Halloween 2015 (Part 2)

With the work we're having done on our front entrance, we weren't sure if we'd even have steps for Halloween this year.  As many of you know, Halloween is my favourite holiday (yes, I consider it a holiday) and I was disappointed at the thought of missing it.  I'm actually a little crazy for Halloween and Corey often compares me to Claire Dunphy from Modern Family.  Figuring we had nothing to lose, we asked our contractors to make a big push so we could greet kids at the door.

We really didn't know if they'd be able to finish and we were totally unprepared.  We hadn't even bought a pumpkin this year and had planned to just leave a bowl of treats on the driveway with some glow sticks around it and a little sign!  We arrived home from visiting friends at 6:00 and were pleasantly surprised to find steps leading up to our new door!  We're still waiting in the railings but this was enough to give us a proper Halloween.

We hastily threw up some spiderwebs (Which we got from friends last minute) and dug out our strobe light, some scary music, a black light and our fog machine.  I almost teared up when Corey even found Maurice (our skeleton) in the basement.  It's not Halloween without Maurice!

It wasn't bad for a quick last-minute job.  Next year, we're turning the mudroom into a haunted house!

We sat outside so that kids didn't have to go up the steps because I was nervous about the railing.  Once again, we were one of the scary houses and I loved hearing the kids working up the nerve to walk up the driveway through all the fog!  I love being the scary house because I always feel like when people make Halloween too tame for the little ones, we take away some of the magic from the older kids.  When really young kids hesitate at the bottom of our driveway, I usually call out to them "Don't worry.  We're not scary" and usually, they walk up to us looking so brave and proud of themselves!  We also make sure to give out good treats to make their efforts worthwhile.  ;)

Although we didn't get a teal pumpkin this year (Check out the Teal Pumpkin Project if you're not familiar with it), I'm a big fan of handing out non-food treats.  This year, we gave out play-dough, glow sticks, stickers, temporary tattoos and nut-free treats.  This was the first Halloween in years that hasn't been freezing cold and raining hard and we thoroughly enjoyed it!  Rudy was pooped after visiting friends so she didn't visit any houses.  We'll see... Maybe next year.  I know lots of people take babies out but Rudy really needs to be in bed early or she gets cranky!  There were a couple of babies her age who came to the door and I even managed not to laugh when a mom asked me if she could take a couple of treats for a VERY young baby in a stroller.  ;)

I really enjoyed seeing all the kids in costumes and even the teens in regular clothes who collected treats in backpacks.  I always remind Corey that if I can love Halloween this much at 33, it is perfectly reasonable for a teen to want some free treats!  What a fun night!  What did you do?


Halloween 2015

Are you doing anything special for Halloween?  Rudy's daycare has been celebrating all week with theme days (Everyone wore black on Monday and the walls are filled with Halloween crafts.) and today there's a costume party and small gift exchange.  Tomorrow, we have friends visiting from out of town, then a friend's daughter's birthday.  Rudy's on a strict bedtime schedule so we'll definitely be home in time to give out candy but we haven't decorated or even carved a pumpkin.

Our porch is under construction and we've encountered a couple of delays due to redesigns so I'm sad to say that it's not going to be ready for us to have our usual strobe lights and scary music for the neighbourhood kids.  We've purchased lots of playdough, stickers, glow sticks and nut free candy but I worry that the neighbourhood kids have come to look forward to our spooky house and I'm disappointed to be taking a year off.

As for Rudy's first Halloween, I must say that I always assumed I'd make a Pinterest worthy costume for her but work and life have been so busy that I was relieved to just find a comfy looking costume at Walmart that looked like she wouldn't overheat if I sent her in it to daycare.  Priorities certainly change.  In the month since we purchased her costume, Rudy's grown... a lot.  Now she's sort of bursting out of her Ninja Turtle costume so we had to send a change of clothes for daycare.  We had wanted to send her with a glittery purse and call her Donatello Versace but we thought it was too much and people would think we were insane.

In terms of trick-or-treating, I've been chatting with people about it all week and I've noticed that the parenting forums are filled with similar conversations.  Do you take a baby trick-or-treating?

On Tuesday, the receptionist at my office reminded me that if I take Rudy door to door, people will know the candy is just for me.  Fair enough.  I agree, although when I see parents with babies at my own door, I just assume it's their first child and they're super excited to do fun family stuff together.  If it were just about the candy, they could save time and just buy it on November 1st on clearance, right?

I have friends who take their babies to a couple of houses and other friends who refuse to subject their kids to late nights and inevitable bad Toronto weather until they're old enough to enjoy it.

My mother recalls my younger brother walking around with us for Halloween when he was 2 1/2 and I was about 5.  It was his first time joining us and, when we got to the first house, he seemed nervous and reluctant to come walk up to the door with me.  Then, he saw me come back with candy.  After that, he was all in.  Smart guy!

I think we may take Rudy to the neighbour's door in her costume.  Their first grandson is a few months younger than Rudy so we're always sharing baby stories.  I think one house is enough for this year.  Then we'll put her to bed so we can both greet the kids together.

Whatever you end up doing, I wish you a dry and safe Halloween.  I'll leave you with the best costumes I've seen on the internet this year:


Art With Rudy

Rudy's been coming home from daycare with all kinds of crafts and art projects lately.  Her teachers say she really enjoys it so I thought I'd try something at home.  At daycare, they often glue tissue paper to paper and it gave me an idea.

I ordered some special tissue paper (called bleeding ink tissue) from Amazon, which creates a watercolour effect when water is applied to it.

I tore random shapes for her to play with and kept out a sponge, some water and a dollar store canvas.  I helped by wetting the canvas initially so the tissue would stick to it.  I had to heavily supervise her so the tissue didn't end up in her mouth.

This project was really just a fun way to engage with her over something that wasn't a toy or book.  It was a nice change.  We talked about the different colours and how crinkly the tissue was...

Eventually, the tissue started making it to the canvas.  Once her hands got wet, it got a little sticky and she needed more help placing the tissue.

The directions on the tissue say not to over-saturate it with water but I did anyway because it was fun for her to watch the colours run.

At some point, we sped up and the tissue made it to the canvas tiny handfuls at a time.  There was lots of squishing and eventually smashing and we decided to quit just as Rudy graduated to face touching and trying to eat the mushy tissue.

At this point, most people remove the tissue paper (it peels right off once it dries) but it looked pretty the way it was so I decided to leave it.

It was such a fun craft to try together.  We were laughing and getting messy but just as I was patting myself on the back and beginning to plan my Mother of the Year speech, Corey reminded me that the next day was picture day at Rudy's daycare.  Shit!  Unfortunately her hands and cheek were dyed blue and green and the dye wasn't coming off.  After seeking help in an online parenting group, we finally discovered that dishsoap and sugar make a mild but very effective scrub.

The project went really well overall.  Next time, I wont tip the canvas to allow it to dry away from messy baby hands because the colours bled and the lower half ended up a shade of puke green.  If you try it at home, learn from my mistake and dry it flat!

Still, we'll save it for a while.  I coated it in Mod Podge to keep it in tact and we'll display it in the family room for the time being.


Date Night Idea

Photo by Lew D'Souza
What do you do for date nights with your significant other?  I'm sure most parents notice that their alone time decreases substantially after they have a baby.  Corey and I have been lucky to have had a good sleeper from the start and Rudy is relatively good at playing on her own while I'm working on my laptop or Corey is working on the house.  We get lots of time as a couple in the evenings, after she's in bed at 7, but we still notice that we miss little things like going out on our own in the evenings.

Because Rudy has such a strict bedtime, we can't really go out for dinner or a movie because one of us needs to be home to start her routine at 6.  While we know we're spoiled with a baby who sleeps through the night, and we obviously love our time as a family of three, we've been missing going out just the two of us and so we've had my mother babysit a few times lately so that we could have a little date.

One thing I discovered about going out with Corey since Rudy was born is that it always feels really special and festive when we go out just the two of us!  To make the most of our time, we've been making an effort to plan special dinners or fun activities and I often find that I'm really excited for our night out in the days leading up to it.

With Halloween around the corner, I wanted to do something kind of scary.  I happen to be a BIG scary movie fan and we always visit some haunted houses at this time of year but I wanted to try something different this time.  We ended up booking an Escape Room with some sort of scenario revolving around being stuck in a serial killer's woodshop and having to find a way out before he returns.  Corey and I both like puzzles, and I love being scared so we thought it was a good match for our first try.

The place we booked was above a small restaurant and the reception area left something to be desired.  I don't think I went in with crazy high expectations but I was expecting a little more ambiance.  Obviously, I knew it wouldn't be frightening on the same level as the first time I watched The Shining, but I thought maybe it I'd feel a little uneasy.

Alas, if I was mildly uncomfortable, it was only because the floors hadn't been washed in ages and I wondered how many dirty hands had pawed all the clues in the escape room before us.  Yuck!  And you know who goes to escape rooms on a Friday night?  Apparently, high school kids and THIS GIRL!  I started to regret my big date night idea as we were waiting our turn.  The skeptic in me wanted to leave.  Why hadn't we just gone for dinner and drinks?  We could have dressed up!  I wouldn't need hand sanitizer!  It would have been romantic!  What were we thinking?

Then it was our turn and I have to say, the actual experience was pretty cool!  Sure, it was just a bunch of silly puzzles but I tried to get into character and immerse myself in the scenario.  I wanted to feel that sense of urgency so I pretended we were in a low-budget horror movie and you know, I really felt it!  I won't give spoilers but we were working in the dark and finding codes to open locks and the time flew by.  It may have started out as a lame date but it was a rush getting to work together on something that didn't involve home renovations or Rudy.  We were using flashlights and pooling our general knowledge and giving each other high fives when we made progress.  It was really great!  If I were a relationship therapist I would totally make couples do this.  The teamwork and cooperation really helped us bond and it gave us something fun to chat about over drinks later.

I would definitely try another escape room.  I may explore another location or a more challenging scenario next time but if they have these in your city, you should go.  Just remember to mentally play along.  It's so much better when you force yourself to get into it!


A Touch Of Magic

Have you seen these Lil Fairy Doors?  Isn't it sweet?  If you haven't heard of them, they're little doors that don't open but are mounted to a wall in a child's room.  They come with accessories and even little notes and mailboxes so that a fairy can leave their child mail.

We couldn't resist getting one for Rudy.  She's too young to understand it now, but by the time she's old enough to believe in fairies, it will have always been in her room.  I imagine her asking about it one day and we can tell her that's where her fairy lives.  At that point, the fairy can start occasionally leaving traces that they've been out.

With the popularity of Dino-vember and Elf on the Shelf, it seems that a lot of parents are excited for ways to bring magic to their childrens' lives.  Unfortunately for us, November is a busy work month for me and I doubt we could keep up with the work involved in a month long spectacle of creating different poses or scenarios for either dinosaurs.  With Rudy's birthday, Chanukah AND Christmas all falling in December, Elf on the Shelf also seems like overkill.  What I wanted was something that would allow us to to do something fun and creative for Rudy occasionally and throughout the year.

I think the main objective of the fairy doors is to encourage good behaviour.  There's even a little "contract" that the child is supposed to sign, promising to be good so the fairies will visit.  I'm not a huge fan of this (Corey laughed at me when I exclaimed "Rudy's not signing that!") because I think that making magic conditional on specific behaviour spoils it.  It misses the point that childhood should be magical whether she's naughty or nice.  We'll think of another way to encourage good bahaviour when the time comes, but the fairies will visit Rudy either way.  ;)

When I was little, I used the top cupboard in the armoire that's now in Rudy's room as a dollhouse.  While I was never very keen to play with dolls, my mother collected beautiful miniature versions of furniture and accessories and I loved arranging the rooms!  Imagine my mother's excitement when I told her we could collect a few miniatures again that the fairies would leave out by their door from time to time.

What I picture is, if we're learning about the different countries, maybe one day the fairies will leave a tiny globe outside because they're learning the same thing too.  Or if Rudy is apprehensive about trying something new, maybe the fairies will leave her a note telling her they'll be cheering her on!  Maybe one random rainy day she'll find a tiny umbrella resting against the door.

Of course, with a small door knocker, the door is not safe for Rudy to play with at this point.  For this reason, we mounted it inside her closet so she can't access it without our supervision.

She hasn't noticed it yet.  Maybe in a year or so...


Bathroom Reveal

I hope you guys aren't tired of all the before and after photos yet!  It was so hard to take time off from blogging over the summer and I've been saving these photos to post!

Do you guys remember our awful upstairs bathroom?  Most Toronto 1920's semis don't have the space on the main floor for a powder room so the second floor bathroom becomes the main bathroom.  We have a bathroom in the basement as well but it's not in great condition and won't be redone until we start working on our basement.  I can't see this happening for at least a couple of years.

The family who lived in our house before us included a daughter with some mobility issues and special needs.  This meant that many of the rooms had been modified for wheelchair access and many of their solutions were pretty creative.  Unfortunately, they weren't in a position to hire professionals to assist them so there were quite a few sketchy DIY renovations that needed to be undone.

The upstairs bathroom may have been the worst example of this.  There was no storage (we assumed this was to maximize floor space) and there was no separation between the shower and the rest of the bathroom.  To make matters worse, the floor seemed to slope away from the drain and out towards the door.  Corey and I never actually attempted to use this shower because we were afraid of flooding the hallway.

Oh, also notice that weird tiled lip in the shower, which we thought was a ledge but actually hid some plumbing.  The toilet also sat too far forward and almost in the centre of the room, to add to the weirdness.

We had also purchased a very heavy clawfoot tub from another house that was built the same year as ours.  We knew we had to have it painted and refinished but there was no point until we actually began work on the washroom.  We ended up just storing it in the bathroom for the first year that we lived in our new/old house.

I think one of the worst things, that you can't even see in the photos is how wobbly everything was.  The shelves were not properly secured so if you knocked one with an elbow, I risked everything falling off.  The floor was pretty stained as well and the bathroom never looked clean, even when it was freshly scrubbed.  I told Corey I felt as though I was getting ready for work in the bathroom from the first Saw movie.

If you guys have been following, you'll know that the bathroom reno took a lot of time.  It also happened to coincide with my pregnancy, which was especially difficult for me.

Here's a list of some of the improvements we (mostly Corey) made.  You can read about them all in more detail in our old renovations posts.:

  • Corey removed all the old tile and found a window in the wall, which we had replaced.
  • He added insulation and reinforced the floors to support our heavy tub.
  • He added heated flooring coils before tiling the floor.
  • Corey tiled the tub surround and included recessed shelving for all our bath products!
  • Corey created recessed spaces in the wall for towel hooks.
  • I painted the bathtub (eek, I was pregnant and didn't know it yet...) and the feet before we had the inside professionally reglazed.
  • We found hardware for the tub at a specialty store and Corey installed it.
  • Corey installed a pot light above the tub that was rated safe for wet places.
  • We bought an Ikea vanity and mirrored medicine cabinet for extra storage.
  • Corey replaced all the drywall so we could paint and decorate.

The finished product offers us so much more functional storage!

It's hard to photograph such a small space but there's really room for everything we need!

We even have a small bin for all of Rudy's bath toys!

What an improvement!


Rudy's Closet (Before and After)

Those of you who follow my blog will recall that we have had to use creative solutions to maximize closet space in our 1926 semi.  Apparently, back in the 20's, families could exist without nearly as much junk as we think we need now.  I actually think there's a Thanksgiving lesson in there somewhere...

Anyway, you may remember that we raced against the clock to finish Rudy's nursery mere days before my scheduled c-section.  Well, while we were thrilled with the finished product, the room wasn't entirely finished because her closet still looked a little like this:

Plenty of storage in the room allowed us to neglect this space and aside for a mini fridge, (which was actually a brilliant accessory to have in a nursery and stored formula and beer in the early days) for ten months we have sort of pretended it didn't exist.

Covered in 90's floral contact paper and filled with awkwardly spaced shelves, it was a bit of a disaster.

Corey's first step was to remove the old shelves as well as the hideous floral contact paper and patch the walls.

We then painted the interior a soft pink.  We thought Rudy might like a little pop of colour.  We then measured the space and installed some Ikea lighting with a little switch inside the door that Rudy will be able to reach in a few months.

We want this closet to encourage her independence, so not only can she reach the light switch but we have three rods for hangers and the lowest is really only going to be easy for her to reach on her own because it's low for an adult to bend.

From there, we installed a basic closet system and added some Ikea storage boxes to ensure that there's space for all of Rudy's toys and treasures.  We had to offset the closet system from the wall to allow for drawers to open past the door frame.  I think eventually, we'll come up with a creative idea for the space to the right: maybe hooks for scarves or necklaces or even a step stool.

And finally, we filled it with clothes.  The best part is that there is still plenty of extra space!  I was worried that this tiny closet would always pose a challenge and it was such an unexpected surprise to learn that some careful planning would give us room to spare!

I think my favorite part is the coat hooks we mounted to the door for shoe storage.  This kid already has more shoes than I do!  ;)

Sometimes living in a small house requires us to make adjustments.  I'm thrilled to say that creativity can conquer many of our small space dilemmas!


Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!  This year, more than ever before, we have a lot to be thankful for.  We feel lucky each day to have our health, to have a warm place to sleep and enough of everything we need, freedom to believe what we want and to choose our own government.  We are especially thankful to be surrounded by laughter, love and support from our friends and family.

For me, Thanksgiving warrants a few moments of reflection.  Although Corey and I are not religious, gratitude plays an important role in our lives and we often spend time just thinking about how lucky we are to have arrived here, at this moment in our lives.  Here's an interesting article on gratitude that I came across this week.

Of course, as new parents, we are most grateful for the little tornado who has brought so much chaos, mess, noise and love into our lives this past year.  Sometimes just thinking about her brings tears to my eyes because I love her so much.

What did you do for Thanksgiving?  We spent yesterday afternoon at my mother's house for our big Thanksgiving meal.  Rudy enjoyed playing hide and seek with the cat.

... She also loved the actual meal!  I don't think I've ever seen her eat so much, but who can blame her?  The mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie were her favourites but she was also pretty excited about the cheese plate!


Ikea Hack: Trofast Storage System + Sundvik Chair + Ribba Picture Ledge = Dream Desk

As you guys know, Corey and I like a good Ikea Hack!  We've used Ikea items throughout our house as the basis for projects because they're inexpensive and versatile.

Now that Rudy is almost walking, she needs a space to play outside of her bedroom.  I've never been a fan of clutter and (as my friends with older children warned me) good storage for her toys is the key to keeping our house relatively neat.  Since I love arts and crafts so much, there's a good chance Rudy will be the same and I've often wondered how on earth we could squeeze a little table and chair in our little house.  Living in a small house definitely calls for some creativity.  Then, I had an idea...

Corey and I purchased two Trofast Storage Systems and set them up leaving space for a chair in the middle.  Then, we purchased a shelf from the hardware store and Corey measured and cut it to join the two storage towers before screwing it together and nailing it to the wall.  He then ran a bead of silicone along the edges of the shelf to ensure there was no space for little crayons (or tiny fingers) to get stuck before affixing the shelves to the walls.  We chose a Sundvik Chair to complete the look and we added a Ribba Picture Ledge just above the desk for added storage.

I then purchased some colourful wall decals for the storage bins and the chair to make it look more fun and playful!  For the seat of the chair, I purchased some batting from the craft store and some colourful bird fabric (She loves birds!) to cover the seat with some extra cushion.  Normally, I'd use staples to secure the fabric but I didn't want to risk them coming out with a curious toddler picking at them so we secured the fabric with a (less ideal) plan B: hot glue!  Although tightening the fabric while using glue was a challenge, and the seat came out just a tiny bit lumpy, it felt like the safer choice!  Using clamps, we were able to screw the seat back on.

Our finished product is a space for toys, exploration and arts and crafts that any toddler would be excited about!

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