Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Neither Hibiscus nor Mimosa

Remember how I had definitely decided on the paint colour Mimosa?  Well....

As you know I've been looking for a yellowy-green.  I found Mimosa.  Hugh has never been a fan of it.  He refers to it as "that yellow one" whereas the other samples on the wall are called by their names: hibiscus, lime twist, pear etc.  Whenever I'm looking at our paint chips fanned across our island or taped up on the wall, my eye is always drawn to the Mimosa.  But it is a bold colour so one night we decide to paint a few test samples of a few colours on the wall downstairs. When we finish and the paint is dry I decide against it.  In the dark with our room lights on it's almost neon.  Like 80's yellow neon.  We try switching out our lights from soft white to bright white which actually makes it worse.  No question, Mimosa is not what I'm looking for.  I'm definitely decided against it.

And then I wake up the next morning and go back downstairs to reassess the other colours on the wall in the natural light.  And then I love the Mimosa.  It's an acid yellow-y green and perfect.  So I decide that's the one I really want.  Then Hugh comes home from work and I tell him I've definitely decided on Mimosa and we go downstairs to look at it and the sun has gone down and we flip on our lights and...we're back to fluorescent.  And this goes on for a few days and every time I decide yes, Mimosa, Hugh says, I trust you, which somehow makes me feel less confident rather than more.  On Friday I email our contractor and give him our paint colours and Mimosa makes the final cut.  Then on Sunday I email him again to say I'm having a mild panic attack about Mimosa and can we have a bit more time.  Then last night it's back to the paint store for more samples. We get another sample on the wall and decide finally 100% against Mimosa.  Hugh is relieved.  Now he feels free to tell me how much he dislikes that colour.  Although on Sunday when he didn't know that I was late because of sheer klutz and he had convinced himself I was late because I had rolled the van and wasn't coming at all, ever, he did decide he would paint the basement Mimosa for me, since that's the one I had really wanted. 

The point to this entire post is after many paint chips, several paint samples and much debate I'd like to announce we have finally decided on a colour.  Drum roll please.... We picked #7824! That's kind of anti-climactic isn't it?  I can't remember the name on the paint chip and I'm too lazy to get up to check.  It's from Cloverdale. The colour is a bit less yellow than I was originally looking for but I'm exercising my womanly prerogative and changing my mind.

It reads a bit darker on the wall sample but I'm happy with it.  I am.  I've even made it official by emailing it to our contractor.  It's just...I'm kind of wondering if I should have gone with the one that was one lighter on the strip.  I can't go back and get another paint sample because technically Cloverdale doesn't do samples anymore and they only gave me this sample as a one time deal.  It's okay.  I'm sure this one will be fine.  I like it.  I really do.  Do I love it?  At this point, I've lost all perspective.  I have never been this indecisive about a paint colour before but I've also never paid someone to paint so the pressure not to screw it up is enormous.  If I paint and don't like it I'm only out the cost of the paint.  If they paint it and I don't like it it's a way more costly mistake.  I really hope I haven't screwed it up. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Christmas baking this weekend was a success!  We started Friday night and made Parmesan Bread Knots and Butter Tarts.  I've always used my mom's filling recipe for butter tarts but I've used pre-made tart shells because in our first year of marriage I tried to make a pumpkin pie and a "never fail" pastry recipe failed dismally.  Last year when my parents came out for Christmas my mom brought her butter tarts with homemade pastry.  I bit into the slightly sugar-crystallized top and flaky pastry arms into a gooey centre -  it was almost a spiritual experience.

This year I baked with my friend Rebecca.  She is a newlywed and a self-proclaimed disaster in the kitchen.  (She lied, she's fantastic.)  We got together one night and sipped candy cane tea and sorted through recipes to come up with our final baking list and split the ingredients list. One of the recipes I was responsible for was butter tarts and I bought pre-made tart shells.  And then I got to thinking about last Christmas and my mom's butter tarts and I went out the night before our baking extravaganza began and bought Tenderflake.  When I was going through the till the cashier exclaimed, "Oh this is the absolute best for making pastry.  It's no fail.  Seriously you can't mess this up."  I didn't have the heart to tell her I was the one person in history who already had.

I made the pastry the day of and put it in the fridge to let the gluten (or whatever) settle.  And I put the tart shells into the fridge to defrost.  Just in case.  Later that night we rolled out the pastry and it seemed to be okay.  We popped our first test batch in the oven.  My mom's instructions are to bake until the insides are bubbling and the pastry is browned, 12-15 min.  The insides bubbled at about the 15 min mark but the pastry took forever to brown.  By the time the pastry was brown the insides where very dark.  Darker than I remember my mom's being.  But by the last of our four trays we had got the timing figured out and they were perfect.  We called it a night at 11:30pm.

We were back at it 9:30am Saturday morning.  Well I was.  Rebecca slept in (the joys of no kids) and came at 10:30 but she came bearing Starbucks and Spiced Rum so who's complaining? The coffee got our morning off to a great start and the rum, which we added to eggnog, helped us get through the end of the night when we felt "all done" but weren't. We broke for sandwiches at noon and I helpfully cut Rebecca's into fourths.  Having kids changes you.  I'm just saying.  At one point in the afternoon the combination of an endless amount of two double batches of shortbread and Sarah Mclachlan's Christmas CD were lulling us into a kind of dull autopilot.  Talking had ceased altogether and I felt like I was asleep on my feet. A few bars (and several sips of Pepsi) into Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You and we were revived!  Caffeine + Mimi = Magic.

Hugh had to work Saturday and Rebecca's husband had other things on the go but our men arrived in time for dinner and hoping for some samples of our hard work.  It's always good to hope, isn't it?  After dinner Rebecca and I were back at it.  By 10:00pm we had finished:
4 pans of Cherry Slice,
3 pans of Toblerone Mousse Squares,
2 pans of Orange Chocolate Biscotti,
4 loaves of Eggnog Bread,
2 double batches of Shortbread Cookies,
2 trays of Peppermint Bark,
2 pans of Pecan Bars,
6 sheets of Almond Crescents,
2 batches of Porcini Mushroom Phyllo filling,
2 batches of Spinach Feta Phyllo filling.
We were exhausted.  Our feet were killing us but all we had left to do was assemble our two different kinds of phyllo.  We poured ourselves a rum and eggnog and invited our men to help but they had both fallen asleep on the couch already.  I would have said they were pretending if it weren't for the snoring.  By the time we finished and everything was packed up and washed up it was 12:30am. Which just happened to be when the guys woke up from their naps.  Aren't coincidences crazy?

Hugh had to be at church early on Sunday morning because he was doing sound so he took the big kids with him and Beesh crawled in bed bedside me and let me sleep in.  I dragged my tired self out of bed around 9:00am and drifted into the shower where my arms felt like they each weighed a tonne when I was lifting them to wash my hair.  I felt like I was moving in slow motion all morning and then finally I looked at the clock and realized I was going to be very late if I didn't get a move on.  Church starts at 10:30 and at 10:29 I was running out the door with a cup of tea I hadn't had time to drink and a butter tart since I didn't have time for breakfast.  My foot hit the first of our front steps and then I was launched into the air, tea and butter tart going in two different directions, and landed two steps below.  I sat in the snow for a while to assess the damage.  Tea?  A few sips left.  Me?  Okay I think.  Butter tart? I looked around and saw it lying in three pieces upside down in the snow.  I had grabbed that butter tart off the top of my tin so it was one of the really good ones from the last tray when we finally figured out the right baking time.  I was not letting it go to waste! And you know what?  Even covered in snow it was amazing.  I think I'm going to have a butter tart for breakfast every day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A season of...receiving?

We're going to do it.  We're going to paint our basement Mimosa.  I am 90% confident and 10% crippling anxiety.  Good thing I'm Christmas baking this weekend.  If it ends up horrible at least I'll have a lot of sugar on hand to cushion the blow.

Also in the spirit of Christmas our downtown had it's annual midnight madness.  So. Much. Fun.  I didn't get home until almost 1:00am.  That's late for an old girl! Best deal of the night was at our fancy name brand store.  Every year they turn their upstairs warehouse into deal central.  Most things were 75% off the original price which sounds great but when a skirt is $275 to begin with it's still pricey.  They did however have one wall of things that were between $1 and $10.  That's the wall I shopped. Here's what I walked away with:

Basic cardigan.  Retailed for $79.  I paid $1. I'm not even kidding.

French Connection top.  Retailed for $108.  I paid $3.

Black top with ruching down the side.  Retailed at $160.  I paid $2.

Grey pencil skirt.  Retailed at $95.  I paid $2.

Lastly, a black pleated crepe skirt. Retailed at $109. Again, I paid $2.
Total original retail price of five item? $546.00. 
Total price I paid: $10. 

Merry Christmas to me.  Or Happy Birthday.  Or Happy Anniversary.  Take your pick. They're all within a month of each other.  I don't even know how many percent off that is.  What I do know is that the other stores who were offering 10% off or even 30% just didn't seem like deals after that!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mimosa or Hibiscus?

We had our first report cards and parent teacher interviews this week.  Everything was good and I'm so proud of how well the kids have settled into school.  The only little blip was Tristan: "Tristan sometimes has trouble focusing in small and large group activities.  He can do the work but he likes to socialize."  Welcome to every report card I ever had!

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about today is how picking paint colours for the basement is stressing me out.  Remember how I said I wanted a citron-y green?  For the first time ever Benjamin Moore has let me down.  But I did find one, it's called Mimosa and it's by Martha Stewart for Home Depot.  It's shocking.  It's vibrant.  It's bold.  It's exactly what I want.  I think.  I don't know if I'm gutsy enough to take the plunge.  I think with all the black and white it will look amazing but what if I hate it?  What if I only think it will be great but really it will be a big hot yellow mess and make our whole basement will look a flu-sick version of itself?  It's all well and good to say it's just paint you can always repaint it but the whole point of having someone paint our basement is SO I DON'T HAVE TO DO IT! I am not one of those people who finds their bliss in a paint roller.  My painting bliss only goes as far as opening the can of paint and pouring out the liquid loveliness.  What if I hate it???

I think with a colour like Mimosa painting a test strip still isn't enough to get a good idea of how it will look overall.  I tried to take a picture of it so you could weigh in but, bah, that was a waste of time. I can't get it to translate well from chip to camera.  So. What should I do? Risky and possibly what I really want and equally possibly a total mess? or safe and "fine"? (Can I just say that being chronically indecisive is really not an asset?)

What would you do?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

There's a hole in my pocket

We bought a couch yesterday.  A great big sectional for the basement.  It's not leather and therefore super cozy.  Wait, let me qualify that.  We have leather couches in our main floor living room and I love them.  They're comfortable and every time one of my children has vomited on our couches I have been thankful for our long ago, before we had kids, decision to buy leather.  It's just that in the winter when it's -32 plus prairie windchill which is more like -50 (literally) leather takes a while to warm up.  Our basement is cold.  At least it is right now.  It's hard to tell how cold it will be once we have walls and carpet but I still figured a soft, cushy, cozy fabric sofa was better than cold leather and if anyone is sick they can lie on the upstairs couches that wipe down easily.  We - and by we I mean I - even managed to like one that was not $7 million dollars and get this, it's even in stock!  Here's the picture off the store's website.

The toss cushions are dead ugly but it's nothing a little black and white fabric and my seldom used sewing machine can't fix!  Don't you want to curl up on that chaise with a cozy blanket and a cup of hot cocoa?  And if the cocoa just happens to have Bailey's in it? Well it's very warming I'll have you know! 

We also thought we got our carpet sorted yesterday.  Turns out...not so much.  We're trying to match the carpet that the builders installed to the bottom of the stairs in the basement.  It takes two to three weeks for carpet to come in once it's ordered so we really needed to get it done as the clock to Christmas company is ticking.  After hitting multiple (4) carpet places we picked the best match at the best price with the store who could guarantee an install before Christmas.  We then went to Starbucks very relieved and much poorer than when we woke up that morning.

We got home several hours and multiple errands later to this message: "So the carpet you wanted is on back-order at the manufacturer's and won't arrive until December 23rd at the earliest."  Did I mention we have a pretty small window of time to complete this reno?  December 23rd is when Hugh's brother and sister-in-law arrive. We had just taken our coats off when we had to put them back on and head out into the cold again. 

We went to one of the other carpet places that also had a great match but was a bit more expensive to see about their carpet availability and likelihood of a pre-Christmas install.  Seriously, I'm not sure if the guy who helped us had ever talked to a customer before in his life.  He looked at us from out of the corner of his eyes and often talked to the ceiling while brushing his hands over his receding hairline.  This flooring place priced their carpet by the square yard with the price including underlay and install.  Our guy didn't know how to tell how much just the carpet price was.  (Divide it by 9, he said.  I didn't want to know the price per square foot but um, thanks?) He didn't know how much they charged for underlay.  He didn't know how much they charged for install.  (Ummm, I think it's maybe about 7....ish...I think.) He didn't know where the carpet got ordered from or how long it would take to get here and he didn't know how to find out.  During his fifth absence to ask another associate one of our extremely complex questions Hugh looked at me and said, "I bet his kill score for Call of Duty is insane."  I hope his mom doesn't charge too much rent because I'd be willing to bet being a salesman isn't exactly making him the big bucks. 

We left taking their carpet sample with us and called our original flooring place to see if they carried this same carpet.  They did.  And at a better price.  Hello!  It will officially be here December 7th and installed shortly after that.  And now I can go back to breathing a sigh of relief.  We will have floors, and walls and a couch by Christmas.  This is a very good start!

Here's what I have left to do:
1. Find a great light fixture for over the kids play area.
2. Nail down exactly what colour we're painting our walls.  I want a kind of citron-y green but it can't be too yellow and it can't be too blue.
3. Buy fabric for toss cushions.
4. Sew fabric for toss cushions.
5. Get a sink and vanity and faucet for basement bathroom.
6. Shelving unit of some kind for towels.
7. Buy towels.
8. Find and purchase TV stand and surrounding storage units.
9. Buy a kids table and chairs that can also be used upstairs so we have enough places for everyone to sit during mealtimes over the Holidays.

Hugh and I already agreed we weren't going to buy Christmas gifts for each other this year because of the basement but it looks like we won't be buying anniversary gifts, mother's day gifts or father's day gifts this year either!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Snow, Snow and More Snow. And some pictures.

On Monday we had green grass.  And brown trees.  And blue skies.  And then it started to snow in the wee hours betwixt and between Monday night and Tuesday morning and it hasn't stopped snowing since.  Our town has been officially bleached.  The kids are thrilled and they've been outside multiple times everyday to play in the snow.  This was their first play in the snow.  I didn't actually want to go outside to take these pictures (Hello! It was snowing!) so I took most of them through my kitchen window.  The quality isn't that great.  Because of the window.  It has nothing to do with the fact that I don't know how to use my stupid camera at all.  Simone! Help!

So what do you do on the first snow play of the season?  Teach your little brother the ropes.

Lesson #1: How to make a snow angel.  Ava first because she's bossiest.

Then Tristan.

Did you see how we did that Sebastian?

Good form.  Good form.

Lesson #2: In a snowball fight it's always boys against girls.

Lesson #3: Mom always has hot chocolate ready when we come inside

The kids want me to take them sledding today but I'm waiting to hear from the carpet people about coming to measure up our basement so, darn!  I can't.  I'm really disappointed.  Sigh.  I guess I'll just have to drink endless cups of tea by the fire as compensation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hello Winter

Two years ago Hugh wired half of our unfinished basement.  Then he got laid off for four months and then we never got back to it.  Until this September when the already-extended-once building permit was suddenly only 6 months away from expiring and causing us to be hugely fined.  We also wanted to get it done before Christmas and all Hugh's family arrived for the holidays.  Hugh finished the wiring, installed whatever we needed for central vac, and learned enough about plumbing that he was able to successfully plumb the bathroom.  At which point Hugh ran out of energy and time as Christmas is suddenly just around the corner.  Christmas busyness + learning new trades (drywalling and finishing) + having a full-time day job + a tight deadline = !!!!! We decided to give ourselves the gift of sanity this Christmas and contracted out the drywall, finishing and even painting so it will be done for when the troops arrive.

Which brings me to the fun stuff. Wallpaper! Paint! Furniture!  The main part of our basement is going to be a combined kids play area and Hugh's media mecca.  This has been a challenge from a design perspective that I've solved by going black and white.  In the kids area there will be a small white table and black chairs and I've picked a playful black and white damask to go along the toy storage wall.  The toy storage is white with multi-coloured bins for some colour.  Opposite the play area will be tv and components and extra storage which will all be black and white and then I'll get some pops of colour on the couch - which we haven't found yet - with pillows.

Since everything else from a building perspective is now going to go so much faster we need to get our wallpaper and carpet ordered and line up some painters.  Oh and find some furniture we can sit on. Today is Tuesday.  My one morning a week when all the kids are in school.  The one morning a week I get to be gloriously alone.  This particular Tuesday is the day I planned to get the wallpaper ordered and hit a few carpet places for price quotes.

And it's a snow day.

The schools in town are still open but I kept the kids home today.  Hugh made me.  Something about the roads being super icy? and not having our winter tires on yet?  They're All Seasons! And I am a Northern girl!  I learned to drive in the dead of winter.  I can handle ice and snow that comes down sideways!  What's that?  You just want us to be safe because you can't imagine living life without us?  Well when you put it that way, wallpaper can wait.

Winter tires, however, cannot.  I thought I could at least get that done today.  Turns out everyone else in the city had the same thought.  Walmart had three vehicles outside when I called and their tire place hadn't even opened yet.  A local tire shop that's slightly out of town had 20 people waiting by 9:30am. 

Instead we stayed in and made cookies and watched the snow fall sideways.  Kids are now napping and I'm about to enjoy an eggnog steamer and some peace and quiet.  Well, comparative quiet.  There's a whole lot of banging and drilling going on under my feet right now while my basement is getting sheeted.  They're going to do it in one day.  Our entire basement will be sheeted.  Today!  Mudding will start tomorrow.  That, my friends, is what keeping my sanity sounds like!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This is why the English language is so hard to learn

Last night I told Hugh I wanted a Dutch Oven for Christmas. 


Not going to live that one down for a while.

This is what I meant.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I err on the side of justice.

Not strange.

Saw a lady coming out of the grocery store today.


She was wearing shorts.

Also strange? 

That the temperature gauge in my van said 21 degrees today.  Global warming?  Or compensation for last May?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I wrote a story about today. But now it's after midnight so technically I wrote about yesterday. But I haven't gone to sleep yet so it's still my today. Time is weird.

I spent two hour hours in the grocery store today.  Oh yes, you did indeed hear me right.  I said two hours.  In a grocery store.  Through lunchtime.  With my two six-year-olds and my three-year-old.  How do you define fun? 

I really dislike grocery shopping at the best of times.  If I was given the choice between grocery shopping or cleaning up my child's vomit.  I would choose the vomit.  For one thing it doesn't happen very often and for another thing I only have to touch the puke once as opposed to the four times I have to handle each grocery item (into the cart, onto the belt, into a bag, out of the bag).  I try to spend as little time as possible in a grocery store so when I go I am super organized. I menu plan two weeks of meals and then write out my grocery list in the order I will hit the aisles at the grocery store to streamline the whole experience.  Our big President's Choice store is undergoing a massive renovation and they're staying open for the duration. What this means is that my list is basically worthless because nothing is in the same place from one week to the next.  I spent half my time today back-tracking because the olives this week are in the same aisle as the bleach.  And the spaghetti noodles are with the Indian spices which is not where I found the Japanese bread crumbs.  And why did I not check the chocolate and popcorn aisle for toilet paper?  What was I thinking???

Normally grocery shopping takes me an hour and a half, 40 minutes of that is driving to and from the store.  I knew when I left at 10:30am this morning I was pushing it, that we would probably run into lunch, so I was prepared.  I had water bottles filled in a bag for the inevitable, I'm SOOO thirsty.  The kids had each just had a piece of fruit and I let them take a mini bag of chips out of their Halloween stash to eat in the car along the way avoiding the inevitable, I'm SOOO hungry.  Plus I was keeping the free bakery cookie in my back pocket in case I got desperate.  I was SOOO ready.

I made two quick stops before hitting the grocery store so we didn't actually get inside until 11:30am.  It was 1:30pm when I was pulling out of the parking lot to head home.  Near the end I finally had to ask where the toilet paper was and the lady I asked ended up being an absolute Godsend.  Seriously.  In a place that is not exactly known for their costumer service she was a downright miracle.  She stayed with me and helped me find the last six items on my list, held my kids' hands down the aisles, played games with them to find the things we were looking for and then rewarded them with cinnamon hearts when we found them.  Chips, cookies and then cinnamon hearts... I was past the point of caring about sugar and just grateful my kids were getting lunch!  She leaned over at one point and asked in a whisper if I knew about their free cookie program.  "Oh yeah," I said. "It's just that we've been wandering these aisles for so long we've already been there and eaten that!" While I was putting my groceries on the belt at the checkout she took my kids to get one more cookie and then... And then? you say. I know. You're thinking how could this woman get any more awesome?  Well... and then she kept them corralled and entertained while I was bagging. 


I swear I heard the angels singing in sweet sweet relief.  It sounded an awful lot like the Hallelujah Chorus actually.  I don't know if you shop somewhere where you have to bag your own groceries but this is always where my kids get possessed by the spirit of wild animals and they start climbing up things and throwing candy on the floor and pushing each other. I end up taking three times longer to bag my groceries because I'm trying to yell at my kids quietly, but firmly enough to make them listen, out of one corner of my mouth, while seeming charming and gracious under pressure out of the other side, and feeling so agitated I can't think straight and sweating so much I could swim down my own back.  How do you define fun?

I had actually planned to grocery shop yesterday while everyone was in school but the big kids really like it when I help out in their class so I did that instead.  Groceries were getting dire.  We were completely out of bread and didn't even have enough milk left for cereal never mind my morning cuppa.  So not only did I spend two solid hours inside the hated grocery store, I DID IT WITHOUT CAFFEINE.  Mama stopped at Starbucks on the way home to get her own treat!

Well, that's another grocery shopping trip down.  I'm done.  At least till next week when I'll have to get more bread and milk and fruit.  I did have a little revelation today at the grocery store but that's a post for another day.  For today, please tell me, am I alone?  Do you hate grocery shopping too?   Or do you love it because shopping is shopping no matter what kind? 

(That last line sounds very Suessical don't you think? A Who is a Who no matter how small? ... Someone? ...  Anyone?)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Something new for me to obsess about.

My sister recommended a website to me the other day saying there was a killer French Onion Soup recipe posted.  I am starting to feel very soup-y and stew-y as the Fall progresses.  Although when the sun is shining and it's 16 degrees and you can go outside without your coat on and it's NOVEMBER! I'm feeling a bit more for tzatziki and grilled chicken.  

The point is, I wandered over to The Pioneer Woman to look up this killer soup recipe and ended up spending every spare minute I had over the weekend reading through archives.  She is a city girl who ended up a cattle rancher's wife.  She has photos of her kids, one of them around Tristan and Ava's age, on horses, wearing mini wranglers and hanging onto calves legs.  The legs and hoofs.  Of real live baby cows!  I look at these photos and I look at my kids playing Power Rangers or Justice League or whatever is the current obsession and just cannot imagine them sitting in a cattle pen using their whole bodies to hold onto a calf's legs.  I can't even imagine them wearing cowboy boots unless it was for a costume.  So, of course, I'm totally obsessed. 

Go check it out.  And then come back and tell me if you think I'm nuts or if you're just as fascinated as I am.  Also, I'm totally making her French Onion Soup.  It looks divine! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Effort is effort. And should be appreciated. That's all I'm saying.

Hugh was away for most of last week on a course for work.  Something to do with engines.  He lost me right after the part where I heard the words combustion and cylinder in the same sentence.  

Did you miss me? he said when he walked in the front door.

I thought back to the three movies I let my kids watch.  In a row.  I heard myself yelling.  Alot.  I remembered sleeping in the middle just so the bed wouldn't feel so empty.

 I'm so happy you're home I washed my hair and put on mascara!

Wow,  he said.  You realize that's your equivalent of saying you put on your good sweats, right?