Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Fun in Exeter

Tante Rachel and I took the kiddies to the Exeter Santa Clause Parade. It was chilly, the parade took a LONG time to reach us (we were at the very end of the parade route), and there were a lot of strange "floats" in it...

Where's Waldo?

One of the afore-mentioned strange floats. Have yourselves a merry little (huge) flu shot!

Me and the kiddies. Though Reuben is hardly a kiddie anymore!

Sir Squirms-a-lot

Brian and Steve worked on the floor all day.

Steve is very proud of his coffee.

Eli and Izzy bonded. Not really. Izzy is there under duress (you can see my fingers holding her in place), but Eli didn't really care if Izzy was there by choice or not.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You've got to admit:

She's pretty cute when she's all cleaned up.

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Friday, November 13, 2009


Every year at Remembrance day, and then again in spring when the tulips bloom, and on V-day and on D-day, I think about the sacrifices that my fellow Canadians made in WWII. I think about how proud I am to be a citizen of a country where so many people gave their lives to end the tyranny and oppression in the lives of those they didn't even know, the lives of those in far away lands.

And then, I realize that I should not be proud of them: I should be so very thankful and grateful to them. Their actions are not those of fellow citizens that I can claim, in some sense, as my own heritage. Their actions are those of brave and unselfish strangers who gave my family, my grandparents and great aunts and uncles, the chance to live in peace. My family was 100% European at the time of the war. The acts of the Canadians, the British, and the American soldiers directly impacted my family history. I am a first generation immigrant - the child of immigrant parents, "first in a family line to be born in the new country" (Wikipedia) - and, while nearly every Canadian is an immigrant at some point in their history, I truly am - and it's a little strange to think about. A friend of mine is a Daughter of the Empire - a United Empire Loyalist - her family has been in Canada since at least 1783. They've been here for 226 years compared to our 58/52 years (Brouwer family/Van Breda family respectively)! And yet - no one that I meet on the street would ever think that I'm a more recent Canadian than Laura. However, another acquaintance of mine belongs to a family who immigrated from Asia in the 20's - again, her family has spent more time in Canada by some 30 years than mine has - but people actually ask her when her parents immigrated. It's strange to think about the fact that my Canadian history is so short.

Monday, November 09, 2009

This is our back yard as it has appeared throughout the last two years. The large photo is the most recent one, taken yesterday afternoon after the boys (Joel, Dan, Bun & Brian) finished sodding the yard. I am SO happy with it, there is no more stump, no more weeds! (Well, we'll have to keep on top of that next year, since we didn't kill the weeds before we tore up the back yard - so they'll come back). The top left two pictures below look very pretty and very green, but the majority of the green in the yard was in the form of a) clovers b) dandelions and c) prickle bushes. Now, it's pure grass! Izzy loves bouncing around on it, but she is very sad that there is no place for the mice to hide now - we're going to have a hard time keeping her from digging up the sod by the neighbour's fence, since she's positive that that's where they're living!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Birthday Girl!

Two weekends ago, Brian and I drove out to Bowmanville to the East Side Mario's to surprise Marya (along with Mom and Dave & Lisa) for her 30th birthday! It was a delicious lunch and a fun time together! Afterwards we went back to Mar's place for some Wii and some cake - good times! The Wii Fit has some very fun activities on it, but I don't excell at many of them. I was even beaten by Evan at one of the activities! It was too bad that Steve & Sarah & the kids and David couldn't come to the party, but I'm very excited that when we celebrate family Christmas in February, everyone will be around (including the newest little Van Breda)!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

2 Years Old Already?

While I was busy with Brian's mom's 60th birthday celebrations, I completely missed my 2nd youngest nephew's birthday (October 18th)! This little guy, Eli Jacobus Van Breda, is 2 years old now! Time flies!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Parties, Traffic, and Accidental Encounters

Happy 60th to my dear mom-in-law today!!

This weekend seems to have been a success - both parties went over well and people seemed happy and well fed, and I don't think that we poisoned any of them, so that's always a plus. :)

My squash soup was quite a hit and I had to share my "recipe" with many people. The trifle also went over well, as did the boterkoek, brownies, and chewy-chocolate fudge squares. I met lots of people, got reacquainted with the members of the Tjoelker clan, and had some interesting conversations with some guests at the open house. (Him: "So you must be David's girlfriend!" Me: "No, actually, I'm Brian's wife." Thinking: who is David?! Him: Blank Stare. Him: "So... You got married recently?" Me: "Yeah, I suppose that 3 years isn't very long - 2006 seems like yesterday!" Him: "Oh." Awkward Silence. Me: Thinking: Does he actually know Trudy or her family? Is he at the right party?! )

I am fairly tired of socializing at the moment. I have no more small talk left in me. I'm tired of smililng, and saying, "No, actually, I'm not Shanna, I'm Jenn - I'm Brian's wife. No, Brian's actually the oldest child," and "No, Jared and I aren't married - I'm married to Brian, Trudy's oldest son, and Jared is married to Shanna, Trudy's daughter," and "No, it's actually Shanna and Jared that live in BC, Brian and I live in Hamilton," and "That's actually my dog - yes, she's part miniature schnauzer, and part something else - rabbit? Donkey?...." These are the conversations that I had all weekend. :)

On the way home from Sarnia last night, I ran into some traffic. Brian and I drove separately this weekend so that I could leave a little bit earlier on Sunday afternoon so that I'd be able to make it to my book club meeting. I should have been back in Hamilton by 7:15 at the latest - but that was before I knew about the lane closures in Ingersoll. 3 lanes down to 1 lane. It took me over an hour to travel about 6 km. Stop and go is not fun when driving a standard, in case you weren't aware. My clutching leg was in tremmors by the time I made it through. I tried my hardest to coast in neutral as much as possible, in order to avoid the partial clutching in 1st gear (traffic was going fast enough that I couldn't coast, but slow enough that I would have stalled if I was completely in 1st gear), but the van in front kept tapping the breaks, requiring me to break my coasting. By the time I got through the traffic, I was very hungry so I pulled into the next rest stop and stood in line at Wendy's (big mistake - the speed of service province-wide has gone dramatically down hill in the last 3 years!) - someone taps me on the shoulder after a few minutes, and who is it but Jared and Shanna, who left Sarnia shortly after I did! So, I got to sit down and eat supper with them! Nice surprise! However, I did end up missing my book club - I didn't get home until 9:20. Boo.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Since I last posted, I have been to Texas and back, I have listened to 1.5 audio books and have read 5 novels, watched 3 movies, baked 5 pans of squares, made soup for the people in my office and for Brian's Aunts and Uncles, I have gone to a wedding, to Canada's Wonderland, and to Sarnia for a turkey dinner. I have gone to my first two pilates classes and have babysat JP. I have had my 3rd anniversary, had my mom, my sister-in-law and her husband sleep in my livingroom in one night, and I have gone to Stratford to see The Importance of Being Ernest with Brian's family.

Tonight, we head off to Sarnia and tomorrow morning we'll be having vanOosten family pictures taken. Tomorrow afternoon, we'll be in Strathroy to host (along with the other vanOosten kids) a dinner for the Tjoelker siblings for my mom-in-law's 60th birthday, and on Sunday afternoon in Sarnia there will be an open house for her as well. Then, back to Hamilton for my 2nd book club event of the year.

My computer is in the shop right now, other wise I'd be posting pictures of the events that have already passed by.

I am so very much looking forward to the weekend of November 7th - it will be the first weekend since June 6th that we have not been booked to go away either for the whole weekend or just for the day. Agenda: 1) sleep in; 2) clean the house.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Neither Packed Nor Ready to Go

This evening at 7pm, I will be leaving with Amy and Linda, two colleagues from work, for a conference in Texas.  While it's exciting to head out to Texas, as I've never been there before, I can't believe how much I have to get done before then.  1) Hit the Terrberry Library to take out some easy reading for the plane (apparently SouthWest doesn't provide seat back television).  2) Clean out my car so that Joel and Katrina (who will be  using it for the next 4 days) don't have to cart around the box of random stuff that I keep forgetting to bring to our storage place (aka the Speelman basement)...  I also haven't given the car a good cleaning in about a year.  3) Finish the laundry so that I'll have some warm weather clothes to wear in Texas (it's supposed to be between 29 and 33 degrees all week). 4) Make & eat supper.  5) Pack all my stuff.  6) Remember to bring my passport. 

Eesh.  It's going to be a long day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Dear Samantha: Happy Birthday! It is now 46 minutes until your birthday starts, and this will mark your second birthday on the East Coast. I hope that it is a fantastic one for you! I was just looking at our Newfoundland pics when looking for a picture to post here, and they made me want to go back and do it all over again! You guys are such awesome people, and Brian and I are so honoured to have you as friends!

May you have the happiest of birthdays, and I'm sorry I didn't put a card in the mail for you, I haven't been so good with posting things for a few years now. You are an amazing woman, and you are well loved!!
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Has Arrived

It is a very blustery day today, and I love it. I would love it more if I wasn't sitting in my office all day, as the darkness outside makes the day inside go by much more slowly... It's a perfect kind of day to throw on a hoodie and take the dog for a walk outside, or to hunker down inside over a good board game. It's a good day to make soup and applesauce, or to have a roast cooking in the slow cooker. I look forward to my afternoon (after work) and evening at home today. It's a good day to stay home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Going Clubbing

Besides the frivolous reading that I'm doing these days, our book club is also getting under way for the year. This past Sunday evening, we opened the year with my pick from last year, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. I highly recommend this book. I have read it twice and listened to it twice now (CBC's Between the Covers produced an audio recording of it last spring, it's a staple on my iPod right now). Rumour has it that The Book of Negroes is in the running for replacing To Kill a Mocking Bird on High School reading lists. What do you think?

The books that we'll be reading this year include the following:

October - The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

November - The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

January - The Brothers K by David James Duncan

February- Persepolis by Mariane Satrapi

March - The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

April - Still Alice by Lisa Genova

May - Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

June - The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Apparently one of the books on the list (Persepolis) is a graphic novel, and I'm not so sure how I feel about that genre yet. Of all of the books on this list, I've read 4 so far - I'm looking forward to reading some of them again in the company of others - The Magician's Nephew, for example - if you've been reading this blog for ... at least 4 years, you may recall this post that I did while reading it last time. I'm excited to talk about it with others who are reading it for the first (or second) time since childhood.

Have you read any of the above books? What did you think about them?

Finished Reading:

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. No, it's not the most high-brow literature that I have ever consumed, nor is it the the most useless material I have ever read. This is the first in a series of many "Shopaholic" novels (there are five, at this point) that see Rebecca Bloomwood, financial journalist with the magazine "Successful Savings", try desperately to curb her shopping addiction which is leading her deeper and deeper into debt. She tries to quit cold turkey and ends up bingeing. She attempts to make more money and ends up throwing money away. Credit card bills and letters from the bank arrive and she tries every possible method of ignoring them - tossing them (still sealed) into a garbage truck passing by, collecting them (unopened) in a drawer in her bedroom, shredding them in the office paper shredder. Surprisingly, none of these methods work, and the banks hunt her down. Without saying too much, things do work out surprisingly well for Rebecca by the end of the book, but she does have to work for (almost) all of it.

As I was looking for an image of the cover, I came across this blog in which the writer, Amy, makes an interesting point. Well, actually, she makes a few interesting points, but I'm not so sure about the one that compares Rebecca to the apostle Paul... The point that I'm talking about is the aside that Amy makes when she mentions that if Shopaholic was a Christian work of fiction, she would have her life completely sorted out - she wouldn't be addicted to shopping anymore, she'd magically come into heaps of money, and she'd live happily ever after with her charming millionair husband. The fact that this series continues suggests, perhaps, that Rebecca's (fictional) life does not follow that pattern. The book may be about the mundane and frivolous experiences of a chronic shopper, but the experience of addiction is a common one. Kinsella writes about a fictional character who lives with very real problems and fears - and who knows that while some people have life handed to them on a silver platter, that's one thing you can never count on. Grow up, open the envelope, and start dealing with life.

Besides the fact that there may actually be meaning in this book, it's a lot of fun to read, and I read it cover to cover in just a few hours. I may or may not take the next one out of the library for my trip to Texas next week. :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

If You are Free on Sunday, This is Where You Should Be

The Eden Mills Writers' Festival is in its 21st consecutive year this year and will be hosting the annual day of readings this Sunday, September 18. Once again, I will not be able to make it, but I highly encourage you to go! Admission at the gate is $10 / adult, $5 / student. It's worth it - especially if you've never been - an afternoon of wandering around a picture-perfect small community, spreading your blanket on the side of the hill and listening to established and up and coming authors read portions of their works. The food tent is also fantastic; last time I went I had a delicious burger and a sweet cob of fresh corn. Mmm.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Seven Years

Tomorrow, my nephew turns 7 years old. Seven years! 7 years ago, I didn't know Brian. I was in second year of university, living in a dorm with 7 other wonderful (but crazy!) girls. Seven years ago, I hadn't ever flown on a plane before, much less lived in B.C., England, or Japan. Seven years ago I still hadn't even decided what to major in at school.

Seven years ago, I didn't have a digital camera! Unfortunately, I didn't make the move to a digital camera until the summer I left for Japan - a year before this photo was taken. I love this pic - I don't know who took it - Uncle Eric, perhaps? The colours are just fantastic, and it shows off the spirit of this wonderful (and mischevious) boy. Happy birthday, Reuben!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Montreal

The view from the roof of our hotel. There's a heated pool on the roof, but it's not as nice as the one St the ramada in belleville...
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jenn - Your brother called. He said to turn on the T.V.

8 years ago I was in First Year student at Redeemer.  I was working my third shift in the food store (back in the days when we had no price scanner and when we still got special "weekend food").  I think that we first started hearing snippets of what was happening around 9am - the school was still pretty quiet at that point.  Jane, who was managing the food store and caf at that time, turned on the radio in her van just outside the cafeteria and we all sat on milk crates and listened to the play by play of events.  Eventually, we had to go back to work, and as the students started coming into the food store one by one to pick up some groceries for the day the stories kept growing. Four hundred people died.  Nine hundred people died.  They're saying that over eleven hundred people may have been killed. The numbers kept climbing, and no one really had a handle on what was happening, or who did it. 

Back at the dorm after my shift, the TV was already on and there was a note by the phone saying, "Jenn - your brother called.  He said to turn on the TV".  Micah, a friend of ours from dorm 36, was sitting on the couch with the girls.  He was enraged.  Micah is a proud American, and was absolutely dumbstruck that someone who do this to his countrymen.  The TV stayed on all day, playing the same footage over and over again of the smoke billowing out of the first tower as a plane collided with the second tower.  Mayhem and madness.

Everyone has a story of where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with 8 years ago today.  It occurred to me last night, however, that the students in their first year this year at Redeemer were in grade 5 on that infamous 9/11.  Grade 5!  A lot of them had no idea that anything had happened until they got home from school that day.  Many of them never saw any news that day, as parents didn't think those images appropriate for their kids.  But they have all grown up in a world post 9/11.  What does it mean for them to have grown up during the "war on terror"?  How has this affected the younger set of the Millennial generation? 

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Well, really, just published on a blog. And I publish on my own blog regularly, so I suppose that's not so different. Except this time, someone else clicked "Publish Post" and voila! My writing is now on someone else's blog. If you take a look to your right, there is a blog (under "Blogs I follow") named The Advisor Diaries. The most recent post, Third Time's a Charm is written by yours truly. And it's a true story. Unfortunately true. It might not resonate with many of you, but the fellow that I wrote about was the most expasperating student that I have ever had walk into my office.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Going, going, gone...

I wrote this a week or two ago (time is passing very strangely right now, so I have no idea when it actually was) right before Shannon left for Egypt. I think that it still needs to be posted.
This morning marked the last time that I will see my Shannon for at least 10 months. That is probably the longest that I have ever gone without seeing her since meeting we met in grade 9 at QCHS. That was 12 years ago. 12 YEARS! Wow. Shannon and I were friends - but not particularly close, I think - throughout high school, but it wasn't until we both left for University - different universities - that we really truly bonded. When I log into my Hotmail account I'll sometimes go through some of the emails that we sent back and forth every day during our first year of university and I think, wow - we were so not grown up or even slightly mature! :) Even though we were at different schools, we had incredibly similar experiences - and I love the fact that I got to know some of Shannon's closest Calvin friends and that she got to know some of my closest Redeemer friends.

It's interesting - Shannon and I had similar interests and talents when it came to Academics in high school (French & English - though, perhaps Shannon only liked the teacher and not the subject when it came to English). The only place we differed was how much time we spent doing homework! That extra effort (and therefore extra knowledge) allowed Shannon to go on to major in French at Calvin, while I took up an English major - reading an entire novel over night is much easier than catching up on 3 new conjugations of verbs over night! Shannon travelled overseas and spent a semester living and studying in France; I travelled overseas and spent a semester living in England. While I hem'd and haw'd about applying to teacher's college to follow in the footsteps of the rest of my family, Shannon already had her feet firmly planted in her family's teaching footsteps. I chose not to become a teacher, but I did spend 5 months living in Japan and teaching English - Shannon is now leaving to spend 2 years living in Egypt and teaching French.

Neither Shannon or I were overly emotional about leaving grade 12 - we couldn't quite stand the typical grad songs of the day - "Friends Forever" by M.W.Smith, "The Graduation Song" by Vitamin C, etc... We were very aware that just because you're in the same class in high school it doesn't mean that you'll be lifelong friends with all of your classmates. I think that the experiences that Shannon and I have shared apart from each other over the past 8 years since leaving high school have really cemented our friendships - there's no obligation to be friends because we used to be friends, it's not common history that makes me want to hang out with her and be a part of her life - we've matured together, really found out what it meant to grow up together - we are able to love each other for who we are, not who we were. And I think that's awesome.

I'll miss my dear friend over the next 10 months - but I hope that she has an amazing time and a great adventure! Shannon Marcus - we will miss you on this continent!

If you want to see how Shannon is doing in Egypt, check out the link to her blog on the side---> "Excitement in Egypt".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shut the doors, shut the windows, shut everything! The Invisible Man is coming!

Well, ok, maybe not the Invisible Man, but the invisible toxins are coming! Oh wait, they're already here. I woke up this morning and let the dog outside - there was a very putrid odor drifting into the house which I quickly attributed to the neighbours - they were having a camp fire until late last night, and it really smelled as if they burned something they shouldn't have.

I found it a little odd that I could smell it all the way to work - they must have really done a number! However, when I neared Redeemer on Garner, I saw some dark clouds on the horizon and started to wonder if maybe it wasn't the neighbour's fault... Sure enough, when I got to the office, everyone was talking about the fire in the Ancaster Industrial Park. I read a few articles online and shortly after called home and instructed Brian to close all the windows - the building that is burning is a furniture factory, and they have no small supply of toxins that burn well and do bad things to people who breathe them in. Residents of Ancaster and Hamilton Mountain have been encouraged to shut all windows and doors, and to stay inside today. Never a dull moment in Hamilton.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

If they don't win, it's a shame!

This afternoon, Brian and I went to see the Jays play at the Dome. Err - sorry - the "Centre". While they started off strong with a home run, there was a lot of pops and strikes. And, of course, they lost. But, we were on the Jumbo Tron for about 8 seconds!

Marya, Eric, and Evan joined us in TO for the game! (I couldn't fit the whole CN Tower in...)

It has been many, many years since I've been at the Dome early enough to watch them set up the field!

This is the fuzzy star that Evan got to hug. He was very excited about that.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Last weekend at the Kat Cottage

A few photos from last week Saturday at Kat's family cottage on Lake Eerie.

This is Mercy. She's super cute, but she and Izzy don't get along. Big Surprise.

Joel and Felix fought a little bit.

Elijah chilled out a little bit, but he never took a nap. Poor boy.

We borrowed a windsurf board from someone for the weekend. It's a pretty shitty board, super wobbly. Brian was the first one to have a go at it, and it took a while for him to get going. Eventually, though, he took the record by moving about 1o0 ft. Yay, B!

Amanda performed very admirably well on the board!

This is my favourite picture of Amanda's windsurfing adventure. Can you spot Amanda?
This is Mark. He did superbly! However, his initial record was beaten by B in the end.
Brian and I made Izzy play with us in the lake.

She didn't like it very much.
She was still pretty happy with her weekend at the cottage, though. I don't think she holds the lake experience against us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Whole Picture

Since I've spent so much of my time boasting about my garden this summer, I should paint an honest and accurate picture of how not everything is thriving. Tonight, I chopped down over half of my tomato plants which had been striken with blight. Actually, they all have it, but the others don't have it quite as bad yet, so I'm hoping to get a few more cherry tomatoes out of them.

These are what used to be my peas. The tomatoes killed them. Rotten tomatoes.

The ghosts of tomatoes past.

I'm going to try to ripen these tomatoes with my superpowers. Or, by the power of sunlight and / or ripe bananas and paper bags.

So many green tomatoes. Sigh.