Saturday, August 31, 2013

Here We Go Again

As you may or may not have already noticed, I haven’t posted anything in a few days, including the last few posts of the blog challenge.  Shit has hit the fan once again in The Red House in a really big, snowball-effect kind of way and I’m not quite ready to write about it just yet.  I will fill you all in on what’s happening soon, I just need some time to figure it all out myself. 
In the meantime, I counted fifteen (FIFTEEN!) over-ripe bananas in my freezer this morning, so I made some banana bread and it is going perfectly with this cup of tea.  It’s actually making me feel a little bit better today.
Also, my mother-in-law left this on my counter the other day. 
She calls them “counter pickles”.   Anyone ever heard of them?  Apparently, they’re quite safe to leave on the counter.  My husband has been eating them and he’s still alive to tell about it, but I’m still not completely convinced. I think I’ll be putting them in a jar in the fridge by the end of the day today, and then never touching them ever again.  They weird me out.  If you know anything of these “counter pickles”, please enlighten me in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.  xo

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Challenge Day 27: This Will Make Your Tummy Happy

I’ve been making this meal for probably about ten years now, and it’s my favourite.  It also happens to be the favourite of everyone I make it for.  I have impressed many a dinner guest with this one.

I don’t exactly have a recipe, but this is how I make it:
Start with a bunch of tomatoes, preferably from your own garden.  I usually use grape and cherry tomatoes cut in half, but we also grew roma tomatoes this year so I quartered a few of those too and they worked just as well.
You may have to pick more tomatoes than you need if your helper is anything like mine.
Put all of your cut up tomatoes in an oven-friendly dish and drizzle with some olive oil.  Be generous with the oil.  I give it a few good glugs to make sure all the tomatoes and the base of the dish are coated thoroughly.  Sprinkle it with some sea salt and some pepper and it’s ready to be popped into a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees.
After about forty minutes at this temperature, turn the oven up to 400 degrees for another twenty minutes, start boiling your pasta (I like to use linguine with this recipe), grate a hunk of parmesan cheese and chop your fresh basil (also preferably from your garden).  Your roasted tomatoes should come out of the oven looking dark, smelling delightful and sizzling.
Rather than draining it first, I take the pasta right from the boiling water with tongs and add it to the dish with the tomatoes.  You might need some of the water from the pasta later and I just find this way easier than trying to save some.  Mix the noodles up with the tomatoes, then add in your parmesan and basil.  It might turn into a cheesy mess so this is when you will want to add a little of the water from the pasta. 
And voila!  So, so good.  We normally barbeque some chicken breast to serve with this pasta dish and holy crap, it’s the best dinner ever.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Challenge Day 26: An Old Photo of Yours Truly

Come on now, how cute was I?! 

This was November 1977, I was 13 months old.  I'm not sure what I like the most in this photo: the orange overalls or the little white boots?  I'm surprised that I was ever dressed like this, actually.  With all the pink, frills and perms that I can remember from my childhood, (yes, I said PERMS!), it's shocking to see that my mom decided to dress me like a little boy on this particular day. 

My dad must have done it. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Challenge Day 25: My Five Favourite Blogs!

There aren't many blogs that I check regularly.  Is that weird?  There are two that I would absolutely call my favourites though, because I'm always super pumped when I see a new post.  Here they are:

The Art of Doing Stuff ( – You may remember Karen Bertlesen from those few-minute segments on CFMT before Letterman came on at 11:35pm.  I just googled her and learned that she has also hosted a bunch of shows on HGTV Canada.  I don’t watch that channel, so I didn’t know that.  This is the first I’ve seen of her since her days of being cute and funny before Dave.  She writes a blog now and I love it.  She has great DIY ideas, recipes, gardening advice and has remained cute and funny.  Seriously, this woman can do anything.  Not only that, she has chickens.  Even better than that?  The Coop Cam.  Every day from 9am-9pm, you can see what the chickens are up to.  You’re welcome. 
Green Thimble ( This blog is great.  Krista sews amazing dresses for little girls, (I own a few!), and seems to really have her mom-shit together.  Her posts are full of fun and unique things she’s done with her kids (she’s so crafty!) and she writes about the moments that didn’t go as well as she had hoped, which I think is so super important for other parents to read.  Also, there are chickens.  (I’m seeing a pattern here that I didn’t notice before and will have to explore one day.  Maybe I should have chickens too?)  Anyway, Krista and her family are four months into a year-long buy-nothing-but-what-they-absolutely-need challenge.  It’s pretty inspiring.  Check it out.
I know that I'm supposed to write about my FIVE favourite blogs but I just really need my bed right now.  Today was a really fun and a really productive day.  We walked for what could have been miles, we washed both cars inside and out, and we played an extended version of Hit the Kids With a Giant Ball (our favourite family game!) in the backyard.  Well, we couldn't play it in the front yard now, could we?  The neighbours might start talking.  Yep, a  fun day, indeed. 
Also, this blog challenge can suck it.  I can't wait for this month to be over.  Thanks for reading!  :)


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 22: The BEST Thing to Happen This Year

The best thing that has happened this year wasn’t anything extravagant or out of the ordinary.  There was no stroke of luck or extenuating circumstance.  It’s something that had been a long time coming.  Like, a seriously long time coming.  It’s something that has taken great discipline and self-control, which are two things that really don’t come naturally to me or my husband.  We’ve had to work hard, we’ve had to focus, and we’ve had to finally admit that it was time to grow up.  Yep, it took us until our mid-thirties to figure out what most people learn in their twenties:  how to balance a budget.

Not only are we balancing our budget, we’ve taken control of it.  We’ve taken back the power!  We were both pretty stupid when it came to spending as singles in our twenties as well as a couple in our early thirties and had racked up a lot of consumer debt.  My back-to-back maternity leaves while hubby was bartending didn’t help either.
This past year though, we’ve made a budget and we've been sticking to it.  We're only spending cash and we’re paying our debt down every month.  We’re almost one year into our “Consumer Debt Free in Three Years” plan and I think we might actually get there on time.  Most definitely the best thing that has happened this year.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 21: Food, Glorious Food!

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve skipped two days.  There are a couple good reasons for this:

1.      I’ve been crazy busy.  Doing what?  I don’t know, really.  I just know that I haven’t even had time to sit down and watch this week’s episode of The Newsroom, so I must be pretty busy doing something.

2.      The last two challenge topics haven’t really applied to me.  I mean, check this out:
·         Challenge Day 19: What do you collect?  Nothing.  Honestly, I collect nothing.
·         Challenge Day 20: A difficult time in your life.  See Challenge Day 18.

Boring posts, right?  Why bother?  Now, today’s challenge is something I know a little bit about…

Blog Challenge Day 21: My 10 Favourite Foods! 
1.      Pizza.  I don’t think I will ever get sick of it.

2.      Cheese.  Any kind of cheese.  At any time.

3.      Bread.  Especially good with cheese.

4.      Olives.  AMAZING with bread and cheese!

5.      Pasta.  I make one with roasted tomatoes, parmesan, garlic and basil.  SO GOOD!

6.      Breakfast Jars.  I saw this recipe for refrigerator oatmeal online about a month ago and now have one for breakfast at least five days a week.  Yum.

7.      Nachos and cheese.  More specifically, (and this is really embarrassing), nachos and cheese from 7-11.  I’m a little ashamed of myself but holy smokes, they’re delicious in such a horrible way.

8.      Kraft Dinner.  I can’t help it.  I was raised on it and now it’s just a part of who I am.

9.      Homemade Soup.  I make a killer butternut squash soup and my chicken stock is also pretty spectacular.

10.    Chips.  Plain Lays, to be exact.  Sometimes, they’re exactly what I need.

I swear I eat healthy food most of the time.  I just don’t like it as much as I like eating crap!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Challenge Day 18: What's in a Name?

I would like to say that there is some really amazing reason I named my blog "Tales From the Red House" but honestly, it's pretty simple.  I live in a red house. 

We bought it three months before closing date and we used to drive by it all the time to say hello and to let it know that we were moving in.  It was a good way to get the kids, (then one and three years old), ready for such a big change.  They started asking to drive past the red house every time we went out and it just stuck.  Any time we mention anything at home, it's at the red house.

It's my most favourite place in the world. xo

Blog Challenge Day 17: My Most Proud Moment

Can a year be a moment?  If so, then this last year, from August 2012-August 2013, has been the moment (albeit a long moment), when I’ve been most proud of myself and my family. 

This time last year, I had just started to take on a lot more responsibility at work; it was a pretty big challenge that I welcomed and was excited about.  We were also about to move our kids to a new daycare, a home daycare that was close to the school.  We had just spent our first year in the red house, and were ready to start working on our long list of renovations, DIY updates, and were at the start of an estimated ten years of projects.     

Without realizing it, I had put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect.  The perfect mom, wife, employee and home maker.  I wanted to do it all.  I was starting to see signs of anxiety at this point and had been to my doctor about it.  It didn’t occur to me though that maybe all the pressure was too much for me to handle until one little piece of my plan threw me for a loop and I cracked.  The crack was big.
We had always known our son was emotional, spirited and busy.  There were definitely some behavioural issues, but we assumed it was just regular 3-4 year old behaviour.  We had brought it up at our daycare at the time and they agreed, there was some challenging behaviour at times but all the other kids in the daycare had their challenging moments as well.  At the new home daycare, however, things got a lot worse.  Looking back, we really didn’t prepare our son well for the huge change that a new daycare would bring.  We definitely could have done that better.  The daycare provider also didn’t know how to deal with difficult behaviour and only made it worse by segregating our son from the rest of the kids and telling him he was bad.  We had to wait a month before we could get our son into another new daycare, and that month was filled with heartache and worry.  We watched our bright boy’s self-esteem plummet as my anxiety sky rocketed.  The angry and violent behaviour continued in our son's junior kindergarten class as well as at the new daycare and my panic attacks increased to several times daily.  This is when I left work and we got some help.

We took time, a lot of time.  We pulled our kids from daycare and took a look at how we were parenting.  We enrolled ourselves in a 12-week parenting course and were able to work really closely with our son’s teacher and the school administration to make sure we were staying consistent both at home and at school.  Not being at work allowed me the time to take care of myself as well.  I focused on eating properly, finding new hobbies and getting a lot of sleep. 
There were definitely some other benefits to being home with the kids for nine months: we were finally able to stick to a budget (as we had no choice but to), I was able to really get to know our school community and make some new friends, and best of all, we were able to take the time to find the perfect daycare for our kids so I could go back to work without worry.

My biggest learning from this last year has been accepting the fact that I’m not perfect, I’m never going to be perfect and that really, I don’t want to be perfect.  I’ve been able to figure my priorities out and know where I can take it a little easier.  I go into work five times a week and do the best I can do, but I don’t take my job home with me and I’m no longer interested in one day running the place.  I’ve stopped obsessing over every parenting book I can find and have once again started reading books just for the fun of it.  We weren’t able to take on any major renovations in the house this year, since I wasn’t brining in my regular salary while I was off work, and we’ve decided that, instead of taking on a project for 2014, that money will be better spent on our first real family vacation.  The renovations can wait. 

We’re on a new path here at the red house because we took the time to fix the cracks in our foundation.  It’s been the hardest year that I can remember but has also been the year, and the moment, that has made me the most proud.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 16: Woops, I Skipped One

So, I didn’t post yesterday and that’s because I thought yesterday’s topic was absurd.  The timeline of my day?  I woke-up, took the kids to daycare, went to work, picked the kids up from daycare, went home, met a friend for coffee, went home, and went to bed.  Interesting, right?  Not really.
On to today’s post: My Bucket List

And here’s the thing about today’s topic.  I don’t have a bucket list.  There are things I would like to do in my lifetime, sure, but none of them involve skydiving, climbing Mount Everest or living in Bora Bora for a year.  My plans are much more logical and achievable.  Here they are:
·         Live mortgage free.  We plan to have our mortgage paid off completely before we retire.  Totally do-able.

·         Travel this amazing country with the kids.  I would like to rent a Volkswagen Bus (preferrably one that looks like the Mystery Machine!), start driving west, take our time, experiencing everything that each Province has to offer.  After we visit Victoria, we hop on a plane and fly to Newfoundland where we rent another vehicle (maybe a convertible this time?) and slowly make our way back to Ontario.  Money and time are clearly no obstacles for this holiday.

·         Work from home.  I like working.  I like earning a salary.  I really do not like having to go into an office for eight hours, five days a week.  I think people should be paid for their productivity, not for the hours they log. 

·         Pay for our kids’ post-secondary education, (should they choose to go).  I think it’s important for kids to go away to school.  It’s the in-between stage of living with your parents and being totally self-sufficient.  We don’t plan to pay for everything but, since we have at least another twelve years to think about it, we haven’t exactly ironed out the details of who will pay for what.  I’m organized and efficient, but not that organized and efficient.
I think that’s about it.  There are other things, like taking on one major house project or going on one family vacation every year, having a night or two away with my husband every once in a while and becoming so organized that I plan all our meals and grocery shop according to those meal plans.  I’m not sure I would categorize them as “bucket list material”, but they're my life plans nonetheless. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 14: I WON THE LOTTERY! Oh, wait. I didn't play.

This is an easy one.  If I won the lottery, I would pay off mortgages.  I’d be paying mortgages out the wazoo.  We would start with our own, and then we would pay off our parents’ mortgages, then our siblings’, and then a few friends’ as well.  The rest would be invested and we would pay ourselves enough every month to live, to shop and to travel.  If it was so much money that I didn’t have to work, I would quit my job in a second, (don’t worry co-workers, I’d leave a pretty significant donation in my place).

In the meantime, my family, friends and I will just have to keep dreaming and saying good-bye to those mortgage payments every time they leave our bank accounts.  The shopping and the traveling can only be done after we save enough money to do so, and my work and other charitable organizations will receive only the donations that we can afford to give right now.  Like plain old, everyday people. 
Come to think of it, if I hope to win the lottery one day I should probably start playing it.  Right?    

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 13: My Earliest Memory (and how it has affected my parenting)

I can remember being in kindergarten.  I can still see the classroom itself.  It was huge, but then I was four years old and I’m sure everything was big through my eyes.  I remember playing at the water station and just being so content there.  I was likely doing something that I shouldn’t have been though, because the teacher started to yell at me (it was 1980) and then made me go sit in the corner.  I still remember feeling so scared because I was being yelled at and so sad because I really wanted to play in the water.

It’s funny that this happens to be the challenge for today, because this memory has been popping up in my thoughts lately.  For the first time, I can remember being my kids’ ages.  I can really have a genuine empathy with how incredibly big the world is to them, how loud and scary a yell is, and how unsettling a roller coaster of uncontrollable emotions can be.
All of this helps.  It helps me to guide them through this stage of their lives rather than simply react to it.  They’re just little people discovering the giant world around them and it’s my job to make it less scary and more encouraging, as I help them navigate their way through it.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 12: My Fridge (Yup, you read that correctly)

This challenge is getting a bit ridiculous.  What’s inside my fridge?  Really?!  Please feel free to stop reading here.  If, however, you are super bored (or just really nosey) please continue.  Just don’t judge me on the content.  I’m participating in a blog challenge, remember?

Here it is in all its glory: my fridge.
You’ll see the regular fridge door stuff: salad dressings, vinegars, mustards, Franks Hot Sauce.  We keep the crisper drawers full of kale, parsley and cilantro (for hubby’s morning smoothies), as well as onions, broccoli and asparagus.  You’ll find the yogurt, apple sauce and dips on the bottom shelf.  A container with washed lettuce and cucumber for a quick salad is on the middle shelf along with soda water, coconut water and pre-made breakfast jars.  On the top shelf is where you’ll find your water, cow’s milk, almond milk and cranberry juice.

Oh, and do you see what else is on the top shelf?  The orange and blue bags?  They’re our lunches for tomorrow all ready to go!  Oh yeah, someone’s got it together today. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 11: These Are a Few (make that 15) of my Favourite Things

1.      Coffee.  I love it.  It’s no accident that it’s number one on this list.  That being said, I only enjoy two cups of joe in the morning and then not again for the rest of the day.  I like it best when I make it at home and drink it out of one of my two favourite mugs.  If I have to pick my coffee up at a drive-thru window, I will take coffee from McDonalds over Tim Horton’s any day.  What?!  The Hamiltonian doesn’t like Tim Horton’s coffee?!!  Nope.  It tastes like burning.
2.      Clean laundry.  And when I say clean laundry, I mean laundry that has been washed, dried, folded and put away.  It rarely happens all at once in my house.  We’re usually picking clothes from a clean pile on the dresser or a hamper.  By the time we put it all away, there are normally enough piles of dirty clothes to pick up and throw in the washing machine again.  On the rare occasion that the laundry is put away on the same day that it’s washed, it’s my favourite.

3.      All things mini.  Mini-ketchup, mini-Vaseline, mini-hot sauce.  Everything is just so much cuter when it’s mini.
4.      Clean sheet day.  Is there anything better than climbing into crisp, clean sheets?!  The answer is no.  No, there really isn’t.

5.      Sleeping in.  My husband works shifts so as far as weekends go, he’s home every other.  I work Monday to Friday, so I’m home every weekend.  That means that there are two mornings every other week with both he and I home.  Sadly, it means one sleep-in per parent every two weeks.  It’s not the greatest ratio of sleep-ins to early rises, especially when our kids normally wake up between 6-6:30am.  On those glorious mornings that I do have the luxury of sleeping, I soak it up for as long as I can.  Even if I can’t sleep past 8am, I’ll stay cozy under the covers and read for at least an hour more.

6.      New Chucks.  I bought my first pair of Converse All-Stars 22 years ago and have loved every new pair since.  The white rubber toe looking so white and fresh.  I try to keep them clean for as long as I can, which is way easier now than when I was a kid.

7.      The Christmas season.  It’s just such an amazing time of year.  Making time to see everyone that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like throughout the year is great.  The smells of the season, the decorations, the music, the magic and excitement of Santa Claus.  Our family was introduced to Tiny, our Elf on the Shelf last year.  Finding his tricky hiding spots every morning made the month of December even more fun.  
8.      Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  I can’t be trusted with any around me.  I will eat them.  All of them.

9.      Long baths.  I saw a relaxing bath post on Pinterest not too long ago with a ½ cup Epsom salts, a ½ cup baking soda and 10 drops off essential lavender oil.  It’s the most glorious of baths I have ever soaked in.  Not only does it feel and smell great while I’m in it, once I get out my skin feels soft and smooth and I’m so relaxed that I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  You should definitely try it.

10.  Raspberry fingers.  My kids eat their raspberries like this EVERY TIME and I love it.
11.  Sitting on my front porch.  It’s where I like to drink my coffee in the morning and my water at night.  It’s so much better than sitting in our backyard for some reason.  It’s often times where you’ll find me when I’m looking to escape my kids for a few minutes during the day.

12.  Taking my lunch to work.  It’s a new thing for me and something I wish I’d been doing all along.  I find that I’m eating way healthier than when I was buying my lunch every day and the cost savings alone makes it so worth the trouble of fixing something the night before.

13.  Videos of people falling.  It’s true that I’ve been called sinister due to my love of watching people hurt themselves but come on.  I mean, really.  Tell me you can watch this video and not laugh until you cry.  I can’t.
14.  This:
I love that I had a problem today that I took to Twitter (fruit-flies!) and within a couple of minutes had been offered a solution to get rid of them naturally: apple cider vinegar in a bowl covered in saran wrap with little fork-holes poked in it.  The teensy little buggers took to it right away.  Can’t wait to see what carnage the morning brings!

15.  These nerds.  They’re my most favourite things of all time.


Blog Challenge Days 9 and 10: Woopsie Daisy

So, I missed a couple days.  Not the end of the world, right?  I missed them for good reasons, if that makes it better.  Friday (day 9) was the second of two days off work this week and I wanted to give my kids 100% of my attention.  That meant no computer for me.  I do realize this left lots of time for me to post something once I put the kids to bed…I’m not sure what happened there, actually.  I was probably crocheting in this sweet new t-shirt that finally arrived that day.
Okay, here’s the post:
Blog Challenge Day 9: My Worst Habits
1.      Cracking my knuckles.  I’ve done it for as long as I can remember.  When I was a little girl my mom used to tell me that if I kept cracking them, my knuckles would get so big that “no boy could fit a ring on my finger”.  Well, that didn’t happen.  I’d like to stop but it’s one of those things that I don’t even think about until someone else is grossed out and brings it to my attention. 

2.      Scratching.  I have some eczema spots and I’m constantly scratching them.  I know, another really gross habit.  I can’t help it.
Now that you know two rather unpleasant things about me, I’ll stop.  I’m okay with these bad habits.  It could really be way worse.

I missed posting on Saturday (day 10) because I was in Niagara-on-the-Lake with friends all day, riding our bikes through the vineyards.  After all those kilometers on the bike, wine tastings at three different wineries followed up by a delicious dinner (and more wine), I was ready for bed as soon as we got home.  It was pretty much a perfect day.
Blog Challenge Day 10: My Best Physical Feature
I didn’t want to answer this question myself so I went to the expert: my husband.  Here is what he had to say about it:
Isn’t he great?  I love him.

Well, I just checked out the blog challenge for today and it’s another giant list of something or other.  I’m going to have to give myself some time to think about that.  I’ll post day 11 by the end of the day today.  I promise!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 8: A Lady's Handbag is Private, Don't You Know

No one’s ever accused me of being a lady, though and a challenge is a challenge, even if it’s a silly blog challenge that is really starting to get on your nerves.  But I digress.
Here are the contents of my handbag (although I call it a purse):

·         Notebook from work

·         Pen

·        Receipt from soccer registration that has been sitting in my purse since April.  It really needs to go into my “2013 Taxes” folder.*

·         Wallet

·         Sunglasses (with case)

·         Burt’s Bees Chapstick

·         Lip gloss

·         Lipstick

·         Mirror compact thingy

·         Business cards

·         Hand moisturizer

·         Lavender essential oil

·         My Little Pony

·         A dinosaur (a Parasaurolophus to be exact)

·         Velma

·         Hair ties

There you go, Nosy Nelly.  Now you know the contents of my purse.
*You would think that after having the receipt out of my purse and a mere few steps from my “2013 Taxes” folder I would finally have filed it where it belongs.  Nope, not me, I put it back in my purse.  Duh.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Blog Challenge Day 7: Pet Hates

Pet hates?  As in, things I hate about my pet?  That’s easy.  He starts meowing at 5am and continues to do so until the whole family is awake.  He doesn’t want food, he doesn’t want to be outside, he just wants us all to be out of bed and that’s really annoying.  He also has a knack for sitting so close to me while I’m lying down that he’s practically giving me a little brown kiss on the face, if you know what I mean.  I really, really hate that.
Good thing he’s so handsome.
Now, pet peeves?  I might have a few of those. You weren't surprised, were you?

·        Bad drivers.  They’re everywhere, on every street, every day. 
·        Bad cyclers.  I live in a city with a lot of one-way streets.  I love them, a lot of people hate them, and that’s a whole other post on its own.  My point is, I see people EVERY DAY riding their bikes the wrong way on major one-way streets.  It’s dangerous and it’s stupid.
·        Bad pedestrians.  It makes me so angry when I see people walking against red lights.  Especially when it’s on a busy street and they’re pushing a baby stroller.  I see this more often than I should.
·        Listening to people chug their hot drinks.  Disgusting.
What are your pet peeves?  And anything you hate about your pet?  Come on, there’s got to be something…