Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Taming the Laundry Monster

When my boys started sharing a room my husband and I put the boys' tall chest of drawers in our bedroom.

What a time-saver!

On laundry day I can put away folded clothes quickly because most of the kids' clothes are stored in our room. I am also able to put away clean laundry even when the kids are sleeping. The boys' room is less cluttered without a dresser.

As an added bonus, our bedtime routine is more streamlined because the boys grab their jammies from the drawer, get dressed in our room, and climb onto our big bed for Bible-reading and prayers.

It's a simple solution that works for me!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

The Crazy Pantry Make-Over

We moved to our current home two-and-a-half years ago. Our previous place had a wonderfully large kitchen with oodles of cupboard space. Sadly, our new kitchen is a bit small and I sometimes wish for more cupboards. As well, the pantry closet is awkwardly placed around the corner in our front hallway.

The pantry closet became a "catch-all" space. I decided to keep non-perishable food items in (an awkward) bottom cupboard near the sink. (I guess I thought it made more sense to keep the food in the kitchen.) The pantry became cluttered with small appliances, plastic bags, potatoes, excess canned goods, the kids' art supplies, serving dishes, picnic supplies, and sundry other stuff.

Our cluttered pantry started to drive me crazy!

The idea finally dawned on me to put all our small appliance in the bottom cupboard by the sink. I neatly re-organized our non-perishables on the pantry shelves. In the past, I was forever digging through that deep bottom cupboard, looking for cereal or rice or vinegar. I often misplaced food items because I couldn't see everything I had. Even though my pantry is a bit inconvenient (around the corner) at least I can now clearly see everything on the shelves.

I'm afraid I didn't have the foresight to shoot a "before" picture of my project. I am pleased to share the results, however! I placed food items on the top three shelves, my serving dishes and stock pot on the lowest shelf, and I neatly stacked the kids' craft supplies on the floor.

I am surprised at how functional our newly-organized pantry is. I love being able to see all our food clearly, and having the space to stack bulk canned goods. I must be a geeky girl, but all those neat rows of cans and boxes give me great pleasure. :-)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Mommy, dinosaurs are too scary ... no, not scary ... too stinky!"

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Maybe You Should Get That Checked Out ...

This is the sophisticated technique my husband used to impress the banker. Lovely. What a way to win friends and influence people ...

Make: Saturday Mornings

If you visit our house on Saturday mornings you may catch the Inksters in all our geeky glory. We might be watching Bre Pettis' latest Weekend Projects video podcast. We could be conducting secret science experiments. You might even catch a glimpse of Ben building a cool robot or circuit bending an old electronic toy.

We've dubbed our geek-fest Make: Saturday Mornings in honour of Make magazine.

Make: Saturday Mornings are usually quite spontaneous. We don't plan our projects in advance. (They are mostly determined by the materials we have on hand.) However, this Saturday was exceptional --- our theme for the day was All About Trebuchets!

(Hooray for medieval siege weaponry.)

We even made stylin' t-shirts for Daddy and his boys because, hey, everybody's trebuchet is special.

Next weekend we plan to construct our own trebuchets out of paper clips and launch massive mini marshmallow attacks. Stay tuned ...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

On This Day In History ...

Eight years ago today, on a blustery Wednesday in February, Benjamin Inkster got down on one knee and spoke the words I had been longing to hear since the eleventh grade. He asked me to be his wife. :-)

Seven years of marriage and three kids later, here we are ... still blissfully in love. Ahhhhh.

I love you, Honey!

Friday, February 23, 2007

How Precious It Is ...

"Come on, Buddy," I sighed, "It's time to go upstairs."

I balanced my baby on one hip, a full laundry basket on the other. I'd climbed half-way up the basement stairs before I realized my toddler was not following.

"No!" he emphatically stated, in the language universal to all two-year-olds, "I play down here!"

"No way, Buddy. You come upstairs with Mommy now."

"No! I not come!"

"If you come upstairs I'll get the Tinkertoys for you," I gently coaxed.


"Fine," I said, "You just stay here then ... but I'm turning off the lights and going upstairs." I started trudging up the stairs, pretending to leave.

"No, Mommy, no!" I heard my other son cry from the living room, "You can't leave him down there by himself!" My preschooler came running to the basement door, panic-stricken. His bottom lip began to quiver.

"You can't leave my brother alone in the dark!"

My toddler rounded the corner and appeared at the bottom of the stairs, curious to see what all the fuss was about.

"Hi!" he called up to his big brother.

"Honey bear," I soothed in a gentle voice, "I wouldn't really leave your brother down here in the dark. I was just trying to get him to follow me up the stairs."

"Are you sure?" My son looked at me with dubious eyes, ever his brother's protector.

"Oh, sweetie," I smiled, "I love your brother very much. I would never leave him all alone."

Baby Girl gurgled happily from her perch on my right hip. The laundry basket began to slip from my grasp. I hauled myself up the final few steps.

"Hi!" my toddler called out again, "I come play now?" He carefully walked up the stairs, totally oblivious to the trauma his big brother had endured on his behalf. The two boys met in the doorway.

"We play Tinkertoys?" asked my two-year-old. My son threw his arm around his brother's shoulder, and the two best buds ran off to play.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Paper Quilt Project

I found this very cool link on the Craftzine blog. Check out the Paper Quilt Project.

I'm thinking I might play my BFA card and pretend to be an "real" artist. I'd love to get in on this project.

"Why yes, I am a sandwich artist ..."

Think they'll go for it? (And do I have the guts to try?)

A Language Experiment

My four-year-old son seems to be an auditory learner. His ears are like sponges. Lately, he's been experimenting with some of the phrases he's picked up. Sometimes he figures out the correct context for words. Other times ... well, his attempts at using adult language are always entertaining!

"That is not its intended purpose!"

"Mommy, stop stealing my commandments."

"You're stealing my limits!"

"Mommy, don't be so silly. You're begging me."

"Eee gee, for example..."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Construction Paper Art

This is from a very cool post on the Makezine blog. Jen Stark is a young artist who creates sculptures from pads of construction paper. (This is a girl who loves a good exacto knife.) Take a look at her website here.

High Fashion for Moms

Absentmindedly, I fiddled with the rolled cuff of my jeans.

"Gosh, these jeans are long," I thought to myself, "I really need to hem them."

I paused. My fingers felt something small and mushy. Something small, mushy and disgusting was trapped in the cuff of my jeans. I pulled my foot forward to investigate.

A wet, partially-chewed cheerio fell from the leg of my pants. (A tasty remnant of the kids' breakfast.)

Yum. I always enjoy carrying soggy cereal bits in the cuff of my jeans. They're nice fashion accessories.

This afternoon I pulled out the sewing machine and hemmed my pants.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It May Be Time to Potty Train When...

...Your two-year-old son asks his four-year-old brother to change his diaper, brings him a clean one, and helps put it on himself.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Date Night

Ben took our two-year-old on a special "Daddy date" tonight. Before they left I asked our excited little guy where he would like to go. He thought for a moment and replied:

"On a bus!"

He's an easy guy to please :-).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The View from My Porch

My friend and I hiked through the streets of an affluent neighbourhood in suburban Calgary. We snooped through the yards of enormous half-constructed houses and toured a dazzling show home. One newly finished house caught our attention.

"Wow, look at that gorgeous wrap-around porch," I raved. The home's exterior was absolutely beautiful, with intricate stone detailing and a wide porch along the front and side.

"Bet the owners never use it," my friend replied.

I sighed. She was probably right. What type of family would live in such an extravagant house? I can imagine ... A family where both parents work at demanding, high-paying jobs. A family where the kids come home from school to an empty house. A family where the parents drive expensive vehicles, shutting the door of the triple-car garage without saying hi to the neighbours. A family where everyone is stressed and over-scheduled.

Not the type of family to spend a leisurely afternoon sipping lemonade on a gorgeous wrap-around porch.

Calgary is a crazy town these days. The economy is red-hot. Some people are suddenly making more money than they know what to do with. The real estate market is unbelievable, and most properties are grossly overvalued. Many Calgarians are caught up in living the big life. This is a city of affluence.

Ben and I are trying not to get caught up in the wave of prosperity sweeping our city. We figure the economic boom cannot last forever. Though we've often been tempted to upsize, we've chosen to be content with our comfortable condo for now.

Sometimes it's hard to see some of our friends buying large homes, driving fancy vehicles and taking extravagant vacations. We feel like we're being left behind. At the same time, we also often wonder ... What happens behind the closed doors of those large, impressive homes? How much stress is caused by a massive debt load? How many families are caught in a dual-income trap?

Someday I would love to live in a home with a wide wrap-around porch, but not at the expense of my children. Not at the expense of my marriage. Not at the expense of friends and relatives.

If ever God blesses me with a beautiful front porch, I intend to have the time to fully enjoy it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Brush With the Law (or How Not to Steal a French Fry)

"Hey, Buddy. You hungry?"

"Starving. Let's go grab a bite."



The two men set out to find food. After a long and arduous trek (across the street) they arrived at popular fast-food joint.

"I'll take a double junior bacon cheeseburger. Large fries. Coke."

"Same for me. Hold the mayo, please."

"That'll just be a few minutes, folks."

The men leaned against the counter, talking, laughing, impatiently waiting for their food. The server set several trays out on the counter. She poured drinks. She added burgers and ketchup. She turned to help the next customer in line.

"Man, I'm starving! Hope they bring our fries soon."

The hungry man turned to his buddy to tell him a joke. Caught up in his storytelling, he barely acknowledged the server as she returned with several steaming orders of fries.


The hungry man reached across the counter and grabbed a couple of fries from a tray. He popped them in his mouth. His friend stopped laughing.

"Dude. Those aren't your fries."

"What are you talking about?"

"Look, this is your tray. That tray there ... it's his."

The hungry man slowly turned, an apology waiting on his lips. He eyes met those of a tall, muscular, deadly-serious man. A man in uniform. A man with a gun clipped to his belt.

He gulped. "Umm, I'm really sorry officer."

"Just don't let it happen again."

Lesson to be learned: Keep your eyes on your own tray. And never, ever steal a fry from a man with a gun.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

O Canada

Happy National Flag Day! On this day in 1965 our proud maple leaf flew over Parliament Hill for the first time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Virtues of Borax

I am falling in love with Linda Cobbs' Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean. This book is jam-packed with helpful homemaking advice. (It also doesn't hurt that I received it free as a cereal box prize.)

Linda Cobbs shares numerous helpful tricks for using natural, common cleaning product such as lemon juice, baking soda and vinegar. She also discusses the many and marvelous virtues of borax.

Ahh ... humble borax! (Sodium Tetraborate Decahydrate.)

You can find 20 Mule Team Borax in the laundry section of the grocery store. It comes in a green box. Borax rocks! It's a naturally-occurring mineral and is great for de-oderizing.

I've only recently added borax to my cleaning arsenal, but I have already found one terrific use for it --- borax helps my stinky, disgusting diaper pail smell fresh. I sprinkled half a cup of borax in a small plastic container and placed it in the bottom of the pail (under the plastic bag).

A quick solution that works for me!


I apologise for the comments I made yesterday regarding Black's Photography. I was beyond frustrated, but my words were too harsh.

This evening we returned to Black's to have our boys' passport photos retaken. The store took new photographs and also refunded our money. Essentially, we received the boys' passport photos for free. That's good customer service.

Just to clarify: This was the fourth time we tried to have our boys' passport photos done, but only the second time we visited Black's. Our first attempt was at Sears. (The camera broke.) We also went to Walmart. (They ran out of paper.)

I suppose one good thing has come of all this --- our boys have the "passport photo routine" down cold. No smiling. Close your mouth. Look straight ahead. Don't blink! Tonight we captured perfect pictures of each boy on the very first try.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What's Not to Love About Canadian Bureaucracy?

I am absolutely fed up.

For the past two weeks we've been valiantly trying to get our passport applications processed. (Mexico here we come! Only 66 more days to go, but you know, who's really counting? It's a balmy -20C outside today.) Last month it became mandatory for all Canadians to have a passports to travel to the U.S. As a result, every man and his dog suddenly need a passport and the bureaucratic backlog is astronomical.

Luckily, we happen to have a Canada Passports office just five minutes away from our house. You'd think that convenience would make it easier for us to get our applications in. But you'd think wrong!


Our family needs to submit five applications, along with professional photos of every family member (even the baby). All of the paperwork and photos must be notarized by a guarantor. Pretty simple, right? You'd think so...

We've had photos taken three times so far. And guess what? After my husband stood in line outside the passport office for an hour early this morning (it's a balmy -20C, remember) he was informed that our sons' photos were not quite right. Apparently the contrast is too dark. (Thank you, Black's Photography. Your photos were also the most expensive.)

So it is to be another trip to the photographer's for us. Then a third visit with our guarantor so he can sign yet another piece of paperwork. Will it never end?

I suppose I should be thankful that three out of our five applications are being processed. The passport officer also assured my husband our documents would arrive within one month (not the two months the media is reporting). I guess it's also good that Ben received a "golden ticket" that allows him to bypass the horrendous line next time he goes to the passport office. (Grumble, grumble.)

What a headache. I am so looking forward to having our boys' photos taken a fourth time.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Quote of the Day

"But Daddy, I can't fall asleep. My puppy is keeping me awake because he's barking so much."

- Said by a creative four-year-old boy (trying to blame an innocent stuffed toy).

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Hot, Hot Date

"Feel like going out tonight?" I asked my husband at supper time. "You know, we could put the kids to bed early and ask your sister to come and babysit."

"Absolutely!" Ben replied as he picked up the phone.

"Whoa, wait a minute! We need a plan first," I protested. I wiped sticky apple sauce from Baby Girl's chin and spooned more beans onto my son's plate. "We can't just call up a babysitter without knowing what we're doing."

"Okay ... any ideas?"

"Umm, well, umm, I don't know." I thoughtfully chewed my meat for a few seconds. "What do you want to do?" (Dodge.)

"Maybe a movie?" Ben suggested.

"Nah, it's the middle of February. There's nothing good out right now." I used my napkin to wipe a sticky spot off the table.

"Okay, anything else?"

"Oh well, umm, I don't really have any other ideas. Just a sec..." I caught my toddler's milk cup moments before he turned it upside-down. Baby Girl finished eating and my four-year-old started to fidget.

"Wash me off, Mommy!" he demanded.

I fetched a wash cloth, scrubbed down the kids, cleared the table, put away leftovers, loaded the dishwasher, wiped the counters, picked up tinkertoys, and read my toddler a story. Suddenly it was seven-thirty.

"Time for baths!" I announced.

"Honey ... didn't you want me to find a babysitter?" Ben gently prodded.

"Oh, yeah, ummm, I kind of forgot," I said sheepishly, "Maybe we should just stay home..."


Let me tell you, it has been a hot Saturday night in the Inkster household. I finally caught up on my ironing and mending. Ben's been reading a riveting document entitled Asterisk: The Future of Telephony. I plan to give my husband a snazzy haircut before the night is through.

What else is there to do at home on a frosty February night? Maybe Ben and I will turn in a bit early... ;-)

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Blogosphere

My head is spinning. For the past few days I've been expanding my (virtual) horizons. I have been taking tentative steps towards becoming a more active member of the blogging community. Who knew blogging was so involved?

The new terms swirl around me: memes, carnivals, tags, blogrings, blogrolls, trackbacks, Mr. Linky ...

Unfortunately, even my resident geek (aka: my husband) is unfamiliar with most of the terminology. I'm discovering that blogging involves more than just spewing thoughts out into the blogosphere. Sure, a blog can serve as a public journal of sorts. However, bloggers can also use their blogs to form friendships and make connections.

Blogging Basics 101 is a good resource for newbie bloggers.

As you can see from my sidebar, I am slowly working on expanding my blogroll (a list of blogs I like to read). I've also posted a link to "The Ultimate Blog Party". I'm planning to add some cool decorations and maybe even a funky new header to my blog for the party!

Blogging is a great way to practice becoming an outgoing introvert. I can party from the comfort of my own living room couch :-).

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Quick Tip

I was browsing through Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean by Linda Cobb and I picked the following housekeeping trick --- a used dryer sheet works great for polishing chrome faucets.

After I folded the laundry this afternoon I gave the kitchen faucet a quick wipe with the dryer sheet. Voila! It really does work!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


This morning I released my first book into the wild. I've decided that I will only release books I enjoy reading and can recommend without reservation. That is, I want to give away books I would love to receive myself.

Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life is now floating around somewhere in southwest Calgary. (I may or may not have "forgotten" it in a public washroom...)

If you love your books, set them free!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Recommended Reading

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology
Eric Brende

Eric Brende conceives a real-life experiment: to see if, in fact, all our cell phones, wide-screen TVs, and SUVs have made life easier and better --- or whether life would be preferable without them. By turns, the query narrows down to a single question: What is the least we need to achieve the most? With this in mind, the Brendes ditch their car, electric stove, refrigerator, running water, and everything else motorized or "hooked to the grid" and begin an eighteen-month trial run --- one that dramatically changes the way they live, and proves entertaining and surprising to readers.

By turns poetic, philosophical, and comedic, Better Off is a thoughtful and engaging read. Eric Brende carefully examines touchy issues. He asks insightful questions as he wrestles with our society's over dependence on machines and technology. Brende candidly shares his family's journey as they live among the "Minimites", a conservative community even the Amish might consider primitive in their adoption of technology.

My husband and I read this book together. Though we harbour no aspirations to return to a simpler life devoid of technology, Better Off provided meat for several deep discussions. Eric Brende is gifted at weaving historical and philosophical context within his accounts of daily life in the Minimite community.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in exploring the role of technology in society and the dynamics of community. Turn of the TV, curl up with a cozy blanket, and dive into simpler world through the pages of Better Off.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A New Name

Ben and I have come up with a new label to apply to our growing brood of young ones.

Henceforth, the Inkster children shall be known to all as:


(hee, hee)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sun, Sun, Sun

Our patio is covered in a blanket of white. Tiny ice crystals sparkle in the brisk night air. Our steep driveway is slick and treacherous; the van requires two tries to make it into the garage. I bundle the children in hats, mitts, boots and parkas. It's wintertime...

...and we are escaping it all!

This week my parents booked a tropical get-away for our entire family! My mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and our troupe of five are going to Mexico for one week! Yippee!

We are planning to stay at a child-friendly all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera. My parents visited the same resort last year. Mom and Dad enjoyed their vacation so much, they decided to take all of us with them this time around!

Ben and I have never travelled outside the country together. The longest trip we've taken with the children is a seven-hour car ride to Saskatchewan. Our boys are extremely excited by the prospect of riding on an airplane. (Ben and I are thankful that the adult-to-child ratio will be 2:1 for this trip!)

I've been busy starting the paperwork for passports and researching travel immunizations. I ordered new birth certificates for the boys (because the government revised the document requirements) and our family had passport photos taken last night. Early one morning this week I plan to brave the long line at the passport office. We've heard that the processing time for new applications is eight weeks, so I need to get a jump on things.

I'm looking forward to escaping to a sunny resort. Ben and I plan to spend most of the week lying on the beach, playing with the kids, hanging out with my family, and eating good food. We simply want to veg. I'm also looking forward to going out for a night with my husband sans les enfants.

April can't come soon enough!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Lunchtime Scheme

My husband has a weakness. If you know Ben, you know he loves to eat fast food. Unfortunately, hamburgers and french fries are a staple of his diet. He has managed to avoid supersizing his paunch (thanks to a good metabolism) but I sometimes wonder what his poor arteries look like.

When Ben moved his office out of our house he fell into a bad habit. He started eating out for lunch nearly every day. All those hamburgers are horrible for his health, and they're putting a serious dent in our budget!

The boys and I have come up with a brilliant plan to combat Daddy's fast food addiction :-). For the past few days I have been cooking extra-large suppers and freezing single servings in reusable plastic containers. I bought some paper lunch sacks and plastic forks. The boys and I decorated a bunch of the bags with colourful drawings, stickers and "I love you Daddy" messages. Ben doesn't like to eat sandwiches, but he does have a microwave at his office. Now I can send him to work with a nutritious, hot, made-with-love lunch every day! (This afternoon my son and I even made a big batch of chocolate chip cookies for Daddy's lunches.)

Now let's just hope Ben doesn't forget his fancy lunch in our fridge tomorrow morning!