Welcome to the Workshop

Welcome to the Workshop

Friday, September 30, 2011

Moving Day!

Well, it's finally here. Moving day, hooray!
We went to Ikea today. Four hours later we emerged, bleary eyed and sweaty. In that time (with a 6 year old in tow) we managed to purchase only half of what we'll need to furnish our place but enough to live with for a few weeks. That was certainly a 2 person job though. Exhausted much?!
We came back to the hotel and the other two went for a swim whilst I packed our belongings BACK into the suitcases ready for tomorrow. We have until Sunday to be out of the hotel, but there's a lot of stuff to move and we haven't got a 'truck' as you know. We'll try to get it all done tomorrow.
At 8am we will meet the landlord at our apartment and Poppet and I will spend the day unpacking bits and washing dishes and pots and pans and waiting for the Ikea delivery men (must remember a tip for them, lots of stairs!). We'll crash at the hotel for one more night, enjoy the room service and buffet breakfast, and then commence our real Canadian life at last.
We also registered Poppet at school today and she can start Monday. It's so strange seeing all the kids running around in casual clothes, no uniforms here. My girl is so darn excited about school, and I'm pleased that the school seems nice and there's only 17 kids in her class. 
That's all for now. I'll be signing out of the blog and probably Facebook as well (shock horror!) until we reach the other side. Fingers crossed the internet connection and cable are set up ok. Not happy waiting on modern convenience for too long.
See ya soon!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Crafty Cravings

Did you know it's been about five months since I've done ANY sewing?! How crazy is that...
In the midst of all the madness I've really missed it. It's been hard saying no to every request for an order, but I am glad I was strong. Frankly, I don't know how I could have possibly packed up the house, continued to cook and clean and iron and parent, deal with the stress of the visa-wait and then relocate the family if I hadn't hung up my sewing machine early.
I have some very loyal customer/fans/likers (not sure which term best suits) who've really stuck around in the gap. I'm grateful that they/you have and even more grateful that the blog is getting a good reading. This writing has become a necessary part of my day, and I probably haven't written a thing since high school. So that's nice.
Well, today I'm feeling nostalgic for poppets so I thought I'd just share some of my favourite pics in an attempt to fuel the creative fires.

There's a suitcase full of fabric waiting to come out to play, but I daren't peek inside until I can officially get on with some stitching and stuffing. 
Now, back to that 'blessed' Ikea website....


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

List Lovin'

It's hard to believe I'm getting close to the end of the 'list'.
We've been here for two weeks and have achieved a stupid amount of stuff. It really helps that we've lived here before, the familiarity makes us move faster. Not quite so intimidating. Hell, I even find the driving a no-brainer now!
So, one of our lists was of a bureaucratic nature. Lots of that ol' red tape. 
The first stop was to Services Canada upon arrival at the airport for our actual visa. I think it took us three hours from departing the plane to arriving at our hotel.
Next, we had to visit Services Ontario to get our SIN (ID card) numbers sorted. Then we had to go back there once we had our lease to sort our health care cards and get our license addresses changed. We're still eternally grateful we made it back to Toronto before our drivers licenses expired. Much more simple!
All of these places are the usual take-a-ticket-and-wait type of offices. Surprisingly the staff are all very friendly and patient, unlike their Australian counterparts. If you want grumpy service you need to visit Walmart or Ikea. Possibly the Services Ontario employees are on a better wage than those in the retail sector.
Reading that back, it sounds pretty simple and quick. It was, I guess, but at the time it felt stressful just finding the offices and working out where to park etc.
After we bought the car we had to visit Services Ontario again to change the address on the registration forms. And on Friday we have to take all the documents with our address on them to the school to register Poppet for her start.
So, parallel to the red-tape list was the living in Toronto list. The finding-somewhere-to-live-near-a-good-school list, oh and we'll need a car too!
Yay for the internet! We found our apartment whilst still in Oz, and it turned out to be just as nice as we'd hoped. Our building is this one, pretty.

It's referred to as a triplex, we live on the top two floors (no need for the stair-master at the gym) and our landlords (two brothers) are on the ground floor. There's also a basement apartment. Being on the top means we are not officially responsible for snow removal (sure we'll have the shovel out anyway) and the 'boys' are setting up all the utilities and cable and internet and we're just paying them a flat rate. Simple.
I have to say, I'm glad one of them is a software developer as I'm sick of the slow internet at the hotel. Loading photos to the blog is fairly excruciating!
We have a great strip/village to walk to and school is only a couple of blocks. Good thing as we won't have the car during the week! Oh yeah, husband went out and just bought a car. We had driven the Nissan Versa hatch before in Canada and really liked it, so he just did it. Sooo grateful that I didn't have to join him on that trip.
Anyway, back to the lists.
We have a specific budget for our relocation, and after buying the car (ouch) we have decided to stick to Ikea for furnishing. Why wouldn't you? The prices are amazing. We're looking at $500 for the sofa we like. (I just spent that on a decent saucepan set - though it is a 12-piece set so not bad value, well that's how I'm justifying it)
So, we had a look around Ikea on the weekend to make our choices and will go back on Friday to purchase. They always deliver next day which fits in with our getting the keys on Saturday. Yay.
My brain is full of furniture and colours and rugs and such. If it were up to my brain I would probably move house with a tv and a litre of milk. Which is why I make lists.
A few years ago, when we moved to Brazil, I sat down and wrote a list of all the things I would need to purchase to make life easier. I'm not sure that I ever found a potato peeler in Brazil, there were plenty of things just unavailable over there. But I kept the list in my filofax and have used it so many times since.
Here it is...

So, when I'm dragging Poppet around at Walmart or the mall I have a specific list in mind and can be fairly quick about it. And boy, have we had to drag our sorry selves around. A lot more than we would like to. Don't get me wrong, the shopping here is great and I will never complain about a trip to Gap or Pottery barn, but I would prefer not to do it ALL in one week! I'm very mindful of the fact that I won't have the car after the weekend, except in the evenings, so have made an effort to get the lot now. And whatever I've forgotten I can order online and get it delivered later. Double yay for the internet!
Our poor tiny hotel room is bursting with household goods, they are shoved into every available space.

The only thing left to buy is the 'garbage can' which I couldn't fit in the 'shopping cart' last night when I bought the iron, ironing board, vacuum, kettle, baking trays and coat hangers. We'll go out and get that tomorrow. For today we'll just stay in the hotel, go for a swim and crash. 
Oh, and I'll work towards labeling all of Poppets clothes ready for school on Monday.
Now, which suitcase did I put her name labels in.....?


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

North American Fare.

Daddy has the car today. Poppet is fed up with shopping for saucepans so I agreed to stay in. This means staying inside the hotel room with no fresh air and a 6 year old climbing the walls which I can only tolerate for so long. 
So we decided to head out to lunch. The choices near our hotel (which is close to the airport, I may have trouble sleeping without the sound of jets flying overhead when we leave...) are generic diners and pizza joints.
Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, you can visit Hooters or The Landing Strip. While these places may have steak and fries and burgers, the waitresses with ample bosoms at the former or the strippers in tiny thongs at the latter would probably put us off our food. Actually we've been discussing the virtue of calling 'thongs' flip flops for the sake of the locals, but I don't think we need to demonstrate with a trip to one of the many local strip clubs. 
But isn't it nice that traveling businessmen are so well catered for around here? Steak and sex. Yes.
We chose Montana's. 

This is still a generic grillhouse but it's quite fun with kids. The kids' menu (which is virtually guaranteed in any eating establishment in Canada - big high five to that!) is divided into three sections. Poppet had a choice between chicken 'fingers' or pizza or a burger, then she could choose between fries or cucumber 'wheels' or coleslaw, and of course there was dessert included.
I had nachos, which actually weren't drowning in cheese. Another high five for that. This is what our food looked like when it arrived...

The decor is a lot of fun, lots of Canadiana. Mooses and canoes and paddles, oh my! (apologies for the quality of the photos, I forgot to charge the battery on my camera).

And here is Poppet with her ice cream.

The whole lunch cost about $25 including drinks and Poppet's dessert. Not bad in my book, certainly better than McDonalds. Which we NEVER do.
I since realized that I forgot to take an exterior shot and whilst Googling for one I came across this...

picture from here

Seriously, you want to get married there??!! That's like getting married at Sizzler. Isn't it?
On the walk home, Poppet found it entertaining to pick needles from the spruce trees which we passed. She then attempted to stick them into any parts of my skin she could get at, whilst I was concentrating on getting us across the busy roads safely. Look left THEN right...d'uh!
Only 6 more sleeps til she starts school. Not that I'm counting? Oh I am, believe me. And so is she, we are NOT candidates for home schooling.
I've had her out in the fresh air now, so she's happy to sit and play with some toys. We'll tackle some school-type activity books a bit later. Me, I'm going to pre-wash all those sheets and towels I bought yesterday at Crate and Barrel. It's such fun using the coin laundry down the hall. And having to go downstairs constantly for the exact change for the stupid coin laundry. EXACTLY one loonie ($1) and three quarters (25c), no other coins will do. And they still have so many coins here, lots of dimes and nickels and one cent pieces, I never seem to have any quarters handy...
Then I'm going to spend another hour surfing the Ikea website. When husband gets home I get to go out to purchase a vacuum and maybe even an iron. Good times! After so much shopping, I am actually sick to death of the mall. Who knew that was even possible.
More on decorating once we're actually in our apartment. Only 5 more sleeps til then. 
And yes, I'm counting!


Monday, September 26, 2011


On the weekend we journeyed to the Niagara region. No, no waterfall for us. We've done that before and whilst the falls themselves are quite amazing, the town surrounding them is just a huge tacky tourist trap. No thanks.
The region has a lot more to offer. Lots of wineries which we'll tackle another time, sans Poppet, but also some beautiful botanical gardens and the quaint village of Niagara-On-The-Lake.
Let's start with the botanical gardens. They are huge and varied and very lovely, with some fall colours starting to pop out already. But the main feature is the butterfly house, which is packed to the brim with stunning butterflies.

It's particularly nice to visit in the middle of winter, when you can strip off all those bulky outer layers and bask in the humidity of the greenhouse. 

Poppet was very excited to be going on an outing, instead of to a furniture/toaster/vacuum/cellphone/health-care-card place. But her initial reaction was one of panic. I don't think she expected so many butterflies so quickly. As soon as you walk through the door you are surrounded and if you stand still a butterfly will land on you in no time.
One boy had a butterfly sitting on his nose quite happily for half an hour! I didn't take a photo of him, they appeared to be Mennonites and I thought it might not be appreciated if I took happy snaps of their kids...
We talked Poppet through her fears and she eventually relaxed and really enjoyed herself. Even giggling when a butterfly landed in her hair.

About fifteen minutes away is Niagara-On-The-Lake. It's a very pretty little town, lots of picket fences and weatherboards and shingles. But also LOTS of tourists, mostly from the States. Typically the enormous variety of American tourist, scoffing waffles and ice cream and over-filling their bar stools. 

We did indulge in some ice cream, and were grateful to have chosen the 'small' servings as they were the size of my hand! It is still wasp season in Ontario, so it's a little tricky eating ice cream outdoors, those little buggers will follow you across the street and around the corner. Locals don't take any notice, but we have wasp 'issues' and had a bit of a freak out. 

The chocolate shop where we bought our ice cream from also featured these crazy candy apples for Halloween. Who could possibly eat all that???!!! 

It was a great day out, even with the parking fine we managed to cop - oops. But it was only $25, compared to one I've had back home for over $150! Perfectly acceptable.
A crazy drive home on the highway and some salad for dinner. Day trips is one of the reasons we wanted to move back to Toronto. There's so many we can do, all within an hour or so's drive. 
But we'll have to wait a bit for the next one (to view the Fall colours) as we are moving house next weekend. Bring it on!


Friday, September 23, 2011


Yesterday, Poppet and I worshipped at the shrine that is Gap. Of course, Gap has arrived in Australia now, but the prices are a little *ahem*...

In North America, Gap is very reasonably priced and the quality is hard to match IMO. Poppet will no longer be wearing a school uniform every day, which means a constant stream of fashionista-type mornings ahead of us. So we have stocked up on some gear for Fall. 
This is what her pile looked like...

And then there was my pile...

The jacket was only $100! Should be great mid-season wearing. It's still fairly warm here, around 20 degrees, but that cold snap is on it's way. For sure. Can't wait!
I think it's fair to say that Poppet's favourite part of the shopping 'excursion' was the chocolate muffin...

 On a more serious note, it hasn't all been shopping and sunshine this week. While we managed to secure a cute little apartment in a great area, we also had to tackle buying a used car. Big vomit! 
Husband said he found the best approach was to pretend you were in a movie. Salesman says there's just no way he can drop the price, you threaten to walk, he says "hang on, I'll just talk to the manager" then returns and says he can squeeze a little off but not what you've asked for, you threaten to walk, he disappears again then returns with another tiny drop in price, you threaten to walk.....AAARRGGHH!!
Even once the price is agreed upon there's about a 13% addition to the price in taxes and fees, so it's never the price on the label. Still, it's done now and we've bought a zippy Nissan Versa. Bright red which should make is easy to find in the car park. Once you buy the car and pay the deposit, you have to tootle off to the bank for a certified cheque for the balance. We did a series of transfers into our Canadian account from Oz (glad we kept that account open!) to cover the cost of the car but it's always hard to watch that bank account dwindle. And we haven't furnished the apartment yet!
This week we also had to renew the hire car. Nightmare!!! The GPS does NOT work at the airport, there are too many tall buildings and car parks and overpasses and underpasses and 'she' just gets lost. And so did we. Probably, we did about 6 laps of the same crazy route before figuring out that we needed to try 'Terminal 3' and suddenly there were signs indicating car rentals were up ahead. *insert massive adrenaline rush and plenty of snapping at each other to the mix* It's just a nasty nasty feeling when the GPS crashes. We joke that we'll end up in Niagara, but it's very stressful at the time. Still, we got there and survived another mini freak out.
The week ahead involves many boring purchases such as kettles, toasters, coffee machines, beds, couches, cutlery, plates. Lucky Poppet gets to come with me to get it all. Groan.
On Friday we can register her at school to start the following Monday. And Saturday we get the keys to the apartment. It's pretty fiddly trying to get delivery organized for one day but I'm sure it will all fall into place.
No doubt after a little more adrenaline gets used up.
Interestingly, I haven't had much alcohol since we landed, maybe soon I'll get to the liquor store and try to figure out that whole thing. For now I think my list is long enough...


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

High Park Adventures.

Yesterday we visited our favourite corner of our favourite park. It's called High Park and is smack bang within the neck of the woods we've chosen to live in. It is a testament to Toronto's commitment to green space. This park is about 15 minutes from downtown and it is huge!
We have always referred to this playground as the 'castle playground'. You can see why. 

Poppet has been wanting to return to it for years and was very excited to visit at last.
And guess what, monkey bars are in abundance!

After an hour or so at the playground (which was built by the local community) we visited the free zoo around the corner. There are some very different rules in Canada regarding zoos. In fact, we saw some extremely exotic animals at the local pet store the other day, think Macaws, Frill Necked-Lizards etc.
I don't really like that kind of thing, but there are some wonderful zoos here which exist purely to rescue animals and replenish species. We will visit plenty of those later.
But for now, you can have your Bison at the zoo, or you can grab a steak at most pubs if you prefer...

That's a lot of steak right there!

After so many days of hotels, apartment hunting and scanning the net for a new car it was lovely just to get outside in the sun.

Naturally we got all excited about the squirrels and chipmunks, receiving weird looks from the locals. They regard them as pests, and rightly so. I've seen a squirrel open a zip-lock bag on someone's stroller in a few seconds flat.
We finished the day by choosing an apartment (more on that later) and grabbing a bite to eat at a local diner. What looked like a dingy little pub actually served quite reasonable fare and the service was excellent (because they work for tips!). Millie had a kids' meal, you can't go anywhere without having a menu and crayons for kiddies here, and everyone talks to kids like they're grown up and deserve respect. Millie's meal was a bargain because it was Tuesday.

We're off now to measure up the apartment for the mammoth (or perhaps I should say 'bison') Ikea run. Blech.
And then we might bore ourselves silly looking at cars for a while.
Double blech!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Keep On Trucking...

Here is a little ode to North American driving.


I am eternally grateful that we've lived here before. Some kind of muscle memory seems to have taken over and is keeping us on the right hand side of the road, no problem. It can take months to stop getting into the car on the right, looking uselessly for the steering wheel.  Usually you will turn on the windscreen wipers with your right hand whenever you want to indicate, and bash your left hand into the door looking for the handbrake. In fact, Husband and I quite often put the hand brake on from the passenger's seat. But at least we haven't turned left into on-coming traffic!

This is our hire car. The little Fiat. We absolutely adore it, so zippy and easy to park in a big city.

picture from here

Now, in Australia we have a sedan and we're always moaning about not being able to see because of all the SUV's on the roads (yes, we're those anti-SUV-in-the-city people) but on Canadian roads you're more likely to see heaps of these. 

picture from here

We were explaining to Poppet that these vehicles are not called 'utes' as they are back home. They are called 'trucks'. You can see why. They are very common. Especially on the 12-lane highways with all drivers doing in excess of 110 kms. 

traffic images from google

Yesterday it rained, and visibility was very poor. Canadians don't slow down in the rain, they continue to 'merge' and duck and weave and tailgate. It truly is an adventure.
The trick is to concentrate on what is in front of you and beside you and keep reading the road signs (whilst trying to understand what the GPS wants you to do). 
Forget what's behind you.

It's usually a 'truck' clinging to your tail.



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