halloween eighteen



a few of our many, MANY jack-o-lanterns

Halloween! This past weekend I joked that I was going to take this week off of work to do Halloween right and HONESTLY next year I think I really should. I don’t finish work until 5:15 and trick-or-treaters start coming at 5:30! Thankfully I had Sym and her two friends manning the candy bowl while I finished the decorations and did all our makeup and Taylor finished the dinner I had started for the kids (sweet pepper & bacon tomato sauce on spooky squid ink pasta), but I would have rather had enough time to do it myself!


This year Sym was a vampire at school and a witch at night; she wore a cute black lace dress her Grandma bought her H&and a little witch hat on a headband that she’s worn before, I’ve worn before and Gwen uses regularly for dress up. I put some dark witchy eye makeup on her and she added black leggings, a trenchcoat and boots to help keep warm and and she was ready to hand out candy with her friends Catwoman and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.



Gwen was a Rainbow Princess Ballerina, a costume inspired by one she saw in a store like last year’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Kitty Cat Princess. I really hope she never stops asking for these crazy mash-up costumes! For this look she had white leggings & a long sleeve tee dyed sky blue with RIT dye, a rainbow tutu and a pale blue cape from Amazon and a crown around her bun. Her shirt had a sun of metallic gold felt & sequins and her cape had a white fleece rain cloud with silver felt raindrops and silver sequins. The crown was gold felt, gold sequins and a piece of rainbow ribbon. I used HeatBond to attached the body of the sun, the cloud and the raindrops but all the sequins I sewed by hand and I have to say it was ABSOLUTE MURDER. It took about three days and by the end my carpal tunnels were SCREAMING. She loved it though so it was absolutely worth it. For trick-or-treating I also gave gave her some rainbow eye makeup, pink doll cheeks and shiny pink lipgloss.


Nicky was a wolf in the costume Gwen wore at his age and was cute as heck although most people thought he was a bear? WHEN DID YOU EVER SEE A GREY BEAR COME ON. I love this costume because not only is it adorable but it’s also WARM so there’s no need to bundle up; underneath it he just had on his pajamas.


I was not going to dress up at all this year but at the last minute I decided to put together a quick headband-based unicorn look using stuff I had around the house. I had no time to sew so I did the whole thing with hot glue using a plain plastic headband, black grosgrain ribbon, some thin flexible plastic, metallic silver felt, black leather, and a few fake flowers. I’m super happy with how it turned out! I created a mane look for my hair with three ponytails down the back of my head that I curled, and then wore a lot of black and silver eye makeup.

Taylor declined to dress up but we love him anyway.

Now that Halloween is over I’m to diving into the girls’ birthdays and also YOU KNOW WHAT! That’s right, it’s almost time for #MERRYLARAMIE2018

spooky pretzel sticks

I had this idea for a fun activity to do with Gwen the other day when I was in the snack aisle at the grocery store and saw some pretzel sticks. I already had white candy melts and a TON of Halloween sprinkles in my extensive sprinkle collection so it was a breeze for us, but you should be able to find both at Michaels (Homesense is also a good source for seasonal sprinkles).

We found that the type of sprinkles that worked best were the smaller ones, like coloured sugar and nonpareils. The jimmies and flat confetti-style sprinkles were harder to get good coverage with, and the larger shaped sprinkles (we had skulls, spiders and candy eyes) had to be placed individually. I think larger pretzel rods would work better with these other kinds of sprinkles but I haven’t tried it yet.

All in all this is a fun and easy activity for kids, and can easily be adapted for any occasion that they make sprinkles for (ie ALL OF THEM). I’m already planning Christmas and birthday versions (and yes I already have allllll the sprinkles I need for them).

Ingredients:
– pretzel sticks
– white candy melts
– assorted sprinkles

Line a baking sheet and cover your work surface in parchment paper. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of each type of sprinkle in a shallow bowl or small plate.

Melt the candy melts according to the package directions. Dip your pretzel stick ~2/3 of the way in the melted candy and twirl to coat thoroughly. Roll your coated pretzel stick in the sprinkles of your choice and place on the prepared baking sheet.

To add larger shaped sprinkles, use a broken pretzel stick to add to a dab of melted candy to the back of the shape and press each one to the pretzel stick.

When you have coated all your pretzels place the sheet of finished pretzels in the fridge to harden for 15-20 minutes. Keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

thankschicken

It’s no secret I’m not a particular fan of turkey, or of cooking a whole bird. I’ve only tried it once (with a chicken) and it was an unmitigated disaster. Maybe it’ll be something I tackle later this fall but not yet. Because of this I skip the “traditional” meals on Christmas and Thanksgiving: for Christmas we do roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, but for Thanksgiving I wanted to do something different. A while back I had this idea of doing fried chicken and waffles, and I’ve made it a few times now with varying levels of success. This is the first year I’ve come close to really knocking it out of the park.

For the chicken I used this recipe from Southern Kitchen. I’m not yet at the point in my cooking where I have it in me to take a whole chicken and cut it into 8-10 pieces, and chicken with bones is a bit of a hassle for the little kids to eat so instead I used boneless thighs. I also skimped a little on the hot sauce because 2/3 of my kids don’t like spicy things (guess which one loves the heat IT’S THE ONE WHOSE DIAPER I HAVE TO CHANGE). But other than that I tried to follow the recipe & instructions as closely as possible. I even bought a splatter screen (god bless it, honestly) and a frying thermometer (which I had to go to FOUR stores to find). I used our workhorsiest cast iron skillet and peanut oil (which was great btw, afterwards there was no old fry oil smell in the house AT ALL) and did the chicken in three batches while Taylor manned the waffle iron.

We’ve used a few different waffle recipes over the years but I’ve never been 100% sold on any of them. I did a bunch of research to find a new one which is how I stumbled on the Waffles of Insane Greatness. And like. These waffles. ARE SO GREAT! Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, easy to make batter (no whipping up a bunch of egg whites separately) and best of all they don’t stick to the gd waffle iron! This is def going to be our go-to waffle recipe from now on.

We kept the chicken & waffles on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper & wire racks in the oven on a low temp so it’d all stay warm until everything was ready to serve; the wire racks kept them from getting soggy. I was too anxious about my skillet full of hot oil to really get into doing a bunch of sides so we just had one: honey glazed carrots. Maybe next year I’ll do more, but all in all, this meal was a hot.

on cars and mud, or, Nicky is two!

For the most part, I really love having a car-free life. We live downtown and both work within walking distance from home (some of more than others, haha #oneroomcommute) so Taylor and I don’t ever really miss his old car. Well I assume he doesn’t, I myself have never owned or driven or even learned how to drive a car so it’s not something I think about much. But we don’t have to pay for a car or parking or gas or maintenance, which is obviously a big bonus. It also makes us more mindful of when we DO use cars; Taylor has memberships with a few different car sharing services, but before we book one we usually do a cost/benefit analysis. For example, we always used to take a zipcar when we went to Ikea, but the money we spent on the car was money we couldn’t spend on other things (like… stuff at Ikea). Last year in the summer I figured out how easy it was to get there by transit (it’s literally one train and one bus) and obviously it takes longer than driving but it’s so much less expensive! Plus any time we can avoid installing carseats YET AGAIN is a good time for us.

Now there are obviously times when a car is the only option, this summer’s day trip to Alice Lake for instance. And using car shares, especially on the weekend and double especially if you need to fit in a whole family including two car seats, means you can lose spontaneity. We usually have to book the car several days in advance, and once you pass the cancellation window come hell or high water or inclement weather you are taking that car trip! This worked in our favour for Alice Lake and we had a beautiful clear sunny day. Nicky’s autumn birthday excursion? Not quite so much.

Originally I was planning on throwing an at-home party for him and inviting his little friends, but then I thought about it and I have multiple toddlers here making a mess all week, do I really want that on the weekend too? NOT SO MUCH. Instead I decided we should go on a family excursion out to a farm for like… autumn activities. I picked Maan Farms in Abbotsford, about an hour’s drive from downtown. We never do this kind of classic fall family activity so I figured this was a perfect idea, but we’d definitely need a car for this one. I checked the weather forecast and it had Nicky’s birthday sunny and clear, so Taylor and I went ahead and made our plans. Then we watched as each day the forecast got worse and worse.

Hope springs eternal though, and rather than cancel his birthday and pay for a car we then wouldn’t be using. we pulled out everyone’s rain gear and packed a bag of towels. His birthday dawned grey and wet and I was a bit worried we’d all have a miserable time but as it turned out, it was kind of perfect? The rain meant the farm wasn’t busy, so we had all the attractions pretty much to ourselves, and while two of my three kids ended up slicked in mud from head to toe, they were also waterproof from head to toe (god bless Mountain Equipment Co-op). I had my camera but it was so wet that we couldn’t really take many pictures so instead of posing, we just had fun. Even Symphony, who can be somewhat of a difficult teen at times, had a blast.

In fact, Symphony was on cloud nine because she got licked by a goat in the petting zoo.

Taylor tried one of these pedal karts and when he sat on it his rainpants pulled down in the back and all the water went straight down his behind.

Nicky was OBSESSED with the pumpkin patch, we had to go in it twice and he wanted to bring home every gourd he saw. It was too muddy for pics though so here he is in the corn maze (also muddy).

This is the ONLY picture of me (other than a selfie with the birthday boy I posted in my instagram stories) from the WHOLE DAY, someone else needs to step up and take some pictures sometimes, maybe a person whose hobby is photography, I’M JUST SAYIN’.

After we got home we had our neighbors down for a some cake & presents. I baked the cake the day before, a 3-layer funfetti cake with cream cheese frosting.

It was a big hit (I think it’s safe to say I’ve been fully redeemed as a baker), as were Nicky’s gifts: a Green Toys car carrier truck, a Little People zoo train, and a plush surf van (finally a toy car he can have at bedtime!).

In the end I’m so glad we just sucked it up, went out and got wet and muddy, and I think everyone else is too! (Which also bodes well for the CHRISTMAS family activities I’m planning…)

Merry Croupmas Baby


how many pictures like this can I post here before it’s considered illegal?

I’ve been complaining all over social media about how we are all sick with gross colds, but Nicky took it to a whole other level this week by getting croup. I didn’t have any experience with croup (neither of the girls ever had it) outside of Anne of Green Gables (I do know not to treat it with ipecac syrup though…) so I just thought it was one of those weird old timey diseases people don’t get anymore! Apparently not, and he’s been up the last few nights, wheezing and bark-coughing. Thankfully he actually has it quite mildly and seems to be on the mend already.

I closed the daycare on Wednesday (before I knew what he had) but according to regulations children with mild croup don’t need to be excluded from daycare, so while I’m technically open today and tomorrow, all my clients chose to not bring their kids. So my winter vacation is starting early and I guess every croup has a silver lining?

Anyway. Here are a few pics from our mini Mini Christmas last weekend. Everyone being sick kind of put a damper on our plans so we didn’t go out to do any activities (except for a dentist appointment for me & the girls, ugh what was I thinking when I scheduled that???) but we still had a nice time at home. On Friday night my sister came over and we built some Christmas Lego sets and watched Riverdale, and on Saturday we had a Chinese food feast, built more Legos (we’re honestly still not done O___o) and busted out the Christmas pajamas. Only the kids got new ones this year but they might just be the cutest ever.

Happy December

things on my mind as we roll into this last month of 2017…

gift spreadsheets
I remember when I was a kid trying to spy over my mom’s shoulder at the hand-written list of gifts for all us kids. To stop my own kids from doing the same I made that most boring and tedious of documents, A SPREADSHEET that I colour-coded and shared with Taylor. I think this will also help us to avoid a replay of last Christmas, (I gave you my heart? no) when we kept forgetting what we’d already bought and kept buying more and ended up with WAY too many gifts.

holiday concerts
Gwen’s school concert was last night (so bizarrely early imo) and it was cute in the way that elementary school concerts are cute. Gwen did a great job and Nicky really enjoyed himself, jumping up and down in our laps and clapping, through about half of it before becoming overtired and angry. Thankfully Gwen’s class performance was early in the show so Taylor was able to leave early without missing her.

decorating, decorating, decorating
I keep rearranging the lights. I’m pretty happy with how they are now, although I feel like I need oneeeee moreeeee strand to put around the fence railing above my stairs to really complete the look outside. We’re going to be decorating the tree tonight and I think getting started on building some holiday Legos this weekend? Then there’s the holiday Playmobils as well, and the little paper houses and garlands and and and…

advent calendars
Taylor and Gwen have Lego advent calendars this year, and I really wanted one for myself but I couldn’t find one I liked. So I guess next year I will have to make my own! I didn’t have time this year but maybe it would be cool? I had a brief idea of making them to sell but the packing sounds like a logistical nightmare. Oh, I and I need to make a new regular calendar for 2018, so keep your eyes peeled for that since I’ll prob be offering it as a free download again

vacationnnnnnnnn
I typically schedule my winter vacation to sync up with the school break, and this year it’s the last week of December and the first week of January. There’s three more weeks of work left, but I can do it. I can do it. This week Taylor’s had out-of-office training and hasn’t been able to take Gwen to school so I’ve been doing drop offs and pick ups with all the little kids. It’s been… ok. Last week I had one of the daycare kids walking so Nicky could go in the double stroller with the other daycare kid, but he (the walking kid) is not yet two so it took a long time and on rainy days we got drenched. I got a stroller board for him instead and it’s been so much better not having to a) walk at the speed of a toddler, and b) wear Nicky for hours every day. I’m thinking I can start doing drop offs regularly a few days a week so Taylor isn’t always getting into the office so late, but still, I’m glad this week is over (it’s a pro-d day) and I don’t have to go down to the school for three whole days!

one one two two

Those poor palmiers, I very very diligently halved the recipe and then grabbed the wrong size of measuring cup and used twice as much sugar as they needed! They were (mostly still edible) but pretty well encased in carmelized sugar. I need a do-over on them.

Last week Gwen had her first-ever Pajama Day at school and honestly you’ve never seen a more excited kid. Also: they were allowed to bring stuffies and two of her friends brought toys Gwen gave them for their birthdays.
Pork chops with apples & onions are a favourite family dinner, but I need to talk about those peas. I threw them together at the last minute, cooking them in butter with lemon zest and smoked salt and they were delicious. Even picky eater Gwen admitted she liked them “a lil bit,” and Nicky couldn’t get enough.

I spent a few evenings sewing a couple of rag rugs together using this DIY to make a new pouf. The rugs were $13 each and I stuffed it with old duvets and pillows I was planning on getting rid of so in addition to being easy it was very affordable! Initially I wanted more neutral-coloured rugs but the ones I found were much more expensive and I decided to go with the thrifty option. The kids and pets certainly think it’s great.

I have been working hard to slowly but surely refresh our living space and HONESTLY I am so happy with how it’s all turning out. The living room/playroom switch has opened up so much more space for playing, and just makes so much more sense than they way it was before. The simple act of repainting the (new) living room and dining room all the same colour makes those areas seem so much bigger as well. We shortened Taylor’s desk which got rid of even more wasted space and clutter, and opened up the office into the living room. And other than our new couch (which was sorely needed) I think the only purchases have been paint and a few small decor items. Other than that, it’s all been rearranging.

This weekend I’m going to repaint the wall where Taylor’s desk used to be (there were a couple of shelves above that we took down that left a major amount of holes behind), and next I’m going to focus on the playroom. I want to finish repainting, move the blackout blinds to make more space for naptime, create new book storage (shelves? a bookcase? boxes?) and invest in a new play kitchen. I got rid of Ol’ Bluey when we had the floors redone but I need a new one. I just feel like it’s something kids really love! I’m like 99% decided on this one, although I loathe the pink and would paint over it/replace it. It has a lot of space for play and I like the shape a lot. I have it planned out in my mind how I’m going to install it in this weird, awkward corner while still leaving space behind it to store the folded minicribs when they aren’t in use, with a shelf above it that has a framed poster mounted on the front to store the minicrib mattresses. It’s hard to explain but I’m very confident that it will work. I’m just hoping that the kitchen drops in price a lil more before I pull the trigger on it.

Also this weekend we’re going to start putting the tree up! Long-time readers will know I like to have it up, bare, for a while to let the kids get used to it, so we won’t decorating until December 1st. A little Christmas has already started sneaking in though: the new mushroom ornament and the felt Santa (made from a kit by Gwen) are already brightening up the room with holiday cheer.

Halloweenies

You know, I made sure to charge the battery for my camera so I could take proper pics of the kids in their costumes but the battery is still in the charger and all my Halloween pictures are on my phone.

Gwen chose to dress up this year as a Chocolate Chip Cookie Kitty Cat Princess and no lie, I killed it. Her costume turned out perfectly and at her request I also made a Chocolate Chip Cookie Kitty Cake Royalty costume for Nicky. She had a great time at her school Halloween party, and so much fun trick-or-treating! We went with her best friend Hugo, Hugo’s sister Frankie and their cousin Taiga, and also went to one building with her friend Danielle from school. She is still a little shy and requires a parent when going up to most houses and Taylor had Nicky in the stroller, so Sym handed out candy at our place so I could go with Gwen. After we’d gone around the block Taylor took the little kids home and put them to bed while I took over candy duties from Sym.

We decorated and tantset up our Halloween candy station at the front of the house this year and I honestly don’t even know how many kids came through. Hundreds, literally. We were giving out candy for around three to three and a half hours! We actually didn’t run out of candy but we had over 700 and there’s maybe 100 left? I think for next year I need to get some larger decorations and more spooky lights for my display.

Now that Halloween is over I need to REALLY get to work on Gwen’s birthday party plans. I have some half-formed ideas for her outer space-themed party but everything is still very nebulous (GET IT) and this party is… this Saturday. OOPS.

october

Hmmm two-thirds of this month have gone by and I haven’t posted at all. I’m still trying to get a handle on our new schedule, and it hasn’t helped that Nicky is getting molars (I think, he won’t let us check). The past few weeks he’s been up multiple times during the night, crying and fussing, which is unlike him. His constant wake-ups mean Gwen ends up sleeping in our bed, which means either Taylor or myself end up sleeping on the couch. It’s not ideal, and on Wednesday night I reached my limit of Nicky-Up-All-Night and just let him cry. And you know what? He fussed for a little while and then slept all night! The same thing happened last night so I guess that’s just the way it is. Letting him cry is hard for me, partly because it breaks my heart but also because I know our neighbors can hear him and I feel like they will judge me! Although if they have to hear him making a noisy fuss I suppose it’s better at 9pm vs 3am.

Gwen is still settling in at kindergarten; she loves it and has made a lot of little friends (and was the only classmate invited to one friend’s birthday party) but she struggles a little with stuff like… everything. Paying attention, accepting disappointment, following instructions. She will be working with a speech language pathologist for her delay and a resource person for her fine motor skills. I had a “goal-setting” conference with her teacher earlier this week and it was hard not to cry afterwards and feel like I’ve failed her, but as my friend reminded me last night, she’s still only four!

With everything that’s going on with the little kids, I’m also having some struggles of my own. I can’t remember if I mentioned this on the blog but my Graves’ disease came back this summer, so I’m being treated for that again, but on top of that my back pain (I injured my lower back when I was a teen) has been truly terrible lately. I’m worried that having the wear Nicky in the Ergo for school pickup is basically destroying it, and if it turns out that’s the case I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I saw a doctor about it two weeks ago and was giving a prescription for some EXTREME muscle relaxants, but tbh they don’t really help? So it must be a problem with something else: bones or nerves or connective tissue. I’m also supposed to have an MRI but I don’t have an appointment for it yet, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

This post seems pretty negative, but in spite of it all I’m feeling pretty happy, calm and content (although maybe it’s the pills, haha). I’m deep in my holiday season planning; we had a great Thanksgiving (Taylor and I made the traditional chicken & waffles), and I’ve already bought birthday gifts for both girls as well as ordered the new pieces we need for this years Christmas pajamas. It’s going to be so cute; I can’t wait! We should have Symphony for Christmas this year but her dad got mixed up and made plans for her with his family and, being the very gracious person that I am, I did not insist we stick to our regular schedule. So we will be doing Mini Christmas again this year with Symphony. Unfortunately, there is no Christmas light Maze here like last year (although if you are in or around Arlington, Texas I recommend it) so I will have to find a different fun holiday activity for our weekend.

Of course, before Christmas comes Halloween, and I need to go out today and buy the things I need to make Gwen’s costume. She wants to dress up as a cookie princess (???) so I need… to make… that. I have a surprise day off today so we’re going on an adventure to the fabric & craft stores for supplies. Gwen is actually off school today; for some reason I always end up not working on her school’s professional development days, which is pretty cool but it would be cool to one day have a day with JUST Nicky (this has never happened). Anyway. I’m not sure what to dress him as yet, but I’m thinking… maybe… cookie prince?

it’s fair

Last year when we visited Taylor’s family over May long weekend we took Gwen to a small fair and since then she’s been obsessed. We usually go to the Fair at the PNE in the summer and go on a couple rides, but last August I was so pregnant & we were so busy we didn’t manage to do it, so Gwen has been waiting a whole year to go to a fair again. We went on Saturday and she was SO EXCITED. She’d been talking non-stop about going on a ferris wheel so I was happy to see they had one, and that she was tall enough! I took her on the ferris wheel and she went on a couple kiddie rides with her cousins and by herself and had a blast. She probably could have done more (and definitely wanted to try the bumper cars) but it was getting late so we had to leave. I’m happy that I will have someone brave enough to go on rides with me at the PNE this year though (Taylor and Sym are total chickens and literally will not go on a single ride with me).

Nicky did not go on any rides but it was incredibly hot that day so he very much enjoyed eating ice from my sno cone.