Monday, 15 December 2014

Mia and Alexa started skating lessons 5 weeks ago. Being Canadian, starting skating lessons at nearly 4 years old is late. Like, way way late. Most kids are on skates before their second birthday and many kids the same age as my girls are already on hockey teams. I happened to be married to one of the rare Canadian men who isn't all that interested in playing or watching hockey. It's just not his thing. I was very much into figure skating when I was a kid and even played on a girls hockey team but as an adult (who doesn't enjoy being outdoors in the winter) I haven't skated much. Without much interest in hockey, we we weren't in a rush to get the girls on skates until recently.  At the first lesson, Mia took to skating instantly whereas Alexa was uninterested. The good part about starting lessons at 4 years old was the girls were very independent and were able to get right on the ice and learn. Mia was skating right there at the first lesson. Alexa's interest finally kicked in this past week at the 5th lesson. After weeks of just sitting on the ice, she got up and was skating circles around everyone. Watching the two of them skating on the ice was just too cute.

Yesterday morning we decided it would be fun to go out on our first family skate. The only problem was the weather was warm and we couldn't find any open outdoor rinks (NOT that I'm complaining about a stretch of good weather!!!!). Our town square has a new outdoor synthetic ice rink, which is where we ended up when we could not find actual ice. It was so much fun. Nobody else was there so the four of us got to skate on our own. The synthetic ice was much more forgiving than actual ice to the girls got to get in lots of practice and built up their confidence even more. And with the warm weather, it was a lovely experience for everyone.

Panorama shot of my girls on the ice

Skating is one of three recreational activities which the girls have participated in this Fall -- the others being ballet and gymnastics. We are going to continue with these three after the holiday break too. Come Spring, we will swap swimming for skating and we may start piano lessons too. There are just so many activities and we can't do them all. I would love for the girls to get back into art class, to learn a second language (French or Italian) or to learn martial arts. There's a fine balance between exposing them to many different things and over scheduling them. I'm constantly trying to find that balance.

What Makes You Different

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

I stumbled on this cute print at Indigo and immediately knew it would be a great addition to Mia and Alexa's room. It's so important to me that we celebrate their individuality. I bought it, framed it and hung it immediately. Winning!

This past weekend, we celebrated Mia and Alexa's 4th birthday (a little early) with a Nutcracker themed ballet birthday party. The merging of ballet with Christmas and the Nutcracker seemed perfect, and it was an easy theme to pull together. The party was held at the girls' dance school with the first hour led by two dance instructors and the second hour for food, fun and cake. I actually booked this party back in May which left me with a lot of time to plan the details. In the end, it was a lovely party surrounded by so many wonderful friends!

My Sugar Plum Fairies

For the invitations and decor, I found a Nutcracker themed pdf party package on Etsy which I ordered and personalized. I used it to make the invitations, banners, cupcake toppers, loot bag tags, water bottle tags and more.


Tulle banner

Tulle everywhere

I bought a role of pink tulle and used it on pretty much anything and everything, including  a tutu cupcake stand. I'm not particularly crafty and I wasn't sure I could pull-off my own cupcake stand. When I saw an idea for a no sew tutu cupcake stand on Pinterest, I was thrilled. It was actually super easy to make. The Target dollar bins came through for me when, in mid-summer, they had wands and (foam) swords. I thought these would make for great accessories. I added Nutcracker themed tags -- sugar plum fairies for the girls and nutcrackers for the boys -- and each child got one to use to dance with and the play with. The swords were especially popular with the boys.

Tutu cupcake stand, Nutcracker swords and Sugar Plum Fairy wands

My friend Karen always raves about someone she knows who makes custom chocolate. Around Thanksgiving, Karen showed me a Thanksgiving-themed chocolate centrepiece which she had ordered and I was sold. I sent the invitation to the lady so she could replicate the Nutcracker theme, and I was so impressed by her work. These were beautiful centrepieces and I later handed out the chocolate lollipops as part of the loot bags.

Chocolate centrepiece


For the loot bags, I bought ballet themed DVDs for all of the girls around the same age as my girls then I got various other age/gender appropriate DVDs for the older girls, the younger girls, the boys and the babies. I included a candy cane in the bag and topped it off with the loot bag tag and some tulle. I wrote out each child's name on the tag since the DVDs were child specific. I also included the Nutcracker themed chocolate lollipops, and had the children take home the sugar plum fair wands and Nutcracker swords.

Loot bag

Loot bag tag

I love party planning but (being the "stress-case" that I am) the process usually leaves me feeling anxious and nervous about whether or not everything will come together. It made me happy for the party to be a success and to watch everybody have a good time, and especially to watch my girls have fun as they were surrounded by love, generosity and good wishes. They will officially turn four years old just after Christmas and we will celebrate again with family. I mean, it's four years later and I still cannot get over the joy in being their mother and having them in our lives. I just feel so lucky to have them and experience these blessings with them.

This is the best picture of the four of us at the party LOL

Those smiling faces are my everything


More on my party planning obsessions

Painting Christmas Ornaments

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Last week, I took the girls to paint ornaments for our Christmas tree. We have done this every year since Mia and Alexa were born, making this year number four and the first time I can truly say the girls did all of the painting themselves with no input, guidance or help from me. Their artwork reveals a lot about their personalities. Alexa is a free spirit and likes to mix and blend colours. Mia prefers to plan out and execute her vision. Both perfect in their own way.

These are the ornaments they have painted over the years. As I said, I had to help every year before this year. I love this tradition and will keep taking them to paint ornaments so long as they are willing. The ornaments are hung on our tree, which is a 10 foot Fraser Fir from Quebec that we got at a Christmas tree farm over the weekend.

While at the pottery place, I painted an Olaf themed plate.

22 days to go until the big day and 25 days until my girls turn 4. It really is the most wonderful time of year!

My Fave Black Friday Deal

Saturday, 29 November 2014

As a lover of all things related to US retailers, I'm pretty happy about Black Friday migrating up here to Canada-land. Why shouldn't we save too? My favourite Black Friday sale is at Tea Collection. I absolutely love the quality and bright colours of their dresses but they are pricey and hard to find in the Canadian market. Even though Tea now ships to Canada, I reserve my purchases for when I'm in the States like my Nordstrom sale trips and our annual trips to see the grandparents in Florida in order to score better deals.... and of course, Black Friday when Tea always offers a great sale. With my wonderful in-laws currently in Florida, I was giddy in taking advantage of the online Black Friday sale and buying the girls Tea dresses for just $17 per dress. This sale ends today, so if you love Tea like me or are interested in checking it out then NOW is the time.

As of right now, I'm 95% done my Christmas shopping!!!! I'd say I did about half my shopping online and the other half at brick-and-mortor shops. There are just a few of the harder-to-buy-for gifts left on my list and -- while I would hope to be officially done sooner rather than later -- I think my shopping efforts will be on hold this week as I prep for the girls 4th birthday party next weekend.

How is your Christmas shopping going? To my American friends, make me jealous with tales of your Black Friday adventures!!!!!!

Really Really Really

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

It's been a while since I did a post about the funny things Mia and Alexa say. This now extends beyond just funny pronunciations and grammar mistakes, and extends into their thought processes and the things about which they are curious. We have a lot of those endless "why" conversations like you see in the movies when a precocious child continually asks an adult "why" about some new situation or concept and the adult grows increasingly flustered in how to handle the innocence of childlike curiosity. One of these situations that sticks out in my mind was when my mom and I took the girls to see the movie Big Hero 6. The plot was complicated for the girls which resulted in them loudly asking "why" about a million times during the movie.

Another new thing is when they compete about something by repeatedly adding the phrase "a lot" or the word "really" into a sentence. For example, one will say "I really really really really really like cookies" and then the other will try to outdo her sister by saying "I really really really really really really like cookies". This can go on for a while. Mia likes to say "alright alright alright" and "okay okay okay" too which is so random and funny. Making up silly nicknames is also popular right now. Dado for daddy. Stellie for Stella (my brother's dog). Sweety pershmeety and deedee beneenee. They also come up with so many creative names for their dolls and toys. They name a lot of things Salla (not sure where that came from). They told me they both want to grow up and have a baby girl and these girls will be named Sara (by Alexa) and Lemon (by Mia).

Of course, now that they spend 6 hours a day at school there are all kinds of new phrases that have made their way into our house many of which I wish they would never have learned. They like poop and fart jokes now. In particular, Alexa thinks it's hilarious to say "you're a pain in the butt". They are learning to tell jokes now too but they don't completely understand the concept of there being a punchline at the end of the joke.

Mia started talking about a giant mouse that comes to visit her when she sleeps. I would be alarmed if we were not really into the Nutcracker these days. The girls' upcoming 4th birthday party is Nutcracker ballet themed (more to come on that in a future post) and they are loving the Barbie movie version of the Nutcrackers, which is all to say I think the idea of the mouse is a byproduct of that. Once Mia started this, Alexa caught on and she often talks about the giant mouse visiting in her sleep. They say he's scary and they see his shadow on the wall in their room at night. Their imaginations run wild!

Some of the crafting I'm doing for the Nutcracker ballet party

Acti-fried Chicken Wings

Monday, 24 November 2014

We've had a Tfal Actifry for a few years now and I usually use it to make French fries. The beauty of this device is things come out tasting as good as if they had been fried except it uses little to no oil. I take a bag of frozen French fries, add them to the Actifry with less than a tablespoon of oil, and the fries come out tasting so delicious (and much crispier than if they had been baked).

I recently heard that others like to use the Actifry to make chicken wings. Now, chicken wings are not something we normally eat because they are fried, greasy and so unhealthy. I was intrigued by the idea of making a healthier version in the Actifry. I found this recipe via Pinterest and decided to try it when we had friends over the other night. It was so risky to try something new with guests though, right? Luckily, these were absolutely delicious. Chicken wings are never the healthiest of options but with no breading, no frying and no carbs, this Actifry chicken wings recipe is most definitely a better alternative. I will be making these again.

They were really simple to make -- I mixed the wings with salt, pepper, a package of powdered ranch mix, dried garlic and tons of parmesan cheese. I put them in the Actifry with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and let them cook for 45 minutes. I served the wings with a garlic dipping sauce. Easy and delicious. The full recipe is here.

Teacher Gift in a Jar

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Before Halloween, I came across cute Christmas jars in the dollar bins at Target. I wasn't quite sure what I'd do with them but I bought four jars anyway.  Knowing the cutest Christmas stuff gets snapped up pretty quickly, I didn't hesitate. Then a friend send me this link and my mind starting swirling with ideas. Since I've decided to give the girls' teachers gift cards for Christmas, I thought it would be a cute idea to bury the gift cards in the jars concealed by candy.

All it took was adding the gift card and candy into each jar. To make sure the teachers don't overlook the gift cards, I added a little sticker inside.

On a twin-specific note.... I don't know what the protocol is for gifting teachers with twins. To me, it makes the most sense to take the amount I was willing to spend and double it since I have two children. The girls have two teachers in their class so I got a gift card in double the amount for each teacher. I'm also going to get smaller gifts for the music teacher, support staff and crossing guard. I'd love to hear what you do for your kids' teachers especially if you have twins.

The Best Way To Spread Christmas Cheer

Thursday, 20 November 2014

It's finally time to bust out the Christmas decorations! For the most part, our house looks the same as it did last year with the addition of a few things here and there.

Quoting the movie Elf

Twinkle Noel sign

The one thing that I changed was the girls' tree. Last year, they had a small purple tabletop tree which displayed all of their favourite ornaments. And by favourite, I mean mostly Disney inspired ornaments. Their collection has grown so much over the past four years that I decided to decorate a bigger tree for them in their room with just their ornaments. This tree is about a million years old from back when I lived alone in a condo in downtown Toronto. Now, I put it in the girls room and decorated it with their Disney ornaments. I got everything ready today and I'm going to surprise them when they get home from school. I know they will love it!

Disney inspired tree

From our trip to Disney World in January 

All of the princesses are represented
(I'm still looking for Aurora and Maleficent and maybe some Star Wars characters too LOL)

I picked up these soft dolls at Target because I thought they resembled the girls

We get a real tree for our official family tree. It's still a bit early for that though yet... maybe by next weekend we will head up to a Christmas tree farm for that.

First Snowfall and First Santa

Monday, 17 November 2014

Well, hello there! It's been a while since I blogged. It's been for no particular reason other than life being busy. It seems like we missed Fall entirely over here because we already had our first official snowfall and started full blown Christmas activities this past weekend. The girls had a great time at the Santa Claus Parade and riding a local Santa Train. They are old enough to really enjoy the festivities and are asking funny questions like "why does Santa come" and "how does he get to all of the houses". It's such a joy to experience these things with them.

With their 4th birthday party coming up, still about 70% of Christmas shopping to be done and more snow in the forecast, it's going to be a busy few weeks. No complaints though, I love this time of year!