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!

Wed 31 Dec 2014

The Christmas roundup (a.k.a Where did December go?)

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I enjoy my Christmas wrap-up posts, but this year the time got away from me. I’m not really sure how. Perhaps it was the 23 people we hosted for a full turkey dinner two days after Christmas. I still always marvel that people trust me to cook a turkey when I don’t eat it myself. I hear that it was good though. I’m impressed that I was aiming for everything to be ready for 2pm, and the last item was done at 1:50!

A deadline that I didn’t hit was my December 1st goal for completing my Christmas shopping. I didn’t even get close. I was about sixty percent done in the middle of November and got cocky, thinking I might even be done early. Then it all fell apart. I picked up the last of the planned presents on December 21. And then Charles did a last-minute run on Christmas Eve to pick up some late-breaking requests for Santa. But, the smiles on Christmas morning were worth the late trip.

The Christmas baking wasn’t just late this year. It was nonexistent. I thought that I could do it the last few days before Christmas, but somehow those days passed in a blur. I made a batch of sugar cookies for a Christmas party that we never went to, but that was the extent of it. And they hardly count since they were from a mix. But they went fast. We didn’t even have any left on Christmas Eve for Santa, so Charles picked up some tiny cupcakes while he was out fulfilling the aforementioned last-minute Santa requests.


This year, instead of a gnome under the tree for me, there was a zombie gnome for Charles. It’s going to look lovely in the garden next to my zombie gnome. I did get a book about how to survive a gnome attack. We may need it with two zombie gnomes in the garden.

I once again enlisted the help of crafts to keep the kidlets occupied. It started with tiny little beads, which were a right PITA. It soon moved onto tiny little elastics, which were less of a pain, but required me to sort the mixed bag of 600+ of them into their respective colour piles.

IMG_20141222_152851 IMG_20141230_121136

Abby learned how to play Crazy 8s. I relearned how to play Euchre. I may have also taught Abby how to play blackjack. And poker. Can you guess who got a new deck of cards for Christmas?

I got my baby fix on Christmas day with my three week old niece. I felt a little sorry to the rest of my family who didn’t get to hold her much. But I wasn’t giving up my baby time! And they get to see her more often anyway, so if you count up total minutes held, I’m sure they all come out ahead.

We waited for the snow to come back so that we could use the sled on our annual trip to see the Wonders of Winter light show at the park. But the snow never came. On the 30th, we finally made the trek with the stroller and hoped that the ground was frozen enough. Thankfully it was. The lights weren’t quite the same without the snow, but girls still seemed to enjoy them.

The girls are already asking when it’s going to be Christmas again. I guess it was a win!

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 4 Jan 2014

It must be love!

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I’m grateful to have a husband who, after taking down the Christmas lights and packing up the cords for our outdoor decorations earlier in the day, will go out in the dark and plug in our flamingo again, not because I asked, but because he knew it would make me happy. 🙂

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).

Fri 9 Mar 2012

How many more days until Spring?

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Usually by this time of year we still have a solid base of snow covering our yard and obscuring its features, but with the up and down temperatures we’ve had this Winter (and I use that term loosely), any snow we have gotten hasn’t stuck around for more than a week, and more often than not is gone in only a few days, allowing me to see the grass and, by extension, my garden. I’m not really good with house plants (we do have a few, but they have certainly suffered ever since we dropped our cleaning lady) but for some reason I do like to garden.

And right now my garden is naked and is definitely feeling over exposed.

When we installed our fence a few years ago most of the garden was destroyed, which at first upset me, but eventually I realized also gave me a chance to start anew without feeling guilty about killing plants I didn’t like. So now our garden is a bit of a work in progress: our backyard is very shady, so I’m limited in what will grow, and while I love the plants we do have I haven’t had much free time in the last two years so there’s still quite a few places to fill in.

And yet, it is still “full”. In place of the plants that have yet to mature, I guess I’ve embraced my sense of whimsy, adding garden gnomes and other statues, along with a bird bath (or two).

Last summer I built a small pond in one corner near the house where nothing would grow anyway and where our gutters were overflowing and washing away the soil. Since we couldn’t stop the overflow, the pond at least catches it and prevents any more erosion. Secretly I hoped that a frog would take up residence there, but it remained vacant. Perhaps this will be the year the pond gets a special visitor.

What I don’t miss is these lovely visitors, who popped up in larger numbers for the first time last year. I hope this year they decide to take up residence elsewhere.

Thu 5 Jan 2012

Holiday traditions

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Our holidays weren’t all about our kitchen, although I did get a waffle maker in addition to our new pantry. We also indulged in a few of our favourite traditions.

Although we skipped our usual trek to the tree farm to cut our own tree and instead opted for a pre-cut one, we continued our tradition of the 12 days of Starbucks (and even stretched it to 13 14 15 days), and Abby joined in this year with her own little steamed milk. We had family visit us, and we visited family. We took both kids to the festival of lights – this time Abby actually even seemed to enjoy it, and Evelyn at least stayed awake for it. We hung mistletoe (“kissletoe”) and stood under it every chance we got.

Abby seranaded us for days with her rendition of Jingle Bells. We ate chestnuts. We drank eggnog. Evelyn seemed to enjoy her first Christmas, particularly the lights on our tree. Charles bought me another little baby bird to celebrate the addition of Evelyn to our family.

Charles also continued his tradition of buying me a garden gnome, although he insists that it was just a coincidence that he bought me a gnome last year as well, and that two years in a row does not a tradition make. While last year’s gnome (the white one below) certainly is unique, it is a gnome by name, so I think it counts. Maybe he’s just afraid that he has started something he doesn’t really want to finish. Or I guess more precisely something he’s afraid that I will never finish. My gnome count may be at three, but my “garden ornament” count is much (much) higher.

Maybe “Santa” will bring me another gnome next year. Three years in a row must make a tradition, right?

Tue 3 Jan 2012

Welcoming 2012 with a bang (and some drilling)

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Four and a half years ago when we walked into the house we would eventually call ours, I immediately saw the cupboards hanging over the counter and thought “They would have to come down”.

When we finally did buy the house, I mentioned this to Charles and he said “But we need the cupboard space”. He was right, and yet I still plotted the demise of those cupboards for four and a half years. I tried to figure out what we could store in the basement to lessen our kitchen storage needs, but most things that went down just came back up eventually. I tried to thin out our kitchen requirements entirely, but that too was unsuccessful. I’m pretty sure I investigated the idea of a pantry on the wall beside our bay window, but the space is not very deep so no standard pantry would fit. I finally resigned myself to waiting for whenever we fully remodel our kitchen (although functional, some parts of it ain’t pretty. Thankfully the yellow stove went away the day we moved in).

A few weeks ago, Charles mentioned a “crazy” idea he had about buying a pantry to put against the free wall and tearing down the hanging cupboards. I don’t think he had even finished his sentence before I jumped in with my response (“YES!”) and no more than an hour passed before I was online to see what I could find. The odd size of the space and the busy-ness of Christmas delayed the plan for a few weeks, but on New Years Eve we finally bought a pantry that (mostly) fit, and I woke up to banging on New Years Day as Charles hammered it together. By noon the pantry was up and secured to the wall and the cupboards were down.

And then there was LIGHT!

For the past two days, we’ve marvelled at why we didn’t do it earlier. Perhaps 2012 is the year of getting things done.