Welcome to the Workshop

Welcome to the Workshop

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February Photo A Day.

I'm joining with lots of other bloggers and tweeters and facebookers in the February Photo A Day challenge. 

FatMumSlim is responsible for the challenge. I really like the commitment involved. It's something to do everyday (on top of regular blogging) which should push me into more regular posting in general.
Starts tomorrow (if you're in the Northern Hemisphere).

Monday, January 30, 2012

You got to know when to hold 'em.

image via here

 So true. 
Lately, I've been letting those corners point ever-downward. Most of the time. 
The year started off with a fairly disappointing and lengthy sojourn with gastro. After a nice hiatus in Blue Mountain, 2011's sinusitis returned (coinciding with husband's trip to Africa) and developed into one helluva headache! Grumpy? Yessireebob! 
At the beginning of last week things looked positive. School was back in full swing, I had a lovely big order from my favourite retailer out this way and had finally figured out the hitches and fiddly things which were keeping me from re-opening my Etsy store. 
And then life just got in the way. My health went pear-shaped, my daughter turned into a defiant minx and the rest of the week was a challenge, to put it mildly. I felt incredibly frustrated to be unable to work, and cook and do all the clever and creative things I'd promised myself for the week. I was going to get organised and ready for a busy 2012. 
I fought the 'interruptions'. I didn't just sit still and let things slide, for a while. I didn't cancel playdates. I pushed myself to go to Ikea with a headache, dragged a squeaky cart around the store (why do I always get the squeaky cart, but not realise until it's full of stuff?!) and lug boxes and bags and stuff from the garage out back to the front door and then upstairs to our apartment. I went to the supermarket that day as well. And it was snowing.
This is what I do. I tell myself I am a strong and independent woman and just get on with things. But all of those things could have waited, and I could have allowed myself a rest which might have prevented the headache from turning into a pounding, stabbing, blurred-vision pain in the butt. 
Did I stop there? Nope, I built the damn bookcases and unpacked all the shopping and tidied and made things nice. I am such a control freak, I can't leave one thing out of place for very long. No doubt this helped that headache really take hold. Oh, and then I stayed up late and watched too many episodes of Downton Abbey, which isn't hard to do. But when your other half is away your routine goes out the window. 
The next day I was compelled to stop and rest. After dropping Poppet at school, I staggered home and went back to bed. Most of that day was spent sleeping. The afternoon saw round 2 (or 3 or 4) of Grumpy Poppet vs. Grumpy Mummy. Neither of us won. 
By the time Husband returned from his trip (ridiculously long hours spent on planes for only a few days on site) he joined team Grumpy and the weekend was a bit of a blur of downward pointing mouth corners all round.

image via here

Last night Poppet coughed until she vomited. I joined her in her bed until midnight, when she finally settled and went to sleep. I found my way back to my own bed and passed out, only to have her wake at 6am. As usual.
Of course, she was fine and dandy by morning. The cough/vomit monster is a creature of the dark and leaves her days to fun and fancy. She should have gone to school. I should have got myself into gear. But I didn't. 
If I pushed her and fought her all morning to get her to school, she would have ended up more tired and grumpy, and the cough would get worse. Big spiral. It makes me feel like a 'weak' mother to let her stay home. I'm hard on myself when I do it.
I realised that it's time to start 'listening' again. Paying attention and just being. I used to be really good at that, particularly after Dad died. Living in the moment is something I preach, but I seem to have lost track of it somewhere between Australia and Canada.
Today, we stayed in our pyjamas. We did some paper craft, read some books, did some knitting and watched a movie. A dear friend brought us some bread and milk. We just were. The time I gave to Poppet was returned to me tenfold. When I stop and really pay attention to her, she feels sated and goes off to play alone rather nicely later on, giving me space and time to get things done properly. It's always been this way, but I always seem to forget. Look, I've even managed a proper blog post!
And it turns out that the corners of our mouths crept up again. We didn't fight, we didn't grumble. It was nice. 
We're ready to face the world again tomorrow. 
To quote one of Dad's favourite songs:

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, 
Know when to walk away and know when to run"

So true Kenny, and it doesn't just apply to cowboys...

image via here

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Poppet Book Review

Do you read to your kids?
I assume if you're the blog-reading type, you do. It still amazes me that we get notes home from school (as we did in Oz) reminding parents to read for 20 minutes everyday to the kids. This is a no-brainer to me, but obviously there are parents out there who aren't reading at bedtime, or in the morning or whenever. Tut tut.
It has been such a priority for us, that we started the bedtime-reading routine when Poppet was about 6 weeks old. When she was sitting up unaided, she would look at books and knew which way was up and how to turn the pages. She was never allowed to chew on a book or (heaven forbid) write in one. But the most important point was that we spent quality time together every single day with books, and have continued to do so ever since. 
Sometimes she reads to me (the other night I had a migraine and couldn't see the pages properly) and I love that because she does lots of fun character voices. We are currently working our way through "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and her Yorkshire accent is pretty amusing.
I've been looking for a way to include Poppet's input in the blog, and decided that our love of books would be the best way to go. We have an insanely large collection of children's books. 

We have amassed this collection since arriving in October. We had to leave a huge bookcase full of them in Oz. For now.

This is the amount of books we usually get from the library. Guess who gets to lug them home...

So, today I'll share the first Poppet Book Review. 
She has her own designated notebook, and I put together some questions for her to answer regarding her book of choice. She even came up with a rating system.

* I do not like it.
** I like it a little.
*** Pritty good.
**** Good!
***** Great!

This is our first book. I bought it for her primarily for the incredible illustration, but it's also a Robert Frost poem and we've been exploring poetry a little more these days. Who doesn't love a book which rhymes?!
And of course it's about snow. Incredibly, it's snowing today, hasn't done enough of that this winter in Toronto. And we really, really love the snow. Really.

"Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers.
Here are some pics of the illustrations, and I've included the poem for your perusal...

"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

There are a few different 'readings' of this poem, if you're a grownup. Is the narrator dying, just holding on to finish things before he 'sleeps'? What I like about reading poetry to a child is that they are blissfully ignorant of these 'deeper' and more 'intellectual' meanings. Instead, the child simply reads the words and derives their own meaning and pleasure from them. 

Here is Poppet's understanding of this text:
1. What is the poem about? "A man that went to the forest and saw snow and liked it."
2. What is your favourite page and what do you like about it? "The one where he makes a snow angle (angel). Because he makes a snow angle (who doesn't like snow 'angles'?).
3. Does the book have a message? What is it? "Yes. Gron-ups (grownups) like snow and so do kids."

**** Good!

If you're interested, you can purchase this book here.

So, there you have it. Poppet really loved this book, as did I. She was very taken with the illustrations, and I think she will get more out of it as she gets older. It's the kind of book you keep and give to your grandchildren. But then, aren't they all?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blue Mountain Part 2

It's raining and windy in Toronto. Almost 8 degrees at night which is just nuts. It's meant to be cold and snowy. The rain has melted all the lovely white stuff away. Don't get me wrong, I still love the rain but it feels a bit like a waste to have put our winter tires on the car at this point. Hopefully that investment will make good in February and March. C'mon Canada!
So, I thought I'd reminisce with some more snowy pics from last week's holiday. My favourite day up the mountain was Wednesday. Mister only did a little boarding, Poppet had finished ski lessons so it was time for the three of us to get out into the snow together. Tobogganing is one of the few winter sports I can actually participate in. If you crash you only have to roll out onto the snow, no risk of hip dislocation there. We found a great cross-country skiing place which also had a toboggan run. With such a lack of snow that week, the run was closed when we got there. But the owner took one look at Poppet's sweet l'il face and said it would be ok for us to go out there, just make sure we stick to the short run as it's a little icy. No problem. For three bucks each we had a fantastic couple of hours in the snow. The icy-ness just made it faster. Oh, and we actually did sneak over to the big run, and Poppet screamed the whole way down with delight. Very good times...

The short run. Poppet was still willing to drag the toboggan up the hill at this point.


The view from the top. Expansive fields of white.

Time for some serious action. By now, Dad is pulling the toboggan up the big hill and Poppet is crawling!    

Oh yeah, that was awesome!

We managed to find babysitting one evening as well, and headed out for some Italian with our expat friends. This was the night in which we discovered that Francis Ford Coppola has a winery. A very good one. Really great chardonnay. Who knew?!

Post-Coppola (which is not usually such a relaxing experience...)

The next day, Poppet and I visited the Hatley store. We both love the pyjamas at this place (and the ice cream is good too). One of the men behind the brand is the author of some of our favourite books. With titles such as "The Busy Beaver" and "Making the Moose Out of Life", you can see that they're rather Canadian. And the books contain the very dry humour which really appeals to us.

pic via here

We re-visited the scene of the previous night's 'crime'. I'm thinking that those chairs are still there on the deck, not-so-anxiously awaiting our return.

You never know your luck.....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Stitch In Time...

Husband has put in the hard yards this weekend playing Monopoly (blech), whilst I've been drawing and stitching. So, it was time to sit down and spend some 'quality' time with my Poppet before she returns to school tomorrow.
She received a cute knitting set for her birthday and has been busting to play with it. For some reason I've been dreading the whole experience, but no one else is going to teach her. I even got to do some crochet of my own.
I guess knitting is like skiing, once you get the hang of it there's no stopping you...

Until you get bored, 'cause you're only seven after all....

Blue Mountain Part 1.

So, as you probably know, we hit the snow this week. We had to leave the city to find it, stupid global warming.
Our destination was Blue Mountain, a ski village about two hours' drive north of Toronto. Luckily they've had snow when we've had rain, so there was quite a bit of white stuff on the ground. They also make snow to guarantee the ski season. We stayed in chalets which opened straight out onto the mountain. The beginner's run was outside our back door. 

The building on the right is our accommodation.

We booked Poppet in for her first ski lessons. Fancy a little girl from Perth, Western Australia, being able to do such a thing. I was jealous and proud, all at the same time. 

Waiting for her lesson.

She was genuinely excited and loved her first day. Until she fell off. Day two started with tears and a million conversations about the reasons for not attending her class. It was very hard to force her back out onto the snow. But we did it. We wanted her to conquer her fear (and frankly, the classes cost a small fortune!), it was pretty emotional for all involved. Fortunately, she had a great teacher who gave her some one-on-one time and that made a big difference.

A very teary start.

But damn, that girl can ski! By the end of the day she was gliding down the slope with ease. She was very excited and happy at the end of the day. What an achievement!

No problemo!

Meanwhile, Mister decided to have a crack at snowboarding. He kitted up (which takes ages, look at the crazy boots!) and then headed to the slope just outside our door. It didn't look very high, but I have it on good authority that it certainly felt steep coming down!


After collecting the various skiers and snowboarders, we got some pizza and had a glass of wine before passing out at 8.30. Tiring stuff.

The village on the way home from the pizza joint for dinner.

And what was I doing all this time? When I wasn't taking photos I was at the spa, having a facial. That's my kind of skiing...

Friday, January 13, 2012

They Say It's Your Birthday!

Gee. It's been a big week. I've so much to post about, we've had parties and been out in the snow on skis and toboggans. So, I'll work my way chronologically through the past week. Starting with the party.
Poppet turned 7 last weekend. How is that even vaguely possible?
We survived the stomach flu by the skin of our teeth and made it out the other side to celebrate our big girl's birthday in style. She wanted something a little more grown up for this party. We opted for a tea party, asked the girls to dress in their finest and our gorgeous babysitter hosted the event. She prepared a jewelry-making party for the girls. And what a spread of sparkly things they had to play with! Over three hours they made charm bracelets, ear rings and many more bits and pieces. Without our sitter's awesome help it would have just been a party, but the jewelry made it truly special. The girls had a great time, and were so excited to show their parents all the clever things they'd made.
We finished up with cupcakes (ordered from the local bakery) and the girls ate either the icing OR the cake. I should have just baked some, but felt exhausted from our bout of sickness so spent a fortune on cakes which turned out to be too rich for kids. Oh well, they looked awesome!
Our big girl finished up the evening with a nice big vomit (all over her mother!) but surely it's not your party without tears and vomit? We had both in spades...
Happy Birthday again to our amazing girl. We are so proud of her courage and tenacity, she has been through so much over the last twelve months and none of it can keep her down. 
Here's to another cra-azy year!

With her favourite gift, Fluffy the remote-controlled dog!

I'm still a jeans girl at heart.

Poppet and her favourite Canadian!

The spread. No Canadian kids were brave enough to try a honey joy. Which meant more cornflake-y goodness for the rest of us!

Earrings and bracelets and necklaces, oh my!

To cap off a great day, Poppet received this insane bunch of balloons from her grandparents in Oz.

So, that's the party. It was tres chic. Oh, by the way, it's actually snowing. In Toronto! We'll be outside making snowballs real soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stomach Flu Soup

Well, it's certainly been an interesting week in our house. We started off the New Year with gastro, or the stomach flu as some folks call it here, and have continued along that merry path ever since.
We have each succumbed to it's wonders, ending with Mister being upstairs now in bed, having been in bed all day after being up sick all night. He asked me at some stage in the wee small hours why these lurgies always seem to strike at night. Good question! 

image via here

If one could regurgitate all day and sleep all night, one wouldn't get half as sick as one does with these things.
So, in one week I may have had one full night's sleep. But that's just a confused and random guess...
Hey ho. It is what it is. Etc.
So, we have mostly been consuming water, gastrolytes and toast for days now. It was time for something a little healthier and Poppet voted for soup. Bless.
I sweated off some leek and zucchini, then added a parsnip (sneaky, had to disguise the taste of that with lots of cheese!) and potato. Covered it with stock, whacked on the lid and left it to simmer for about 30 minutes. Once the parsnip was soft I blended the heck out of it to turn it a lovely beige colour, ladled it up and called it Stomach Flu Soup. 

 The trick was to keep it bland, no tomatoes or offensively strong flavours like onions or garlic. As it was the smell of it cooking (rather nice, actually) turned the stomach of him upstairs.
Poppet had hers with some crusty bread. I had focaccia. 

Hers is all gone and she's back in front of the idiot box. We are currently inhaling the Spy Kids series of films which she loves and tomorrow we'll give Johnny English a go. Rather silly films but she is thoroughly enjoying them all. Lucky we have an awesome dvd library down the road. And when you're sick and it's minus 20 outside, what else are you going to do but eat soup and watch tv.
Expect more action next week when 'we' hit the slopes at Blue Mountain Resort. I shall be 'hitting' the dayspa....


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