Saturday, February 26, 2011

Awards and Flowers


Firstly, a big (belated) thank you to Glenda for this lovely award:


My blog is a thing of beauty! I'm betting she wasn't thinking about how often I refer to poop incidents when she gave it to me...

In accepting this award, I have to tell you five things about me, one of which must be about my particular craft. I'm a bit schizophrenic in my crafting and I actually have five crafts. So I'll tell you one thing about each.

Sewing: A week ago, I had enough fabric in my sewing room to last me until five years after I die. This past week, my mum sent me another giant box full of beautiful fabric (thanks, Mum!). Despite this, I still somehow feel tempted to go to Fabricland next weekend and check out the sales...

Knitting: I learned to knit when I was 7, took a break from it in my teens (when it really wasn't cool) and took it back up in my mid-20's. This year, I'm hoping to sell knitted toys at the Christmas craft sales.

Crochet: It's easier than knitting and if I'm motivated I can have a whole scarf done in an evening. There is seriously nothing better in life than getting a compliment on something you're wearing, and casually replying "Gosh, thanks. It's just something I whipped up one night while watching TV."

Cards: I tried scrapbooking, and that was just too much of a commitment. But cards are a great instant-gratification craft. With the exception of this past Christmas when things got a little crazy, I never send store-bought cards anymore. For anyone who wants to try getting into crafting, this is the one to try first!

Jewellery: This is the next craft I'd recommend to a newbie. It requires slightly more small motor dexterity than card making, but once you get the hang of that, it's quick and easy. I can make myself a new pair of earrings in under 5 minutes. Which is kind of dangerous, really...

On another note, is anyone else overdosing on everything flower-related right now? Maybe it's because we still have four feet of snow, or because with the wind chill our temperatures dropped as low as minus 49 degrees Celsius yesterday. Even the dogs don't want to stay out there for longer than it takes to get their business done. So every time I see anything with a flower-print on it in a magazine, or online, I can't look away.

I've never been someone who likes to receive roses from a man. Roses die. I'd rather have a new pair of shoes. But at this time of year, I start thinking about going to the flower shop and buying huge bunches of whatever's available and putting vases full of bouquets all over the house. Clearly I'm DYING for spring to arrive!

I'm thinking maybe it's time I started embracing my inner hippie and wearing more floaty floral stuff like this pretty top:


Image swiped from overstock.com

Of course, stuffed under two fleece sweaters and a parka, I'm pretty sure something would be lost in the execution.

Happy weekend, bloggies! It might be cold, and my kid might still get up at 5:30, but the weekend is the one thing I always have to look forward to. And that's a gift!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Inconvenient, the "Talk", and the Oscars

My stupid engine light is on again. I'm 90% sure it's just the same minor problem that set it off last summer, but the 10% of me that expects the car to suddenly blow up halfway down the highway won't let me skip taking it in. So now I have to try to work that around RB's therapy.

I also have to work a dental appointment or two around therapy. Turns out, if you have a special needs kid out here who may not lay willingly in a dentist's chair with his mouth open for an exam, you have to do a 4-hour round-trip to see a pediatric dentist at the children's hospital who can put him under general anaesthetic. But first you have to do that same 4-hour trip for a "consultation". If it wasn't for the abundance of thrift stores in the city, I'd probably just give the kid a popsicle and a spoonful of tylenol, and pull all his teeth myself.
***
That recent discussion Firstborn and I had on feline reproduction should've served as a warning of what was to come. Today, on the way home from the grocery store (which is really so much better than still being IN the grocery store), he asked me point-blank to explain exactly how babies get into their moms' tummies. I started with my usual references to the stuff he already knows, and when he asked me to clarify a few points, I did. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, there was a full five minutes of hysterical laughter when he learned which body parts are involved.

I know not everyone thinks it's okay to teach this stuff to a 7 year-old, but I tend to follow the logic that if he's old enough to ask, he's old enough to know--within reason, of course. I learned how reproduction works by overhearing some girls at school talking about it when I was TEN. That's not a diss on my parents or on the school system. Back then, lots of kids asked that question of the grownups in their lives and got a smirk and a "never you mind!" just like I did. I'm sure my grandparents' generation wasn't even allowed to ask such a shocking question at all. But five years of teaching human sexuality to giggling, clueless 12 year-olds really drove home for me the need not to carry that age-old shame and embarrassment into the future. When my kid asks me a question--any question--he will get a respectful, straightforward answer, not a brush-off that makes him feel like he did something stupid by asking.

For those concerned though, rest assured we also had a serious talk about him not passing this information on to anyone else at school. Because being the mom in our small town who inadvertently "educated" the entire second grade is NOT what I'm hoping to be remembered for...
***
And finally, I am setting aside my Royal Wedding Fever this week and embracing Oscar Fever! I have to admit, before Sunday, I had only seen one of the films nominated, and that was Toy Story 3. Technically, that's one more than I'd seen by the time the Oscars rolled around last year, and watching an awards show when you don't know a thing about any of the content is pretty boring. So I'm taking this week to bone up a little.

The first film I watched (and anyone who knows me will already have guessed) was The King's Speech. Period fashion, fascinating story, characters you root for right to the bitter end, and Colin Firth with a smattering of Guy Pearce. What's NOT to love about this movie?! I already know that no matter how good the other films are, I want this one to win. More importantly, I want Colin Firth to win. And also to announce in his acceptance speech that I'm the woman of his dreams. It's really not that much to ask.

Last night, I watched Black Swan. It was melodramatic and visually gorgeous--right up my alley! The acting was impressive, the writing certainly competent. It didn't stay with me afterwards like The King's Speech did, but in its own way it packed a hearty punch. I'd recommend it to a friend.

Tonight, I'm hoping my kids will settle down early so I can see The Social Network. I realize at this point that I'm not going to be able to see every film nominated, but at least I'll have a clue who a few of the actors are when they walk down the red carpet on Sunday. More importantly, it's good to see some great film.

Happy Wednesday, everyone. We're over the hump!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Adventures in Thrifting


One of the great things about blogging is that I've met a huge number of people who, like me, completely get the addictive, hypnotic allure of rummaging through other people's old junk.

I am a thrifter. I came to it fairly late in life. At the age of 29, when I was pregnant with Firstborn and knew we'd soon be losing a good $50,000 a year in income, I decided it might be a good idea to try to figure out why the parking lots at all those consignment and thrift stores were always so chock-full. One trip to Value Village was all it took. And when we moved to Montreal, and the Village des Valeurs looked more like a really good day at Winners (at about an eighth of the price), there was no turning back.

These days, I'm not picky. Garage sales, thrift stores and ebay are all great thrifting sources. I love hitting the big city for a good thrift. But my tiny town has its own little second-hand store, and when I have the time and freedom (ie. when Rosemary's Baby is home with his father, and not tearing through the place like a little hurricane) to really search through the clutter, there is always a gem or two to be found, and at the absolute lowest prices. For example:



This military-inspired jacket was hanging on the plus-size rack. It claimed to be an XL and I'm usually a medium, but when I tried it on, though roomy, it wasn't huge, and the length was just right. This is a good example of a situation where you can't let vanity get in the way of a good bargain. I took it home, nipped it in just slightly at the waist with my sewing machine, removed the epaulettes (with my huge shoulders, I looked like a quarterback going off to basic training), and voila! A cute jacket for spring! Cost: $2.

Thrifting is also a good way to get labels you can't afford to buy new. I follow a lot of style blogs, and I've noticed that many people get their designer stuff this way. I certainly won't turn my nose up at couture if I can find it (though here in Manitoba, I can't), but things are a little more down-home in my world. When I talk about getting labels I can't afford in real life, I'm talking about labels that came from anywhere but Wal-Mart.

These shirts were $8 apiece, all at Value Village.

This one is from Cleo. In my 20's when I still frequented the mall, I wrote off Cleo--conservative and too expensive for my liking--as a place for a greying middle-aged woman. Apparently, I am now that middle-aged woman, because I suddenly love everything they sell. I'm estimating its original retail value in the $50 range.


This one is from Talbots (estimating about $60 originally), and required a little taking-in at the waist as well.

This is my favourite, and is from Banana Republic (originally in the $75 range).

All these shirts were barely worn when I bought them, are really comfortable and have a good amount of stretch to them, which is key for me, since I suffer from Chris Farley's fat guy in a little coat syndrome--big arms, big boobs. Combine that with a stiff shirt, and you have the recipe for feeling like you're in a straight jacket.

As fun as it is to know that the shirt I'm wearing is a good brand that I couldn't normally afford, I actually don't care much about labels. I'm not really one for wearing a brand across my chest, and I'm hardly going to walk around town pointing to my clothes and announcing "Banana Republic!" unless I'm specifically looking for a punch in the face. So, more often than not, it's actually not the label that grabs me.

This cardigan (please ignore the bunching shirt. My attention to detail is appalling) first caught my attention because it was grey, and I happened to be in the market for a grey cardigan (I'm wild like that). It also looked good and thick, which is a bonus in the prairies in February. When I touched it, my thrifty radar went into overdrive. A quick peek at the label didn't tell me anything about who made it--it was a brand I'd never heard of--but it did explain that gorgeous softness. It was 80% silk, and cost $8. Score! I took it home and removed the pockets (because I have a frame that seriously cannot handle any extra bulk from the hips up), and now I have a cardigan that is an absolute workhorse in my wardrobe.

I could go on about this all day. I wish there was a job called "Professional Thrift Artist" because I'd apply for that position in a heartbeat! I actually have another awesome thrift find to share but I'm not finished DIY-ing it, so I'll save that for another post.

One quick note: if you're interested in getting out there and searching for great second-hand stuff of the fashionable variety, do always tie off your plastic shopping bag as soon as you get in the car, and either put your stuff first through a hot dry cycle for 30 minutes, or a hot wash to kill anything nasty that might be lurking in the fibres. Apparently freezing your stuff overnight works too. Sorry to be such a killjoy, but you know what's even more of a killjoy? Bedbugs. Yuck!

Happy thrifting, fellow thrifters!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Little Dusty


I hope no one's feeling ignored by my absence from your blogs. I'm getting a little behind here, and this is the reason:


My dining room ceiling is FINALLY sanded. Well, at least the first layer is. It's clear I'm going to have to slap another layer up there and sand that too before I can start the priming and painting. What's also clear is that the Captain is going to be buying me a new pair of shoes for leaving me to tackle this on my own. Expensive ones!

Tonight, I'm going to scrub all the drywall dust off me, have a cup of tea and relax in front of the TV. Tomorrow, I'm going blog-hopping.

See you all soon!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thanks...

Gosh, there are just so many people to thank today, the only day in the next ten that I didn't have to set my alarm to go off at the crack of dawn.

First, a big thanks to the Captain for drunk texting me at 1AM on the only night I've ever forgotten to turn off my phone. (Not something he makes a habit of, but still...)

Thanks so much to Rosemary's Baby, who did sleep through the night, but then ruined it by jumping on me buck-naked at 6AM sharp.

And a final thanks to my dog for finding the only 100 square foot spot in the house that still has carpet, and barfing all over it.

Here's to Saturday mornings!

Friday, February 11, 2011

TGIF!

Finally, a break from the arctic temperatures! It's going to hit a balmy minus 3 (celsius) today! As my mother pointed out a week or so back, it's a poor show when it has to warm up so you can go out and make a snowman! But I'll be taking advantage and getting myself some much-needed fresh air this afternoon!

Things are a little random here today. I have some thrifty finds to share with you in the near future, when I can get some pictures together. And tomorrow we hit the halfway point on the Captain's course. We're almost done!

I'm debating what to do for Valentine's Day this year. Usually, if the Captain is away for a gift-giving holiday (not that we've ever put that much importance on the Hallmark Holidays), I'd buy myself a little cheap-and-cheerful trinket. At present, we've been trying to tighten the belt, so it seems a bit wasteful. And since I'm trying to literally tighten my own belt as well, making cupcakes or chocolates seems like a depressive episode waiting to happen! I'm thinking whatever I do, it should revolve somehow around the kids. After all, who do I love more than them?!

So that's why I haven't been around for a few days. There have been no car chases, no explosions and no titillating scandals to share whatsoever! But stay tuned for my thrifting news. I'd take a good thrift find over a scandal any day of the week!

Happy Friday, blog pals!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Life's Too Short

The older I get, the faster the time goes. It seems like it was only last week I was pushing Firstborn around in a stroller. Now he's in second grade, waiting for his first adult front tooth to come in. If things keep speeding along like this, I'll be raising hell at the old folks' home and needing a hip replacement before I know it.

With this in mind, I've compiled a list of standards I like to keep in mind in my everyday life. I call it my Life's Too Short list.

Life's too short to always cheap out: Frugality definitely has its place. I can't tell the difference between store brand and name brand spaghetti. I am very happy with the quality of my Joe Fresh cotton t-shirts, so paying triple for Banana Republic doesn't make sense to me. But there are some areas where saving money for the sake of it just adds irritation to my life. Shoes that make my feet hurt or ruin my knees are not worth the $20, $50 or $100 I saved by buying them. Pens that are so cheap they explode all over my hands cost me precious time as I scrub off the ink and search around the house, irritated and cranky, for a non-exploding pen. Small luxuries go a long way.

Life's too short to eat uninspired meals: On average, we eat just over 1000 meals a year. That's not really all that much, so we should be making every one count. We all like a fast-food burger from time to time, and that's fine. But fueling up every night on frozen TV dinners, fat-free "ice cream" and processed junk is just a waste of a good opportunity. We can't live without food. Eating is one of the very few pleasurable experiences in life that's actually necessary. I'm taking advantage of that and making sure my meals are still mostly good for me, but also delicious. I may never achieve rock-hard abs, but I'm betting I won't lay on my deathbed wishing I had either.

Life's too short to wear uncomfortable clothes: Certain TV style gurus will have you believe that "comfort" is a dirty word. I beg to differ. I am no fashionista, but I'm interested enough in fashion to read the (ridiculous) magazines and follow some awesome style blogs for ideas. I wouldn't leave the house in my pyjamas or go shopping in baggy sweats. But no matter how fashionable, cute or perfect-for-me an article of clothing might be, if it has itchy tags, rides up, is made of scratchy fabric or is too tight, it stays at the store. Constantly tugging at your clothes, wiggling around in discomfort and pulling at wedgies is a sure way of taking that confident feeling of wearing something great and turning it into a fashion faux pas.

Life's too short to watch mediocre TV: When I was a student, I'd often find myself plonked in front of the TV in the middle of the afternoon, goggling in horror as some fool, wearing the acid-wash and slicked-back mullet he usually reserved for church, took his rightful place on Jerry Springer's stage to inform his wife of 4 weeks, in the most inappropriate way possible, that he'd been having an affair in the back seat of his 1983 Camaro with her sister. And also her mom. And I wouldn't change the channel until all the chairs they were sitting on had been thrown at each other, and Jerry had capped the whole thing off with some melodramatic words of redneck wisdom. I dread to think how many hours of my life I lost taking in that rubbish. These days I choose very carefully the TV that gets my time and attention, and this is obviously a personal opinion issue that would be different for everyone. For me, the silver lining in Charlie Sheen's abrupt return to rehab is that one of the most overhyped and unfunny shows on television is on indefinite hiatus. Give me a good HBO drama any day of the week.

The economy is still pretty lousy, and that can make it hard to remember that there are things in life that should sometimes take precedence over the rat race that is the basic fight for survival. Having a Life's Too Short list reminds me that I can't put a price on my time.

What's on your Life's Too Short list?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Resolution Check-In

The New Year is officially one month old, so it's time to check in on how those resolutions are coming along. I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself, and I hope all of you out there are too!

My resolution this year was just to keep it simple. Here's how I managed to work that into my life in January:

Firstly, I opted to stay as close to home as possible. Since dropping the Captain off in the capital on January 4th, I have not set foot in a city at all. I did this because a trip to Booming Metropolis for me usually ends up looking like an episode of The Amazing Race, but without the beautiful backdrop. I tear around the city trying to squeeze in as many errands as I possibly can, spend hundreds of dollars, and return home with my blood pressure sky-high. As well, at this time of year, I have to worry about sliding right off the road on my way home. Staying local gives me cabin fever, no question. But it's much more relaxing. We have a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store and a thrift store 7 minutes down the road. They're all tiny, but they do the job. Instead of shopping at big-box stores to save 18 cents on a can of beans, I stayed local and shopped the sales. And guess what happened? I saved almost $200 on my grocery bill this month and only put gas in the car once (it's still more than half-full!). Turns out when you shop somewhere that's a bit more expensive, but that also doesn't tempt you with housewares, electronics, and a full clothing section, you save money!

The second area I kept it simple was on my dining room renovation. This was hard for me. We've had our dining room stripped down to subfloor, drywall and plywood ceiling for longer than I'd like to admit, and I've had such a hard time getting anything done with it. The reason for this is that when I attempt any kind of home improvement, I always, always try to do way too much at once, get exhausted and frustrated and then abandon it for months. In January, I got the ball rolling by hiring someone to put drywall on the ceiling and a first coat of plaster on the seams. The rest was up to me. It's been slow-going, but I'm finally getting into the habit of taking a free ten minutes here and there to slap a little more drywall mud up. And this weekend, I finished my first coat and managed to sand a small corner. What a mess! But I don't want to quit yet, so I'm calling it progress!

And finally, exercise. Getting on the treadmill is a boring chore and it makes my knees hurt. Trying to do it when my kids are in bed, after a full day of playing single mom/dining room contractor is miserable, and an easy thing to talk myself out of. My simple solution? A minimum 30-minute game of Just Dance with Firstborn (he usually pushes me to keep going for 45) before bed. We have some fun together, and I swear I'm getting a better workout than on my sad little run/walk. My evening is suddenly free for other pursuits, and best of all, my pants are feeling less snug!

To keep myself in the mindset, I've pulled out a fun book I read last summer called "Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl". I highly recommend it. No one simplifies life like the French!

So that's my first month of keeping it simple. January is my least favourite month of the year, and it's over. That alone is something to celebrate. Here's to keeping it simple in February!
Hang in there everyone. We get hearts and flowers and candy this month, and spring is just around the corner!!