Friday, April 28, 2017

Toronto



I've fallen (behind) and I can't get up. The past couple of weeks have been super busy so I'm going to do the quickest of updates to try and get on top of things.

I posted a bunch of Easter pics on Instagram so you've probably seen them already. If not, here are a couple. It was a fun weekend with one day spent with my family, one day spent with Dale's family and a relaxing day off in between.




Jumping forward a week, Chloe and I spent last weekend in Toronto. We had always dreamed of a mother-daughter trip somewhere, and when we found cheap flights to Toronto, we grabbed them. We flew with Newleaf, a new-ish discount airline. The flights were super cheap but the problem is that they fly into Hamilton, which is an hour from Toronto. We landed at 10:15 p.m. on Friday and then had to zip to the bus station in downtown Hamilton. We took the bus to Toronto, then the subway from Union Station to our apartment. There were a lot of moving parts involved in the process but fortunately it all worked like clockwork. Newleaf doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to reliability and punctuality so I was a bit concerned that our flight would be delayed and we'd miss the last bus to Toronto. That would mean an expensive cab ride to Toronto or spending the night in Hamilton. I was very thankful it all went so well. We used Uber for the first time ever to get from the airport to the bus station (and back again on our way home), and we rented our accommodations through AirBNB. We felt pretty cool.



We arrived at our AirBNB - a studio apartment on the 34th floor, right across from Eaton Centre - around midnight, checked in (we had to call our host to remotely buzz us into the building), and then walked around downtown and went for a bite to eat. There was a lot going on even at that hour and we were so excited to be there.


We spent all of Saturday and Sunday walking around, going to shops and restaurants and exploring Toronto. We rode the subway and the streetcar, checked out different neighbourhoods, and had dinner with friends Saturday night. There were lots of things that made me nostalgic for the days we lived there. I loved living there. I don't regret moving back home and living near family, but I'd love to go visit Toronto more often. There's so much going on and I'm in love with the vibrant neighbourhoods.

At Movenpick Marche, a restaurant Dale and I loved when we lived there


A guy offered to take a picture of us and suggested we hold our hands like this. I guess I could have said no but I didn't want to hurt his feelings.

Our AirBNB building

The view from our bed ...
... which happened to be right in the middle of the living room


Dinner with my good friend (I used to work with her) and her daughter.

Late night ice cream run to Sweet Jesus, a trendy place with a long lineup

The weather was beautiful - sunny and pleasant. On Sunday it was 18 degrees but much to my chagrin we spent a few hours inside in Eaton Centre mall until I could bear it no longer. At one point, a loud beeping alarm kept going off in the mall along with the announcement: "Please stand by. The fire department is looking into the issue. Do not use the elevators at this time. BEEEEP! BEEEEP! BEEEEP!" No one appeared to pay any heed to the alarm. The music in the store was super loud and Chloe was trying on clothes and asking my opinion and I couldn't hear myself think, never mind hear what she was saying - BEEEEP! BEEEEP! BEEEEP! - and I kept thinking of how gorgeous it was outside and it felt like my soul was being sucked out of me by a Dementor. So we walked down to the harbourfront and regained perspective.

Lunch at a crepe restaurant in Kensington Market

Cherry blossoms! Chloe got very tired of me freaking about every cherry blossom we saw

We made lots of good memories including eating dinner/breakfast at Fran's at 1:30 in the morning, an encounter with a sobbing girl in the elevator, lining up on a chilly evening for gourmet ice cream, trying to teach Chloe directions based on the always-visible CN Tower, walking in circles on the U of T campus, and watching the entire 13 Reasons Why Netflix series in one weekend. I had a lot of fun hanging out with just Chloe, which is something that doesn't happen very often. I wish we could make it an annual thing but there are two other kids that might start to feel resentful. Well, Spencer wouldn't care; in fact he would enjoy having two less people in the house.





We got back Monday and the rest of this week has been a blur; the days filled with work and the evenings with friends and family stuff. Happy Hour has been off-schedule lately, so my neigbour and I fit one in after work on Wednesday, then Siobhan came for dinner. And before that, my sister took me for a frappucino. It was a good day. Tonight the kids all had work or activities so Dale and I zipped out to my two-year-old great-niece's birthday party.

Cutie birthday girl!

Tomorrow night is another family event and then Saturday morning I'm off to Croatia on a Chamber trip. I'll try to post pics on Instagram when I can, but things will probably be quiet on the blog front for a while.

Hope you are all doing well and are happy and healthy!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Spring break part 3 - Spencer's birthday and other stuff

We've already talked about Spencer's surprise party, but Thursday to Saturday were my planning and prep days. Grocery shopping, cleaning, making a poster and a quiz, making/buying decorations and balloons and preparing food and drink. It doesn't sound like that much but combined with other stuff going on that week, it was hectic. I made an enormous batch of vegetarian chili; we could have easily fed another 40 people with the leftovers and I'm not even exaggerating. I also made salad and two ice cream cakes. A few of my favourite people brought salads and a veggie tray. There was punch and candy and chips and no one went hungry. The funny part is that I did the cooking right in front of Spencer and he never once asked what I was making, or why. At the time, I thought maybe he suspected something and just didn't want to put me in an awkward spot, but later he said he just didn't notice and hadn't suspected a thing. Hmmmm. Not sure if I should be worried about that.

A poster I made for the party.

Anyway, as previously mentioned, the party was a big success and all the work was Worth It.
I forgot to post this video the other day, although you may have already seen it on Instagram.




Spring Break Part 4

What, there's more? As if spring break wasn't full enough, we fit in a few more things.

The biggest excitement is Neve's new braces. She got them last Friday. When I was young, braces weren't very common in my small town. I was horrified and saddened for the few people I knew that had to wear them (a lot more of us should have worn them, but it just wasn't the thing to do back unless there were drastic deformities. And often not even then). The braces in that era were like torture devices and the victims were ostracized and avoided. That was in junior high; by high school we were a little more mature and only teased them behind their back. Of course they had the last laugh; all of us crooked-teeth adults with huge overbites aren't so cool anymore. I still kind of wish my top and bottom front teeth were able to meet so that I could bite off celery.

Thankfully, things have changed. Not only is there no stigma now, it is a joy and delight to be privileged enough to wear braces. Due to us parents buying into the "our children must look perfect and have every advantage known to mankind" (Blue Cross benefits don't hurt either), apparently almost everyone is that privileged. The tables have turned and now the few kids who are blessed with straight, even teeth are saddened and left out. They can't join in the chatter about what colour of rubber bands to choose at your next appointment or the amenities of their orthodontist's offices ("Does your orthodontist have a Keurig?" "Yes, but does yours have a colourful display board where they write the name of all kids with appointments that day?"). Those poor kids.

I'm telling myself that we got off easy with only one kid that needs braces. Neve did have some pretty major issues that weren't going to fix themselves. And purple rubber bands! So Worth It.




Anyway, getting the braces on took only about 45 minutes. That was an expensive 45 minutes. I was under the impression that it was an all-day thing for that price. I'm currently watching YouTube videos to learn how I can start my own braces business.

It went well and Neve was pretty pleased with her new look. Her mouth got a little sore toward the end of the day, and the next couple of days were uncomfortable. But every day it gets better, although she still finds the flossing procedure tricky.


Pardon the questionable grammar.

Maybe I'm biased, but I think Neve looks more like the top picture. She kind of looks like a happy little elf.



After the installation of the braces, Spencer, Neve and I went downtown on a milkshake quest. The White Star Diner was our original plan, but to our dismay, we discovered it was closed down. An internet search showed their new location was opening on Kennedy St., so we zipped over there. Unfortunately, it's not open for business yet so we went to Plan B which was VJ's on Main Street. We each got a delicious shake (and brought one to Chloe at university) and I drank the whole enormous thing and didn't eat again for hours.

Another thing I did last week was go to Fabricland. I have a thing about fabric stores. A bad thing. I remember being dragged to them as a kid. My mom spent hours in fabric stores and I found them so painfully boring. On the rare occasions that I've gone as an adult, things have not improved. The shelves of fabric bolts are chaotic and the staff is miserable. This time was no exception. The workers were expressionless at best and rude at worst. They look like zombies, putting up with their lot in life with no joy or hope. Maybe that's harsh but that's been my experience.

Fortunately my friend Kristin navigated our way to success and we left with some lovely fabric for a window covering for Chloe.

Imagine my surprise when that very day, I saw this on a radio station's social media page. They delivered a prize or something to that very store and the photo shows the employees smiling ... laughing even!



So they're only zombies when they're on duty? They turn into normal people in the break room? I guess that's one of the mysteries I will have to ask God about when I get to heaven.

And then! Dale and I went BACK to the fabric store later that week to buy the fabric to cover Neve's balance beam. Twice in one week! I should be good for a while now.

And that's a summary of our spring break. Which ended a week ago. Must get on with life.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

House projects - Spring break part 2



This was the sky tonight as we drove home from a very quick trip to Rosenort to see my cousin who is visiting. Nothing like a prairie sunset.

Continuing on with my 3-part spring break series ...

I'd been talking about painting the living room for about a year. Projects move slowly around here.
I really liked the mauve-ish colour (even though it was technically a grey that somehow looked like purple) but after eight years, I was ready for something new and fresh.

Here are the before pics:






After: (how do you like that for a dramatic contrast?!)













I love the all-white look that's everywhere these days and decided to try it. So I dedicated last Tuesday and Wednesday to painting.

I don't know if it was the paint brand (though I've used it before and liked it) or my skill level, but even after three coats of paint (with a built-in primer), it's still not perfect. However, since I wasn't willing to spend any more of my time painting, imperfect it is. I was only going to paint the living room, but in the end I also painted the dining room and the hallway.

I still need to put up more pictures and stuff but right now I'm basking in the stark, bare white-ness. Doesn't that sound cozy? Right now I'm choosing tranquil and uncluttered over cozy.

My friend Rachel gave me the idea for the framed contrasted area above the mantel. She suggested putting a round mirror up, but since I already had this metal wall-hanging thing, I'm using it for now.



I also painted the end table and coffee table, which was super frustrating because there are so many tricky round legs to paint and it took way longer than I thought it would. I knew I should be using furniture paint but I was lazy and just used the paint I used for the walls. Sure enough, it's already all knicked and scratched and now I have to go buy the right paint and do it all over again. Not sure what I was thinking.


I made a little feature wall in the hallway, painted the same colour as above the mantel. This wall has been a wasteland until now; I've tried hanging pictures here before but since the hallway is narrow, they get bumped around and fall down. I bought these cheap frames from Michaels, spray-painted them, and stuck them to the wall with sticky-tack. I went with a family/vacation theme, but it will be super easy to change the pictures in the future. I'd like to try a black and white theme. It was tough to get a good angle for these pictures; you'll just have to come see it in person.


As is always the case when you update something, everything else looks shabby. I should paint the trim, the front entrance and the upstairs stairway and playroom. But that will probably wait another eight years.



Meanwhile, Dale set about building a balance beam for Neve. He's not the handiest person around, but after some research and shopping around for the best supplies to get the job done, he whipped up this beam in less than an hour. I was pretty impressed. We bought some fabric to cover it with, but haven't done that yet. Neve is thrilled and has been using it a lot. Last year I wanted to get rid of our play structure, but the only way she would agree to part with it is if she had a beam instead. So our yard is about to get a lot emptier. It's kind of sad to erase all traces of childhood fun but I guess that's how it goes. On a happy note, the warm weather has melted almost all the snow and it feels amazing. It's also very, very nice that Neve can now do gymnastics outside and the whole house doesn't shake like it does when she flips around upstairs.

Going back to my post about our little Saskatchewan trip, I forgot to share this gem with you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74B5kMLNd5Q.

Someone sent that link to me when I mentioned our possible spring break destination. I cringed my way almost all the way through the video before I realized it must be a parody (which is a sign of a good parody). That song stuck in our heads the whole time we were away (and it's back now that I just replayed it to get the link. oh man.) We were pumped when we spotted some of the underwhelming sights featured in the video.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Birthday #3

I interrupt my 3-part spring break series to make an important announcement: Spencer went and turned 16 today.



My little finger-sucking, gecky-addicted, train-obsessed baby boy is a distant memory. Now he's tall and silent and hides in his room a lot. He doesn't like to spend a lot of time with the family and communicates with us as little as possible.

But he's a good kid. He's super conscientous and works hard in school. He's independent, smart, and does (almost) everything I ask him to without complaining. He likes to laugh and enoys doing improv on his school team. He's generous with buying gifts and rarely asks us for money, not even for school field trips or fees. (For example: he got glasses a few months ago and expressed concern about the cost. He seemed surprised when I assured him that is something parents/insurance pays for. For reasons that are not clear, he just assumed he'd pay for them himself.)

Lately there's been a glimmer of a social life. For the past two years, he insisted the social interaction he gets during the school day is enough for him and he has no desire to see anyone outside of school. But that's changed recently and he's been going out with friends on almost a weekly basis. It gives me hope that we will eventually veer away from the anti-social brooding era into a mature, social, friendly one.

When Chloe turned sixteen, we had a surprise party for her. I knew Spencer would hate that but I couldn't think of any good alternatives so I decided to do it anyway. It was a lot of fun. At least for us and the guests; I can't speak for Spencer. I know it wouldn't have been his first choice but I know he felt special and it was definitely memorable.

I had told him that I'd invite a few family members over on Sunday to celebrate, to which he reluctantly agreed. But when he arrived home from record shopping with Chloe on Saturday, he was greeted by 40 of us yelling SURPRISE!





I only took a few pictures, which I already regret. There were a LOT of people in our little house and things were kind of chaotic so I didn't get many good ones. My nephew Jonathan video'd Spencer's arrival, which was awesome. Spencer played it so cool but it took him a while to process everything!




The two littlest guests:

 

It was a super fun evening. Thanks to everyone who came and made it a huge success!

Today, on his actual birthday, Spencer requested a homemade meal of chicken pot pie instead of going out to eat. Unfortunately that means I not only had to cook, but I had to cook meat. Good thing his birthday only comes once a year. The birthday dessert consisted of scoops of raw cookie dough. And yes, there were raw eggs in it. Take that, haters. (I don't think I have haters, it's just fun to say.).

We got Spencer a bike for his birthday, which he didn't really want but his old one was way too small. He also got records, a Pearls Before Swine comic book and tickets to a concert (not to mention lots of gift cards and cash from his surprise party). The celebrations ended with a round of Dutch Blitz and then he worked on his history project the rest of the evening.

I'll end with yet another cute baby picture. I wish I could pick up and snuggle that baby. He was the best napper ever and always loved to cuddle when he woke up. He's not so cuddly now but I guess it wouldn't be quite normal if he was. I love this kid and feel so lucky to be his mom!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Spring Break Part 1

Spring break is winding to an end. I took the whole week off work, but relaxing it was not. However, the next best thing to relaxing is being productive. I got so much accomplished that I have divided up my spring break into three sections:

  1. Mini getaway
  2. House projects
  3. Birthday celebrations


Today, I shall tell you about our weekend away. If you follow me on Instagram, you already know we went to Regina and Moose Jaw. Everyone asks "Why Regina??" There's no exciting secret reason, which makes it an even odder choice for a vacation destination. We just wanted to go away for a couple of days - Chloe still had classes, so she couldn't be gone longer - and I'm just not feeling the US right now. I'm sure we'll go again sometime but the politics and the high dollar are both deterrents. So we looked at our Canadian options, which are few in the middle of the prairies. We've always wanted to go check out the tunnels in Moose Jaw, so that's what we decided in the end. There were more hotel choices in Regina so we stayed in Regina and went to Moose Jaw for the day on Sunday. 

And I'm here to tell you that you too can have fun in Saskatchewan! We walked around downtown Regina on Saturday. They have a happening downtown mall that was surprisingly busy on a late Saturday afternoon. 


There's a bit of a pedestrian corridor near the mall and some neat shops and restaurants. An exciting moment occurred when an angry girl came running full speed and attacked a guy from behind. It wasn't a random attack; it sounded like the girl was avenging a wrong done to her cousin. Others joined in and much shouting and scuffling and coffee-spilling ensured (the guy was holding a full cup of coffee) but it didn't look too serious so we walked on.


We stayed at Comfort Suites which was nice and new and spacious, but located at the very edge of the city. Very literally; on the other side of our hotel was an endless sea of wheat fields.

There was a cool waterslide but sadly Neve is the only one of our kids who is still excited by this. She made up for Spencer and Chloe's lack of interest by going on it about a thousand times.


Luckily no one's too old or too cool for Dutch Blitz.



On our way to Moose Jaw on Sunday, we took a little detour to the town of Rouleau, where Corner Gas was filmed. We knew beforehand that the gas station itself had been demolished but it was still kind of sad. However, we saw the hotel, police station, Brent's parents' house, and the Dog River Howler office.







 


The Moose Jaw tunnels were next. They offer two tours: one on the Chinese immigrants who came to Moose Jaw to work after the CP railway was done; and one on the Al Capone/prohibition connection. We did them back to back and really enjoyed them. They were more of a theatrical show than actual history, but still interesting and fun.


Then we spent a few hours at the Temple Gardens mineral pool. What, you thought that was just for old people? It kind of is but we liked it anyway. It was a beautiful afternoon (the above pictures appear otherwise, but it turned sunny and warm) so we spent lots of time in the outside pool. 

Back in Regina, we ordered pizza, watched lots of HGTV and The Food Network, read and swam. It was a easy, fun little getaway. There's nothing like concentrated quality family time when you're away from all your regular responsibilities and distractions. It gets a bit too concentrated for the older kids, but they're good sports and can handle it for a few days. It made us realize that shorter excursions are better for our kids at this stage of life and has us re-thinking our summer trip plans. Maybe another trip to Regina?! Well, we may be done with Regina for a while, but we'll see what else we can come up with. Dryden, anyone?? We're going to become the poster family for obscure boring destinations.