock salt. Rock candy. The Paper, Scissors Rock game. Rock stars. Rockettes. Rocky movies. Sports fans cheer “We Will Rock You”. Chevy tells us their pick-up truck is “Like A Rock”.

And then there is the bible adding such imagery and strength to the rock. Go to Matthew 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” And the instructions we were given in Matthew to build our house on rock. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it didn’t fall”.

A house of rock means quite simply building your life, your family on God. He is our rock..you will not fall. 

It’s no wonder that I wanted to return to a place my Grandfather Blassey took me many moons ago. My mother’s family is from Olean, NY and a big attraction has always been Rock City. Rock City has been an attraction since 1890. Whoa. But that is nothing to the rocks itself that were formed 320 million years ago. The park is located on Route 16 in Olean very close to Pennsylvania.

 

The entrance to Rock City Park. Opened daily from May till October. $5.00 a person. $4.00 for seniors. $3.00 for kids. Age 5 and under are free.

The entrance to Rock City Park. Opened daily from May till October. $5.00 a person. $4.00 for seniors. $3.00 for kids. Age 5 and under are free.

As you pull into the drive way there are all these great signs to greet you.

As you pull into the drive way there are all these great signs to greet you.

As soon as the hike began, we came upon Fat Mans Squeeze. OK folks. It's a narrow path. Better suck your tummy in.

As soon as the hike began, we came upon Fat Mans Squeeze. OK folks. It’s a narrow path. Better suck your tummy in.

See what I mean. Narrow. But really...you can fit. No one has ever gotten stuck except for the Jolly Green Giant. At least that is what my grandpa use to tell me.

See what I mean. Narrow. But really…you can fit. No one has ever gotten stuck except for the Jolly Green Giant. At least that is what my grandpa use to tell me.

My hiking buddy today was Caroline. No words can describe the depth of love a mother has for her daughter here.

My hiking buddy today was Caroline! No words can describe the depth of love this mother has for her daughter here.

This is a 1,000 ton boulder balancing on another rock!

This is a 1,000 ton boulder balancing on another rock!

They say the trail takes 45 minutes. Not if you stop and take pictures. I enjoyed going during the week. No crowds.

They say the trail takes 45 minutes. Not if you stop and take pictures. Map quest also said it took an hour and 45 minutes to get there. Not if you go with us! I enjoyed going during the week. No crowds.

The path itself offered some stairs but it was mostly an up and down walking path.

The path itself offered some stairs but it was mostly an up and down walking path.

The gift shop offered skinned rabbit fur and fox tails. Caroline did not like that. But, they do offer a large selection of the most beautiful wooded walking sticks that I have ever seen.

The gift shop offered skinned rabbit fur and fox tails. Caroline did not like that. But, they do offer a large selection of the most beautiful wooded walking sticks that I have ever seen.

The sign says it all.

The sign says it all.

When we reached the top we were all smiles!! Caroline told me I was hiking in bling!!

When we reached the top we were all smiles!! Caroline called me the “Hiking Bling Queen!”

We are forever grateful for the kind person who left this heart made of stone in our garden. The rain indeed fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on our house, but it didn’t fall. Our home is built on rock.

Hey, Do You Want To Meet For Breakfast?

 

Aww breakfast. It’s drilled into us that it is the most important meal of the day, yet many of us skip it. Busy. Rush. Race to work. I’ll grab something at my desk. I understand. But I also am going to give you 5 Reasons To Meet Someone For Breakfast. I have more than 5 reasons. The number one reason for me is because it was our beloved Natalie’s favorite meal. Maybe it was all the early morning swim practices, maybe it was her love of eggs, pancakes, and sausage, or maybe it was because she was so full of life and love and was always so ready to seize the day. Natalie knew the best places to go for breakfast in Richmond and she sure knew them in Buffalo too. What an exceptional breakfast Natalie made us every Christmas morning for as long as she could grab a step stool and mix the eggs in a bowl with her daddy. It wasn’t long until Natalie took over as lead chef and upgraded from omelets to egg frittata. Preparing meals for us was another shining example that we are on earth to serve others and enjoy meals together.

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If you are wondering why I am so happy in this picture it is because I am sitting across from Natalie and the conversation and laughter always just flowed. photo credit: Natalie Lewis


5 Reasons To Meet Someone For Breakfast

 

#1. It’s Cheap

Let me be more discreet – It is relatively inexpensive. There is no paying for cocktails except for coffee. Well, I have been known to upgrade to a latte. You may get lucky and have free coffee refills. There are no expensive appetizers or dessert. Most meals are $7.00. Omelets and pancakes are my top 2 choices on the menu. The thing I like about pancakes is they always taste better in a restaurant (especially Pancake Restaurants!) and you don’t have to mess up your own kitchen. Somehow there is always extra batter in my bowl. Somehow the first batch never turns out. The bottom line is -order pancakes out- it’s easier!

2. It’s Simply Delicious

Pancakes. Omelets. Brunch. Oatmeal with the fixings. Fresh brewed coffee. French toast. Waffles. Blueberries. It suits all types of eaters. Gluten free, vegetarian, paleo, carnivorous, and the ever popular no-restriction dieters.

3. It’s Fast. No Strings Attached

You can meet someone and not feel any pressure to do anything afterwards. After all, we all have to get the day started and we all have something else to do and someplace to go. We are off and running. The no pressure and the no expectations of anything happening after is a real benefit. No doubt great for dating or getting to know someone. Also, service is fast. It’s an energetic meal and the pace and energy are appealing.

4. It Gets the Day Started Right

Do you know how great it is to meet someone out? Fellowship. Friendship. Relationships. We are all so much better off as humans getting out the door and connecting, supporting, and seeing people out. When you leave the restaurant, I promise you that you will feel so much better not only because your belly is filled but because you are sharing stories, experiences, and connecting with a family member, friend, new acquaintance or business contact.

5. There Are So Many Places To Go

No doubt you have a favorite place to go. Maybe it’s a Sunday tradition to go out to breakfast after mass. That is my kind of tradition. Look at how many amazing breakfast places we have in Buffalo alone. Kostas. Sophia’s. Ashkers. Spot. Sweetness 7 Cafe. The choices are unlimited.

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Here she is…Natalie getting ready to dive into her favorite breakfast at Weezie’s Kitchen in Richmond, Virginia. Natalie was not a coffee drinker. She never needed it. She woke up early and was ready to go with a big smile on her face.

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A few years ago Natalie said to me..I always wanted to go to Hershey, Pa. I’m so thankful we went together. Here she is getting ready to eat another delicious breakfast at our B&B.

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Sure we all like to eat at local restaurants but chains such as Panera and Corner Bakery Cafe offer some great choices.

The last Christmas breakfast Natalie prepared for us. Serving others folks. Keep giving. Just keep giving.

The last Christmas breakfast Natalie prepared for us. Serving others folks. Keep giving. Just keep giving and loving.

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