Monday, January 31, 2011


As much as I always say that we live in a funny little place that gets cold but never gets any snow... well, that's not really true. It seems like we've had a lot of snow this month. Not nearly as much as the Northeast, maybe, but enough to keep our shovels and our sleds busy. This was the scene from our front porch last night... complete with the little mountain of snow Chad and Liam have been clearing off the driveway.Of course, if you're going to get snow, you'd might as well put it to good use. Chad picked up a couple of new sleds last week so that we could fully take advantage. His choices included a few vehicles adequately sized for adults. The kids' little saucer sleds go pretty fast, but neither Chad nor I can fold ourselves up compactly enough to take a run with them without dragging a foot or hand behind.I made the mistake of trying to go for a run on Saturday morning, right when we'd had about 4-5 fresh inches fall overnight. My feet were soon wet and it was sloppy and tough going. I didn't make it as far as I'd hoped to and was pretty beat by the time I got home. I should have waited a few hours - by afternoon the roads were salted and the slush was gone - it would have been a breeze to be out then.Except that by then, we were out in the back yard doing this. We got our track packed down pretty firmly again and soon the kids were making bets about who could be the first one to cross the path at the bottom of the hill. Chad scooped up some snow and stamped it down on the path to ease our crossing. Our next door neighbour, who is up at the crack of dawn whenever it snows so that he can jump on his tractor and plow the path (thinking it his civic duty or some such thing) was probably watching him through the window and cursing him out.I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see this be one of the new sleds that Chad brought home with him. I've heard the story about a young Chad breaking his ankle in two places due to a mistimed run on a GT Sno Racer more than once. I'm hoping we don't continue the tradition.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A boy and his toys

I know my kids' birthdays are not for another few months, but I kind of like using the lull between Christmas and Easter to work on them. Specifically - birthday parties, and birthday portraits.We think we have a party theme picked out, though Mallory changes her mind several times a week, and then always seems to change it back (so far, at least - knock on wood!) With that done, and some preliminary details investigated, I've been turning my attention to birthday portraits. I did a few of these for a friend last week and will do more next week, so I guess it's only logical that I have them on my mind.Right now, Liam's favourite toy seems to be Lego, so I decided to do a Lego portrait. I know his birthday is not for another few months, but we were home for the day last Friday and it all just came together. I don't know... can I call this an official 'birthday' portrait when I took it in January? Or will I need to re-shoot it in April? How different will he look by then?I can't quite decide which one is my favourite. At first, it was this one where he is looking at the camera, hands down. But the more I study them, the more I also like the 'at play' versions. The top one, especially. Thinking I might print one of these big next time there's a sale... maybe to hang in the basement playroom?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cooped up

First off - I wanted to say that my Blurb 2010 Year in Review book arrived on Monday, which was incredibly speedy for the printing and shipping. (They now print and ship in Canada - no more waiting weeks for it to clear customs!) It's gorgeous - I am really thrilled with how it turned out, in spite of the fact that you can't upgrade to the premium paper option on books with so many pages. I was a bit worried about how it would look with the thinner paper, but it's just fine. I love that it is so compact and it was a really easy project to complete by uploading my photos and writing a few words to go with them once every week or two. And, no blank pages! It all printed exactly as I designed it. Phew!

Anyway. Around these parts we are starting to go a little stir-crazy. I like to get outside in the winter, but the past few weeks have been really, really cold, and we have pretty much been housebound.So... we are in the midst of trying to come up with fun things for the kids to do inside. I love that Christmas falls when it does on the calendar, because the infusion of new toys and books really does help to get us through the winter. But there are times when other diversions are necessary and this was one of them.Behold: snow painting! Very easy to throw together and it will keep the kids interested for as long as it takes the snow to melt. Get an old pan and fill it up with snow. Supply the kids with a muffin tin filled with assorted colours of water and some eyedroppers. Show them how to paint on the snow... and the rest will be history. This activity bought us about half an hour of peace and quiet, which was well worth it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


One day last week, we passed these flowers in the grocery store. Mallory stopped to admire them and then asked if she could get them to give to Cindy. How could I say no to that? Maybe I should be offended that she's never given surprise flowers to ME... but I am just happy that she loves Cindy enough to think of doing it for her. Knowing she's happy when I am not with her is a pretty great feeling.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fancy schmancy

On Saturday, Mallory was invited to a birthday party for her friend Meghan, who turned 4. It was a Fancy Nancy party and the guests were invited to wear their jazziest ensembles. This is what Mallory came up with. At first she wanted to wear her Cinderella dress, as she seems to be going through a Cinderella resurgence; but I talked her out of it (on account of her wearing that same dress to Meghan's party last year.) She does like the tutu so she settled for it. I know the silhouette of the moment calls for a voluminous top over slim bottoms, not a big ruffly shirt over a big ruffly skirt like Mallory is modelling here, but a plain t shirt just wouldn't cut it for Fancy Nancy, you know?? I admit that I tried to talk Mallory into wearing a pair of tights that have a blue and green harlequin pattern and would have matched the tutu perfectly. But these striped tights include some metallic stripes, and Mallory was digging the sparkle. At the party, the girls wore tiaras and butterfly wings as they ate pink sandwiches... (Love the feather boa one of the girls wore!)
They decorated sugar cookies... you KNOW Mallory loves that... And this is one of my favourite shots - Mallory and Meghan picking their way through the present landmine after the gifts were opened.

As for Liam, he and Chad went to A&W for a Teen Burger and then a Birds of Prey show they had running at the mall. So the boys had a nice day out of their own.

(Passed out in the car on the way home, Fancy Nancy doll firmly in her grasp.)

The weekend did not go exactly as planned, since the extreme weather conditions led to me being called into the office early Sunday morning. I guess I am making up for it today though, because right now I am home with Mallory, who has a temperature of 100.2F. Yes, I am technically working and have a pile to get through that won't allow for much slacking; but it's awfully nice to be able to do it in my loungewear, with Mallory cuddled up on the couch next to me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It was a very good day

Early morning swim - first time I hit 2 km. (It was nice not having to rush out of the pool to make it into work!) Photo session with the kids that resulted in some shots that I love.Tried our hand at making homemade pretzels. Took a leisurely trip to the library. Funny, I used to go there for books - now we go there and the kids make a beeline for the computers set up in the childrens' room. Ran a few errands.Came home and caught up on a couple of episodes of Oprah, recorded earlier in the week. Made a batch of Valentine's Day cookies. Yes, this means it was a white flour/carb heavy day, but so worth it!Watched Mallory model several different outfits in anticipation of a birthday party tomorrow. She didn't pick what I would have picked, but will look super cute nonetheless.Now I'm just hoping the cold doesn't cause anything catastrophic at work - looking forward to more fun on the weekend.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Testing, testing, 1-2-3... (subtitle: Off for printing: The Cook Family 2010 Year in Review)

This thing is huge... 276 pages, in fact. So I'm not sure if the widget is going to work or whether it's going to self-destruct when I hit 'publish'. Oh well... might as well find out, eh? Fingers crossed...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Unintended consequences

Even before I got on my home cleaning/purging/organizing/decorating kick early in the new year, we made a few changes, back in the last week of December. I love Christmas but as soon as it's over, I'm ready to be done. The tree was down within a few days, the garland removed from the bannister, and the mantel cleared. I do like having seasonal stuff out all year though, so the Valentine's Day decor came right out to fill the empty spots. Nothing over the top, mind you... just some hearts in the apothecary jar, to replace the ornaments; more seasonal photos in the frames (buh-bye, cute picture of Captain lounging under the Christmas tree); and a few jars of holiday candy on the counter top. Meant as a decoration but slowly being whittled away by Chad. (Lucky for me, I do not like either cinnamon hearts or candy hearts. Now, if those jars were filled with wine gums, on the other hand... that would be a different story!)At the time, Valentine's Day was still about seven or eight weeks away, but I didn't think too much of getting the new decor out. Well, apparently Mallory did. She immediately decided that it was time to start hand-crafting Valentines. She really only does one a day, but almost every day since then she has asked me for a blank card, paints, crayons, to please draw the outline of a heart, to please help her spell someone's name, and then to provide an envelope to package it all up in.It's very cute and I like to encourage creativity in the kids, but trying to explain to her that it is not yet time to be handing out Valentines? - well, it's not going over well. The cards she has made to date have all been handed out... to some very perplexed recipients.On the bright side, she is practicing her penmanship quite a bit (writing only To ____ From Mallory - but even that is a lot for a three year old!) The fact that I can indeed make out what she is writing - MOST of the time - signals the progress she's making.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Productive weekend

On the weekend, Gramma and Grampa took the kids for several hours. They are headed south this week and wanted to fit in one last visit before they left. Even though this was one of our short weekends, it FELT super long. And it's because I got so much done. As soon as the kids were out the door, I started in on the to-do list, and surprised even myself with how much I got done. I finished up 95% of the Christmas album I put together this year (4th year running for this project!) I sewed two blinds for the office, using fabric purchased a year ago and finally getting something made for the windows, 2.5 years now after having moved in. I recovered a bulletin board to match, while I was at it. I 'styled' the coffee table, now that the Christmas decor is gone, and I proof-read and uploaded my 2010 year in review book - all 276 pages of it! - for printing. Finally, around 4 p.m., I got out of my pajamas and had a shower and got ready to go to Liam's hockey game. Now that I have had kids, I swear I will never waste another precious child-free minute. There is always something to do. I've made headway on a few other projects this month, too, even with the kiddos around... there will be a big, fat, pat-myself-on-the-back post coming up... I can just feel it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

After hours

Liam is not letting the fact that we don't get home til after dark most nights stop him. No, sirree. Tonight he had his swimming lesson, then came home for dinner, and then even the frigid temps and darkness didn't stop him - he had two important tasks to do.
First, he wanted to build a snowman... (yes, that is a celery stalk for the nose and dried cherries for everything else; we are out of carrots and don't usually keep coal in the house); and then he had to get his daily dose of shoveling in.
The snow is incredibly light and fluffy, which makes it perfect for pint-sized shoveling, but the snowman collapsed into a pile of powder right after I snapped this pic.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why I don't think I'm going to the pool in the morning

Chad bought Liam his own little shovel, and the two of them cleared out the driveway when they came home tonight, but it's still coming down awfully hard and it's supposed to continue overnight. The pool I go to is in a neighbouring town and the road there is not likely to be plowed overnight.

Thank goodness for that trainer in the basement.

(And although this post may make me sound like a sporty person, the truth is that this cold has totally been lingering, and the sad fact is that I have done very, very little of anything since January 1. Hoping to turn that around starting tomorrow.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Cook family joins the 21st century

Can you guess what we are doing in these pictures?Go on... guess...We're in our basement...Up until now, the Cook family has not owned any kind of gaming system. No computer games, Wii, Nintendo DS, nothing. All of that changed a couple of days ago when we finally broke down and got an xBox Kinect. (I have thought about getting a Wii or some such for the past couple of years as a Christmas gift for Chad, but *he* has always resisted them. Funny, then, that the xBox was his idea.)

The cool thing about it is that there are no controllers - there is an infrared sensor that analyzes your own body movements. You physically do something and your on-screen avatar does it, too. This is going to make me sound like an old fogey, but - I am just amazed that they have the technology to do that!

So far the only game we have is the bundle that came with it, but it is a total blast to play. There is a river rafting game that we all enjoy (and are playing in these pictures) - skating from side to side to navigate the raft and jumping into the air to earn points. I would never say an xBox replaces a workout, but playing a 2-minute-long game on this thing definitely gets your heart rate up! No worry about vegging out on the couch with Kinect.

So if you don't hear from me for the next little while, it's probably either one of two things. (a) - I am drowning in my job. Or (b) - I've become addicted to video games. Or - heaven forbid - (b) is the cause of (a).

On second thought, maybe the timing of this purchase was really, really bad.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Showing my inner dork

Is it ok for me to admit that:
(a) I bought Mallory a copy of "That Scatterbrain Booky" at Value Village yesterday - that was one of my favourite books as a kid, and
(b) I just opened the cover here at home and am giddy to find that it was signed by Bernice Thurman Hunter! Score!

I have been under the weather for much of the week and have not been doing much of anything. Hoping to surface sometime soon.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

In with the new

It's amazing how fast two weeks can fly by when you are having fun. Our winter break came to an end yesterday and it is back to the grind now - we are at work, Liam is at school, Mallory is at Cindy's, there are dance lessons and hockey practices and skating lessons... things that are challenging, things that are fun, but things that move at a much more frantic pace than we'd been keeping for the past few weeks.
We spent most of our break at home, and that was really nice. We played lots of board games, as that seemed to be a big theme this Christmas. We spent many hours out on the creek until the ice finally broke up right before New Year's. In fact, the day before the temperature soared and the rain came down, I told Liam it would likely be our last skating day. We headed out to the creek and didn't come in for an hour and a half, until it was almost dark and I pretty much had to pull Liam off the ice.We went swimming several times and we also went to a showing of E.T. at the Capitol Theatre, which is a beautiful old movie house that has been restored for music and theatre and, yes, the occasional film. It was packed that night, and the kids loved the movie. (Props to Chad for recognizing the potential 'scary' factor, and showing them some YouTube clips in advance to prepare them.) We spent New Year's Eve at a house party we've attended for the last few years. This was the first time that our kids made it to midnight and we were able to stay long enough to see the balloon/confetti drop and silly string mayhem that the hosts then spend months cleaning up! It was a lot of fun, though the kids were pretty much zombies by then and we have had to spend several days re-acclimating to normal bed and waking times.

Now, it's 2011. I don't have any resolutions, per se, but I do have a few things in mind for this year. I have some personal challenges I am looking forward to taking on - a half marathon in the spring, three triathlons this summer, and perhaps one more slightly goofy goal that I haven't quite committed to yet. I want to complete some projects around the house that I have been contemplating for months or more, and just haven't found the motivation to start - something about it being January makes me want to dive in. At the same time, I want to be more mindful of my time with my kids. At times I am very involved with them, but I also find that as I get invested in my own projects, I can lose track of time and it's all too easy, now that they are a bit older, to let them entertain themselves. We are starting to talk birthday parties, and I can hardly believe that Liam is almost six. These are days that I don't want to miss out on, no matter what else I am trying to accomplish.