Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Reads: Sofia the First - Holiday in Enchancia

My daughters are HUGE Sofia the First fans so the second I saw there was a holiday book, I knew it would need to be on the roster for this year!

From Amazon:
A snowstorm prevents King Roland from returning home in time for the holidays. Sofia leads her family on a brave expedition to find him, and shows Amber that spending the holiday with loved ones is better than any present. This beautifully illustrated hardcover jacketed picture book is perfect for the holidays, and includes a special appearance by Princess Aurora!

The story is a really simple one:  The holiday is upon them and the dad goes missing.  Because it's a family time, they must find him and they decide to go together.  In true Disney fashion - they find him by listening to the animals.

The girlies really enjoyed - I knew they would, Sofia is their favourite character this year.  I think they were a bit confused about why the holiday was called Wassailia in the book, but they understood the gist of it being a special time.  I liked the lesson in giving that it had when Sofia chose to give her gifts to the children of the Woodsman who had helped the king.  The girlies thought it was very nice that she would do that.

There are no religious undertones to the book, simply messages of tradition and togetherness.  It fits well with the values we have tried to instil in our small family.

After reading the book, the girls were interested in looking at the pictures again for about 4 minutes and then lost interest.  I will probably read it to them a few more times through the holidays but I am not sure it is in the running for favourite book.  The first person dialogue felt awkward in a children's book like this and I almost wonder if it might not have had more impact written in third person.

All in all - if you have a little Sofia fan in the family, this might make a nice holiday treat for them, but find it for as low of a price as possible (I think had the cheapest price so I bought ours there) as I think it is a little steep at over $10 - even if it IS a hardcover.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The 3rd Annual Holiday Book Roundup

Wow - I can't believe I am on my third year of doing this!  Starting tomorrow, my Friday Reads until Christmas will be kid's holiday books (Though Tina did just lend me a couple holiday books for adults that I may sprinkle in as I finish them).  I had kind of hoped to be able to include some video reviews by my girlies, but when we attempted to record something for the first book we read together it just wasn't going to work out this year.  They are not quite at the age where they will sit still long enough and serious enough to record anything...maybe next year or the year after.

So, a sneak peek of what's ahead:

I chose the books based on favourite authors from my own childhood and characters/themes that my children enjoy now.
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
  • Sofia the First: Holiday in Enchancia
  • Finding Christmas by Robert Munsch
  • The Berenstain Bears and The Joy of Giving by Jan & Mike Berenstain
  • Katie the Candy Cane Fairy by Tim Bugbird
And, all of the books I've reviewed in past years, for easy reference - in case you are looking for holiday books for kids on your gift list this year.  They are all fairly easy to find, especially online.

2012 Books
The Little Christmas Tree by Dugald Steer
Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner
A Letter to Santa by Gaby Goldsack
The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda A. Bell

2011 Books 
The Night Before Christmas: A Bedtime Shadow Book
That's Not My Santa/Snowman/Reindeer (Holiday Series - Usbourne)
Merry Christmas (A Look and Find book)
Letters From Father Christmas - JRR Tolkien

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Black Friday Sale at Chick'd

Hey guys!  As you know, I am proud to be an ambassador for Chick'd Apparel* - a Canadian, eco friendly athletic apparel company (Trust me - that's a rare combo).

And I wanted to tell you about the amazing sale they are having for Black Friday!!!  And it starts tomorrow!

EVERYTHING is going to be $30 a piece for 48 hours.  November 28-29!  I know I plan to stock up and I hope you will too!  I love their clothing and this is a great opportunity to try some of it for a really great price!

Go!  Shop!  Treat yourself and pick up a few holiday gifts!

* I am an ambassador for the company but was not required to blog about this promotion.  I truly love their clothing and thought you might enjoy a chance to save big!  My coupon code will not work during this sale, but the price is way lower than you'd pay with the code anyway!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Shoulda Been, Streaking Practice and Starting Fresh

Wow - I am losing my touch.  Not only did I fail to blog about my long run yesterday...I forgot to even download my Garmin!

Yesterday, I met up with Tina at Eau Claire for 10k.  I had woken up with a migraine that I only seemed to barely be able to control for an hour or two at a time so I was feeling rather like crap.  But I had skipped my long run last weekend and felt like I needed to get some miles in.

Honestly, neither of us were feeling it.  I think if either of us had mentioned coffee, we would have both abandoned ship and drowned our sorrows in lattes.   These are the faces of two people who don't really want to be there...

But look at how well we were coordinated with our shoes.  I didn't notice it until after I downloaded the pics.

We knew there were path closures for flood rehab to the west but we weren't sure exactly where so we decided we would head east to the zoo, cross the river and then come back to 10 street and then back to Eau Claire.  It was fairly smooth sailing until we got to Inglewood and then there was a path closure where they are building the new bridge.  Nothing a quick detour won't fix and then we were back on the path again.

Unfortunately, after we crossed the river, we hit ice and our walk became a power walk.  By the tim ewe got to Centre Street, Tina was definitely not feeling well and then we hit the path closure and had to cross over Memorial where we were forced to walk again.  We decided that when we hit the bridge at the curling club, we'd call it a day. The river was so pretty as we crossed over.

and then we were done.

Then, I had to make a pitstop at the Running Room.  Before I met up with Tina, I saw they had those mesh shirts from Brooks on clearance and I needed to try them on and hopefully take one home.
Blurry but the shirt is super cute.
and then it was coffee time...truly the only reason I actually showed up.  and we even ran into Sophia so had an impromptu bloggy meetup right there in Good Earth.

So blurry.  I should have checked them.

Anyway - we got in 7.5k so it wasn't a total loss.   Something is always better than nothing and on a day as mild as Sunday was, well - you just have to take advantage of it when you get one of those anywhere between November and April.

And that brings us to the topic of motivation.  I am lacking it - BIG TIME!


I am in such need of a kick in the ass it isn't even funny.  I thought that registering for Hypothermic Half might do it but nope - nada.  Not even a little.

That motivated me to sign up for a holiday running streak.  Strides, a local running store, does a streak every year.  One mile a day for the month of December.

So, I signed up.  My thought is that I will run 2k each day (because I don't think in imperial except as it relates to my height and weight) and at the end of December, maybe I will have found my mojo again.  I will probably have earned myself my highest mileage month in a while as long as I can keep going.  It's 2k.  I can do that in a few minutes on a treadmill if I need to.

Today, I decided to do a test run.  On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I workout with the Kettlebelles and I wanted to see if I could maybe do the 2k before I did my strength training.  Like a warmup.  I would just head downstairs to the gym 15 mins early and get in the run.  Of course, we work out in a meeting room right at noon so 15 mins early still puts me in the prime busy time at the office gym...all of the treadmills were taken.

I almost gave up right then and I headed up to my desk to kill time until the group workout.  And then I smacked myself upside the head and said "It's nice - I can just run 1k out and 1k back and do it outside."

So then I did.

I had a weird moment where I saw this out of the corner of my eye (Have I ever mentioned that I am peripherally blind in one eye?) and thought this utility box was a sheep...can you see it?

anyway - I got it done...and in capris no less...

Not the most exciting of routes...heck - it almost looks like a backward Z as in zzzzzzz. HA!

But I got it done.

and then I put in a half hour of core work.

Today the Kettlebelles started over with Kettleworx.  This time with heavier bells.   I really love these workouts and am looking forward to seeing the results I get this time around.  Last time, I noticed serious gains in so many ways - I just need to clean up my eating and I think I will see some amazing things happen in the next 6 weeks.

Which brings me to my next ass kicker...I think I need to join another DietBet.   So I decided to start one!  Starting next week, I'll be DietBetting again.

You can totally join me for a Swift Kick to the Mojo!  $25 bet - if you lose 4% of your start weight - you win.  Winners split the pot! I hope you'll think about joining in because I seem to be hearing a resounding fart noise as everyones mojos seem to be deflating around me.   (and - even if you are already in a bet, you can always join another...totally allowed in dietbet world).  I may even revive the Mojo Jar for the occassion!

Bring on the mojo reving!

MOMday: Disney's Frozen (A Not-Quite Movie Review)

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to win four free passes to the advance screening of Disney's Frozen from Family Fun Calgary.  I'm not required to blog about it, but I figured it might be worth sharing my thoughts since it comes out this week.  I'm going to try my hardest to not spoil it.

1) The 3D Animation is INCREDIBLE!  Ok - I know, I'm an uber geek but I promise you will be impressed.

2) The two female lead characters are a teeny bit over sexualized for my liking.    The older sister transforms from this regular girl into a glittery, slinky thing in heels that is completely full of sway and wiggle and the younger one has this little dance scene where she is basically shimmying in a curtain while she talks about finding a man.   It was quite unnecessary to the story and was probably only put in there for the adults, but it is still there.

3) You will fall in love with Olaf, the snowman.  You will also fall in love with Sven, the reindeer.  You are probably already in love with them because of THIS trailer:

See.  told ya.

4)  The Mickey Mouse short that they played at the start of the screening was fantastic.  I still giggle just thinking about it.   There was something incredibly pure about a return to the feeling evoked by Walt Disney back in the 1930s about it.   I'd go back to the theatre just to watch THAT again.

5) It had villains but they weren't the extremely TERRIFYING villians that have been in so many Disney and Pixar films.  The abominable snowman thing may make you jump a bit, but he won't give your kids nightmares and the other bad guys are pretty much just bad because of politics.   Even the older sister who freezes everything isn't too terrifying.  Remember, I have 4 and a half year old twins who are scared of EVERYTHING lately.  If they haven't had nightmares about this movie, your kids probably won't either.

6) Not too long, not too short.  Has a lesson in sisterly love.  All that Disney standby stuff. It is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Snow Queen"

7) The Rock Trolls are darn cute.

8) The music isn't terribly memorable, but that has a great upside in that your kids won't be singing it over and over and over again.  Kristen Bell has an incredible voice.  I didn't realize that the other sister was Idina Menzel (I had to look it up, but she played Lea Michelle's bio mom on Glee) and if I'd had to make a guess, I would have said the singer was Kristen Chenoweth. They sounded so similar.

I think thats about it.  I say go watch it.  My kids keep asking to go back again.  Buggie says she wants to "go to the Frozen movie in the movie theatre all the time, all the time".  That's kind of a ringing endorsement.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Looking Back on 36 Resolutions

This was quite the year and, in no small part, due to my 36 resolutions list.   When I drafted is for my 36th birthday, I had no idea where it would take me.  It just seemed like a fun adventure to embark on and boy was it ever a ride!

This year, I accomplished so much.  I checked things off the list that had been on it for a long time.   While I ended up knocking a whole lot of things off of my to do list, I also had a few surprises along the way.  Either where I had to change a list item because life happened or where I had to cross something off simply because it wasn't meant to happen this year.  And I learned a lot about myself along the way.  I learned to accept when I wasn't in a place to make something happen and to acknowledge that I would need more time.

So, with that, I think it's time to tell you what this year taught me.

I challenged and succeeded with my running in the first half of the year, but found it harder to keep momentum going near the end after suffering from an injury and booking myself into too many races.  I learned that I need to take advantage of the time I have away from my kids to get my workouts in so I can devote the time I have with my kids to making their lives magical.    I learned that jumping into a new sport is exciting and you might just discover that that thing you have admired from afar can be your new love.

I learned that life usually has other plans and you need to adjust accordingly.  Your time, budget and life may shift.  New things may come up and you just need to roll with them and take the adventures for what they are.

I learned that it is easy to improve your home with just a few tweaks.

I learned that it is easy to improve the quality of your family time by just tweaking a schedule a bit to allow it and that, by trying new things together, the memories become amazing things. I learned that it is easy to keep a family active if you make it something you automatically do together.  I learned that sometimes you need to wait a little longer and become a bit more patient because your kids need to grow up a but before life can resume.

I learned that having creative outlets in my life is important, but that I should let them coexist instead of trying to master everything simultaneously. Mashing too many creative pursuits together will only spread you too thin at that intensity. Having writing, drawing and knitting on the list made it really difficult to devote time to any one of those.

I learned that there are great things that can be found when you take a leap.  That I had limited myself by putting things off.

I learned that sometimes my money is better spent somewhere else.

My advice for someone wanting to do a similar exercise?  Keep most of the items as one-off.  Quick and simple. and you'll feel like you accomplished something.   

Would I do it again?  Probably not to this extent, but it was incredible to see what I could accomplish when I put my mind to it.  It has definitely made me think about my life and what I want to accomplish.  I loved taking chances and trying new things, both alone and with my family.  I think it was an awesome way to spend a year and I feel like I am a little bit better for doing it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

36 Resolutions - The Final Update

Wow!  I can't believe it has already been a year!  It has been a wild ride to knock as many of my resolutions off this list as possible but now my 36 resolutions for the year are done. I didn't wipe the slate clean, but I certainly showed what a girl with a list is capable of.

  1. Do something interesting with my hair 
  2. Rework my home gym
  3. Tune up my bike - never did get to it....and it makes me wonder if it is worth keeping my bike if I can't make time for it AND if I don't ride it.  
  4. Take the girls to Zoolights
  5. Make amazing halloween costumes 
  6. Plan a monthly date night - Not a night, but hubby and I took my birthday off and had a whole date DAY!
  7. Volunteer at a race - DONE!  On October 27, I volunteered as a Course Marshall with Tina at the WOW Superheroes Run.  What a cold, snowy, blustery day but we still had an amazing time cheering everyone on in our superhero costumes!

  8. Go thrifting once each month - DONE!  Scores this month included some beautiful scarves and a pair of Cole Haan loafers that looked like new.  Oh - and I also managed to end up at a Value Village on my birthday and they were having a 50% off sale - like they were celebrating the fact that I was so thrifty this whole year!
  9. Learn to knit properly 
  10. Take a shopping trip to the States
  11. Invest in a perfect party dress (doesn't need to be black) - I'm calling this one done.  Though I don't have the dress yet - I have made the commitment to get one for my best friend's wedding.  Extending the timeline until spring so I can lose some weight before I shop.
  12. Get another tattoo - DONE!  On remembrance day weekend, we were in Lacombe to celebrate my parents anniversary and Dad's birthday...and I got myself an appointment at the tattoo place there. I have been wanting to get JRR Tolkien's monogram tattooed and once I had figured out where I wanted it - I knew it was time to go for it!  I LOVE it!  I'm so happy I got it done.
  13. Leave Facebook again
  14. Get an instagram poster printed 
  15. Stay at the Banff Springs Hotel  
  16. Go on an amazing hike 
  17. Take my kids camping 
  18. Re-learn how to draw and paint 
  19. Create an outdoor reading area 
  20. Plant a rose garden - still planning...BUT am holding off until next spring before I implement it.  calling this one done this year.   My promise to myself, though, is to put it in May long.  
  21. Redecorate the master bedroom and bath 
  22. Train for a specific goal race 
  23. Create an indoor reader's sanctuary Create a creative space for myself 
  24. Try to have an article published in a magazine 
  25. Try Stand-Up Paddleboarding 
  26. Go snowshoeing with hubby - DONE!  We went on my birthday after a weekend of snow accumulation - the temperature warmed up just enough to give us something fun to do on our date day on my birthday!
  27. Go ice skating with my girls
  28. Visit Ontario in the Fall - changed to: Book Tropical Family Getaway
  29. Self Publish One Book
  30. Run a 2:15 Half
  31. Run a sub-60min 10k 
  32. Run a Sub-30min 5k
  33. Run a continuous 10k 
  34. Run the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World 
  35. Complete a home yoga stretching challenge - Nope.  This one I couldn't force myself to do.  I did do about one week of a 21 day challenge early on in the year, but I just don't like it enough to stick with it.
  36. Complete 8 weeks of Rip:60 changed to Complete 6 Weeks of Kettleworx - Almost done.  This is week 6.  Friday will be the last workout.  AND - I love this series so much that me and the Kettlebelles plan to do another 6 weeks perhaps with heavier kettlebells.
So, not too bad at all. Only 4 things out of the 36 ended up not being done. I think I will end this post here and then write another post with the things I learned in this exercise.  Stay tuned.  I'll hopefully get it up here in the next couple of days!

Getting Crafty: Simple Activity-Based Holiday Countdown

We haven't had an advent calendar in our house for a few years now, since my old one self-destructed in storage one year.   But this year is different.  This year, my girls understand that Christmas comes after momma's birthday and we needed a way for them to countdown to the day (and to keep my ears from falling off from hearing "is it here yet?" 400 times a day).

I love the idea of the countdown chain that I have seen a lot of other bloggers do to help their kids get excited about family vacations, so I knew that is the direction I was going to take...I just wanted it to be something reusable.  So here's what I did.

Materials needed:

  • 4 - sheets of fun foam in holiday colours - cut into 25 strips
  • 1 - piece of cardboard 8X10
  • Self-adhesive velcro dots
  • printer paper
  • glue/glue dots/scrapbooking adhesive
  • inexpensive 8x10 picture frame
  • marker, glitter, paint, washi tape - whatever you have on hand for decorating.

Pretty much all of the supplies I used came from Dollar Tree

How to:

Cut the foam sheets into strips

Attach the velcro dots.

I found it easiest if I stuck the velcro together, stuck the combination to one end of a foam strip and then created a loop with the strip until it overlapped the velcro and press together.

Once you have 25 rings made, link them together to ensure you have the colour order in place.

Using the marker - number them from 1 -24.  You will have one ring without a number on it that will be the base ring to attach it to the frame.

Now, you can print the activity list

Here is what our list looked like, but you may want to modify it so it works with the activities that are available where you live.  Yes - the Read a new holiday story is on there 3 times, but that is because I review new kids books every week in December for my Holiday Book Roundup and I buy new books each year especially for it.

  • Decorate the house and setup the tree 
  • Go to Zoolights as a family 
  • Go to Heritage Park Christmas
  • Drop off gifts for Santa’s Anonymous
  • Read a new holiday story
  • Read a new holiday story
  • Read a new holiday story
  • Have hot cocoa
  • Deliver gifts to the neighbours
  • Make & decorate holiday cookies
  • Make a craft with Mom 
  • Write a letter to Santa 
  • Visit Santa today
  • Go sledding as a family
  • Go ice skating as a family
  • Have a family Christmas movie night with treats 
  • Wrap gifts for the dayhome kids
  • Visit Festival of Lights in Airdrie
  • Watch Elf
  • Christmas Movie Marathon!!!
  • Mail our Christmas cards
  • Drive around to look at holiday lights
  • Christmas music dance party!
  • Go to the coffee store and buy drinks for people behind us.

Cut each item out into strips.

Glue one strip inside each ring using whatever adhesive you've chosen.  I used glue tape because it was easiest and I figured it would be easiest to remove for future years.

The trickiest part here is making sure you have the ones that need to be done on a weekend on the right date.   Just make sure you have a calender nearby.

Now comes the fun part - decorating up the frame.

Decorate the cardboard however you want - I chose to make a frame on a piece of paper in Washi tape and then adding the words "Days Til Christmas" in marker. Make sure you leave space at the bottom to accommodate the chain.  I tripled up the border on the bottom to make sure I kept the room

Once it is dry and ready - put it inside the frame.

Using another velcro dot, centre it at the bottom of the frame and attach the base chain to it.

Hang it on the wall and VOILA!  Instant and fun countdown chain for Christmas!

Now, everyday leading up to the big day, we can take down one ring and do the activity listed.  I can hardly wait to see what the girlies think once we start doing it!

Perhaps the nicest part is that when all is said and done, it will all lay flat for storage - just undo the rings and put them inside of an envelope attached to the back of the frame.  Easy peasy!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Little Birthday Snowshoeing

Happy birthday to me.  Welcome to 37!

Today, hubby and I both took the day off to have a little date day for my birthday.  got to do a little thrifting (and Value had a 50% off sale, like they knew it was my bday) and then, the plan was to head out to Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area to break in the two pairs of snowshoes I got for my birthday.  A pair for me and a pair for hubby.  See what I did there? Totally snuck a new winter sport into our family ;)

We actually got a pretty good deal on a couple of pairs.  Costco has had these packages for a few years now where you get a pair of snowshoes, 2 poles and a carry bag for around $80.

Luckily, Mother Nature gave us a pretty nasty weekend but let it be ideal conditions for snowshoeing today by dumping a foot of snow on the ground and letting it warm up enough to make it bearable to trudge through.

That, and copious amounts of coffee, helped to make up for the lack of sleep the girlies gave us last night.

So, where was I?  Oh yeah - we headed out to the conservation area around noon, when the thermometer finally hit -9C.

Don't my new, super warm winter boots make me look more Canadian? :P  This is the first pair of winter boots I've owned in about 20 years.  But a total necessity for an active winter.

We had a little snag with hubby's bindings, but eventually got them on him too

Being a weekday, it was deserted out here.  Just us, a few deer and a herd of was AWESOME!

We did about a 5k loop.  I totally forgot my Garmin at home and attempting to use Nike + in the cold caused my iPhone battery to go from full to zip in 1k.  No joke.   So I have no stats, but we figure it took around an hour and a half including stops for hubby and his camera.  My dead phone ensured I got very few.

I also got a heck of a workout.  Every time I stopped, my heart was pounding and I was needing to catch my breath!  Holy hannah!  And I like to think I'm in shape!  Either that, or I have lost a heck of a lot of fitness in the last month. :(

Luckily, hubby got more.

This one was of us right after we braved the herd of cows.  What is it with me and black cows when I am adventuring on trails?

Overall, we managed to stay fairly warm out there.  It wasn't cold util the last km when we were at the mountain lookout way up on the hill.  Other than that, it was perfect weather for it.  A little bit more snow and it would be perfect snowshoeing!  The conservation area is one of those little unknown gems that is barely outside the city without needing to drive out to Kananaskis.

And for a first time snowshoeing?  We had so much fun!  I can't wait to go again.   and we managed to find little snowshoes for the smidgens for Christmas so they are sure to be excited to be able to join us.

And with that, I knock another thing off my resolution list and in the nick of time since the deadline is today!  I'll be back tomorrow with my last update to the list :)