Monday, December 29, 2008


It was a clear, crisp evening. The sun had just set, and the wind had dropped, and the night air was calling for us to go out.

It was a few days before Christmas so we toured the neighbourhood, boots crunching in the snow, and checked out the Christmas lights on people's houses. We held hands, we skipped, we sang "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer" at the tops of our lungs and laughed at how loud it sounded. We stopped and chatted with a neighbour shovelling his driveway, and another, heading out on a night-time cross-country ski session. We made odd-shaped dents in snowbanks by sitting on them.

When we turned the last corner before our street, we were looking into the deep indigo of the western sky. Venus and Jupiter were blazing diamonds surrounded by a dusting of stars. We stopped and looked for a moment. It was magical. We talked about stars and planets, and the differences between them.

Leah: Which one is Jupiter and which one is Venus?

Me: The higher, brighter one is Venus. The one lower and to the right is Jupiter. We can't see Jupiter very often from Earth without a telescope.

Leah: How do you know those are planets and not stars?

Me: The planets are bigger and brighter, because they're closer. And they don't twinkle like stars do.

Leah: Venus is so beautiful.

Me: Isn't it.

Rachel: Venus creeps me out.

Me: Why???

Rachel: Because it rhymes with penis.

Me: . . .

I wonder if Emily Dickinson's mum ever had days like that.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Homes Tour 2008 (I'm in it for the kettle corn)

When Jen first suggested that we throw a virtual open house to show off our Christmas decorating, I was a bit dubious, but threats gentle persuasion worked, so, please, come on in and help yourself to some virtual eggnog and virtual Christmas cookies. They're very good.

First, here is the external decor:

I'd like to say I'm responsible for the lovely snowy look, but I have to give credit to my exterior decorators. Perhaps you've heard of them: Mother Nature and Old Man Winter?

Wait, I did do the elf on the door:

Come on in. Now we're in the front hall and looking at the bookcase, which is usually in the living room, but makes its annual pilgrimage to the hall to make way for the tree. These stuffed animal ornaments are usually hung on the tree, but it's a smaller tree this year, so they are sitting up here to greet guests.

(Sorry for the darkness of the photos, I was taking them without the flash, as the flash was making everything look all washed out. Photography is not one of my many talents. Unlike, say, Microsoft Paint.)

Here is where the stockings hang:

Yeah, my colour palette in the living room is more suited to Halloween than Christmas, but what are you gonna do? Here are some close ups of things on the mantle.

The Nativity Scene. As is traditional around here, one of the shepherds needed his feet glued on again.

Here is my Mexican Nativity Scene, a Christmas gift from my friend Evelyn when we were in San Diego together. I love that it has a llama in it.

Here is the Christmas village my mum gave me this summer:

And finally, the tree:

So, thank you all for coming, it was lovely to have you over. Don't forget your gloves, it's cold out there. Bye!




Die, tiny ceramic humans! Feel the sting of my paw! I will bat you all over the edge of the abyss! I will crush the one you call Claus beneath the raw power of my glutes. Bring me tuna or face the annihilation of all you hold precious.

(Merry Christmas from the Evil Ninja Assassin Cat.)


Head on over to Jen's for links to other blogs holding open houses today.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

This is how I know I don't wear make-up very often

Last night. Me swooping down to give the girls a kiss goodnight before leaving them with a babysitter and going to a Christmas party:

Leah: You look pretty, Mum.

Rachel: Don't kiss me, you're freaking me out! What did you put on your eyes? You look like a vampire.

(But vampires are sexy, right?)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Once more, with feeling

OK, I know we're supposed to nurture our children's talents, and encourage them to explore music and the arts, and provide practice time at home for things learned at school; but swear to God, if I hear Leah play "Jingle Bells" on the recorder just one more time, I will go stark raving mad.

Is it too early for wine?

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Well, the results of the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards for Best Family Blog are in.

And out of five finalists, I placed........fifth. Yay me!

The first, second, and third place finishers got cute little buttons to decorate up their blogs showing a beaver waving a Canadian flag, and either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd emblazoned on them. Not to be deterred by a lack of official fifth-place artwork, I created my own award button:

(My Microsoft Paint skills are legendary, I tell ya, legendary.)

Thanks to everyone who voted for me, and congratulations to the winners and other finalist: The Mabelhood (1st), Don Mills Diva (2nd), Fawnahareo's Place (3rd), and Under the Mad Hat (4th). It was a really great experience, and making the finals along with those other wonderful blogs was a very nice surprise.

Thanks also to Dani, who nominated me, and Saskboy and all the other hardworking people at the Canadian Blog Awards who ran the whole deal. It was much appreciated.

I'd like to hang around a bit, and chat some more about the CBAs and all, but Rae just yelled down the stairs that she spilled her apple cider and I can hear the unmistakeable sounds of Max preparing to projectile launch a fur ball and whatever other stomach contents he happens to have on hand, so I'd better say goodbye for now. Ah, the glamorous life of a made-the-final-round blog goddess.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's funny because it's true

OK, last hockey post for a while, I promise. Soon I'll be back to regaling you with the antics of my spawn. But first this. (It's funny even if you're not a hockey fan, and it's only 30 seconds long, so watch it, dammit.)

You do realize, Josie and Guider, that you drove me to it.

(I love Rick Mercer.)

*update: I've been told that this clip can't be viewed by American and British IP addresses. The clip also resides here, but I don't have an American IP address to see if it works.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Guilty secret

Every closet has its skeleton.

Every past has its dark parts.

Mine is no different.

Imagine if you will, a young impressionable woman moving to Toronto for her first post-university job. Leaving the sheltering arms of her family and moving to the struggling morass of humanity known as Hogtown. New friends, new environs, new ideas -- not all of them good. And, as sometimes happens, she fell in with bad company. She was led astray. Led down a dark and dangerous path into a subculture so dark and twisted, so egregiously wrong, that even now she doesn't like to think about those years she spent in its dark thrall.

But she struggled hard, renounced the darkness and moved away, into the light. It's been 12 years she's been free now, but still she keeps this as a warning, to remind herself of what she used to be:

That's right. A Leafs fan.

Oh, the humanity.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

In defense of fruitcake

Things are getting a little bit panicky around here as Christmas approaches. For example, here was my To Do list for Saturday:

  1. Put out canned goods in special bag on front porch for St. Nicholas Day food drive in the morning

  2. Travel back in time and remember to buy extra canned goods at the grocery store for St. Nicholas day food drive on Saturday morning

  3. Rummage through pantry to find canned goods to put out for St. Nicholas Day food drive in the morning

  4. Add canned goods to shopping list because we are now out of canned goods

  5. Go to grocery store, pick up canned goods

  6. Drop girls with their father for a couple of hours

  7. Go Christmas shopping for girls in blessed, blessed solitude (well, except for the eleventy squillion other shoppers)

  8. Hit LCBO for sherry

  9. And cheap French merlot

  10. Pick up some fruitcake
I like fruitcake.

There. I said it. My name is Alison, and I like fruitcake.

I know I've just put myself into the tiny minority of the population that sees this dessert as something other than a bad joke. Maybe it's my British heritage, but one of the best things to look forward to at Christmas is a slice of rich moist fruitcake with sweet marzipan icing and a glass of sherry.

I've been blessed to know some fantastic fruitcake bakers in my time. When I lived in Toronto, there was Mike, at work, who baked a light and a dark fruitcake and would invite you to his office at Christmastime for a slice of cake and a small glass of sherry and a chat. Also during the Toronto years was David, whose cakes were soaked in enough rum and brandy that you could not legally drive after having a slice. It was the best dessert at the pot luck Christmas lunch every year if you were smart enough to like fruitcake. And a couple of years ago, Paula, the mum of one of Leah's friends, gave me a delicious fruitcake she'd baked in a mini loaf tin, just enough to last me a couple of days. It rocked.

In fact, since I've been on my own, my Christmas Eve ritual has been to put the girls to bed, and after they have fallen asleep and I've put the presents under the tree and stuffed the stockings and hung them from the mantle, I cut myself a slice or two of fruitcake, pour myself a glass of sherry, put another log on the fire, turn off all the lights except the twinkling multicoloured lights of the tree, and savour the delicious combination of flavours while I watch my favourite Christmas movie, Die Hard. (What? Not a Christmas movie, you say? It takes place on Christmas Eve, remember?)

Oh, who am I kidding. In theory that's my ritual. That's what I plan to do every year. But the cold hard truth of the matter is that once the girls are asleep, I can usually be found dragging all the presents up from the basement and I end up wrapping until 3 a.m. when I toss down a rum and eggnog and stagger off to bed for a couple of hours of sleep before the girls get up.

But on Christmas day, once the presents are open, and the girls are playing with their new toys, I'm eating fruitcake. And loving it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Of Christmas presents and politics

My kids love Lego.

I love Lego too. Except when walking through the living room in the dark and 'finding' a piece with the bottom of my foot. That, I don't love so much. So a couple of years ago, I decided to get a Lego table for the girls for Christmas. That way they could play to their hearts' content and not have to put everything away at the end of the day, and yet the tender soles of my feet would remain unscathed.

Then I started pricing Lego tables. They were ridiculously expensive. Like $120 or more. I figured I could do better for less. And I did.

Take 1 Lack side table from IKEA ($14.99):

Add 4 Lego base plates ($7.99 each):

Align base plates carefully* and stick down on table surface with plastic-friendly adhesive ($2.99). Allow to dry.

Add 2 buckets of Lego pieces ($10.00 each on sale):

And you have a great Lego table and almost 1000 pieces of Lego, for around $70.

Not puncturing the bottom of your foot and saying words the kids don't need to hear: priceless.

(*There is a trick that you need to know. First, the plates don't butt up against each other, or the spacing will be off. You need to attach the base plates to each other with Lego (a 4-bump brick at the centre, and a couple of bricks down each line gap in order to get the spacing right) before sticking the base plates down, so that blocks will be able to be attached over the joins.)

It's a great gift, and one my kids are still playing with three Christmasses later:

When I asked what was going on in the above scenario, I was told, "The penguin is being too bossy and the reindeer don't want to do what he says anymore. They want to do stuff their own way for Christmas and they don't want the penguin being the boss of everyone, so they are talking to each other."

Does that sound familiar to anyone? Anyone? Stephen Harper?

(And yes, I do discuss politics with my kids. I guess they take in more than they let on.)


Just a reminder, this is the last week to vote for Party of Three in the best family blog category of the Canadian Blog Awards. Voting can be done here.

Also making the finals are my good friend XUP who's up for best new blog (go and check her out, her posts are funny, incisive and interesting), and fellow Ottawa bloggers Zoom (best local blog, best activities blog, best personal blog), Watawa Life (best photo/art blog), and Salted Lithium (best health blog).

Monday, December 01, 2008

It was kind of like Macbeth, only we were all still alive at the end. Barely.

The Night of No Sleeping

A Tragedy in Three Acts

Dramatis Personae:

  • The mother - a tired, overworked, forty-something blonde with a penchant for red wine and strange fondness for actually sleeping at night
  • Child One - about eight years old, a girl, prone to nightmares, unable to lie still for more than 1.6 nanoseconds at a time
  • Child Two - just turned six, a girl, could hear "scary noises" in the silent vacuum of deep space, very sharp elbows

Act One, Scene One

Setting: The mother's bedroom, night. A queen-size bed is against the back wall with night tables each side. The bedside clock shows time is 11:oo.

The mother, dressed in PJs enters from stage left and climbs into bed. She turns off the bedside lamp (stage is lit in soft blue glow imitating night light) sighs and lies down. Silence reigns for 30 seconds.

Child Two (from offstage): Mum, I’m thirsty.

The mother: I gave you a glass of water when you went to bed at 8:00. Drink that.

Child Two: The cat knocked it over and my bed’s all wet. And I’m thirsty.

The mother turns on light, gets out of bed, exits stage left.

The mother returns, gets into bed, turns of bedside lamp, lies down.

Act One, Scene Two

Same setting. The numbers on the clock change and read 12:07.

Child Two (from offstage): Mum? I heard a scary noise.

The mother: It’s just the furnace turning on.

Child Two: It sounds like monsters.

The mother: It’s not monsters, go to sleep.

Child Two enters stage left and stands beside the bed.

Child Two: I’m really scared. Can I sleep with you?

The mother (yawning): OK. Where are you going?

Child Two exits stage left and returns, carrying a blankie, a stuffed Bambi, a stuffed dog, a stuffed horse, a stuffed bunny wearing a dress, and a stuffed Gisele doll from the movie Enchanted. She throws all the toys onto the bed, and climbs in, climbing over The mother, who makes some ‘ooof’ noises.

The mother: Settled? Good. Cause Mum is *really* tired and I need to get some sleep.

All is silent.

Act Two

Same setting. The numbers on the clock change and read 2:19.

Child One (from offstage) can be heard sobbing.

The mother gets out of bed muttering expletives under her breath and exits stage left.

The mother (from offstage): What’s wrong? Are you OK?

Child One (crying): I had a bad dream. I dreamed that me and Alice and Flynn were at school and there were scary people there and they had gorillas that were trained to attack us and I was running and I fell down and cut my knee and no one would help me and there was a spider that had….

The mother (cutting her off): That sounds terrible. But it’s just a dream, why don’t you go back to sleep.

Child One: I’m still scared

The mother: I’ll lie down with you for a bit, OK?

Child One: OK.

Several minutes pass. The sound of The mother stealthily sneaking out of Child One’s bed can be heard. The sound of The mother stubbing her toe is heard.

The mother (still offstage): Shit!

Child One (sleepily): Mum? Where are you going?

The mother: Why don’t you come into my bed, sweetie, there are no bad dreams in Mummy’s bed, and maybe Mummy can get some sleep. I have an early meeting at work tomorrow and I *really* need to get to sleep.

The mother and Child One enter stage left and climb into bed. The mother throws 3 stuffed animals out onto the floor.

The mother: Goodnight, sweetie.

Child One: Mum? She’s hogging all the room in the bed. And her toenails are scratchy.

Child Two (waking up): I am not hogging all the room.

Child One: Yes you are.

The mother (through gritted teeth): You both need to go to sleep now. Seriously.

Act Three

Same setting. The numbers on the clock change and read 4:51.

There is a scuffling noise and ENAC enters stage left. He jumps on the foot of the bed and pounces on the toes of The mother, apparently with claws extended. The mother sits up in bed.

The mother: Auuugh! What the….! Christ, cat, would you leave me the hell alone?

ENAC: Meow.

The mother lies down again. The ENAC repeats the toe pouncing. The mother sits up, muttering expletives under her breath and turns on light. The ENAC looks angelically innocent.

ENAC: Meow?

The mother gets out of bed and the cat leaps from the bed and hides underneath. Unable to coax the cat out from under the bed, the mother exits stage left and turns on the bathroom tap, the sound of which causes the cat to scoot out from under the bed and exit stage left in order to check out the intriguing noise, and perhaps have a drink from the faucet. Sound of rapid footsteps and bedroom door slamming as The mother enters at a run and slams bedroom door behind her, locking cat out of bedroom. The mother gets into bed, ejects another stuffed animal, turns off light, lies down, and sighs.

The numbers on the clock change to read 5:00. The clock's alarm goes off.

The mother (resignedly): Shit.



Just a reminder, this is the last week to vote for Party of Three in the Best Family Blog category of the Canadian Blog Awards. Voting can be done here. It would make me very happy, and would almost be as good as a nap.