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Friday, 08 March 2013 14:30

I Guess You Get What You Pay For?

The other day, when I took Clara to the play area at a local store, she located a couple of Disney Princess finger puppets and carried them around with her for almost the entire time we were there.

About three days ago, I went online to the Disney store website to price out some of their Disney Princess figurines since Clara is becoming more and more interested in the Disney Princess characters and after watching her at the store this week, I think she would really love them. Also, Easter is coming, and I was trying to think of some small-ish toys (instead of candy) that I could use to fill plastic Easter eggs.

I was excited to discover that sets of Disney Princess figurines (they call them 'play sets' on the website), where very reasonably priced at only $12.50/set and if you purchased two or more, they were only $10/each. So I filled up my cart and went to check out, only to discover that on an approximately $40 order, I would be paying about $35 in shipping to Canada.

WHAT??? It's not like we're overseas here, people! We live closer to where these items were shipped from than some states! 

I gave up on the Disney site for the moment, and started looking on Canadian sites - Amazon.ca, etc. - but when I found the same sets of toys, they were $25-30 each, which actually made them more expensive than simply paying for shipping on the Disney site. 

Sigh. In the end, I sent the Disney store a cranky email complaining about the exhorbitant shipping cost but purchased on their site anyway.  I made my order a bit smaller, just because I didn't want to spend TOO much, and ordered three sets: A set of Disney Princesses (#2, according to the site), Winnie The Pooh, and The Lion King.

I'm sure it was only a few days ago that I ordered these, and today they arrived! I couldn't believe how quickly they came! 

Then, of course, I had to pay an extra $12 COD at the door... 

Oh well - next time I'll have to simply factor in that for me - living in far away Canada - prices on the Disney site are actually just over double what they are on the site - because I'll probably order from them again.

*I should note that I did get an emailed response from the Disney site, but it was obviously a cut-and-paste from their shipping policy which didn't even answer my question to them. 

So, if I were reviewing the Disney Store (which I'm not, really), I would have to say that their prices are insane, their customer service is pretty bad, but I'll buy from them anyway, because I don't really have a choice. And Clara will love these toys...

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 13 November 2012 08:22

Christmas List for Myself 2012

This week's Toddle Along Tuesday topic is on Christmas Wishlists for Yourself!  This post stumped me a little bit, because my life has become so focused on other people (two little girls named Clara and Audrey to be specific).  It has been years since I've thought about things that I 'wanted', because having so much change in just a few short years has meant that there has been an accumulation of 'needs' that we haven't been able to keep up with.

When I became pregnant with Clara, my wardrobe suddenly needed to keep up with a growing belly and then, when I was no longer pregnant, although I lost all of the 'extra' weight within a few months, I was a completely different shape and so none of my previous clothes fit me anymore.  Then I got pregnant again - this pregnancy was better, because I already had a set of maternity clothes that I liked and only had to build on that. 

Now, I am a full 2 kg lighter than I was before I became pregnant with Audrey, so I'm assuming that I will again be in a position where none of my previous clothes fit me.  I am completely ok with this, especially since there are a few items in my wardrobe that I have kept for years hoping I would fit into them again... and it just might happen!

Anyway, on the top of my Christmas list for this year is:

1. Clothes, clothes, CLOTHES!!!

2. A New Purse - not necessarily this one - please give me ideas! I am constantly changing what I want in an everyday purse. I would love to have 3-4 purses that I like for different styles and types of outings, but at the moment I have enough time tracking down the one purse I do have to go out, so just one versatile purse would be great. My last 'purse' was actually just a big cloth shopping bag with an adjustable shoulder strap (I was going for large size and functionality), and the purse I had before that I had ditched because it was too small... Does anyone have a great purse recommendation for a Mom who has a tendency to carry too much with her, but kind of wants to change that? Also, I want one I can carry along with a diaper bag and not feel like I'm carrying too many bags. Would love some ideas here...

3. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer - I have wanted one of these for awhile, but since both my husband and I spend a lot of time in our kitchen cooking, and I love to bake, we aren't willing to go with the 'bottom rung' on this one.  Brian has convinced me that we need as high as possible horse power in order to make sure we can handle any bread dough's, etc. that I might want to mix with it. 

4. Kitchen Aid Blender - this is another thing I evidently need to be 'heavy duty'. I think my husband and I have had 3-4 blenders in the time we've been married (and all of these were in the first few years, because we haven't had one in at least 3... except the Baby Bullet which toasted out on us after a year of use also), and I'll need some kind of blender for baby food when we get to that stage again in a few months. I guess I'm hard on blenders...

5. A Sony E-Reader. I currently have a Kobo, which is ridiculously short on battery life - I get somewhere around 200-300 pages, or about 72 hours, whichever comes first (as in, if I don't read a page but leave it sitting for three days, the battery will be dead... they're not even supposed to do that!).  I have actually had three Kobo's up until now - I returned the first two for bad battery life also (I figured the second was just a coincidence), and if I could figure out what could possibly be causing it I would assume it was something I was doing because I have never heard of anyone else having the same problem with Kobo.  So, I plan to give up on Kobo and would like the latest (NOT touch screen) Sony E-reader.  Does the touch screen make anyone else cranky? I loved my buttons, because you could nurse a baby with one arm and hold your e-reader in the other and still switch pages - it seems to me that with a touch screen it would be harder to hold and still switch pages... has anyone else tried this? Anyway, so I want one that does NOT have a touch screen...

That's all for now... it actually took me quite awhile to come up with these ideas, and I had to sort through all of the ideas that were less for me than for my daughters (like new bookshelves for their books, or kitchen utensils for kids to use in the kitchen).  What do you want for Christmas?

I'm sure I'll be checking the other link ups with Toddle Along Tuesday on Growing Up Geeky for more ideas! :)

Published in Blog

We woke up this morning to over a foot of snow covering our neighborhood, and so we decided to hide out inside for the day.  I was hoping to get our Christmas decorations up sometime during Brian's holidays (which, sadly, end this upcoming Monday) and we were running out of time.So today we set up our Christmas decorations!

Setting up a tree with a toddler can be trying.  One decoration was broken... by me, not the toddler.

I had been doing some research on how to toddler-proof a Christmas tree, and here are a few of the things we did.

  • No garland - besides the fact that it could, I suppose, be a choking hazard - we have used the beaded garland in the past which is impossible to 'fix' if it is pulled on unless you completely unstring it and string it back on... I re strung that garland about 4 times the year we first got our cat, and I didn't want to do that again...
  • No breakable decorations in Clara's reach.  It would have been nice to eliminate all breakable decorations entirely, but most of our decorations are breakable - and all of my favourite decorations as well, so I didn't want to simply not use them for the next decade.  So everything breakable is on the top half of the tree.
  • Bells! I read this on a blog or something somewhere - I really wish I could remember where, because then I could credit my source - if you know where I got this (or if it was your idea), please let me know! We were in Sears the other day, and saw a set of colourful jingle bells to hang on the Christmas tree, and I remembered what I had read - the blog had suggested hanging bells on your Christmas tree because although it wouldn't keep toddlers away from the tree, it would alert you to the fact that your child is playing with the Christmas tree.  This has already come in handy for us!

We let Clara put all of the non-breakable ornaments on the tree, which she really enjoyed.  Brian put on a few Christmas cd's, and we drank some egg nog.  If we had known ahead of time that we would be snowed in today, we would have bought ingredients for cider and maybe some nuts and chocolate to snack on.

Note the uneven distribution of ornaments on the tree... I wanted to redistribute them, but Brian convinced me not to.  It sort of bothers my slight amount of OCD...

Really looking forward to this holiday season!!!

Published in Blog
Monday, 29 October 2012 21:31

Clara's Christmas Wishlist 2012

*** Don't forget to check out my Baby Gift Set Giveaway if you haven't already - there aren't many entries yet so your chances of winning are good! ***

I am so excited for this Christmas.  It will be the first year that Clara really 'gets' what is going on (well, better than last year, anyway...) and unlike the year Clara was born (her birthday is December 11), I will be fully recovered from Audrey's birth and will be able to relax and enjoy our time as a family. 

I have so many ideas for Clara this year, and since her birthday was also a year ago, it has been a long time since her toys have been updated - and she could use a lot of more 'age appropriate' stuff for her.  Here are some of our thoughts...

1. The Mary Poppins and Sound of Music Movie Soundtracks. Clara is in love with these movies lately - especially the music in them, and it would be nice to have something for her to listen to in the car that doesn't drive us crazy :)

                                                  

2. Play Kitchen. Luckily for us, we don't have to purchase this.  Brian's crafty Mom has elected to turn an old TV stand from his Grandparents into part of a play kitchen.  I think the shape of the stand is something like the one in this photo, although I'm not certain.  I don't know at the moment what her exact plans are - I'm sure the colour scheme will be pink :), but I'm excited for the girls to have a custom made heirloom like this!

3. Melissa & Doug Shopping cart - there are a lot of toy shopping carts, but this one is my favourite. My in-laws have a plastic shopping cart and she loves pushing it around with random items in it. 

4. Melissa & Doug play food - to go with the kitchen set and shopping cart! No specific plans for which sets to get, but I think we'll go with the 'hard' sets, like wooden and plastic instead of felt.  Just because we have a cat, and cat hair sticks to felt and would be harder to keep clean and 'nice looking'...

5. Hello Kitty Bath Robe from Sears. Clara is in love with her last bath robe, which she still puts on occasionally, but the size on it is 12 months, and it's getting harder to pretend it fits her... It seems hard to find bath robes for toddlers, but I finally found a few at Sears and picked up this one to give her for Christmas. We also plan to get a pair of slippers for her to go with the robe.

6. Toy Tea Set. Glass is a little old for Clara at this point, but tin seems like a nice alternative - maybe a bit more special than plastic too.  I found this one just now at Magic Cabin, and thought it was adorable. I might have to order it soon...

7. Calico Critters 'Stuff'.  I credit Melissa at Growing Up Geeky for introducing me to this line of toys.  I have a dollhouse that my Dad built for me when I was a child, and we were never able to find dolls or furniture that fit into it (it's too small for Barbies), but these Critters look just a little smaller than perfect.  This year my dollhouse won't be ready for Christmas, and is probably a bit too 'old' for Clara yet anyway, but by the time it's ready - I would like to have some sort of dolls/accessories for Clara to use in it.  

                                                             

A few of our other thoughts include some sort of Lego Duplo set, Hot Wheels cars and maybe some sort of track set (although she enjoys 'driving' her trucks through the house on the walls, etc.), a set of toy airplanes (she joined 'the boys' at church one day as they were playing with toy airplanes and she LOVED them!). 

I think I'd also like to get her some sort of tiny wallet to fit into her purse, and get her a gift card for the mall - she loves shopping, and she would be thrilled to have her own 'money' to shop with.  Too young for this? Maybe, but I think she'd love it... and so would I :)

What are your gift ideas for your kids this year?

 

 

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 12:35

Thanksgiving

On Thursday, January 31 of 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed Canadian Thanksgiving  "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed - to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October".

For most people today, Thanksgiving has little or no religious association or connotation, but despite everything that has happened this year, I would like to thank God...

(Sappy post alert...)

1. For my husband. I know that 'finding your soulmate' is not something you can plan.  There is no formula that guarantees you will find 'that person' who will make you happy for the rest of your life - so I can't give myself any credit for Brian.  We found each other through no effort of our own, and I am so lucky that I have a man who loves me unconditionally, cooks and cleans for me, adores our daughter and is a perfectly hands-on Dad to her.  When I am with him, I truly feel like I'm with my best friend, and I can't imagine life without him.

2. My daughter(s). As a 'motherless' child, I envied my friends' relationships with their Moms and always wondered what it would be like to have a mother who loved you, taught you how to cook and do your hair, and took you shopping.  I promised myself that someday I would have a daughter and that I would BE her mother... and now I have that chance - twice!

3. My family.  I wish I could have kept my Dad longer, but I am thankful for the 27 years I did have with him, and for the incredible Dad he was despite having had no 'mother' to help him raise me.  I'm thankful for my Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles who did step in to help, and ended up being more like parents and siblings to me anyway, and for my Mom who married Dad when I was 8 and put up with me when it took me almost a decade to really accept her place as truly my 'Mom'.  For my 'little' brother, who I met when he was 4 and I was 8, and although we are very different and may never be close - I have so many great memories of having a sibling for at least part of my childhood. 

4. My church. We found our church family about 5 years ago, and I have never felt so at home and among family anywhere else.  Our church experienced vandalism in the form of a building fire this summer, and we are in the process of going forward and will be a bit 'uprooted' for awhile - but I'm so excited and encouraged by how this family has and will hold together to get through this.

5. My home. I'm thankful I live in a (mostly) safe country, with freedoms to speak and believe what I want to - with no fear of being jailed or worse for voicing my views.  I'm thankful that I have a house to live in, and that we have jobs that pay our bills.  I'm thankful that all of our issues and struggles can really be summed up as 'first world problems', and that our lives really are easy in comparison to many. 

I could probably go on and on, but I'll stop there.  I missed my friends - sorry guys - you fit into both the 'Family' and 'Church' categories... and I'm so thankful for all of you also!

We celebrated 'Thanksgiving' this weekend by eating a few traditional 'Turkey Dinners', and I don't remember anyone saying a word about actually being Thankful for anything... sometimes the 'point' of these things get missed in all of the shuffle - it didn't really cross my mind until today.  My prayer is that I don't forget to take these opportunities to teach my children about more than just gorging themselves on yummy turkey and pie!

Do you have any Thanksgiving (or any holiday) traditions that are about more than just food? Food is great, of course, but are there ways to make these things more meaningful for ourselves?

Happy (Late) Thanksgiving, Canada!

Published in Blog
Monday, 13 February 2012 12:25

Happy Birthday to ME!!!

I love having my birthday near Valentine's Day.  I know that a lot of people hate the holiday, and I agree that it's really just a marketing gimmick created by greeting card companies, but hey.  I love that I know my birthday is coming by the decorations in stores.  It's as though everyone is announcing with their big pink and red hearts how much they love ME! 

Not to sound egocentric or anything...

Anyway, my husband and I are a bit low on cash this year, but for my birthday he decided to make me a fancy French dinner at home.

The picture is not overly clear, but this was lamb chops with braised leeks on an almond coulis, dates and a chocolate infused tangerine reduction. He also made french-fried baby potatoes and chanterelles with shallots as sides and a thin apple tart (with homemade pastry) for dessert.  

My husband is incredible!

This morning my parents showed up at my door with a mocha and scone from Starbucks.  I'm procrastinating because I really need to get some house cleaning done because I teach piano at 6 today and I'm the only one here to do it, but it's just not an exciting thing to do on your birthday, so I'm putting it off.

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 12:09

Christmas Stresses

Do not misinterpret this blog entry - I love Christmas, mostly.

However, when you are the oldest in all of your families, and all of your grandparents are still in the habit of picking either the 25th or the 26th of December on which to have their Christmas gatherings and because you are married you have five sets of said grandparents, and because you have a child EVERYONE wants you to be at each gathering so they can see the baby.... well, it gets a bit crazy around the holidays.

In addition to our five sets of Grandparents, we have our own parents who - due to the fact that they are now grandparents themselves - would like to host a Christmas gathering for their families also.

If we intend to spend a day with our own immediate family, we are juggling at LEAST 8 different family 'days' into only a few days of holiday.

Again, not to come across wrong - I do love Christmas, and I am so grateful for all of the family we have, but sometimes I just want to hide under a rock!

The past couple of years have made me seriously evaluate my priorities when it comes to Christmas, and make my choices based on these. 

Firstly, I believe that Christmas is an extremely 'un-Christian' holiday as we celebrate it today.  We focus a LOT on consumerism and end up spending a lot of money on unnecessary items just for the fun of it.  Unfortunately for me, I have a lot of fond feelings of attachment toward this type of Christmas, so I don't really want to let it go... In order to make myself feel better, I have resolved to make the 'Christian' part of the holiday the most important part - which involves, for us, attending the Christmas Eve service at church, as well as doing everything I can to teach my children the story of Jesus' birth.

Secondly, I am selfishly deciding that I want an entire day to spend with my husband and children (when our descendents become plural).  One whole day, no exceptions.

Thirdly, our parents have earned their 'Grandparent' status, and they are next on our line of priorities.  As long as it doesn't conflict with our own time with our kids, we will plan to spend a day with each set of parents. 

After that, if it's possible to attend our Grandparent gatherings (that's Great-Grandparents for our daughter), we will.  Although the way I'm feeling this week, I'd almost like to cut them all out...

Oh well.  I'm looking around my house at strewn toys and tissue paper and wishing I had the energy to get off my butt and do something about it, but I think I will say 'maybe later' and, well... maybe i'll get to it later.

Published in Blog
Sunday, 18 December 2011 00:58

Heirlooms... sort of.

Last weekend was my daughter's first birthday party, but I'll get to that later...  during preparation, my Grandma offered to make cupcakes for the party but ended up being unable to ice the cupcakes herself due to time constraints.  She did, however, make her classic decorating icing that I remember from my childhood and dropped off the cupcakes, icing, and a small tupperware container holding her set of Wilton icing bags and tips.

This may not seem like an overly big deal, but I think my feelings toward these icing tips may be similar to the way some people might feel about holding their mothers wedding dress - and being told that they could actually USE said wedding dress. 

I spent large parts of my childhood with my Grandma.  She was my replacement 'Mom' for almost the first decade of my life, and so I feel just as close to her (I think) as I would if she were my Mother.  Some of my clearest memories are of watching my Grandma decorate my birthday cakes, make icing flowers that she would stick in the freezer to harden faster, and of sneaking into the back of the cupboard where she kept these icing supplies to sneak some of the tiny icing flowers she always had a stash of. 

So, I felt absolutely HONORED to be given these icing bags to use.  My Grandma even made a comment about possibly passing them on to me, because 'no one else uses them anymore'.  I haven't heard more on that yet, but I'm excited that this could be a possibility...

ANYWAY, I set to work icing my daughter's birthday cupcakes, trying to emulate the style my Grandma would have used on all of my birthday cakes as a child.  I began imagining myself going to bulk barn to rent one of their many cake pans and decorating it using my newly practiced skill.  They didn't actually turn out too badly, and it was fun in a nostalgic sort of way to be doing this.

A few days later I recruited a couple of my piano students to help decorate some mini-cupcakes for the annual Christmas recital, and completely without thinking, I set them up to use my Grandma's wonderful icing bags.  I recall, when I was younger, that keeping the pressure off the icing so as not to burst through the bag was much more difficult than I find it now.  I recall this because both of these girls reminded me by bursting large holes through these icing bags! 

I really couldn't be angry, and neither was my Grandma - thankfully.  The bags were old, and well used, so it was all too likely they would weaken eventually.  It made me sad though, to see these 'heirlooms' break, and to know that I can't always hold on to everything.

I can buy new bags.  And the tips should last forever.  Maybe someday I will have an even bigger collection that I can pass on to my daughter and tell her that 'these used to belong to your Great Grandma...' It's pretty sappy, but it makes me smile. 

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 01 November 2011 20:54

Happy Halloween!

Okay, so I'm a day late... I just couldn't get over how awesome our costumes were this year so I had to share them.

 

It's not the greatest picture, but if you take a look at Robert Munch's 'The Paper Bag Princess', I think you'll agree these costumes are pretty epic.  We started with the dragon costume (store bought, but we had to start somewhere) and then did some brainstorming for some costumes that we could wear that went along with hers... this idea came from one of my piano students actually, so I can't really take credit for that but I think I did a pretty good job pulling it off.  And most of it was done the day of - have I mentioned I'm awesome? Obviously I'm pretty proud of myself...

I was a bit disappointed by how many people had no idea who I was (people who are either too old for or simply not fans of Robert Munch...).  I did have one drive-by recognition when a girl stuck her head out of her window and yelled 'Hey! The Paper Bag Princess!!!'. 

As a Christian, I struggle with Halloween - particularly when it is used to promote some really ghoulish and demonic stuff.  I also, however, enjoy dressing up and I love everything involved in creating a great costume and Halloween seems to be the only chance I get to have a really great time with 'costuming'.  So, as long as my children are still young enough to allow me to trick-or-treat with them, I will dress up with them and enjoy that part of it also. 

Published in Blog
Monday, 10 October 2011 11:29

Thanksgiving

Brian and I are blessed with having almost all of our Grandparents still living, with the exception of only one - Brian's maternal Grandpa, who passed away only a couple of years ago.

I want to preface this by saying that I love the fact that our daughter has so many people to adore her, as I had a wonderful relationship with my Great Grandmother as a child, and I love that she will also have relationships with hers. 

However... being the oldest in our families with so many (relatively) young Grandparents has its frustrations when it comes to the holidays.  First, I'll outline what our family looks like... Brian's paternal Grandparents had three sons, of whom only one had children - Brian and his younger brother.  His maternal Grandma has a large family who rarely are able to get together for gatherings due to their number and how spread out they are.  My family is slightly more complicated... when I was a baby, my biological parents split up, and I was left with my Dad whose parents had a large hand in raising me until he remarried when I was 8.  So I have three sets of Grandparents - my bio-mother's parents, my step-mom's (who I will always refer to as 'Mom') parents, and my paternal Grandparents who are probably closer to me than Grandparents often are due to the fact that they were so much like parents to me when I was a child.

It has always been our tradition as I was growing up, to spend a half-day at home with my parents and younger brother, then juggle the other three Grandparent gatherings into the 24th, 25th and 26th of December.  Brian's family had a similar tradition. Needless to say, trying to juggle all five Grandparents plus two parents gatherings into three days is a bit of a challenge for us.

In three of these families, Celia is the first Great Grandchild.  Luckily for us, all of our maternal Grandparent families (coincidentally) are larger and have already become accustomed to the concept of spreading out the gathering or moving it to a less busy time in order to accommodate everyone.  That leaves us with two sets of Grandparents, each of our parents as well as spending our own time at home with Celia.    The most difficult part of this for me, is that one of these Brian's paternal Grandparents are completely unwilling to negotiate on the day and time of their gathering, and are offended when we can't attend whatever they have planned.  My paternal Grandparents on the other hand, are completely understanding of our difficulty and are far from offended if we are unable to attend their gathering.  This is difficult for me, since theirs is the one Grandparent gathering I would like to never miss, considering my close relationship to them - although it seems unfair to prioritize them since it isn't Brian's Grandparents fault that my mother chose to leave me (which is why our relationship is so close - my paternal Grandmother being the only mother I knew until I was 7).

Aaargh!

Anyway, I would love to bring up our daughter to enjoy holidays and the busyness of family gatherings, but I fear that our stress of trying to accommodate and appease everyone will be too evident.  Brian particularly hates these times of year - especially now that he gets to fend off all of the 'have you found a job yet?' inquiries. 

I guess it comes to down to us defining our own priorities and whether they are correct or not - or make anyone else happy or not - do what we can to make these times enjoyable for us and for our children. 

 

Published in Blog

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