Because I Love Technology...

April 30, 2012
I gave my son my old cell phone to play with the other day, and it got me thinking about the technology that I personally use and how it has changed.

Granted that my first cell phone is 10 years old, it was at the height of technology at it's time -- it had more than one ring tone and wasn't as big as an was so sleek and sexy. It amazes me that I now have a phone that is a touch screen, and can go on the internet. I remember when cell phones first started coming out and people were saying that one day you would be able to access the internet and that no one would have land lines anymore. It never seemed like it would happen, but only 10 years later, that day has come and gone.

I got my very first iPod -- a mini -- the year before I graduated from university -- so it was roughly 2005. I don't have the latest iPod Nano, but it makes me laugh that it is able to play videos, and my Mini is only capable of one colour -- blue. I remember the days of sitting listening to the radio, waiting for a song that I liked to come on so that I could press the record button and have it on a cassette tape to play on my Walkman. Then it was putting music on CDs for my Diskman -- which took up a size-able portion of my purse -- and now I am able to download music and put it on a little device that is smaller than my credit card.

I grew up using the floppy disk -- like the old-school big black floppy disk -- but, unfortunately, I don't have access to one anymore. The next best thing is the little fellow that you see in the photos above. He can hold 1.44MB of information. 1.44MB people! You couldn't even fit a photo on that guy. I first started using a USB stick during my last year of university because I had a Mac, and they did not have floppy drives. The flash drive was the best way for transferring information between our computers -- so you didn't have to burn a CD and waste it on one little piece of information. I didn't look back, and neither did anyone else. Although, I still have several disks in my possession -- just in case.

I am amazed at how technology has changed in the last 10 years -- or so. Whomever makes the decisions and tells us what is going to be the next big thing in technology really knows what they are talking about. When we were first told about mp3 players and smart phones, I never imagined that it was possible, and here we are...just waiting for what's next.

Boy, do I feel old.


Finger Paint: A Different Kind of Recipe

April 27, 2012

I wanted to do some finger painting with the children at work, but we didn't have many finger paints to choose from, and I wanted some really fun vibrant colours for Spring. I found this fantastic recipe for making homemade finger paints, and knew that I had to try it out.

You will need:

2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups cold water 
1/4 cup clear liquid dish soap -- mine had a slight orange tinge to it, but it didn't make a difference
food colouring or food colouring paste

First, I mixed the sugar and the cornstarch together in a pot, and then I added the water to the mixture. Make sure you add the water slowly and are constantly stirring so that the cornstarch doesn't become clumpy.

Then I stirred it together really well so that the cornstarch and sugar actually combined with the water. You may have a few little clumps, but you want to keep scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure that the cornstarch isn't settling on the bottom.

Cook the mixture over low heat until it becomes a somewhat clear gel, stirring occasionally. The recipe says it takes about 5 minutes, but it took about 10-15 for mine to actually change consistency. At first I had the heat too low and nothing was happening, it wasn't until I turned the burner to 4 that it started cooking properly. 

After you've cooked your mixture and let it cool, that's when you get to add the dish soap. After you've done that, separate the mixture into separate bowls or containers, and add whatever colours that you want. I made five different colours: pink, orange, yellow, green, and blue.

Mix the food colouring in, and -- voila! -- you've got your very own finger paint. I wanted to try out the finger paints before the children used it just to make sure that they would actually work.

The project that I was going to have the children do was Spring landscapes. I think that the paint turned out quite well, and it had a really neat crackled effect when it was dry -- it also smelled delicious while painting because I used grapefruit scented dish soap :)

If you missed it, you can find the original recipe here.


It's Time to be Bold

April 25, 2012
I have noticed something in myself recently that I don't like, and I'm trying to work on it. I don't know why I do it -- or don't, for that matter. I don't know if it's because I'm shy about it -- because I tend to get red cheeks and all embarrassed while doing it -- or if I'm afraid of what people will say when I tell them.

What I've noticed that I don't do is compliment people. So many times when a situation arises when a compliment would be perfect, I say it in my head, but don't say it out loud. It could be anything from what I think about the person's outfit that day, to something that they did that I really appreciate. I let it sit in my head for too long, and then the moment is gone -- and then it just feels to awkward to mention "Oh, p.s., blah blah blah."

I know it's something that I need to be less hesitant with, but there's something about it that just makes me feel awkward. I have no issues with taking a compliment -- we are taught from an early age to thank someone when they something nice about us -- and appreciation is something that I crave -- it's something that I think all of us crave -- but when it comes time to let my appreciation be known, I freeze.

It's time for me to be bold and seize those moments when they show themselves.


Releasing My Inner N.E.R.D.

April 23, 2012
It is time to release my inner N.E.R.D. -- not even remotely dorky -- to share with you my love for both Star Trek and Star Wars -- for me, it is not a versus kind of thing. I do not claim to know everything about both -- I do not know Klingon, nor do I know all of the names of the Ewoks -- but I do know that it is possible to like both without exploding.

My love of Star Trek began at a very young age. I remember sitting down with my family every Friday night to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation -- I've never really enjoyed watching the original, but I have seen some of them as well. 

I've recently watched a few episodes of TNG on the Space channel, and it has brought back so many memories -- even though I can barely stay awake to finish an entire episode...curse you Space channel for playing them so late! It is so hard to pick just one character that I like best -- although I have always had a penchant for Captian Picard and Counselor Troi. There was just something so likeable about each character -- even Data -- and each episode was slightly different in some way; there aren't many shows on television like that anymore.

My love of Star Wars began when I watched Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi while visiting my cousins. For some reason, we always started watching it just before we were going to leave for home, and I never actually saw the film in its entirety until a few years later.  

Episode VI was the only film in the franchise that I had ever seen until they re-released the films in theatres, and my best friend and I went to see each one. I have to say that it was pretty amazing to see in theatres -- considering I was born the year the final movie was released. I actually bought the posters when they were re-released, and did something with them when I decided it was time to change the decor in my room -- now they cannot be found. I could punched myself in the face for doing that.

I don't know how many times I played Star Wars with my friends -- they had tons of action figures and even had a Millennium Falcon. It is hard to say -- again -- who my favourite character would be from Star Wars. Of course I love Princess Leia because she's a girl, but I think Luke is so badass in the final film -- I'm just thinking of that scene when he enters Jabba the Hutt's lair.

I'm going to stop torturing you with my thoughts about Star Trek and Star Wars now, but I just wanted to let you know that it is possible to like both -- not everyone has that Trek vs. Wars battle going on.

So now it's time to "Beam me up," and "May the Force be with you."


Shop Update: For Mother's Day and Another Day

April 20, 2012
"What's new in the shop?" You ask?

Well, it just so happens that Mother's Day is on it's way -- May 13, still have plenty of time to find your mom a give, don't worry -- and I have created a few Mother's Day cards for you to send to that oh-so-special lady in your life.

I have created a nice, simple card for those that want to give mom something lovely and understated, and I have also drawn a fun card for those that want to make mom laugh on her special day.

I have actually added quite a few new cards to the shop in the past few weeks; the most recent one being a cute little baby shower card that I made for a baby shower that I went to recently -- but it doesn't have to be restricted to just a baby shower.

I have also separated the cards into categories so that they are easier to find. Before I had them clumped into one category -- blank cards -- and there eventually became too many for people visiting the shop to look through. I'm hoping that the categories will help people find what they are looking for.

There are so many new art prints to be found in the shop, as well. Including the cute little dachshund you see above, and a little porcupine with a red balloon -- which is the most recent addition to the art prints section. I have a few more art prints up my sleeve, and I'm also thinking about bringing back a couple of little characters that I created when I first opened the shop -- just you wait!

I feel like my shop evolution is winding down at this point. I know that evolution is never complete, and that there will be a new idea or direction that I will take sometime in the future, but, for now, I feel good about where I am, and I think my customers do too :)


Lemonade Stand Worthy

April 18, 2012
I got the idea that I wanted to make lemonade for my son's birthday party a couple of weeks before the big day. I Googled "homemade lemonade" to find the perfect recipe as I had never made lemonade before. What I found was what looked like the most delicious recipe ever for strawberry lemonade.

What you will need:

1 cup sugar
1 cup of water
1 pint fresh strawberries -- that would be approximately one small container
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4-6 cups cold water (this will vary depending on your taste)

Before you get to work with the strawberries and lemons, you need to make a simple syrup by combining the sugar with 1 cup of water in a pot, and place it over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Let it cool before using it.

Next, you need lemons -- about 8 or 9 of them, depending on the size. The original recipe says it will be about 8 lemons, but I had a couple of small ones that I used and I didn't mind having a little more than a cup of lemon juice.

I cut the lemons in half, and squeezed the juice out -- I don't have a citrus juicer, but I stabbed the flesh of the lemon all over with a fork to help get the juices flowing. After I had enough juice, I poured it through a strainer to get the seeds out.

Then I got to work with cutting up the strawberries. I had bought a rather large container of strawberries from the grocery store, and used about half the package.

I put all of the strawberries in the blender, added about half a cup of water, and blended them into a delicious puree. This is when things started getting fun! I combined the syrup, lemon juice, and strawberry puree in a large pitcher, and then added about 4 cups of water to the mixture and stirred it up.

And what was born was the most delicious lemonade that I have ever tasted in my life. I seriously wanted to set up a lemonade stand at the end of my driveway and sell it for $2 a pop -- it would have sold like hotcakes!

Needless to say, I will be making this lemonade again. It will be the perfect drink for those warm summer evenings spent hanging out in the backyard.


Flock & Gather: My Treasures

April 16, 2012
On Saturday, my son and I went to our very first handmade market. It was very exciting to see so many amazing artists in one place -- I wish I had had more money with me. I really enjoyed walking around looking at all of the handmade goods. Some of them I didn't need -- like little girl hair accessories -- but it was so neat to see the materials up close and not have to imagine what they were like -- like on Etsy.

I first learned about the Flock & Gather Handmade Market from a friend of my mom who knows someone that is involved with the collective.  She told me that I should contact him to find out when the next handmade market was, and try to get in so I could sell my cards and art prints. I did some internet sleuthing instead, and found the blog for Flock & Gather -- that's is also when I found out that I was too late to be in the upcoming market.

Walking around the market, though, I kind of wondered how my items would sell. I mean, there were some really fantastic artists selling their goods there. I feel like I have a bit more evolving to do before I would even begin to feel comfortable selling at a handmade market. It's also about how you present everything too, some of the artists did a really great job of that. So great, in fact, that I ended up buying something -- I mean a few things.

The first table I stopped at, called Coucou Salut, had some neat little t-shirts, onesies, stuffed creatures, and other screen printed and hand sewen items for sale. The artist used old trunks and suitcases to showcase all of the items. It was a really great setup. I had seen her artist profile on the Flock & Gather blog and knew that I wanted to get something from her shop. I ended up purchasing the sweet little shirt that you see in the photo above for my little boy. He won't be able to wear it for quite a while, but I'm sure it won't mind waiting.

The next table that I stopped at was the table of Carol Epp. I discovered her work on Etsy, at her shop called The Untrained Eye, while perusing my local artists. I also saw her artist profile on the Flock & Gather blog and immediately recognised her work. I was really excited that she was going to be there as shipping can tend to be a bit expensive on items like hers. I picked up this little cup for my son to use when he gets a bit older, as she mentioned that she makes the cups a bit thicker for younger children to be able to use them -- they stand up to table banging. She even said that I could contact her if I wanted her to make a matching plate!

The final table that I stopped at had me completely enamoured -- I had seen her artist profile, but it didn't do her justice. Shauna Buck has the most fun, whimsical illustrations. I had selected a couple of buttons/badges that I wanted, as well as another print -- it was a shark wearing clothes kicking a soccer ball -- but had already run out of most of my monies. So I decided to purchases this trio of little prints. Aren't they fun? I mean, come on, who wouldn't be sucked in by birds wearing hats. She is going to be at an artists market next weekend, so I'm going to hunt her down to get those buttons!

I had a lot of fun at Flock & Gather. It was so hard to be really choosey about what I bought -- it helped that a lot of the artists only took cash. I am definitely going to keep my eyes open for more local handmade markets. I think you should too :)


Breastfeeding: The Final Chapter

April 13, 2012
Last night was the very last time that I breastfed my child.

A lot of emotions have swept over me in the last month: feelings of relief that I will finally have my body back; feelings of sadness thinking about how I have given my child sustenance for the last year and two weeks of his little life and will no longer be providing for him in that way; feelings of happiness that I will finally be able to be away from my child for more than a few hours and not have to worry about feeding him; feelings of heartache for the special moments of bonding that breastfeeding has created.

I know that I didn't enjoy breastfeeding in the beginning -- I mean, who does? You went through so many emotional  moments in the 10 months preparing for this little baby; you went through an emotional roller coaster giving birth to this little life; you have no idea what you are doing, and you are now tied to this child in a way that you never really understood until you started breastfeeding. You want to give up. But don't. It get's easier.

I do not regret breastfeeding my child. I am proud of what I did. I was able to provide for my son in a way that no one else could. I was special. I was needed. That is what has made the end of this journey so difficult -- I am no longer needed in such a unique way. Of course my son will always need me, but never again in this way. He will be able to survive without me.

The reason why I am sharing this post with you is because I found it really difficult to find information on how to start weaning my child, and I wanted to tell you how I went about doing it.

I took it slow, because, from what I understood, it takes a few days for your body to adjust to not having as many feeding times -- remembering what it was like when my son stopped the night feedings, it is not a fun time.

We started trying to give the little boy formula, but he wouldn't take it, so the doctor told us it was alright to give him milk because he was close enough to being one year old. It took about a week for him to start drinking the milk. He kept refusing it, and, of course, we were starting to get worried. It can be so hard to remember that children will eat when they're hungry, and drink when they're thirsty -- he eventually figured it out.

I got rid of the supper feeding first because he was eating table food with us every night, and it just felt like the right one to get rid of first. After that, I took away another feeding every 5-6 days -- giving my body enough time to adjust. The reason I hung onto the bedtime feeding for a bit longer was because he was being put into daycare, and I didn't want to throw several big adjustments at him at the same time -- I have also found it quite difficult to come to terms with the fact that it is time.

While I was getting rid of each feeding, I tried my best to stay away from the routine that we used to do before I would feed my son. We avoided the specific spot where I would feed him, and I would try to keep his mind busy with other things and get another routine going. We would usually play a little bit after his nap and then go eat lunch, or snack -- or whatever meal it was supposed to be -- instead of having a feeding and then going to eat.

He actually did quite well, each time that I got rid of a feeding -- although there did seem to be some moments where he would nuzzle up to my chest, and try to get a drink through my shirt. I would give him cuddles when he needed them because I knew he wasn't getting those moments with breastfeeding anymore.

As for what my body will do, from what I understand, it will actually adjust quite well to getting rid of this last feeding. Our bodies are so very smart, and they know exactly what's going on. The hardest part is convincing my mind that it's time to let go. Oh, the burdens of being a mother.


Oui Oui: A Failed Attempt at French Macarons

April 11, 2012
I had this big plan to make French macarons for my son's birthday party. First I was going to purchase them, but then a friend of mine shared this recipe with me -- it's a video of three cute British boys showing you how to bake macarons --  so I thought that it looked easy enough, and decided to make my own.

I should have realised that there was going to be trouble when I went to convert the recipe from grams to cups and tablespoons. I did the best that I could, but, from what I have read, it is best to weigh the ingredients with a little scale -- in grams.

Here's what I got:

3 egg whites
1/3 cup berry sugar -- it's called castor sugar in the original recipe
1 cup + 1 tablespoon ground almonds
1 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon icing sugar -- or confectioners sugar, if that's what you call it
food colouring

First I separated the egg whites. Which ended up being a little bit of a challenge seeing as I broke my first egg and the yolk ended up in the bowl. But I got it done.

Then I had to whip-up the egg whites to make a meringue. This is hard work. I ended up having my husband help me out a bit with his big strong arm muscles. I also added the berry sugar at this point.

I then carefully folded the rest of the ingredients into the meringue -- so as to not lose the airy fluffiness of the whipped egg whites.

After that, I separated the batter -- or dough -- into three separate bowls and added food colouring and flavouring -- folding the colour in...keep that fluffiness. I tried my hardest to find a raspberry flavouring for the pink batter, but, sadly, it could not be found -- this project was pretty much doomed from the beginning.

Then I spooned -- ha! -- the batter into little plastic baggies, cut off the corners, and piped them onto a cookie sheet that I covered in baking paper -- the silicone cooking sheets would have been much better. The original recipe says that piping the batter is better than spooning it onto the cookie sheet because it creates nice little circles -- as long as the batter isn't too mine.

I let the uncooked little puddles sit for 10-15 minutes until they had a slight skin on them, and then picked the cookie sheet up off the table about 1-2 inches and dropped it -- this is to create a little air pocket that makes that nice little bubbly effect at the bottom of each macaron that you see in the photo above you.  I then baked my little round blobs of batter in a 320F oven -- strange temperature, I know, but that's what 160C converts to.

After I let them cook completely, I took them off of the cookie sheets and made colourful little sandwiches filled with raspberry jam and Nutella -- or hazelnut spread if you get the cheap stuff :)

They were quite sweet, and didn't end up the way that I had hoped, but I plan on trying to make these little fellows again. What kind of chef gives up after something fails the first time? Please, just don't take a look at what they're really supposed to look like after looking at my photos.


Now He is One

April 09, 2012
Last Sunday, we celebrated the first birthday of our little boy. It was a fantastic year, watching him grow from a cooing little lump on a bump that barely opened his eyes into a growling little boy on the verge of walking.

I sent out his birthday party invitations in the middle of February because I made them myself, and I was so very excited for the day. I first shared the invitation and some of the items that I had bought for his birthday here.

I got the idea to share photographs of my little boy from throughout the year from a blogger friend that went on the hunt for some fun party ideas on Pintrest for me, and the chalkboards were a combination of two ideas: a DIY wedding centre piece and a tutorial for decorating chalkboards. The candies were for the guest to make their own goodie bags to take home in these little paper bags. I shared about the candies, and DIY photo frames here.

I made three little chalkboards and used one for the candy table -- as you already saw -- and used the other two on the snack table to let people know what the choices were for goodies and drinks. I made strawberry lemonade for the guests, and bought these special straws from the same shop where I got the little paper bags for the candies. There was also water and soda available, but the lemonade was a huge hit!

There were two kinds of chips -- salt n' vinegar and dill pickle -- apples and fruit dip, and brownies available for the guests to snack on. Of course, there were also the most delicious cupcakes that acted as the birthday cake -- I'm a big cupcake person. I shared them here. I decided to get a cute little bunting to decorate the cake with, rather than the regular route of cupcake toppers -- I thought the saying was adorable.

Besides all of the goodies, I also had a photo booth set up for the guests to have fun with. I not only had mustaches and lips on sticks, but also hats, scarves, swords, and other fun items available to dress-up with. It was a lot of fun seeing what everyone would choose to wear. As you can see, my husband and I had a lot of fun as well :)


Well...That Went Well!

April 06, 2012
This week was my first week back to work after being gone on a year-long maternity leave. While my leave was absolutely fantastic, I actually found it quite easy to get back into the groove of working. Of course I am exhausted by the end of the day, and I am so ready to be at home with my little boy and my husband, but it's been a lot of fun chatting with all of the ladies in the break room again.

My back-to-work shirt.

My first day back, I thought that I was going to cry when I dropped my son off in the baby room, and my heart was trying to leap out of my chest on the drive to work because I was so anxious about going back. I thought it would be really hard on me to not be around my little boy all day, but -- I'm going to confess -- I kind of forgot about him until my lunch break because I was trying to get to know all of the kids that have joined the room since I left -- of course the kids that I knew already were very excited to see me :)

My little Easter basket.

One of the highlights of going back to work, for me, is being able to make fun crafts, and do awesome projects with the kids. My partner has made a few changes, and we're trying to do a lot of projects with more nature oriented themes, as well as some really fun science experiments.

My rainbow Easter egg that I am really proud of :)

I was lucky enough to come back to work the week before Easter, so I got to decorate Easter eggs with the kids -- and I made one myself. We also had an Easter Egg Hunt yesterday with the kids. It was really exciting. I took them all outside to find the Easter Bunny, and then my partner came running outside shouting: "Come quick! He's inside!" They all ran into the room and sat in the Circle Time Area while my partner showed them the evidence that the Easter Bunny had been in the room -- carrots and cotton balls -- and told them that he hid a bunch of eggs around the room for them. They had a lot of fun collecting all of the goodies.

Despite my anxieties about going back to work, and wondering what my son would be like not being with me all day, I think I have transitioned back into the working world quite well.

Happy Easter!


Cheep Cheep: Cute Downloadable Easter Cards

April 04, 2012
I have created a special surprise for you! 

Just wait, I'll show you what it is...

Ta da! It's two cute little Easter cards that you can print off for your children, kids, or even your cat -- last I heard, cats like bunnies :)

I made these little guys especially with you in mind. You can't find these cards in the shop! They are only available here in my blog, just for you. You can download them here.

Once you've downloaded it and printed it off, all you need to do is cut along the middle dotted line between the two cards.

Then, cut along the dotted line at the end of the page -- after the "Cheep, Cheep" card -- and fold each card in half -- once again, along the dotted line.

You should now have a cute little bunny card...

...and a cute little baby chick card!

If you missed it, you can download them here.

Enjoy :)

*Please note that these little cards were not created for you to sell, but to enjoy and send to your family and friends.


Birth Story: Part 2

April 02, 2012
I know Hollywood tries to make you believe that, after three minutes of fake contractions and pushing and crying and screaming and happiness, nothing else happens, but I'm here to tell you differently. Everyone shares the labour part of birth, but very few actually tell you what happens after giving birth.

After my little boy was out in the world, there was still so much to do. My husband and mom immediately began calling family and friends to share the exciting news, and the nurses had to weight and measure the baby. My doctor was busy delivering the after-birth, and then she and an obstetrician began sewing me up -- I had a third degree tear, meaning that I tore down to the muscle...graphic, I know.

 My mom with my little boy -- her new grandson.

Once everything was settled, the nurses gave me some toast and juice, and unhooked my epidural. It was then that I was sent to the bathroom for a shower. The hot water felt sooo good! I sat there for what felt like forever, and then proceeded to dry off and get dressed. 

"How are you doing in there?" shouted one of the nurses.

"I'm alright. I feel a little dizzy." I said.

"It's probably pretty hot in there. I'll come in an open a window."

I'm lucky that she did, because as soon as she came into the bathroom, I colapsed and she caught me. I would have hit my head on the toilet. Who knows what the rest of the day would have been like.

The nurses got me settled into a wheelchair, and gave me some more juice because my blood pressure was so low. My little boy was given to me, and we were wheeled down the hallways of the hospital to the post-natal department -- they were looking for a new name for that department...I don't know if they found one.

I was put in a room with five other mothers and their babies. My husband and I had to stay at the hospital for two days to be monitored, so we decided to book the luxury suite. We just had to wait until it was ready for us to use. I spent much of the morning with the other mothers that were all hiding behind their curtains. Our stay at the hospital would have been much different, and probably unbearable, if we had stayed in that room.

 Wrapping up my little boy after his first bath.

It was there that I was given a poopsicle -- a special frozen pad for my nether-region -- and a special spray bottle to spray my nether-region after going to the bathroom -- this is required for a couple of weeks after giving birth because your body is trying to heal and you don't just want to me. 

It was also in that room that I gave my son his first bath. It did not go well. The nurse did a lot of the work, but I did what I could.

I tried to get as much rest as I could, but people kept coming into the room to check things, and I couldn't relax with all of the other moms and babies around us. Nurses would come in to check my IV or the baby, and a lactation consultant came in to try and help me with the breastfeeding process. I knew that was what I wanted to do, but the whole time it felt like she was being quite rough with me and my child, and I did not enjoy the experience one bit -- I shared my first experiences with nursing here.

Once we got into our private room, things became a little more comfortable, and we started getting visitors. A lot of people didn't believe that we had had our baby, and actually thought that it was a very elaborate April Fool's joke. It wasn't.

 In the private room -- you're lucky I'm sharing this's not my favourite. My husband looks good, but I don't :)

This day was unlike any other, and it was such a big adjustment, but if I were to have to do it all over again, I would gladly do it -- in a heart beat! I love my little boy, and I love what he has brought to our family. It is incredibly hard to believe that a year has gone by, and that he is a year older, because it feels like he has been with us forever.

Read Part 1 of the Birth Story here.

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