November 2012

So, you may have noticed that I like to take pictures. In fact, so far in 2012, not counting client photo shoots (more than a dozen of those – what a year!) I have 2237 photos in Lightroom. That’s post-sort – nothing but ones I’ve deemed as keepers. And you know how many of those live anywhere outside my computer or the interwebs? A dozen or so. Maybe twenty at most.

I’ve blogged before about this weird fear I have of framing my photographs. Maybe it’s too stressful choosing just one, or maybe it’s the committing to one. (Cuz you know taking a frame off the wall and swapping out the print takes whole minutes of your life.) Maybe it’s the lack of wall space in our open concept house. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of taking down an old photo I’ve loved for years so I preemptively don’t hang any new ones. Whatever it is, framing is clearly not working for me. And keeping them only as digital files seems not only a crying shame, but an accident waiting to happen. (Post for another day: my disappearing photo files. Terrifying!) Even with redundant back up, those photos should be living out here where the boys and guests and random passers-by on the street can be invited to admire them, yes?

The answer is so ridiculously simple. I love photos. I love books. The answer, of course, is photo books! Over the years I’ve made a couple, but I have always wanted to try my hand at a Blurb book, especially after getting my hands on some made by my fellow photog friends. I even upgraded my copy of Lightroom primarily because they have Blurb book integration. And four months later, still no books.

And that’s why I was so tickled to accept this offer from the lovely folks at Blurb.ca:

With the upcoming gift-giving season on the mind, we’d like to invite you and your blog readers to create your very own bookstore-quality books with Blurb, a creative publishing platform that lets you design, publish and share professional-quality books starting at just $4.95.

Blurb would like to offer your blog readers a promo code for 25% off their total book order so they can test out the online self-publishing platform and create a personalized gift in time for the holidays.

Inspired, I sat down yesterday and opened Lightroom, determined to finally take a good look at the Blurb integration and see how it works. And two hours later, I was on page 17 of my 2012 year in review book. It is SO AWESOME that I can barely wait to finish it and get it into my hot little hands.

Don’t have a copy of Lightroom handy? No problem! Blurb offers three bookmaking options: use their web portal, download their bookmaking software or take full creative control by using PDFs you create in Adobe’s InDesign. (And hats off to you if you can do this!)

Want to get started on your own book? The discount code for 25% off your Blurb.ca book is GIFTIDEA

Fine Print: Offer valid through December 12, 2012 (11:59 p.m. local time). A 25% discount is applied toward your product total with a minimum order of 1 unit or more. Maximum discount is CAD $150 off product total. Valid for printed books only. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have the September through November photo pages to lay out!


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Flashback faves: Santa Quest 2008

by DaniGirl on November 28, 2012 · 0 comments

in Flashback faves

One of the joys of having more than two thousand (!) posts in my archive is the delight of stumbling on to an old post and re-reading it again. I’m pretty sure only my mother has read all of them, and if I’ve forgotten the content I’m pretty sure that most of you probably have as well – even those of you who’ve been here since the beginning. Also, recycling is chic, retro is in fashion, and everything old is new again. With all that in mind, I will shamelessly occasionally post some of the old gems from the archives: my flashback faves.

I’m not sure which I love more, the story or the photo. Lookit that chubby baby Lucas!!

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It seemed like a simple enough idea at the time. (Doesn’t it always?) Pictures with Santa. We do it every year, and I love my little collection of photos of Santa and the boys through the years. We usually just zip over to our local Loblaws, who just happens to have the most authentic Santa in town AND no line-ups, and we’re in and out in 20 minutes. It was a little more challenging with Tristan in school full time this year, and with no Santa at Loblaws this year, but a PD day last Friday gave us the perfect opportunity. A mom-in-the-know tipped us off to a deal at Carlingwood Mall: free pix with Santa if you buy a $25 gift card. Free? You know I likes me some free, and the kids likes them some Santa. A perfect day’s outing.

We arrived at Carlingwood about an hour before lunch, and headed straight for Santa’s big chair. And that’s where things started to go awry. Santa was a girl. Santa was a shapely girl with long, brown hair. Santa was wearing a crown and wings and a blue taffeta dress. Santa was — horror of horrors — sharing his big velvet chair with the Fairy Princess. WTF???

Memo to Carlingwood management: While I’m sure there are a goodly number of boys who might have been entranced by the Fairy Princess, there are a few — mine included — who were crushed by the weight of their unfulfilled expectations. Set up the Fairy Princess display in July, wouldja, and leave December for His Jollyness.

I gave the boys a choice: stay at Carlingwood for lunch and browsing as planned, and we’ll make a special trip another day to see Santa, or we’ll pack ourselves back into the car and give Santa another try at a different mall. I could read the answer on their faces before I even proposed the choice. Off we went to Bayshore, where Fairy Princesses are not welcome in December.

It’s a quick drive but a long hunt for parking on a PD day in the weeks before Christmas, but eventually we were out of the car and making a beeline for Santa’s workshop. There he was, in all his red jolly splendor, with at least half the population of Ottawa in line to see him. I took one look at the queue, which snaked entirely around Santa’s workshop and doubled back on itself, and convinced the boys that we’d go for lunch first and come back after, hoping against hope that the line would have receded by then.

Forty minutes later, and the line had, in fact, lengthened. We queued up, and I wandered over to the people at the front of the line, looking a little too much like the contestants on Survivor on day 38 — scruffy and malnourished, where you can see a little bit too much of their teeth — and asked one how long they had been standing in line. “Ten minutes short of two hours,” she growled without consulting her watch, and my heart sank.

I stepped back to the boys and tried to convince them that we’d come back another day. “It’s a very, very long line, guys,” I pleaded. “We don’t have to see Santa today. We can come back on Monday after school with Daddy, and we can all wait together. I promise!”

Tristan and Simon looked at each other placidly and said, “Nah, we’re good.” It was by now early afternoon. I knew Lucas would need a nap. The day already seemed endless, before even attempting to wait out this queue. The boys may have had it in them to wait it out, but I wasn’t sure I did. I tried, I really tried, to convince them to leave. Every two minutes for the first half hour or so, I rephrased the suggestion. “We can go to the toy store today! And look at the Webkinz AND the Lego! And even the pet store!!” This was my best shot, but they didn’t even nibble. Each time, I got the same response. “It’s okay Mom, we’re good.”

And you know what? They were. I don’t know whether it was the proximity to Santa that had them on their best behaviour or what, but we waited in that line for NINETY-FIVE minutes. Even Lucas was patient, sitting in his stroller and occasionally in my arms, looking around and watching the people and the decorations without any sort of fuss. We stood in that line for an hour and a half, and there was not one shenanigan, not a single hijinx, not even a shushed threat of Serious Consequence. No begging for bathroom breaks or drinks, and not even a “how much longer?” whine. Well, okay, not from the boys, anyway.

It was worth it, don’t you think?

Santa 2008

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As if he weren’t insufferable enough, the ginger menace is now appearing in this month’s issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Look!

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Here’s the original, from my own Christmas Story last year:

A Christmas Story (4 of 4)

Fun, eh? But the way I found out about Willie’s appearance (via Getty Images) makes the story that much better. I received this e-mail on the weekend:

Hi Dani!

Just wanted to let you know how much fun it was to open the December 2012
issue of Good Housekeeping magazine and find your Willie (albeit in reverse)
on page 35!

Last year’s Willie-and-the-Christmas-tree sequence is one of my all-time
favourites of your photo stories.

I’ve been reading your blog since 2007… until this moment as a lurker!
Someday I will tell you the story of how I found ‘Postcards from the
Mothership’, and why I love to visit regularly, even though I may not match
your usual reader profile.

Sincere good wishes,

B.W. in Saskatoon, SK

Is that not the best? I smile every time I re-read it. I don’t know what I find more delightful, the fact that Willie’s picture (ahem, MY picture!) got licensed in a national magazine, or the serendipitous and incredibly heartwarming way I found out about it.

It restores my faith in the Interwebs, it does!

And hey, speaking of my photos, I completely forgot to tell you about this one, too! This came out while we were on vacation – my photo of the lover’s locks on the Corktown Bridge ran in Winter edition of Ottawa Magazine. Fun, eh? That one wasn’t licensed through Getty but sold directly to the publisher.

Sale to Ottawa Magazine

Here’s the original:

Lovers' locks on the Corktown Bridge

And look, I even got name credit!! All this plus a great family photo shoot — I wish all weekends could be this much fun!


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Tap, tap, tap… testing? Is this thing on? You guys still out there? Oy, life. Sometimes I think mine is a little too full for my own good. As Martha says, though, it’s a good thing.

We had parent-teacher interviews last week. The boys’ progress reports were stellar and I wasn’t particularly worried about anything, but I always like to touch base face-to-face. This time last year, I was visiting one boy’s classroom to discuss with his teacher the ‘not satisfactory’ and ‘satisfactory’ he was getting in some of the behaviour areas — apparently he was of the opinion that if he didn’t feel like doing what was asked of him, he could disengage from the activity completely. He would also put in just barely the amount of work required to complete a task, instead of doing it to the best of his ability. He’d been having a rough time since changing schools the year before, but knowing how easily the academic part of school was coming to him (his grades have always been strong), I was rather alarmed (to say the least) to see these behavioural issues crop up and escalate through the year.

This time last year, his teacher and I worked together to explain to Boy in Question that his job is school, and he pretty much has to suck it up and do his job. (I love a teacher who takes no crap, I really do. She is awesome!) Through the year we noted steady improvement, but I was still elated to see on this year’s progress report nothing but ‘excellent’ in all categories. There’s a boy who has found his groove!

Anyway, happy as I was with ‘excellent’ across the board (and his brother not far off that mark), I still thought it prudent to touch base with the teachers. The boys’ teachers seem to genuinely like them and offered positive and constructive feedback that generally amounted to “great kids, no worries.” Phew!

My favourite comment was this. Obviously struggling for something more meaningful and perhaps more critical, the teacher paused for a moment before shrugging and saying, “Sometimes he eats his snack a little too early.”

I blog this not to brag, but to file away for future reference. The road is not always this smooth, and I am grateful with my whole heart for days like these, for boys like these, for this life of ours. Sometimes it’s good to celebrate when we get it right.

And we’ll work on his early snacking issues, too. Because a person needs goals, right?


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Edited to add: Click this link for the 2018 Santa Claus and holiday parade info!

Hello Santa!

Kanata Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, November 17, starting at 10:00 am. The parade will proceed onto Castlefrank Road, turning onto Abbeyhill Drive and on to Hazeldean Mall.

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade
Saturday, November 17 starting at 11 am. Note! The parade is back to a daytime schedule for 2012! The route looks the same as last year, though, starting at the National Archives on Wellington street, head east on Wellington Street and then turn right on Bank Street. It will continue south on Bank Street then turn left on Laurier Avenue, continue east on Laurier Avenue past City Hall and onto the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. New toys (no used toys, please) and cash donations will be collected by the Ottawa Firefighters.

Kemptville Kinsmen Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, November 17, starting at 1:00 pm. While logistics are still being ironed out, it is expected the parade will leave from Holy Cross Church, down Clothier St., turn right on Prescott St. and end at University of Guelph-Kemptville Campus.

Cornwall Santa Claus Parade
Saturday November 17, starting at 5:00 pm from St. Lawrence Intermediate School 1450, Second Street East. It will then proceed west to the Canadian Legion Branch 297 where the awards will be given immediately after the parade. Five bands, including the local Nativity Guards and cadets corps, will play in the parade.

Barrhaven Lions Club Light Up the Night Santa Claus Parade
Sunday, November 18, starting at 5:30 pm. The parade runs down Strandherd Drive, starting at Beatrice Drive and ending at the park n ride, where it turns north for dispersal.

Brockville Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, November 24, starting at 2:00 pm.The Brockville Rotary Santa Claus Parade will start at North Agusta Road and Pearl Street then travel West on Pearl Street E. to Park Street, South on Park Street and lastly, West on King Street to Gilmore Street. The parade will feature many floats, bands, horses, clowns, community groups, dignitaries and finally the star attraction, Santa himself. Volunteers will collect non-perishable goods, snowsuit donations and letters to Santa.

8th Annual Carleton Place Santa Parade
Saturday, November 24 starting at 5:00 pm. Thousands of spectators, over one hundred floats, and one jolly St. Nick will meet downtown Carleton Place for the largest Santa Claus parade in the Ottawa Valley, supporting the Lanark County Food Bank and Christmas Basket Fund. This year’s theme is ‘A Christmas Gift’ and will leave from Carambeck School to travel up the town’s main thoroughfare, Bridge Street.

Pembroke Santa Claus Parade of Lights
Saturday, November 24 starting at 5:30 pm. It’s a Caribbean Christmas in Pembroke this year! Bring your jingle bells to show your appreciation for this year’s floats.

Orleans Parade of Lights
Saturday, November 24 starting at 6:00 pm. Once again the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association will be hosting Santa’s Parade of Lights on St-Joseph Blvd. in Orleans. Toy and cash donations will be collected by firefighters along the route.

Arnprior Parade
Saturday, November 24 starting at 6:00 pm. After the Santa Claus Parade all participants and spectators are invited to the Legion. A special visitor may appear so that you may share your special Christmas wishes!

Stittsville Parade of Lights 2012
Saturday, November 24 starting at 6:30 pm. The SVA’s annual Parade of Lights is a community favourite, drawing thousands of spectators along the parade route. Each year, dozens of beautifully decorated community floats set the tone for Santa’s much anticipated arrival at the end of the parade. Before the parade begins, residents are invited to purchase ‘Reindeer Insurance’ as both protection from any damage that might be inflicted by Santa’s four-legged companions, and as a way of supporting future SVA social events. The parade is followed by a park lighting ceremony and hot chocolate.

Smiths Falls Santa Parade
Sunday, November 25 starting at 1:00 pm. The parade will start at the Youth Arena and proceed down Beckwith Street to Chambers Street, turning up Market Street to Main Street where many of the children involved will disperse to the Legion to have a light lunch and visit with Santa.

Russell Village Christmas Parade
Sunday, November 25, starting at 1 pm.

Clarence-Rockland 2012 – Christmas Parade of Lights
Sunday, November 25, starting at 4:30 pm. Parade runs on Laurier Street.

Gatineau Santa Claus Parade
Friday, November 30, starting at 7:00 pm. A tradition that goes back several years, this light-filled parade that departs from the Aylmer marina and attracts crowds from the entire region.

Richmond Village Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 11:00 am. Later that night at 6 pm, enjoy the annual “Lighting of the Park.”

Osgoode Santa Parade
Saturday, December 1. Don’t miss “Christmas in the Village” while you’re there!

Manotick Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 1:00 pm.

Perth Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 5:00 pm. Different themes each year, with a multitude of twinkling lights and Christmas music make this a magical parade not to be missed. Always a special appearance by Mr. Claus himself! A very special way to welcome in the Christmas season in Perth!

Embrun Village Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 1 starting at 6:30 pm.

Gananoque Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 1 starting at 7:00 pm.

Hawkesbury Santa Claus Parade
Saturday December 1, starting at 7:00 pm. Let yourself be carried away by the magic of this beautiful tradition which will unravel on Hawkesbury’s Main Street.

Athens Parade of Lights
Saturday December 1, starting at 7:00 pm.

Casselman Santa Claus Parade
Sunday, December 2, starting at 5:00 pm. The parade is the finale of the annual Christmas Festival that runs from November 29 to December 2, 2012.

Vankleek Hill Christmas Parade of Light
Friday, December 7 at 7:00 p.m.

Pakenham Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 8.

Carp Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 8, starting at 12:00 p.m. This year there will a bonfire with hotdogs and hot drinks at the end of the parade route and Santa will greet the children in the Mess Hall!

Metcalfe Santa Claus Parade
Sunday, December 9, starting at 1:30 pm. (This one was hard to confirm – check locally for details!)

Almonte Santa Claus Parade
Sunday, December 9, starting at 5:00 pm. (This one was also hard to confirm – check locally for details!)

Note: I had to drop a few towns this year as I couldn’t find any information about Metcalfe, Gananoque, or Cornwall. If you have any info about these parades, please let me know and I’ll update the listings!

holly border

And don’t fret if you can’t make it to the parade – how about one of these other fun family events with a holiday theme in our region?

Christmas Lights Across Canada: December 6, 2012 to January 7, 2013
Each year, the National Capital Commission coordinates the Christmas Lights Across Canada program. The Christmas Lights program was launched in 1985 to brighten the Ottawa winter, and at first the lights were only on Parliament Hill, but over the years the program expanded. Now, Ottawa and Gatineau glow each winter with more tha 300,000 Christmas lights at over 60 sites along Confederation Boulevard. The program also includes all 13 provincial and territorial capitals, making it Christmas Lights Across Canada. Here’s my shivery, embarrassingly amateur video of the 2006 lighting ceremony (you can see why I’m a photographer and not a videographer!!)

Upper Canada Village: Alight at Night
Over a quarter million lights adorn the heritage buildings, trees and fences of Upper Canada Village creating a one-of-a-kind magical backdrop for its annual Alight at Night Festival… a true winter wonderland! Times and dates vary, so check the link for details, but the lights are up from November 30 through January 5, 2013. (Closed December 24 & 25)

Manotick’s Olde Fashioned Christmas
Saturday December 1 and Sunday December 2. The Village is transformed into a Village of Yesteryear. There will be a Victorian Tea and Penny Sale, horse-drawn wagon rides, pictures with Santa, face painting, strolling carollers and more. I’m looking forward to the Sunset Carolling at Watson’s Mill!

2012 Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train hits the rails again in November, visiting over 150 communities. Since the program’s inception back in 1999, more than $6.4 million and over 2.6 million pounds of food has been collected in Canada and the United States. The goal of the Holiday Train is to collect food and money for local food banks and to raise awareness in the fight against hunger. At each event, the Holiday Train provides a box car stage, a line up of great musical talents and a corporate contribution to the local food bank. The community, in turn, is encouraged to donate food and funds, all of which stays in the community. Local stops include Merrickville and Smiths Falls on November 29 and then Trenton, Belleville and Brighton on November 30. Check this link for more details on the schedule.

Alexandria Festival of Lights
November 24 to January 5, 2013. This is a community event that not only brings forth colorful trees but unique and individual displays from businesses, schools, and local organizations. There is no entrance fee into the festival for either the exhibitors or the public. Events include wagon rides, pictures with Santa and a scavenger hunt, plus fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

If I’ve missed anything, or if you’d like to share information about your family-friendly Ottawa Christmas or Holiday event, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at danicanada (at) gmail (dot) com and I’d be happy to add them to this post!

Let the holiday craziness begin!


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I was going to put the decorations up on the porch this past weekend, but with the temperatures warm enough for sweaters without coats in the sunshine, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. There’s no denying it, though – lovely unseasonal November sunshine or not, the holiday season is upon us.

I’m pleased to have good ideas for gifts for just about everyone on my list this year. The more I can get out of the way now, the less stressed I’ll be when December zips by in a blur of tree decorating and holiday gatherings. Gone are the days when I managed to do all my shopping in a single marathon trip to the mall – those were the days before kids, when I had four or six hours in a row to get everything done in one shot. In fact, I think I’ve got nearly half of my shopping done and most of that has been online. Long live the Interwebs!

Each year, I’m tasked with buying the gifts for the grown-ups in our family but it’s Beloved who buys most of the gifts for the kids. I think a big part of that is the “takes one to know one” factor. Just today Simon told me he loves the books I choose for them each year, and I always try to get them something special that’s just from me. Last year for Tristan it was “smencils”, for Simon a journal and for Lucas a hexbug.

If you have trouble coming up with ideas for gifts for kids, check out Fisher-Price’s Joy of Learning Playtime Guide. You know I have close ties with Fisher-Price, but I can honestly say that I was impressed when I took a few minutes to play with this interactive guide. You have to click on a child’s age, from one month to 5+ years, and the playtime guide will open with a few tabs specific to that age.

One tab shows, not surprisingly, some suggestions for appropriate Fisher-Price toys for that age. Remember when I blogged about the 12 elements of enrichment and the three pillars of development? Underneath each toy suggestion you’ll see the icons for the relevant element of enrichment for that toy, be it sensory or fine motor skills, listening and communication, sharing and cooperation, or any of the 12 elements.

The playtime guide doesn’t stop there, though. This is the part that I really wish I had when Tristan was wee. Click on the PlayTips and Toys tab and you’ll see a whole list of ways your child plays at this age, and another long list of ways to help your baby or child learn more as he plays. I bought entire books full of ideas on exactly this back in the day. (Which seems like about a million years ago now!)

Under the Play and Learn Activities tab and you’ll see dozens of suggestions for games and activities with detailed instructions and materials lists. And finally, under the Helpful Info tab, you’ll see links to articles and questions related to that particular age, just like you’d find in many magazines or online parenting sites.

As I said, you know I’m already biased in my affection for Fisher-Price, but I really am impressed with the wealth of information available in the Playtime Guide. And there’s even a whole separate Grandparents’ Guide!

Don’t forget, the Celebrate and Save program has great Fisher-Price printable coupons that are useable through December 31 — but you can only download the coupons until November 30. I see there’s one right now for the Eagle Talon Imaginext Castle, which I kid you not, Lucas plays with just about every day, and the fun Wheelies Loops and Swoops Amusement Park, a terrific toy for toddler siblings.

And speaking of the Wheelies Loops and Swoops Amusement Park, guess who’s review of that toy appeared in the special Fisher-Price fold out ad in the latest issue of Today’s Parent magazine?

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So tell me, what have your kids put at the top of their wishlists this year?


Disclosure: I am a Fisher-Price Play Ambassador and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are always my own.


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The Huron Carole: raising funds, awareness and hope, one song at a time

19 November 2012 Happy holidays

Here’s a lovely idea for a night out to kick off the festive season. Next Thursday, November 29 at the Shenkman Art Centre, Tom Jackson’s The Huron Carole returns to raise funds and awareness for Canada’s hungry. Featuring Tom Jackson, Sarah Slean, Susan Aglukark and Del Barber, the concert is filled with Christmas music and […]

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Flashback Faves: As if we needed another excuse for take-out

14 November 2012 Flashback faves

One of the joys of having more than two thousand (!) posts in my archive is the delight of stumbling on to an old post and re-reading it again. I’m pretty sure only my mother has read all of them, and if I’ve forgotten the content I’m pretty sure that most of you probably have […]

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In which she decides that maybe she doesn’t like living in the countryside so much after all

13 November 2012 Happy @ home

Annual leaf rake-up, Bag 1 What a gorgeous day to be outside. Yanno, I really don’t mind raking up the leaves. I rarely have an excuse to come out and enjoy the yard this time of year, and it will be a long cold winter. It’s nice to be able to get out and do […]

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Family fun and other diversions on the Allure of the Seas – and a giveaway!

11 November 2012 Allure of the Seas 2012

Alas, a mere two weeks after our return from the amazing Allure of the Seas, I finally share the last post in my not-so-liveblogging of our cruise. Hey, my tanned Caribbean skin has not yet completely faded back to Canadian winter white, that’s got to count for something, right? So why exactly were we on […]

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