Tuesday 26 July 2016

Summer Fun

Adventures don't have to take you far from home. Honestly, with a toddler, adventure can be found pretty much anywhere - basement, backyard, or flying through the air from the coffee table to the couch. I always have to remind myself that usually the best times are the times that are spent on simple activities. That's what we've been doing lately. Last week, we explored some of our local parks. It was free, fun, and outdoors!

Harbour Passage is a sweet walking/biking/strolling trail along the harbourfront that links the uptown with the west side. In addition to the beautiful sights, there are panels along the route to explain some of the history and wildlife of the area - shipbuilding, seals, the port, Fort LaTour. Of course, I didn't get to spend too much time reading them, but there seem to be more popping up all the time. Over the years, they've added more highlights, including public art, learning stations, and a children's section. Last week, C and I went for an evening walk, looking at the water, flowers, wildlife, and stopping at the children's play area.

I don't know why, but I never think about going to Rockwood Park. It's a shame, because it's a beautiful park. We're lucky to have such a great green space in the middle of our city. It's like our own Central Park. Actually, Rockwood Park was designed by a member of the same team who designed Central Park, in New York City, so it really is Saint John's version!  We spent the morning, one hot Saturday, exploring the trails, checking out the ducks, and eventually popping into Lily's Cafe for lunch on the patio overlooking Lily Lake.

Our other large green space in the city is the Irving Nature Park.  This park seems to be growing all the time. When I was a kid, it was Taylor's Island and Saints Rest. I used to go to the beach to beach-comb and fly kites. I think it opened as the Irving Nature Park in the 90s, and since then has grown to include the Sheldon Point Trail and the Children's Forest. On foggy mornings, we like to stop at Saints Rest, to walk the beach before breakfast. This typically includes throwing rocks into the water and trying to miss getting his by the waves. We always leave covered in sand and soaking wet. Sometimes, we are lucky to spot some wildlife, like deer.

Of course, close to our house is Seaside Park. It will be changing a lot next year, so we're trying to take advantage of it now. There is a little playground and a road that leads to the most beautiful views of Partridge Island and the Bay of Fundy. There are big pieces of granite to sit on and watch the ships come into the harbour. It's peaceful. If you continue down a pathway, you can walk along a path that can take you to Bayshore beach in one direction and Duck Cove beach in the other. Of course, the rocks also make the best jump-off rocks with is a bonus!

Last week helped me remember how lucky we are to live in Saint John. We have so many parks to go to within a short walk or drive. It's something to be proud of and support.

Monday 25 July 2016

In-Betweener Clothes

I hate shopping for clothes. It takes me days to get mentally prepared, and when I finally get up the courage, it usually ends with me leaving the stores empty handed, sitting in my truck, feeling so down. It's horrible. I realize that sounds overly dramatic, but it's true. It seems like every store is geared toward younger women or girls who don't have hips or a chest and have very skinny legs. Nothing fits. Nothing flatters. Nothing makes me feel good. By the end of a shopping trip, I feel horrible about myself.

I have been reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo. It is basically a plan for organizing your home. You work with categories, like paper and clothing, and only keep items that "spark joy." I like this idea. Surround yourself with things that make you feel good. It sounds like a good plan. Well, let me tell you. Nothing sparks joy in my wardrobe.

This is why. (I will try not to make this move into rant territory.) I am about 5'7", and have always struggled with weight. Although I'm not in plus sized clothing, I am at the upper end of regular sizes. I wish that "plus" sizes went a little lower. I had started shopping in plus stores when I returned to work after maternity leave. I felt like I found "my store," because, when I left, I actually felt good about myself. I had found some nice clothes that both fit and flattered, and (BONUS!) the sales people were also friendly, which made me feel welcome.

Since then, I have been able to drop some more weight, which, health-wise, is a good thing, but I no longer fit in those sizes. I should be happy about that, but when it comes to clothing shopping, I'm stuck shopping at stores that I don't feel are made for me. Being at the upper end of the size spectrum, I get to choose the big versions of skinny clothes. Right now, everything is "skinny". Pant legs are so tight at the calf, they make me feel like an inverted triangle when I try them on. Clothes never fit well, too tight and pulling in some places while being baggy and frumpy in other places.  To make it more difficult, I have long legs, which further limits what I can buy for bottoms.

I really don't know how to fix this problem. It's not like I can design or make clothes. What I would love to see is a designer or clothing line to design and make clothes for us "in-betweeners." Focus the designs on those who are over a size 12. Not just making bigger sizes of skinny clothes. Have options to help us hide or smooth our tummies and the dreaded "muffin top." That would certainly spark joy in me when I look through my closet and go looking for something new to add to my wardrobe.

What are your favourite stores (online or in person) to shop in for clothes? I'd love to check them out!

Friday 22 July 2016

A Little Obsession

I love giveaways. I love having the chance to win something.  I have always entered raffles and contests and would sometimes be lucky enough to win some fabulous prizes - hockey tickets, household decor items, cakes, discounts on my power bill, and even a shopping spree at the Disney Store when I was a kid. If there was a chance to win something, my name was going in the hat! 

My biggest win was a trip to Disney World from a local radio station. It was my dream vacation. I took my first plane trip (at the age of 30); stayed at an amazing Disney resort, The Animal Kingdom Lodge; met my favourite Disney characters; took a special Disney tour, called the Wild Africa Trek; and had so many new experiences. I still can't believe I was lucky enough to win that prize!

Recently, I've starting participating in some Twitter contests. People hold Twitter parties, which are often chats on a product, service, or topic, with prizes. I only participate in parties that I find interesting, so I actually get something out of it, and also only if I would be interested in the prize. I always think that I would hate winning something that I wasn't interested in, and have someone else miss out on something they really wanted. This was a particularly lucky week! I won a $200 gift card from Walmart and a $25 gift card from the Superstore. If you like the chance to win things and learn more about a product, service, or topic, there always seem to be Twitter parties happening focused on one of these things. Sometimes people can get a little cheesey, but if you overlook that, they can be kind of fun. 

My favourite twitter parties are hosted by Yummy Mummy Club. They are well organized and on great topics. You can watch for their contests on their YMC Buzz Twitter account. I rarely win anything, but always learn something new.

There are also a lot of Facebook and Blogger contests that pop up. Many are "like and share" contests with local companies on Facebook. On blogs, they are often associated with products, which are a great way to try new products, without having to buy them. My Organized Chaos has a pretty great contest running right now, focused on summer camp outs. It's a great prize, and also a great post, if you're looking for some summer family fun.

Contests are fun to enter, especially if you have a little luck and actually win something. Have you ever had a big win? I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to share in the comments below and share links to your favourite contests running right now! 

Sunday 17 July 2016

It's Just A Kiss

I usually don't comment on news stories, but this one got under my skin. A lot. Social media has been buzzing this week over a picture that Victoria Beckham posted on Instagram, showing her giving her 5 year old daughter a kiss on the lips. It was her daughter's birthday and a very sweet picture -  a mum quietly celebrating her daughter on her birthday.

A photo posted by Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham) on

In my world, this is a pretty common sight. Just a parent and child having a "lip kiss." Of course, "the internet" disagreed, and many faceless commentators had to leave their two cents, saying it was disgusting and inappropriate.

It floored me. With so many sad stories in the news lately, people choose to pick on this? Why can't we celebrate love and parenthood?

This is not the first time this kind of story has met with internet outrage, and, sadly, I know it won't be the last. At some point, before becoming a mum, I don't think I gave it much thought. Now, I have a very affectionate 2 year old, who will stop mid-play or mid-walk to motion for me to kneel down for a "lip kiss" and hug. Even as I was typing this, he ran over, had me kiss his hand and then gave me a little kiss. He also gives major hugs, cheek kisses (where he pushes his cheek to mine and makes a kiss sound) and likes every boo-boo kissed better. He's affectionate, and lip kisses are part of the deal.

"Lip kisses," as they are referred to in my house, are pretty common with kids. Growing up, my family were big huggers. Kisses were always on the cheek. We hugged a lot, but didn't kiss on the lips. If it's not common in your house, it's okay. It doesn't make one family better (or worse) than another.

At the end of the day, it is important that children feel loved, safe, accepted, supported, and are cared for. That looks different for each child and each family. Take the child's lead. If they prefer to give high fives to show affection, go with it. If they like lip kisses, then go with that too. If you're not comfortable with that, then try something different. Most importantly, don't hate on one family just because they do things differently than you do. Be one of the hundreds of supporters who commented after the negative posts, celebrating and supporting this expression of affection between a mum and her daughter. Celebrate the love. Look for the good.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

My 5 Favourite Places to Visit on PEI

I just found this post in draft form and had completely forgotten about it. It caught my eye, because it's about Prince Edward Island. Sure, PEI may not seem like a glamorous place, but I love it. I know summer has arrived when my mind starts having visions of red sand, tiny villages, farm land, and lobster. I  always seem to find myself there each summer, even when I don't plan to. I thought it would be a good time to post. Last summer, I shared my new finds for PEI, but these are my favourite places to go back to every year.

1.  Village Pottery:
I love Village Pottery. Seriously. I posted the second picture on Instagram with the hashtag #icouldspendmypaycheckhere, and this is not an exaggeration. I really could. Since we had declared this trip a non-shopping vacation, I had to be good, but couldn't leave PEI without getting a little something from Village Pottery. (I went with a little sugar bowl and creamer and 3 small bowls.) It's definitely my favourite place to shop on the Island. As a bonus, if your significant other doesn't enjoy shopping, there is always a nice chair out front, in the shade. They can relax in the shade, while you give your wallet a workout!

My new favourites!

2.  Island Hill Farm
We first visited Island Hill Farm last year, and it was such a surprise. They have become a highly rated attraction on Trip Advisor, and if you visit, you'll soon see why. You start your visit in the barn, but it's not your average barn. There are murals on the walls and a chandelier in the chicken coop! Like I said, not your average barn. For just $5, you can spend as much time as you want with a donkey, alpacas, ducks, pigs, kittens, bunnies, and lots of goats! The donkey can get a little nippy (which they warn you about!), but all the other animals are very friendly, especially the goats! Sometimes you get an extra special treat, and one of the animals might have recently had babies. A day or two before our visit, the rabbit had bunnies! We couldn't see much, because they were still hiding in their bunny fur fuzz ball, but it was still exciting. 
Little C had fallen asleep on the drive there, and wasn't too awake when we arrived, so I carried him in for the first few minutes. As soon as he saw the goats, he was ready to roll! He had the best time with the animals, running through the fields, in and out of the barn, and even in the chicken coop! I think the animals enjoy the kids just as much as the kids love them! A great spot for visitors of all ages!

3.  Toy Factory:
I didn't take any pictures at the Toy Factory this year, but let me tell you, this is a kid's paradise! Inside? A small building jam-packed with toys! There is something for everyone - babies, toddlers, "big" kids, and kids-at-heart. I love the wooden toys, especially the cars - they roll smoothly on our floors, so they're great for car races. Also, if you ask, they'll personalize the car for your little one. In addition to their handmade toys, they carry lots of different lines of toys. They have entire sections devoted to puzzles, toy houses, castles, stuffed animals, and toys for young ones. There is a lot packed into a small space.

It's not just about the inside though. This is what makes the Toy Factory so special - they have created a child's paradise outside! There is a (real) bunny on the deck, a (fake) elephant in the yard, knight and princess cutouts, and a horse and carriage. Let's just say, there is lots to see, if you takd the time to look around. It's a bonus for when you want to buy a present or two for that special little boy or girl in your life, and need them to keep busy for a few minutes - one adult can go out, and one can stay inside and do some secret shopping.

It's also within walking distance of the PEI Preserve Company, Gardens of Hope, and Butterfly House. We didn't go there this year, but have been in the past. All three are worth the time to visit!

4.  Kings Castle Provincial Park:
If you have little ones, and are headed to the Points East Coastal Drive, this is a must-stop. It's a bit of a drive, if you're staying in Cavendish or Charlottetown, but if you love to see an ear to ear smile on your child's face, it's worth every minute of driving! Type the address into your GPS and enjoy the ride. (1887 Gladstone Rd, Murray Harbour, PE C0A 1V0) There is a beach, picnic tables spread throughout, washrooms, and lots of playground equipment! Some of the equipment is vintage - like the old woman who lived in a shoe slide, which my son had to go down about a million times. They've made many upgrades in the past few years - including new playground equipment, but I like the older stuff - wooden structures to climb and metal slides. It's a real trip back in time to my own childhood playground fun! You can sit back and watch your kids have a little old-fashioned fun!

5.  Site of L.M. Montgomery's Cavendish Home:
This one may not be as expected. I don't know what it is about this place, but I love it. The cottages that we usually rent are close by, and every year I walk there, usually by myself. That could be part of it's appeal. A little time to myself.  This year was a little better though, because I had my little buddy with me! The view on the way is beautiful - ocean on one side, and a nice field of wheat on the other.

Once you leave the main route, you take a short walk down a red road.  At the entrance to the site, there is a cute little building. You pay your admission fee here, and can also listen to a talk about the site. On your way out, you can pop in again to visit the gift shop. (We picked up a couple of postcards for the album, and a Stompin' Tom Connors "Hockey Song" board book!) It's a pretty simple spot. You can take a walk through the property. There are boards along the pathways, with L.M. Montgomery quotes and descriptions of what it would have looked like when she stayed there. As an added bonus, you can make your visit even longer by using connecting paths to visit the Green Gables post office and even continue on further to arrive at Green Gables.

Those are my top 5! I love new finds, but I love a good "return trip." Feels like home! ;)

Monday 11 July 2016

Towers and Strawberries

Last week was a pretty tame week. Even though it's summer vacation, I have been finishing up some work stuff. Last week, I was involved in some professional development and this week I am out of town for a few days. After that, I can breathe easy. Vacation will have finally arrived for me. 

We had some nice weather last week, so we did a little exploring. One day, we decided to go for a neighbourhood walk to visit Carleton Martello Tower. I sometimes forget all that our neighbourhood has to offer. Not everyone can say they live within walking distance of a 200-year old National Historic Site.
Carleton Martello Tower is a small defensive fort that was built during the War of 1812.  It's my understanding that there are many Martello Towers scattered throughout the world, including the Prince of Wales Tower, in Point Pleasant Park.  In the past few years, they've added a lovely interpretive centre. The Tower itself houses a powder magazine and barracks. It also has a gorgeous views of the city, including the port, harbour, uptown and Partridge Island. 

Unfortunately, this turned into a bit of a mis-adventure. You see, Martello Tower received some impressive funding recently which will allow for it to be completely restored.  I believe it is going to be totally dismantled and re-built. It's a pretty big deal. I knew this, but didn't realize that it was starting so soon. Needless to say, the tower wasn't open to go inside. The interpretive centre is still open, but that's not very exciting for a 2 year old. The guide in the centre was great, and gave C a little colouring book and explained that we could still explore outside, so that's what we did. It will be exciting to see the tower refurbished and visit it once it is complete. 

We climbed all the stairs to get to the base of the tower. 

We stopped to look around, but it was a little foggy. I have to say that in this part of the west side, this is what a little foggy can look like. When it's really foggy, you wouldn't be able to see the any of the church steeple or even some of the nearby trees.  It can get pretty thick. Sadly, the normally beautiful views of the city could not be seen that day!

Then we climbed down again.

C was a little upset that there was a gate locking him out, but luckily, 2 year olds are easily distracted and we just ran up and down the pathways a bit and stopped to smell the roses (literally!) A little stop at the store for a tiny tub of strawberry ice cream helped end the afternoon on a high note. Eating ice cream with a little wooden stick makes everything better, doesn't it? 

Later in the week, we went strawberry picking. C has loved picking wild strawberries in our yard lately, and was doing such a good job, I figured he'd love to see a big berry patch. I hadn't been strawberry picking in many years, but I had a flashback to sitting between the rows and stuffing my face with strawberries as a kid. Our berry picking trip went the same way! We drove to Bates Landing, in Long Point, which is near the Kingston Peninsula. We took the long way, so we could take a ferry ride. 

I knew we wouldn't get many berries picked, and we didn't, but it was fun. I picked berries and put them in our bucket, and C would pick strawberries out of the bucket and put them in his mouth. It was a very effective process... for him! He also liked playing with the hay and squishing berries that were on the ground. 

I kept telling him that he couldn't eat the berries, but he wouldn't stop. The ladies picking around us kept saying he could eat as much as he wanted! There were so many berries on the plants, and some were starting to get moldy, so they were probably right. There weren't enough pickers for the berries. He was just helping the berries live up to fulfill their destiny of being gobbled up! After getting the berries weighed and paid for, I gave the girls a few extra dollars for the strawberries consumed during our time in the berry patch. It's not like they didn't know. He had red berry juice smeared all over his face!

Before stopping home, we went to Kredl's in Hampton for lunch at the Cookhouse and picked up tea biscuits and whipping cream to have with our strawberries that night. 

Strawberry shortcake tastes like summer!  There is nothing better than fresh, local strawberries. They taste even better when you pick them yourself. I think we'll be making this a summer tradition. Hopefully, next year, I have a better helper and not just an eater!

Tuesday 5 July 2016

My Little Picky Eater

Little C can be a picky eater. He has a variety of foods that he likes, but there is also a big list of foods he doesn't. Or maybe it's better to say that he just refuses to try them. How can  you not like something you've never even tasted? I know that it could be worse, and I'm not really complaining, but I'm getting bored serving him the same foods, especially when packing lunches.

Breakfasts are easy. When he is eating with his grandparents, on work days, it's always oatmeal. Always. In fact, he ONLY eats oatmeal there. I must not make it the same. He also loves pancakes, cheerios, berries, rice krispies, toast, eggs (sometimes), bacon, sausage, and other breakfast foods. He loves going out for breakfast, and Cora's is definitely a favourite. He gobbles up everything, and usually doesn't stop at the edge of his plate, stealing his favourites off everyone else's. Breakfast really isn't a problem, and is sometimes doubled up as supper. (Really, there's nothing better than breakfast for supper!)

Snacks are easy too - apples, pears, bananas, berries, goldfish crackers, dry cereal, yogurt, raisins, graham crackers, and some treats.

Right now, I'm concerned with his lunches. A typical week of lunches looks like this:
  • Chicken finger/nuggets, raw bell peppers, and fries (potato or sweet potato)
  • Spaghetti (with extra hidden tomatoes and mushrooms)
  • Tomato & Beef Macaroni (especially this recipe!)
  • A "picker" plate - Ham, a boiled egg, veggies (peppers and mushrooms, usually), crackers, and sometimes seeds or dried cranberries - I call it a picker plate, because he picks at it, and I just hope that he gets enough to fill him up
  • Beans, especially Bush's Maple beans, and crackers
  • English Muffin pizza, with sauce, mushrooms, peppers, Barbour's pizza spice mix (he goes crazy with it!), and a little cheese
  • Campbell's chicken noodle soup, with the Frozen characters - this is a new one
  • Fish (salmon, haddock, trout) and rice (usually with some frozen peas and carrots, but he rarely eats them)
That's pretty much it. Well, he also likes lobster. And scallops. (He's totally a maritime kid, right?)

One thing I don't understand is that he doesn't like cheese! No mac and cheese for this kid! No grilled cheeses. No chicken and cheese tortilla roll-ups. No cheese chunks on his plate to add a little more substance to his meal. We were able to get him eating a little cheese on pizza, but that's the extent of it. I should be happy that he doesn't like cheese, but it's kind of a staple for most "kid" food. 

I know there is a lot of advice out there for picky eaters. I've always just gone with my gut. I never force him to eat anything that he doesn't want to. My method has always been to offer him what we're eating. If he eats it, he eats it. (Yahoo!) If he doesn't, I don't force it, but will often offer him some yogurt, fruit and crackers later on. I certainly don't want him to starve (or get too "hangry"), but I also don't want meals to be a big fight or source of stress for the family. We just keep trying new things, hoping he'll like something. 

This summer, my goal is to find some new foods that C will eat. Tonight, I'm trying some homemade soup. Tomorrow, it will be something else. If I can find three more lunches for him, I will call it a mommy win. Let me know if you have any suggestions, send them to me!


Summer is finally here! The weather has been beautiful, and we're ready for some fun and relaxation. 

I have been really bad at updating this blog, but honestly, I never intended to regularly update.  (I'm an admitted scatterbrain, so what else would you expect?) Besides, life has been a little short on adventure for the past few months.  Thankfully, that's about to change. Summer means a less scheduled life, which I've been looking forward to for quite a while. I'm off work for the next 8 weeks, and I want to make the most of it. I see outdoor adventures, crafty adventures, cooking adventures, and maybe a few house reno adventures mixed in. I'll have to sprinkle in a little work to prepare for the fall, but that's fun for me anyway. 

I have no list, no schedule, and no plans. That's different for me. We'll see where it takes us this summer. 

Today's adventure may not be fun, but very necessary. Clean the house! Our poor little house has been neglected lately, so today is filled with tidying, cleaning out, and the ultimate adventure: laundry catch up! Wish me luck!

Blueberry Pie and A Beautiful Drive!

Yesterday, I went for a drive all by myself. I feel like this shouldn't be news, but usually I have C in tow, and although he makes road...