Tuesday, 16 December 2014


These books are for the especially little people in your life. A few are classics you probably grew up with and a couple of new ones I have found when buying books for the children in my life. (I have a few favourite books from when I was little but they are not easy to locate so I haven't included my all time faves here.)

1. Little Critter - Mercer Mayer. This one is a collection but all of the Little Critter books are lovely with a little lesson. I particularly remember "Just Me and My Dad".
2. The Dark - Lemony Snicket. This is a new one I bought for my cousin's little girl. It is the story of Lazlo, who is afraid of the dark until one day he confronts it head on and discovers it isn't so scary after all. Really cute and the illustrations by Jon Klassen are full of mute colours and I think they're beautiful.
3. Franklin - Paulette Bourgeois. Another classic collection. Same old turtle. You know him and you love him (she wrote those favourites I was mentioning earlier an if I ever find them in print online I will post about them)!
4. Curious George - Margret an H.A. Rey. My mom bought me a Curious George Christmas book this year. Enough said. This was a household favourite and the one I remember best is "Curious George Bakes a Cake".
5. Press Here - Herve Tullet. A genius book. I bought it for my friend's baby and it is sooo incredible. It is interactive, telling the child what to do for each page (e.g. press all the yellow spots) and on the following page the spots have changed! It is so awesome.
6. I Want My Hat Back - Jon Klassen. You might remember his name from point number two. I picked this up in a store and read it all the way through. It makes me laugh.

Sunday, 7 December 2014


Here is a selection of books if you have a child age 9-12 in your life to shop for.

1. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery. This book has a special place in my heart. Anne is a heroine with imagination and gumption. Everyone will love her and the trouble she gets into. Boys or girls will probably enjoy this book but perhaps geared more to little girls.
2. Silverwing - Kenneth Oppel. I happened across this book as a kid when Santa left it for me. It might sound strange but it is the story of a bat. It's a great one and it's part of a series if you like it. For boys or girls.
3. The Sky is Falling - Kit Pearson. Kit Pearson is a Canadian treasure, I tell ya. Nora and Gavin are a brother and sister displaced to Canada from England during WW2. A great story and interesting from a historical perspective, too. Again, part of a fantastic trilogy. More of a girls' book.
4. A Handful of Time - Kit Pearson. I had to include another Kit Pearson. Really you can't go wrong with any of her books. In this one the main character winds back a clock and goes back in time to when her own mother is growing up. More of a girls' book.
5. Harry Potter - JK Rowling. Any and all of these. Book four on are a bit dark but the first three are definitely appropriate for 9-12 year olds. Harry is 11 in the first book so I love the idea of starting to read them as a 10-11 year old. Obviously for boys or girls.
6. Underground to Canada - Barbara Smucker. The story of Julilly - a little girl traveling to Canada on the underground railroad. A great way for children to learn about a terrible part of North American history but also how slaves were able to escape to freedom. I read this in elementary school so I would recommend it for 9-10 year old boys or girls.
7. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis. You know it. You love it. Spread the love by sharing it with a child you know. It's a religious allegory with Aslan the lion as Jesus. I myself am hoping Santa brings me the series someday. ;) For boys or girls.
8. Holes - Louis Sachar. This was a favourite of both my brother's and mine (and our mom loves it too)! A boy is sent to a camp for delinquents and is forced to dig holes all summer. Eventually we find out what they are looking for... For boys and girls! Also a movie.

Friday, 5 December 2014


Some of my best friends are books!

Here are some of my favourites for young readers, range 6-8 years old. These are also perfect bedtime stories to be read with Mom or Dad.

1. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White. Classic - a touching story of friendship. You already know it. A pig and a spider become unlikely friends.
2. Stuart Little - E.B. White. Another classic and beautiful story. The adventures of a little mouse who lives with his (human) family.
3. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Louis Sachar. A fun little book that has lots of silly stories (like the elevator that only went down and the other elevator that only went up. They worked perfectly well...one time each).
4. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne. I read this classic book for the first time last year and it touches my heart. There is wisdom, kindness, and love there. I highly recommend it as a bedtime story to share - you will love classic Pooh. Silly old bear.
5. The "Fudge" Collection - Judy Blume. It seems to be a favourite of elementary school teachers (at least at my school)! Another light-hearted one for the family.
6. Amelia Bedelia - Peggy Parish. The misadventures of a nanny who always gets it wrong.
7. The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster. I would consider this to be at a slightly higher reading level but it is such a wonderful story that children in this age range will love, too. Full of literary puns and expressions ("jumping to conclusions" and a "watch dog") it is the story of Milo who is always bored and drives through the mysterious tollbooth that arrives at his house one day only to find the best adventure. This is one of my all time favourites.

Children's Books


I mentioned earlier we were determined to finish our Christmas shopping before December first this year. We felt so accomplished to achieve that goal and I am still so excited that the shopping is behind us. I thought I would put together a list of some of my shopping tips that help make the holidays more enjoyable. (Consumerism is not the reason for the season but I do enjoy choosing gifts from my friends and family that I think they'll like. So sue me.)

1. Start early.
This might mean asking your family members for their Christmas lists in October (like we did) but if you're going to be finished early...you have to start early. When you do it this way you can look for sales all year long on items you plan on purchasing, rather than pay full price in December.

2. Then stop.
When you start your shopping a few months in advance it's easy to spend too much if you're not careful. If you've finished shopping for someone cross them off your list and stop looking! Otherwise you're going to end up spending twice as much as usual...or wish you had bought them something else.

3. Take notes.
It's August and you're visiting your parents. Your mom mentions that she has never had a salad spinner and would really like one someday. Write it down! Hubby is the best at this. He keeps a list of things I mention all year and then decides if they're worth buying. These are some of the best presents because it's something you want but then you forget. And you feel like someone out there actually listens to you.

4. Online shopping is your friend.
Seriously. I don't buy everything on line but it gives you way more variety than the mall. Embrace it. I'm talking to you, Mom. Places like Etsy have super cool stuff that no one else will have. I like that for certain items.

5. Buy what people want.
Some of my most frustrating shopping experiences have been years when no one wanted anything. I think it's pointless to blindly purchase things that people may not like or use. If you have a list I buy something from it. The exception - my husband. I know him well enough to buy things he didn't ask for. Otherwise I have to reeeeally know my brother will love what I chose for him before I stray from "the list".

7. Keep a few small gifts on hand year round.
If amazing lip gloss goes on sale at Sephora I buy a few. Then I have a simple and small gift that I know my friends will love and I don't have to specifically find them something when I'm out shopping.

6. Wrap all at once.
It takes too much time to get out the wrapping paper, tags, cards, etc to do it at more than one sitting. Devote an evening to wrapping and just get it done, people.

7. Be a joyful giver.
Hopefully you're buying presents because you love the people you are buying them for and want to make them happy. So have fun finding them the perfect gift!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Earlier this year I was watching Jimmy Fallon clips (as one does) and saw Billy Joel had been selling out shows at Madison Square Garden all year. Billy is one of my all time favourites (we are clearly on a first name basis) and I was pretty excited about that. However, we had a pretty big year planned and a trip to NYC wasn't part of the vacation plan. Things changed a bit at the end of July when we realized commuting to different cities for work wasn't the most feasible plan and we were indeed going to be living a long distance marriage... again. At that time someone gave us the advice to organize some trips so we had things to look forward to and time together mapped out. Well, I mean, that really twisted our arm so then we basically HAD to go see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden! I am a big fan of living life abundantly.

(I apologize for the blurry phone photos - this is inside Radio City Music Hall for the Rockettes.)

If you don't know many Billy Joel songs I recommend you stop reading this immediately and buy a greatest hits album on itunes right now. He is the best. I will never play the piano again because of this man. Because really there is no point. No one will ever be as great as the Piano Man himself so why even try. The piano intro to New York State of Mind? *kisses fingers in Italian fashion* To die for. The incredibly romantic lyrics to She's Always a Woman and She's Got A Way? Sigh. That is what dreams are made of. I could go on. But I won't.

(My favourite exhibit at the Museum of Natural History - a biology student's dream.)

(At the John Lennon "Strawberry Fields" memorial. I take John Lennon very seriously. On a lighter note - I had to buy those super cute sneakers there because I stupidly only brought heels on the trip and my feet were dying! One of the hazards of living in two places - you always forget something somewhere. They're from Aldo if you like them!)

Funny enough, hubby and I couldn't afford to sit together (it would have been literally hundreds of dollars more). I cried by myself when Billy came out on stage. I danced like a maniac by myself to all of the hits. When he brought out special guest Sting - I looked at the complete stranger next to me, eyes shining, and exclaimed, "This is SO exciting!!!"

(After the show. We realized later we accidentally were photobombed by a pretty cool building.)  ;)

So if you're going to be in NYC (or you are close enough that you can possibly get there next year) more concert dates have been released for 2015. It was the show of a lifetime. And if you simply can't get there - look up his songs. You'll love them.

Monday, 1 December 2014


Happy December first, everyone!

This year we vowed to finish our Christmas shopping before December and we were successful! November 30th we bought the last item on our list. Last year we were so busy fighting crowds at the mall that we weren't able to relax and truly enjoy the Christmas season and everything it's actually about (and yes I'm talking about Jesus). I breathed a sigh of relief knowing we can snuggle in for all of December, watch Christmas movies, enjoy the tree and each others company (on the rare occasion we get to be together), and of course turn on the Christmas tunes.

When December first hits I am in full blown "Merriest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny Kaye" Christmas spirit. Who am I kidding? I start listening to my Christmas Playlist November first. However, for those of you who don't find your Christmas spirit until December first, I put together a little playlist of five of my favourite non-traditional Christmas songs. The Matt Anderson "Spirit of Christmas" album and Amy Grant "Home for Christmas" are perfect. And the thing I like about Dolly - she doesn't just sing about the good times. She's had some hard candy Christmases. ;)

Friday, 31 October 2014


Happy Halloween!

We were pretty excited to announce our Halloween costumes on facebook last night. This year we were: Inspector Gadget, Penny, and Brain. I had the theme song stuck in my head all day today!

This took some serious DIY effort to make Gadget's hat and took a ton of fiddling tonight to get it to stay on hubby's head tonight. In the end we had to take one of the "go go Gadget arms" off the hat so everything would stand upright. Penny's costume is incredibly easy - a red shirt (with a white stripe if you are domestically inclined unlike myself), green pants, sneakers, pigtails, her watch to correspond with Brain (Leroy) and a grey messenger bag. And Brain - well, Leroy told me he likes years when he doesn't have to wear a costume to be part of the trio. He also helped the team remotely...from his kennel. Let's just say trick or treaters definitely weren't going to sneak up on us with Leroy/Brain around.

We had 56 trick or treaters tonight (down from >70 a couple of years ago) and a few definitely knew who we were. And some definitely didn't. My favourite costumes besides our own? A dead Hawaiian girl and a homemade Stitch costume. Poor homemade Stitch. He told us I was the only one to recognize his costume. It's hard not being appreciated in your own time. I'd give anything not to be appreciated in my own time. ;)

So here it is - Inspector Gadget, Penny, and Brain 2014!

Sunday, 26 October 2014


If you saw my last curb appeal post you might remember we have a to do list the length of my arm. We still have two sides of the house to paint which we can only finish if we get some more dry weather. My only real hopes for this fall were a new house number and maybe new porch lights.

I pictured a house number plaque that included our street name, to add some pizazz. After searching Etsy I found WoodDesigners - link here. (I also really liked this one from GlamorousFindings but hubby wasn't crazy about it.) WoodDesigners makes their plaques out of MDF but after a quick email to them they made me a custom order out of oak. It looks awesome and I'm really pleased with it. The only thing about it that is slightly less than perfect is it is made of two pieces of wood glued together so if you look really closely you can see a seam. However, I'm sure no one will ever look that closely.

Here's the before and after.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


It's been awhile since I've posted much about my best friend Leroy. But boy, do I have a gem!!

Last weekend we all parted ways and hubby and Leroy went on a boys trip while I went to visit friends in the opposite direction. Leroy met up with a couple of his old buds - Kona and Cooper. They are brothers (adopted brothers you might say) and both chocolate labs. I sent hubby with my camera hoping he would get some sweet photos of the three guys.

First thing Monday morning he sent me the best photo! The three doggies at the top of the stairs with their tongues out waiting for a treat. He did such a good job capturing it at the perfect moment!

And for good measure I'm including one more of our manny by himself. Just because.

Sunday, 19 October 2014


I have to apologize for dragging out the posts on Switzerland. It's probably super obnoxious to look at someone else's vacation photos but since I am only living at home part-time I am running out of recent projects to blog about! I am fitting our final three destinations into one post so this is the end, I promise. Here it is.

Our next stop was Interlaken, literally "between lakes". This is certainly a tourist destination, especially because of its perfect location for outdoor adventure sports. Paragliding is hugely popular and with good weather conditions you can watch paragliders all day. They landed in a big grassy square in the middle of town and when the weather was nice we sat on benches after dinner and watched. We also rented bicycles in Interlaken because it was nice flat terrain through town (surprising for Switzerland, right?). We had a lovely bike ride to the lake and swam. We could have ventured further but we didn't feel the most safe biking on a twisty road through the hills with no shoulder (and possibly no helmets if I remember correctly). The lake was fed by mountain water and it was chilly but refreshing! At this point on our trip we were dying from the heat so we welcomed cold water! This was a fun stop and biking was a great (inexpensive) activity.

Next stop. We took the train into Bern for the day. When we were in Zurich (trying on those Prada shoes, remember?) the salesperson was shocked and appalled that we weren't going to see Bern's old town so we planned this day trip specifically for that reason. Just call us day trippers. We were definitely glad we went - the old town was beautiful with lots of character - cobblestone streets and flags of the regions hanging everywhere. We went to the Einstein museum (in one of his old apartments) and found out old Albert was actually a very interesting character! (He was anti-atom bombs and warned the Americans the Germans may have been building an atom bomb. And we all know how history played out from there.) Bern means "bear" and there is a small park near the water that is still home to a few bears. Other fun fact - the original gate into the city is still in place. That's why I think Europe is awesome. (Oh - and in the bottom picture the red thing is a raspberry popsicle because I know you're going to wonder.)

And now our final stop in Switzerland! Lucerne. My friend E lived in this region as an exchange student in high school so I was excited to see her old stomping ground. We only spent one night here and I wish we had more time. This was one of my favourite places, especially because we did a ferry ride to Mt Pilatus and then took a cogwheel train up the mountain, a gondola partway down the mountain, and did "toboggan-ing" on the way down as well. I found the toboggan ride in a guide book before we went, and it was like a slow version of the bobsled on an aluminum track. If you're interested in what that would look like, here's a youtube video. Hubby and I commented to each other that we could actually picturing ourselves living in Lucerne. It was a small city with a familiar feel, somehow.

That was the end of our trip! The next day we went back to Zurich and spent one last night there before we flew out. It was an amazing vacation and we felt very fortunate!