Saturday, October 30, 2010

The scariest Halloween House I ever saw.

There were shrieks of delight as I pulled the Halloween Gingerbread House box off the shelf at Safeway and delicately placed it into the cart, where my sons were perched.

"Look at all those candies!"

"Can we eat those now?"

"I'm gonna eat all the orange ones and all the black ones."

"And then I'm gonna eat the whole house."

On the drive home I daydreamed that I was secretly a crafty genius and that my Halloween House would dazzle everyone that saw it.

"Wow - did you make that? That is so impressive! You should be, like, a cake decorator or something!"

And anyway, it was a kit, how hard could it be?

Alas.

This, friends, is what the Halloween House should look like.



This is my Halloween House.



They lied.

That is the only theory I can come up with. They had a professional craftsman glue the gingerbread house together with industrial strength super glue, a cake decorator apply the icing, and a designer remove all remaining flaws in Photoshop.

Because obviously it has nothing to do with my poor craftsmanship and lack of patience.
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to smile at a stranger.





Have you ever noticed how, after you've ordered your coffee at Starbucks, and you're standing at the pick-up counter - the one where the barista is busily frothing milk and pouring flavoured syrups into multiple paper cups - that you tend to stand in kind of a slouch and stare at them? As if to say HURRY UP WITH MY COFFEE I NEED IT YESTERDAY. I think I might. Sometimes. Not on purpose, and not because I mean to be pissy, but simply because standing there makes my body naturally take on that stance.

Yesterday as I was waiting for my chai, the girl making my drink and about another ten lined up behind it looked up at me and smiled. Just, like, for no reason at all. And I was forced to uncurve my frown and smile back at her. Because I, for one, cannot not smile at someone if they smile at me. I have to smile back.

And then, because I had been coerced into smiling, in public, at a stranger, I decided to try wearing the smile for a little longer. I peered around at the other customers in the line, all with their equally grumpy WHERE IS MY OVERPRICED COFFEE GODAMMIT faces, and realized, most of us probably look like that most of the time.

I realized then, I rarely smile at people when I'm out in public - usually I'm in a furious dash to get somewhere fast. In, out, home, quick, don't talk to me I don't have time.

When I lived in London, a smile from a stranger was a rare thing indeed. In fact, more often, a smile from a stranger (sadly) indicated something iffy - a guy trying to make a pass; a crazy person on the bus wanting to tell you their life story. For that reason I don't miss big city living and the anonymity that comes with it. Calgary by comparison is a very smiley place.

Anyway, my point is, it reminded me that it doesn't take much to smile at a stranger, and it doesn't cost anything either. And it's pretty amusing to see someone's grumpy face transform into a happy face. And who knows - maybe they needed that smile, even if it was from a complete stranger and someone they may never see again. Or maybe they'll resist the smile altogether and keep wearing their frown. Whatever.


So occasionally, when I remember, I'm going to smile at a stranger. Just because.

And I swear that yesterday, my coffee tasted better from the girl who passed the smile onto me.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie Houses


Lately, I've taken to yelling "MOVIE HOUSE!!" in the middle of the film we're watching. They're easy to spot - movie houses - they're the ones that are styled to death and decorated to within an inch of their lives, and are usually found in the romantic comedy genre.

The truth is, I love movie houses. I picture myself living in one, the kind with William Morris wallpaper and paneling in the dining room and a reading nook with custom-sewn cushions. And it's a much more sophisticated, calm, collected me - the me that lives in the movie house. I float around in a silk dressing gown with a mug of chai tea, contemplating all the wonderful ways my movie house makes everything better.

Alas, I don't have a billion dollars and a stylist. See my dilemma?

My favourite movie house is the Hamptons beach house in Something's Gotta Give. Have you seen it? Don't bother with the movie, it's - meh. Just fast forward to the scenes of the house interior, because it is dreamy. Apparently the exterior is a real house, but the interior was built on a set. (Yes, I looked that up.) And I have a thing for white walls and cabinets.


Then there are the apartments in the Sex in The City movie (the first one): Carrie's apartment after the renovation (I'm trying to persuade J to let me paint our living room a similar blue); Big's apartment; The penthouse dream pad; And don't even get me started on Charlotte's swanky flat.

I loved the ranch-style house in Meryl Streep's movie, It's Complicated (and I really liked the movie too, actually). Everything about the house is, well, I want it. Especially the rustic kitchen.


And finally, slightly random, but, the movie Must Love Dogs. I have to say, I absolutely love the house in this movie. There are so many pretty colours and textures. It's just cozy.


What about you? What's your favourite movie house?

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scowly Nanny


Nanny #10 came over on Thursday, to interview for our newly-available Wednesday babysitting slot.

My first indication that things weren't going to go well was when she called fifteen minutes before she was due to arrive to inform me she was "running late and very stressed". Oh. Um. Okay. I told her not to worry, I wasn't rushing out anywhere.

When she arrived she was wearing what I can only assume was her scowliest scowly face. Both sons came to greet her at the door with a string of incomprehensible words all yelled out at the same time "HI I'M MATTHEW! / YOU / HI / WHAT ARE YOU / WHO? / DOING HERE? / HI! / I HAVE A BIG DINOSAUR? / BRRRRM!".

She shrugged and replied "I didn't understand a thing you just said." To which they both gawked at her, and then continued babbling. 

Underneath my nervous laugh I considered telling scowly nanny she had the wrong house, or yelling FIRE!! and closing the door, or, just closing the door.

But since she was here, I decided to just go with it.

Scowly nanny curled up in a chair, legs pulled protectively into her, as though she was about to be interrogated over her school grades. I asked her the usual questions: How long have you been a nanny? Where are you from? What kinds of activities do you usually do with the kids you babysit? Etc.

The boys approached occasionally, to ask more questions and stare at her in the eye-boggling way only a child can get away with. Each time she mustered a faux-cheery response before returning to her frown.

Maybe she was having a really bad day.

After approximately fourteen minutes and twenty six seconds and several long, uncomfortable silences in which I think she might actually have rolled her eyes, I was about done with the interview. I thanked scowly nanny for coming and said good bye.

As the door closed I breathed a sigh of relief she was gone, and another sigh for the thought of facing yet more nanny interviews.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

When I'm feelin' good.


When I'm sleeping well at night, when I'm drinking my eight glasses of water, when I have a little time and energy, and a little contentment, that's when I'm feelin' good.

And when I'm feelin' good, I forget the small, inconsequential things like blog stats and dust bunnies under the sofa and whether or not I've ticked off everything on my to-do list. I worry less about the number of calories in the dessert I ate after dinner and more about how good it tasted.


When I'm feelin' good, I take better care of myself. I feed myself healthy foods, I drink more water and less coffee. I chew my food slowly instead of gulping it down as though it was my last meal. I take time to rest during the day instead of scrambling from one thing to the next without breaking. I take a walk outside and inhale the fresh air. I let thoughts come into my head instead of trying to cram more in there.


When I'm feelin' good, everything in front of me becomes clear, like an image coming sharply into focus through a lens. Not a hazy jumble of thoughts all clamouring for my attention. I realize what matters and what doesn't, which things require my attention and which don't. I can sort through all the noise and begin to make sense of it.


When I'm feelin' good, the time I spend with my family is a better quality time. I look into their eyes and listen carefully when they talk to me, taking in their jaggedy conversation and saving the sounds of their voices in my memory. I sit and watch them, following their buoyant moves as they jump and dance and spin around the garden.


When I'm feelin' good, I'm filled with inspiration by the things around me. The smell of freshly-ground coffee beans, the texture of a snowball, the colour of fall leaves in the park, patterns on a piece of fabric, flowers in someone's front garden, the smell of fresh mint. I make notes in a journal - ideas to be saved for something later, or not.


When I'm feelin' good, I'm filled with contentment for the moment and excitement for the future. I imagine what the years ahead of us look like as our sons grow up and become the people they're going to be. I think about the holidays we'll take in Europe, the places we'll go.


These moments of clarity have been sparse lately, several years of sleeping poorly and not taking the best care of myself will do that.But on the occasion when I'm feelin' good, I know it won't be long until these moments surface more frequently. And when they do, I'll appreciate them like never before.



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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I know a secret about Dyson.

Dr Mr. Dyson and elves,

I heard on the grapevine, you're planning to release a new product, specifically for dog hair.

Is it true? Is it?

Forgive my impatience, it's just that I NEED to know. RIGHT NOW. Please.

I am VERY impatient. 

Because I've been living in a veritable swamp of dog hair for the past five years. Every single day, at least fifteen minutes of my life is swallowed up by sucking up said dog hair. And that's, like, 105 minutes per week, 420 minutes a month, 5040 minutes a year. 84 hours. 3.5 days of my life, spent vacuuming dog hair. Yes, I worked it all out. Because I'm very sad from all the vacuuming.

So you can understand my excitement when I heard about your pending invention of dog hair miraculousness. And yes, that definitely is a word.

So excited am I, that I've drawn up a few ideas of what I think it might be. They're quite brilliant, my inventions, so you might want to think about asking me permission to use these for your future products. I don't charge much.






Might it be a dog-hamster-ball, that sucks all the hair away from the animal as they run around the room in dizzying circles?




Or this collapsible doggy vacuum tunnel?





Whatever it is, please hurry up with it.

Yours impatiently,

Lady Mama


Here's a preview from Dyson's elves. Due to be revealed in November 2010.


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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The World's Gone Mad. Me Included.


Nanny Number Nine quit. Well, not exactly "quit". She half quit. She can no longer babysit on one of the days I go to work. Which means, me = on a steaming pile of manure. And also, me = faced with the teeth-grinding process of finding someone else. The conversation went like this. NNN: "Oh, by the way, I'm not going to be able to do Wednesdays any more, starting next week." Me: "Are you f&cking kidding me?" Actual Me: "Oh no. That's too bad."

*

I'm doing fantastically well in my new job. First I basically denied having a password for the computer system, only to find that, in fact, I did have one, that I myself had created, and then forgot about. Then, my crowning moment: one night last week, after my last client had gone, I turned off the lights, set the alarm and locked the door as usual. I walked to my car, chuffed as a puppy and proud of myself for being a working Mum. Two days later a colleague informed me that I was not the last one to leave that night, and that I had locked her, and her client, in the clinic, in the total darkness, with the alarm armed.

*

My littlest son has stopped napping. I repeat, STOPPED. Every day for the last month I have tried to fool myself into thinking it wasn't true, religiously placing him in his crib every day after lunch with his bottle. Surely he was just going through one of those nap-refusal phases, and would be over it soon. SOB. It was just wishful thinking. Nap time is dead and gone. Which means? NO ONE IN MY HOUSE NAPS ANY MORE.




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Friday, October 15, 2010

Two is a perfect number.


Having two sons close together is so practical it's almost unreal.

Despite the crazy hard side of raising two small boys at the same time, we couldn't have planned it better. I'm beginning to see that now. Two sons, 19 months apart, the oldest still basically a baby when the youngest was born. Neither of them will remember a time before the other.

And we should be awarded some kind of environmental medal for all the materials we've saved. Clothes have been passed down (the boys are almost just one size apart now), toys shared, books divvied. Almost as soon as I'm placing a tub of Matthew's clothes into storage, I'm pulling it out again for Oliver. Matthew was only recently finished with his baby bouncer when his brother stepped in to use it.

Meals are easy because they eat the same foods, almost the same quantities too. Even playdates are are partaken together. Last month I bought new winter coats and simply picked up a matching pair (couldn't resist). I could write a book on the many ways two kids close in age are convenient.

Two boys are just right for us. A family of four. No need to upgrade our car to a minivan. One parent for each child. Not overwhelming for a babysitter. I'm back in my career, tasting independence in small doses.

It's a perfect scenario.

And yet...

Yes, there's an "an yet".

There are occasions where I can't shake this tiny, nagging feeling that I might want to go and interrupt our nice, practical situation by having a third child. And it makes no sense whatsoever. And maybe what I'm experiencing is just a natural maternal yearning - the kind that will take place every single year for the next ten years no matter how many children I have. Perhaps.


When I think about the practical implications of a third child, I'm pretty sure I start grinding my teeth. Our house has three bedrooms. Our car only seats four. I want to be able to travel back to England to see my family (imagine that with three!). I want my career. I want a little bit of freedom from time to time.

In no uncertain terms, three would change everything. And yet... that completely impractical part of my brain - the one that purchases shoes beyond my budget and ignores letters because the magical fairies will take care of them - keeps gently nudging me, oh but another baby...

Dear impractical portion of brain: Shut up!

I wish I could say I'm finished having kids, and be content with it.

I wish I could remind myself of the many sleepless nights I've endured (still am) these last few years.

I wish I was more practical.

But.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Winter Wants.


The weather in Calgary has taken a strange turn lately. Instead of shifting straight into winter as it usually does in October, it seems we're having another go at summer - or at least a lovely fall. And though I'm enjoying these unseasonably nice last days of relative warmth (yesterday we ate popsicles in the garden), I'm also longing for temperatures cold enough to let me slip into my new parka and the boys their new fur-trimmed winter coats, and head out for long walks in the snow. I'm a typical Brit - never happy with the weather, whatever it's doing.

And in the spirit of all things wintry and cozy, I'm coveting these lovely items.


Woven wool scarf from Aritzia.

Green Audrey dress from Boden.



 Knitted spotted jacket from Boden.



Feather-print kimono from Top Shop.

High-neck silk blouse from Zara.

Gold-plated bangles from net-a-porter.

Cross-body purse from Olivia + Joy. 



 (Not very practical at all in the snow) Animal print flats from Nine West. 

 Slashed knitted snood from Top Shop. 

Holiday colour wheel eye shadow palette from Stila.
 Heavy duty moisturizer: Skin Food by Weleda. 



What about you, readers? What are you coveting? 


Updated to add: None of the products mentioned in this post have been paid for.
 

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Secret Elevator


Last week I heard my son call out to his little brother "Oli! Come with me into the elevator!" I listened, intrigued. I heard my son's closet door open, then close, and the two of them giggling and shrieking inside. "Going up!" and then "Going down!". Their little elevator adventure went on for a while, with the occasional "Agghhhh!" and "Nooooo!" and eventually "Get off!!!!" and "Give me that back!!!".

My son has a thing for elevators. He also has a vivid imagination.

A few minutes later, he asked me, with equal enthusiasm, "Mommy! Come see my elevator!" I crouched down inside the make-believe elevator and played along, pretending to go up and down the floors.

The next day, inspired by my son's imaginary game (much like something I would have done as a child), I decided to help craft something that would make his secret elevator more realistic. Or, what really happened is, I talked J into making something, since he's far better at crafty things. With a few materials from a craft store, he put together two elevator panels with buttons, one for the outside and one for the inside.

Needless to say, the boys thought it was the best thing since sliced.... elevators! Or something!
 







How to make your own Secret Elevator panels. 

You'll need
- Two black foam-board rectangles
- A pack of brightly coloured foam circles and shapes
- A black sharpie or marker pen
- Blu-Tack. 

Directions
Take two black foam-board rectangles, one bigger than the other. For the outside panel: Stick two round, brightly-coloured foam circles onto the black rectangle panels to make the buttons, then use a black sharpie to draw arrows pointing up and down. For the inside panel: Stick six round foam circles onto the other black foam panel for the buttons, and use a black sharpie to number the buttons 1-6. We added four more buttons to the panel as well: one with a picture of a phone; one that looked like a speaker to talk into; one to close the doors; one with a bell. Stick the panels onto the wall with Blu-Tack.


Hours of fun people! (And by that I mean, hours of quiet time for Mom and Dad obviously!)
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