Friday, December 22, 2006

To Grandmother's house we go

For the first time in three years, we will be heading to Montreal for Christmas. I'm pretty excited about it.

I'm excited because we'll be spending Christmas with my whole family -- my sister and brother-in-law are flying in from California; my other sister will be in from Waterloo; my parents will be there; my aunt and uncle are flying in from North Carolina; and my one cousin is flying in from Texas. And of course, we'll all converge in my 92-year-old grandmother's top-floor duplex for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas day brunch. The only people missing will be my other cousin and his girlfriend (who also live in North Carolina) because she's a nurse and has to work on Christmas Day.

Now, this all sounds very complicated -- and it is, sort of. Because if you read that last paragraph correctly, you'll realize that the only person who ACTUALLY LIVES in Montreal is my grandmother. Everyone else is either flying or driving in from somewhere else. That's because Christmas brunch at my grandmother's has been a tradition since before I was born -- and at 92 years of age, my grandmother (whom I love dearly) decides that she does not want to leave her house for Christmas. Translation: she'll travel to Toronto any other time of year (which is also more convienient for my aunt and uncle, because my aunt's family is in the GTA), but Christmas is at her house. So every year, the family, or those who can, travel to her.

Once upon a time, we all lived in Montreal. But starting in 1990, we started to move away. First my family moved to the Toronto-area, then my aunt and uncle's family moved to North Carolina. And then "us kids" grew up (and in my case, started having kids) and, in some cases, moved even further away. So, as much as a little part of me wants to complain about the fact that if I want to spend Christmas with family, I can't spend it in my own house, my grandmother is accomplishing a pretty big feat by her stubborness -- family is flying in from far and wide to spend it together in her home.

A little part of me would rather stay home, spend the morning with Austin and cook up a big feast to feed whomever was willing to come over rather than driving 500 km, spending two nights in a hotel and then driving 500 km back. But I'm happy to be spending Christmas with the people I truly care about -- Ryan, Austin and my family. Who knows how many more years we'll all be able to get together. My grandmother is 92 afterall.

And that, is what makes Christmas truly special.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I don't bake

For the record, and just so everyone's perfectly clear on this point, I don't bake. To me, baking means opening a cake mix box, pouring it in a bowl, adding whatever it is you're supposed to add, and throwing it in the oven. I do make my icing from scratch though, so that counts for something I guess. But I'll really only make a cake if I have to -- such as on Ryan's birthday, and in the future, on Austin's birthday.

Why don't I bake? Because I don't really enjoy it -- and, when I have tried it, I'm better at burning cookies, than making edible cookies. I'll put the blame on my mother for that one (sorry mom), she taught me to cook, but since baking to her also usually means opening a cake mix box, she wasn't much of a teacher in that department.

That being said, the next time you're eating baked goods in my house, you now know not to assume I made it, but don't assume it's from the grocery store either. Ryan's the baker in our family -- and let me tell you, if you've ever had cheesecake at my house, you'd know why he's the baker and I stay far from the kitchen when he's at work.

All week, Ryan's been baking up a storm for Christmas and the house smells wonderful. You can probably guess that holiday baking has never been a tradition for me -- but I definitely think I could get used to it. Especially if my only part is helping to clean up afterwards.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Stuck in the '90s

One of Austin's favourite games is to pull all the CDs off the shelf in the family room in the basement. They're stacked at a height he can reach, because frankly, we don't care if he pulls them off the shelf. It keeps him entertained, and there's very little harm he can do to them -- at least until he learns how to open the cases.

But the other day, as I was restacking the CDs back on the shelf almost as fast as he was pulling them off, I actually took a good look at the collection. And that's when I realized that our music collection was pretty much stuck in the '90s.

I don't know about Ryan, but I bought my first CDs in 1994, around the time that I bought my first CD player. Over the next five to seven years, I bought a lot of CDs. And then Ryan and I moved into together and put our collections together. Suddenly, we had several hundred CDs displayed on a shelf. But soon after, with Napster and other such programs, we (as did many people I'm sure) almost entirely stopped buying.

So a good look at the CD collection today will find some classics (in my opinion), such as all the U2 albums, some REM, Tragically Hip, Dave Matthews Band and Sarah McLachlan, and some, um, laughable albums, such as Dance Mix '95. I still listen to the classics from time to time and well, the others always makes me shake my head and smile.

But what I mean by stuck in the '90s is then there are all the albums by bands that were cool when we were in University. Remember Blink182, or Presidents of the United States of America? Yup, they're on the shelf too. Ask anyone in University today, and they likely will have no idea who you're talking about.

Occassionally, I'll still buy a CD, mainly because I have an old-fashioned idea that I would rather own the CD than own it on my computer. But it has to be a CD of an artist I really like, such as U2, where I know I'll still be listening to it from time to time 10 years from now.

The problem remains is that once Napters and other type free programs disappeared, I almost entirely stopped downloading as well. So my CD collection is stuck somewhere in the 90s and my MP3 collection is stuck somwhere in the middle of 2003.

So, no matter where you look, I'm horribly out of date. At least I'll always have the radio -- although I tend to listen to Jack which is also stuck somewhere, I'm not quite sure where, but it's definitely not 2006. At least my CD collection will soon be updated again -- Sesame Street and Sharon, Lois and Bram never go out of style.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Thank goodness for blogs

'Tis seems to be the season to not see friends. Maybe I have a short memory but it seems that this year, everyone -- including us -- is extra busy.

When our friends are free, we're busy, and when we're free our friends are busy. And when our friends throw a party, we get sick -- which doens't help matters. I don't think we've managed to get together with anyone since early November...where has the time gone!

But on that note, thanks to everyone's blogs, I know what's going on in so many people's lives. Remind me again how we used to keep in touch before blogs?

So I promise to write more often, as long as everyone else does the same too! :)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree

On Sunday, Ryan and I went out and bought our first real Christmas tree. Since we've been together, we've always had a Christmas tree, but it was a little, five-foot tree that we bought at Canadian Tire for something like $20. It was cute -- and I have fond memories of that tree, especially in our apartment where our cat Chloe decided to sleep IN it one year. But it's now rather tired looking. And we figured after two Christmases in the house, it was about time we got a proper tree.

So off we went, all the way across the street, to the guy with the sign that read "Christmas trees for sale". What his sign didn't say was "Overpriced Christmas trees for sale." For a tiny tree, smaller than our fake one, he wanted $30; for a four-to-six-foot tree, he wanted $40 and for a six-to-eight-foot tree, he wanted $50. Now, as we were tree-shopping rookies, we honestly had no idea how much one should cost. But in both our minds, and we didn't need to say it to each other to know the other was thinking it, there was no way we were paying $50 for a decent looking tree to sit in our living room for two and a half weeks!

We left sans tree. And drove over to the Superstore to compare prices. Well low and behold, decent sized six-to-eight foot trees cost $30. Now that was a price we were willing to pay. We choose a nice one, tied it to the roof of the SUV and headed home.

It took until Tuesday night to get around to putting it up (and yes, with two cats and a baby, we've tied it to the ceiling), and last night, I finally strung the lights. Even though it's not decorated yet, it looks awesome in the living room and I love smelling fresh pine throughout the house. It's been years and years since I've had a real Christmas tree and I've forgotten how nice it is.

Tonight we'll put up the decorations. So far, Austin has shown very little interest in it -- which is good because I'm afraid we'll be playing the "Austin don't touch that, Austin don't put that in your mouth" game for the next few weeks. If that turns out to be the case, all the decorations will suddenly have to "disappear" from the bottom -- leaving an oddly decorated tree. I'm sure we won't be the first family to have to leave the bottom foot or two of a tree bare.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Toys, Toys, Toys

Whenever I shop, I'm always in search of a good deal, but now that Christmas shopping means buying toys, toys and more toys, I'm even more driven. Here are two that must be shared -- and sure beats shopping at pricey Toys 'R Us.

1) Fisher Price/Mattel Toy Outlet at 6155 Freemont Blvd in Mississauga (Hurontario and Britannia). There were a fair amount of baby toys (up to 24 months) and lots of other kids toys as well. (Hot Wheels, Barbies etc.) The prices were really good, and if you go on a Friday from 4-7, Saturday from 12-5 or Sunday from 12-4, , everything is an additional 25% off. In the end, everything we bought was approximately 50% off the MRSP (according to our receipt). We got a really cool walker/ride-on hippo toy for Austin for $22 (retail $45.)

The warehouse is open until Sunday, Dec. 17.

2) Samko and Miko toy warehouse. There are two locations, one in Richmond Hill and one downtown. We went to the one in Richmond Hill. This warehouse is huge, and there are toys, books, art supplies, board games and more for all ages. Again, their prices were really good -- everything we bought was 50% or more off the retail price.Here's the website.

They close on Dec. 23.

Happy shopping! :)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It sucks to be sick

All last week, Austin was sick with a cold. He had a non-stop cough, a runny nose and, for a couple of days, was running a slight fever as well. And he was downright miserable. So, like a good mom, I spent all week taking care of him as he kept looking at me as if saying, "mom, this sucks, make it go away."

By Thursday morning he appeared to be on the mend, and I started to get a sore throat. By Friday morning, he was happier than he had been all week (although still snotty) and Ryan started losing his voice. By Saturday morning, Austin was up and running, and Ryan and I could barely bring ourselves to get out of bed -- except maybe to get a box of Kleenex.

Never before have Ryan and I both been sick at the same time. But never before has their been a third person in the house to share germs with.

Being sick at the same time posed a whole new set of challenges. When Austin was sick he wanted me to hold him and rock him to sleep -- but now that we were sick, he wasn't about to do the same. And he sure as heck wasn't going to stop trying to get into things just because we were complaining we were congested. But somehow, we managed to keep him out of trouble.

Other than a short trip to the Bay right after lunch, we spent the entire day rotating between the couches in the living room and the couches in the family room. And somehow, Austin managed to entertain himself for hours. We lay on the couch and watched him play with his toys, walk along the furniture, bang on the TV, try to figure out how to use the DVD player, empty the bookshelf of books and pull all the CDs off the shelf before repeating the entire process over again. (It's amazing the stuff you let your kid get into when you don't have the energy to get up and say 'no'.) And every now and then, one of us would get ahold of him to wipe his nose.

In all, it didn't turn out as badly as I feared it would. And today was a little better, because although we both still felt crummy, we had a little more energy.

The worst part ended up being because all three of us were tearing through the Kleenex, we decided it would be wise not to go to our friend's annual Carribean Christmas blocko. It's always a really great party and we were looking forward to it. But instead of sipping fruity blender drinks, we stayed home, sipping NeoCitran.