Welcome to the Workshop

Welcome to the Workshop

Friday, November 30, 2012

Baby, It's Cold Outside.

-5, "feels like" -15 apparently!
It was a day for thermals and deerstalkers (yes I have one of those, and completely understand why people wear them now) and scarves wrapped over mouths. Hot chocolate and gingerbread.
It is flurrying now and we even had some crispy white stuff yesterday.

So, it seemed like the perfect day to drag the Christmas tree from the garage, up three flights of stairs into our apartment and then figure out where I'd hidden the decorations from last year. That effort certainly gave my sinuses a run for their money!
We watched "A Christmas Story" ("You'll shoot your eye out!") and gussied up our tree. It's a fake one but still looks very pretty. We decided last year that vacuuming needles every day wasn't going to inspire much Christmas spirit. Maybe another year.
For now, this is our tree...

Distracted by the movie.
A little help required.

Imagine now that you, like me, have switched off the lights and are sitting next to the tree in all it's glory (steadfastly ignoring the fact that your ears and sinuses are blocked).  You're burning a pine needle and mandarin candle (which you imagine smells delicious and Christmas-y) whilst listening to this song...

'Cause baby, it's COLD outside!

Language Please!

I suppose it was inevitable. We've covered the birds and the bees. Boy, have we covered them! Poppet has a somewhat scientific mind and likes to leave no stone unturned with her questions.
And now we're talking language. A few months ago her photography teacher said s*#t during class, whoops. It just got swept under the carpet. Mummy wasn't ready.
But the other day she came home from school with a couple of extra words which had been written on toilet walls and probably shared in the playground. Awesome.
I decided not to be too extreme with this topic. She is a very responsible child, and quite intelligent when it comes to being appropriate. Mostly. I told her that these words are considered very extreme language, particularly for children.She wanted to know their literal meanings (great) and we imagined up a scale with "shut up" at one end and "f*#k" at the other.  No doubt there will come a time in the playground when she and her friends use these words almost exclusively, but this isn't the time. She has a mixed bunch of friends and I'm pretty sure some of the grade 1s aren't familiar with the 'f' word yet. I told her that while it seems fun and 'cool' when you're young to speak this way, it's just another habit like biting your nails and can be very hard to break. Moderation is the key.
We decided together that the word 'sugar' might be more useful if she feels the need to 'swear'. For now. Certainly better than her spelling out S.H.I.T. yesterday when she was unhappy with a sketch!
I'm sure she'll end up like the teenager I heard yesterday who didn't seem to have anything else in his vocabulary arsenal. I certainly did.
But at home we weren't even allowed to say "shut up". And rightly so, it's all about being appropriate and considering who you are speaking with. I remember the first time I heard my mother drop the f-bomb. I was about 16 (my sister's 21st) and I was completely blown away by it. I thought it was outrageous and very exciting.  No doubt she used that word plenty as I grew up, but I never heard it. Kudos to that, mum.
So we'll attempt to hold back the swearing tide for a little longer. Though I'd love to share this with her...

image via here

But I guess that will have to wait a little longer.

What about you? What's your take on swearing? Do you swear in front of the kids, allow them to swear?
Have you ever resorted to the swear jar?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Softly Falling White Stuff

Last night I went to bed early with a sore throat and blocked sinuses. Yay. And today I have that taste in my mouth which is a sure sign a cold is on it's way. Double yay. Luckily, it is cold. Actually that lovely white stuff is falling at the moment, who knows if it will still be there in the morning. That will depend upon how long it falls for, it's certainly not going to melt in these temperatures. It's currently hovering around 0 degrees at the moment.
Why did I say "luckily"? Because I'm one of those mental people who loves winter. Loves! And this weather, combined with feeling a bit crappy, is just perfect for staying inside and sewing.
Other non-dampeners to my day included keeping my girl home from school to have a mental health break from all of the girls-are-mean nonsense (we had a great slow day), seeing a family member from Vancouver for a quick cuppa, my girl doing some great artwork (photos later), reading (and watching) "James and the Giant Peach" and getting started on my Christmas wrapping.
Shall I terrify you with the words "26 days until Christmas"?
I have one present left to buy, but that is actually for Poppet's birthday in January. Otherwise I am done.
Thoughts turn now to gingerbread houses, Christmas trees and trying to figure out if I really don't like eggnog. Jury's out, shall try some other recipes. I mean, it has alcohol in it, what's not to love?!
Our Pin-Ups group has a couple of great boards going at the moment for the Christmas lead up.
This one focuses on wrapping your pressies in a lovely creative fashion. I'm afraid I never quite manage this, though I do love to gaze at other people's efforts.
For example...

This picture was pinned by Jessica from Whoa Mama over here.

And this board has some lovely handmade decorating ideas for Christmas. Lots of lovely things to do with your kids over the coming weeks, whether you live in a hot or cold climate.
I am particularly partial to this one...

This advent calendar was created and pinned by Maryanne at Sammy and Lola over here.

And you can check out our boards here and here.
For me, the cold climate has always been an essential part of Christmas. But I've probably only seen a handful of Christmases in my life which haven't included a swimming pool.
Yay for Christmas in Toronto. Let's hope it's a white one!

Monday, November 26, 2012


A very special friend of mine has a lot on her plate at the moment. She wanted to do something nice for her girl, and had decided to commission a soft toy from one of her wonderful drawings.
Meet "Stella McCatney". Isn't she awesome?

There are a few clever businesses out 'there' who make toys from children's artwork but their waiting lists are phenomenal. And rightly so.
It occurred to my friend that she could ask me to have a go, and I thought "why not?"
It took me a few weeks to wrap my head around how best to attack this project. In the end, I simply enlarged the picture, used the outline for a pattern and then copied the rest free-hand onto some felt.
Here is the finished "Stella". I am extremely happy with her, she took many many hours to complete but it was so much fun making something different. And I really love working with my hands.
So, here she is.

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Muskoka Dreaming

Whilst we didn't have the perfect weekend and found ourselves sleepless for much of it, it is always lovely to get away to Muskoka. An expansive area only 2 hours drive from Toronto full of lakes and forests and critters. We stayed at a resort, which was hosting a few events, and were placed next to the elevators. This meant the constant 'ping-ing' of their doors and noisy drunken patrons returning to their rooms into the wee small hours. The hotel moved us the following morning and things improved, but Poppet seemed unable to sleep either night. This meant none of us did.
Still, we tried to make the best of it. Beautiful surroundings, someone else doing the cooking, a swimming pool, and a dayspa for me. It wasn't a total loss by any stretch.
And of course, I got to play with my new camera! I am very much a beginner when it comes to DSLRs but am happy with the shots so far. After the nonsense my old point and shoot was producing, these photos are a blessed relief.
Here's a few of them...

Can you pronounce Penetanquishene?
One of the only sleeps she managed.
Gorgeous morning fog.
The resort.
Our Inuksuk attempt.
Small but pleasurable pile of snow.
Deep enough to lose your boot in!

How much do I love my new camera?!
Wowsers, even in a weekend I've taken some pretty special shots. Product shot experimentation to follow.
And more photos for y'all to enjoy in general. Lucky, I think there's some snow a-comin'....

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kind Girls

We have a situation at school. There are only five girls in Poppet's grade (90% of the neighbourhood girls are in French immersion) so she's in a split with the grade 3s. There are only 6 girls in that grade. Not enough girls! Whilst I'm not out to demonize small children suffice it to say that the way a few of them play and interact leaves a lot to be desired. A hell of a lot!
My sensitive child, who only wants to please everyone else and make them happy, gets lost in the quagmire and it can take an enormous amount of analysis and deconstruction to figure out the motives of her playmates. If it weren't for the fact that her teacher has a PhD in Social Justice I would despair altogether. But he's not in the playground and nor am I. For us, school has become all about toughening Poppet up to deal with children who seek to manipulate just for the sake of it. And this is certainly not a Toronto problem, she seems to attract this particular type of nasty. Lucky girl.

image via here

We attempt to see things as a learning opportunity, to find the reasons for said behaviour, to explain it but certainly not justify it. Our new challenge is to find a way to be more assertive. If anyone knows of a shortcut to that, I'd love to hear about it.
Frankly, it's exhausting just writing about it. I can't imagine how she copes with it but she generally does. She still loves school (could be all the 20 out of 20 maths tests she keeps bringing home) and wants to be there. She has never asked me to stay home because she doesn't have any friends etc, though she has complained about the lack of choice for playmates. For sure.
There are, however, some amazing girls in the other classes at her school so I have worked my darndest to engage with their parents, to seek out playdates and to remind Poppet to find those kids at recess.
The results have been twofold. I have made some wonderful friends, it doesn't come as a surprise that awesome children have pretty awesome parents as well. One of the mothers even invited me to her weekly craft morning and the women attending that are very cool indeed. I feel very lucky.
Poppet is in the middle of a sleepover with one of the kind girls from school.
This kid is easy going, happy to play age appropriately, flexible and very polite. We took them for ice cream, got a movie, had some pizza. When I said 'lights out' at 9pm they went to sleep! When they got up at 5.30am (as you do) they didn't disturb us, simply shutting the door and continuing their game. We had some pancakes a while ago, they showed me a dance they'd made up and have disappeared upstairs again.
It is such a blessed relief to see my kid smile so much, for so long, with another kid around. She's not irritated and I don't have to negotiate or interfere. They can just be themselves. And I'm not counting the minutes down until this friend leaves. In fact, she's staying all day.

image via here

Insert huge sigh of relief here. It is wonderful to have a reminder that there are a lot of kind people out there. It is just the best thing on earth that Poppet can see that for herself. She can make her own comparisons between personality types and hopefully make some better choices in future.
Did I mention that this kid is moving into our street in a few weeks? I will do my best not to stalk her...
Happy Sunday everyone.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gigs, Flicks, Laughs and Trips

Just for fun, I thought I'd compile a list of the gigs, special film screenings and comedians we've managed to see since we landed in Toronto.

image via here

From most recently back to October 2011...

Comedian : Maria Bamford
Gig : Mountain Goats
Comedian : Norm MacDonald
Comedian : Louis CK
Comedian : Patton Oswalt
Gig : St. Vincent and David Byrne
TIFF Screening : The Paperboy
TIFF Screening : Jayne Mansfield's Car
TIFF Screening : A Late Quartet
TIFF Screening : Cloud Atlas
TIFF Screening : The Master
Gig : TUnE-yArDs
Theatre : The Crucible
Gig : Beirut
Theatre : Speed the Plough
Gig : Dirty Projectors, Purity Ring
Theatre : Mary Poppins NYC
Theatre : Death of a Salesman NYC
Screening : North by Northwest hosted by Guillermo del Torro
Gig : Xiu Xiu, Dirty Beaches
Comedian : Jerry Seinfeld
Gig and Screening : Yo La Tengo
Gig : Snow Patrol
TIFF Screening : Crispin Glover
TIFF Screening : Reel Rascals Kids' Short Films
TIFF Screening : Kiki's Delivery Service
TIFF Screening : Spirited Away
TIFF Screening : The Cat Returns
TIFF Screening : Totoro
Theatre : The Neverending Story
Gig : EMA
Gig : Thee Silver Mt. Zion
Gig : St. Vincent
Gig : Feist
Comedian : Louis CK

(It should be noted that at least half of these shows started at around 10.30pm)

In fact, we were still suffering from jetlag when we first saw Louis CK (having booked the tickets from Oz), and I found it hard to stay awake whilst simultaneously laughing hysterically. A bizarre night. Thank goodness he was back a few weeks ago. What a very funny man he is.
At a time when we're trying to figure out how much longer to stay in this fabulous city, it's great to remind ourselves how much fun we're having. And how much babysitting we're paying out on. And how many shows and places are left unseen. Somehow, we've also managed a holiday in New York, and London and Manchester in between it all. Poppet has also managed to do camps and classes in sailing, cooking, photography, comic-making and drawing. We have cycling (indoor) and skating planned for winter and hope to achieve some animation and more art classes next summer. We're also taking her to see The Wizard of Oz (Andrew Lloyd Webber's new show) for her birthday in January.
Great times and now it's getting very, very cold. There's been little sprinklings of snow each day this week and my face hurts when I step outside. This makes me super-happy, though it does slow down the amount of shows we'll be seeing. Possibly we'll be going out only once a week for the winter.
Have you booked a sitter lately? Do it. Do it now.

Yep, we go out a lot. Pass me another espresso...

P.S. Are you doing your Obama happy dance like me?!

Monday, November 5, 2012

First Snow!

Yes, it was 4 degrees today and as I stood outside the fruit and veg shop chatting to a friend, my shoulders were covered in lovely fluffy little balls of snow. It melted, but it was so pretty.
Bodes well for a serious winter this year! Happy dance indeed!

image via here

 It makes me feel all Christmas-y. If you fancy some inspiration, have a look at my Christmas board on Pinterest over here.

'Cause, you know, there's only 49 days til Christmas!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Birds and The Bees

Yep, we've had "the talk".
It has come to my attention recently that my kid has been making some of this stuff up on her own.
She hasn't witnessed the birth of a sibling, nor has she ever caught me in the bathroom at 'that time of the month', so a lot of these conversations have been avoided. Not on purpose, they just haven't come up.
About two years ago a friend had a C-section which prompted Poppet to explain to me how babies are cut of their Mummy's tummies. I had to tell the poor lamb that most children do not come out of an incision in their mother's stomachs (though that seems to be changing) and that one day she may be required to push a baby through her own vagina. You can imagine the horror that ensued! She did also look at me with profound respect for at least a few hours...
And so a few years went by. She seemed perfectly content with the knowledge of how babies came out, and never showed any interest in how they 'got in'. I kept waiting for her curiosity to spike but it didn't.
Recently, however, she announced to me that she didn't want to get breasts when she grew up as she didn't want to have a baby. I told her that these things aren't really connected and spent a few weeks hunting down just the right book to help me explain the good old 'birds and bees' to her, once and for all.
I have noticed that her peers range greatly from delightful innocence to waaaay too much discussion about kissing boys and playing kiss chasey for my liking. I mean, year one?! Whatever.
I was determined to get in there with the correct (but appropriate) information before some little darling filled her head with nonsense. A book is always the best technique with my kid, she gives them such respect (bless) and it is also helpful to have something on hand which she can refer back to whenever she fancies.
Whilst I reminisced my own special time spent with "Where Did I Come From?", which is still available to purchase, I wanted something with a bit more heft and science. Then I stumbled across this book...

image via here

"It's NOT the Stork" by Robie H. Harris. It's a great book, with heaps of illustrations showing the difference between boys and girls, the development of babies etc. Poppet is nearly 8, loves comics and picture books and so really has connected with this book. The story is told by a bird and a bee, who giggle when children reading are likely to giggle (a lot) and generally make it much more accessible and fun.
You can read lots of parent reviews of this book here.
This book helped to make our chat comfortable and fun. It has opened the door to more conversation and questions and that was exactly what I was after. Poppet has been quick to make sure that you don't HAVE to let your eggs connect with someone else's sperm. I reassured her that there are plenty of ways to make sure that never happens. Starting with not messing around with any birds or bees until you are at least 30!

Have you had the 'talk'? How did it go?


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