April 25, 2017

My Favourite YYC Used Kids’ Clothing, Toys and Gear Sale (plus tips for successful shopping!)

Living and raising a family in Calgary is expensive…especially if you have kids. Most of the parents I know are conscious about wanting to save money – and that’s why I want to tell you about my favourite used kid’s clothing, toys, and equipment sale here in the city.

Some of you may have heard me talk about my favourite local organization, TTMAC (the Twins, Triplets, and More Association of Calgary) before.  If not, you can check it out here. Not only are they a wonderful organizing supporting YYC families with mulitples, they also put on a really great consignment sale twice a year which is open to the general public.

Now, if you don’t have twins, triplets, etc., please don’t feel like this sale isn’t for you. Most items for sale there are not sold in pairs (although some are and that is super for those looking for coordinating outfits, toys, etc).

Here is what I love about the sale:

 

It is extremely well organized

Everything is sorted in the room based on category…clothes are organized by size, toys are all together, strollers are all together, bikes are all together, etc.

Everything in season

The timing is perfect for trying to update everyone’s spring/summer or fall/winter wardrobe in new sizes (depending on which sale you are attending).  Typically there is a sale in the spring and one, again, in the fall.

The variety is awesome!

This sale isn’t specific to just ‘clothes’ or ‘toys’.  Some of the items you will find here include: toys, strollers, high chairs, clothes sized newborn to size 12, gymnastics and dancewear, shoes, equipment, baby gear, bikes, books, and even maternity-wear.

Photo credits: Twins, Triplets, and More Association of Calgary

Coordinating items are available for those with multiples

This is awesome for those parents of twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc. who might like to coordinate their littles.  Where else can you easily find gently-loved items that match??

The organizer, and the sellers, are near and dear to my heart

TTMAC has been a great resource that I have been supported by since I was pregnant with Gray and Miss A.  I’m always really happy when I can try to ‘give back’.  The sale is run by TTMAC volunteers to sell consigned items from members.

 

Tips for Successfully Shopping the TTMAC Sale

 

Okay – so let’s talk strategy here! Before I attended my first sale, I got some good tips from other fellow parents. I have since added to this list and here it is:

Arrive as close to opening as possible

Of course the early bird gets the worm. If you want the best selection, you definitely should consider starting your shop early, when the sale begins.  If you do arrive early, you should expect a short line up.

Take advantage of special early access shopping privileges

If you are a TTMAC member, you can usually gain early access to shop ahead of the general public. If you are not a TTMAC member, make friends with someone who is and ask them if you can be their ‘token guest’.

Bring cash

Cash the only form of payment they accept…unless you are a TTMAC member, in which case, you can also pay by cheque if you present your membership card (if you have misplaced your membership card, you can email TTMAC to arrange to have a new one picked up right at the sale).

Bring bags

This is a BYOB situation (bring your own bag). You might be more comfortable shopping if you have a large-type bag that you can carry over your shoulder…I would pack something over-sized myself.

Consider leaving your strollers and children at home

Why? Well…you know. And if you don’t know…trust me, you don’t want to.

If you think you might be shopping for larger items, bring an ally (non-shopping partner)

One year I brought my girlfriend and she found a great sandbox she wanted to buy, but she was worried to leave it alone to keep shopping. If you think this could happen to you, you may want to bring a spouse or buddy that you can leave your items with to keep an eye on.

Once you arrive…if you are considering an item, throw in your bag and keep shopping

If you are anything like me, you might get indecisive about purchases. That’s fine…but don’t waste time standing around thinking about it – you have valuable goods to get your hands on! Toss anything you are considering into your bag and keep going. Once you have been through the sale, review all of your items and then put back what you have decided against. But listen…don’t be that person who dumps it where it doesn’t belong.  If you can’t get it to where it should go, find a volunteer to give it to and just let them know you changed your mind (they are usually well-marked by the shirts they are wearing).

Enjoy your goods and revel in your savings!

That’s it! I won’t post the details of this year’s sale in this blog post since it can change from year to year…but you can always get current information (map, floor plan, etc) from the TTMAC Sales page.

Happy shopping!

This haul was from my first TTMAC sale in 2014 – I bought all of these goods for a grand total of $37.50!

April 4, 2017

Conversations with the Twins: My Body, Conception and Delivery

Now that the twins are five years old, they are more curious than ever. They are forever asking us in-depth questions about ‘ANYTHING’ and ‘EVERYTHING’.

Lately, I have been fielding a tonne of questions from them about my body, their conception, delivery and even about death. It has been a confusing, funny, and scary journey trying to navigate what information is age appropriate for them yet will still satisfy their curiosity.

Here is a recent question I got from Miss A:

Miss A: “Mommy, did I hatch out of an egg in your tummy?”

Me: “Ummm….can we talk about this later?”

Miss A: “Okay.”

Insert panic! Wow. I was not really prepared for that and I was totally unsure about how to answer it. So, I didn’t. I basically just put it off hoping she would forget about it.

Of course, she did not.

When she asked me again, a few days later, I told her I would like to talk about it in a few days after a special book arrived that would help me explain it. She agreed this would be okay and I hurriedly ordered a book that a psychologist at the Calgary Regional Fertility Program had recommended to us at one of our appointments. I remember she had suggested that when time came, we should be honest with the twins about their conception to avoid mis-trust in the future. So, I hopped online and ordered up her recommendation, a book called, ‘I loVe my Family‘.  See the ‘IVF’ in there?  This is a book about assisted conception for young children.

The book arrived and we read it…it very ‘lightly’ touched on the subject but I think it was still a bit confusing for the kids. Well, obviously Miss A was still confused because a couple of days after that…

Miss A: “Mommy, I know I hatched out of an egg in your tummy, but you didn’t tell me how I got out.”

Jesus.

Okay, so now there were two problems. First of all, she thinks she hatched out of an egg in my tummy. Second of all, she wants to know how she got out.

Why me??  I’m not ready for this!

But wait, it got better…

Miss A: “…Oh! I know! I must have come out of your mouth!”

Pretty much I was totally dying at this point. Panicked, confused, my heart was literally racing. …but, I just couldn’t let it continue so, I semi-blurted out to her, “You came out of my vagina!”.

(Insert a very long pause)

Miss A: “Did I come out of your bum?”

Me: “No, you did not come out of my bum. You came out of my vagina.”

Miss A: “Oh.” (insert another long pause) “I would like to see that sometime.”

…and thank the heavens above, the conversation ended there.  For now.


Now Gray, on the other hand, has been very curious about my body.

Right or wrong, I set the kids up with something to play with in the bathroom with me when I’m having a shower, so they do still see me getting ready for my day. Is five-years-old too old for that? I feel like we are on the cusp of needing to be more mindful of not being clothes-less in front of our opposite gendered kids…but I still feel like they should be supervised while I’m in the shower so, you can see the dilemma.

The other day I had just gotten out of the shower…

Gray: “Mommy, why do you have lines on your bum?”

Me: “Because my bum grew to fast at one time.”

Gray: “Is that what happened to your tummy, too?”

Me: “Yes.”

Gray: “Is that what happened to your breast?”

Me: (chuckling) “No, that definitely didn’t happen to my breast.”

Gray: (reaches up and ‘pokes’ my breast with one finger) “Then why is it falling down?”

Ha!!!!

…And there you have it! I’m not saying that these are the ‘right’ conversations; they are just the ‘real’ conversations.

If you happen to have come across a book you think would be perfect for us, please let me know! I’m obviously in need of some help here!

February 12, 2017

Birthday Party Loot Bags – It’s Okay to Say ‘No’!

Can we talk about birthday party loot bags for a moment? I really want to know if you ‘love them’ or ‘hate them’? Do you think it’s ‘taboo’ not to give them out?

The twins have a birthday party coming up and, to be honest, I’m not going to be providing loot bags this year. I’m kinda feeling guilty about it…but isn’t that kind of ridiculous?

The truth is that, since I went back to work (if you missed the post about this, you can find it here), I hardly have time to get out birthday party invitations in a timely fashion – let alone organizing appropriate, affordable, thoughtful loot bags. For me, affordable and thoughtful are the key points…if you have 10 kids and spend $5, or more, each…that’s $50! $50, people!!! If you are spending that kind of money on loot bags, you want them to be appreciated and enjoyed, right?

I remember one of the first years I did loot bags, I was discussing them with my friend Kim. She challenged me and asked me why I was doing them – was it to ‘keep up with the Jones’’? It was a different perspective…it made me think about the purpose of why we do give out goody bags.

Was it about keeping up with the Jones’? Honestly, the truth was that it wasn’t about that at all. I didn’t feel like I ‘had’ to provide them to ‘keep up’…I think it was really more of a cultural thing. The same way we eat cake at a birthday…there is often a loot bag given out. It felt a little more like tradition. I do remember being so excited to receive them at birthday parties when I was a child; it was fun to create the same kind of experience for the twins’ little friends!

But, here is the thing. This year, after planning an ‘off-site’ birthday party, extending invitations, and organizing the other food and details, I just don’t feel like I have the time or energy to do any more this year. On top of that, we have already spent a great deal of money on this party since it is off-site and since we have the twins (which makes our guest list a little longer). Shouldn’t that be enough?

On top of this, if I’m being totally honest, I have heard various parents comment on what is an acceptable loot bag standard and I feel like this does complicate how I approach planning loot bags. I mean, now I’m trying to find something perfect…for a reasonable price…for 14 kids…but not include what I have heard to be unacceptable loot-bag fare. Gah. In case you don’t know, here is a list of potentially unacceptable items:

…Dollar store ‘trinkets’ that break easily.

…Treats that other kids might not be permitted to eat.

…Items you may find age-appropriate but another parent doesn’t

So, now take that list and try to find something everyone will enjoy. Sounds so fun, right?

(Insert my head shaking ‘no’ here.

Isn’t a loot bag a gift? Should we really have to be so conflicted about what kind of items we ‘gift’ out?

Here is another point to consider…on the heels of talking about the fact that a loot bag is a ‘gift’…is it ‘necessary’ to be gifting children for coming to a birthday party in the first place? I mean, really…please come to our party where we have entertained you, fed you cake (and maybe snacks) and now let me give you a present for coming. Are we setting the right expectation for our kids by providing these every single year?

One thing that is really important to me as a parent is to raise my kids to be gracious and thoughtful and to not act or feel entitled. A part of me worries that my kids are going to expect that they need to receive a loot bag every time they go to a birthday party. I remember a friend of mind telling me a story about how, as a single parent, she put on a birthday party for her son. At the end of the party, a child basically chastised her since she hadn’t offered him a take-away. What??? Kind of horrible, right?

So…I’m not saying that I won’t ever do loot bags again but I do just want to say that, once in a while, we should just give them a break. I think that should be okay.

To my mom and dad friends who take the time and effort to send these home with my child…they are definitely appreciated! …BUT…I want you to know that having my child (or children for that matter) to your party is also ‘enough’.

In my opinion, it is totally okay to say ‘no’ to the loot bag. This year, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

#SayNoToTheLootBag     #NoBirthdayLoot     #NoLootForYou

February 5, 2017

Why have I been ignoring you??

I have been a bad, bad blogger – Have you felt neglected?

I’m really sorry if you did…I have been thinking about all of you (and this beloved blog) so much for all of this last month! I have missed you!

The thing is, something really unexpected happened very last minute right as we entered the new year – I went back to work full-time.

It isn’t permanent…it is a contract that will take me into spring…I’m really excited to have this opportunity but it has thrown my world completely upside down. For real.

Here’s the thing. I’m working for my ‘pre-kids’ employer…in a job that I LOVE…for a company I also really love…but it’s a lot and a really big change for our entire family. I went from my usual ‘life of leisure’ (or so we-will-call-it) to life in the fast lane working on over-drive! I think I may be running on adrenalin.

The last 30 or so days have been a ridiculous adjustment of ups and downs, pros vs cons, and sacrifices. If I’m just summarizing what the adjustment around this decision has felt like, here is rollercoaster I have experienced:

Upside: My old boss still thinks I’m capable!

Downside: Am I? What if I’m not? What if I fail AND sacrifice my family time while I’m at it?

 

Upside: My bank account will be replenished!

Downside: There is a cost to that – I had way less time with Gray, Miss A, and Darren and, literally, no days off as a family. Not even one in over a month!

 

Upside: It feels so good to have a piece of my old identity back! I am remembering I have a worth beyond being a mom and wife (please don’t send me hate-mail for saying this!  Huge props to all the full-time, stay-at-home parents out there!)

Downside: Is there a downside? If there is, I haven’t thought of it.

 

Upside: I’m keeping myself current in my field, with my employer, and my fingers in the ‘work-pie’.

Downside: Whoah! I’m on a HUGE learning curve since things have actually changed A LOT since I left! That doesn’t feel good when you’re trying to make good and efficient use of a short time. Also my perfectionist personality, that likes to have all of the information before going forward with decisions, is about to blow up!   …BUT, there isn’t time for that! Shall we ‘wing it’???

 

Upside: Oh, it feels nice to wear make-up again!

Downside: How do you apply make-up again?

 

Upside: Darren gets to see my hair in a hair-style other than ‘messy bun’!

Downside: Covering up gray hair is expensive! Also, why does my hair have to be so difficult? Pregnancy ruined it! That happens sometimes.

 

Upside: We can think about saving more aggressively for some spring ‘glamping’ projects we have planned!

Downside: I don’t have time to plan said ‘spring Glamping projects’.

 

Upside: I really like my co-workers!

Downside: I really miss my kids! …And even my husband!

 

Upside: Darren has really been pulling his weight around the house and has really worked hard to take on his share!

Downside: Hey! Why am I just discovering these ‘hidden talents’ now??

It is NOT easy working full-time AND parenting (…and running a small business…and being a blogger…).

I know this may be a controversial thing to say, but for me, it is much harder working outside the home than being home full-time. I want to still do all the same things I did before for my family – cook ‘clean’ food for my family, spend good quality time with my kids, have an organized home….but I simply can’t. Some of it, sometimes all of it, just has to be let go of. Today none of the beds got made, we ate pizza for dinner, and I have spent my evening fielding work calls. Now, as I am writing this blog post, Darren is relaxing and watching Netflix.

Romantic or what??

Honestly, overall, I’m glad to have the opportunity to work this contract. It gives me a chance to put in some time but still have the summer off and enjoy my last time at home with the twins before they start kindergarten in the fall. In the mean time, I’m adjusting….and learning to let some things go. That simply has to be okay.

So, bear with me please while I sort out how this whole ‘balance’ thing works for working parents! I do promise not to be away for so long next time!

xo

Dionne

December 7, 2016

The Polar Express Train Excursion at Aspen Crossing – My Review and Tips

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The Conductor punched a letter ‘G’ into Gray’s golden ticket

Since the Christmas that my twins were 2-years old, they have loved watching the Polar Express movie! I keep it stored away and only pull it out at Christmas-time to try to preserve some of the magic that the movie brings over the holiday season.

Last year, I learned that there was a Polar Express train ride being offered at Aspen Crossing in Mossleigh, Alberta (a little town, just south east of Calgary). I remember looking into it at that time, but just feeling like the season was too busy for us to add one more thing to our plate…so I left it alone.

This year was a different story and I really felt like it would be a perfect year to take the kids. They are 4-years old now and are really acting wondrous about all things these days. I knew it would be right up their alley!

The first thing I had to do was convince Darren that we should buy tickets for our family, which actually wasn’t very easy. At a starting price of $57 per ticket (plus tax) this is not a cheap excursion and it definitely required some consideration.  Initially he joked that I should just buy three tickets but then he finally got ‘on board’ (pun intended) and we took a chance!

When you arrive for your train ride, everyone meets in a common area. You find the table that holds the tickets and they will take your name and give you your train tickets – not just any ticket though, a replica of the ‘golden ticket’ that you see on the movie.

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It was fun to start the experience this way! The kids really enjoy receiving their own ticket and I think it created a little bit of a buzz for everyone. The train loading process went fairly quick and, just like on the movie, everyone loads the train and is greeted by the conductor! Note: he is in character but very happy…which was a relief since Gray and A were a little nervous about him…he is historically a bit of a grouch.

Can we talk about seating for a moment? There are various seating options you can purchase with the cheapest being in economy – and that was the max we were willing to spend. I can now assure you, they were great! We got our own table and chairs and had a window – and that’s all you really need to enjoy the ride and outside displays. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the economy section to anyone at all.

Early into the train ride, everyone receives a Polar Express mug, filled with hot chocolate, as well as a cookie. Very ‘animated’ waiters serve these and I thought they did a good job of getting everyone excited about the ride. Most of the families were starting to take photographs and, when they asked the staff for assistance with taking them, no one was ever denied.

Shortly after that, we enjoyed in-train visits from: The Conductor, The Hobo, Billy, the Hero Boy, the Know-It-All-Kid and, eventually, Santa Claus. The only character that didn’t make an appearance (that of course Miss A asked about) was the Hero Girl. I simply told her that she must be not feeling well or on a vacation and she easily accepted it.

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On our journey, we rode by several displays including a stop at Billy’s house (where he actually boards the train) and a stop at the North Pole where elves are excitedly dancing and Santa Claus boards. There was a lot of excitement around that – especially when he started making his way down the isles, gifting the children with their own Sleigh Bells. My heart, honesty melted, when Miss A placed her bell into her housecoat pocket – just to replicate what she had seen on the movie. Swoon!!!

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On the ride back to the station, there is a book reading (of course, it’s the namesake book – The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg) and the children are encouraged to dance and jingle their sleigh bells in the isles while the Waiters and parents (NOT Darren! lol) sang Christmas carols.

I have to say that the experience of this activity exceeded both my husband’s, and my, expectations. On top of the fact that there is a ride to the North Pole and a visit from Santa, there were many of the characters from the movie that made appearances on the ride and did a great, and convincing, job. Not only did they ‘look and dress’ like the characters, they were actually ‘in’ character as well and engaged with the passengers regularly. There were actually times during the ride where I felt the same magical feeling watching the kids as I did in Disneyland! Of course I’m not saying this ride is the same as a trip to Disney, but certainly there is some ‘magic’ that comes with the experience of riding this train.

Over all this was a really fun activity and something I think we would consider doing in future years again. Even Darren admitted that this excursion exceeded his expectations and said he would recommended it to others and will consider it again in the future for our family. Most importantly, the kids LOVED it!

Here are my tips if you go:

  1. Bring your kids in their pyjamas! It is encouraged and most of the kids (and some of the parents even) wore them.
  1. Pack a handful of plastic bags. You get to bring the Polar Express mugs home when you leave and, although you get a bag, we were offered 1 bag for every 2 mugs. I was a little nervous when I heard them ‘clanking’ around. It might be a good idea to be able to wrap them up a bit. Even a large baggie, for each passenger, would work well.
  1. Bring your coats, etc. from your vehicle. There is a period of time where you do wait in line to board the train and it is outside.
  1. Head out there a little early and take some time to browse the gift shop. They have some cute, little things and it was nice to get some souvenirs. We didn’t go through the gift shop, ourselves, until after the ride and it was totally jam-packed! Save your sanity and go through it beforehand.
  1. If you’re up for a little pre-ride dinner, there is a restaurant onsite inside an actual train car. I had a look at the menu and I thought it looked decent. Because we booked our tickets rather last minute the restaurant was full and I wasn’t able to get reservations, so we will have to try again next time. A mom-friend has told me that the food there is good!  …just call to book early!
  1. If you want to make a little adventure out of your evening, check out the Mossleigh Bar N Grill. I had asked some staff at Aspen Crossing for a suggestion of where else to eat, since the onsite restaurant was full, and they had suggested this spot. It is very close to Aspen Crossing and the food was decent (and so was the wine actually). Our ride was on a Sunday night, which happens to be their ‘Kids Eat Free’ night at the restaurant– so it was a total score for us! Our family of four had: four entrees, two glasses of milk, a glass of wine, and a premium beer and our entire bill (with tax) was $38.70!

Unfortunately, since I started writing this blog post, all tickets for the 2016 Polar Express have sold out. Having said that, I noticed a number of tickets available for sale on some of the buy/sell sites (including Kijiji). I took the liberty of contacting Aspen Crossing to make sure the tickets are transferable and I was told that purchasers of re-sale tickets should just ensure they have both the confirmation number as well as the name the tickets were bought under.

If you haven’t considered tickets to this fun, festive evening out, I would definitely recommend it!  Just be sure to purchase your tickets early to avoid disappointment!

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November 27, 2016

What to do with the Arts, Crafts and Colouring that your Kids Create

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I’m sure many parents can relate to the ‘problem’ of having a major surplus of arts, crafts, and colouring pages around the house. Especially if you have kids in school or children who especially love to craft and colour!

In our house, the twins bring home a minimum of four crafts from preschool per week, but sometimes it’s more. They are usually really well-done, and totally display-worthy pieces, but because we have the twins we happen to have double…and on top of that, Miss A is usually crafting and colouring at home almost daily.

We have A LOT of children’s ‘art’ to display!

Don’t get me wrong, it really is wonderful when our children ‘create’ but, honestly, what is a parent to do with all of it?

After 2-years of my husband and I ‘thinking’ and ‘talking’ about creating an Art/Gallery Wall, we finally got one together – hooray! This is a major accomplishment for us since:

  1. I don’t have a creative bone in my body (true story…I don’t even have ‘one’).
  2. Darren literally hates hanging pictures. I know ‘hate’ is a strong word, but it’s the truth.  He is not an overly detailed person and the thought of putting holes in walls seems to give him some sort of ‘picture-hanging-anxiety’.

So, because of those reasons, there is often procrastination in our house around stuff like this…but…somehow…we did work it out!  And here’s how…

I started by searching the wonderful World Wide Web to get ideas. Of course, this led to me creating a Pinterest Board for my Art Wall Inspiration.

After I had an idea of what my vision was I started picking up miscellaneous picture frames, here and there, that would fit some of my favourite drawings and pictures that the kids had done.

My favourites included little creations such as:

  • The first time the twins created finger-paint pictures
  • A little drawing that Miss A put together while writing her name for the first time
  • Some cute, little ‘handprint’ art pictures the kids did at their day home (thanks Ange!)
  • A drawing of our family, by Miss A – the first time one a picture had been done by either of the kids (this fine piece of art is on the reverse-side of a restaurant paper place mat)

Once I had collected those, I ordered a couple of Westcott clipboards from Amazon.ca.

I actually order loads of stuff from Amazon simply because:

  1. I am always able to get free shipping since they often offer it when you spend a relatively low minimum.
  2. Their prices are in Canadian dollars.
  3. I can do it while the twins are napping.
  4. I can do it while drinking coffee.

The actual clipboards that you see in the art wall photo, in the beginning of this blog post, are these ones.  

They were only a few dollars each and I did get the free shipping since I also had some other stuff that I ‘needed’:

  1. A book called, ‘On Becoming Preschool Wise’ by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam – from my all time favourite series of parenting books
  2. Printer Ink

In a stroke of luck, my very creative and design-savy friend, Helen, suggested I also use a couple of small floating shelves that I had received from my girlfriend, Kim, when she was cleaning out and renovating her basement.

So smart, right??

So, Darren and I planned it out and put it up on a central hallway wall on our main floor and we LOVE it!!! It makes our home feel way more ‘homey’ and now I don’t have ‘art’ taped all over my fridge – because that’s sometimes what you have to do when you have a stainless steel fridge and magnets just don’t work on it.

(As a side note, I have discovered a great alternative to tape for stainless steel fridges – you will use these up fast on your fridge, cupboards, doors and walls so you may still revert to tape, but check out these amazing Scotch Re-usable Tabs – they are 2-sided, removable, re-usable, and they are truly my favourite!!)

The clipboards add a little bit of interest and make it super easy to switch out paper crafts and the shelves house all of their 3-D crafts and lego creations. It’s perfect because now these items are nicely displayed and aren’t taking over my counter tops and mantle!

Yes!!!

Of course, there is still a bit of an excess of stuff being produced here, so I rotate the art and colouring often and I keep a large 11”x14” sketch pad for each child. I picked a couple of these up from our local Dollar Store for literally $2/each.  Once their time is done on the gallery wall, I mount them in the sketch books and they will be saved in their keepsake boxes once they are full.

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A few items here and there might get sent to grandma and grandpa, but even they have commented about how much ‘art’ there is.  So, alas, the rest gets ‘filed away’ in the bottom of the recycling bin.

Don’t tell the kids!

PS If you are interested in saving either of these ideas to your own Pinterest board, there is a handy-Pinterest social media button just below this post!   Hopefully you’re better at tackling this stuff than we are.

November 3, 2016

Keeping the Marriage Alive in October

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October is a busy month for many families and our family was no exception. Of course we had the usual…work and hockey for my husband, preschool and activities for the twins, and I ran my business and blog and continued to make the ‘wheels go around’ for our household.

On top of that there was, of course, Thanksgiving and Halloween…plus we had one last ‘Glamping’ hoorah. Oh, and my BFF also had a big birthday celebration to top it all off.

Basically, what I’m saying is – if Darren and I hadn’t taken our ‘monthly date night’ pledge (you can find it in my blog post ‘Keeping the Marriage Alive – One Date at a Time’), it ‘might’ have not happened in October!  Correction – it ‘wouldn’t have’ happened in October.

See Darren? Routine is good after all!

We changed it up a little to work with our busy month and we decided to get out on a weeknight (Thursday) evening and that actually worked well. We had a little extra time that night, without any activities, and we were able to easily find care for the kids.

To change it up a little bit, I drove downtown to meet Darren once he was done work and we checked out a little spot I have been dying to try out – Pie Cloud in Kensington!

Yes, sometimes us suburban ‘Stay at Home Moms’ (otherwise known by the acronym SAHM’s) can get all ‘crazy’ and we actually leave ‘the burbs’!

If you aren’t familiar with Pie Cloud, it is a diner/bakery-style restaurant specializing in all things pies (hot and cold) as well as some other diner-type food items – and I thought it sounded like a great spot to try out.  I love me diner food and I love me sweets!

In the name of efficiency, I had taken a quick glance at the Pie Cloud dinner menu online several days before we went and as soon as my eyes saw ‘Chicken ‘N Waffles’ I literally stopped looking at the menu and knew what I was having.  I even talked about it with several of my friends…that’s how much I was looking forward to eating it.  Mmm…

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….BUT…once we got there, I saw something on the menu I have actually never seen on a restaurant menu before:

Turkey Dinner Pie!

What??? Yes!!!

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Now what??

Side note: Anyone who has been to my house for a holiday turkey meal has seen me throw together a couple of Turkey Dinner Pies with the leftovers (I call them ‘Thanksgiving Pies’ or ‘Christmas Pies’). They are my absolute FAVOURITE!!!! They are so easy to make, they freeze well, and they are a great way to get a taste of a turkey meal during the off-season. I’ll add a link to the recipe I use at the end of this blog post in case you want to try making one.  You really should try one!

Squeeee!!!! I was so excited!!!!

Lucky for me, Darren decided to order the Chicken ‘N Waffles himself so I went ahead and ordered the Turkey Dinner Pie knowing I could sample his (thanks Honey!).

I do think it’s worth just giving you a heads up (since I’m going on and on about them) that it takes them a little while (approximately 30 minutes) to make the Chicken ‘N Waffles…maybe don’t choose this item if you stop in to eat but are in a hurry.

The food was great and we even splurged and shared a piece of apple pie – because how can you go to a ‘pie place’ and not have ’pie’?

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The date was nice! It was fairly short and sweet but it served its purpose – We enjoyed having some adult time together, having adult conversation….free from the interruptions of home and the twins. And that’s the whole point!

As a huge mom-bonus to the evening, it did get even better – I got a break from the bedtime routine! This is where I insert loud cheering and clapping! Thanks so much to my friend, and fellow twin-mom, Ange for taking care of that!

As I promised, I want to share with you the recipe that I use for my Thanksgiving/Christmas Pies. It’s actually a Martha Stewart recipe that I keep it conveniently pinned on my favourite Pinterest Board – Recipes Tried and True!

I hope you like it!

October 31, 2016

Simple Savoury Roasted Pumpkin Seed Recipe

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This is definitely not a food blog. However, it ‘IS’ a mommy blog and that means I need fast and simple tricks that make my life easier but still present nicely (because who has time for ‘fuss’ anymore?). So, here we are.

Every year I roast the pumpkin seeds out of our carved pumpkins but I had never found quite the perfect recipe. Last year I even split my seeds and tried two different recipes…a sweet one and a savoury one. They were ‘okay’ but not good enough for me to even bother pinning…the search continued.

Last night, after jumping on the AllRecipes.com website, I found one that was rated high and sounded good. After reading some of the comments, I decided how I would modify it and I gave it go.

They turned out great!

As a bonus, I somehow found a crowd-pleaser that hit every palette in our household: Whoot! This is a total win for our family…no rejection? Impossible, right?

So, these aren’t gourmet, but you likely have all of the ingredients on-hand and they are very easy to make. As I mentioned, the fact that our whole family enjoyed them, means the recipe is worthy of remembering and keeping – you can bet they will be catalogued on my Pinterest board of ‘Recipes – Tried and True’!

 

Simple Savoury Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups raw, whole (cleaned) pumpkin seeds 

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C)
  2. Combine all of the ingredients, except the pumpkin seeds, in a bowl
  3. Add pumpkin seeds and stir
  4. Place on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet
  5. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally

 

That’s it!

If you want to save this for later, there is a handy-dandy Pinterest social media icon conveniently placed at the end of this post.

In case you’re also interested in the original recipe, I should give credit where credit is due…voila…Spiced Pumpkin Seeds.

If you happen to make these with a modification you feel improves the recipe, I would love to hear from you!

October 28, 2016

One-On-One Time with the Kids – Is that a Real ‘Thing’??

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(edited) Images by Larissa G Photography (www.larissagphotography.com)

One of the hardest struggles of having twins, is trying to get in one on one time with each of them – and any amount of it!

I mean, essentially they have had the same sleep schedule since birth so it’s not like I could sneak in quality time with one child while the other napped. And…until the last year or so, they have done most of their activities together, so we haven’t had much opportunity to bond during those times either.

On top of those obstacles, almost all of the time, I am out-numbered!

I remember feeling so guilty when Gray and A were newborns because it seemed there was rarely an opportunity to just enjoy a quiet snuggle with one baby – this was something I felt so envious about when we spent time with other moms who had singletons. This is literally what my schedule looked like every 3-hours when I was establishing breast-feeding (because the twins were preemies and tiny, I was discouraged from exclusively nursing at the start in case they burned more calories than they took in – it was totally nuts!!):

  1. Nurse baby A
  2. Burp baby A
  3. Top up baby A with bottle of formula
  4. Burp baby A
  5. Nurse baby B
  6. Burp baby B
  7. Top up baby B bottle of formula
  8. Burp baby B
  9. Pump with Breast pump
  10. Change diaper of baby A
  11. Change diaper of Baby B
  12. Sterilize bottles (My bad, I hadn’t bought enough)
  13. Eat, sleep, shower and do anything else that needs to be done before the 3-hour window is up (but probably get to none of it)

It was total insanity!!!!

Thankfully that only lasted for the first 3-weeks before we got the go ahead to drop the bottle-feeding and blow up that dreaded milking machine known as a breast pump…but still, that didn’t drastically change the process. And once my husband went back to work, I was all alone to manage it myself. I can’t even tell you how many times I bounced one twin in the bouncy chair (with my foot) while I nursed the other child. That really happened! All. Of. The. Time.

Side note for expecting parents of multiples: Get yourself a bouncy chair for crying out loud!!!

Thankfully, that phase is history, and now that the kids are four-years old it’s not quite ‘so’ nuts…so, I really feel like Darren and I both need to make a bigger effort to have more one on one time with each of our children.

After I wrote my blog post last month ‘Keeping the Marriage Alive – One Date at a Time!‘, I had a brain-child that maybe we should do the same thing with our kids – perhaps a one-date-per-month-per-child kind of thing?

When I suggested it to my husband, he looked totally deflated! Not because he doesn’t see the value in it, but because I’m sure he was wondering:

Do we have enough time for that? Our weekends already seem to get so busy with activities, birthdays, etc.

How much money are we going to be spending on our endless dates each month?

Why does my wife like routines so much? (I added that for ‘your’ benefit, Darren!)  🙂

Okay, so he was probably right – it’s probably not necessary to make this a formal thing, and for now, we won’t.

So, I am now trying to be mindful to catch those little moments when I can. Darren has taken Grayson out skating (outside of lessons) a few times in the last month and I stole some time with Miss A over the weekend while her brother was watching Netflix upstairs with his dad (No, Darren, I don’t think that quite counts! Lol).

Before Gray came down for the day, Miss A and I quietly got to work and baked some muffins for the family for breakfast. Miss A was so happy to help without the struggle of competing with her brother, which usually looks like this:  Who’s turn is it to pour in the next ingredient? Who’s pushing who off of the stool?  Who gets to stir first?

Miss A even took great joy in helping me set up the table and wash the dishes!  What a nice treat that was!

I know it wasn’t a fancy date out to a play place, or the mall, or swimming…but it was an hour of time that her and I had together and I think that’s what is important. Although we aren’t making this a formal ‘thing’ in our house, I know that each little step towards focusing on our family is going to make us stronger and happier in the end.

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September 27, 2016

Keeping the Marriage Alive – One Date at a Time!

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One of the hardest things about having kids is keeping the marriage alive. I’m mean, let’s face it…our bodies are different, our schedules are busy, our beds are sometimes not our own, etc., etc. I could go on and on – there are countless things fighting for our attention and challenging our time.

On top of all of this, if you haven’t hired a babysitter in YYC lately, I’ll let you know right now that the going rate is $10-$15/hour.

$10-$15/hour people!!!

(I do have a bit of a solution to this problem, but I’ll have to blog about that another day…until then, save up your money to pay for babysitting!).

A few weeks ago, I made a pledge that Darren and I absolutely need to make time for 1-date per month. No. Matter. What.

I know it probably doesn’t sound like much to those without kids, but anyone with offspring will understand that this might be a tall order! However, now I have said it out loud and made a commitment to our relationship (as well as the world-wide-web) so this definitely has to happen. If you aren’t seeing me blog about our YYC dates at least once per month, for goodness sake, please send me your hate mail!

The good news is, we did manage to squeeze a date out before month’s end. Last weekend, I was starting to panic (and feel the end of the month closing in on us) so I rushed to get something together last minute (way to prioritize ‘date night’, hey?). Embarrassing.

Anyway…we scored a REALLY NICE SUPPER for SUPER CHEAP (and I mean ‘cheap’!) at San Remo Ristorante in McKenzie Towne (if you haven’t been there, I would really recommend it…with or without kids). They have specials on each night but,  on Sunday nights, they have $10 pasta-night AND $10 ½ litre of wine night. Can you imagine??

So, we had one of my favourite appetizers (Truffle Butter Popcorn), fresh bread, two pasta entrees AND a ½ litre of wine (hello!) for under $40! I’m sure it’s hard to believe!

Anyway, it was really a nice evening and I had a chance to hear about some things that happened in my husband’s week that I don’t think we would have talked about had we stayed home.  We got to connect, without distractions (insert children, devices, Netflix, NHL Centre Ice…) and that’s exactly what we needed after pushing through a week of work, school, activities, hockey, and so on and so on (you know the list goes on forever). It was perfect!

I was really glad we made the time to get out together and I am already thinking about what we might do for our October evening out! If you have some fun ideas (in the Calgary area) – please send them my way!

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(Truffle Butter Popcorn, Spaghetti Bolognese, and Sausage and Pepper Penne shown above.  

Oh!  And as my husband would put it – also a ‘nice Malbec’!)