Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My bloggy year in review

Walking on a frozen lake, sitting in a hot tub with snowflakes falling in my hair, tobogganing with both girls, a new birdhouse, a baby in utero who has started to really move (!). These are the things I really would like to be posting about but to put up a quality post would mean that my sinuses would have to drain and that hasn't happened in about 3 days. It will all have to wait until I win the battle against this cold. Although I do think posting this photo gives a good taste of our last few days at my dad's:

In the meantime, I'm going to do my annual year in review by posting the first sentence of the first post of each month from the last year.

January: Being the social animals we are, living the high life here in Canada's capital, frequenting all the hippest, coolest parties, rubbing shoulders with Canada's political elite, you KNOW that we had to turn down all kinds of invitations for last night in order to stay home, put the kids to bed and watch a movie.

February: Last night I did something wonderful.

March: When you're a relatively healthy person, you tend to take that for granted.

April: My computer gave up the ghost yesterday.

May: The girls and I spent some time last week, yesterday and today, in partner with another family, putting in a children's garden at our church.

June: I got a call yesterday afternoon from Joan, the property manager of the house we so desperately wanted.

July: It's been an exhausting couple of days but the house is actually starting to come together.

August: Like so many Ottawans, we have a leaking basement.

September: This summer I've been thinking and reading about ways to be more frugal; ways that I can trim our budget (or, hell, even set a budget!) and pay down more debt and increase our savings.

To all men who read here: warning, there is going to be period talk and if you don't want to read it, you may want to go elsewhere for a while.

November: I shouldn't in fact suggest Emily is feeling lazy.

December: So, yes, I did say I would post through our 25 Days of Christmas and here we are on Day 2 already and I haven't posted about it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Heading north

We're leaving for my dad's in Gravenhurst this morning after church so I'll be offline for a few days.

We'll be doing things such as snowmobiling, riding on the ATV, tobogganing and playing Wii. I also plan to do nothing when I can fit it in.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Merry Christmas to all....

and it's almost goodnight.

Our day has been wonderful. A quick synopsis:

  • girls got up at a totally reasonable time: 7:30 and 8:00.
  • Stockings were opened. I almost revealed the Santa Claus hoax by accident but I think I saved it with some quick thinking.
  • Everyone got dressed/showered and then we had breakfast. I made an oven-baked french toast which was NOT a hit. I always like a special breakfast; we always had chelsea buns growing up (and when I was an adult) so I like do something out of the ordinary. I may have to revise that next year since it really isn't appreciated. Maybe I'll save it for when the kids are older.
  • Present opening: Hope's castle, which I was worried would satisfy her Santa request but she would never play with has been a HUGE hit; any extra presents were just a second thought for her. Emily got her magic set and loved mastering the tricks.
  • the two biggest surprises: John got me a new camera, way better than my previous version. I love it! And through Santa John got our family a Wii! Needless to say we were all thrilled with that and bowled and played baseball on and off through the day.
  • And I realized something about myself that I wish I'd realized long ago: I overdo Christmas presents. The kids don't need much to make them happy: the castle and magic kit and the Wii was sufficient. All the rest was unnecessary for them. I am promising myself to remember that for future Christmases starting next year: pared down will make everyone just as happy.
  • I made the best turkey I've ever made (no, I don't brine it or do anything crazy - I just roast it; I don't even baste it but I do slather it with butter before it goes in); I think some of the credit has to go to the farmer who raised this bird - local, freshly killed, awesome. I took it out right at the perfect time, the breasts were super juicy but cooked through, the stuffing was awesome (as usual... I rock at stuffing) and John and I timed everthing perfectly to be on the table with no waiting for that one last thing to cook. I was really on my game this year and particularly happy with the whipped potatoes.
  • And now Omi is putting the kids to bed and then it's game night for the grown-ups!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day and enjoy a nice, relaxed Boxing Day tomorrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve to-do's

I've started cooking, I've showered, I baked the last batch of cookies, John has cleaned both bathrooms, I've cleaned up the sewing room and the girls helped me make Omi's bed. I'm going to wrap a few more presents now.

Lunch is still a question mark.

We'll do a bunch more cooking at around 2:00 in anticipation for tonight.

This afternoon we'll go to John's sister's in Cambridge. We might try and squeeze in the Christmas Eve service at church tonight if we can get back in time but that's up in the air.

I love Christmas Eve. As John said this morning, he likes it better than Christmas Day because of the anticipation and food and family and friends.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas Eve. I imagine I'll have some things to say tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The rush to the finish (and a review of Princesses on Ice)

This is going to be a quick and dirty (read: not well-written) post because it's December 23 and a rush to the finish. I realized last night that I've forgotten to sew the Christmas stockings. Oops! Guess what I'm doing this morning? And I still have a few things to bake and then tomorrow I'm going to be cooking to get ready for tomorrow night and Friday. And of course, there's still a bit of wrapping left.

But I couldn't go another day without talking about our weekend, most specifically about our afternoon/evening in Toronto. Both John and I were a bit leery about how it would all go with Emily and Hope walking around the city and then up late watching Princesses on Ice.

When we arrived in Toronto, we went straight to the Rogers Centre (aka the Skydome) and I picked up the tickets (courtesy of Mom Central). No hitches there but the wind was whipping and I was already preparing myself for the whining. I suggested we walk over to the nearby CBC building so the girls could see the museum (assuming Mr Dressup would play a prominent role) and some of the recording equipment in the lobby.

As I expected, they loved it. And I love the Toronto CBC building so we all won. It has to be one of my favourite buildings in Canada - you just can't help but feel a part of it all. Oh, I just realized that I should explain, for you non-Canadians, that CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, our public broadcaster. They broadcast radio (which I have on most of the day) and of course TV such as the famous Hockey Night in Canada, The National and Coronation St (I miss it so much this year!) among other great shows. Most Canadians my age grew up on favourites such as Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant. I've been lucky enough to get my kids hooked on Mr. Dressup through a DVD series that CBC released. For the Friendly Giant, the CBC has missed the boat and released nothing of that series (I would definitely buy it if the CBC is reading this... get on it!) but you can view snippets on Youtube. My girls ask for it often.

We headed to the museum and guess what? It was pretty much ALL Mr. Dressup and Friendly Giant. The girls were in HEAVEN.

After that we headed down the street to the Lone Star for supper. It gave us a taste of Texas and Ottawa all at once (since this chain was started in Ottawa by an Ottawa Roughrider football player who was Texan).

After that it was a stop for a coffee/tea and off to the show.

We made our way to our (awesome) seats and waited. My blog winner was sitting right beside us. I just wish I could have sat beside Jenny to talk a bit more but instead I was between the girls to keep any arguing to a mininum. I didn't really have to worry though. Once the show started, that was all they cared about.

The show tells each story of each princess (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, Mulan, Ariel, and Belle) before the break and then after that it is ALL CINDERELLA. Which we wondered about since the show seemed to be ending and we hadn't heard mention of the most famous princess of all. The entire second half, almost equal in length to the first, was Cinderella.

I have to admit, I was looking forward to the show for the girls only but not for me. I'm not much of a figure-skating fan. But I found that I really enjoyed it. First, there are no bad seats set up for this show. You can easily get the cheapest tickets and still see everything perfectly. Second, it wasn't too loud but you could hear fine. Third, the show is a spectacle - entertaining for everyone. I was wowed by the costumes, lights and how they did things like change Sleeping Beauty's dress, have Ursula the witch grow huge, have the Fairy Godmother fly etc.

All this to say that if you have a bit of money to spend on entertainment over the holidays and some kids who even remotely like the Disney Princesses and you live near Toronto, you should think about this show. It runs until December 27 and I have a discount code for you to save some money. Here are the discount code instructions from my previous post about this:

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.

And now, it is on with the day and Christmas stocking assembly. Thank the Lord for my amazing sewing machine. I should give it a Christmas present this year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

And Christmas begins....

In a mere two hours, we pick Emily up early from school (not to worry, she is not missing the classroom Christmas party) and driving to Toronto where we will have dinner, perhaps at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and then attend the Disney Classics Princess on Ice at the Rogers Centre courtesy of Mom Central. (Woot!)

From there, we'll pile back in the car and drive to St. Catharines to spend the weekend with Omi, cousins, sister and brother-in-law and attend Omi's church Christmas concert. On Monday we'll drive back to Waterloo by way of St. George Brant to pick up our fresh turkey from the poultry farm.

And then I'll start baking, baking, baking and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and wrapping, wrapping, wrapping. Meanwhile, our 25 Days of Christmas continues to be lots of fun for the girls.

And now with one child in school it really does feel like Christmas really begins on the last day of school, just like it did when I was a kid.

So, Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The day the fire department came to our house

Yesterday on the walk home from Emily's school at the end of the day Emily and I noticed smoke coming out of our chimney. When we went in the house, there was no fire in the fireplace. Cause for concern? I thought so. I opened the fireplace. Nuthin'. So, I decided to call the fire station and see what it all meant.

They suspected it was steam from a furnace but they wanted to check it out for themselves and sent a fire truck over... filled with firefighters.

Two firefighters came in, gave the girls stickers, and then checked our portion of the house and also checked it for carbon monoxide. Then they wanted to check the basement unit (there is a family of three who lives in the basement in this house). No one was home down there so I had to call the management company to come over and open up downstairs.

The firefighters were down there with the manager for about 10 minutes. And then they informed me that the strange portableish gas fireplace down there is illegally vented into the chimney. They disconnected it and tagged it and wrote up a notice that makes it mandatory for the owner to change the venting due to the risk of carbon monoxide coming back into the house.

Um, gulp. Since we've moved in here, the owner has had to continually pump money into this place as we've found problems... all that had to be fixed - plumbing, windows, heating, etc. And I'm sure our neighbours downstairs are thrilled that they no longer have sufficient heat in their bedroom, much less their apartment as a whole.

Not that I regret calling. As the nice fireman pointed out, that's what they're here for and they'd rather that we call than not if we think something's wrong. And something was wrong and, again as he pointed out, you don't fool around with potential carbon monoxide issues, especially with kids around.

It was all very exciting for the girls.

John wonders when we'll be getting our eviction notice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

25 Days of Christmas update

I really was hoping to post each day about our activity in our string of cards each day but it hasn't worked out that way. I guess we're just too busy getting all Christmasified. However, inspired by Lynn, I decided to do a catch-up.

Last I wrote about this, we were about to watch Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! and eat popcorn. That went really well, not suprisingly and gave me time to do some tidying and cooking while the kids did that with Aunt Beth. I realize the idea is for me to do these activities with them, but I needed a break at that time and the activity gave me just what I needed.

Day 9 was my easiest so far: go to Leah's birthday party. I didn't have to do one thing but buy a small gift and I even had the store wrap it. And then I got to visit with parents at the party (all close friends of mine) while the kids played and John made his way home on the Air Transitway van from Hamilton Airport. I am so glad I insisted he hire a ride home because after my morning that day, I didn't want to head to another airport at the end of the day.

Day 10 was another easy one for me: read a Christmas story. And to be honest, only Hope benefitted from that one. Emily chose Arthur's Chicken Pox as her story. It's her activity so it didn't matter to me.

Day 11, yesterday, was "Have breakfast at Cora's". That was a huge hit, as usual.

Until Emily threw up in Cora's bathroom.

There's always something with Cora's and our kids. Either one (and by one I mean Hope) is terribly behaved or one doesn't like the food (and by one I mean Hope). Now I'll add "or one throws up." That would always be Emily. She has the gag reflex of a cow. Although I first thought she'd eaten herself sick, it turns out to be a stomach bug that is still plaguing her a bit. Poor kid.

She perked up though for the cutting of our Christmas tree right after breakfast yesterday (our brilliant idea to avoid the weekend crowds - another advantage of having a husband on sabbatical). It was bitterly cold at the farm but quiet and snowy and rather lovely if you were dressed for it as Emily, Hope and I were. John... not so much but that's John's technique for denying the existence of winter. We chose a great tree - narrowish at the bottom but tall. We can actually have a tall tree this year since we have 9 foot ceilings in this old house we're in. We rearranged the furniture to make it more Christmas-tree friendly. I love the new arrangement; it makes it so much home-ier. We plan to keep it this way after the tree is gone.

This morning, we decorated the tree and had a great time doing it. John and I have developed a great method of putting the tree in the stand now that works really well for us, no arguing, little sap in the hair and no falling Christmas trees... it's all about the team work. The kids and I loved decorating it as usual, John put on the Christmas music and took photos and video.

You realize of course that neither cutting or decorating the tree was on my cards. Originally they were on for last week but I had to change things around and they just became things we did. The kids don't care though. Not one bit.

This morning's card, Day 12, is "bake our gingerbread house". I did this for the first time last year (surprisingly since I was also in my first year of a baking business) and it is so much better than the store-bought ones. You can actually tolerate eating it. Also, the pattern/recipe makes little trees and people too. If I have agreement from Tamara who is owner of the recipe and pattern pieces, I'll post the recipe here... I won't be able to put the pattern pieces up though. Maybe I'll save that for next year when I have my scanner back out of storage.

And that's where we're at. It's going really well so far but I also realize this is the last year it will be so easy since Emily will be in full-day school next year with Grade 1. I'm really enjoying the freedom we have this year and appreciating it. Next year will require a lot more organization and thinking ahead, especially with a baby in the mix.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ontario's first winter storm pretty much had its way with us

Holy frack, I am so tired I could spit.

How's that for sticking two awesome little sayings in one sentence?

This morning and last night was Ontario's first biggish winter storm of the season. This morning was the morning that Beth left. By airplane. From the Toronto airport. An hour away from here.

I got up at 5:45 and checked the status of her flight. It was a go although many others were already delayed or cancelled but hers was still 4 hours away.

I woke up the girls and took them to my awesome friend Tamara's house (5 minutes away at the most) who is the absolute best person in the world for reasons you will soon find out. I came back to our house and Beth and I loaded the car and were on the very icy roads by 6:50. And from there we crawled to the Toronto airport. At the 9:30 mark, we were in Milton. Milton! For those of you who know Ontario, you'll know that is crazy! On a regular day I should have been in Milton in about 30 minutes. It took us over two hours to get there. We stopped at a Starbucks there and headed back out. Beth's flight was supposed to leave at 10:13. It was delayed by 15 minutes only and it left the ground without her. We pulled into the airport at 11:00, a full 4 hours after we left Waterloo. On a regular day that should take me an hour, maybe an hour and a half during the morning commute.

For the record, people were driving really smart - and that's why it was so slow - it was a crawl all the way from Waterloo. I did see three accidents - all of them jack-knifed transports in the ditches. No one injured it seemed, which is good.

It took me only an hour to get home and pick up my kids from Tamara WHO HAD LOOKED AFTER THEM FOR SIX HOURS. Along with her own two kids. And that is only one reason as to why she is the best person in the world. I owe her so big.

And so it is 8:30 and the house is a pigsty and I don't care. I'm going to bed.

And as of right now, Beth, who missed her flight, is probably finally boarding her flight in Chicago after having a 5-hour layover there. 5 HOURS! WITH A TWO-YEAR OLD! So if I think I'm tired, it is nothing compared to how she'll be feeling when she gets off that plane in Austin at 11:30 tonight.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

And the winner is....

The winner of the 4 tickets to Disney on Ice Princess Classics is....


Iloveknitting please email me your details - name of person picking up the tickets, address, phone number so I can forward it to Mom Central.

Your tickets will be at the Rogers Centre ticket window. The person whose name is on the tickets will have to bring picture ID to the Rogers Centre in order to receive the tickets.

Congratulations from one knitter to another!

Monday, December 07, 2009

And update on our 25 Days of Christmas

Beth's visit has flown by so quickly that I'm not sure if I can actually remember all of our Christmasy activities but I'll try and give you a taste of what we've been doing.

We did finally get to making Stone Soup on Friday and it was delicious! Emily got to choose everything that went in there vegetable-wise. I marinated some chicken and created a stock and cooked some noodles on the side. While the kids and Beth and my dad and Donna were eating the soup, John and I snuck away for an amazing meal out at La Margarita, a mexican restaurant in Uptown Waterloo. Delicioso!

Yesterday we took the kids to Waterloo Park after supper to see the Wonders of Winter light display that is there every year. Different businesses from the area sponsor a small character or scene made out of lights. Most are Christmas-themed but there was also Dora and Boots, Arthur, Bob the Builder and lots of dinosaurs and other animals. The whole effect through the park was beautiful. We'll be going back again, with John this time, when there is snow on the ground.... and it looks as though that could be soon.

Today after my dad and Donna left, Beth and I walked Uptown with the girls for some fun shopping - a gourmet food shop, a toy store, snacks - and then over to The Art Studios (formerly Lucy's Mudhouse) to paint some ceramics. The girls loved it! They each painted some Christmas decorations.

Tomorrow our activity is an easy one for me: watch Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! and eat popcorn. I love easy ones.

Last day to enter

Please don't forget that tomorrow I'll be randomly drawing a name to win 4 tickets to the opening night show in Toronto of Disney on Ice Princess Classics at the Rogers Centre.

Here is the original post with the rules for entry. Please enter.... you have a very good chance of winning!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Day 3

Day 3 of our 25 Days of Christmas and also Day 2 of Beth's visit.

Today was my only busy day during Beth's visit but we did manage to fit a few fun things in. We walked to the Waterloo Public Library this morning and got a bunch of books and some videos for the kids. While there we also picked up some (free) tickets for a kids Christmas concert taking place tomorrow at the library (I'll be changing our Day 4 card tonight!).

Our activity for today was to go to the library and get the book Stone Soup and then make stone soup for supper. We did go to the library and get the book. We didn't make the soup but I've promised Emily we'll make it on Saturday after we get some great veggies from market.

Tomorrow is the concert and I have no more obligations for quite a while!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday

So, yes, I did say I would post through our 25 Days of Christmas and here we are on Day 2 already and I haven't posted about it. It seems I needed a day off after my successful NaBloPoMo participation.

So, Day 1 started off great until Emily read the card: put up the Christmas lights, and promptly burst into tears because "I'm too little to put up the lights!" But it all turned out fine and they were able to help me a bit and we ended Day 1 with a game of hide and seek in the yard.

I arranged a cop-out for myself today by putting "Aunt Beth and Kate arrive!" on the card, which also meant that Mummy spent the day cleaning but the girls didn't mind and had a great time playing together and then with their cousin, Kate.

So that's our 25 Days so far.

And now onto what's cooking.

I got this recipe just a few days ago after tasting it on the weekend. No snide remarks or turned up noses until you try it.... you'll love it too.

Gwen's Caramel Slices
1 cup salted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
32 soda crackers (salted, saltines)
1 cup sliced almonds
chocolate chips/ white chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Place butter nad sugar in a saucepan and cook, stirring until mixture is smooth. Boil for 2 minutes.
3. Arrange crackers on cookie sheet, overlapping them just a tiny bit.
4. Pour butter/sugar mixture over top as evenlly as possible.
5. Sprinkle with almonds. (optional)
6. Bake for 7 minutes minimum. Will look saucy but will harden as they cool.
7. Pour chocolate chips over to almost cover. Place back in oven for 1 minute to let chips melt and then spread. Top with almonds or white chocolate (melted)