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.