Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Getting makeupy

Last Thursday night I came home from my swim practice and found that Mallory (who was by then in
bed) had left me a note.
It cracked me up. Especially the part about getting "makeupy"! Mallory received a play makeup kit at her birthday party a few weeks ago and she has been itching to get into it. I told her she cannot wear makeup to school so she had to wait for a home day to bring it out, and Friday was a home day for the two of us.
The result: some pink eye shadow and pink lipstick. Mallory was a little disappointed that the eye shadow was not more obvious. I told her that we could see it more than she could see it because it was most noticeable when she blinked and I took this picture to prove it to her (it worked). Still... I am sure next time she will try the blue instead of the pink!!
And we had to do nails, too.
She also made a "List for the Day" with the rest of the activities she wanted to accomplish. This included going to the toy store to let her redeem a gift certificate, the running store so I could pick up a new fuel belt, exchanging a movie at Walmart, doing makeup, bike riding, going to the park, and a few other chores I added to the list.
We had a great day together. She only has two or three more days out of school when Cindy is not working... then she'll be at daycamps this summer and full time at school in the fall. We'll have to find a way to keep our girls' days going. It's time well spent.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Finish it up Friday: the one where I get to contribute!

Several of the blogs I read link up to a feature called "Finish it Up Friday" where the point is to get rid of one of your UFO's (unfinished objects). I have a lot of UFO's. I have a lot of projects that are 95% done and have been that way for a long time. I once had that noted on a performance review at work; I guess it's a habit of mine. (I try not to let it happen at the office anymore!)
But THIS week, I took one of those UFO's and I finished it! So this is my week to gloat a little. The project is a quilt I started more than two years ago. I started seeing quilts made from vintage sheets all over the blogosphere and I loved the mix of patterns so much that I started collecting some sheets of my own. I stockpiled maybe a third of what I needed and then lost interest in the whole thing. 
This winter, two things happened that gave me the kick in the pants I needed to finish it. Number one, I finished my other little sampler quilt, and that got me back into sewing in general. It is definitely a seasonal pastime for me and also something that I enjoy more the more I do it. (I need to dust off the cobwebs and refine my rusty skills a little before I can comfortably commit to sewing with my good fabric!) The other thing was that Mallory moved into a larger bed and the quilt I sewed for her a few years ago is only twin-sized. She needed something bigger, she needed it before summer, and she needed something that would match her new pale pink walls. Rather than buy her something new I decided to finish up what I had already started.
I went through my stash of vintage sheets and decided to focus on a mix of predominantly pink, blue and purple patterns. (I set a few aside that trended more to yellow or orange.) I tried to collect roughly half pink/warm tones and half blue/cool tones. My local thrift stores only went so far (and a lot of the sheets they carried were too grungy for me to consider; I was really looking more for new old stock), so I wound up ordering some fat quarters from a couple of Etsy sellers to finish my stockpile.
I decided to make the quilt out of simple squares to let the patterns on the sheets take center stage. The finished size is 80"x80". In hindsight, I could have made it one row longer, but at the time I started it I was not even sure I could quilt something so big on my little machine without ruining it. The whole thing was a bit of an experiment. I am happy to report it was not as difficult as I thought and now I have the confidence to make more.
It is backed simply, with one large flat sheet, and the fabric I needed to bind it finally came in the mail last week so I stayed up late Friday night watching a movie and finishing the binding. Saturday morning I threw it in the wash and although I wasn't sure that the cotton/poly blend fabrics would lend themselves well to a nice crinkly quilt, the cotton batting I used did shrink up nicely and gave it the look I wanted. Yay!

I love it, Mallory seems to like it, and Finnegan is not complaining, either. I may get Mallory some solid pillowcases to go with it and I think she is now set for summer bedding. Hooray! And now, I'm ready to put the sewing machine away for a few months, and start focusing more on some outside projects.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Candy Crush

A month or two ago I downloaded a new app onto the iPad for the kids. It’s called Candy Crush Saga and it has become way too large a part of our lives. Have you played it? It’s a little brain-teaser game that starts out easy, and then gets progressively harder. I have heard there are more than 300 levels to clear.

We all started playing it, and pretty soon, we all got majorly hooked. We all wanted to be the one who finally cleared the board and made it past a level. We would play rounds and clear all but one spot on the board before we ran out of moves and be absolutely convinced that the next round would be the one that finally did the trick… and then ten rounds later, we would still be playing. I am suddenly a lot closer to understanding how a heroin addict must feel.

The thing is, when you’re playing this game, you only get a limited number of lives. If you fail to clear the board before you use up the lives you have to wait for a certain time to pass before you get more lives. I heard a neat trick to overcome this… just manually roll the time on your device forward. Unfortunately, I passed this trick on to the rest of the family. At last count our iPad was set roughly 4 years into the future. This meant I could not get Facebook or Instagram updates or access some of my favourite websites, because none of the content supposedly existed yet.

(Chad maintains that Liam is responsible for the huge date gap because he doesn’t ‘get’ that you only need to roll the time forward in half-hour increments for the trick to work. I think Chad just underestimates the number of hours that he himself spends on this game.)

Regardless, we made it past level 100, and then we decided that it had to end. We deleted Candy Crush Saga from our iPad and reinstalled it. We were set back to Level 1. It’s laughable how easy it is to play now, but some semblance of restraint has been restored in our home.

I’d like to think that there are some redemptive qualities in the game. It’s a brain-teaser and you have to think ahead and be strategic to move through the rounds. I’d like to think that it’s less like Pac-Man and more like a Rubik’s Cube… that making those synapses fire is actually a good thing. Time well wasted, indeed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The new guy

This is Finnegan. Yes, we have jumped back into cat ownership. Hoping that the third time is the charm.

Finnegan is 2 years old, front declawed, super duper playful, and he's a stunningly pretty cat. We found him at the OSPCA last week. Since we came home from March Break I have been in the habit of dropping in weekly to check out the new clientele, and when I found him, I thought he might be The One.

Luckily, Mallory thought so too. We have been toying with the idea of MAYBE getting two cats so that Mallory and Liam can each "have one" and they can be playmates. Hopefully they take out their excess energy on each other and not on us or our property.

Mallory was smitten with this cat just as much as I was, and declared that he was the one for her, so we went back with Liam after we picked him up from school, and Liam bought into him as well (although he still wants to get "his" cat, which he has decided will be a gray tabby kitten with green eyes - luckily it's spring and the kitten season is nearly upon us, and I'm sure we'll have our pick of gray tabbies one day soon.)

Anyway, in the back of my mind I'm thinking, something must be wrong with this cat. He's simply lovely and someone has declawed him so they have put money into him. Why is he back at the shelter?

The shelter staff told us that his original owners lived in an old Victorian house, and that Finnegan found his way inside one of the walls, where he got stuck. They had to take the wall down to rescue him and decided not to risk incurring an expense like that again.

So I am swayed by this cat's prettiness and I figure, we don't live in an old Victorian, we should be fine. The cat comes home with us. We have him for about two hours, and then he's missing, and Chad, who is sitting in the finished part of the basement, can hear something overhead. He comes upstairs to ask if we have been jumping around in the dining room over his head. Nope - haven't been near it. We put two and two together. The cat has gotten into the ceiling.

This was made possible by the fact that part of the basement is finished and part isn't, and the cat climbed up on some Rubbermaid bins in the unfinished part and got up to where the ceiling drywall begins.

The good news is, after having a quick look around, he came right back out again, and as far as I know he hasn't felt the need to check it out again since. Which is a good thing, because for about thirty seconds I had this total feeling of moronic stupidity in my belly, like - they WARNED me that this was going to happen. Why did I have to go falling in love with this particular damn cat??

(If you can't tell - I am a little jaded by my last experience. I have zero confidence in my ability to pick out a decent cat.)

The good news is, the OSPCA waived the adoption fee for us, on account of our experience with Pip. And Finnegan really and truly does seem like a lovely cat so far. He poops where he's supposed to, he stays off the counters, and he is mostly pretty quiet. All good traits in a cat. Also, he seems to like Mallory more than he likes the rest of us. She plays with him a lot and he sleeps in her bed with her (until I boot him out - we've been confining him at night - that would be an especially bad time to have a cat stuck in the ceiling again). So I am glad that he is "hers" (though secretly I do long for a little lap time with him; I'm sure it will come.)

Wish us luck. I hope we are in this for the long haul.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hockey night in Canada: the 8-year-old edition

For the first time in Cook Family Birthday Party History, we repeated a birthday party theme for a second consecutive year. There was no choice in the matter. Simply put, Liam still loves hockey more than anything in the world.
And, his birthday fell on a Saturday. What he really wanted to do was invite his friends over to watch the Leafs-Habs game on Hockey Night in Canada, with a little mini-sticks tourney thrown in for good measure.
He and Chad spent some fun hours getting ready for the party. They used red and blue duct tape to mark out a rink on the floor in the basement. One of Liam's birthday gifts was a less-expensive version of something akin to the Budweiser Red Light. You can't sync it up to automatically fire when your team scores, but you can set it off with a remote, and there's a switch on the bottom so you can activate the correct horn for your hometown arena (did you know the horns are all different? I sure didn't.) One little party guest called it 'sick' which was high praise indeed.
On top of that, there was an NHL pinata. First the kids took shots at it. Then they whacked it with their mini-sticks. Finally they relented and pulled the strings in the bottom, the way the pinata was meant to be emptied.
Chaos ensued.
Then there was a round of hockey card bingo. Each kid got a pack of hockey cards and had to try to be the first one out by getting rid of all his cards - who has a goalie, who has a Bruin, etc.
Hard to believe, but not everyone is a rabid hockey fan! Liam ran to fetch the wrapper that his giant NHL Easter egg came in so he could point out the appropriate team logos to the kids who didn't know.
In between the activities, the kids did watch a bit of the game. Most of the kids were Leafs fans and we felt bad for the two Habs fans whose team went down in a bit of a blowout.
Naaah, not really. Leafs all the way!!!!

The party didn't end until after 10 p.m. when the last guest was picked up. Well, it didn't really end then; two of the guests slept over. The boys were all exhausted though so there were no shenanigans - they were out like lights. All three of them had to be up bright and early for hockey the next morning - Liam was on the ice in Blenheim at 9 a.m. And he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Happy 8th birthday, sweet Liam.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

8 years old

Happy birthday to the most amazing little guy who makes me laugh and smile every single day. Having him around has been the best experience ever. I hope he knows how much he means to us.

Friday, April 12, 2013


This ad recently came out on behalf of the Utah tourism bureau, and it makes me want to go back. We visited 4 of the 5 parks featured here. Aren't they stunning?

Liam recently filled out a questionnaire about his favourite vacations of all time. The Bahamas has gone to #1 on his list, but Utah is #2. Given that he's also been to Disney World twice, I think that's saying a lot.

Back with more after the big birthday week wraps up.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pottery and polka-dots: a celebration of Six

Yesterday, we had a birthday party for a very special little girl who is enjoying her last day as a five-year-old right now.
This was the first time we did Mallory's birthday party away from home. I have to admit, it was really easy. We coordinated the invitations, balloons, food and drink, and party favours, and they did the rest. I did really enjoy not having to clean up both before AND after the party.
The party was at our local pottery-painting studio, which didn't open all that long ago. Since we don't have a wide range of options as far as birthday locations go, I was happy to see them come to town. I don't know how much foot traffic they see through the week, but yesterday our party was back-to-back with at least two others.
The kids made a commemorative plate, with Mallory's handprint and the thumbprint of all of our guests, and then they each got to choose a piece to paint from this wall of unfinished ceramics.
The pieces will be fired this week and we'll pick them up on Friday to deliver to her friends.
Mallory digs crafty stuff, and especially anything that involves painting, so my fears that the group may have been on the young side were really unfounded. She loved it. 
Liam loved it too, but I think he was so afraid of messing up his perfect masterpiece that he didn't do what he originally planned to do with it - he took his hockey puck coin bank (of course) and painted it black and drew on a small NHL logo. The end. I thought he was going to do something a lot wilder and crazier, but I know all too well how paralyzing the perfectionist tendency can be.
We opened presents before we had cake, to allow one straggler a little more time to finish her project up.
Mallory received lots of wonderful gifts. Most of them were Barbie-themed; that's still her big 'thing'. She also got some Monster High dolls (for when she is ready to move onto that) and some crafty stuff, including a gift card to the craft store. That's a shopping trip she is really looking forward to!
At Mallory's request we had 'vanilla cupcakes with homemade icing'. She has really been underscoring the 'homemade icing' part. Last year when we made the rainbow cakes in a jar, I used a can of Duncan Hines frosting to save some time, and she didn't like it and won't let me forget it. I use Amy Sedaris' vanilla cupcake recipe and my own winging-it icing, and these things are like crack to me. I may have eaten four of them yesterday. Blech.
All in all, I'd say Mallory had a pretty good day.
Happy birthday, sweetie girl. You are so loved.