Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A trip through New Brunswick's past

On Monday, Pam and I dragged the kids to Harvey, New Brunswick to tour Briggs and Little Woolen Mills. I really like their yarn so was very excited to discover that the mill was only about an hour from the cottage we've rented. Briggs and Little has been in operation since 1857. Now, of course, it is fully mechanized but still covers the basic steps of yarn production that a home spinner would have to do: washing, picking, carding, spinning and dying.

The very nice people who work there were preparing for their end-of-season pizza party before their summer shutdown but we were still able to do a self-guided tour (and ask lots of questions) and shop, shop, shop in the store. I picked up a beautiful skein of handpainted yarn that will become a gorgeous scarf for me as well as yarn to knit a poncho for each of the girls.

And although it might seem that this activity was just for Pam and I, the kids were totally into it. And I'm not even kidding.

From Briggs and Little we drove about 15 minutes down the road to a place I heard about pretty much through my entire time in museum school: Kings Landing historical Settlement.

It lived up to the hype in spades.

It's a collection of buildings from the 1850s up to around 1900 that were saved when the banks of the St John River were flooded in the 1960s. The settlement sits on the banks of the river making it one of the nicest historical villages I've ever been to.

And the people. Oh, the people. They were the friendliest bunch of interpreters you could hope for. Almost all the buildings were open and they were all staffed. It felt as though we had the place to ourselves since normally the village normally isn't open until later in June but opened earlier this year because of Congress (the conference John is attending). Which meant we had the full attention of every interpreter. It was the perfect afternoon The best moments included the kids eating fresh-out-of-the-Dutch-oven cinnamon buns and each of them taking a turn spinning flax.

We ended the day by having dinner in Fredericton with John and Jim.... at Mexicali Rosa's no less, which we found pretty funny given what a popular Ottawa chain it is.

The kids all crashed hard last night. Except for Henry who has decided to eschew sleep this week. Which explains why this post is lacking in my usual pizzazz and charming wit. As well as editing and spellcheck.

Today the kids actually swam in the lake... twice. And we decided our plans for Thursday, our day at the Bay of Fundy. When I get a decent Internet connection , I'll share those plans. Very excited!



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our trip so far

So far this trip is going much much better than I expected. But I also have extremely low expectations. So I've set myself up to be impressed.

The drive to Quebec City yesterday afternoon was great until the last hour. It was spent sitting in Quebec's UNBELIEVABLE commuter traffic. I've lived and worked in Toronto. I've seen and participated in that city's commuter traffic. It. Does. Not. Compare.

And to make it that much more enjoyable, Henry screamed for that entire hour. It was AWESOME.

Things looked way up after our check-in at the hotel. We found an amazing little nouveau pizza restaurant. Gluten-free me did a little inward sob when the beautiful thin-crust pizzas were delivered to the girls and John receives his beautiful foccacia. I had a salad, which was outstanding with asparagus wrapped in mozzarella and prociutto on top of greens and black olives. And the fancy! The restaurant had a gorgeous water theme going. It was beautiful.

The only downside was that yet again John and I had to pretty much inhale our meals to look after Henry. He was really tired after not napping all afternoon and couldn't sit through the meal.

Ditto tonight.

Thus morning we had a quick swim after our breakfast at Cora's where John and I practised our French on our patient waitress and then we toured the old city.

In a word: amazing.

We will be returning without a doubt and we'll spend much more than a morning exploring.

Even so, we got a great sense of the old city and its changes in elevation! I walked from the river to the Chateau Frontenac with Henry's 26 lbs on my back. If you've been there and walked those stairs, you understand my bragging. The wind was so fierce at the top. The girls didn't complain though. They loved it once we dug out their hats and mitts.

The driving today was better than yesterday; no driving rain, no traffic jams and no screaming. There was an extra 50 minutes of driving due to a mix up trying to find and then leave the St Hubert in Rivière du Loup. not our favourite Quebec town. That award goes to St Louis-du-Ha! Ha!

And now we're at the Best Western in Edmonston whose motto slogan should be: Edmonston Best Western: the only reason to come to Edmonston.

Seriously awesome hotel in a seriously shitty town. Sorry Edmonston. I tell it like it is.




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Boulevard Hébert,Edmundston,Canada

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Totally frantic and unshowered

We are leaving tomorrow for about 10 days. We're driving to New Brunswick and back with a short stop in Quebec City and New Brunswick's armpit (aka Edmonston, although in its favour is the best Best Western ever... kid's pool with waterslide and cereal dispensers. Assume it will be the highlight of their trip). John has a conference out there so we've rented a cottage with our pseudo-family, Pam/Jim and kids.

So all you would be thieves out there.... you've been told! Of course, we do have eagle-eye neighbours and ruthless hooligans living nearby so you may want to think twice before approaching our well-guarded house.

I'm very excited and so are the kids. But, being a large trip with lots of planning and organizing to do not to mention a very long car ride with three kids, I am totally short on time and cleanliness. The garden has needed serious attention the last few days to get the veggies in on time and it seems my organizational prowess let me down yet again when I booked Henry's one-year check-up and the girls' dentist appointments all for today. Oh, and I left our three sweaters at the doctor's office across town. There's something I relish adding to my to-do list: drive across town due to incompetence.

I also have to do one last shop at Loblaws, go to the Post Office, vacuum the car (might be sent to the bottom of the list), fill out dental forms, shower. (Who am I kidding? The shower is totally at the bottom of the list.) Am I missing something? Oh, right... PACK.

I want to be very selective about what comes with us. We have a Mazda 5, a baby and two other kids. Space can be tight even with our box on top of the car and I don't want it to be tight. I'd rather hand-wash clothes than over-pack. I plan to be ruthless. There are stores in New Brunswick if I am really desperate.

Pam and I have pre-planned the meals so that we only buy or bring the ingredients we need. In looking over a couple of the recipes I'll be making, I came up with a brilliant plan: I'm going to pre-mix a sauce and a marinade ahead of time and take them in jars. Bob's your Uncle. Done.

Time for those dental forms.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

1 year ago: Henry's birth story in photos

It's been a year. One full, wonderful, amazing year and it seems like it was just yesterday and it seems like we've never been without him.

It's been a year and I haven't posted his birth story. I'm going to start writing it today. I still get emotional when I think about the drama of Henry's birth and maybe that's why I still haven't written it down. For now, here's a photographic look back at one year ago today (starting with what I did just before the birth started).

A trip to the salon. Good thing I did that because I wouldn't go again until 8 months later.


Hope's graduation from preschool. I think my laughing (to the point of almost losing control of my faculties) at Hope exposing herself in a church to approximately 200 people is what caused my water to break that night.

Preparing for the homebirth that didn't happen.

Walking to the hospital for IV #2. We didn't leave the hospital again until Henry was in our arms.

My amazing midwife, Mina, hooks up the IV for the penicillin. Dang that GBS. Gets me every time.

Getting a little help from John.

Looking a lot more chipper than I was probably feeling.

After the epidural (it ended up being the right decision as I had to push him out extremely fast to get him breathing again... 4 minutes of pushing and he was out. That's when I thanked God for the epidural).

Almost ready to push. He was actually born at 4:30 - the clock there is just before 4:00.

First photo of Henry. This part doesn't bring back great memories. He wasn't moving or breathing but they had him pink and screaming a few minutes later. The longest few minutes of our lives.

See? Pink and screaming.


And huge. 3.96 kilos. 8 lbs 11 oz.

First moments with Daddy.

Measuring time. I love the squishy pinkness of just-born babies.


First moments with Mummy. That grey hair was earned during your birth, Henry.


First moments with Aunt Sue. John's sister was there for the labour and delivery. She is massage therapist extraordinaire and was so amazing through the whole thing.


First feeding.


And ready to eat again.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

T-ball rundown

It was cold out there, folks. The wind was whipping. The skies were grey. The ground was soggy. In fact, the ground was nowhere to be seen.


Being the tough and seasoned players that they are, the team pulled together and threw together a makeshift diamond right next to this pond, using car floor mats as bases and fueling themselves with spit and gumption. It was a tough game, the crowds were surly and the scoring was high. After two innings, the game was done. Even though it had been a hard slog, the two teams met at the pitcher's mound to shake hands.

And eat freezies.

All right, so Sports Illustrated is unlikely to call me anytime soon. But it's good enough for 4-year-old t-ball.

The day really turned out great after a pretty rough start. Hope walked in to meet her team and get the photos done in a nearby arena and after finding out that her coach was a man, she promptly sought shelter behind my legs. She came out only after a lot of prodding by me and then broke into tears and stayed in tears until the end of the photo session thirty minutes later. She wasn't able to pull it together for her individual photo but she was able to sit through the team photo albeit with the biggest pout that you ever did see. The photographer told me that we'd try the individual photo again after the team photo because in his experience (and I gather that he's had a lot) that usually works to bring reluctant kids around. He was right. She even smiled.

We followed that up with hot chocolate (a bribe for that smile) and we headed out to the game and it was like a new kid was beside me. A new, old kid. The old Hope that I had been looking for a few minutes before. All smiles, laughs and excitement to try something new and exciting (but not too exciting - she's not a total thrill-seeker). She loved t-ball. I think it's going to be a great few weeks.


More photos of our first t-ball day can be seen on Flickr.

T-ball

Hope is starting t-ball today. She us UBER excited as this is her first year. She was supposed to play two weeks ago and then last week but all the rain this spring meant that the City of Ottawa couldn't allow players on the diamonds until this week. So today is her first (make-up) game and team photo. And guess what?

Yup, it's raining. And cold.

We're taking a giant golf umbrella and a big thermos of hot chocolate.

And great attitudes!

Friday, May 13, 2011

New favourite: beet hummus

While I was in Austin, my sister whipped up a batch of beet hummus, a concoction I'd never tasted before. It only took one loaded cracker to have me hooked. During my first grocery shop after I got home, I picked up two mammoth beets and last night I made my first batch.

It's extremely easy... if you have a food processor.... and an oven. And it is so good with veggies or crackers or pita or whatever hummus delivery vehicle you like.

Beet hummus

Roughly chop lots of beets and place in roasting pan with water. Cover with tin foil and roast at 350F until cooked through. Place beets in food processor with two large tablespoons of tahina (or to taste... I like a lot of tahina), one or two cloves of chopped garlic, and the juice of at least one lemon (again to taste) and salt and pepper. Blend until a hummusy consistency. Delicious!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I've succumbed

I made the decision a while ago that I wouldn't become an e-reader user. I love to read and I also love the experience of reading. I love turning real pages of real books; I love dog-earring the page to mark my place; I love the smell of the pages; I love browsing the shelves of the library or, if I'm feeling really indulgent, a bookstore (I say indulgent because if I'm in a bookstore I find it almost impossible to leave without buying a book and with a library literally a ten-minute walk away it is indeed indulgent to spend money on books); I love reading in bed, laying down, not propped up on pillows.

But I have an iPad now and with an iPad comes the ability to download thousands of great apps (and lots of not-so-great ones). Kindle and Kobo are two of the free apps that are available. So, given what I said above, what did I do?

I put those suckers on my iPad quicker than you can say Luddite.

My first reason was curiosity. I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about even though I felt I'd made up my own mind about them. My second reason was that I'm going through a short list of Victorian classics that I've somehow never read (Jane Eyre is the bomb!) and I'm having serious trouble getting them at my local library and I know that they're free through Kobo.

I may also have purchased The Postmistress and The Hunger Games.

And so I cuddled up with my iPad two nights ago in bed and started reading The Postmistress. After two nights reading in bed with my iPad I have short list of pros and cons. Mainly short on the cons.

Pros

  1. No heavy books to prop up while I'm laying down
  2. The light the iPad gives off eliminates the need for a reading light (which I haven't had for a while thus annoying John as I turn on my table lamp every night while he is trying to sleep beside me)
  3. I can switch to a different book very easily if the mood strikes

Cons

  1. Laying down reading with an iPad isn't very comfortable.

I can find my way around the Con here. I can start sitting up to read or I can save my iPad reading for the living room, deck etc (if my kids will stop playing the cookie baking game on it long enough for me to get my hands on it). I can see why people who travel a lot love their e-reader. I'm going to be loving it at the cottage this summer and on our trip to New Brunswick in a few weeks.

My assessment so far is that it's pretty cool and it will definitely have its place in my reading life but it won't completely replace the traditional book for me especially since, while I'm an avid reader, I'm also a frugal one and prefer to get my books for free at the library.

Do you have an e-reader? Do you like it? Love it? Wish you'd never bought it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy Mother's Day and happy birthday to me

Today is my birthday. I'm 39 years old.

As a kid I didn't like having my birthday so close to Mother's Day every year. I felt like I had to share the spotlight. Selfish, I know but what kid wouldn't be? Now that I'm a mother, I love having my birthday right around Mother's Day because instead of two smaller gifts, I almost always get one larger gift. And John has been on a roll the last few years. This year he has outdone himself.

In fact I'm posting this from my gift: my new iPad.

LOVING IT!!!

I'm trying out the Blogsy app. So far it is much better than the iPhone app Blogpress. I'll give a fuller review after I play around a bit more.

And while I remain a traditionalist about books, I did find myself reading from the Kobo app before going to sleep last night. I can't see myself using my iPad for my bedtime reading frequently but it will be great for reading in the living room while ignoring my children. Especially today when I plan to have lots of tea, reading and by the end of the day, a martini of some sort. I am almost 40 after all.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Austin Days 4 and 5

Yesterday was another hot day in Austin - I think it was about 34 degrees and very humid. My hair is suffering badly here - it's dry and frizzy and totally unruly and not in a I-meant-for-it-to-look-like-I-spent-no-time-on-it kind of way. I've completely given up on my hair here. I have very long, big, curly hair. It is not suited to humidity. To put it mildly. If I lived in an extremely humid climate full-time, I would have one step short of a brush cut.

We stayed around home yesterday morning. Kate and I used a cereal box and some toilet paper tubes and a paper bag to make her an awesome space jet pack and space helmet and then we played Astronaut Kate. I was Mission Control. Her bunk was the spacecraft. It was just a little bit fun.

After lunch we all - Beth, Graeme, Owen, Kate, Henry and I - went to a local outdoor pool that was open for the season. We pretty much had the wading pool to ourselves. The water was chilly at first but the kids all got used to it quickly and had a great time. It was Henry's first time "swimming" outside of a bathtub. He wanted to ease into the pool but after a bit he couldn't get enough of it.

After the boys' afternoon naps (we've relished in the boys having the same daytime sleep schedule), we went to a pizza party at friends of Beth and Graeme's. There were a few families there - they have a habit of getting together for pizza nights every so often - the kids had a great time playing, we all sat outside and had wine and good food and laughed, laughed, laughed. Given that we pushed well past the normal kiddie bedtime, the kids did great. The evening ended on a high note with a sing-a-long of The Gambler with guitar accompaniment. You know it's a good night when it ends with The Gambler.

Today was hot again. And humid again. While Henry slept this morning, I spent a lovely hour and a half doing our taxes. I rewarded myself with a noon-hour spritzer mixed by Beth and a lunch of cowboy steak grilled by Graeme. After lunch we loaded Kate and Henry behind the bikes and made our way to the UT area for a small (and extremely cool) craft show that Beth's friend was part of. All the vendors were Etsy sellers from Austin who had been handpicked for this show. There was lots of cool jewellery and vintage clothing and kitchen stuff. I found a really pretty glass necklace for myself for seven - yes, seven - dollars and a stocking stuffer for each of the girls. From there we biked onto campus to make a stop at the turtle pond, right behind the UT Tower. The pond is chalk full of turtles of all sizes and about 3 or 4 different breeds. It was very cool. Emily and Hope would have loved it. It is on our list of stops the next time they are here. After the turtle pond, we biked home for the next nap. While Beth and I were inside settling the boys into their beds, a weather front blew in that made the temperature drop about 15 degrees in as many minutes. Beth knew this was coming... she'd read about it in the forecast. Apparently this is not unusual in Austin when a front comes in. It is really something to experience. Beth says even Austinites find it crazy.

Crazy, yes, but oh, so refreshing to sit on the front porch in jeans and feel cool. I will enjoy sleeping with the windows open, no fan on, and shivering.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Austin. We don't have any big plans but I'd like to bike some more (I'm really enjoying biking around town, which I've done lots of times before in Austin... I forgot how much I loved it) and maybe do some cooking or baking for Beth for the week.


One big strawberry

and one less tooth!

John sent me this photo this morning. So adorable!



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