Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Claus is coming to town

The note that accompanies Santa's cookies on the coffee table tonight. A transcript/translation:

Dear Santa,

Just in case Daddy hasn't already told you, please hug me while I'm asleep.


P.S. I think Rachel would [like] one too.

Love from Leah and Rachel

P.P.S. from Leah and Rachel, Mommy is putting the milk out when we're in bed


God bless us, every one.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dominatrix in training

Conversation at the dinner table between Rachel and me last Thursday:

Rachel: It's Pajama Day tomorrow.

Me: For the whole school, or just your class?

Rae: The whole school. Can I wear my leather pajamas?

Me [speechless for a minute]:....Your what?

Rae: My leather pajamas.

Me: You don't have leather pajamas.

Rae: Oh. You're right. It's a nightie. Can I wear my leather nightie?

Me: You don't *have* a leather nightie.

Rae: Yes I do.

Me: No, you don't.

Rae: Yes I do.

Me: What does it look like?

Rae: It's pink, and comes down to my knees, and has skinny straps and is smooth and shiny. With teddy bears.

Me [relieved and kind of amused]: That's not leather.

Rae: Well, what is it then?

Me: It's fake silk. Polyester, probably.

Rae [in a very "to-MAY-to, to-MAH-to" tone of voice]: Oh. Whatever. Can I wear the silk nightie?

Me: Nope. Green flannel PJs with Tinkerbell on them. No highway option.*

Rachel: *sighs*

*This is one step past "My way or the highway". It's just my way, no arguments.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Homes Tour 2009. Kinda.

Once again, Jen has organized the Holiday Homes Tour. And I was all signed up, honest. But then my camera, given to me as a Mother's Day gift in 2005, went kablooey (technical term) and I was unable to photograph the decor. Sooooo, since my house looks virtually the same this year, right down to the snowy yard, we'll just pretend that this post from last year is new, OK?


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? [The snow is deeper this year, so imagine more.]

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. [It's a huge tree this year, but I liked how they looked on top of the bookcase, so they're there again.]

(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: [Photo updated include the new red, star-shaped, antique-looking candle holders.]

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: [This year's tree takes up roughly half the living room.]

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.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Conversations that have me reaching for the wine bottle

Me: Let's get this living room cleaned up now before bedtime, because we have someone coming over tomorrow morning.

Rae (the seven-year-old): Who's coming over?

Me: Alicia. She's babysitting you while I go out for brunch with my friends. She'll be over at 10:30.

Rae: When is she coming over?

Me: 10:30.

Rae: No, when is she coming over.

Me: 10:30. In the morning.

Rae [in an exasperated tone]: You don't understand what I'm asking. When is Alicia coming over?

Leah [trying to help]: Alicia is coming over at 10:30 tomorrow morning.

Rae [beyond exasperated]: You still don't understand. When. Is. Alicia. Coming. Over? Noon? Evening? When?

Me [getting a little exasperated myself]: Alicia is coming over tomorrow morning at 10:30.

Rae: You're not giving me the right answer!

Me [starting to lose it]: Yes I am. I'm giving you the exact right answer. Alicia will be here tomorrow at exactly 10:30 a.m. That is the only right answer. That's when she'll be here. At 10:30. In the morning. Tomorrow.

Rae: You don't understand. When is Alicia coming over? Early morning? Late morning? Noon?

Me: Oh. 10:30 is late morning.

Rae: Well why didn't you iust say so then? That's all I wanted to know. Why do you always make everything so hard?

Me: ....

[Sound of wine cork being pulled violently from the bottle]

Friday, December 04, 2009

The one about how to make a Lego table

I know it looks like a cop-out to to post two of last year's posts in row, but I had a few requests to repost the instructions on how to make a Lego table, so here they are. This really is an easy project that will bring literally years of enjoyment. I made ours in 2005 right before Christmas, and my girls are still playing with it and have asked Santa to bring them more Lego this year.

Making a Lego table

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 from Playvalue ($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, don't butt the plates up against each other, or the spacing will be off. You need to attach the base plates to each other with a few pieces of Lego before sticking the base plates down, so that blocks will be able to be attached over the gaps between the plates. You can use a 4-bump brick at the centre, and a couple of bricks down each side in order to get the spacing of the gap between the plates just right.

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

I just checked the Ikea and Playvalue websites, and the table and base plate costs are still the same as last year. Of course you can buy a small table and Lego at other stores as well, and the costs probably won't be much different.

Good luck, and drop me a comment if you make one!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

It's all about the fruitcake

It's not very Christmassy out today. Far from it. It's raining out today. Raining! This is so not the status quo for Ottawa in December. In fact it's hard to get in the Christmas spirit when the day looks more like it belongs in a rather inclement October.

But Dani over at Postcards from the Mothership is hosting a Loblaws Christmas giveaway of some amazing President's Choice products just in time for holiday entertaining. Pop over and check it out. (After you read my blog, of course.)

She asks the question, "What's one treat you look forward to during the holiday season?"

For me, it's all about the fruitcake. I love fruitcake. Hey, I even blogged about it last year. And it seems apropos to post it again.


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.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The needle and the damage done

We are just now home from getting our H1N1 vaccinations. I don't think I ever want to go through that again. Except, oh yeah, we'll need another flu shot next fall. Sigh.

The screaming. The crying. The hysterical assertions that she didn't need the shot. The eyes of every other parent, (not to mention every kid and nurse) on our little spectacle, no doubt congratulating themselves on having far better behaved offspring. Saying that Rachel is a bit scared of shots is kind of like saying that the Leafs are off to a bit of a slow start this season. Or that they soufflent les chèvres just a little bit. (That's for you, Josie ♥.) Rachel is petrified.

I know this, and I had it all planned out so she wouldn't be scared. I bought two Emla patches, which contain a topical anesthetic, and told the girls they were magic patches. I said if they wore them for an hour before the shot, the shot wouldn't hurt. The girls were good with that. On the way there they were arguing about who was going to go first. Both wanted to.

But when we got there, the cracks began to appear in Rae's facade. She molded herself to my legs and buried her head in my stomach. "I don't want to get the shot" she said. I explained about how we didn't want her to get sick and about how the magic patch would mean that it wouldn't hurt. Turns out it isn't the pain she's worried about, it's the thought of something sharp going through her skin. Like the time a teeny tiny splinter was stuck about a nanometre into her foot, with most of it out and able to be grasped, and she carried on as if she'd been gut shot and wouldn't let me touch it for nearly an hour and we missed skating.

So we waited until she composed herself. Leah and I had our shots (the patch worked really well for Leah). And we waited. And I cajoled, and I reasoned and I said we weren't leaving until she had her shot. Finally, about a half hour later, in response to a bribe of being allowed to spend some of her birthday money on a new DVD right after the shot, she allowed it to happen. And I still had to hold on to her in case she decided to bolt at the last minute. After it was over, she gave the nurse a hug, so I guess she doesn't hold grudges.

Then it was off to the store for the DVD. We purchased one and were almost home when another emotional eruption occurred in the back seat. Emily, Rae's most beloved Webkinz spaniel was not in the car. I remembered Rae carrying Emily out of the community centre where the flu shot clinic was held. Emily must have been left behind in Walmart. More floods of tears as I turned the car around and headed back to the store. Against all odds, we found Emily, still sitting in front of the display TV showing Snow Buddies that the girls had stopped to watch for a minute while we were shopping. Disaster averted.

Since we've been home, things have been back to normal, and no one is complaining about sore arms or anything. So all is well. Until next year.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Finally, the one about the flood. Or, can you tell I just re-read Bridget Jones's Diary?

Saturday 25 July, 2009

What an end to a v. v. busy week. Had my BFF Evelyn and her daughter Erin down (up?) for the week from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Wanted to be amazing hostess who would be talked about for months: you know -- specially shaped soaps in the bathroom, scented linens, and wonderful barbecued meals by the pool, where we would frolic in the warm water. It *so* didn't happen that way. The weather and destiny DID NOT GET THE MEMO. It was cold and cloudy and rainy, the pool heater succumbed to some kind of fatal pool-heater condition and would not work, and (I am not exaggerating) two minutes after venturing out onto my elderly deck, and two nanoseconds after being reminded to keep sandals on, Erin slipped on the wet deck boards and jammed the mother of all splinters into the sole of her foot. I've split smaller logs than that for kindling, poor thing. Yes, hostess of the year, that's me.

Yesterday, their last day, we went to the Museum of Nature and walked around (limped around, in Erin's case) checking out the dinosaurs and legions of stuffed birds before they headed off to the airport and the safer environs of home. (Ev and Erin, not the dinosaurs and birds.)

After dinner and playing around on Facebook, I headed upstairs to bed and was soon joined by two scared little girls as a pretty impressive thunderstorm seemed to be stalled right over the house. Coupled with all the rain we've gotten lately that has totally saturated the ground, the storm pushed the groundwater level over the edge. At 1:17 a.m. I was wakened by a horrible noise. A loud, screechy noise. Batted ineffectually at my alarm clock. That was not the problem, nor was it the smoke alarm. It was coming from the basement. Damn, someone had better go down and check out that noise. Sigh. Being a singleton, that person would be me.

I went down to see what it was. I think it was the sump pump seizing. Or starting. I know very little about sump pumps. There was a pool of water covering the entire basement floor, several inches deep, including over the power bars that all my computer equip is plugged into. Wasn't sure if this meant the water might be electrified as the red light on the mouse was still beaming at me cheerily.

The girls' play kitchens were down in the basement. As I was standing on the landing at the bottom of the stairs contemplating the body of water that was my basement (I think naming it Lac Sous-Sol gives it that proper continental flair), a small plastic corn-on-the-cob floated towards me and fetched up against the bottom step. A moment later, a plastic chicken leg followed and bobbed beside it. I stood there, idly wondering if dessert would show up in the shape of a floating cherry pie or portion of crème caramel, but was disappointed. Decided nothing was to be done at that time of night so I went back to bed where I had lovely dreams that all the water evaporated. Got up in the a.m. and checked. Dreams had not come true.

Went upstairs to start coffee, and opened living room curtains. Could hardly help but notice the GIANT HOLE in ground in middle of front lawn. Got my wellies and a coat on over my nightie and headed out to look. One metre across and two metres deep, exposing a large concrete pipe with rebar rungs. Decided it was either an old well, or an escape hatch from the Diefenbunker, which is only a few hundred metres away. Waited, drinking coffee, til 8:30 and called my neighbour Cliff. He's my friend Connie's husband. He is an estimator for a disaster recovery company that does cleanup after fires and floods. V. v. good person to know. And also a super guy. He came over and looked at the basement and arranged for a cleanup crew to come in the next day (Sunday).

Monday 27 July, 2009

Cleanup crew came over yesterday. Crew chief looked exactly like a young Ben Affleck. Had to take myself firmly in hand to avoid excessive drooling. Not sure when I'll start blogging again regularly, as not sure if home computer survived. Will try to keep up at work, but will be sporadic. Seem to have lost use of articles and some verbs. Later, gators...

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Well, my basement has been reduced to concrete and studs. (But not the fun kind of studs, just the wooden ones.) A crew was in on Friday and took everything out of the basement and piled it on the front lawn. You'd be surprised the number of people who wanted to pick through flood-damaged and probably bacteria-infested belongings. One guy claimed he thought I was having a yard sale -- yeah, and the piles of ripped out paneling were a sales item. Insert eye roll here.

The furnace inspector says I need a new furnace, as the water level was over the blower motor wiring and it wouldn't be reliable. So I'm getting a new furnace. A crew will be in to do new drywall on the basement walls sometime in the next couple of weeks. I always wanted to clean out some of the stuff in the basement and fix it up a bit, so I guess you should be careful what you wish for.

The sinkhole turned out to be an old well, thus dashing my hopes that I might lie in wait with a baseball bat for Stephen Harper to pop up out of it. I covered it up with some plywood, which seemed to be a cheaper option than acquiring Lassie to come and fetch me every time one of the girls fell in. I will see about filling it in after I come back from vacation. In the meantime, there's enough room for a body or two, if you have any to dispose of.

Tuesday 25 August, 2009

Have returned from vacation to find that sinkhole has been filled in. I have wonderful neighbours. Not sure if sinkhole is filled entirely with earth or with an earth-body mix. Find that I don't much care.

Thursday 12 November

Finally. Am extremely grateful that drywall is up and painted, and carpeting has been laid. The girls are treating the room like a combination equestrian facility (the galloping)/gymnastics studio (the cartwheeling)/battleground (the flinging of stuffed animals with wild abandon).

I am v. v. happy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Things to do now that it's almost winter

1. Catch snowflakes on your tongue.

2. Make soup from scratch.

3. Take a bath, put your jammies on, and read a book.

4. Nap.

5. Bake something yummy.

6. Challenge the neighbour kids to a snowball fight.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Attack of the Evil Ninja Assassin Cat

Hello, Large One.

You cannot see me, yet I can sense where you are, helpless prey to my evil ninja skills. I am the fog and the shadows and the darkness. I have concealed myself in plain sight, and you will not know from whence Death comes.

I have clouded your consciousness with my ninja mind powers. I have set my trap skillfully, lying in wait with infinite patience for you and the sweet, sweet flavour of human flesh.

My fangs will taste blood this night.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sleepover Productions, in association with Evil Ninja Assassin Cat Films, presents Star Wars Episode VII: In the Lair of Maxie the Hutt


the Evil Ninja Assassin Cat as Maxie the Hutt

Star Wars action figures as themselves

Filmed by Leah

Directed by Alice and Leah

Story by Leah and Alice

Voices by Alice and Leah

Editing and Post-production by Mum (aka alison)

(Note: in some browsers, the right-hand edge of the movie screen is cut off. To see the film without it being cut off, click on the words 'Youtube" in the lower right-hand corner of the movie screen.)

Friday, November 06, 2009


I've always loved November. It's a quiet month -- melancholy and restful, a month to turn inwards, to light fires and read and think. The Celts celebrated their new year now, on the cusp of winter -- the end of the light half of the year and the start of the dark half.

Maybe it's because I was born in November that I feel an affinity for its sombreness and severity, the clear chill of the wind and the spare beauty of the season. The gaudy leaves and skies of October are gone and the colour palette has narrowed to blacks and browns and white. Beauty is still there, but changed, and you have to look for it.

November's sky is chill and drear,
November's leaf is red and sear.
-Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, canto 1, introduction

When shrieked
The bleak November winds, and smote the woods,
And the brown fields were herbless, and the shades
That met above the merry rivulet
Were spoiled, I sought, I loved them still; they seemed
Like old companions in adversity.
- William Cullen Bryant, A Winter Piece

The dusky waters shudder as they shine,
The russet leaves obstruct the straggling way
Of oozy brooks, which no deep banks define,
And the gaunt woods, in ragged scant array,
Wrap their old limbs with sombre ivy twine.
- Hartley Coleridge, November

My sorrow when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
- Robert Lee Frost, My November Guest

The dead leaves their rich mosaics
Of olive and gold and brown
Had laid on the rain-wet pavements,
Through all the embowered town.
- Samuel Longfellow, November

The wild November come at last
Beneath a veil of rain;
The night winds blows its folds aside,
Her face is full of pain.
The latest of her race, she takes
The Autumn's vacant throne:
She has but one short moon to live,
And she must live alone.
- Richard Henry Stoddard, November

Wrapped in his sad-colored cloak, the Day, like a Puritan, standeth
Stern in the joyless fields, rebuking the lingering color,--
Dying hectic of leaves and the chilly blue of the asters,--
Hearing, perchance, the croak of a crow on the desolate tree-top.
- Bayard Taylor, Home Pastorals--November

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Things you don't usually say to your kids before sending them to school (except on the day before Halloween).

"You can Wingardium Leviosa all you want, but no Avada Kadavra-ing anyone. Not even Evan."

"Are your ears on? Don't lose your ears. And don't rub against anybody, the bloodstains will leave a mark."


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Things I am not looking forward to

1. Driving in the snow.

2. Standing in line to renew the car registration.

3. My next mammogram.

4. Death.

(And hey! it's the Sexy Grim Reaper...)

But worst of all:

5. Telling Rachel that the H1N1 vaccination for kids consists of two shots instead of one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let the chips fall where they may....preferably in my mouth

I had an epiphany at the gas station yesterday. I was running on fumes when I picked the girls up from daycare, and so we detoured to the gas station on our way home. While waiting in line to pay, my eyes wandered over (not literally though, thank God) and landed on this:

Lay's Fries 'n Gravy potato chips.

Let's stop a minute and consider the massive world-changing import of this. All the goodness of these:

in a bag!

Somewhere a choir sang, and a single ray of sunshine burst through the massive overcast sky, pierced the grimy gas-station window, and illuminated the chips in all their glory. Like someone in a dream, I reverently grasped the precious bag (single serving -- I haven't found the big ones yet) and purchased it in a state of enlightened grace and interior peace. Or maybe I was just hungry.

When I got home, I shooed the girls outside to play and then took a half-hour vacation from life with my book and the bag of chips. It was better than a weekend in Montreal. (No hangover.) They are good. Scary good. It will be a very bad thing if I find the big bags.

The flavour choice is pure genius. What goes better with potatoes than gravy? Nothing. (Well, ketchup, maybe. But here's the best part -- Lay's has ketchup chips too.)

They are thin and crispy, and if I closed my eyes and imagined the smell of car exhaust, it was just like standing outside one of these:

scarfing down a mouth-burning pile of gravy-drenched fries. Only without the burning part. Or the gravy stains on my jeans. Pure. Deliciousness.

Dear Lay's,

Thanks for creating such a wonderful new snack. My tastebuds thank you. My waistline, however, is less than impressed. Please supply me with an address to which I can send the bills for my new larger clothing.

Your devoted friend,


I got to thinking that Lay's has pretty well created a whole balanced meal of chips.

There's the main course, roast chicken:

The side-dish, fries and gravy:

A vegetable:

And a condiment:

To round it out, all we need is for Lay's to come up with dessert:


I would just like to go on record as saying that I do not work for Lay's, nor have they paid me to say nice things about their potato chips. But, if they want to send me a case of Fries 'n Gravy chips to say thanks, I'd be very totally OK with that. Seriously.