Friday, January 30, 2009


Apparently, we have a growling baby.  Perhaps he's part bear cub?  For the past week our nine-month-old has been growling and grunting and making grumbly sounds.

It's not that the timbit is particularly upset or in a bad mood, mind you. He seems to think the noises are funny.  I think these strange vocalizations stem from the vicious cold we all fought last week.  The poor guy lost his voice for several days.  Sick as he was, our baby boy clearly found his growly voice amusing.

I think genetics may be at play in all of this.  The timbit's daddy is a guy who likes experimenting with sounds.  (I don't know any of the other children who are like this...)  It would appear the youngest Inkling has also inherited his daddy's auditory fascination.  

So if you hear a strange growling noise coming from the playpen, don't worry.  The baby is friendly, has had all his shots, and he doesn't (usually) bite!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Icy Sidewalks

We live in Calgary --- the heart of the chinook zone.  All winter long our city is caught in an endless cycle of freeze - thaw - freeze - thaw - and freeze once again.  This morning I noticed a huge patch of ice on the sidewalk in front of our house.  I was scared someone might slip on the ice but we didn't have any gravel or ice melt.

Then I noticed the floor of our garage was filthy.  It was covered in road salt and gravel from the bottom of our vehicles.  Hmmm.  Hadn't the City spread that stuff on the roads to make them less slippery?  Wouldn't it work just as well on my icy sidewalk?

I snatched up my broom and a dustpan, and in three minutes flat our sidewalk was covered in a nice layer of gravel.  Best of all, it didn't cost us a penny!

It was a simple solution that worked for me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday
January 26, 2009

Last week we once again had a house full of sickies.  I am more than ready for everyone to be healthy!  Here's to hoping the upcoming week runs a bit more smoothly.

Right now I'm all about simplifying the way our family does things. This is affecting many areas, but overall, I am trying to turn our focus toward home.  The less "busyness" in our lives, the better.  Last week I restarted our food orders with Spud.  I hope to place a Spud order every couple of weeks and cut down my total number of grocery store trips.  

The kids are starting to dream about planting a vegetable garden this spring.  (In particular, our kindergartner has his heart set on growing a pumpkin.  A pumpkin!)  I believe the decision has been made for me :-}. Perhaps I should just bite the bullet and hope for the best.  It certainly would be nice to eat fresh garden veggies this summer... 

At any rate, in the spirit of simplicity, our menu will be fairly easy this week:

Monday:  No cooking (supper with my parents)
Tuesday:  Veggie chili, brown rice
Wednesday:  Mostaccioli casserole (from the freezer), green salad
Thursday:  Leftover night
Friday:  Chicken pie (from the freezer), sliced apples
Saturday:  Leftover night
Sunday:  No cooking (supper with Ben's parents)

Check out Org Junkie for further Menu Plan Monday madness.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Make Saturday Morning

The flavour of our Saturday mornings has changed as of late.  Really, things simply haven't been the same since Bre Pettis stopped making weekend projects.  Bre's replacement was sadly uninspiring.

How glad were we when Make TV debuted on PBS this month? (It's also free online.) This show is fantastic!  Ben and the kids have been totally bitten by the maker bug.

They just have to, just have to make something.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Green Thumb (Not)

Calgary has been caught in a deep freeze these past few days.  I think the temperature is hovering at a balmy -20C this afternoon.  It's been cold!  Last week's chinook teased us into thinking spring might be just around the corner, but of course, we have several months of winter still ahead.  It is certainly a dreary prospect.

At least I can dream about an end to the snow, can't I?  This will be the first spring Ben and I have our own yard to contend with (for good or for ill).  I figure now is the time to decide what we'll do with it! Hopefully, we can get right to work in May when the city finally thaws out.

I've been reading a couple of excellent books (loaned to me by my Mom and my dear neighbour).  The first is a book I would gladly recommend to any Calgarian:

I am only a few chapters in to The Calgary Gardener and I've already learned a great deal.  As anyone who's lived in this city knows, our climate is unpredictable (at best!).  I am slowly becoming more aware of our changing seasons and am learning the names of some plants that grow well here.

I've found the above book to be a great general reference.  (My book's pages are full of sticky notes at the moment.)  I've found terrific information on topics like composting, laying a stone path, hanging a gate, planting trees and caring for a lawn.  I love any book with glossy pictures and illustrated diagrams, so this one is tops for me!

Ben and I have also found this book helpful:

We referenced Lois Hole's book extensively when we planted a tree in our front yard this fall.  The book specifically features trees and plants that grow well in Alberta.  Ben and I plan to plant several trees in our back yard next fall and will again use the book as our main reference.

So, what do we have planned?  All my reading, research and pondering has led me to the following conclusions:
  • The next couple of seasons we should focus on building good foundations for our landscaping.  (Work on the basics.)
  • We do not have the time or energy for fancy gardening plans!
  • Like most families this year, we are watching our budget carefully and our modest landscaping will reflect that.
  • Vegetable gardens are a lot more work than I had first realized.
Slowly but surely, a series of goals are starting to gel in my own head. My natural tendency is to get carried away with elaborate plans, therefore, I am trying my best to keep things simple!  Here are the areas I think we should work on outside:
  • Take good care of the front and back lawns.  (Aerate them in the spring, deal with the weeds more effectively.)
  • Hang gates at the entrances to the back yard. 
  • Stain the fence in a natural shade.
  • Spread bark mulch in the beds along the driveway and around the tree.  Run plastic edging along the sides.  (I dug out these beds last fall.)
  • Install moonlights in the beds along the driveway.  (We bought the lights last fall.)
  • Plant two or three containers with annuals to brighten up the porch.  (I already have the pots.)  Buy a couple hanging baskets (an annual fundraiser at the school) to brighten up the back deck. 
I am still debating the wisdom of planting a small veggie patch.  Will it be worth the effort?  I've read that a tiny garden (only one square meter) can supply a family with salad veggies for the season.  A garden twice that size can provide a fair amount of vegetables.  Should we do it? Maybe I could plant a few tomatoes and peppers in a sunny pot out on the deck.  That sounds less intimidating to me!

I also have a couple of goals for next fall:
  • Plant some bulbs in the beds along the front driveway so that next spring we can enjoy the colours.
  • Plant three or four trees in the backyard.  (The trees go on sale 50% off in the fall.)
I am slowly coming to realize that "slow and steady wins the race".  We plan to live in this house for a long time.  We'll have many years to slowly build up the yard.  In a few years, when our kids are a little bigger, we may also have more time to devote to gardening.  Until then I will be satisfied with simple plans!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Welcome to My Bookstore!

I've been having so much fun these past couple days.  Yesterday I created my very own bookstore on!  What could be more fun than choosing all my favourite books to share in one place?

Please click on over and take a look.  You can also access the store by clicking the image in my blog's sidebar.  I have read (or am planning to read) nearly every book in the store and will continue to add selections. Enjoy browsing the shelves. :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The children and I drove in the van. I kept my eyes on the road.  The kids talked.  I listened.  The conversation ranged, as it often does, in random and swirling directions.

"I can't wait until my birthday party!" piped up our four-year-old.  His birthday is roughly nine months away.  Birthday parties are pretty well a daily topic of conversation for him.

"I want to have a rainbow cake!" he exclaimed.

"That's cool," I replied absentmindedly.

"Yeah, well I want to have a Jedi on my cake," interjected our six-year-old.  (We celebrated his birthday a mere three weeks ago.  Always good to plan ahead, I suppose.)

"Maybe I will have Nemo on my cake," pondered the four-year-old.

"Or Spiderman is really cool," suggested the six-year-old.

"I know what I want on my cake," I heard our two-year-old interject from the back of the van.  She paused and stated her choice:

"I want Daddy on my cake."

"Daddy???  You can't have Daddy on your cake," argued her older brother.

"Yes I can," our daughter said firmly, "cause Daddy's really cool!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Simple Toys

This morning our kids have been playing a great game.  They're calling it something like "go check the mail".  What's the premise of the game?  
  • Decorate old pieces of junk mail
  • "Mail" the papers (in an empty cereal box)
  • Open the mail box and act totally surprised by its contents 
The kids have been happily entertained for almost an hour.  That's what I call imaginative play at its finest!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Menu Plan Monday
January 19, 2009

This past week was a bit rough.  Our family battled a viscous round of colds and the kids are only now started to feel better.  No one had a terrific appetite (and I didn't have energy enough to cook much).  We ate a lot of soup with toast and drank gallons of orange juice.

As a result, this week's menu plan will look strangely familiar!  I think I can even get away with skipping our weekly grocery shopping trip. Here's my proposed menu plan:

Monday:  No cooking (supper with my parents)
Tuesday:  Mostaccioli casserole, green salad
Wednesday:  Leftovers
Thursday:  Thai coconut vegetable soup, sliced pears
Friday:  Vegetarian chili, cornmeal muffins
Saturday:  Clean out the fridge
Sunday:  No cooking (supper with Ben's parents)

Menu Plan Monday is hosted by Org Junkie!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Peace and Quiet

I realized something the other day.  Since the new year began our phone has been ringing far less often.  In the past our household could receive a dozen unsolicited calls per day.  It was totally overwhelming!  I tend to avoid the phone like the plague at the best of times, but some days I felt completely bombarded by unwanted calls.  Nearly every day the telephone interrupted nap time or one of our meals.  It was ridiculous.

What turned the tide?  Last month we registered our number with the Canadian National Do Not Call List (DNCL).  Now, we receive only an occasional unsolicited call (almost always from the States).  I am so grateful for the National DNCL.  I no longer feel like my day is dictated by our incessantly ringing telephone, and our home has become noticeably more peaceful.

Signing up for the National DNCL is easy.  Visit this page and type your phone number into the appropriate field.  

That's all it takes!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Romantic One

This morning at breakfast our kindergartner laid out a plan.  He proposed to:

  • Invite his girlfriend over for a play date
  • Use his allowance to buy her some beautiful plastic jewelry
  • Make her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into heart shapes
What a romantic six-year-old!  Should we be worried?  Perhaps this is a case of history repeating itself...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hi, We're Still Alive

Here's a quick update from Inksterland.  

Three of the kids and I have been sick.  (Ben and the timbit are healthy, thus far!)  We've been struck with fevers, coughs and sore throats.  At first I suspected Fifth Disease, as it is going around our son's school. I'm now not so sure.  Our four-year-old has a minor rash on his face but is the only one.  Perhaps we've simply caught a random virus?

We really can't complain.  Our family has been exceptionally healthy since last spring.  If this is the worst we'll face this winter, I will be extremely thankful!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday
January 12, 2009

Last week our family enjoyed some tasty new recipes.  In particular, we all enjoyed the Thai Shrimp Linguine.  I used whole wheat spaghetti instead of linguine and I doubled the recipe for our family.  It was so cute to watch the kids eat spaghetti with chop sticks!  As well, I couldn't find Thai peanut sauce at my grocery store so I made my own.  (Again, I doubled the batch.) 

Last night our family ate Smoked Sausage Pasta for supper.  This recipe was also a winner!  The small portion of leftovers didn't even last until morning, and our kids especially liked the sausage and the olives.  I will certainly add this recipe to our list of family favourites.

This week I will try a few more new recipes.  The Thai dish was such a hit last week, I'd like to see what the kids think of another one.  Here's my proposed menu plan:

Monday:  No cooking! (supper with my parents)
Tuesday:  Mostaccioli casserole, green salad
Wednesday:  Chicken pot pie (from the freezer), sliced apples
Thursday:  Leftovers
Saturday:  Leftovers
Sunday:  Saucy beef patties, glazed brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes

I've just discovered that when I link to recipes from the newest Taste of Home magazines, access is restricted to Taste of Home subscribers.  I believe the restriction is lifted once they send out the next magazine issue :-).

Hop on over to Org Junkie for more Menu Plan Monday madness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How Very Canadian

We just saw a guy snowshoeing in the field behind our house.  He was wearing shorts.

Friday, January 09, 2009


I tried a little experiment and it worked!  A squirt of WD-40 and a bit of scrubbing removed the paint splatters from our bathroom floor.
Thought for the Day

We are thankful our next-door neighbour bought a snow blower ... and even more thankful he decided to test it on our driveway after last night's snowfall!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Whole Truth

Okay.  As much as I'd like to paint the whole house this weekend, I realize it's not going to happen.  I can live in the land of reality.  If we finish painting the small main floor bathroom (which I feel is a fairly realistic expectation) I will be absolutely thrilled.

I bought a warm, chocolate brown paint for the bathroom.  I'm hoping to have enough paint left in the pail to do a brown feature wall in our bedroom as well.  I also plan to replace the bathroom's toilet paper roll and towel bar (small changes that can have a nice impact).  As my husband so eloquently states, our bathroom currently looks like the previous home owners allowed preschoolers to paint it.  (Ouch.)  The job is patchy, at best.  I am looking forward to sprucing it up!

I am in need of some advice.  The bathroom floor is currently dotted with unsightly paint splatters.  I'm fairly certain the previous owners intended to replace the linoleum with tile but sold the house before they finished the job.  Can anyone recommend a solvent for removing latex paint from linoleum?  I suppose we could rip out the linoleum and replace it with a remnant quite easily.  I'm not ready to tackle that type of job this weekend, though!

The paint was on sale this week, so I also bought enough to do our bedroom and the stairwell/hallways.  If we can finish all our projects within the next month or so, while the weather is still cold, I think my painting bug will be satisfied!  

(Okay, okay.  In the interest of complete honesty ... the painting bug is insatiable!)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Note to My Sweetheart

Honey, there's something I need to tell you.  Something you may not agree with.  I'm a bit scared to tell you, but well, here it goes.  

I went somewhere today.  I went to my favourite shop.  You know the place, the one near your office.  They were having a sale!

I came home with three pails.  Three luscious pails.  Three pails of paint, that is.

Our weekend is set.  We're painting the house!  Well, not all the house. Just a few teeny rooms.  You'll love it, I promise.

Okay, I'll love it.  You'll tolerate the activity.  Did I mention I think you're the best paint roller-on-er around?

You must have known what you'd be in for when you married an art major...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I am focused on returning to a regular homemaking routine this week. Here's a timely little meme from Wendy on that very topic!

Aprons --- Y/N?  If Y, what does your favourite look like?

I do enjoy a good apron.  (I always seem to end up with stains on my shirt if I cook without one.)  I inherited my favourite apron from my grandma.  It's probably older than I am, is huge, and sports a crazy-colourful butterfly pattern. 

Baking --- What is your favourite thing to bake?


Clothesline --- Y/N?

No, but I wouldn't be opposed to using one.

Donuts --- Have you ever made them?

No, I've never made them before.  My great-grandma made the absolute best donuts.

Everyday --- Name one homemaking thing you do every day.

Tidy the kitchen and living area.

Freezer --- Do you have a separate deep freeze?

Yes.  It was a gift from my in-laws.

Garbage disposal --- Y/N?


Handbook --- What is your favourite homemaking resource?

I love this book and use it often.  Lately I've been experimenting with the recipes for homemade cleaners.

Ironing --- Love it or hate it?

I try to love it but my ironing pile tends to take on a life of it's own.  Hate it.

Junk drawer --- Y/N?  Where is it?

No.  We do have a couple catch-all baskets on top of the fridge, though.

Kitchen --- Colour and decorating scheme?

Our kitchen is a warm terra-cotta colour with golden maple cupboards. We have big, sunny windows looking out onto some soccer fields.  The decorating scheme is homey, comfortable and a bit country.

Love --- What is your favourite part of homemaking?

I love to bring peaceful order to our home.  Clutter is my enemy!  I hope our home is a welcoming place for family and friends.

Mop --- Y/N?

Yes.  I use a Bee Mop.

Nylons --- Do you wash them by hand or in the machine?

I don't wash my nylons.  They never last long enough to need washing! I wash thick tights in the machine.

Oven --- Do you use the window to check on things, or do you open the door?

I generally look through the window.  I'm always hesitant to open the oven door with little ones underfoot!  

Pizza --- What do you put on yours?

Whatever is available in the fridge!  I like chicken, cheese and veggies.

Quiet --- What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?


Recipe card box --- Y/N?

No, but I do have a recipe binder.

Style of house --- What is your style?

I guess I'd describe my decorating style as contemporary country.  I like earthy colours, quilts and baskets, real wood and leather, crafty objects with character and history.  I am not into frills, lace or too much gingham.

Table cloth and napkins --- Y/N?

No table cloth.  We use paper napkins, sadly.  I like the idea of using cloth napkins.

Under the sink --- Organized or toxic wasteland?


Vacuum --- How many times per week?


Wash --- How many loads per week?

About 10.  I do the wash every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Xs --- Do you make a daily list and check it off as you do things?

I only make a list of necessary things I cannot afford to forget.  I used to make a list for everything but ended up feeling guilty and overwhelmed. For my own sanity, I gave it up.

Yard --- Y/N?  Who does what?

We have a nice-sized yard.  Ben mows the lawn (if our neighbour doesn't get to it first).  I like to shovel.  This year we plan to plant a small garden, so that will probably be my responsibility.

Zzzzs --- What is the last homemaking task you do for the day before you go to bed?

Set out the breakfast dishes for the next day.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Menu Plan Monday
January 5, 2009

Here we go!  It's time to hop back on the bandwagon and return to our normal routine.  I have enjoyed these past couple weeks of holidays (and I've especially liked having Ben home from work).  At the same time, I'm ready to resume our regular school and work schedule.

Here's my proposed menu (heavily influenced by the latest Simple and Delicious magazine) for the upcoming week:

Monday:  No cooking! (supper with my parents)
Tuesday:  Thai shrimp linguine, sliced pears
Wednesday:  Vegetable beef skillet, green salad 
Thursday:  Leftovers
Friday:   Bean burritos (mild), southwest salad, cinnamon crackle cookies
Saturday:  Bubble and squeak
Sunday:  Smoked sausage pasta, green salad

Check out Menu Plan Monday hosted by Org Junkie!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

New Year, Fresh Start

This weekend our family was blessed with a new kitchen table and chairs.  Ben and I had been on the lookout for a larger table (funny how our old one kept shrinking...) but we hadn't found anything we really liked.  I wanted a table with character, something with a bit of history behind it.

Long story short, my best friend from childhood wanted to sell her parents' oak dining room set.  She wondered if anyone in Calgary might be interested?  What perfect timing! Our family was thrilled to give the table and chairs a loving new home!

The table seats eight and came with six chairs.  It's about 20 years old and, all things considered, is in fabulous shape.  The style is simple, with clean lines.  (My friend describes it as Shaker style.)  The chairs are upholstered and I plan to recover them in something child friendly (i.e. stain-proof).  We will continue to use our bench along one side of the table.

I think our newly revamped dining area has inspired me.  I spent most of this afternoon and evening cleaning and re-organizing the kitchen cupboards.  The space is now totally optimized!  I rearranged a few things and created a great new place for the kids' craft supplies, and de-cluttered all those "catch all" hiding spaces.  

I suspect Ben caught the productivity bug as well.  He set up our old table in the basement, rearranged some boxes, wired new lighting, and set up a little crafting corner for me!  What a great guy!  I'm just itching to get downstairs tomorrow to organize my new space.   

Friday, January 02, 2009

Ninjas are Deadly and Silent...

Our biggest boy celebrated a big birthday yesterday.  It's hard to believe our New Year's baby is a whopping six years old!  Before we know it he will be growing whiskers and asking to borrow the car... 

Our newly minted six-year-old requested a ninja themed birthday, largely influenced by this song.  Ben and I put our heads together and created some fairly sweet cupcakes.  (Check out the throwing stars!) 

We also took the kids out for "ninja food".  (Yes.  Our children actually ate the octopi.  They gobbled them up so quickly, in fact, I hardly even had a taste.)

We returned home from the restaurant to a low-key party with family. Our birthday boy enjoyed a terrific day!