We've made an eleventh hour decision to go to Ontario for Christmas. Considering not going this year, for the first time since 1998, reminded me of all that I love about our annual visit.

I love staying at the big old house Pete grew up in, with the four bedrooms upstairs, tucked under the eaves; eating croquettes in front of the fire with the whole family on gift-opening night, while batting the babies away from the wine glasses on the coffee table; and Sunday dinners of roast beef and tomato soup.

We visit each of Pete's siblings in their homes and I update my mental picture of their daily physical context. Visiting other people's homes is one of my favourite activities, and catching up over tea and watching our kids playing with their cousins is very satisfying. On the fairly long drives to and from each of their places, coffees in hand, we analyze our lives from a fresh vantage point. We toy with the idea of big changes, and usually settle on smaller ones.

I always remark on the brick houses, and a particular road in Hamilton with grand old heritage homes. I like the cold and snow, because it's for a brief and defined period of time, and I do like the sun, which appears more consistently than I'm used to. I'm fascinated by Ontario maps: the roads spidering out from every city and village in all directions, and the infinite number of ways to get anywhere, unlimited by geographical barriers, is novel to me.

So we're off today to celebrate Christ's birth and the start of a fresh year with our Ontario family.

Posting will be light for the next two weeks.

Merry Christmas!