Monday, November 30, 2015

Tis the Season of Advent

Advent started yesterday and we celebrated the first Sunday - Hope.  At church we talked about hope as a verb and as a noun.  Rather than just hoping and wishing for gifts, using hope as a verb, we are encouraged to simply have "hope" as the noun.  It is a rather vague concept; you put hope out in the universe and what is supposed to come back?  For me, the general sense of there being something more is what comes back to me.  I don't think of this as not being happy with what I have, because I am generally happy with what I have, but it goes beyond what I have, and what I hope for the world.

Reflect on this word of "hope" this week. Even if you are not religious and don't really celebrate Advent, hope can sustain you through some hard times even when you don't think you have much else.  Hope is what keeps us from giving up on other people, the world, and ourselves.  It encourages us to give to others.  We are giving those people that gift of hope, but we are also getting it back from them.

I have put together E's advent calendar again this year with both candy and daily bible readings as we prepare for Christmas Day.  I am hoping (eh!?) that he will gradually appreciate the season of Advent and the Christmas story.  This year he will understand a bit more than last year, and I am always looking for opportunities to teach him.

Hope is a star.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Favourites

Linking up with AndreaErika and Narci for Friday Favourites.

Our neighbourhood had a tree lighting this week.   We went down to hear a local high school choir and band sing/play some carols, see the lights, greet Santa (!) and meet up with some neighbours.  It was simple, but lovely.

Big crowd of kids.

Here comes Santa!

We put up our outside Christmas lights this week. We pretty much did the same thing as last year, but now we have some railings to hang lights and garland on.  We still need to pick up some greenery and berries for the pots out front, but we are happy with the lights for now.

New railings

If you are a fan of the Lego Movie, then you'll appreciate this meme.  Sometimes this is how I explain what my job is.

We are pretty much only reading Christmas books at our house now.  My favourite book that we have is "Bear Stays Up for Christmas" by Karma Wilson.  E doesn't like it as much as I do, but I try to sneak it in at least once a week.  I like the rhyme, the story, and the pictures.

Yesterday I posted about the Shoebox Project.  Click over to see what it's all about and see if it's something you'd like to participate in.

Happy Black Friday!! I'm off to the outlets!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Shoebox Project

Last year I participated in the Thrive Moms Sweet Swap.  I created a little box of sweet things and mailed it off to another participant in Nothern Ontario.  Then I received a lovely box from someone in Toronto.  It was a way to connect with another mom and send some prayers her way.  I was so excited to receive my package; it was something special just for me. 

This year they did not offer the same project, but I found something better.  The Shoebox Project collects boxes of gifts for residents of women's shelters. There are drop off places around the city (and country for that matter) and it is a simple thing to do to bring some joy into someone's holiday season.

The website gives you some ideas of what is appropriate to include in the box and what should be left out.  It is suggested you spend no less than $50 but not much more so that everyone receives roughly the same gift.

I just went to Shoppers and picked up some things on the list that I would also enjoy, and also included a gift card to Shoppers.  I bought a patterned box from Dollarama, and done.  I struggled to get as much in as I could (and actually I had to leave out a brush I bought), but I made it work.

A little note with a handwritten holiday message.

Ready to be delivered.  

This took me very little time to put together, and it brings me just as much joy as it my Thrive Mom box last year. If you have a drop off centre near you, I encourage you to put together your own box for a woman who needs some cheer this season.  All of the boxes stay in the neighbourhood/community where they are dropped off so you know you're helping someone close to home. 

And if you're in Toronto, you can go down to the Sunday Raptors game and drop off your box to some of the wives of the Raptors where they are collecting them.  We aren't going to the game, so I'm just going to leave it at a local store.  Details available on the website.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What's up Wednesday

Linking up with Shay and Sheaffer for What's up Wednesday.

What we're eating this week...
Sunday - QMP (Queen Margherita Pizza)
Monday - Baked pork chops, beans and roasted potatoes
Tuesday - Sausage and Broccoli Soup
Wednesday - Thai Cashew Quinoa Salad
Thursday - Crunchy Beef and Mac
Friday and Saturday - Who knows?!

Our Tuesday night supper

What I'm reminiscing about...
Christmases past with my grandparents.  We had so much fun with them over the years; I can still hear them singing the Christmas hymns.  They always made family gatherings fun; they knew how to entertain!

(I guess my mom is taking the picture)

What I'm loving...
 Lenny Letter.  If you follow Lena Dunham on Twitter or Instagram then you would have heard her mention Lenny Letter, an email subscription of articles and stories with a feminist angle.  I just signed up last week so I've only received two so far.  Some are written by Lena or her co-showrunner of Girls, Jenni, but usually they are written by others.  Check it out for something different in your inbox.

What we've been up to...
Dave actually brought up Guitar Hero the other day.  I think E found the guitars when they were bringing up Christmas decorations.  It is still fun!  I can't believe I didn't take any pictures of E rocking out.

What I'm dreading...
Strapping E into his carseat with his winter clothes on.  I know you're not supposed to put kids in their carseats with their coats on, but rather cover them with blankets instead, but we have never done that unless we're taking a long road trip. I was thinking that he could move to a carseat that strapped him with the car's seatbelt rather than the 5 point harness, but now I'm not sure.  I need to do some more measuring and research to see if we can move to the bigger seat.  

(For the record he was still being strapped in when I took this picture so his straps would be better adjusted before we started driving)

What I'm working on...
Making lists and checking them twice fifty times.  I have one master list for Christmas preparation, but also a secret list for Dave's gifts, a list of books I want to suggest for next year's book club, ideas for blog posts, weekly grocery lists, and to do lists at work. Nothing gives me more joy than crossing something off a list.

What I'm excited about...
Last year I went to the Toronto Premium Outlets on Black Friday, and this year I'm going go to again.  I am going to go by myself this time and I want to be there around 6:30 am (stores open at 6).  I'm hoping to finish off my shopping and still get to work at a decent time.  I only have a few places I want to go, so hopefully I can be efficient with my time.

What I'm watching/reading...
I picked up Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand this week.  I have heard so may people recommend it I thought I would get it for an easy holiday read.  

We have also been watching a few episodes of How It's Made.  E loves it!  It is pretty interesting how they make these things, and I'd rather watch that then another cartoon.  

What I'm listening to...
Hopefully soon I'll be listening to Season 2 of Serial.  The first season really captured my attention becasue it was about high school students in 1999, crime and the justice system.  The second season doesn't have those same elements of interest, but I will listen to any story if it is told well, and I know this one will be.

What I'm wearing...
My Uggs, pea coat, lots of scarves and mittens. It is starting to get chilly, although still unseasonably warm. 

What I'm doing this weekend...
Getting and decorating our Christmas tree, attending a 3 year old's birthday party, and celebrating the first Sunday of Advent - Hope.

What I'm looking forward to next month...
Ummm, Christmas!  I wrote this post last year about how we rush to get ready with a sense of panic, but that I actually love that part.  We have a lot of fun things coming up and I can't wait - family visiting, work parties for both Dave and me, visiting Santa at the mall, sending out Christmas cards, hosting our Christmas party, E's first Christmas concert at school, and then our trip to Halifax on Boxing Day.

What else is new... 
Our basement is under construction.  It currently has trenches dug by the plumbers to reroute the pipes and fix a few problems, along with piles of dirt.  It is a bit of a mess but will be "fixed" by week's end.  Fixed meaning the trenches and holes will have been filled in, but that is when Dave's work actually begins. Levelling the floor, framing walls, electrical, and on it goes. 

What's your favourite Christmas tradition?
We are hosting our 2nd annual Christmas Drop-In for our neighbours, family and friends.  It was a great way to see a lot of people all at once and we are looking forward to it again.  
Last year was the first time we hosted Christmas in our own home, we are doing it again this year.  We are borrowing some old traditions from growing up, as well as starting some of our own.  Eating oysters on Christmas Eve is my new favourite tradition.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Weekend Recap

On Friday I went to Chapters at lunchtime and got a coffee, then I came back to my office and read my book for a few minutes before finishing off my work week.  

When I got home, E had put up some Christmas decorations of his own, aka a package of pipe cleaners folded over the drawer handles and placed on the arms of the couch.  He said to me later, "Santa will like that".  He was very concerned the we hadn't started decorating yet and that we might be too late for Christmas so he took matters into his own hands.  

On Friday evening we watched The Affair and the Raptors game.  We also enjoyed our first egg nog of the season.  Dave had spiced rum in his. I had Jameson's Irish Whisky and Kahlua.  Topped with freshly grated nutmeg from Grenada (courtesy of my mom when they went there on a cruise last year).

On Saturday morning we did a bit of housework and then E had Sportball.  In the afternoon Dave cleaned our bedroom from top to bottom, and then I cleaned E's room and organized his closet.

Before. Clothes that don't fit, board books, baby supplies. 

After.  Still full of stuff, but now more organized with puzzles and games in a place where E can get them. 

On Saturday night we started watching Jessica Jones because it was trending on Twitter.  It is pretty good, we will watch more of them.

On Sunday morning E and I went to church and Dave finished raking the leaves in the backyard and got some Christmas decorations up from the basement.  We did our usual run up the street for groceries.

Late afternoon we walked up to the park to play for a few minutes before going to Queen Margherita Pizza for supper.  We met some friends there and had a great supper.

On our walk home we enjoyed the Christmas lights, including this yard full of snowmen (corner of Jane and Annette).

This week we will continue decorating the house and then get our tree on Saturday.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Winter is Coming

This weekend Toronto saw its first snow, although it didn't stick around.  Winter is on its way, our snow boots and jackets are out; our snow tires are on the cars; the ice scrapers are in the trunk.  Bring it on.   I used to really dislike winter but I've come to enjoy it over the past few years.  When you live in Canada, if you don't like winter, then you can be depressed for a good part of the year, not a good strategy.

Some things that have helped to make the winter an enjoyable experience for me, instead of the time of year to dread are:

Skiing.  We bought skis the first winter we moved here and then made sure we skied a couple of times a year.  This year we have signed E up for skiing lessons both at Centennial during the week, and also at Snow Valley on Saturday mornings.  The Saturday morning sessions are two hours, sans parents, so Dave and I will get to go skiing on our own once a week.  Find a winter sport you like and jump in!

Planning a weekend getaway (or two).  Last year we went to Lake Placid, the year before we went to Mont Tremblant to ski.  We have nothing planned yet but we will pick something after Christmas.

Enjoying your time at home.  Snuggle on the couch with a cozy blanket, watch movies when the wind is howling outside, make popcorn and hot chocolate, drink red wine, make hearty meals.

Making lots of playdates.  I love having families over in the wintertime for brunch or supper.  People are usually less busy in the winter than the summer so it is a good time to have people over.

We could sled in our backyard last year, so we invited some people to do that.

Wearing great outdoor wear.  I love my Ugg boots that I got last year, and my big North Face jacket.  I love sweaters and scarves, flannel shirts, toques and mittens.

Now when the Christmas season is over, I'll still have things to look forward to in the winter months.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Favourites

Linking up with AndreaErika and Narci for Friday Favourites.

E's class takes turns doing Show and Tell. This week it was his turn.  He had made a poster of the things he remembered that we did in Barcelona.  He took that to school with some photos for his Show and Tell.  We had gone through the poster and photos with him and helped him remember what to say but we weren't sure how it would go.  Apparently it went very well.   His teachers were very impressed and he talked for about 15 minutes!  They loved his poster and photos so they put them up in the hallway.

It's hard to see, but from left to right starting at the top, the topics are: modes of transportation (subway, train, airplane, taxi), the beach, food (octopus, calamari, fish), playgrounds, Montserrat (with cable car), churches, ice cream and popsicles, the zoo.

Dave showed me this video the other day of cats who are afraid of cucumbers.  I don't know why they are so terrified, but it is very funny. 

We got this new wreath at Home Sense the other day.  I don't know where I will put it but we will start getting our decorations out this weekend so it will soon have a home.

We finally finished our photo wall after living here for over a year.  We are happy with it but we will try to change up the photos every once in awhile.

The poster is a map of El Born, "our" neighbourhood in Barcelona.

Next month E's class is going skating.  He has never gone skating but he has skied so hopefully he can figure this out.  Another mom at work whose kids are older had an old pair of skates that she gave me which was so great.  We do need to get him a helmet.  I wondered if we could just get him a ski helmet that he will use all winter and if that would be acceptable for ice skating.   I found this helmet website that I thought I would share.  It gives a good chart of what type of helmet is appropriate for every activity.  Then it has the safety standards that you can cross reference with ones on sale.  

And one more thing, I saw a new holiday drinking game.  Pour yourself a drink before you start wrapping presents, then take a drink every time you lose the tape or scissors.  I was wrapping some gifts this week and I could see how this game could get risky. I couldn't believe the amount of times I lost those things.  Try it sometime.

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Want it Wednesday (on Thursday)

It has been a heavy week over here with Paris and thinking about those less fortunate so I'm going with a pretty light topic, shopping!  There is no theme here, just a random assortment of things I have been looking at online lately.

We are slowly replacing things in our living room. We repaired the ceiling and painted the walls.  Now we want to get a rug, a new couch and maybe another armchair. I went to Crate & Barrel the other day and saw this set up:
Our walls are a very light blue, so we want a blue and yellow colour scheme for the room with a very neutral couch.  Something similar to the cabinet in the back left would be good for our dining room too.

I also like this rug:

I feel like E is growing out of his carseat and now I'm wondering what to get for him.  When he was a baby and toddler, it was fairly easy to figure out what he needed.  Now that he is bigger and doesn't need the full fledged carseat, I'm trying to figure out what sort of booster seat is appropriate and safest.  I decided I would first look at the Britax options since that is the brand of his current carseat.

I like this one but I see it is for kids 40 lbs and over.  Since E is only just 40 lbs now, then maybe we should wait until he's a bit bigger.  I need to do some more research. 

I am always in need of more work clothes.  I bought a blouse at Loft last year that I really liked (their utility blouse) and I see they make it in other patterns.  This red one is nice, although I see it comes in other colours too.

When we were in Barcelona, I found a pair of sneakers that I loved.  I was going to buy them but they didn't have my size.  I looked in a few other places but couldn't find them.  when I got home I scoured the Nike website to figure out the style.  They were Pegasus '83 in a blue shade, indigo I think.  I don't think they are available anymore, but I am keeping my eye out for something similar.  Sneakers are more popular than they were a few years ago.  I noticed so many people wearing sneakers when we were away, people from different countries.  

Whenever I put on my sneakers I always think of Yuri Testikov on Seinfeld (the Russian writer whose book Elaine was editing) when he says (in his Russian accent) "You Americans and your sneakers, always running running running".  (This was the Marine Biologist episode by the way.)

See, random, told you!  Happy Thursday everyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Season of Giving

Yesterday over at Momfessionals it was Show and Tell Tuesday.  I didn't participate because the topic was Mission Trips and Service Work.  I have never gone on a "mission trip" and kind of have a problem with Christian missionaries (don't want to get into this now, but it's not like I'm opposed to work they are doing, but I have an issue with anyone pushing their religion on others).  I didn't think I had anything to contribute, but when I read other posts on the topic, I realized that I do engage in some service work, I just didn't think about it like that.

Most of the things I do are around the holiday season, which inspired my past last year about Being Charitable.  My office usually sponsors some families where we donate money or items to buy the family gifts and clothing that they need and want.  I remember doing this when I was in high school too.  I also donate to different initiatives at church and in the community.

The truth is though that I could do much more than what I do.  It is easy to make excuses about not having enough time or money, but a lot of things are simple to do and I should be doing more throughout the year too, not just at Christmastime.

As E gets older, I want to make sure he realizes how fortunate he is and how he can help others.  I would love to spend some time volunteering with him at a shelter or food bank.

Some local charities that I like to support are:

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health - In addition to regular cash donations, CAMH has specific gifts you can buy for its patients like an emergency kit (socks, underwear, basic toiletries), pyjamas and slippers, and teddy bear and blanket.

Daily Bread Food Bank - I always make a donation to this place because food is so fundamental to life and to think that people are deciding between rent and food is sad.

Sick Kids Hospital - This is a big organization that gets lots of donations, but they do really great work.  We only went to Sick Kids one time, and it turned out to be nothing (E coughed up blood when he was only a few weeks old, turned out it was blood in my breast milk), but I was so impressed with the care that we received and the facilities that they have there.  I was reminded of how lucky I am to have a healthy child.  So for those that are at the hospital all the time, they deserve the best care. 

The Open Door - This is a centre based at Square One Mall in Mississauga.  Our firm has been connected with them over the years and I have volunteered at one of their dinners, donated money and gifts, and this is where some of our sponsored families come from.  This is a drop in centre for people who need extra assistance. The people that work there know everyone and what their specific needs are.  They take donations of diapers, gift cards for grocery stores and Wal-Mart, and bus tickets.  They also take donations for Tim Hortons gift cards.  I found out there that are some Tim's where they let people stay there all night during the winter months.  The Tim's card lets them buy some coffee and food throughout the night.  

What I'd like to do, while I make plans for Christmas, is add some specific gifts that I can give to those that need them more than we do. 

If it's not too late, then I'll link up with Andrea.