Sunday December 12, 2010
It surely has been a very long time since the last update. The truth of the matter is that I used this blog to let people know what is going on in our lives here. But now with Hyves and especially with Facebook, there is less need to give an update through this blog but I realise not everybody is on Facebook (yet).
The summer came and went. We went to the "Smilin' Moose" again and this time we were there during a heat wave. Of course there was the also world cup......sooo close :(
We had some big changes with the girls. They were in weewatch for the past 3 years but we had to pull them out. Mariska was going to JK this year but the weewatch lady could not take her to school. Of course that was an issue. Especially since we were told about it just 2 months before the start of school, while we were told a couple of months earlier that there would be no issue. So at the beginning of September both Kaylee and Mariska moved to a new day care. This time to a bigger day care. As I mentioned, at the same time Mariska started Junior Kindergarten and both girls adjusted very well to their environments. We see often other kids crying when their parents drop them off at the day care but not ours. They just care if there is breakfast.
Here is a picture of Mariska's class at JK:
With the kids getting older, they also get having more and more fun with Halloween. Both of them kept going and going (which meant lots of chocolates for papa but don't tell them that)
Just because my kids are Dutch, it means that they get extra spoiled because of Sinterklaas. We went to see him twice and they put their shoe in front of the fireplace a couple of times. It was interesting to see that Mariska had no problems with getting up the morning after setting her shoe....
Which brings us to Christmas. Obviously there are still 2 weeks till Christmas but we already had their Christmas concerts. Below you see the videos of those events. Enjoy them since you never know when the next update follows....
Saturday June 19, 2010
One week till the G20 starts but the impact is already there. See, I am working in the same building as where the meetings are going to take place so that places me in the highest security zone.
Right now the fences are up at both sides of the street. There is police EVERYWHERE. It's that bad that I was thinking of taking some pictures but in the past couple of days some photographers have been 'questioned' by the cops.
We have received instructions about what we are supposed to do and what not do. For instance, it was recommended to dress down for next week. Every morning we have to call in to an emergency number to see if it is safe to get to the office. On Thursday, Friday and the following Monday everybody is working from home.
In other words, next week is going to be different.
Friday June 11, 2010
It's here: the FIFA world cup 2010.
I am ready...to have my heart broken again because let's be honest, only 1 out of the 32 countries will win so the chance is bigger than the Dutch get kicked out of the tournament than to win it.
Having said that, I do think that the Dutch team is a dangerous outsider to win it all. However, I am just afraid that there is not enough depth in the team and that the defense is not strong enough.
Personally I think that Spain is the biggest favourite to win it but I would never put any money on it since I truely think that luck plays a big role.
But for the next couple of days I am going to dream of orange domination....
Wednesday June 9, 2010
The Canadian election system is not my cup of tea. I simply don't like the fact that most of the votes in an election are thrown away: your candidate did not win, then your vote has no impact anymore. I grew up in a country that uses a popular voting system. It isn't perfect. Far from that, but at least your vote is represented in parliament since if a party gets 10% of the votes, it gets 10% of the seats.
But you can imagine that this also leads to many parties, although the reality is that only about 2-3 parties get more than 20% of the votes each. And there were many parties. Here is the proof:
That is a total of 18 parties with a total of about 650 candidates while parliament only has 150 seats.
Yes, that is choice although it wasn't that difficult for me to make a decision:
The procedure for voting in a foreign country was far from easy. First you had to request a form that they would send to you. Fortunately I was registered in the last elections, so I was able to skip that step. Then I had to send in this form by mail. They informed me I was registered and once the voting forms were ready, they were sent to you. As you can see, I got the forms however, for unknown reasons, I received them very late. Late because these forms had to be returned by mail again and the receiver needed to have these votes in their possession by 3 PM today. A complicated procedure while I voted through the internet in the last elections...
PS Funny to see 9 of the world wide trending topics on twitter are related to these elections.
Friday June 4th, 2010
May came and went but it wasn't a boring one. My mom and dad were in town again. Of course they came for the kids, nothing new about that but it did make our lives easier again. They were taking the kids to day care and picked them up from there followed by a trip to the play ground of course. Besides that dad was doing all kind of jobs in and around the house and mom was cleaning.
And a favourite event for the kids was the 'race' with Opa. Here is Opa trying to catch them:
We took everybody up north for the long weekend and this for a good reason. Catherine grand parents celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Yes, this is no typo. I really meant 70th.
Here a picture of my parents with Baba and Gigi:
We took the following week off and on the Friday we went to the African Lion Safari which was actually a lot of fun. It was nice that it wasn't busy.
But is over. Mom and dad left a few days ago and everything has returned to normal. I will need to get the kids ready again in the morning and between you and me, I little bit missed that time with them in morning.
Friday April 30, 2010
It's been a long time since I have written something here. So here we go:
* Has it been too long for you since I provided an update? I am afraid you will need to befriend me on Facebook...although I also admit that this is a little bit sad.
* Winter. What happened to winter? We didn't have one single day where the weather prevented us to go to work. I don't mind but I wouldn't have minded a couple of big big snow storms.
* Spring. What is up with Spring? I don't recall it being warm so early in the year. Soooo nice.
* I am so impressed with the dandelions. Isn't it amazing that they all showed up all at the same time? They should start working for the TTC and the GO Train.
* The kids have been sick a couple of times in the past months but nothing big (knock, knock on wood). We have been quite fortunate.
* I have been enjoying my new job. There have been Sunday evenings where I felt good about going to work again the next day. Okay, that feeling was not there when the alarm clock went off the following morning... It hasn't been very stressful and I like the fact that I have to use my brain. I had been doing my previous job for such a long time that I could do the job blindly.
* In June the G20 will be in Toronto. In fact, it will be held in the building that is attached to the building where I work. So that will make life interesting. Right now the assumption is that I will be working from home for 3 days since things will be sealed off.
* My parents will be landing in Toronto in a week from now. Assuming there is no volcano related problems of course ;) I am sure they will be surprised how much the kids have changed.
* Talking about kids. Mariska is becoming a real girl and you can already see that she is going to be a girly girl (oh boy...). She has also started "knock, knock" jokes and her voice is louder than mine so you are warned.
* Kaylee is a lof fun for me. She is a bit rougher than Mariska. She has perfected the art of saying "please" (leaning her head to the left and looking with puppy eyes). She has also many facial expressions for our entertainment.
* It's an absolute enjoy to see them play together and I am happy to say that they play a lot together.
Wednesday January 27, 2010 Part 3
So we now know what Apple released. The main items for me:
* iPad. A crappy name. There is a reason why iPeriod and iTampon were trending topics on Twitter.
* It's basically an iPod Touch Plus. Sadly, not much more. Somehow I had expected that you were able to run multiple applications at the same time. And I am a multitasker.
* The price is strongest point. The share price of Apple had been dropping after the announced the device but it shot up immediately when they announced the price. That says a lot.
* The new data plans are great. I WANT THAT FOR MY IPOD TOUCH. I am okay with paying 15 dollars per month, knowing that I can go online without a wifi available to me.
* I like the idea of reading a newspaper on the device. Books would be good too but I prefer a physical version on my bookshelf.
* No camera. However, I am sure it will be in a future version.
So how would I use it:
* I can see myself reading the newspaper on the way to work.
* I can see myself simple surfing the web on the couch however I don't like the idea of using the iPad keyboard. If I need to enter text, I rather use a laptop. Also because it's easier to hold.
* I would be a great device to show my pictures portfolio (although disk space could be an issue)
Will I buy it?
I would really like to have one but I don't really need one. Besides the "newspaper reading" there is not something of which I think I would really use. I guess playing a game on it would be nice. The idea of carrying the iPad with me on the train gives me a little shiver down my spine. Not sure if it would be strong enough to survive.
Who should buy it?
If you want to some simple web surfing and simple e-mailing, go ahead. If you like to read, buy it. If you want to have a very simple computer and not worry about 'computer stuff' (drivers, install problems, viruses etc), this is a great device.
But I think if you want to do more, I would stick to a laptop. In fact, sometimes a netbook would be better.
Will it be a success?
I think it has a lot potential. The reason that it is computer without really being one. A user doesn't need to be a computer expert to use it. I think that is an important thing to realise. But I don't think it will have a big impact as the iPhone had. The future will tell....
Wednesday January 27, 2010 Part 2
Not often one of my pictures gets used on other blogs but this week the same one was used on 2 big local sites:
Wednesday January 27, 2010
Everybody is doing it: Applet Tablet Predictions. So here are mine:
Thursday January 6th, 2010
A little bit late but nevertheless: a very happy and healthy 2010 from our family to yours.
Those 2 holiday weeks flew buy. Christmas brought a lot of gifts to the family... of course. My collection of empty Speculoos jars will increase over the next couple of months since Catherine, eh I mean Santa, gave me 12 full ones. So all is good. Pictures of Christmas can be found here: http://braeken.com/tools/gallery/Christmas01
Catherine and I took some days off between Christmas and New Year however the 2 little girls went to day care (also because they didn't have any vacation days anymore so we had to pay for those days anyway). This gave us the opportunity to do things without the kids but despite our best intentions, we never made it to a movie theater. We have a real history of planning to see a movie but never making it. I honestly think that the last time we saw a movie in a theater was 2 years ago.
Over the past 6 years I have been bugging Catherine that I never got an engagement gift and that gift had to be a HDTV. Well, I no longer have to bug her. We decided it was time to buy one and after quite some research we finally have one in our living room. Just in time for the Olympics and the World Cup. Let the Games begin.
New Year's eve was spent with the Hills (http://braeken.com/tools/gallery/NewYearsEve) and on New Year's day Catherine's family came over (http://braeken.com/tools/gallery/NewYearsDay)
And that's the way 2010 started for us...
December 17, 2009
The following organizational changes effective January 4th 2010, are being made to align and consolidate best practices, processes, tools and controls in the area of software configuration management/release management.
Richard Braeken has accepted a new role as the Head of Centre Of Excellence for Release Management. Richard has been leading Release Management for Corporate Services Solutions and successfully supporting the AML Program. Richard has had a significant positive impact on further developing the knowledge and success of the Release Management function.
In his new role Richard will be responsible to establish and evolve the Enterprise Release Management standards and processes. This includes Implementation Planning, Back Out Planning, Deployment planning as well as the workflows for software version control, build process and deployment to test environments.
Sunday December 6, 2009
Technically we celebrated it a day late but it doesn't really matter. I am talking about Saint Nicolaas or simply Sinterklaas, basically the Dutch version of Santa Claus although the story is Santa Claus is based on Sinterklaas.
The girls put their shoes in front of the chimney Saturday evening. And yes, the next morning the found something in it. Then we drove off to Toronto where Sinterklaas and his helpers would arrive on the boat. And yes, there were more presents for the girls.
That wasn't it since at home somehow a big box had arrived. Delivered by Sinterklaas but from Opa and Oma. Yes, even more gifts. I think the girls were tired at the end from unpacking all their gifts. But I don't think they minded that...
Here is a video of the day:
Saturday October 31, 2009
Halloween 2009. And we had a giraffe and an elephant in the house. Two animals who were quiet exited about all the candy and chocolates they were getting.
It was fun. Mariska had her well-known spaced-out look when the door would get opened and became very talkative once we were back on the side walk. Kaylee thanked every house for the 'gifts'. And papa and mama thank the kids for the chocolates :-)
Saturday, October 24
It's been a weird soccer season. In my 2nd game of the season I broke my toe and I was out for 2 months. We won the first game I got back but it would take almost 2 months before we won the next one. Was it me? (you are not supposed to answer this!!) We finished 5th out of 8th. Then the play-offs came and our first game we won 7-0. The next game was against the champions and we won 1-0. As a result, we played the play-off final today.
It might have been the longest game of my career. After the 90 minutes the score was tied and that meant extra time. And in the first half of extra time I collided with an opponent. It was a fair challenge. Nothing wrong with it except that he stayed on the ground. 911 got called and the ambulance showed up. Fortunately he didn't break his ankle but it was a dislocation. Nevertheless painful.
So after a long break, the game continued and in the 2nd half we scored the winning goal. Play-off champions for the 3rd year in a row.
Wednesday October 14, 2009
We had 2 visitors in town for the past 3.5 weeks: my parents. I have to say we had a good time together. Besides spending time with the kids and us, my parents were also busy with doing all kind of jobs around the house. There are too many to mention but the biggest jobs were paint jobs. The garage doors and most importantly our basement and the stairway to the basement. Catherine and I took last week off so we could help dad with the painting and to be honest, the basement looks great now. There is still quite some work to do (and money to spend) for decoration (TV?) but that will be a matter of time. (yes, I painted too. I know you are shocked)
Fortunately we did more than painting last week. We also had some time for some day trips. We went to the Toronto Zoo which was great since it was not busy. We went to St. Jacobs and we went to Octoberfest in Kitchener. Unfortunately the last thing was not very exciting. At least if you don't go to one of the festhalle. Downtown Kitchener was far from interesting on a Saturday afternoon. The Farmer's Market at St. Jacobs (and the town itself) did get our approval although my parents were quite surprised about the Mennonites.
Thanksgiving Monday we visited Andrew Scenic Acres and oh joy, we have already the picture for the Christmas card...
All good things come to an end and yesterday my folks jumped on a plane back home again. Everything returns back to the normal at the Braeken household but we will miss them. Till next year.
(pictures can be found at http://braeken.com/tools/gallery/VisitOpaandOma and some will come by on Flickr.
Tuesday September 29, 2009
It seems to be that I am blogging less and less. Maybe I am spending to much time on facebook and flickr... But yes, I am still alive and all is well. August came and went and a few weeks ago we saw U2 in concert which was pretty cool. At the moment my parents are here again which is making our lives easier. They take care of the kids in the morning and they also picked them up. Plus they do all kind of little jobs around the house. Right now the garage doors are being painted for instance.
Catherine and I also had some time to look for shelves for in the basement which is a lot easier to do when there are no kids with you. We are also putting a list of items together that require our attention since we are both pretty good at ignoring these tasks.
A few more days of work and then we are going to be off for a week. Looking forward to that of course :)
August 4, 2009
Mariska turns 3More pictures: http://braeken.com/tools/gallery/Mariskas3rdbirthday
Definitely time for an update since it wasn't a quiet month. In fact we went on vacation twice this month.
First we went off to the Smiling Moose again, the cottage close to Parry sound that we have been going to every year with Catherine's family. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great. The first day I spent some time in the water but on most other days it was cloudy or even rainy. So it became a quiet vacation with of course the bonfire on Canada Day, Mariska's first. The Wii got a good work-out and my iPod Touch was definitely touched a lot. Maybe the most exciting thing was the bear that was spotted right close to our house by uncle Glen.
The 2nd vacation took us to Virginia with pits stops in Grove city. Catherine's brother has a time share at the Massanutten Resort so we went them and Catherine's mom to this resort. The weather was not an issue here. There was some rain but that rain always happened on the right moment (indoor activities, driving). As result we spent quite a number of days at the huge waterpark. And of course I had to try the flow rider.... (Kaylee was quiet when she saw the other people but became nervously exited when she saw me on it; Mariska didn't see me 'live' but she doesn't like the video)
In Virgina I look my golf virginity (come one, I had to make such a reference...) I played for the first time on a golf course. Only 9 holes but that was enough. I had plowed enough by then and I had the full bunker and water experience ....
We also visited Thomas Jefferson's house: Monticello and I thought that was very interesting. Definitely worth visiting.
There are really only 2 reasons to visit Grove City. First, it is about half way to Virginia and secondly because of the outlet mall. Yes, I used my credit card a lot (and I have a bill to proof it) but I am fine for awhile and so is Mariska.
All in all a good month :)
Thursday June 11, 2009
A comment to my last post said "Good to hear though that you can still fit your soccer in with that big family.".... Well that was ironic since in my 2nd game somebody stood on my foot with his cleat. I didn't think much of it. I continued with game. Kicked the ball several times. Sure, it felt sore when the ball was away but as soon the ball would get close, I didn't notice any pain. Nevertheless the toe goes bigger and bigger after the game and of course it became colourful but I expected that. In the days that followed the pain became less and less but it didn't go away. So I skipped the game the next week but I went to a wedding and danced there. By Tuesday, so about 1,5 week after the incident, I thought it was time for a visit to the doctor since it was still painful. X-rays were made and as you can see, it was clear: a fractured toe.
So I am walking around with a cast around my foot. A smaller one as the previous time and I can walk very well with it and it should be able to get rid of it by the middle of July so my soccer season is not completely over yet. But for now it time for shorts...
Wednesday May 27, 2009
It's been awhile so time for an update. Kaylee is now really walking. No walking from couch to chair only. No, she just walks around the house freely. There were some painful consequences though. She feel at the day care and got some big scratches in the face but fortunately most of them have disappeared by now. It looked worse than it was.
Mariska has been changing, at least in my opinion. She is now living out fantasies. We have regular visits from lions, dragons and giants in the house. She has become more social when it comes to playing. She has even been playing tennis on the Wii. I also took Mariska with me for some shopping (or "winkelen" as she calls it; that's the Dutch word for it). She is not a runner so that's good. However, we have impression that Kaylee could become one. She is definitely different from her sister...
Catherine has been busy with work. She actually spent most of the long weekend working while I was Daddy Daycare. Not that I minded that, although it's the best way to spend a long weekend. Right now it looks that work will be slowing down for Catherine so that's good but she had not much time to adjust to the work life after she returned. However, I think we are both slowly adjusting to the new routines.
Soccer season has started for me. There is a draft every 2 year and I got drafted to the same team as the last 2 years. Our uniform is bright bright bright green. If I would wear it at home, I am sure that Catherine would always be able to find me, even in the dark. At work things have changed too. In the past year I looked after the position of my manager because she was on maternity leave but since this week she is back. It has definitely been an interesting year and I definitely learned a lot. It was a great opportunity for me to look at the next level and I have to admit that I liked the look. Sure, there were items I was not crazy about but I wouldn't mind get to that level again within a few years. My job hasn't really changed though. Basically the "Human Resources" part has disappeared since I have nobody reporting to me naymore but the other tasks are still there. At least I have seen a drop in my e-mails but that's because I am not on the management mailing list anymore ;)
Sunday May 3rd, 2009
She has been close for a little while know but Kaylee has finally taken several steps in a row.
Wednesday April 22, 2009
This last Monday was the start of a whole new in the Braeken household. Catherine returned to work from her maternity leave 2 weeks ago (long live the return of the 2 incomes!!!) but Kaylee was still not going to day care yet. The reason was some rule where they can not have 3 kids under 3 at the day care. Therefore my mother-in-law stayed with us for 2 weeks looking after the young one. For some men this might sound like hell but I happen to love my mother-in-law. Also because she really looks after the whole house during the day so everything looked great and cleaned up. We got really spoilt.
But last weekend one of the kids turned 3 and that meant that Kaylee was allowed to go to the same place where Mariska is going to. And so on Monday morning a new era started where I now need to get 2 kids ready in the morning. I had finally the routine with Mariska down to a science and now I had a new variable to deal with. But we all survived and Kaylee didn't even cry when I dropped her off so. I only wished I didn't had to get up even earlier...
The weekend of April 3-5, 2009
Lots of celebrations this week. On Tuesday Catherine left her thirties and landed in a new age bracket. And on Thursday we had our 4th anniversary. So we decided to go away for the weekend... without the kids since Grandma was staying at home with them. We went to Niagara-on-the-lake where we stayed 2 nights at the Queen's Landing.
On Friday we went to an Irish pub and Saturday morning we had a stroll through down town and along the water followed by a visit to some wineries and the Olson Bakery. In evening we had a nice dinner at the "Prince of Wales". On Sunday the weather was better and we went for another work followed by another winery. All in all a nice relaxing weekend without the need to watch the clock. But of course it was nice to see the kids again on Sunday.
Sunday March 22, 2009
Making videos is a tedious process. Well maybe I should say that not the making is tedious but all the work that needs to happen before it's ready to 'release'. It's one the reasons why I haven't shot a lot of movies. But I needed to shot some video of Kaylee walking around with her shopping cart, just as I did for Mariska. This way I will have some sweet memories of her at this age because even looking at Mariska's video, I find it hard to believe that Mariska was that young too.
Here is Kaylee
and to compare: here is Mariska with the shopping cart
March 8-14, 2009
This was suppose to be a post about 1 day but it turns out to be post about 1 week. On March 8th Kaylee turned 1. Yes, she still has fewer hair than Mariska had on her day 1 but our little lady passed the magical first year mark. And therefore we had her birthday party planned.
Problem was that both the girls hadn't been feeling well. Mariska had thrown up a few days earlier and both of them had been feeling warm. And then on Sunday Mariska had spots on her body. We didn't think she had the measles but just to be sure, we canceled the birthday party. Fortunately grandma had been with us the past couple of days (since she babysat the kids because Catherine and I went to see the Sound of Music musical).
On Wednesday we had party number 2 since Catherine's oldest brother came by with his family and Saturday we had the 3rd party since the youngest brother came by with his family. So all in all Kaylee had 3 birthday parties. Not a bad score for a 1 year old. Pictures the birthday parties can be found at http://braeken.com/tools/gallery/Kayleefirstbirthday
Mariska did not have the measles but just a heat rash. Her sinuses were infected so she got a spray. Kaylee was not feeling well before Mariska got sick. She got better and then she got the same thing as Mariska. The positive things they were not really sick sick. Both were still playing and not in bed. In fact, we have been very lucky with both of them since this is the first time that they have been sick, besides some colds of course.
Wednesday January 21 - February 10, 2009
It had been almost 4 years and my kids hadn't meet almost all of my family yet, so it was time for another trip to the 'father land' aka the Netherlands. On top of that we had another good reason namely the 40th anniversary of my parents.
The flight to the Netherlands went pretty well. We were fortunate that the plane wasn't full so Mariska had 2 seats so she could lie down. Catherine and I both found that it felt like the quickest trip back home ever. After a stop in Amsterdam, we flew too Cologne since it turned out to be cheaper than only flying to Amsterdam (I know it doesn't make sense but it was about 600 dollars cheaper and I checked it several times to make sure I didn't make any mistake...)
In Cologne we picked up the car which was a little bit bigger than the one we originally ordered. In fact, it was huge so we called it the Tank. It was the VW Multivan that had all the stuff including the navigation system. However the negative side effect of being a tank is the size. We were for instance never able to park in a parking garage since the car was too tall. We also had problems with parking at a grocery store. The first time we parked there neither Catherine or I could open the doors because the cars next door were too close to us. But driving in general was pretty great :)
Of course it was great to see my parents and brother again although I have the stinking feeling they were happier to see my kids than me...grandparents, you know ;) Since we were away for 3 weeks, it didn't feel that we constantly were in a visiting mode but we visited many people and many people visited us of course. The toy mountain of my kids grew and grew with every present they got. Many thanks again.
We visited family and friends. Some I hadn't seen for 4 years, some I hadn't seen even longer. But you can see that things change since when I got together with some of my friends it turned out that some of them hadn't seen each other also since my wedding. I guess we are all growing up ;)
As you can understand, my parents were excited to spend some time with their grand kids and for me and Catherine it meant that we had time to do things with only the 2 of us. I can honestly say that I think that I haven't spend that much time with her alone in these 3 weeks than in the past 2 years. We went for several walks (interupted with pie and drinks of course :), we visited the graves of my grandparents and visited the castle again where we had the Dutch wedding. We went shopping together (so I could update my CD collection of Dutch music which is still way too expensive...) and we enjoyed a very nice Indonesian Rijstafel together.
Here is a HDR picture of the St Gerlach church in Houthem - Valkenburg a\d Geul, that we obviously visited:
We also went abroad although that doesn't mean much since within 20 minutes you can be in Belgium or Germany from my parents. We visited the Belgium city Liege (30 minutes to get there - 30 minutes to find a parking spot...remember what I said about the Tank) and one day we left early in the morning for a nice ride through the Ardennes and the Eifel. We visited a American WW2 cemetery, a small but beautiful village called Monschau that has many old buildings, and the Belgium town of Spa. And we just drove over small(er) roads through the hills since I had told the navigation system not to use any high ways.
At the end of the trip we had the party for my parents which was a lot of fun. Even more uncles and aunts and friends to meet my kids for the first time. With the same band that played at my wedding and a surprise visit from a Carnival Monarch who decorated my parents with a medal as well as my kids.
And so a great trip came to an end. Sad to leave but happy to have been there again. It had been too long.
Pictures can be found here: http://braeken.com/tools/gallery/Netherlands2009 and there will be more on my flickr stream
Sunday January 18, 2009
The biggest part was done before Christmas but there were still somethings outstanding like the carpet and the baseboard. But they are in now and officially the contractors are done. As the photos show, there is still one thing outstanding and that is painting. But nevertheless, I am happy to show the new basement
Thursday January 1st, 2009
Happy New Year to you all
Things have been well. Christmas came and went and Santa was good to me. My first present I got a week early (for obvious reasons....). It was a small snow blower: a Toro 1800 Power Curve. My back is my wife thankful since it's definitely making the shovel work lighter. On Christmas day I got a huge world map for in the basement. The basement by the way is almost done. The big items that are still left are the painting and the carpet so still pretty big items but the lights, power and walls are there where they need to be.
Yesterday evening we had friends over and we used the fondue and today the family is coming over. Tomorrow back to work although that should (????) be a relatively quiet day and then after the weekend everything will return to normal....