Monday, November 30, 2009

I didn't think I would make it

It's November 30 and as of this minute I have blogged 30 times this month - 30 days, 30 posts. My first successful attempt at NaBloPoMo! I am seriously jazzed! I really didn't think I would feel this proud of myself. Somedays it was pretty hard to sit down at the computer rather than head to bed... but I did it!

I think a fitting way to end November is to give you all the details on what we'll be doing around here in December: our participation in Andrea's 25 Days of Christmas. Last year was our first year doing the 25 Days of Christmas. I found I was able to strike a balance between special and ordinary in a way that ensured I didn't burn myself out or get tired of Christmas before the big day actually arrived. I've tried to do that this year too although we have a little more of the special thrown in at the start because BETH AND KATE ARE ARRIVING FROM TEXAS IN TWO DAYS!

Ahem. Just a tad excited.

So, Beth and Kate will be 25daysofChristmasing with us during the first week so I decided to do lots of special Waterloo and Christmasy things during that first week, keeping in mind that Emily is in school for a couple of days during their visit. Anway, without further ado, here is what the girls will wake up to find in the morning:

Those are the little cards courtesy of Pam hanging over the fireplace with our daily activity in each one.

And here is what we'll do for our 25 Days of Christmas, in chronological order:
  • put up the Christmas lights
  • pick up Aunt Beth and Kate at the airport
  • go to the library, get the book Stone Soup and make stone soup for supper
  • go to the Christkindl Market
  • Walk to Uptown Waterloo for snacks and go to The Art Studios to paint a Christmas decoration
  • go to the nativity play at Bethany Church [it's outdoors and it's supposed to be 1 degree this day.... we may have to revise if there's going to be major whining]
  • get a Christmas tree
  • go to Waterloo Park and see the Christmas lights
  • go to Leah's birthday party
  • Read the Christmas story.
  • Make Christmas art from our new art book.
  • go for breakfast at Cora's
  • Decorate a gingerbread house
  • watch a Christmas movie and eat popcorn.
  • wrap a Christmas present for Daddy
  • bake Christmas cookies and decorate them
  • play board games and eat Christmas cookies
  • go see Disney Princess on Ice [remember that you can go too! Just read this post and leave a comment and you could win 4 tickets]
  • play at Omi's house
  • see Omi sing at her Christmas concert
  • make snow angels
  • walk around our neighbourhood to look at the Christmas lights
  • do some Christmas baking
  • Christmas Eve! have a special evening at Aunt Sue's house
  • Christmas Day! have a wonderful day together
I plan to blog about each day with photos. Of course, without the pressure of NaBloPoMo, I may miss a day or two or three here and there but I'll make an earnest effort to share what we're doing and how it's going. Bring on the Christmas!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A "phone it in" NaBloPoMo post

I have things to get done tonight so I don't have a lot of time to craft much of a post so instead I'll give you a nice synopsis of our day:
  • church this morning for the Christmas Pageant (done as the worship service). Hope's first appearance in the angel choir. It was awesome and brought tears to my eyes to see her doing the actions to Away in a Manger and not taking her eyes off me. Also, her belly sticking out from under her shirt was too much.
  • pageant went on WAY TOO LONG. Needed nourishment immediately afterwards. Apparently most restaurants in Waterloo were full and we ended up at East Side Mario's but man, do I love their salad. I got the trifecta - all you can eat salad, bread and soup. Too bad the waiter was new. I decided that next time I'm there I'm going to introduce myself to the waiter thusly: "I'm a pregnant woman looking for salad. I want All You Can Eat. When that bowl is empty, you bring another one and keep it coming. No questions, no delays. Get it?"
  • Got home and I left to go to a pottery sale at Emily's teacher's house. Her husband is an amazing potter named Stephen Hawes. I bought a great mug and a Christmas gift for someone else. I might get something bigger from him closer to when we move as a reminder of our year here.
  • Played Thomas card game with the girls when I got home.
  • Had great chicken dinner made by John.
  • Put tired girls to bed early.
  • Now I'm cutting the pieces for Hope's nightgown.
  • Might knit and watch a movie a bit later.
  • Tomorrow is play group and some grocery shopping.
How was your day?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What I learned today

My mum had many sayings that she loved to pull out and use against us use to provide wisdom at opportune times. One of her favourite was "you learn something new everyday."

I can't really say that's true when you're home full time with two kids, unless you count the best strategies to avoid Baron Licorice in Candyland as learning something new. However, today I went out and purposefully learned something new and I'm so glad I did.

Now, if you're not a knitter or interested in knitting in some way, this is the part where your eyes will glaze over.

This is what I learned:

I took a course at a great knitting shop in New Hamburg today. The shop, in case you're ever in the area, is called Shall We Knit?. I drooled over their shelves of yarns and amazing books. Someday soon (maybe during Beth's visit?) I'll go and spend more time with the yarns. Today I was there to take a course on two-handed fair isle knitting. That's a fancy way to say that I learned to knit with two colours while holding one colour in each hand.

Sounds simple but you actually have to learn to knit a completely different way with one of your hands. I normally knit the English way (as do most North Americans). I had to learn to knit the Continental style, the choice of most Germans and other Europeans.

I've wanted to learn this style for a long time. First, it's more efficient but more importantly, it would allow me to do two-handed fair isle. Fair Isle is adding colour to your work in interesting patterns (beyond stripes or small dots). And, I learned! At first I was very awkward but now after spending the day doing it on and off, I feel like I've really got the rhythm and I'm on my way to finishing a very tight fitting mitten.

I've only knit mittens once before and they squished my hands like a vice. I think this mitten, which is supposed to fit a man's hand according to the pattern (hah!) will stop the blood flow to my finger tips. Oh well, that's what blocking is for! Or gifting them to a small child!

And where were the kids during my day to myself? With John having an amazing time. They spent the whole day with him doing fun stuff and I could see in their faces what a great day they had with their dad. We have to do this more often, just so they get some long stretches with him without me around. I get this all the time. He isn't so lucky being the guy who brings home the bacon. I was reminded today of how important and special it is to them and their relationship.

What a great day!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happiness is....

.... getting a package in the mail that you're not expecting!

Happiness is slowly taking off the brown paper not knowing who sent it or what could be inside. Happiness is finding out that it is from a very close friend back home who made you something very special.

I opened the box to find this inside:

Still very confused but excited, I took everything out. These little handmade cards caught my eye first and the very first one was addressed to me!

My good friend, Pam, made up this package to make my 25 Days of Christmas a little more special. There is a home-decorated envelope for each day with a cute little card that I can write our activity in.

(Yes, that is one of our current dining room chairs in the background. I promise to one day do a photographic tour of our temporary house while we're on sabbatical. Don't you love it? And I'm not exaggerating when I say that it is slightly fuzzy. The best that $4.99 at Value Village can buy!)

Pam also sent these little clips to hang the cards up:

After swooning over it all for a while, putting it back in the box, and planning to email Pam to thank her (PLANNING, not actually DOING), John came in and, I'm not kidding, said the following: "Hey, that's the box from Jim's external hard drive! What's it doing here?"

Seriously, these two men know each other WAY TOO WELL.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Moms fight the flu" blog tour

It seems with my former colleagues from Foreign Affairs dominating the airwaves recently that H1N1 has taken a back seat. That's not really such a bad thing since I think we were all probably tired of hearing about it and worrying. People are still contracting it though and wondering what to do if their child gets sick or if they get sick or if they should get the vaccination.

Emily actually had H1N1 a couple of weeks ago. Of course, she wasn't actually tested since doctors aren't doing that anymore but she had all the symptoms. She recovered just fine but I worried through the whole thing and she felt miserable.

I worried about Hope, I worried about myself. About a week before Emily got sick I booked our appointment with my family doctor to be vaccinated. I decided that I didn't want to lose any more sleep over it and I didn't want to put baby #3 at risk. The risk of losing this baby or the girls getting seriously ill outweighed any perceived risk of a vaccine for me. The girls were vaccinated the day before Emily got sick. I waited for the unadjuvanted version and got it about a week ago.

Even so, our family is still making sure that we're being diligent about hand-washing and other preventive measures: we're using more hand sanitizer when we're out and about (at the library, grocery store and school), John and I are gargling religiously with Listerine at night and we're all taking Vitamin D supplements.

Most families are being diligent this year but there does seem to be competing information out there about what to do to stay healthy, whether or not to get vaccinated, and how to recognize the flu. In order to make sure we're all getting accurate information on flu symptoms, prevention and how to take care of a child with the flu, the Government of Ontario has three websites that will help to make sure we have the information we need to get through this flu season as best as we can.

For Ontarians still considering a vaccination, you can find updated flu clinic information here.

The Ontario Ministry of Health has an assessment tool that can help you determine if your child needs medical care. You can find it here. I just used it to determine whether Emily did in fact have H1N1 and it looks as though she definitely did. It's really easy to use and takes away the guessing factor.

And finally, other useful flu information can be found here. I particularly liked the FAQ videos by Dr. Michael Gardam, Director of Infection, Disease Prevention and Control for the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Hopefully by informing ourselves using these tools we will all sleep a little easier at night. And stay healthy!

Disclosure: This blog tour is being organized by Mom Central Canada. Mom Central Canada is sending me a "fight the flu" kit as a thank you for participating.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday

Week 2 of me actually being organized enough to participate in WCW!

Before I get into the recipe (for which I have no photo... again. Sorry), don't forget to read this post and enter to win 4 tickets to Disney on Ice Princess Classics in Toronto on December 18!

This week I whipped up a favourite cake of mine. It's totally retro but that's what makes it so great. No, there's no jello or pudding involved; it's just something people made more in the 80s than they do now but I think it deserves a huge comeback because it is so good and easy! That's the reason I don't have a photo - it was gone too fast!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
5-6 whole pineapple slices
6 maraschino cherries
12 pecan halves (optional)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

1. In 10" round baking dish, melt butter, then add brown sugar. STir until smooth and evenly distributed in pan. (I do this in the oven with the brown sugar already in there.)

2. Arrange pineapple slices in brown sugar mixture. Place cherry in the centre of each pineapple slice. Arrange pecan halves between slices.

3. Cream 1/2 cup butter with sugar. Add eggs and beat well.

4. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk to creamed mixture. Pour gently over pineapple slices in pan.

5. Bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (in my oven I had to do it for only 40 minutes).

6. Remove from oven and turn upside down on plate immediately, scraping extra topping over pineapple slices.

7. Cool before serving.

You will LOVE this cake (unless you don't like pineapple, of course). It is really, really moist because the juice from the pineapple seeps into the cake while it bakes. An extra advantage to that is that it means the cake stays fresh and moist for a few days. Lovely.

It's a great dessert to make for company because it is easy to make but takes people back to their grandmother's kitchens. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A great giveaway!

Hold onto your seats there friend, I have a great giveaway for those of you who either live in driving distance to downtown Toronto or have friends or family who live near Toronto or are willing to make the drive for a great family night out. Great if your family is into Disney Princesses, that is.

I'm a Mom Central Feld Family Activator, which essentially means that Mom Central asked me to spread the word about an upcoming event in Toronto and in doing so Mom Central also gave me 4 tickets to the event to give away. Intrigued yet?

Disney On Ice presents Princess Classics will be coming to the Rogers Centre in Toronto from December 18 to 27, perfect timing for a school break outing. And Mom Central has a coupon code for some big savings on tickets.

The tickets are really reasonably priced for the Monday to Friday (excluding Friday evening) shows if you use the Mom Central coupon code: a family of four can go for $44! (If you want to go outside of those days, tickets are $4 off each using the code.) In order to purchase tickets at that price, you need enter the coupon code MCC. You can buy tickets through Ticketmaster and enter the code in the "MC promotion" box when buying tickets.

Of course, there are a couple of strings: you have to buy a minimum of 4 tickets. If you need more than four, you can buy additional tickets for $11 each or $4 off for the weekend performances. Of course, it being Ticketmaster there will be some service fees on top of it. Still, entertainment for a family of four for a little more than $44 is pretty good these days.

This could be a great surprise for your princess-obsessed children or a gift for the princess-obsessed in your life!

And now, onto the giveaway! Because I'm a Feld Family Activator, my job is to let as many people know about this as I can. So, there is one catch to get entered to win four tickets for opening night, Friday, December 18: you need to tell someone else about the contest on my blog - please refer them to this post. You can do that through your blog, email, telling a friend in person... it's your choice.

To enter, just leave a comment here and tell me either who you told and how or leave a link to a mention on your blog. That's all you have to do. I'll be choosing a winner at random on Tuesday, December 8.

Mom Central Canada has also graciously given me four tickets for my family to see the show on December 18. I'll be writing a review of it the following day so you'll have some firsthand information on whether this will be a good show for your family or friends. (Hey, it's Disney princesses, I think we all know that it would make some little girls - and boys - pretty happy. Unfortunately John isn't one of those boys. Anybody else want to go with Hope, Emily and I?)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thinking about the 25 days of Christmas

Andrea over at The Fishbowl started off a great tradition a couple of years ago with the 26 Days of Christmas. Go ahead and read her post about it here.

I did it last year with the girls. I simply added a slip of paper into each day of our Playmobil advent calendar (which I LOVE). Each slip had an activity for us to do that day. Some were more involved like decorating the house for Christmas or making a gingerbread house. Some were simple like "go play in the snow" or "read a Christmas book". This year I have some great plans in store and I've been spending some time thinking about it.

One of the very exciting things this year is that my sister Beth and niece Kate will be visiting us from Austin from December 2 to 9 so they'll get to join in our fun for a while. I've specifically come up with some great things while they're here including:

  • the Christkindl Market in Kitchener
  • the outdoor Christmas pageant (with live animals!) at a local church
  • a walk through the Christmas light display at Waterloo Park
  • making gingerbread houses (I have some baking to do beforehand)... maybe
  • some special Christmas crafts
  • getting the Christmas tree and decorating it

Sounds great, doesn't it? I'll fill in the rest of the time before Christmas with some other crafts, stories, some movies, playing outside, making homemade hot chocolate, Christmas baking, etc.

I'm really getting excited for Christmas already. I'll have to pace myself or I'll be a seriously worn-out elf.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Santa Claus Parade

Yesterday I took the girls to the KW Santa Claus Parade. We walked over (it is so nice to live in a city where I can walk wherever I want to go!) with our downstairs neighbours.

Dan told us not to expect a big parade, certainly nothing like the Oktoberfest Parade, which is the parade in KW.

It turned out that we were all surprised at how good it was. I would actually say that it was as good as the Ottawa SC parade mostly because (a) it started on time (what a concept!) and (b) there was actually room to sit or stand and see who and what was going by. The floats were just as good. My favourite was the one by Bethany Church - a live nativity scene. Rumour has it that there was a real camel involved but I didn't spot it. I did see chickens however. The Salvation Army Band was the best band in the parade. And of course the old man himself was the highlight of the show for the kids.

Although the disgusting amount of candy canes given out may have been a close second.

What is going on with all the candy canes? I must have brought home at least 50 of them. When I was a kid, we got one candy cane at the parade. One! Wow, how things have changed.

The weather was amazing, everyone who attended seemed to have a great time and the kids lasted through to the end. Too bad John was feeling a little under the weather. He stayed home and slept. He perked up enough for our foursome to go out for lunch to Grill and Chill - a great hamburger place in Waterloo that we hadn't tried before.

I've posted a lot of photos below. I've chosen ones that for the most part, although not the best photos, represent something very KW specific.

Here is Hope decked out for the merriment:

I'll just point out for a moment that I didn't realize there was a big smudge on the lens until well near the end of the parade (ugh!). We'll all just have to grin and bear it.

Can someone please explain to me what this band is about because I just didn't get it (if you can't read it it says Waterloo Oriental Band. It was a Shriner band. Perhaps that's all the explanation that's needed)?:

I'm looking forward to doing some Christmas shopping at the Christkindl Market, a "typical" German Christmas market held every December in KW leading up to St. Nicholas Day on December 6 (Beth, you'll get to go too!):

As a student in Waterloo back in the 1990s I absolutely loved the Huether and I still do (and now my kids do too):

For me, no parade is complete without some pipers (John would have hated it but he has no idea what he's talking about):

And finally the grand finale (the girls decided he wasn't the real one):

Saturday, November 21, 2009

This year's letters to Santa

Since Emily started "writing" to Santa I've been posting her letters here, mostly for me to remember what she asked for. What? Sorry but I've known the deal for a while now.

This year Emily wrote her own letter with me telling her how to spell things. Hope dictated to me.

Emily's letter:

Dear Santa,

I love you, Santa. I love senior kindergarten.

I saw you this summer at Santa's Village.

For Christmas this year I would like the pink necklace, a stuffed Santa, a magic kit.

Love Emily Rose

PS I would like a watch also and a stuffed princess chair.

Hope's letter

Dear Santa,

How do your reindeer fly? I'm 3 and my mummy is writing this letter for me.

For Christmas I would like a castle with a dragon and a prince and a princess to go in it. And a queen to.

I would also like a game and a play iPhone.

I would also like the blue necklace I saw at Santa's Village.

Thank you!

Love Hope

Friday, November 20, 2009

The first ultrasound

I went for my first ultrasound today. This is the earliest I've had any pregnancy ultrasound. Normally my first and only U/S is at 20 weeks. This time around though I've opted for Integrated Prenatal Screening.

I'm still a bit on the fence about it all. I wanted to do it because of my age (I'm 37 and will be 38 by the time the baby is born). But when I read through all the material again I was reminded of why I opted not to do it the first two times. First, you only get a percentage of a chance that there is something amiss with the baby. From there you have to go for further testing to confirm if anything is wrong or not. According to the literature I received, a lot of people who receive warning that something might not be right, go for further testing only to find out that nothing is wrong at all. Ninety percent of people who are told something is wrong, find out through the further testing that everything is fine. It seems like a lot of added stress for nothing.

So basically I'm not sure why I'm doing this and I sort of wish that I'd changed my mind sooner. I guess I was hoping to allay any worries and have the rest of my pregnancy be pretty stress-free. That is if they say everything is a-okay.

Anyway, what's done is done. And I got a very pretty picture out of it (our scanner is way back in Ottawa):

It is amazing how much detail in the face you can see at only 12 weeks. At one point the tiny peanut-shaped alien baby lifted his/her hand and waved at me. It was very nice to say hello. See you in a while, peanut alien.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life in Waterloo - Part 2 - The Green Bin Program

Tomorrow is our garbage and recycling day. Given that John just wheeled our green bin to the curb, it seemed the right time to (finally) get this post up.

One of the very exciting things for me (call me a recycling junkie) about moving to Waterloo is that the Green Bin Organics Program has been underway here since 2006 with test pilot homes. It spread its wings wider in 2008 and 2009. Now almost 100,000 homes have the green bin as part of their weekly recycling program. By 2012 the Region plans to ban household organics from landfill sites. How cool is that?! Hello, Ottawa, are you listening?

Ottawa, where we normally live, is only finally getting the program underway this January. I have lamented and complained about this over and over through each delay that Ottawa's City Council allowed. But finally we get to participate in the program in Waterloo and when we're back to Ottawa, we'll get to do it there too (if the City doesn't postpone it yet again!). And... and... and... last spring the Region of Muskoka introduced the program so we had the green bin at the cottage all. summer. long.

Take note Ottawa: Muskoka and Renfrew County (I'm told) all had this up and running before you did. Shame!

Now that my berating of my home city is complete, let me give you some details on the program and what I've noticed works and doesn't work so well (or things I still have to find a solution to).

For those of you in an area with no green bin program, it is similar to a standard blue box program except the green bin is for the collection of household organics such as kitchen scraps and paper towels. The bin itself is tall and has a locking lid. We also have a small indoor bin for collecting the kitchen scraps. ALL kitchen scraps can go in the bin including meat, bones and dairy. I'm not going to lay out here all the things that can and cannot go in the bin because what I've realized, using the bin in two different regions (Muskoka and Waterloo), is that different regions have different rules. For example, in Waterloo you can put raw meat in the bin and pet droppings, in Muskoka you can't put either of those things in. In Toronto, you can put disposable diapers in. In Waterloo you can't (and most other places with the program). There are some very cool things that can go in there: paper plates, bones, pizza boxes, butcher paper, flour bags, hair, just to name a few.

Wonder what happens to the household organics that are collected? This little illustration courtesy of the Region of Waterloo explains it better than I can:

Isn't that cool? My scrambled eggs, paper towels and chicken wings become the gardens at a retirement home, greens at a golf course or the lawn of a new condo. I love that.

There are some rules of course and I'm told the Region is pretty sticky about them. For example, no yard waste is allowed. I was reading Andrea's post on Ottawa's coming green bin program this week and she suggested that Ottawans put in some leaves to cut down on the smell for people who are concerned about that. This is a good idea and would work but for the regions of Muskoka and Waterloo, doing that could leave you with a full green bin when the collectors refuse to take it. I wouldn't take that chance. Newspapers or paper bag liners are allowed however.

As for smell, I haven't found it bad at all, even through the summer. The lid is very tight fitting. Sure you get small gnats living in there that fly out when you open the lid but big deal. You get that with a regular compost bin in the yard. We haven't had any trouble with raccoons or other creatures trying to get into our green bin. In Muskoka, where that is likely to be more of a problem, we kept the bin in our shed. Here is photo of our outdoor bin with the yummy contents in full view (I don't know why I felt the need to show this off except that I feel the need to give full reality programming):

The one big issue we've had is fruit flies in our indoor bin. It's driving us crazy! We've tried a few things - the most recent being abandoning our indoor bin (we think the fruit flies laid eggs in it because they appear when there is nothing in the bin!) and just using a bowl inside that gets emptied every day. That worked for about a week and now the little critters are back. I really don't have a good solution yet but I'll let you know if I come up with one. I think the next step will be to bring the sucker in from outside and keep it under the sink. Here is what we use now inside and what the Region gave us but we abandoned outside after the infestation of fruit flies:

As for the paper bag liners, we're not fans. We found they don't fit the bins very well making the bins a little difficult to close and they were very messy in the indoor bin becuase they were too tall for it. The result was food in between the bag and the bin totally defeating the purpose of the bag. So we don't use them at all. Instead, we scrub out the indoor bin or bowl and hose out the outdoor one (in summer). Now that it's cold, we don't even hose out the outdoor bin. In spring I'll give it a good cleaning.

I've heard the argument that people don't want to participate because it's too disgusting. I honestly have no idea where that comes from. There is less smell from our green bin, which goes out weekly, then from a full kitchen garbage that has household organics in it. Also, at the risk of sounding all self-righteous, I find this a lot less disgusting than an overused landfill that contributes to global warming and a dying planet.

And as for our regular garbage, we are a family of four and we are down to one small garbage bag a week and I'm sure we can do better (I'm not always good about pulling out the kleenexes). Amazing! The program also gives you a daily reminder of how much food you are wasting or not wasting. I've found that is something we really have to work on - the kids are particularly bad for it.

Can you tell I love, love, love the green bin program? If you need convincing, I'll be the one to convince you. Actually, once you try it and see how little garbage you actually produce when all your recyclables are sorted, you'll love it too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday

Wow. It's been a long time since I participated in my friend Shan's amazing What's Cooking Wednesday. Normally I can't get myself organized enough to take a photo of what I made or the recipe I used is all the way across on the other side of the room from the computer.

But this is NaBloPoMo, people and that means that I am always on the lookout for a post. (I am ignoring the fact that two days ago I promised a post on Life in Waterloo and now two days later it is nowhere to be seen.)

Yesterday I cooked up a dish I haven't made in ages and I love it. I'm not sure why it fell off my repertoire. It just so happened that I had everything required to make it.

The dish is called Lemony Chicken Pasta. It's a Canadian Living recipe. You can find it here.

Without exaggerating, it met with rave reviews all around. Emily went on and on about it and wants the leftovers in her lunch tomorrow. John said it was one of my best dishes in a while (which makes it sound like he thinks my cooking lately hasn't been great. That's not the case. This one was just super dee-duper).

I only made one change and that is that I used spaghetti because it was what we had. The other change I'll make in the future is to cook the spinach separately and then stir it in. Otherwise you end up with a thin sauce from the water that comes out of the spinach. I ended up adding lots of extra ricotta to deal with that.

I do have photos to share. But given that the camera's battery is charging I'll have to post them later.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This week's menu

I've fallen off the meal-planning wagon recently. I don't have a reason really. I think I got out of sinc when we were in Ottawa and when John was away the following week. It's time to get back on. So, here goes:

Tonight: Lemony Chicken pasta and salad
Wednesday: Forrest Gumbo
Thursday: homemade pizza and salad
Friday: chicken with cashews
Saturday: still thinking about it...
Sunday: Mexican lasagna

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jibber Jabber

I'm tired. I was up with Hope twice last night. I picked her up and my back seized up one of those times. Luckily I have a SIL who is a massage therapist so she has me on the road to recovery. But still... Also, our neighbours downstairs came in at 3:30 last night. And slammed doors.

I'm 11 weeks pregnant. I think. It might be twelve. I'm not exactly on top of timing this time. So many other things to think about.

I went through the rest of my November calendar today because it was feeling like I had a lot to remember and hadn't put any of it to paper. Which was true. It was all floating around in my fallible brain.

We had chili leftovers for supper. Nothing is better on a Monday than having supper already in the fridge when you wake up that day.

I went to Costco today. Normally I'm very good about staying away from impulse purchases there. Things go awry when I have another adult shopping with me (unless it's John). I tend to make odd decisions. Like today when I bought an enormous tub of feta-stuff jalapeno peppers. I do love them. But do I love them enough to eat 50?

I was all set tonight to post a new Life in Waterloo post, this one about the green bin program. It's going to happen tomorrow. There's an Epsom salt bath with my name on it. Literally. It's been a long time since I've washed the bath tub.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Christmas list

I have a longer-than-usual Christmas list this year. Normally it is pretty short - two or three things max. This year I'm going for gold in a figurative sense only. And everything on here is reasonably priced but things I've wanted and made note of through the year.

1. A Swiss Army knife. I'm always needing to cut or slice or pry or tweeze something when we're out and about. It's about time I got one of these. It doesn't need to be fancy. Priorities are a knife blade, scissors and tweezers. (A corkscrew wouldn't hurt either.)

2. A squirrel-resistant bird feeder. I already have a finch feeder. I would like one of the larger feeders that can accommodate cardinals but shuts down when a squirrel tries to steal the seed. I have so much fun watching the birds through the winter but I want to attract more than finches and sparrows.

3. The cookbook More With Less. This cookbook is only available (I believe) through Ten Thousand Villages stores. I have the second book Extending the Table but I'd really like the first one that was published.

4. Gift certificate for pre-natal yoga at Queen St. Yoga in Kitchener. In that past I've just gone to classes and paid for it but money is tighter this year and so I haven't gone yet and it's unlikely I will go unless I some generous soul gifts me some classes. I loved prenatal yoga when I was pregnant with Emily. I'd love to do it again. (Come to think of it, I didn't go when I was pregnant with Hope. I did a self-serve yoga at home. In that case, even a yoga mat - have no idea where mine is - and a pre-natal yoga DVD would be perfect. I have a title in mind even.)

5. Photoshop. I've been without Photoshop since my hard drive died last year and would triple love to get it again. Or Aperture. Either one would make me very happy. (And I don't need the big expensive version... just something basic and pared down that would allow me to do some modifications and playing around.)

That's it. Notice I didn't even put a camera on the list even though I complain about my piece of junk camera all the time? I'm saving that for a year when I only ask for one thing and it's gonna be good.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What I did on a beautiful day

I know that a day like today confirms climate change (if anyone really required confirmation anymore) but I really enjoyed this weather. It was so warm that I didn't need a jacket or even a sweater. We planted tulips and daffodils (nothing like waiting until the last minute). We played outside. The girls rode their bikes through the cemetery (our favourite bike-riding spot). We generally soaked up the weather because it could be the last time we see it for several months (although not likely because tomorrow is supposed to be 12 degrees and the forecast says it will be nice all week, which only makes me more worried about the state of the planet but for now I'll just enjoy the weather and try to sleep at night).

It is very hard to think about Christmas approaching when the weather is like this but it is in fact only six weeks away. Six weeks! I have a lot of sewing to do between now and then... not to mention some shopping. Yikes! And I want to participate in Andrea's 25 days of Christmas. I have some planning and organizing to do. So hard when it feels like I should be gardening or thinking about summer vacation.

Tomorrow I'll hopefully make a tiny bit of headway when I go to the Waterloo Potters' Workshop Sale. I've only been once before but it was amazing. It is very hard to choose what to buy (and what not to buy). I hope to cross some gifts off the Christmas shopping list. At least one or two anyway.

How did you spend today?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Family movie night a bust

We had planned to have a family movie night tonight. We decided to watch a favourite movie, Elf. That movies makes me laugh so hard. John, too. And last year, Emily as well.

I should have seen the signs that things weren't going to work out tonight. First, we went swimming this morning and the kids have been dragging ever since. Second, there was little enthusiasm for our choice. Third, Hope laid down, face first, on my lap right after the movie started and Emily had covered her ears with pillows.

After about 10 minutes, right when things were getting good in the movie, Emily declared, teary-eyed, that she didn't want to watch this movie. Hope agreed. And that's when John and I ended movie night for tonight and promised to try again soon another night when the kids weren't so tired, I wasn't so irritated with them after a good but long week, and after we'd gone to the video store to choose something they would we all like.

These things don't always work out. At least now John and I can watch whatever we want. It might even be the rest of Elf!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Up to her elbow

Hope is in a bad habit of waking up every night in the middle of the night and getting me out of bed. Often it is because she's had a bad dream or just a dream she wants to tell me about. She always needs to pee after I get up there. We tried every trick we can think of to get her to go to the bathroom by herself but none of them has worked so far.

To make it more annoying, John and I sleep on the main floor; the girls' rooms are upstairs.

Last night she woke up and called me up because her arm was hurting she said. I think she'd been sleeping on it for a long time and didn't have any feeling left in it. I took her to the bathroom, put her back to bed and went downstairs and climbed back into my own lovely warm bed.

Five minutes later, just as I was falling back to sleep she called me again.

Me (from bottom of stairs): What's the matter, Hope?
Hope: I just can't stop picking my nose, Mummy!

And this is what I am dragged out of bed for at 3:00 am. Parenthood is so glamorous.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

That time of the night

I've hit the wall. It happened around 7:05 pm. Curiously right when I put my hands into the sink of dirty dishes.

It happens every day at some point. I don't know if it is the mystery illness or the pregnancy. I'm leaning towards the pregnancy since I never get a chance to nap in the afternoons and that is usually key to feeling at least a bit more rested during the first trimester.

No matter. We had a busy day today. A play date with a cousin, whisking Hope off to preschool, planting all the garlic (and there was A LOT. I think I had 12 heads of garlic.... maybe more and you plant each clove separately. That could give me lots and lots and lots of garlic. Not complaining!), walking to preschool with Emily to get Hope, taking Emily to swimming lessons. The only thing in there that was even a little bit physically taxing was planting garlic (and I loved doing it). And yet, I'm exhausted.

I did get through the dishes. I had planned to sew tonight. I'm not sure now if that will happen. It might be near impossible to peel my butt off this chair.

Oh right, and Emily wants me to tell you all that we played games today while Hope was at preschool.

I think my exhaustion is showing because this is becoming a post of gobbly-gook. See what you get during NaBloPoMo?

Quality. Pure quality.

Edit: I actually did something! I sewed two things I cannot mention here due to family lurking about who will be on the receiving end of such things but still... I got off my chair and now it is 8:21 and I can go to bed!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time to get this sweat shop underway

I am planning on sewing a lot A LOT of Christmas gifts this year. After sewing Hope's Halloween costume I rediscovered how much I triple love sewing. I find it really creative and it satisifies my need for instant gratification. I start sewing and within 10 minutes I've turned that fabric into something new, not yet complete, but starting to look like... something. And I love that.

I love knitting too but the instant gratification thing is definitely not there. It is lovely to work on a pair of socks over a month but sewing gives me that two hours of work and voila! I have something finished. Thank you Mr Singer for inventing the sewing machine so that I could satisify my mild case of ADD.

Having said all that, I have a lot of projects planned as Christmas gifts. We're a one-salary family which means I have to be frugal with my gift-giving and sewing gifts is a great way to do that while still giving family something original and, if every works out as planned, nice.

That also means a lot of time in front of the sewing machine, which is in no way a complaint, it's just a bit hard to fit it in sometimes. The evenings are my time to sew. Unfortunately it is also my time to lay about on the couch, catch up on The Office and eat bonbons. You can see my dilemma.

This Christmas I am exclusively working from Quik-Sew patterns, the Cadillac of sewing patterns. They actually make sense most of the time (shocker!) and the pattern pieces are on real paper not that onion skin that rips when you breathe on it. Apparently someone with a brain designed them. Also, they have some great patterns available. For example, the vintage apron, the puppet theatre and the girl's flannel nightgown, all of which I will be working on in the next few weeks (if you are in my family DO NOT write me an email (Hteb) asking me which one is for you. I WILL NOT TELL YOU HTEB! Perhaps I didn't even list it here!). And there are a couple of other small projects I will be doing that will be an hour at the most.

In other words, if I'm not answering the phone or email or look at you with a very confused expression when you ask me what I thought Dwight's reveal concerning the beets, you'll know that I'm spending all my time with Ms. Husqvarna and she's a jealous woman.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Monday Report

We're home from Toronto so it is time for the reveal... which Canadian celebrity made a long appearance at the Superdogs show at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair yesterday?

This guy:

It looks like he is making an entrance, waving to his adoring fans... actually, he was celebrating because his "team" (I think they were called the Bow-Wows) had just won that heat of the relay race (the dogs did, I mean... he was "handling" a dog).

Rick Mercer appeared out of nowhere, with no warning just as it seems he does on his show, to participate in the Superdogs show with his own dog, a precocious bull dog named Pot Roast. Pot Roast and Rick did all the elements of the show along with the regular Superdogs. And hilarity ensued. (And if you don't know who Rick Mercer is, well, that is so sad for you! You must go here and find out. Basically, Canadian icon because of a number of reasons but mainly because he is damn funny. Ever seen Talking to Americans? Yeah, that be him.)

Pot Roast is not built for speed. He had some trouble bounding over the really high hurdle; he couldn't dance to save his life; he tried so hard to catch a frisbee but it kept going too fast (although the best part of the whole thing was when Pot Roast grabbed the edge of the frisbee from Rick's hands and would not on his life let go. I thought Rick was going to wet himself. It honestly took almost five minutes to get him off the frisbee so Rick could actually throw it); he was stupendous at the relay - jumping over hurdles then through a tunnel then back over the hurdles again.

The cameras were actually pretty inconspicuous; you noticed them but they didn't get in the way of enjoying the show or staring at RICK MERCER (!). Rick Mercer always gives the impression on his show that he is game for anything and loves his job; he gives this impression when he's filming too. Maybe it was all for the show, but he really did seem to find the whole thing hilarious and seemed to being having fun. Pot Roast seemed equally pleased.

Of course, I took tons of photos when we realized who it was who was running a bull dog up the course but a little point and shoot doesn't have much chance in an arena that size so I only got a couple of good ones. (And yes, these are the good ones.)

The girls had no idea who he was but it made the show all the better for John and I (and it was good to start with... and free with admission to the Fair).

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A visit to the Royal Winter Fair

We actually left the house and The Beach today! It took some convincing but we won out.

We eased into the affair by going out for breakfast at Mars Diner, a Toronto institution, albeit we were in the Beach location. From there we drove to the exhibition grounds and paid a bunch of money to go into the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

At first we just wandered around all the vendor stalls; there were lots. Then we checked out the competition ring where heifers were being shown. After that we watched a goat milking and sheep shearing demonstration (loved that). From there we went to the very large children's area. The kids loved the petting farm.

After all that Emily needed a break so we lined up with about 1000 other people, managed to get a table (dumb luck), and rested our barking dogs. As we finished our perogies we realized the Superdogs show was about to start. We headed there and watched a great bunch of dogs doing amazing things. We all loved it although the highlight had to be the very surprising guest appearance by a Canadian celebrity who I heart. (I'll reveal that tomorrow when I upload the photos.).

After that it was time for ice cream, a walk through the cattle staging area and time to head home.

It was one of those great days that I spend with my wee family that makes me want to do it again tomorrow.

And Emily made it through the whole day pretty well. I'm sure she'll sleep like a rock. Me too.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A quiet day in Toronto

It turns out that Emily's energy level, while better today, was still not enough to propel us through the Ontario Science Centre.... and she knew it. So, we opted to stay around The Beach today (not exactly a hardship). We had a leisurely breakfast of cream brioche, almond croissants, pain au chocolat and then walked to the playground at Kew Gardens. The girls played for a while and then we walked down to the beach (on Lake Ontario for those of you who don't know Ontario's geography well) and threw rocks into the water (always a good time). We walked along the boardwalk to the next small playground. After that Emily was pooped so we headed towards home, had lunch at Lick's Hamburgers and then the kids watched Treehouse for a while, played blocks, etc etc.

Meanwhile, I took the opportunity and headed back out of the house, after reading the Globe and Mail section by section (glorious!), and did some window shopping and some real shopping. My very best time was spent inside Alex Farm at the Beach - an amazing food shop that specializes in cheeses - tasting olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I was the only customer during that 30 minutes so I was lucky enough to get all the attention from the very knowledgeable and sweet owner who is more enthusiastic about balsamic vinegar than I am, although after today I may rival him. He gave me a taste of a balsamic vinegar that costs about $130 for 250 ml. It was liquid gold my friends. I have never tasted a balsamic vinegar like that. It was more sweet than acidic, more syrup than vinegar. You only need a drop and your mouth is overtaken by sensation. Heaven.

No, I didn't buy it. But I can dream, can't I?

We had a really nice day even though we didn't do much. I came back and played pretend with the girls for a while and then watched Food Network with Emily.

By the end of the day I saw her energy coming back. We plan to tackle the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair tomorrow. I can't wait!

Friday, November 06, 2009

In Toronto

We made it to Toronto after a longer drive than it should have been, but it was a drive to Toronto and we always expect it to take longer than it should. Unfortunately I neglected to pack any activities for the girls for the car (am I new at this?) and Hope was none too please. I delayed the inevitable tantrum with Halloween candy (again, am I new at this?) and then she started screaming and kicking the back of my seat because she had to pee. Normally we'd accommodate this request but it's a little difficult when you're in stopped traffic on the 401.

And then she fell asleep and peace ensued until we arrived at Deb's house.

I took the girls for haircuts and my favourite Beaches kids haircut place - something about Tots... can't remember the name. And then we decided to get take out sushi. Unfortunately all this had been too much for Emily who is still recovering from the flu and she ended up laying on the couch coughing up a lung while we finished dinner. A little Treehouse seemed to help her recover.

We were planning on the Ontario Science Centre for tomorrow but we'll have to see how she's feeling. She and I may stay around the house while John and Hope do something else.

I hate the flu.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A much needed night out

Tonight I am meeting with my book club. My book club is the best book club in the world because it consists of three people: me and two good friends who live in Waterloo/Kitchener. We started this up 8 years ago when I last lived here and we've started it up again. It's the best in the world because:
  • we only choose books available in the library or the remainder section at the bookstore
  • we eat great food and drink great drinks; each person brings either a savory, a dessert, or a drink
  • the food has to relate somehow to the book; sometimes the relationship is extremely remote
  • we often don't talk about the book until the very end but we do eventually talk about it.
  • there is no set schedule for meetings; we meet when we're all finished the book
I am so, so, so happy to be meeting tonight. After almost a week of being housebound due to a child being unable to leave the couch because of the flu that must not be named (thanks Lynn for adding a bit of humour to all this!) and being a single parent during that week and being 10 weeks pregnant, I need a night out more than just about anything else right now (although a day at the spa and a million dollars would be fine too).

And then tomorrow we're off for a what ought to be a wonderful weekend in Toronto that will include the Ontario Science Centre and (hooray!) a visit to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. I love the Royal Winter Fair! Great memories of my first taste of beer nuts and the smell of horses and cold weather. Lovely!

As for the stroller, well, I have no chance to win at this point but thanks for all who voted for me. I'll make do with second-hand. Shiny and new is nice but they would both get me and baby #3 from point A to point B in just the same way.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Please vote for me!

Recently Amy at Muddy Boots solicited votes to win a digital camcorder at Classy Mommy . Well, there's a new giveaway at Classy Mommy and I want to win!

The current giveaway is for a Mutsy Transporter Stroller. Given that the current baby forming in utero was a big surprise, we find ourselves lacking some important baby equipment that was completely worn out by Emily and Hope, the most important being a crib, change table, car seat and stroller. We're a family on one salary so we'll be borrowing an begging for help to replace this equipment. It would be wonderful to win this stroller!

And given we normally reside in a very snowy city, our stroller has to be able to plough through snowbanks. The Mutsy looks like it is up to the job.

So please vote for me here! (I'm the name at the top.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

He's home!

At 7:30 pm this evening I sat in our car, headlights on, girls in the back excited beyond belief, scanning the Kitchener train station platform for John's form. I haven't felt that excited about something since.... well, probably sometime around Christmas 1986 or so. Likely the year I got my Litebrite.

Being on my own for the past 8 days while attempting (I think successfully?) to stave off the flu, being 10 weeks pregnant, hosting my dad and Donna, keeping up with the usual stuff around here, and now the last two days, nursing Emily through *the* flu has not been a good time for me.

I've said it before when John has been away but being a single parent is not enjoyable in any way. Sure, you don't have to make any decisions in tandem, checking to see if your decision works for your partner. But that is far outweighed by all the other CRAP that you have to do by yourself.

Like tonight for instance. I really needed to get groceries. I had planned to take Emily and Hope to our nearest grocery store (my favourite, Central Fresh Market - an independent grocery in Kitchener) and get the staples we were missing as well as stuff to make chicken noodle soup. Although Emily was perkier than this morning, she had hit the wall again and did not want to leave the couch. Or the comfort of her jammies. So I started calling people: first Greg who it turns out was playing single parent himself; then Julie, no one home at her house; then I looked out the window and saw that both Dan and Jewel were home downstairs and although I'd used and abused my friendship with Jewel all day, I did it again and she graciously stayed with the kids while I ran out.

A couple of Facebook friends asked later if there was a grocery delivery nearby. You only think of these things afterward and in anticipation of a next time, I did some research. As far as I can tell no grocery stores do this in K-W. A big oversight for sure. What do single parents do in these situations? I assume they have to rely on a huge network of friends and family. It's not a role I ever want to permanently play.

And so, if you know someone who is a single parent.... make them a meal and drop it off for their freezer. Just for those times when they might need it. It will make their day.

Monday, November 02, 2009

What was I thinking?

I foolishly signed up for NaBloPoMo again (that's National Blog Post Month for those of you not in the know). I'm supposed to post everyday for the month of November. Given that I only posted 10 times in October, 11 times in September and let's not even talk about August or July, one can only conclude that I am set up for one gigantic and spectacular FAIL.

Hah! But you underestimate my obsession with proving people wrong. And maybe I'll do it here. Or maybe I'll cultivate my other obsession which is procastinating and saying I'll do something and then not do it.

I guess it will just be a surprise. Don't you just love surprise endings?

Kind of like this book I finished last night where in the last few chapters a baby was born (granted it was a new sub-species of human), turned to its dad and said "Hello Mitch" and I'm not even kidding. I'm also not kidding when I say I was laying in bed last night reading this, completely by myself since John is still away (BUT COMING HOME TOMORROW THANK GOD BECAUSE EMILY THREW UP AGAIN TONIGHT AND HOPE WAS CONSTIPATED AND HONESTLY I THINK I GOT EMILY VACCINATED AGAINST A FLU THAT SHE ALREADY HAS), and said outloud to me, myself and I "Oh that is so stupid."

It completely ruined the book for me which up until that point I was thoroughly enjoying. Seriously? A talking baby? Greg Bear you couldn't come up with anything better to attribute to a new sub-species of humanity than early speech. All I could think of was those annoying commercials where babies talk about how much they like their Huggies.

Where was I going with this?

Right. So maybe I'll surprise you with actually accomplishing this whole blog-everyday thing kind of like the talking baby surprised me.

Oh, and on the topic of babies, tomorrow is my first midwife appointment. I'm seeing a midwife named Mina. Which essentially means that everytime I see her I will only be able to picture Lloyd Axworthy sitting there suggesting that I massage my perineum.

That would make no sense to you unless you currently or have previously worked at Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs. And if you have then right now you are thinking I am pretty freaking hilarious. Which I am.

And with that, I close.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Post Halloween lazies

I shouldn't in fact suggest Emily is feeling lazy. What she is actually feeling is sick. She has another terrible cold. She does have a fever, but not a high one. She does have a cough, but I don't think she has H1N1. Although without a vaccination I'm sure she would get it. I'm sure because she has had about 4 days since school started when she hasn't been sick with something. Her new school has not been kind to us germ-wise. And it is for this reason that we're getting vaccinated tomorrow by our family doctor here. Waterloo has issued vaccine to GPs so we're not required to stand in line for hours, thank the good Lord.

And even though Emily was suffering from her cold last night, the promise of candy as well as a dose of Motrin ensured that she was able to collect her share of loot. Hope did fairly well considering her legs are a lot shorter than her sister's. With still two streets between us and home, Hope declared that she had enough candy. Emily and our neighbours finished the route while Hope and I sorted through her things at home. Most unusual treats: pop. One can of Coke and one can of gingerale. That's what you call phoning it in for Halloween.

I sewed Hope's costume. It turned out rather well don't you think?

I made Emily's as well, a mermaid costume made out of duct tape, muffin cups and a garbage bag.

I'm all about the homemade costumes.

John is still in Ottawa and I'm pretty much done with being a single parent, especially when pregnant, nursing my own cold and Emily's. He gets home on Tuesday evening and I can't wait.

And that pretty much brings us up to speed on things around here. Time for tea and a mini-chocolate bar.

-- Post From My iPhone