Monday, January 28, 2013

No regrets

What did we do on the weekend? Well... I already said we skated Friday til it was dark.
We skated Saturday morning until it was time for Liam's hockey game, went to hockey, came home, had lunch, and skated again.
 Got up on Sunday, skated, came in for lunch and a rest, and then headed back out - except that this time it wasn't just us - Liam invited some of his hockey-loving friends to come with us.
This morning, Liam woke up sick. Except that he hasn't really been sick (no puking, thank goodness!) Truthfully? I think maybe he was just extra-tired. I have no earthly idea why that could be, though. ;)
It was worth it, though. Today the creek is just a big pile of mush. We had to make the most of it while we could.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Growing kids, changing rooms

Although I've only been talking about changes we've made to Mallory's room here, the fact is that we have made changes to Liam's room, too. In fact, Liam's changes came about before Mallory's. It all started when we decided that a single skinny white IKEA 'Billy' bookcase in the corner of the room was not enough to hold all of the stuff that little boys are wont to collect.
So back in the fall, when I made my annual trip to Niagara Falls for the OEA conference, I swung into the Burlington IKEA and picked up an Expedit bookshelf. It's 4 cubbies x 4 cubbies in a nice glossy grey finish, and it holds so much more than the Billy. We can style it up really nicely when we want to, but this is what it looks like most of the time. The cubby arrangements make sense to Liam and I suppose that's all that matters.
We also found Liam a new desk, since the old one that was there was pretty small. This is a big old oak banker's desk that I found listed on Kijiji. The night I drove to Tilbury to pick it up was the night we got hit by Hurricane Sandy's remnants. It's never taken so long to drive to Tilbury before, but it was worth the hassle! We found the chair later at the Bibles for Missions thrift store auction and it totally fits the look.

We made a few other changes, too. We finally took down the Curious George and David prints that I loved so much, and put up some hockey-themed stuff in their places. Much before befitting of Liam's current obsession!
After Liam got his Expedit and we saw how well it was working, we made the same change in Mallory's room. Out with the Billy bookcase and in with Expedit, this time in white. Luckily I had another meeting in Mississauga just a few weeks after the conference in Niagara Falls, so I was able to squeeze in another IKEA trip then. 
The painting in Mallory's room is now complete. The bed took five coats all told, though there are only 4 coats on the back of the headboard since I put the last coat on with the bed in the room and the sun shining through the windows so I could see where I had missed. You can see the original wood colour on the inside of the frame where the supports are. Don't you love the ghetto sleeping arrangement here? - double bed frame with a twin mattress on the floor in the middle of it. We ordered a new mattress last weekend but it will be next weekend before it is delivered. Mallory can't wait.

For a while I fretted that the pink wasn't pink enough and that the white of the bed frame was too stark (especially since the trim is very much an off-white), but now that it's together, I love it all. You can also make out the edge of the night table we painted blue beside the bed. Once the mattress is here, we'll get the new bedding in place and then assess what else needs to be done. She needs a beside lamp (there's one I am eyeing at IKEA and as luck would have it - we'll be in Burlington again for the Chilly Half Marathon in a few more weeks). I'm trying to figure out how to re-rig the lanterns that originally formed a canopy over her daybed; I don't want as many, but I would like to re-hang at least some of them. I am considering making her a bedskirt, but want to get the rest in place before deciding any more about that. And there are a few more things to hang on the walls once we finalize plans for furniture arrangement. That's the thing about decorating I guess; it evolves over time - never a finished process.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Not every day is good, but there is something good in every day

The prevailing theme this week has been WORK. Monday wasn't bad, but Tuesday started at 2 a.m. and it didn't improve much before the end of the day today.
On top of that, Mallory had a stomach bug yesterday, so there was some juggling of work and daycare that had to be done.
The overriding thought that's been on my mind this week has been to get outside to enjoy the cold (once it moderated a little) before it's gone. Early Tuesday morning it hit -17 C, and all I could think of (besides my work) was that the sudden deep freeze must have made for some awesome ice on the creek. It has been two years since the last time it froze over into a suitably skatable surface. This afternoon at work I was just itching to get out the door to test it out. I did not get out as early as I would have liked, but there was daylight left when I got home with the kids and we snow suited up right away and got down to the creek. We got about six inches of snow today that covered the ice but it was of the light-as-a-feather variety that was easy enough to push aside. Some neighbours joined us and we were out there until dark. Liam and Chad lingered after dark, using the reflection of the street lamps on the snow to see by. We have roughly 48 hours left before we get hit with balmy temperatures and rain, and we are not going to waste one precious minute of ice time before that happens.

It was exactly what I needed at the end of the day today. Something good.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jenna's birthday party

The day that Mallory has been waiting for pretty much since Christmas, when she first laid eyes on Jenna: Jenna's birthday party.

Note that Jenna's actual birthday was yesterday, the 18th. But Mallory's friend Meghan's birthday is also the 18th. And I had to explain to Mallory more than once that Meghan might actually want her own birthday celebration on the 18th, rather than spending the day celebrating Mallory's doll's birthday. I think she finally understands why the party had to be today rather than yesterday.
Meghan came bearing her own two American Girl dolls. Meghan was in on this doll action a year before we were, so she is pretty doll-savvy. The first order of business was opening gifts, and Meghan was kind enough to bring a gift for Jenna, a little miniature pair of blue Crocs. I tell you, the doll wants for nothing.
Mallory spent half the day yesterday setting the table in the dining room for the party. She pulled out every piece of blue party ware she could find. The tablecloth is from our zoo party, the plates are from Mallory's rainbow party, the napkins are from a family get-together in the summer... for once, it has paid off to hang onto all those odds and ends! Following the gift-opening, we sang Happy Birthday to Jenna... including the "cha-cha-chas" and the "how old are you?" verse and the "are you ONE? are you TWO?" chanting, and then finally when we determined that Jenna is now 12 years old (since the literature that came with her last month declared her to be 11) we had to give 12 cheers. It was exhausting just getting through all the singing, but now we know how Mallory would really like to hear it happen when we sing Happy Birthday to her in a few months.

Finally, Mallory helped Jenna blow out the candles on her cake. This cake came from an old play food set. The rest of us got real cupcakes.
Mallory wanted both of their hair done in braids today, and she put on as many blue articles of clothing as she could find. She instructed me to wear jeans and a blue hoodie, which I often do on weekends anyway, so I did. She told Liam he had to take off his Red Wings jersey and put on his Leafs jersey, and he refused. Which was good; she shouldn't always get her way.
She also wore her special-occasion necklace.
A close-up of the party dress I made Jenna. Still so proud of this one. We also finished a pair of sweats and a t-shirt/skirt combo for her before the party deadline, and a pair of Hello Kitty PJs I ordered from an Etsy seller before I sewed my own also came on time to give. The doll is now very well-heeled.
Jenna's birthday wasn't the extent of the action today. Liam played hockey and had a great breakaway, though he didn't score on it.
And finally, the NHL resumed play. Some pretty excited guys in our house today. (As for Pip, she is settling in really well. At first we thought she was a really friendly cat, always wanting to be on our laps, but now we know that she is really just the laziest thing imaginable.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gearing up

Judging by the amount of hockey-themed artwork I am finding on Liam's desk these days, I'd say that someone is really, really excited about hockey starting up again this weekend.
Poor guy - it has been hard on him having the NHL lockout go on for so long. He is all hockey, all the time, so that was a long dry spell! We will definitely have the TV on on Saturday. I know some people intend to boycott the NHL for the rest of the season, but I can't imagine denying Liam so much joy any longer.
This one is from over the holidays, before the NHL strike ended. The World Juniors championship was a bright spot in a season that otherwise lacked any hockey at all. Liam came up with this playoff chart that he faithfully updated every day. In this day and age of DVR's he never had to wake up at 4 a.m. to watch a game, but I bet he would have if that had been the only way to see it. (Not sure why there is always one goofy picture I can never rotate around!)
And just to prove that he thinks of others just as much as himself, he has been busy working on a birthday present of his own for Jenna in preparation for the party Mallory is throwing tomorrow. He has been painting bits of cardboard and hoarding toilet paper tubes, and when I stumbled across these plans on his desk, I think I figured out why. Production has slowed down somewhat in recent days though, so I am not sure whether he will see it through to completion. Starting a project full-tilt and then losing the motivation to see it through - I wonder where he gets that from?? It's like looking into a mirror. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The other project. Code name: "Inevitable"

The "other project" that has prevented me from getting any more sewing done lately has also come at Mallory's request (my my, I am catering to her whims lately, aren't I!?) She has been asking to have her bedroom painted pink and we finally caved in.

The thing is, I still think of our house being brand new, but this year will mark 5 years that we have been here. And while I bemoaned redoing a 'brand new' bedroom, the truth of it was that after we pulled the furniture away from the walls and took stock of what we were dealing with, it actually seemed like a good idea to paint. There were many nicks and holes that had to be patched up (especially where her old rocking chair used to bash into the wall), and a grimy little handprint line right above the mattress level of her bed. The fact that contractors don't exactly use top-quality paint for a new home job also meant that the usual wear and tear was starting to show. So despite the fact that I really, really loved "Georgian Green" (I think) and how nicely our whole house's palette tied together... it was time for Mallory to have a say in what her room looks like. I got to decorate two rooms for her without her say and I guess you can't expect to have a little girl and never get a request for a girly paint colour.

But while we were OK with painting her room pink, I got to decide the exact colour. If I had taken Mallory to the paint store to see the chip display, you can bet we would have walked out of there with the loudest, brightest, most bubblegum pink imaginable. We have developed a process for picking paint colours that we like, and it comes down to two rules: pick something lighter and muddier than you think you really want, and then once it's up on the wall it won't scream at you.

So the pink I picked for Mallory was actually a pale, fleshy looking colour, that doesn't do a whole lot for me on its own. It's called Fairest Pink:
I picked this colour and then to confirm it, I looked into the name of a paint colour I have always admired in online photos of a blogger's home. It comes from the same colour line (Benjamin Moore) but is called Wild Aster. Here it is: 
The fact that the colours are so darn close gave me some confidence that this colour was going to give me the effect I wanted.

At the last minute I panicked a bit, and considered going with Ballerina Pink:

But I think your first instinct is usually the right one, so I stuck with Fairest Pink.
Here's the room, mid-painting. Hard to tell from the picture (and it was a stormy day, so it's kind of grey and dark) but it really did turn out to be a lovely soft colour that looks a little drab as a paint chip, but when you walk into the room, there is no denying that it is pink.

Of course, as with any home project, this bedroom update has morphed into something bigger than was ever intended. The time seemed right to make a few other changes in tandem with the painting. My childhood bed has been down in the basement all this time and we decided it would be a good time now to switch Mallory from the single daybed into my old double bed. But, that bed is an old yellowy pine piece. So I have been painting it as well... and it's taken several coats to cover it. Paint the headboard, footboard, and side rails, let dry, flip, paint again, let dry, flip... three coats each side and counting... I think tonight might be the last coat, but I am not 100% certain about that. The painting is going on in the basement - we might get the bed upstairs and realize in the natural light that it really requires another coat! After all this work, I am hoping the paint finish is as durable as the Benjamin Moore salesperson promised it would be. We also painted a side table to use as a night stand, and there is a desk in the queue still to be painted.

There is more cash to be spent now as well. We had the double bed in the basement, but no mattress or box spring to go with it, so those have to be purchased. And we had to buy a new double duvet, duvet cover and sheets as well. So what started out as a project that would only cost as much as a can of paint, has now turned into several hundred dollars. Ouch. Not good when I had just put myself on a post-Christmas spending reduction!!

Anyway, I'm hoping this weekend will see the end of (or nearly so) Mallory's Bedroom Overhaul. I would like to put the furniture back and reclaim the closet that has been stuffed full of so many odds and ends these past few weeks, roll up the drop cloths that are all over our floors, and put away the spackle, the sandpaper, the brushes and rollers and paint trays... all of the clutter that comes out when a project is underway.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not part of the plan

Last Monday I went back to work after the break, and everyone was talking about how much illness they'd experienced over the holidays. I was kind of dumbstruck by how rampant it was, given that we escaped relatively unscathed. Wouldn't you know it - by Tuesday night I knew exactly what they meant. I lost several days last week to being incredibly sick. Definitely not part of the plan with all of the projects I have on the go right now! (On the bright side, the rest of the family seems to have dodged the bullet.)

As a result, I haven't made any more progress on doll clothes, although I did finish the party dress and it turned out awesome. Liam was very excited to see it finished and wanted to give it to Mallory right away, so we did. She was tickled, and then promptly decided that the party dress would be her gift to Jenna for Jenna's birthday. It's now wrapped up in some tissue paper and a gift bag and hidden behind Mallory's closet door, which I have come to find out is her secret hiding spot for everything (this will serve me well in the future.)

Something else Mallory now has hidden behind her closet door is the card she made Jenna. I started laughing hysterically when I first saw it but then took a look at Mallory and saw how serious and earnest she was, and I shut right up about it. 

Clearly, she is pretty smitten with this doll. Chad said she saw more or less the same wording on a card at the store and remembered it pretty closely when it came time to recreate it at home. Yes, this birthday is going to be a big deal; Chad bought Mallory a bag of balloons (blue, of course) while they were out, and Mallory is also requesting blue-iced cupcakes. I think we can handle that.

I will keep working on my clandestine sewing but am not sure how much more I can get done between now and next weekend. Another project has taken precedence lately, and I'd like to get it finished up sooner rather than later because it's spread pretty much clear across the house right now. But now that Mallory has the party dress in hand, I think the rest of the outfit options can trickle in over time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Doll clothes ninja

For Christmas, Mallory received a Maplelea doll named Jenna. Maplelea is the Canadian version of American Girl. The doll has been a big hit so I am glad that she got it (even though Santa had to make some last minute changes/returns in order for it to happen.)

The thing about Maplelea dolls is that they are pricey, and their clothes and accessories are even worse. The doll came wearing some casual clothes and Mallory got a dressier outfit and a gymnastics outfit to go along with her, but these outfits are around $30 apiece so that is where Santa drew the line.

(In this picture, both Jenna and Mallory are wearing their gymnastics uniforms. Mallory requested the photo shoot. It cracked me up.)

Then I realized that there are a whole bunch of patterns out there to make your own clothes for these dolls. First off, Mallory wanted some pajamas for her, so I cut up an old piece of fleece I had on hand and made some PJs. Mallory was thrilled, though the PJs are pink and Mallory did inform me that Jenna would have preferred them in blue (which the booklet that came with the doll says is her favourite colour).

Jenna came with an official birth date, January 18, so I decided to surprise Mallory by making a couple more outfits for a birthday present for Jenna (unbeknownst to Mallory). Unfortunately, Liam is awfully perceptive, and one day he remarked to Mallory that she should just get me to make Jenna some clothes as a present. Drat! Foiled!!

Liam is now in on my secret. I showed him what I have been up to. I made Jenna a little set of sweats, including a hoodie that is super super cute but unfortunately, I think my seam allowances were too big (fabric was too bulky) and it doesn't fully do up in the back. I think she will love it anyway. I also just finished the prettiest little party dress, which was infinitely easier to sew and does fit. Mallory requested a dress that Jenna could wear for her birthday. And yes, both of these items are blue.

I have been working on all of this after Mallory is in bed for the night... I have to wait for her to fall asleep, then slip in and steal Jenna away from her for the fittings. I pack up the sewing each night so there are not scraps of blue fabric lying around as a telltale sign. I think she is starting to catch on, though, and I hope Liam hasn't let it slip.

I have a few more things planned. The fleece that made such bulky sweats might be good to make a coat, and I have some shimmery blue stretchy stuff from which I'd like to try a swimsuit (though I fully expect it to be murder to sew and wonder if I should just order one from Etsy instead!) Mallory wants underpants too, and those are cheap on Etsy and since my local sewing store does not carry fold over elastic, I might just buy one or two pairs of those, too. I have a couple of other dresses in mind with some different fabric and might do some jeans and a t-shirt or two. If only Mallory went to bed earlier...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where has the time gone?

I said I would be back with an epic Christmas wrap-up post.
I think I lied.
I mean, it's January 4. I don't have that post ready. I have other stuff piling up. I may not ever go back and completely summarize Christmas and I suppose that's OK. There's a Flickr set posted if you are interested in the images. I mean, they are Christmas images... it's pretty easy to tell what is going on!
After Christmas day proper, we had a second Christmas in Stratford a couple of days later. Then Amy came to visit for a few days. I was in the midst of trying to wrap up my 6th annual take on the December Daily album during my spare time when I got an email saying Shutterfly was having a 60% off photo books sale, so I buckled down to finish the last few pages of my 2012 year-in-review book and get it submitted before the deadline. I've been bad at sharing those things here but I am thankful to have the projects completed (or nearly so) for my own personal use.
Then it was New Year's Eve. Chad and I did a 5K fun run before our whole family headed out to a house party. This is where I admit that Mallory has been a bit of a pill for the last several weeks. At first I was cutting her slack - it was the holidays, we were busy, she was tired, then she was sick. But I think we are running out of excuses for her. Anyway, she was adamant that she wanted to go to this party but then her mood turned foul, and eventually we found her upstairs sleeping in one of the girls' bedrooms. So Liam rang in the new year with a boatload of kids squirting toxic amounts of silly string into the air while Mallory slept it off.

Not really though - she is still in a foul mood. Someone said maybe she is getting her 6 year molars? I really hope that's true and that there is a valid reason for the moodiness. I cannot imagine what she will be like at 15 if she is like this at 5.

Anyway, back to the schedule of events of the past couple of weeks. After the new year, Chad went back to work. I have been home with the kids covering the school break. We just got home from what I guess is now an annual sequence of events: first we went to Listowel to visit GG... (nice face, Mallory!...)
 (...GG just turned 90 - this is me in another 50 and a bit years!...)
 ...and because it's too far to go up and back in a day, we split the trip up with an overnight stop in Stratford.
 And on the way home we went tubing at River Valley. I love that place. So does Liam.
Mallory was not crabby for about ten minutes of the 2-hour lift ticket I purchased. Good times.
 And that catches us up to present day. Lots of blowing snow out there today - I am glad we got the exterior of the house de-Christmasified before the wind picked up.