Tue 31 Dec 2019

Our Christmas surprise

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Last year, my Christmas spirit was delayed and all things Christmas-y followed suit. We got there eventually, but it did feel touch and go for a while – particularly because most of the presents that I had ordered in the middle of the month still hadn’t arrived by December 23, necessitating a hasty re-order (thank you Amazon Prime!) and some running around to find anything that was in stock locally. But, it’s not like I usually finish wrapping presents until Christmas Eve anyway …

This year, the Christmas spirit was willing, but the body wasn’t able – we were just too dang busy! We finally picked up our tree around the middle of the month, but ended up driving to the local building supply store, rather than out to our usual tree farm, since we heard that the pickings were already slim at the farm. We ended up with a shorter tree than usual, made even shorter by the fact I had to cut a few inches and an entire row of branches off the bottom since it wasn’t sucking up water for the first few days. We told the kids that just left lots of room underneath it for presents. Although present buying was also a bit delayed this year. And then there was the last-minute buying Christmas Eve for an unexpected recipient. And the last-minute buying Boxing day because I somehow missed buying a present. Busy, I tell you. Busy.

At least I had managed to decorate most of the rest of the house before then. And our cards went out on time!

We missed the Christmas Eve service because we were just too exhausted to go. I was a little sad about that, but we made it work with a Christmas movie on the couch in our Christmas pajamas. And I continued my tradition of wrapping the last presents after the kids went to bed. 😀 Although this year it was not because they arrived late, it was because the kids would have guessed what the presents were if they had gone under the tree any earlier.

But our Christmas surprise was not that everything actually got done on time. Our Christmas surprise was the two baby guinea pigs that we woke up to on December 27th. We had adopted two guinea pigs at the beginning of November and I had started suspecting a few days before Christmas that one might be pregnant. I’m still a bit annoyed that the people we adopted the original two from hadn’t separated their male and female guineas properly, but I will admit that it was exciting to see those two tiny furry faces peeking out from under the momma guinea. We need to wait a little longer to see if the newbies are boys or girls and then figure out what we’re going to do, but I highly suspect that our family just grew by two.

The nuggets as newborns and at four days old.

Fri 3 Apr 2015

Yup, we’re those people

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Last year, we decided not to turn off our outdoor Christmas lights on January 1st as we have in the past. We turned off the strings of lights sometime in January or early February, but our flamingo stayed lit up until late February. Or maybe it was March? (Just looked it up – it was APRIL!) But, it doesn’t really matter. It was well past our usual date and well past the date that most people would find acceptable.

But, a flamingo is a warm-weather bird, right? So he shouldn’t need to be limited to December only. And you’d have to look fairly close to see that he’s wearing a santa hat. Would it be acceptable if he wasn’t wearing a santa hat?

It really got me thinking: what’s so unacceptable about lights outside December? If you think about it, we put up lights because they bring us joy. Why is it so bad if they go up a bit early or stay on for a little longer? January can be a very dark and cold month; we need all the joy we can get!

This year has been no different. The strings of lights came down January 1, but our flamingo remained.

Today, Charles warned me that he thought he should come down when the last of the snow melts from our lawn. I figured that’s fine.

Then the gnomes can come out!

Sun 10 Aug 2014

A camping (glamping?) we will go

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I’ve been camping regularly since I was a teenager, but always in a tent; the closest I’ve been to a camper was one weekend when I was quite young and we stayed with a friend in a tent trailer that was two narrow beds and a foot or two of floor space between them. Over the last few years our tent has grown from a cozy two-person tent to a spacious two-room tent, but we’ve always been happy to make a tent our home away from home. What we haven’t been ecstatic about lately was the lengthy setup when we arrive at our campsite (and then the even lengthier tear-down at the end of the trip) that was required for our family-sized tent, dining shelter, and all the associated things that go with us on our trips. We’ve tried to trim the extras, but the setup always remained.

Last year the idea of a trailer started to take hold to cut out at least a portion of the setup/tear-down. We took a few half-hearted looks through the classified ads, but we didn’t find anything that really grabbed us before the end of the season. The idea resurfaced again this year and once we narrowed down what we were looking for, we set about slogging through all the listings again. Finding trailers that we liked was quite easy. Finding something that was within our weight range, price range, and – most importantly – wouldn’t require a six hour drive to scope out, wasn’t as easy. The first few trailers that we physically looked at ended up being ruled out for one reason or another, but we were determined not to rush the decision or compromise (too much) on our criteria and our patience finally paid off with a trailer that mets our wishes. All it needs are a few finishing touches to make it feel like our new home away from home. I’m not sure that I can get everything that I want done before we leave for our next camping trip, but since I think the search for the trailer used up most of my patience, I suspect that I’ll at least take a stab at some of it. Because, you know, I needed another project this Summer.

Well, actually I guess I did since my front patio project ended up being more Charles’ than mine. 😉

Thu 31 Jul 2014

Party on the patio

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Although we have a good-sized patio in our backyard, the last few years we’ve been drawn more and more to our front porch, particularly in the late afternoon and early evening. It’s covered, so we can still sit outside if it’s raining, and in the afternoons the slight breeze makes it surprisingly cooler than even our well-shaded backyard, so on hotter days it’s been an ideal spot to have a little break or enjoy a popsicle, snack, or even dinner.

We started with a simple wooden garden bench that we picked up at a garage sale but, as our family grew, we quickly outgrew (or, more precisely, outweighed) the aged bench. We relocated two Muskoka chairs from the backyard to the porch to compliment the bench, but the narrow porch meant that the bench had to be situated several feet off to the side and conversation wasn’t really possible. So, this Summer I set about meeting the challenge of how to transform our porch into a more usable configuration.

The first thing to tackle was the front garden, which was pretty empty anyway. When we moved in, we had a gorgeous garden in our backyard but half of it was destroyed when we had our fence installed, despite my best efforts to relocate the plants before the post digging began. As a result, much of my gardening time the last few years has been spent trying to get our once thriving back garden going again. And our front garden has certainly been neglected. I put in a stone border a few years ago as a feeble attempt to add some character, and a smattering of plants to keep it looking somewhat alive, but it has, for the most part, been ignored. Most of the time I don’t even water the plants, they have to fend for themselves with the rain that falls.

The first step of the transformation was to figure out what to do with the few plants that had managed to stay alive in our front garden. After all, if they had lived thus far, they deserved at least a chance at continuing their existence. After trying a few ideas, I decided to extend the seating area into the half of the garden closest to our door (removing the plants first, of course) and to double the depth of the other half of the garden to accommodate the uprooted plants. The picture below shows it mid-reorganization as I tried to determine how much space I needed for seating (and how many plants needed to be moved).

Front Porch Step 1.5

My original plan was to use gravel for the seating area, mostly because it seemed like the simplest solution and something that I could accomplish myself since Charles had embarked on two projects of his own for the backyard. But while I was still playing with my layout, Charles mentioned that we had several large 2’x3′ patio stones behind our shed that could be used. I resisted at first, figuring that gravel was still my best bet, but soon realized that his “could be used” was more of a “would like them to be used”. So, after an unfortunate incident where I attempted to move one of them myself and instead ended up with a huge bruise on my thigh, “my” project became “our” project. And one very hot Saturday, Charles laid the patio stones. And then on the Sunday, he relaid them all to run perpendicular to their original arrangement because, despite both of us thinking that the first alignment would work, it just didn’t. But once they were relaid, it was beautiful. And “my” little project for this Summer suddenly started to look a little more real.

Front patio almost done

Front patio finished

A few weeks later the finishing gravel was added, the planters filled, and the final pieces placed. And the end result makes me very, very happy. 🙂

I love having a space where all of us can sit comfortably, and if we needed to, there’s room to place even more chairs as well.  I do feel a little bad that Charles was distracted from his projects to help with this one, but the patio stones do make it feel more “finished” than just gravel would have.

The garden has so far been thriving and I’m even remembering to water the transplanted plants and the few new plants that joined them! These small lanterns have been languishing in our shed for a few years, never quite fitting into our backyard decor, but as soon as I put them around our new patio, I knew they had just been waiting for the right spot. The flamingo is a new addition this year, spurred on by our lovely Christmas flamingo that stayed out until March.

Front patio lanterns IMG_20140731_143953

IMG_20140731_144009 IMG_20140731_143959

The birds that I received for Christmas a few years ago have previously lived in our side garden, but I wanted a more prominent spot for them this year since I’ve fallen so in love with our bird feeder.

Laughing bunny found a new home in the dwarf tree in the front yard. And, of course, no garden would be complete without a gnome. This little buy has been lounging around the backyard for quite a while, having followed us from our previous home to this one, but now the that front garden is worthy, he’s taken up residence there instead.

Laughing bunny Gnome

Sat 8 Feb 2014

If you build it …

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… the small figures will climb it!

I’m not sure which child put Abby Cadabby at the very top, but I suspect it was Abby to commemorate her ascent of the snow mountain on our street this morning.

I’m grateful that Evelyn didn’t want to climb snow mountain and instead we could stay inside to build block mountain. I’m done with Winter.

Tue 31 Dec 2013

Christmas 2013 wrap-up

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We turned our outdoor Christmas lights on two weeks early but put our Christmas tree up two weeks late. I’m sure that somewhere in the cosmos, everything evened out. And the fact that our tree leaned ever so slightly to the side just added to the charm of it … until a week later when Charles decided that it needed to be straightened – still charming, just more upright!

I started my Christmas baking on Dec 20th and finished it on Dec 24th. I had planned on finishing it on the 22nd, but an ice storm took out our power and kaiboshed our baking, and then I fell down the stairs that same night and so the 23rd was kaiboshed as well. But we needed cookies to leave for Santa, so we soldiered forward on the eve of his arrival! And in reality, that still left plenty of time to enjoy the treats. Although I’m going to admit that after realizing on the 20th that we were out of nutmeg and not being able to find our cinnamon, I substituted garam masala into the spiced nuts recipe, remembering that the internet told me the substitution the other way worked reasonably well. Reasonably well is about all I’ll give my substitution and I promptly replenished our nutmeg supply (and quadrupled my efforts to find our cinnamon, which I did find hiding in plain sight). Charles said they were still tasty. Every year I wonder if I really need to add coffee to the gingerpeople recipe, and every year I do because you just don’t mess with your Grandmother’s gingerpeople recipe! Although I didn’t do anything as drastic as attempt to substitute garam masala into that one, I did have to make one change this year when the cookie cutter passed down from my grandmother broke (for the second time) halfway through the batch. Thankfully ginger circles are just as tasty.


We got snow, and then rain (and then the aforementioned ice). We made snowbeings before Abby swiped and ate the carrot nose off one of them. Clearly we didn’t say Abby, no swiping! quickly enough! Evelyn’s mattress finally got a bed frame beneath it, so she’s now fully transitioned to a Big Girl bed. Although the bed rails stayed since she’s still quite the flopper when she sleeps and we don’t want her to transition back to the floor in the middle of the night. The crafts that I thought (hoped) would last for two weeks were used up in one, filling our door, our window, and our tree. Both girls took it upon themselves to rearrange some of the decorations on the tree, which lead to a few overloaded branches, but only one broken ornament. And no, that was not the original cause of the leaning tree. As part of our crafting extravaganza, I made a modelling clay gnome – surprise!

I didn’t quite hit my goal of finishing my Christmas shopping by December 1st, but I came really close. And I figure that the extra presents that I picked up in the two weeks that followed don’t really count towards that goal since they were extras, right? The wrapping still took until Dec 23rd, but we managed to avoid the fiasco of last year where we didn’t finish putting together the present from “Santa” until 2am on Christmas morning, and then couldn’t get it up the stairs from the basement. This year’s present was meant to stay in the basement since this year Santa brought the girls a drum kit. And yes, Santa is still on our Nice list. Two little guitars and a microphone were also found under the tree with the girls’ names on them so, with the little piano that they got lost year, we now pretty much have a complete band set. All we need is more kids to complete our band 😉 There was also another garden ornament under the tree with my name on it (not a gnome, but just as fun). I’ve decided to call her Petunia.



We took the girls skating for the first time, checked out the Wonders of Winter light display, and discovered the joy that is the Fireplace Channel. There was eggnog and rum, and my new personal addiction: warm apple cider. And, of course, there was the 12 Days of Starbucks, with an extra cup for Evelyn (even though we just put her rice milk in it). We may also be stretching the celebration by an extra day (or six).


Fri 6 Dec 2013

Gnomey on a ledge

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I admit, I’ve always though the idea of Elf on the Shelf was kind of cute. And there are some hilarious ideas out there – some kid-friendly, some not so much – of what you can do with your Elf so that you aren’t wracking your brain every night. But the actual Elf  … well, he’s never quite been to my taste. Plus, our kids haven’t really been old enough to understand the idea of the Elf reporting back to Santa, so we’ve largely ignored/avoided the little guy. But now that Abigail has hit the Frustrating Fours, it seemed like a good time to reconsider our options for reminding her to be nice, not naughty/cranky/yell-y.

Except, of course, that the original Elf still isn’t quite to my taste, and we didn’t have a stand-in for him. But a few days ago I had the brilliant (if I do say so myself) idea of making a little Gnomey to watch over our house instead! Luckily I found a half-finished one in my stash, so all I had to do was make the arms and hat and he was ready to go! I skipped the beard for this guy (mostly because I couldn’t find the yarn I usually use for the beard) and also opted to give him some legs that could dangle over the shelf. Abby thought it was amusing to have a Gnomey with legs. Abby also thought our Gnomey should be a girl (maybe because of the lack of a beard?). And so Lovela (as named by Abby) was born and has taken up residence in our house to watch over the girls and report back to Santa.


Lovela Gnomey / Lovela burning off the Christmas calories on the jumpoline / Lovela Gnomey and her homeys


We’ll see how this plays out. So far Abby seems to be buying into the idea


Abby telling Lovela about the good and not-so-good things that she did during the day

Fri 26 Jul 2013

Tour des Parcs

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My first week home with the kids kicked off with a bit of a bang.

While the play structure was spared, the debris left by the fallen tree and the threat of further branches falling from the trees that were damaged by it made the backyard pretty much unusable until everything could all be cleaned up, so this week we set about finding playgrounds to fill the void. Our usual alternate doesn’t have swings with the rest of the playground pieces, so I knew that wouldn’t fit the bill for our higher frequency visits and our second alternative was under construction (I guess not just roads are subject to the summer construction season) so that was out of the running as well. But with a bit of sleuthing and driving, we managed to stumble across some interesting new ones.

And it was actually kind of nice to break out of the usual rut and go exploring a bit (even if the kids had to walk a bit sometimes to get to the playgrounds since I didn’t always find the most convenient parking spot on the first try).

Wed 10 Jul 2013

Running on empty but feeling full

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Twenty years ago, I was convinced I would never have kids. I went so far as to tell my mother that I hoped for her sake that my brother had kids because I would never make her a grandmother. I didn’t hate kids, I just didn’t see them in my future. Somewhere between my teens and mid twenties I decided that I wanted kids, but I knew that it would be a major life change so I didn’t really dwell too much on it since I always thought it would be “later”. Which was fine when I was younger, but once I was in a serious relationship and the conversations about having kids became more frequent, I started doing the math of having more than one kid (appropriately spaced, of course) and suddenly “later” became “sooner”. Although I still didn’t feel ready. And, honestly, by then I was settled in my career and I saw taking a year off of work as a big step. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to stall my career for that long. I really liked my job and I was afraid of what I might miss out on if I wasn’t there. When one of my other co-workers expressed her plan to come back 10 months after her baby was born, leaving the last two months of the parental leave to her husband, I thought they had hit on the perfect plan. I could come back early and not feel guilty about it because I would be giving that time to my husband! He could spend time with our child and I could get back to the work that I loved. And so I did. By then I had realized that my love for my child was bigger than my love for my job, but I thought I could balance both just as my mother had when I was growing up. And so it went with our second child as well.

And now, I’ve just given up my job to spend more time with our kids. And I couldn’t be more excited.

Partly because I have been “running on empty” and this will hopefully be my opportunity to recharge. By the time I returned to work when Abby was 10 months old, she was only waking up one or two times a night and she was sleeping through the night shortly after her 18 month birthday. With Evelyn, I stayed off the full year but when I returned to work she was still waking up every 1.5-2 hours. Every night. Unless she was teething or sick, in which case she was often waking up every hour. And she has kept up that lovely pace. I kept telling myself she’d start sleeping better “soon” but “soon” never came. And now, almost two years later, I’m really hitting my limits in terms of being able to function on that little sleep. I know that staying home with two kids isn’t going to be all giggles and naps (although I’m really looking forward to partaking in the naps for a bit!) but it certainly is a different pace than I’m running right now. Right now I feel like I’m dancing a very choreographed number, and if I miss a step there’s no chance to recover and catch up with the music again, just a hard landing on my ass.

When I announced that I was leaving work (and the reason why), many people say I hid it well, but maybe it was the hiding of it that made it harder. Or maybe it was the fairly steady stream of caffeine that made it bearable.

There’s also another reason that I resigned and that’s a simpler reason: I miss my kids. I want to spend more time with them. Because there will be giggles. Lots of them. And stories, and songs, and crafts, and all the things that I missed out on in the last three years. And that makes for a very fulfilling “job”.

jumpoliiine jumpy jumpy jumpoliiine

Fri 26 Aug 2011

The five stages

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I realized earlier this week that been working through my own “five stages” lately, or at least a modified version of them:

There was very, very strong denial at the beginning. Possibly because I thought we were on the same page, and so all this seemed to come out of left field, but soon the little hints began to add up and I began to suspect that there was something more to his off-hand “jokes” and comments.

Anger is perhaps a strong word for the emotion I felt, but my feelings were certainly far from happiness as my denial turned to disbelief. There was shock. There was displeasure. And I was definitely vexed. But as all of those wore off, I was mostly just confused. How did we get here? What had changed?

I’ll admit it. I tried to shape the conversations, and perhaps do a bit of convincing of my own, but it soon became clear that the decision was made in his head and that there was no bargaining to be had.

Again, depression is too strong of a term for my stint in this stage. Perhaps woefulness or glumness would cover it a bit more precisely, as I started to realize that this was a reality – I had given it a good fight, but the fight was taking too much out of me. I had to give in to avoid being consumed.

So, Yes, I have finally accepted that we are getting a mini-van.

Except, that last one isn’t totally true. I’m trying to accept it, I really am, but there’s a little part of me that feels like he will change his mind when the time comes. Now, if we actually had the mini-van I think I could accept it (it’d be hard not to, what with it sitting in our driveway and all), but until the moment that the keys are handed over, a small part of me will always hold out hope.

So I guess it’s not actually that melodramatic to say that a small part of me – that hope – will die when we get a minivan 😉