Sunday, December 15, 2013

The best day of my life

Things have been a little crazy around Casa di Cantino over the past couple of months. I know I've been pretty absent over here but I make no apologies as I've had a ton to do. Posts have been writing themselves in my head and it's time now to get them all out, one at a time.

One of the things I've been meaning to do is share some wedding photos. Instead of just uploading a ton I decided to capture some parts of the day as a photo montage video. 

Our photographer took tons of great shots - this video doesn't do the magic of that day any justice - it's just a little peek. 

As the cold snap continues here in the North I hope this warms you up just a little. 

Kate and Dame wedding 0001 from Kate McLaren on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Honey and the Moon

When the craziness of the wedding was over, I was so glad we decided to take a week off and go on our Honeymoon right away. There's no way I could have come back to reality the day after. That definitely would have led to a breakdown of some sort that may or may not have involved a newly married woman and an entire tub of chocolate icing.

I don't want to be that person who's all like "come on over for dinner and I'll make a fondue and we'll look at the pictures from our trip!" Instead I'll be all like "come on over to my blog and you can look at the pictures from our trip if you so desire and you can even dip bread in cheese for all I care." 

We decided to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake and then Niagara Falls. How you can be in Niagara-on-the-Lake (or NOTL as we regulars call it) and not fall in love with the place is beyond me. It is the most beautiful place I've been. It's super romantic with its bike rides along the river and its wine tours and sprawling vineyards and jacuzzi suites and adorable lamp posts and amazing restaurants.

I wanted to do it all. And since I was still kind of playing the "I'm the BRIDE" card, we did everything I wanted to do.

We biked along the river.

We strolled the ridiculously sweet main street.

We had an amazing dinner at a five-star restaurant.

We learned how wine is made (and tasted!) at a vineyard.


We ventured to Niagara Falls where we did all the typical, touristy Honeymoon stuff (although I was rolling my eyes, I have to admit it was super fun.)


We spent the last night nestled among the trees at Deerhurst Resort.

We returned home as husband and wife feeling absolutely refreshed and ready to begin our lives together. 

Hands down, best trip ever.

Monday, September 30, 2013

New family tree

I have been trying to come up with the words to tell you about my wedding day, but it hasn't been easy. I never realized how hard it would be to a) remember all of the little details that made the day amazing, and b) be able to put those details into words.
So, until I find a way to do my wedding justice with the beautiful post that's floating around in my head, I will share this little tidbit.
Like most brides in these Internet times, I got a lot of my ideas from Pinterest. When I saw this one, I knew I had to do it. 
My sister drew the tree, and the lettering, and then my guests laid their hot little paws all over it. It turned out even more amazing than I imagined. 
I can see the smudges from my small guests who could barely reach the table. I see a few water droplets from my guests who maybe left their stamp while drinking a beer. Or maybe they were so emotional that they shed a couple of tears. Knowing my guests, though, I'm gonna go with option A.
When I got my wedding decorations back, I sat and stared at this for about 30 minutes. I pored over all of the signatures and the thumbprints, shades of green, all different sizes. Some perfectly stamped, some overlapping, but all making up what has become my favourite thing from that day (besides my new husband.)
The print is hanging in my living room, where I can look at it every day and think about all of the wonderful people who were there to witness the best day of my life.
I'll cherish it forever.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Just for today

Today, 33 years ago, my mama walked down the aisle and married my pops. In three weeks, I'll do the same. Well, minus the marry my pops part. Like her though, I'll be marrying a bearded, plaid-wearing man who is cool for not trying to be, who loves me, who makes me laugh. Like her, back 33 years ago, I'm getting nervous and excited and extremely happy. Three decades ago, she started her life with my dad, and started a chain of events that changed many lives for the better. 

As I prepare to do as my mama did 33 years ago, I'm feeling poignant. Although my dad tells me all the time how like her I am, this is the first time I know for sure that we've felt the same feelings. Now, we've both picked a man to marry, picked a white dress, flowers, a DJ. 

There'll be no room for sadness on my wedding day. It'll be a happy, happy, happy day.  But today, just for today, I'll allow myself to think about my mama - how sad I am for her that she'll miss it, how much she would have loved Damien, how excited she would have been. How she and my dad would have danced all night and how he would have told her to stop looking so good, cause she was outshining the bride. How she would have laughed and rolled her eyes, but then held him a little closer.  

How beautiful she would have been, 33 years later. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Birthday Face

This is Dame's "holy crap I'm 35" face. Coincidentally, it's also his "in yo' face," face, his "I ate the last ice cream sandwich" face, and his "I've had 8 beers and two rum and cokes" face. I like to think it's his "in two months I'll be marrying the woman of my dreams" face, but I have to admit I've never seen him make this face in that context.
Happy Birthday to my sweetie, who has the best outlook on life, who is super happy to be turning 35 because that means he can now play Oldtimers hockey. You're definitely a breath of fresh air, babe. And I'm so happy to be at your side.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Today, I went to my Dad's to celebrate Father's Day.

It rained all the way down in the car, but stopped as soon as I got there.

After it stopped raining and before the mosquitos came out and carried us away, I snapped some photos of the flowers in Dad's yard. They always look so bright right after it rains.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


The newest member of our household - Jacques! He's a Betta fish and I think he's so pretty. Plus, he won't bite our hands or chew our boots or our Dad's drywall in his brand new house, or make total fools of us as he races around the yard while four grown adults chase him aimlessly. We don't have to buy him fresh veggies or chew toys or cry when he grunts and attacks us with sharp little teeth when all we're trying to do is love him.

So we can't cuddle him or watch TV with him curled up on our laps but, you know, TOTALLY COOL WITH THAT.

Still in recovery mode

As we have done every year for the past seven years, a bunch of chicks gathered last weekend for the annual May Run Girls weekend. It was an amazing weekend as always. Here's a peek at the craziness that ensued when seven girls from Toronto, one from Timmins, one from Ottawa, and one from Cochrane showed up at Nellie Lake.

Make sure you watch the video in Fullscreen mode.

Soundtrack is the Star Wars Theme and Get Lucky by Daft Punk.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Love you forever

When I was little, one of my favourite stories was "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. My mom used to read it to me, but instead of just straight reading it, she would always sing the chorus.
"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as you're living,
My baby you'll be."
I loved that book because it was poignant and and moving, and, even as a kid, I loved a great story.
The story goes through the life of a mom and her son; as he grows up, his mom can't help herself, and sneaks into his room to rock him and sing to him.
"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be."
It's the story about a particular mom and her son, but it's also the story of many, many mothers and their children. The story of maternal bonds that can't be broken by age, distance, illness, or even death.
When my mom used to read the story to me, her beautiful voice singing the famous chorus, I knew she was speaking about our relationship. I knew she was speaking directly to me.
It's the ending that always brought, and still brings, tears to my eyes. The mama was old and sick, and the son that she'd cradled woke up, drove across town, went to his mom, held her, rocked her and sang:
"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My mommy you'll be."
Things didn't exactly work out for me the way they did in the book. I won't get to take care of my mom the way the son in the book took care of his when she got old and sick. Although I'll never get to repay her for those bedtime stories, those lullabies, that amazing childhood, I know one thing: as long as I'm living, my mommy she'll be.
Tonight, before your son or daughter goes to bed or your mom leaves from the amazing dinner you made her, read the story. But instead of just reading the chorus, sing it.
I promise, it'll stay with you a long time. Maybe forever.
Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Can you see me now?

We caught this little guy trying to eavesdrop on our conversation at the lake this weekend. If it weren't for the shock of red on his head and breast, no one would have been the wiser. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Ever since I can remember, my Dad's buddy Dave has been in the picture. He's been around for every major event in our lives and he's been my Dad's right hand man since they were kids. We were joking around last weekend about how on earth they were both going to walk me down the aisle at our wedding this Fall.

This photo was taken just after we saw a bald eagle soaring overhead, and, after 30 years of watching my Dad stand like that, hand in pocket, eyebrows raised ever so slightly, weight shifted a little to the left, I can tell he's probably giving a speech about bald eagles. He's probably reciting all of the facts he read in an article in National Geographic in 1974 and he would probably offer to show you the article if you asked because he has a collection of every issue ever published. One day, someone is going to stumble upon that collection and be rich riddled with 5,789 issues of National Geographic that they're going to feel really guilty throwing out. Good luck with that, sis!

And the way that Dave's standing is so familiar to me too. From 30 years of hearing my Dad's speeches about everything from beavers to partridge to forest fires and farm animals, this is the stance we have learned to adopt to help us through these trying times. Arms crossed, mouth slanting down into a slight frown, eyes glazed over. Probably mumbling something like "oh yeah," "is that right?" "wow, I didn't know that," all the while thinking "what am I going to wear tonight?" "I'm all out of shampoo," or, in Dave's case "God I need another beer." 

After almost 50 years of speeches, Dave's still around and sees my Dad almost every day.

That's what I call friendship. And a little bit of mutual weirdness. But mostly, friendship.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reverse psychology

Everyone in Northern Ontario is sick of winter. This fact was established a month ago when spring officially rolled in, but winter refused to bend and raged on, taking with it our hopes for an early spring barbecue, tulips in April, and shopping for new spring clothes.

For the past couple of weeks, it's been snowing every few days. And not the kind of snow that just trickles down and melts on impact. This snow builds up, then melts the next day, taking everyone to the point of ALMOST believing spring is just around the corner. For a few moments, the sun will come out and the world is as it should be. Everything is rosy and spring is buying us flowers and telling us how good we look in our new jeans, taking us out for expensive dinners and holding our hands. Then winter rears its hideous head again, and down comes another five to ten centimeters of snow. 

If winter were a man, I'd have broken up with it weeks ago. I would have told it that I just can't do this anymore. All of the mind games, thinking it had changed into spring, and then getting my heart broken over and over again. I'd have given winter back all it's junk, it's snow shovels and mittens and winter boots, and told it not to try and contact me again. 

Even my Pops, who NEVER complains about the weather, is feeling the It Should be Spring Blues. Too warm to ski-doo, too cold to do yardwork (not to mention the yard is still covered in a couple feet of snow.) A couple of weekends ago, it was, once again, calling for snow. I decided to play a little game with Winter. I would go to the lake and spend a perfect winter weekend with my Pops. I went to the library and picked up a couple of books. Visions of hot chocolate, steambaths, and walks in the wintery woods danced in my head. If winter's not going away, I thought, I'll act like I've fallen in love all over again. I'll act like I never want it to leave. I'll be that clingy, needy girlfriend no one wants. I'll scare winter off with my incessant text messages and 3 a.m. half-cut phone calls.

The weekend was everything I'd hoped it would be. My pops and I read all weekend in his cozy house in the bush with the woodstove burning, stopping only to make each other delicious food (him: homemade pizza and a breakfast of fried balogna and scrambled eggs; me: roast chicken with pasta and roasted root veggies). We also took a break from our books to watch the Leafs beat the shit out of the Habs and take a walk on his property in the woods.

And suddenly, just like that, I wasn't pretending anymore. Just like the turning point in your favourite romantic comedy, I realized this whole winter thing - not so bad when you can be at the lake, warm and cozy, spending time with your Pops.

I'm still anxiously awaiting spring - but with a little less anger in my heart. 

I no longer want to kick winter in the junk and leave it in the fetal position crying hot tears that will melt the snow.

Then again, a quick wedgie when no one's looking probably wouldn't hurt either.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Tuesday night, a little part of me was satisfied, completed, fulfilled as I sat in a stadium and watched one of my favourite bands of all time perform a sold out, incredible show. 

You'd think after more than 30 years in the business, Fleetwood Mac would be tired, but this show was incredible. Just like thousands of women in the 70's, with their bell-bottomed jeans and long wavy hair blowing in the breeze, that night we all fell in love with Lindsay Buckingham and swooned over the goddess that is Stevie Nicks. Even all of these years later, through all of the Fleetwood Mac drama, despite all of the rumours we've heard, these two still create magic when their voices hit the mic. 

Growing up in a family where my mom played the guitar and my dad often called us into a room to listen to song lyrics, I've always really appreciated music. And even though I've only been to a handful of shows, the feeling that washes over me when I'm listening to amazing live music is almost euphoric. When the first couple notes of a song ring out and you realize they're about to play your song, the one you've been waiting for, praying would be on the set list. And you link arms with your girlfriends and clasp their hands and sway to the music and sing your little heart out. 

With every song that played, my sister, who is a HUGE music lover, got more and more excited. "We're probably NEVER going to hear this song live again!" she would yell, her eyes twinkling. And she's right. The chances of Fleetwood Mac going on tour again after this, let alone us scoring tickets again, is slim.  

With all of the scary, nasty, unpleasant things we deal with in our lives, taking the night to tune out and listen to some incredible music was the perfect way to spend a Tuesday night. I kept thinking about how lucky we are to be able to experience it. As I stood there swaying to the music with three of the best people I know, I was complete. Two days later, I feel like I'm still buzzing off of the experience. 

Totally awestruck by Stevie Nicks' beauty. Amazed that Mick Fleetwood and Johnny McVie can still rock out like they did. Crushing on Lindsay Buckingham like nobody's biznatch. But more than anything, so grateful for the beautiful evening shared with a few of my very favourite soul sisters. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Shiny and new

When I marry Damien in five months (FIVE MONTHS!), I'll be gaining a husband who laughs at my dumb jokes and dumb t.v. commercials in a high-pitched giggle that makes me giggle every time. I'll be gaining a husband who not only listens when I talk about the things I find on Pinterest, but when asked where he found the recipe for tonight's sausage and pepper penne answered "Pinterest!" with no shame whatsoever. I'll be gaining a husband who tolerates doing the groceries by himself and enjoys trying new recipes, but also likes watching hockey, drinking beer, and can catch a fly ball and make it look smooth as buttah. 

One of the best things I'll be gaining, though, is a brand new family. With my Dad and Gilly, that makes EIGHT whole people in my immediate family. Damien and I both come from pretty small (immediate) families, so having those extras feels so great. There's always tons of laughter and good food and interesting conversations and great advice. And the only thing I had to do go get this new, shiny family was fall in love and get engaged, which really wasn't so hard at all.

I feel like I got a really good bargain. Aren't they cute?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Winter 2013: A fairy tale

Once upon a time, when the Winter of 2013 was just a little tiny Winter, her mother sat her down and had a talk with her.
"Honey," said Winter of 2013's mom. "You can do anything or be anything you put your mind to. Follow your dreams. You are beautiful and competant and nothing can get in your way." 
Little Winter of 2013 came home from school one day crying. 
"People are telling me to just leave already, that I don't belong here. Spring said I have overstayed my welcome and Summer pushed me down. They said I'm too nasty and miserable to play with them." 
"There there, honey," said Little Winter of 2013's mother. "Don't let anyone tell you what to do. Stick to your guns. If you want to stay, stay. You will leave when you feel like it. Do not let anyone discourage you from your goals."
Little Winter of 2013 never forgot that moment, and although her mother, Winter of 2005 was gone, her words stayed with her the rest of her life. Winter of 2013 vowed when it was her turn, she would stay as long as she could, and not let anyone discourage her from her dreams of being the longest-running Winter in history. 
In fact, Winter of 2013 has such a strong hatred for Spring and Summer, she has vowed to hold them off until June, no matter how much people complain about the cold, the snow, their vehicles getting stuck or not starting. Oh, and saying you're SO READY for Spring won't help either.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013


One day last week, I came home for lunch. While I'm walking up the stairs to the door, I drop my keys. They slide around a little and land somewhere in the mound of snow underneath the stairs. I groan, and trudge to the area beneath the stairs where no one has ventured since the snow came. 

In knee deep snow, I dig around for my keys. After five, ten, fifteen minutes passes, I start to get a little frantic. The keys are nowhere to be found, and I'm locked out of the house. I call Dame. 

"It's like they just disappeared!" I say. "It felt like someone knocked them right out of my hands and then they disappeared! THEY'RE NOT HERE!" At this point, I'm obviously the picture of calm, cool, collected.

"Ok, relax. They're there. Do you have spare car keys?" asks Dame. At this moment I wish he would just be dramatic for one second with me. Indulge me. A better response might have been: "O.M.G. Seriously? GONE? I've heard of this happening! It most definitely means some other-worldly being is at work here. Take the rest of the day off and CALL IN THE GHOST HUNTERS!"

But no. He's all like "take your spare keys, drive to my work, I'll give you my house key, and I'll find your keys when I get home from work." When I get to his work to collect the house key, I say "You're not going to find them. Because THEY'RE NOT THERE. They LITERALLY DISAPPEARED." I don't even care that I'm not using the work literally correctly in a sentence. That's how worked up I am.

"I'll find them when I get home. In the dark," he adds with just the slightest of grins. 

"I'll bet you $20 you don't find them!" I chirp. I really want my keys back. 

"What good is that?" he adds, reminding me we now share everything. 

After a couple of seconds I say "ok, if you find them, WHICH YOU WON'T, I'll do the dishes for a whole month." This gets his attention.

When he gets home later that night, it is dark, and it has snowed slightly. Although I'm a little sad about losing my keys, I'm happier about winning a bet against my fiance. Don't tell me that's twisted. I already know.

He puts on his big boots, and marches outside. Thirty seconds later he is back. Keys dangling from his fingers. Mile-wide smile on his smug little face. 

"They were right at the bottom of the stairs, just sitting there," he explains, laughing.

"NO WAY. THERE'S NO WAY! Someone is messing with me! Seriously. Someone is DEFINITELY setting me up! I LOOKED THERE! Multiple times!"

I lost. I have to do dishes for a month. I did get my keys back, but that's a small victory, overshadowed by the fact that I LOST.

I'm still convinced there's something else at play here. Someone hid my keys on me, and then stealthily placed them at the bottom of the stairs when Damien pulled into the driveway. And when I find that person, justice will be served. I'm going to bring them down with my shriveled, dishpan hands.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Headin' out

Last weekend, I took an old fashioned road trip to Toronto for a visit. Every once in a while, a feel a pull coming from the Southern part of the province. It's like the Vietnamese food, stylish shops and cool restaurants are calling my name. 
This photo was taken just before Gilly and I headed out to do some shopping. Shopping in Toronto is not like shopping back home. It's an event I have to mentally and physically prepare for. This particular day, I had not done either. Being so excited to see my sis and Franny, I woke up at 6 a.m. and hit the road.  This move would later come back to haunt me, as I stood in the middle of a busy Queen St. store, with, unbeknownst to me, a huge stupid grin on my face. In a daze, in my own little world, as people milled all around me. 
"Kate!" my sister laughed from across the store. "I think it's time to go home and put you down for a nap."
The girls are notorious for under-estimating distance. "Oh, it's just three blocks West," they'll say. No biggie. "Ten minute walk," they'll say. 
A half hour later, we're still walking, and I am getting impatient. 
"You SAID THREE BLOCKS," I whine. "Are we THERE YET?"
"Yeah, yeah," they'll say. "Only up this hill, around the corner, through a tunnel, and across the road. Then we're going to change into our bathing-suits and swim the channel, followed by a short, and I mean SHORT, jaunt by bicycle. It's really not that far. GOD, don't you ever walk ANYWHERE back home?" 
"Why yes, yes I do," I'll answer breathlessly, trying to keep up. "I walk to my car which takes me to mall, where I walk from store to store INDOORS where it's warm and I can stroll leisurely and keep up with MYSELF." 
I'll admit that most of this conversation happens only in my head. I would never be such an ungrateful houseguest as to complain about the extremely short walking distances during our many shopping sprees over the years. I usually don't say anything for fear of never being invited back.
Plus, my sister can totally kick my ass.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

True Beauties

From a very early age, I always knew there was something really special about my cousins Melanie and Nadia. When they visited, Gilly and I would get so excited. Our older, cool, cousins were coming to town, which meant we were in for some attention. They never acted like older, cool cousins though. They always treated us like friends. And over the years, as the gap between our ages grew smaller, that's exactly what they became.

They are two of the people who inspire me the most in the world. Always listening to the song in their hearts and never really straying far from that. And encouraging Gilly and I do to the same. They taught us so much about kindness, love, and spirituality. Melanie followed her dream and became an actress. She lives in Los Angeles and acts in music videos, TV shows, and commercials. At her first full length feature film premiere, the whole family filed into the theatre, (rubbing elbows with famous movie stars) and were awed by her performance. When it was over, I cried. She had done it. She was an actress, and a freakin' talented one at that. She has an infectous laugh. Her soul shines from the inside out. She seems to be perpetually glowing. She's one of my favourite people.

Her sister, Nadia is equally amazing. It's hard to imagine such talent made its way into the same gene pool, but it's true. Nadia is a talented artist. While for most of her life, she's been known as a visual artist, painting beautiful pieces, the past few years have seen her branch out. She decided she'd like to make a documentary, and a couple of years later, Muffins for Granny was born. Once again, when the credits rolled, tears rolled down my cheeks. I was so inspired.
Today, she did it again. She's working on a new project, and I got a preview. Curled up under my blanket on the couch for a good part of the afternoon, I was completely floored. While I can't say much now, this I can say: it will be amazing. It will change people's views and change people's lives. I thought about it all day. I thought about it when I went to the grocery store and when I made dinner. I'm still thinking about it now. When the time comes, you'll see. You'll be just as amazed as I am.

What luck. What luck to be inspired to go great things. To follow my heart. What luck to have these cousins that I can call friends, who make me laugh and make me feel special, make me feel comforted and whole and warm. What luck.

I'm so proud of them. Proud of all they have accomplished. Proud of their beauty, inside and out. Proud of thier teachings.
Proud to call them my family.