Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Candy from a Baby

Whoever said taking candy from a baby is a piece of cake ... has never tried to pry a half-eaten jolly rancher out of a toddler's hair.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Reading Buddies

One of the most common sights around here these days is my two girls reading books together.  Chloe loves to drag a book over to Maya and ask her to read it.  Maya happily obliges, "reading" the story from memory.  I love eavesdropping on them having conversations about the pictures and the stories.

Maya starts the day off by reading a book to Chloe

Debt Free Christmas Challenge

Check out my latest initiative: the Debt Free Christmas Challenge

You know I'm frugal and completely debt-adverse. Now I'm helping others navigate the challenge of overspending during the holidays. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Just a test post

Just testing to see if I can post.  We've upgraded our PC to Windows 8 and some things aren't working well with it yet.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Me Time

Yesterday morning, as I drove myself to the local mall with the music turned up loud I began singing along loudly (and shamelessly off-key) to a pop song with less-than-child-friendly lyrics. That's when the sense of giddiness really hit me.  You see, I was on my way to the mall ALONE, no children in tow.  To shop for stuff for ME.  No groceries, no home decor, no children's birthday gifts, just new clothes for ME. 

It felt strange to just park and walk into the mall.  No stroller to unfold, no child carrier to strap on, no children to herd.  Amazing.  I had a spring in my step.

Then my day got even better.  The clearance sale rack of my favourite clothing store was heavily populated with items in my size.  The regular racks also contained many markdowns.  The sales staff were friendly, but let me do my own thing.  For once, my dilemma lay not in finding something that fit, but in the fact that my "yes" pile grew so quickly that I began to become concerned my credit card might go into shock if I brought all of them home.  In all, after weeding down my selections a bit, I still came home with 13 new items.  THIRTEEN.  How will my friends recognize me if I'm not wearing the same rotation of 2 pairs of capris, 2 skorts, and 6 t-shirts that have become my mommy uniform?

And then, just to top off my morning, I made a quick side trip to Food Basics to pick up some milk and 18 bags of frozen berries (on sale this week for $2.49).  I drove home contentedly, once again singing off-key.

I probably need to get out more.

Monday, 16 July 2012


I was tired and slightly grumpy late this afternoon after a good but very busy day so far. Maya asked for hot chocolate, and I told her she could have some, but I was going to make it for her.  She normally helps, which makes it so much more work, as we have to pull a chair over to the counter, wipe up spilt powder, be extra careful with the hot water, and try not to spill the milk we add after the water to make it the right drinking temperature. 

She asked why she couldn't help, and I sighed that I just wanted to do it myself. 

There was a slight pause, and then her sweet voice said "Mommy, helping is a way we show our love."

Yeah, my heart melted.  She got to help.

I'm Back

A busy life derailed by blog posting waaaaaay back ... and then I was behind and didn't want to write anything until I caught up ... and then I had a big writing block ... and then .... well, then I just procrastinated. 

But I'm back.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

HADA 2012: Week 2 recap

I am participating in Hour-A-Day-April (HADA). For the month of April I commit to spending an hour every week day doing something that I otherwise have a hard time finding time for. The idea being that an hour a day of targeted effort can make a big difference towards accomplishing an intimidating To Do List. Here's a summary of my second week:

Day 9:  Took a long afternoon nap.  It was delightful!
Time: 2 hours

Day 10:  Got down on my hands and knees to clean the hardwood floors in the living and dining room.  I had planned to do the hallway too, but apparently I'm not as young as I used to be and my knees were done by the time I finished those rooms!  Also spent 2 hours clipping and organising coupons, and tonight I rounded out the day with a short but relaxing bath in the soaker tub. 
Time: 3 hours

Day 11:  Washed the hardwood floors in the front hall.  Started emptying and sorting the miscellaneous junk items in the office cabinet.
Time: 1 hour

Day 12: Lacking motivation, I barely scraped together maaayybe one hour doing miscellaneous tidying of stuff.
Time: 1 hour

Day 13: Emptied the hall closet and the mudroom of all shoes, coats, shoe rack, etc.  Maya helped me vacuum and wash the mudroom and closet.  Looked great by the end of the day ... except for the piles of shoes still in the front hall, waiting to be sorted.  If only they would jump back into their places on their own!
Time: 1 hour

Maya vacuums the mudroom

Day 14:  Was supposed to be one of my two days off this week, but we ended up accomplishing a lot. We took a morning trip to Home Depot with the whole family to pick up a bunch of materials for various projects around the house, including a new shelving unit for the basement. In the afternoon, Jeff stripped the deck of old stain in preparation for re-staining it in a few weeks, while Maya helped me assemble the new shelving unit in the basement.  I also swept out half the garage while the kids were playing outside.
Time: I'm counting 2 hours.

Total Hours of HADA tasks this week: 10 hours

Total so far this month:  17 hours

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Relaxing on the neighbour's porch
Chloe has to join her big sister

Examining a dead leaf

They were ever so gently removing dead leaves from the neighbour's bed of tulips.

Surveying the results of their work

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

HADA 2012: Week 1 recap

I am participating in Hour-A-Day-April (HADA). For the month of April I commit to spending an hour every week day doing something that I otherwise have a hard time finding time for. The idea being that an hour a day of targeted effort can make a big difference towards accomplishing an intimidating To Do List. Here's a summary of my first week:

Day 1:  A day off, since it was Sunday and I've decided that Sunday is my day off every week, plus one other floating day per week.

Day 2: miscellaneous sorting, cleaning and picking up odds and ends. Most significantly, emptied the whole top drawer of my bathroom vanity, threw out a bunch of stuff, and put the useful items back in.
Time: 1 hour

Day 3:  Cleaned out my half of the bathroom vanity and de-junked two bedside table drawers. One medium-ish bag of garbage is ready to leave the house on garbage day. Then I headed to the basement to tidy my workbench (didn't even start on Jeff's!) and survey stuff in the basement to plan what else needs doing down there.
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Day 4: Sped through my closet pulling out clothes to get rid of, then dropped them off in the goodwill bin on our way home from shopping this morning. After lunch I headed to the basement and half-filled a box with books to take to the used book store before I got interrupted by Maya. Then I washed out the cabinet under the kitchen sink where we keep the garbage can and green bin -- also investigated the faucet leak I discovered while I was under there.
Time: 1hour 15 minutes.

Day 5:   Time out for myself at a coupon group meet-up. Met some great women, got some good coupons for myself, and a bunch to pass forward to a friend in need. We met at the new Ottawa IKEA, to which I had never been, and I got there early enough for a swift browse through (awesome!).  I also enjoyed an oh-so-yummy dessert and amazing decaf coffee (free refills!) all for the low price of just over $3. It was so nice to get out (after a SUPER gruelling day with the kids!) and then to come home to a quiet house, with children already in bed asleep.
Total: 1 hour  (I'm only counting the first hour, because once I'm out enjoying myself it's  not really HADA.  It's making the time to get out in the first place that's the issue!)

Day 6: Two and a half hours spent folding and putting away laundry, purging more items from the closet, untangling a basket of necklaces and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, and dusting the bedroom dressers. Who knew that our bedroom furniture does not, in fact, have a grey felt cover, but is actually wood underneath all that dust?
Total: 2.5 hours
Days 7 and 8:  Days off!

Total hours of HADA tasks at the end of week 1:  7 hours!

Another teachable moment

 I left my 17 month old at the lunch table happily chewing on her slice of bread and cream cheese while I attended to various other tasks today. She got bored. It turns out partly dried out cream cheese is REALLY hard to scrub off of a wiggly toddler.  Lesson learned:  clean up cream cheese without delay!

Next task ... dealing with the globs of cream cheese on the table, chair, floor ...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Hour-A-Day-April 2012

My friend Jule Ann has re-issued her Hour a Day April challenge in order to provide herself and others with some motivation to get to those tasks around the house that we never seem to get around to. I really enjoyed the HADA challenge last year, and accomplished a lot. 

So again this year for the month of April I commit to spending an hour every day doing something that I otherwise have a hard time finding time for. The idea being that an hour a day of targeted effort can make a big difference towards accomplishing an intimidating To Do List. It doesn't have to be one consecutive hour. Set a timer when you start and if you get interrupted by kids, your husband, a neighbour dropping by or whatever then just stop the clock and resume your hour later on in the day.

Want to participate with me? Here's an abridged version of the guidelines (see the link above for Jule Ann's original)
  1. Think of something that you normally have a hard time finding time for. Sewing, cleaning, painting, organising, playing basketball, crossing things off your honey-do list, it's up to you! It can be one big project, or a bunch of little projects.
  2. Spend an hour every day working on your chosen project(s). Set a timer and stick to it. You have all day to squeeze in that hour, even five or ten minutes at a time. But by the end of the day, make sure you've clocked that hour. If the best way for you to get in your hour is to get up early, get up early. If you clean best after everyone else goes to bed, skip CSI. It's only for a month.
  3. Take one day off a week.
  4. Keep others updated on your progress. Comment on this blog. Blog about it yourself, and send me the link. Tweet about it on Twitter and use the hash tag #HADA (Hour-A-Day April). Take pictures and post them to your blog. Phone up your mom. Put a gold star on a chart.
  5. Don't give up. Missed a day? Keep going. Even if you only do half the days, that's still 15 hours more productivity than your April would have otherwise had.
  6. Celebrate when it's all over!
Adapt the rules as you see fit. I'm including on my list things that I would enjoy doing too but never get around to -- I'll be using up some old rolls of 35mm film (that I found during HADA last year and, um, never did anything with) and also working on my girls' baby books in addition to tackling mountains of unfolded laundry and organising junk in the basement.

I'm also planning to do only 5 days a week this year, instead of 6.  I plan to take Saturdays and Sundays off , but if I miss a day earlier in the week, I'll have to make it up on Saturday.

I'll be blogging my progress here, and also chatting about it on Facebook. I hope you'll join me, or follow along with my progress.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Call me Coupon Crazy

I mentioned briefly last month that in the new year a friend and I decided to take up couponing to save a few dollars on our grocery bills.  It all started innocently enough, as we had visions of saving a couple of bucks here and there and maybe stretching our grocery budgets to a few more cartons of ice cream, or choice cuts of meat. 

Then we got sucked in. 

 My girlfriend and I are now avid couponers.  We prowl the Internet for reports of coupons to print or request by mail, and scour local flyers for great sale prices to match up with our coupons.  We take our coupon binders (coupons placed in baseball card holders, and organised into a few categories) with us anytime we shop.  We have also branched out into price matching in order to get even greater savings. (Some stores in the area will match any competitor's advertised sales price ... this means you don't have to hop around to multiple stores to get the best sales in a week ... plus the product is usually in stock at the store that doesn't have it on sale!) Finding a good deal that can save me money has become ridiculously addictive.  It's like a weekly scavenger hunt through grocery store flyers and clearance sections, and the rewards are the savings you find on your grocery receipts.

A page from my coupon binder.

On average, I'm saving between $30 and $40 per week in coupons alone.  Paired with the price matched sale prices, I'm paying about 1/3 what someone would if they were to pay full price for most items on my shopping list.  My overall expenditure per month hasn't yet gone down, as I've been stocking up on products we will use in future.  But over the past 2 months I've stayed within our regular monthly grocery budgets but bought a lot of extra food and household items now stored in our pantry. For instance, I have enough paper towels to last a year or two, and about 2 or 3 months worth of breakfast cereal.  I expect my monthly bills to begin dropping by next month, as I now have several categories of items which we don't need to buy for a few months to a year. 

Some of my best deals so far have included:
  • free 2L tubs of President's Choice ice cream
  • Free scrubbing bubbles shower cleaner
  • family-sized boxes of Raisin Bran and Rice Krispies cereal for 99 cents each
  • Fibre Plus cereal for $1.99  ... and there were $5 worth of coupons printed inside the box
  • 2 free yoga mats from Kellogg's

    My receipt from a recent shopping trip.
    In blue, the total I paid for my shop:  $65.07
    In red, the total savings from coupons:  $40.04
    Many items were price matched, for further savings
    not reflected on the savings calculated on the recipt.

    Couponing in Canada is not quite as extreme as it can be in the US (you may have seen the TLC show Extreme Couponing), but a little bit of effort can still get you some free products, and great deals on many grocery items by matching up coupons and sale prices.

    If you're interested in knowing more about couponing and price matching,  I recommend you visit and check out the "How to coupon" button or and look for the "start here" tab.  These sites explain all the basics of couponing in Canada, post links to new coupons and deals daily, and also offer weekly lists of the best sale prices and coupon match ups for the major Canadian grocery chains, saving you a lot of work.

    If you want to see a serious couponer in action, keep your eyes open next time you're at Walmart or the grocery store:  you'll recognise us by the binders perched in our carts and the sale flyers clutched in our fists.

    Friday, 9 March 2012

    Florida Vacation

    We celebrated Family Day last month by heading south to Orlando, Florida for 10 days. My parents came with us on the vacation, and we rented a 4 bedroom house in the community of Davenport, just Southwest of Orlando.  The house was bright and airy, and featured a heated outdoor pool (which we had requested) and a games room with pool table, Foosball and air hockey (a pleasant surprise). 

    We did not visit any of the Disney attractions on this trip.  Instead, we purchased a package that gave us unlimited entries during our stay to Seaworld, Aquatica (Seaworld's waterpark) and Busch Gardens.  I had expected our visits to the parks would be short-ish, as the kids would wear out and we'd need to return home, but as it turned out both kids had amazing lasting power, especially Chloe -- on the days we were out she made do with short naps in the Ergo, and sometimes also in the car on the way to or from our destination. 

    Jeff talked me into going on my very first adult-sized roller coaster on this trip, complete with an upside-down loop.  I was pretty apprehensive, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and will probably try some others in future.  He did also talk onto another ride a few days later that was actually far more terrifying.  The photo that the ride automatically snaps was hilarious ... Jeff is laughing his head off, enjoying the ride and right next to him my expression is absolutely horrified ... you'd think someone was torturing me to death!  I think our only regret from the trip is that we didn't pay the $20 extortion fee to bring home a copy of the picture.

    Other highlights of the trip included:

    • Touching the sting rays at SeaWorld
    • My dad's eyes sparkling as he played with my girls
    • Walking through the nature reserve at Circle B Bar Ranch and seeing many birds really close up, as well as two small alligators. 
    • My Mom's whoops of laughter as she rode down the kiddy water slide with Maya
    • The soft coo of delight Chloe made on the Merry go Round every time her horse started it's downward motion
    • Maya's delight at rescuing a lizard that was caught between the screen and the windowpane of her bedroom window (this was her favourite part of the trip)

    We enjoyed Orlando, and will likely return again in future, but we did notice that beyond the theme park attractions (of which there are many) and the outlet malls, there was not a lot else to do.  Another time we'd consider splitting our stay between a week in Orlando to visit theme parks, and a week in another part of Florida, maybe on the ocean, or close to some historic attractions such as the fort in St. Augustine.

    Before we'd even landed back in Ottawa (where, alas, we arrived to an icy winter snowstorm) Maya was already scheming ways to convince us to return next winter.  I have to admit, I may not need much convincing. 

    A few photos from our trip ...

    Chloe and Maya playing at the "beach" at Aquatica

    Grandpa and Chloe

    Maya and Daddy pausing in their search for
    alligators at Circle B Bar Ranch Preserve

    Jeff and Maya visited the Space Centre at Cape Canaveral

    Grandma pointing out alligator footprints to Maya

    Mommy and Chloe watch the dolphins at SeaWorld

    Tuesday, 14 February 2012

    Plea from a mom

    Being a parent is hard.  I get that.  I love parenting my girls, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a stay at home mom right now.  And I accept that there are many annoying and downright undesirable things that come with being a parent.  Like wakeful nights, dirty diapers, and even having your child vomit directly into your cleavage. But some things just have me throwing up my hands and whimpering "why?"

    Why must my beloved younger daughter routinely poop right before we are due to head out to pick up Maya from school?  It happens about 50% of the time, and when I say "right before" I don't mean within the half hour before leaving, but rather within minutes of leaving and often in the 2 minutes between  dressing her in coat and boots and picking her up to carry her out the door. This little biorhythm she has going seems to be independent of her wake-up time, morning meals or even whether or not she has already soiled a diaper that morning.  So far, we've managed to only be late picking up Maya once, but not for lack of trying on Chloe's part.

    Why on earth does my 4 year old leave her socks lying around all over the place?  Maya loves to be barefoot, and I'm ok with that, but the socks end up in every corner of the house EXCEPT the laundry hamper, which inevitably means there are also none in her drawer, despite the fact that she has well over a dozen pairs.  This routinely results in a sock hunt to find socks she's stashed someplace that aren't too dirty to be worn again anytime we want to leave the house.  On the upside, all her socks are identical, so I don't have the added worry of trying to find a matching pair. On the downside, Chloe has recently learned how to take off her socks too.

    Why must Maya have such selective hearing? It's become common for Jeff or I to ask her nicely to do something three or four times. Then we get frustrated and raise our voices, at which point Maya frowns and tell us "You have to tell me nicely, then I will do it!" Yeah, 'cause that strategy was clearly working so well for me!

    And the biggest one that leaves me throwing up my hands in despair ... why do my children both become noisy and/or demanding the second that I pick up the phone?  It never fails!  A few days ago, my girlfriend sent me a message via MSN asking it was a good time to call.  All was quite, so I told her yes.  In the time it took for me to walk over to the phone on the wall and pick it up on the first ring, my older daughter started making loud demands for a snack, and my youngest burst into tears.

    How about you?  What has you pleading for mercy at your house lately?  I'd love to read your comments and stories.

    Monday, 13 February 2012

    Let's Catch Up

    So I probably should have gotten back to blogging a week ago, but I was so backlogged with things I wanted to blog about that there was a log jam in my brain and none of them squeezed out.  So today we're going to play catch-up.  Here, in no particular order, are some things that have been going on.

    EYES.    My eyes aren't back to normal yet, but are good enough for everyday functioning.  I was really taken aback by how long it took them to get to feeling normal ... it was definitely 4 weeks until the light sensitivity subsided enough for driving to be ok, especially on sunny days. I have a check up later this week, but I already know the vision is quite good now, though still some trouble with eye strain when reading too much.

    COUPONING.    I've used coupons on an occasional basis for years, but in early January a good friend and I decided to challenge ourselves to take it up more seriously and see what kind of savings could be had.  I had planned to blog my intention to start couponing, then follow up after the first month.  So much for that.  But about 5 weeks in, I estimate I've saved at about $100 by using coupons alone, and gotten some great deals by pairing coupons with sale prices.  I'll post more about this soon.

    MAYA.    My girls are growing by leaps and bounds, and both have surprised me often in the past month with the stuff they can do, seemingly out of nowhere.  Maya is making all sorts of new connections to things around her and puzzling out things for herself and is growing increasingly independent.  Conversations with her are often fun and interesting. 

    CHLOE.    Apart from walking very steadily and swiftly, Chloe is now into climbing up on things, and this week is taking delight in climbing up and sitting on chairs all over the house, looking immensely proud of herself.  She says several words now (her favourites are "Mama" and "uh oh"), and chatters away having long conversations ... if only we understood her language.  She's discovered she can reach things on counters and tables and that she can open cupboards and drawers and help herself to their contents ... so we're spending a lot of time chasing after her and putting things back where they belong.

    VACATION.    We're heading to Florida soon for a family vacation.  My parents are joining us, and we're looking forward to having this time away together.  We won't be going to Disney, but we have some other fun things planned. 

    FRIENDS.    A number of our friends have moved away from the area over the past few years, and at the same time we've been consumed by work and keeping up with our young kids, leaving not enough energy for socialising.  But we've both been feeling the lack of companionship beyond our families, so we've pledged to renew old friendships and forge some new ones this year.  We're feeling better already, and it's only February! 

    HOUSEKEEPING.   Not good at it usually, have been worse at it the past month due to eye surgery.  The kitchen floor was so bad at one point that I'm surprised my children weren't glued to the floor.  (which might have been poetic justice, since they're the ones who made it so sticky, with all the food they spill/drop on purpose onto the floor!)

    Phew!  My brain feels lighter again.  And just in time, as Chloe has started to cry and it's time for the school pick-up run.

    Tuesday, 24 January 2012

    Eye Surgery: Take Two

    Twelve days ago I had the laser eye surgery on my left eye. If you remember (or go back to read about here) way back in September I went in to have the vision in both my eyes corrected, using the Lasik procedure in which they cut a corneal flap, correct your vision and then replace the flap. The healing is quite quick and not overly painful. However, there was a complication and the flap on my left eye was cut too shallow so they couldn't proceed.

    Fast forward 3 months of healing time, and I was ready to go ahead and have that eye corrected, but using the PRK method, in which the surface of your cornea is scraped away instead of lifted and replaced. It's a much lower risk procedure, but comes with a lot more discomfort and a much longer recovery time.

    The experience of the actual procedure was very similar to the last one, so there were no big surprises there. The normally attentive staff were even more solicitous than usual, and everything went smoothly. Then I headed home to spend the next few days taking some serious narcotics and communing with my bed. This was actually a bit of a bonus of the procedure, since I got more sleep in the first 48 hours than I've had in any other 48 hour period since before Maya was born!

    The best way to describe the eye discomfort is that it's a s though pool water is stinging the eye ... only it doesn't go away when you blink, or wipe your eyes. I am also very sensitive to light, especially when the sun reflects off of the snow outdoors. Reading, especially on the computer, and watching the tv, are still very difficult tasks, due to the strain they cause the eyes. At times while I look at the computer screen or tv or newspaper, my eyes simply cannot stay open and look at what is in front of me, no matter how hard I try. At certain times, they work better than others, but there doesn't seem to be a pattern to it. It seems to work best if I read in short snatches, so as not to over stress the eye muscles. I find driving more than short distances to be difficult still, so I'm avoiding driving as much as possible.

    It's early days yet in the recovery process, and I keep telling myself to be patient. The vision in my left eye is coming clearer, and is already better than before the surgery. But I'm looking forward to the healing being complete so I can get back to normal! In the meantime, it may be awhile before I'm back to posting regularly again.

    Sunday, 8 January 2012

    Visit with Santa

    Thought I'd share these photos, even though Christmas is over.  (Better late than never.)

    Maya told Santa she wanted an elephant and a hippo toy for Christmas

    Maya loved Santa.  Chloe not so much.

    Chloe being placated by the offer of a candy cane.

    Holiday Synopsis

    I've not disappeared from the planet, just been busy celebrating Christmas and looking after my monkeys while Jeff has been away on business for 10 days. (He comes home tomorrow ... hooray!) A quick synopsis of the past few weeks:

    The winter blues had me hugely procrastinating all December about getting ready for Christmas.  So I suddenly had to sprint and get everything done in the last week before the holiday.  Because with 7 days left to go, it looked like there might not BE a Christmas at the Tiltons this year. Yikes!  Note to self:  next year, get my hiney in gear earlier, no matter what it takes. Though I did discover that when you wait until the week before Christmas to visit Santa, there's no line up at the mall.

    Christmas was lovely.  There was lots of extended family, good food, laughter, and the requisite gifts.  Maya's favourite gift is a small stuffed Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer that came in her stocking.  Chloe's favourite gift is the SweetPea3 mp3 player from Tag Along Toys which I won in a draw days before Christmas which Santa brought her from his workshop. She loves being able to carry her favourite music with her all around the house.

    My birthday number mumblety-mumble passed nicely.  I had a visit from a dear friend in the daytime.  In the evening my parents joined us for a dinner out, followed by ice cream cake at our house. It was a nice day.

    Jeff has been away since New Year's Eve, so the girls and I have been hanging out, enjoying the school break.  Maya has loved being able to sleep in and just be at home, though she's happy to start back at school tomorrow.