Author Archives: alonsomendizabal

My memories of Christmas as a child: by Eric Bastien

It doesn’t matter whether you are an 11th generation Canadian like me, or whether you immigrated to Canada recently, there is no way to live in this country without the awareness of the religious and cultural celebration of Christmas in December. The evidence of this holiday is everywhere, from Santa Claus’ in malls, decorations in the stores, Christmas Carols playing on the radio, and to Christmas Lights on many houses….there is no escaping it.

Although this holiday is traditionally a Christian one, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  I have heard from people of other faiths saying that they have embraced the festive aspect of Christmas.  They too partake in gift exchanges, holiday meals, and visits from friends and family.

For me, being raised up in the French-Canadian Catholic faith and tradition, I celebrated most of my childhood Christmas’ in Quebec.  The celebration always started with a light meal in the early evening of December 24th, Christmas Eve.  My cousins and I were told by our parents that we needed to be in bed very early, usually by 8pm, if we expected to get a ‘delivery’ of gifts from Santa after midnight.  By 11:30pm, our parents woke us up, and we quickly made our way to the local church to celebrate Midnight Mass, where I remember excitedly singing French versions of Christmas songs like ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Joy to the World’.

We would arrive home shortly after 1AM, and this was when the real celebration began.  We started the celebration by having a large feast  called ‘Le Réveillon’, where we had traditional dishes like Tourtière (a special French-Canadian meat pie); pea soup; ragout de pattes de cochon (pig’s feet stew); and, of course, a bûche de Noël (Christmas Yule Log) for dessert.  This large meal was followed by the opening of presents, which miraculously were found in abundance under the Christmas tree upon our return from Church.  Of course, you can’t forget the dancing, the drinking (by the adults of course), and the music.  We were often up until well passed 5:00 am.  Christmas day, from what I remember, was a day to sleep in, play with our toys, eat left-overs, and dealing with grumpy adults, who were recovering from their hangovers.

If you celebrate Christmas, what childhood memories do you recall?  If you don’t celebrate Christmas, perhaps you celebrate another holiday which brings you fond memories.

This year’s First Oakville Toastmasters’ Christmas party is taking place on Thursday, December 7th from 6:30 to 9:30pm at O’Finn’s Irish Temper.  Tickets are on sale now.   You can pick them up from your closest Christmas Party Committee Representative.




FOTM Table Topics & Humorous Speech Contests September 21st, 2017

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It was an evening of thought provoking and entertaining table topics.  The word of the evening chosen by our Chair Linda Rossi was, ‘engage’.  It was an amazing opportunity to learn from these brave and wonderful speakers.

Our participants were toastmasters of all levels and they showed their FOTM spirit by speaking about the word engage in very creative, inspiring and entertaining ways.

Samantha Tam, our FOTM Secretary was among 6 contestants.  She opened with a big yawn and asked that the audience ENGAGE her!  For those of us who know Samantha, we know that she really stepped outside of her comfort zone by not only competing in the contest but also by delivering such a powerful table topic.

Congratulations to Samantha Tam, First Oakville Toastmasters 1st Place Winner -Table Topics.



Our Humorous Speech contestants had us laughing from beginning to end.  If you are ever having a bad day, just attend a Humorous Speech contest and you will be laughing in no time.

Peter West was among 5 contestants and he delivered a very personal story about his recovery after surviving a near fatal car crash.  Peter West did what few of us could pull off, which is sharing such a powerful and personal story and yet finding the humorous side of it all.

Congratulations to Peter West, First Oakville Toastmasters 1st Place Winner -Humorous Speech Contest. 

We want to send a BIG THANK YOU to all our brave contestants who participated and helped make our contests a success!  Thank you to both our Chairs Linda Rossi and Alonso Mendizabal and to our Chief Judge John Smissen.  We are also very grateful for all our members who volunteered as timers, counters, judges, greeters and SAA.



Our first and second place winners will move on to compete in the Area 87 contest on October 4th, 2017 at Maple Grove United Church 346 Maple Grove Drive, Oakville, On.

Please join us in cheering our FOTM contestants:  Samantha Tam (First Place Table Topics), Peter West (First Humorous Speech Contest & Second Place Table Topics) & Cheryl Etherington (Second Place Humorous Speech Contest).   For more details please see the eventbrite link:

Humorous Speech and Table Topic Contest (7)


FOTM is back (2017/18 season)

Ladies and Gentleman, First Oakville Toastmasters is back with a brand new 2017-2018 season!

Your Thursday nights are full of excitement again.  In our first meeting of the new season, an A+ rated meeting, we had a special visit from our Area Director, Lou Mulligan and Division Director Kyla Werrett.

It was quite the special evening as our VP Education, Allan Osborne recognized First Oakville Toastmasters for their education award accomplishments.


From left to right:  Mark Molder (Immediate Past President) earned the Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB) designation, Luke Jin (VP Membership) & Rosa Rodriguez earned their Competent Communicator (CC) designations.  Congratulations!

Congratulations Linda Rossi – Distinguished Toastmaster



First Oakville Toastmasters surprised member Linda Rossi with a celebration to honour her achieving the highest education and leadership award, Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM).  VP Education Allan Osborne presented Linda Rossi with a DTM medal recognizing a big Toastmasters milestone – her Distinguished Toastmaster designation.

What is a Distinguished Toastmaster?

The Distinguished Toastmaster is the highest award Toastmasters bestows.  The DTM recognizes a high level of achievement in both the communication and leadership tracks in the Toastmasters education program.

Save  The Date:  Table Topics & Humorous Speech Contest September 21st, 2017


First Oakville Toastmasters will be hosting our first contest of the 2017-2018 season, Thursday September 21st, 2017 (7:30pm to 9:30pm).

Guests are always welcome!  Prepare to laugh and to be inspired by our Table Topics & Humorous Speech contestants.

The Humorous Speeches are 5-7 minutes long.  They must be original, clean humour, and not a monologue.

Table Topics are 1-2 minutes long.  They are impromptu speeches.  Each contestant for the Table Topics Contest will be presented with the same topic and speak extemporaneously about the topic.

Members in good standing (dues current) can participate in either (or both) contests.

Our winners for the Humorous and Table Topic Speech contest last year were Adrian Scott and Peter West.   If you want to learn about their experience and advice to future contestants click here!

Good luck to all participants!