Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bargain hunting / quarry on Tuesday

Ever since I sold my washing machine and a TV stand online, I’ve been browsing kijiji and for stuff I don’t really need. Now I understand people’s e-bay addictions; you just never know what kind of deals are out there! Our living room furniture is breathing its last breaths and needs to be put out of its misery. Actually, it has more misery ahead of it because it will probably end up in the basement since the sectional we currently have down there passed away some time ago and is now a rotting corpse of a sofa. New living room furniture is not in the budget right now so I wasn’t seriously looking, but I came across a nice neutral couch and loveseat that seemed to be in great condition and a great deal. I was getting my hopes way up, but when I called to make arrangements to see it, the guy said it had just been sold. But now that I know it’s possible to get something for a reasonable price, I’m keeping watch for the next great deal to come up. In the meantime, I’m getting a kick out of some of the ads. Anyone need a kitchen witch for $10? I also came across this ad. Dale and I bought the exact same coffee table at the Brick when we got married. If I remember correctly, it was like $350 or something, and I believe it was the only new piece of furniture we bought. In hindsight, I wonder if we could have spent that more wisely, but we were so proud of that coffee table. The mirror constantly had fingerprints on it and we always had to be careful not to scratch it and dust showed up very prominently on the black paint, but we loved that thing. I like the ad description “Mirrored top coffee table no longer required.” Truer words have never been spoken. Although for fifteen bucks…part of me is tempted.

Here’s another ad I liked. Many ads specifically mention “pet free home” as a selling feature; this one does not. In fact, these people like to place their cat on the chair. I guess it weeds out the calls from people that have allergies. Maybe they did it on purpose, but it seems a little odd.

It’s always nice to find new ways to waste my time. But it’s okay because I was quite productive today. I dealt with a whole stack of papers that had been lying around, got some school forms filled out and school supplies organized, and did some cleaning in the playroom. We also went to a Goldeyes baseball game this afternoon - it was perfect weather for it and a lot of fun. I don’t know if I’ll ever bring Neve again though; she was tired and bored and we spent triple the amount on food than we did on the tickets, just to keep her happy. The weather looks promising this week – I’m hoping to go to the quarry on Tuesday, so anyone interested is welcome to join us. It’s always more fun with more people.

Now I must go and check kijiji again. Someone may have listed a brand new couch set for $100 in the last 15 minutes.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Second last full week of summer holidays

We’ve had a busy but fun week. It looked like it was going to be a lazy, unscheduled week, but it ended up being very full (in a good way). Here’s a detailed recap of my week for those who have been wondering how I’ve been spending my time. No one? Okay then, I’ll keep it to the highlights.

On Tuesday, the kids and I and went for a bike ride to Fort Whyte and took a snack of freshly-baked blueberry muffins to eat in the treehouse there. It was a long bike ride – almost an hour each way – but the kids did very well with no complaints at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. Neve traveled in style in her royal chariot (bike trailer) looking at books, but suddenly she started screaming as if Cujo the psycho dog was attacking her. But instead, a grasshopper had gotten into the trailer and since she is not very brave when it comes to insects, she was freaking out and it took a long time to calm her down. She was nervous the rest of the way and said she wished she never would have come. I was also nervous at one point when there was a gaggle of big fat geese blocking the bike trail. They grudgingly waddled away when the kids got closer, but I would have preferred if they had been a little less comfortable at the sight of humans. After we got home, Neve napped and Chloe and Spencer spent a long time racing Hot Wheels cars down the slide while I worked on my laptop at the patio table. Then I sent the kids to 7-11 for slurpees, which hasn’t happened since this incident, but their desire for a slurpee trumped their trauma. It was just one of those days when everyone (especially me) was happy and calm and content.

Wednesday was one of the best summer day yet, and we spent it at the quarry with friends we haven’t seen for a long, long time. Jennifer and I met eleven years ago when we were both out walking on Corydon with our baby girls. We started talking and exchanged phone numbers and ended up hanging out a lot when the kids were little. The girls ended up going to the same home daycare, which was run by a friend of Jenn’s who turned out to our Siobhan (well, she was Siobhan all along, but now she’s our Siobhan). A few years later, Spencer and Jenn’s son Jack went to Siobhan’s day care together as well. So I have Jenn to thank for introducing me to Siobhan, as well as to another friend who now happens to lives on my street and has children the same age as mine that my children love playing with. Somewhere along the way, Jenn moved to a different neighbourhood and we all got busy with school and work and kids and we rarely see each other. All that to say it was great seeing them and my kids really enjoyed playing with her kids, and a hot day at the beach was icing on the cake. Another Jenn friend was at the quarry too, so it was a good time all around.

We sold our washing machine on Monday and spent the rest of the week with no laundry facilities, so I was thrilled (and I’m not just saying that) with the arrival of our new washer and dryer yesterday. I’ve done several loads of laundry today and it all seems to be working well. I feel sad for the new appliances that they have to be in such a dingy room, so I’m newly motivated to fix up our laundry room.
With new appliances come big cardboard boxes, so the kids have been having fun with that. That’s Bella in the pictures below – she is back from three weeks in Portugal, all brown and tanned and cuter than ever. She spent the day here on Friday.

I will end with a line Neve’s been saying whenever she hears a song she likes on the radio. “I want this song on my iPod.” (she doesn’t have one)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The weekend report

I often intend to reply to questions or comments in the Comments section, but somehow it doesn’t happen very often. But I always read them and appreciate them, so please don’t feel like I’m ignoring you. The children were only wandering the streets one or two of those nights; the rest of the time they were with grandparents. My wine cellar would be violating every code there is, especially the moral code, and regarding washing machines, I should have asked for Shannon’s input before ordering our set. I am quite determined to eventually have a countertop over our appliances though, so the contradictory top-loading front-loading concept wouldn’t work.

Moving on. We had a lovely surprise visit from Siobhan on Friday morning. It was short but sweet and we were all delighted to see her. (Don’t ask what’s up with Spencer’s bare chest and orphan-like sweats.)

We spent the weekend at the yurts at Spruce Woods. The weather magically cooperated for a change and we had a great time. We went for a hike in the sand dunes, went to the beach, and sat around the campfire. It’s a beautiful campground and the yurt bay was private and heavily treed. The ground was covered with poison ivy, but thankfully no one is itchy so far. It would have been great to have our bikes; if anyone ever invents a bike that can fold down to the size of a pizza box, they’ll be rich. We went with Teresa & Anthony and Doug & Lorie and all the children, so a good time was had all around.

Neve destroying the eco-system

We all loved the desert - I highly recommend it. It's not as long a drive as I thought it would be; it could easily be done as a day trip.

Why, yes, we did take a picture at every meal

On the way home, we stopped at the waterpark in Portage. It was hot and sunny all day, so we splashed around for a few hours and then came home. We’ve cleaned up everything except the laundry, which is piled high. My broken dryer is smirking more than ever.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lots of drip-drying going on

This week, we made an exciting purchase. Besides my junk drawer organizer, it’s probably the best purchase of the year. It’s … a … new … washer & dryer! This is the first step in my laundry room’s journey from this (you have to scroll down a bit) to this. I’m expecting a miraculous transformation as soon as the new appliances arrive. I hope my fairy godmother and her wand are on hand. I was really hoping we could put new flooring in before they arrive, but sadly there are some plumbing issues that need to be dealt with first. But at the very least, the room is already much cleaner than it is on the picture. I put the washing machine on Kijiji, so I had to make the room less hideous for prospective buyers. They probably will still think it’s hideous; I must remember to put up a “before” picture on the laundry room door.

I’ve been trudging along without a dryer for the past week and it hasn’t been easy. There is laundry constantly hanging over the shower rods, dining room chairs, and every other available spot. I’ve hung clothes outside to dry on our cable wire, but I have to keep looking out the window the whole time because even if it’s sunny at the moment, it could start to rain at any second. I’ve had to bring laundry in wetter than it was when I put it outside, which is super unproductive and makes me sour. I’ve also used my neighbours’ and mother-in-law’s dryers, but nothing is convenient, especially when a child throws up in the middle of the night and doesn’t get it all in the bucket. I won’t discuss that further, but I am very thankful that my washing machine still works. I bet my dryer is feeling very smug right now, thinking how important he/she was and all those years of being taken for granted is finally paying off. It’s probably also thinking, “All I need is a new belt! Why are they sending me to be recycled?” (We’re calling it ‘recycled’ to make both us of feel better. Well, actually I think it is being taken to some sort of appliance recycling place. It will probably make lots of new Harvest Gold friends there.)

The kids have only been home one night since Sunday, so it’s been a quiet week. I had plans for a bike ride and picnic yesterday, but the rain smashed those down. I am desperate to get to the Quarry at least one more time this summer, but the weather is not cooperating. Unfortunately my soccer goes on whether there are tornado warnings or not, so I played two games this week in the rain. It wasn’t just drizzling or sprinkling, it was all-out raining. Some people like exercising in the rain. I do not. And we lost both times, which goes without saying.

Tonight the girls and I went to Rainbow Stage (great show!), and tomorrow we’re off to Spruce Woods for the weekend. Hope you all have a great weekend – I’m fully optimistic that it’s going to be hot and sunny, so make sure you cram in all your summer goals and dreams!

Monday, August 17, 2009

More trip

Before our trip is a distant memory, I guess I should write down what I enjoyed most about our vacation. There was actually very little that I didn’t enjoy, but I’ll try to narrow it down.

This is pretty general, but I loved Toronto. I loved it when we lived there, but I wondered if it would be all that I remembered it was. It was. I loved downtown, I loved the Beaches, the restaurants, the subway, the shops – all of it. The kids loved it too; Chloe is determined to live there when she’s older. It helps that we were in vacation mode and no one had to work or go to school or pay a Toronto mortgage, but I do love that city.

We visited two sets of friends while we were in Toronto. The first was a couple that we knew from Winnipeg, and we eventually followed them to Toronto. We had our first babies three months apart and hung out with them a lot. Now those babies are eleven, and didn’t remember each other at all. The kids (except Neve) all slept in a tent in their backyard, and the next day we all went to Casa Loma. We went to another friend’s for dinner one night. I worked with her at Bell Canada, and we’ve kept in touch since then. She has a 15 year old daughter whom the kids loved, and we all had a really nice time. It was great seeing people we knew, not to mention what a treat it was to have a break from restaurant food.

In Chicago, we stayed at the best hotel. It was right downtown, within a couple of blocks of the shops on Magnificent Mile in one direction, and a short walk to Navy Pier and the lake in the other direction. It was hip and cute and different than other chains we stayed at. Everyone - staff and guests – were helpful and friendly. By the time we got to Chicago the novelty of being a tourist had largely worn off, so the best part was the outdoor pool on the 5th floor. It was hot and humid the whole time we were there so we spent lots of time at the pool. The kids swam both evenings too and it was so cool sitting there in the muggy night air, surrounded by skyscrapers. I could have done with a few less sirens and honking, but it was still pretty much my best memory of the trip.

(someone mentioned there weren't many photos of me - here are my toes)

One of the things I look forward to most about vacations is having time to read. I read two great books, some magazines, plus another two novels that I read aloud to the kids. I bought another book that I didn’t get a chance to start, but at least I have something to look forward to for my next vacation.

And even though personal space and time was in short supply, I have to say I loved spending time with the family without any of the usual distractions. If only we could afford household staff and a life of leisure, my life could be like that all the time. I’d have so much more patience with the kids and we could do craft projects with pipe cleaners and craft foam and do scavenger hunts and plan mystery dinners. Oh well, I tell myself the children will grow up to have more character by not having a childhood just filled with fun and games.

My final happy memory involves shopping. I did very little throughout the trip, but we stayed in Minneapolis the last night, so Chloe and I went to Ikea in the morning. I bought a shelving unit for the living room, and a few other things. However, my favourite purchase ever was made at The Container Store in Chicago. It’s a junk drawer organizer. I don’t have a ‘Before’ picture, but just imagine a chaotic, unorganized mess. Here’s the ‘After’. It pleases me every time I open the drawer.

I’m in an organizing mood and have a few other projects on the go, but will have to get to that another day. I leave you with one of my favourite pictures from the trip.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Honey, I'm home!

We got home last night, safe and sound. I tried to prolong the vacation this morning, but the mailman woke me up when he rang the doorbell at 9:15. I hate him. Then I used the thickest white towel we had for my shower and ordered room service for breakfast. That hasn't worked out so great; I'm still waiting for my waffles. We spent the day unpacking, cleaning the van, and doing laundry until the dryer made a horrid noise and stopped working. I suspect it’s beyond repair. Luckily it was a gorgeous day so I hung all the wash outside to dry. I had a soccer game tonight and the whole family came with me because we are so used to being all together.

We had an awesome trip and I’m so sad it’s over. We spent time in Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Chicago. We saw friends that we hadn’t seen in years. We were stereotypical tourists, doing all the attractions and making the kids pose awkwardly for pictures everywhere we went. All that was missing was a fanny pack. We all got along and the kids traveled amazingly. The only thing that didn’t go as planned was getting stuck at the border from Ontario to Michigan on our way home. Apparently they were “tagging minivans” so we had to park and the whole family had to go stand in a long, slow line. When we finally got to the counter, all we had to do was fill out a form and then the customs agent did a quick vehicle inspection. I thought they could have at least interrogated us separately or done a thorough vehicle inspection to make it worth our while, but it was just a long, useless process that set us back more than two hours. I really can't complain if that's the worst thing that happened on the whole trip; however, if more things had gone wrong, I'd be happier to be home. On the positive side, it was a treat not to have to use a single public washroom today.

Once I organize my trip photos, I will invite everyone over and make you sit through a long, elaborate slide show set to music. Until then, here’s a list of eleven things that the kids really enjoyed, in the order in which they occurred (the captions are below the photos; the spacing in Blogger is not co-operating):

Eating at Big Boy in Michigan

Having a baboon sit on the side mirror of the van at the African Lion Safari

Riding an elephant at African Lion Safari
Exploring Casa Loma
Playing snakes & ladders on a giant board on the pool deck of our hotel in Toronto
Taking the ferry to Toronto Islands and having lunch on the patio on a gorgeous afternoon

Going up the CN Tower – this is what the kids were looking forward to seeing most, and they felt it met all their expectations.

The tacky tourist attractions in Niagara Falls. We did the Maid of the Mist, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Crystal Caves (a mirror maze), the Butterfly Conservatory and the Skywheel. It was a dream for kids of all ages.

Swimming and water-sliding at the Best Western in London
The Harry Potter exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago (no photo)
Going for a hansom cab ride in Chicago
I laughed when I read the comments from the last post – we did not come home with any Attentive Girl Dogs. Every single young girl we saw on Miracle Mile (the tourist shopping district) was carrying around an American Girl doll. I took the girls to American Girl, but I told them beforehand that we wouldn’t buy one. Neve is not really into dolls – she prefers stuffed animals – and Chloe doesn’t play with dolls much anymore. She did bring her beloved Sophie along, so we ended up buying an outfit for her, which was the perfect compromise. I did feel some guilt that Chloe and Neve seemed to be the only girls in the city that didn’t own an American Girl, but I turned it into pride that I didn’t give in to consumerist pressure. The girls didn’t seem to mind; they are usually good about that sort of thing. The kids didn’t beg for junky souvenirs the whole trip; instead, Spencer got Lego from the Lego store on Miracle Mile, Chloe got the doll outfit, and Neve got a pink stuffed pony (she had done so well by choosing only Brown Ee-ee, Unicorn, and Puppy to bring on the trip, but Pink Pony made four). Sadly, I do have to admit that we also ended up buying Neve a T-shirt at Niagara Falls. It has a butterfly fairy on the front which Neve thought was exquisite, and she asked in such a cute way that we couldn’t resist.

That’s all for today. I'm going to compile my top picks in the next post.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Are we there yet?

Just a little hello from London, Ontario. We were in Niagara Falls last night and left this afternoon to get a head start on our way to Chicago. The trip is going very smoothly - no vehicle trouble or illnesses or hotel problems. We booked most of our hotels through Hotwire and since we've never done that before, I was a little concerned that it would actually work. Tonight we're at a Best Western with a beautiful pool area and waterslide and the kids have been having a splendid time.

We've visited more tourist attractions than I can name, eaten more fries than any dietitian's family should eat, and done more walking than I would have thought possible with three children (although Neve has been on Dale's shoulders for a large portion of the trip). My legs and feet are chronically fatigued and I've had the back of my flip flops stepped on more times than I can count. But we've been having a lot of fun. The kids have done so good with the travelling and have kept the whining and fighting to a minimum. They've loved pretty much all the attractions we've seen and their excitement is contagious.

I am feeling pressure to step away from the public-access hotel computer - people are starting to hover and glare at me. Tomorrow we'll be in Chicago for a few days, then heading home. See you then! (some of you)