The Great Tree Hunt of 2012

This past weekend we went to a local tree lot to select our perfect Christmas tree. I was really excited about the whole experience, especially because I grew up with real Christmas trees and remember so vividly the sweet crisp scent wafting through our home during the holiday season. However, it had been a few years since I'd been able to experience this due to an assortment of restrictions in various living situations. But this year is different and we can have a real tree again!

Here are a few photos of our fun adventure. So glad that Benji gets to celebrate his first ever Christmas with a real tree the way I did as a kid!

We had lots of fun wandering through the lot and getting a feel for all the different varieties that were available to us. Ben, of course, was the main product tester.

Fortunately it wasn't too cold out so we could enjoy some family time together.

Tromping through the snow in his 'big boy' boots.

Looking forward to celebrating the season with this little guy.

And here she is! Not too big, not too small, not too prickly and a great addition to our home. I think this day will become a tradition in our home from now on.

Let the festivities begin!


Little Family Holiday

We were fortunate to get away for a few days this past month and escape from the fairly chaotic pace that has been our lives as of late. Friends of ours are living in Phoenix, AZ at the moment (completing a Neuroradiology Fellowship and a Masters Education Program) and we've been meaning to visit them for months now. It worked out that Danny could get a bit of vacation time in before the holidays so off we went.

Neither of us had been before so weren't exactly sure what to expect other than cactuses (cacti if you prefer), desert, sun and some spicy food. I'm pleased that we were able to cross all those things off our list. It was warm, but not stifling, so we spent quite a bit of time comfortably on patios, by the pool, and just wandering around. We visited a few different shopping centres and spent an entire day touring the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). My Aunt and Uncle snowbird there every year so we made a special trip to visit with them in their 'Desert Oasis' - it was great all around.

Here we are, our first little family vacation photo.

After Phoenix we took a quick flight to Vegas. It had been a few years since I was there last but obviously the circumstances were much different this time around with a little one in tow. We aren't huge gamblers or nightclub type of people (shocking!) so we opted to stay somewhere a little more tucked away. For us, the Mandarin Oriental fit the bill. We were thoroughly impressed with the beautiful finishings and exceptional service. Would definitely recommend it.

One thing that was a real treat for us was 'turn down service'. I had never experienced that before so really soaked up every detail. Unfortunately, I now expect someone to magically refresh my bed before turning in for the night as well as a bowl of flower petals and bottled water by my nightstand. Spoiled!

We took a very laid back approach to this vacation and I think it paid off in dividends. By not over-scheduling ourselves it really kept our expectations in check. When we wanted to go out we went out, when Ben was tired we relaxed, we had no 'must see' or 'must do' list. This was a really successful strategy that I hope to apply to future trips.

But of course there was still plenty of eating... and shopping... and taking in the sights.

It was so nice to get away, just the three of us, and spend some quality time together. Plus, in the future when Ben complains that we're such un-cool parents who never let him do anything fun, we'll always be able to say, 'Hey, we took you to Vegas Baby!'


Eleven Months: Little Mister

Benji boy you ARE in fact turning into quite the little boy! Cannot believe we're approaching the one year mark. On one hand it feels like you've been here forever but on the other hand how are you already so big?

I'm starting to feel like Ben's really beginning to understand some of the things I'm saying - or at least recognizing the routine of our day. He starts our mornings by crying out for "Maaa maaa ma" but always has big smiles for the person who greets him. He's been taking his bottle on his own for months now and it is nice to get in a few extra minutes of 'me' time while he's feeding himself in his crib. Ben is also getting better at independent play - or as I sometimes call it - independent mischief. He is so drawn to all the things he's not 'supposed' to be drawn to; electrical cords, iPhones, remotes, heat registers a dirty shoe, the vacuum (hey - we could start something here). Unfortunately his curiosity resulted in a burn on his left hand but with lots of love and some bandaids it has since healed quite well.

Ben had his first ear infection this month. When I opened up the antibiotics I squealed in delight as it was 'the banana medicine' that I loved as a child when I too required antibiotics. Ben took to it as quickly as I did which really made things a lot easier for both of us. Apparently white grape Tylenol is pretty tasty too. Broccoli cheese casserole - not so much.

Ben is really good at clapping his hands, giving hi-fives, shaking his head 'no' and jumping up and down in his bouncer or crib. He listens to stories, has started giving hugs (ah!) and waves hi. He's delighted to see his Grandparents whether in person or via FaceTime/Skype and 'chats' with them as well. He also has this thing with pushing the garage door button that is, well, adorable. I'm so proud of all his little skills but my absolute favourite of them is when Ben squeals with delight and races to the bannister when he hears his dad come home from work. Its great to see your child love the love of your life too!

Four teeth have emerged along with the ever growing hair that I still don't know what to do with (read: keep ignoring it for a while). Ben's standing up on his own without having to pull up on something but still requires something for stabilization like the ottoman, or my legs, or the wall, or the kitchen cupboards. I have a feeling I'll be cleaning up a lot of messes in the near future as he's getting into absolutely everything... and that's okay! Better to be curious and explore the world then let it pass you by.

This past month we celebrated Halloween which was a real treat for everyone. Our little monster was such a delight. We have been exploring in the snow a little bit and visiting friends in their cozy homes. We had a couple fun baking days and a few outings around the city but didn't head out too far - it's too cold! But we're going to do something about that very soon. Another plane ride on the horizon - fingers crossed it goes well!


A Cold November Morning

Brrr! It's a grey chilly day; snowflakes falling intermittently, piles of ice built up on the streets, plumes of white exhaust billowing up from the cars that are warming in their driveways. It would be so easy to just to turn inward, pull up the duvet covers and hibernate right now (something I had the luxury of doing occasionally in my pre-parenthood days) but this is no longer the case.

We have a curious little person living in our home who is excited to wake up even before the sun rises. He cries out 'Ma ma ma' and holds his arms up for me. We spend the morning in our cozy fleece pajamas (well he does anyway) and we watch our neighbour across the fence preparing breakfast for her little brood as well. It's still dark by the time I've poured my coffee and unloaded the dishwasher. Ben is usually snacking away on the small pieces of cheese or banana I have cut up for him and I strain to keep my eyes open while pouring a bowl of cereal for myself. I was never a morning person, nor do I think I'll ever be, but I see how excited my little guy is to embrace the day and I can't help but think that he's really on to something.

Yes it's dark, yes it's cold, yes I'm tired and would prefer to go back to sleep. But here lies a window of opportunity in our day when we can spend some quiet time with each other, not yet rushing to get errands done or having to answer the ringing phones. We can watch the world wake up together; watch the pale lustrous sunlight peeking just over the horizon and that is mighty exciting too!

It may be grey outside but it's going to be a good day!



We had a fantastic time celebrating the 'holiday' with our Little Monster this year. We handed out candy, made quick visits to Grandma's house and Uncle's house and did our best to stay cozy on an otherwise very chilly day.

Here's our little monster inspecting the treats for our trick-or-treaters. Now that he has teeth I had to be extra careful that he didn't tear into the candy. Fortunately there was only one casualty - Nibs.

World's best toys. If only he had an idea of what was on the inside!

Trying out the pumpkin stem now. We didn't have time to carve a jack-o-lantern but now I can make some delicious pies (because we really need some more sugar in this house right now).

Hope your Halloween was as Spooktacular as ours was!


Ten Months: Growing, Growing, Gone!

Double digits. I'll be honest, this scares me a bit. Ben is definitely changing into a little boy and although I love to see him growing and developing I'm starting to wonder where my baby is!

Not sure exactly what he weights but I'd say around 21lbs? He spans the entire length of his change mat (32in) which we always keep on the floor because a diaper change wouldn't be a diaper change without at least three body torques. A third tooth has made an appearance (top incisor) and more are on the way. Ben's hair is at the point where I'm debating a trim for him (so many uneven pieces) but then I'd have no idea where to even start 'style wise'. Maybe I'll leave it until after his first birthday. We'll see.

Thanks to some recently installed baby gates (yay Grandpa) we now let Ben roam around a bit more. He's really drawn to electrical cords, remotes, iPhones (or technology of any kind) the fireplace, kitchen chair legs and anything that looks edible... which basically encompasses everything. There weren't as as many bumps and tumbles this month, probably due to his improving balance and stabilization. No unassisted walking yet but manoeuvring around furniture on his own is not a problem.

Ben (aka the 'Squirrel' who stashes as much food as he eats) loves to be in charge of feeding himself. Right now he likes sliced up bananas, multigrain bread bits, rice puffs, Mum Mum crackers, Baby Gourmet pouches and most baby food. I tried introducing some more variety into his diet (sliced up raspberries, blackberries and the like) but they just seem to elicit a 'sour' face usually followed by a vomit. Got the point, buddy.

Ben loves to ride his little wooden rocking horse (hi ho silver!). I can always tell when he wants to get on because he stands up beside it, grabs the handles and starts bouncing his little legs. He's making his preferences known in other areas of life as well. He used to accept most things as we gave them to him but now he'll huff and whine until we've located the 'proper' object. 'Mamama' seems to be his 'word' of choice (hurray!) but he's also really good at growling on command or squealing 'hiiii' at an exaggerated high pitch.

This month we celebrated Thanksgiving with Danny's side of the family and made the usual play date rounds. Danny and I spent our first ever night away from Ben (a mountain getaway) while my parents entertained Ben back at home. They had so much fun together I doubt Ben even noticed our absence. The cold arrived along with some snow a couple weeks ago. Ben doesn't like wearing any head gear but is going to have to get used to it. We live in Canada, kid, this is reality.

Looking forward to our first Halloween - his costume fits the 'snowsuit requirement', I just hope it still fits him!


I Heart Chartreuse

We're in the very early phases of the home building (or buying) process. So much so that we haven't even narrowed down our ideal communities quite yet. It is an interesting process for sure and one I've been dreaming about for years. Seriously, my absolute favourite guilty pleasure as a kid was to hide under the covers (way past my bedtime) and flip through the Sears catalogue to outfit my dream home. As you can see, I was a really rebellious child.

But all to say that I've been really looking forward to this time in our lives.

So now that it has actually arrived I find myself lusting after glossy magazine spreads and images of table arrangements instead of doing the responsible things like educating myself about mortgage strategies and school zone districts. I know it is going to be quite the journey and there will inevitably be many adjustments to our expectations versus our reality but I also know that a little can of paint and some fresh flowers can most definitely bring some of my dreams to fruition.

Source 1
Source 2


Nine Months: S'not Always Fun and Somersaults

We've been sniffing and sneezing for nearly a month here - a month! It's been rather annoying, I must say, because September is such a fun time of year and I hate to miss out on activities or limit them due to runny noses, watery eyes and the works. But it hasn't been just all fall colds here either. Ben actually developed a low grade fever this past month (when he cut his second tooth) and it was a huge challenge for us all considering it was the first fever we've experienced. Poor boy was absolutely wiped out, sweating, whimpering and only wanted to lie on my chest. Did I mention that this kid is NOT a cuddler? It was so sad but also reminded me how grateful I am to have a normally healthy child. What we experienced those few days doesn't even compare to what a lot of people have to face (and worse). So snot and sniffles, coughing, projectile vomit and multiple wake-ups at night for a few weeks is okay - we'll survive it and it will go away eventually.

We've been introducing Ben to a variety of new foods and textures - not just the strained stuff anymore.  We don't push anything too hard but want to expose him to a few different flavours (this coming from a girl who ordered chicken fingers and fries at nearly every eating establishment that was frequented from age 6-12). I love watching Ben's facial expressions whenever he tries something new - usually a look of disgust followed by 'more' 'more' or 'I refuse to open my mouth ever again'. He's now happy eating rice crackers, puffs, small pieces of bread and soft fruit bits. He loves feeding himself and almost always tries to grab the spoon from us when he can. Not surprisingly, it's a bit messier around here at dinner time.

My workout regime has also increased this month. It's nearly impossible to keep up to this boy. I've got to watch him like a hawk because he gets into absolutely everything and at lightning speed. So much for sitting on the floor and quietly playing with a toy while I shower. Nope, he's pulling to stand on most surfaces he deems suitable and is wanting to make his way around the room. Time for the serious baby-proofing. He also loves riding on top of Danny's shoulders and bounces up and down with enthusiasm when its time to 'giddy up'. Don't even get me started on Ben's game of launching himself off the bed  into Danny's arms and finishing with a summersault. I have to close my eyes.

Feeling like we're settling into a bit more of a routine now that the hustle and bustle of summer has quieted down a bit. I've been loving this unseasonably warm weather lately so we've been making more walks around the neighbourhood, at the zoo, around the reservoir and through rainy mountain towns. We hosted a few dinners and had play dates with some old friends but are mostly at home practicing how to wave/say hi (he totally gets it now) and clapping our snotty hands together. You're welcome.

Off to rub some Baby Vaporub on my congested boy!


Apple Crisp

Everyone knows it is apple season so I thought I'd share a recipe for apple crisp I made last week. I was actually in the process of of making it when some unexpected company stopped by (score 1 point for my inner domestic goddess). Ended up being such a hit that I had to wash the baking dish that night too. Read: We ate it ALL.

Modify as you wish...

4 large granny smith apples - peeled and sliced
1 1/2 C brown sugar - packed
1 c flour
1 c oats - I used a bit more
1 1/2 sticks soft butter
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375'F
Place sliced apples on the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish
Combine sugar, flour, oats, butter and cinnamon (should be a coarse meal)
Sprinkle on top of apples
Bake for 30min

Serve with a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

We ate this up so quickly I didn't even have a chance to take a proper photo but it looked a lot like this one from Eco Chef.


Toronto Condo Tour

When we moved to Toronto last year we knew it would be temporary. We knew it would be a year to 'soak it all up and enjoy it while it lasts' or 'suffer through it and count down the days until we're back home'. It was probably a healthy combination of the two, to be completely honest, but even with that approach in mind, I didn't want to live in flux either. I feel so strongly that a home has to be a space where you feel grounded, settled and calm...something that would prove to be a challenge for me but a welcome one.

When selecting a place to live we had two main search criteria; (1) that it be close to where Danny worked to cut down on his commute time and (2) that it fit my taste seeing as I would spend a significant portion of my day there. It was definitely a stressful process to find accommodations in an already tight market, not to mention we were moving during peak season. Fortunately we found a two bedroom unit that fit the bill. Not only was it located literally across from the hospital parkade but it was brand-spanking new and had never been lived in. Score!

I was so thrilled that we had found the space but the new challenge was how to transform it into our home, or at least a place where we could eat and sleep. The first option (which was not even a 'real' option) was to find a furnished place to rent... but being the first tenants in the unit and all, this obviously wasn't going to happen. Alternatively, we could purchase all new furniture, appliances, kitchen supplies etc. and start from scratch but that would limit us to fairly inexpensive (read; cheap quality) options and although I do like a good deal, I don't like to live entirely surrounded by cookie cutter self-assembled furniture from a big box store. Plus my craftsmanship is probably pretty shoddy at best. Additionally, if we went with this route, we would still have to figure out where to store all my existing furniture. So in the end we ended up picking out the essentials from my existing furniture, shipping it across country and storing the remainder in a basement.

So there we were in a new condo and trying to furnish it with the bare essentials. Danny was really great and didn't complain too much when I would pick up a few little accessories here and there over the next few months - fully realizing that whatever we brought in was temporary and would still need to be shipped back home at the end of his Fellowship term. We were fortunate to have huge windows with wonderful views of the city, sky and water so in essence that was our 'real' decor. It was a work in progress and I'm happy to say we made this little temporary space our home for 12 short months.

So without further delay - here's a little tour of our downtown Toronto condo!

Our living room faced East and had floor to ceiling windows that bathed the room in wonderful light. I liked the hardwood floors as they reflected said light and were really easy to clean. For the first time in my life my houseplants thrived! Too bad we couldn't bring them back with us. This was also the best room to watch the reflection of the sunset on the windows across the street.

The kitchen was galley style and a dream compared to my dated kitchen in my previous place. I liked the granite countertops and two-toned cupboards although I have no idea how someone of a shorter stature could function in that space. I'm over 6 feet tall and would still have to pull up a chair to get to those top cupboards! 

See that long dark column on the far right? That is the world's smallest refrigerator and freezer. They definitely taught us to become very economic with our space. I guess most people who live downtown eat out a lot?

Our bedroom was located just behind a sliding glass panel (North East Corner) and showcased the best view of the whole suite. I loved laying in bed at night looking down Bay St. at City Hall, numerous skyscrapers and the waterfront. Again, this room was flooded with beautiful light in the morning (which I liked but Danny didn't so much).

Looking back towards the living room and mini dining room area leads us into Ben's nursery. Even though he would only be living there for six months, I really wanted to make a special space for our first born child - something where I could retreat to in the middle of the night and rock him to sleep. As it turns out he stayed next to us in a little bassinet at night, but I still loved having a separate space for our little boy. Danny and I painted that back wall a soft grey - a challenging feat  involving a seven month pregnant lady balancing on her man's shoulder's and barely managing to tape/paint a border around the top of a 10 foot tall wall. Yes, it was a bit ridiculous, and I realize I should have just asked maintenance for a proper ladder - but I was determined and we all know not to argue with a pregnant lady.

We kept the furnishings really minimal (plenty of baby junk to fill up the space when he gets older) and just added a few little pieces here and there. Again, we took advantage of the marvellous view out of his South facing window, a window which provided a lot of great light for his monthly photo shoots!

The bathrooms and office den were also pretty sleek and minimal but I didn't get around to photographing them because (a) who needs to look at another person's toilet and (b) we were really pressed for time in the last few weeks.

So here you have it! Not a perfectly staged magazine portrayal but hopefully a glimpse into our little 800sq ft home in the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto for twelve months. It served its purpose well and will be a chapter we can look back on with fond memories.

Oh, and that view?...

Man I sure miss it some days.