Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Taylors

Merry Christmas in Christmas pyjamas from the Taylors!

Well, hello friends and family (and blog stalkers),

As promised to those of you who have received our Christmas cards already, here is our family newsletter in blog-post/email form. I can hardly believe it's the end of 2012 already. I feel like I barely started writing it down right and soon I'm going to have to switch to 2013!

Swimming at Commonwealth
It has been quite the year. I kicked off the year with another round of P90X, which wasn't so successful when I first started it, so I tried out 10 Minute Trainer. I didn't like that so much, but when Zoe started getting picked up from school by our friends, I was able to work P90X back into the schedule and had a much easier time of it. I didn't see a lot of numbers moving at first, but later when I made a few other changes to my diet, (including adding Oolong tea; try it!) I dropped another 10 lbs almost without effort, so I'm down about 45 lbs from when I started nearly 2 years ago. I also sang in the King's Community Choir and it was fun, but it made life very busy for me: too busy, so I didn't continue with it this fall. The Commonwealth Recreation Centre opened up in March; it's been great to take the kids swimming and to take in a few drop-in classes. It's such a great facility and it's so wonderful to have it so close!

Dan doing an open mic comedy show in Montreal
Dan has continued working on his comedy this year and he's quite good at it! He was in a few different contests and made it through to the semi-final level in most (maybe all; I can't remember) of them. He's even picked up quite a few paying gigs, which has been fun to make a little something for a hobby he enjoys. He's been well received in the "comedy community" in Edmonton, which is a fun opportunity for him to meet other people. We made a few trips for a couple of comedy competitions, one to Lethbridge in April and Calgary in May.

Isaac boxing with my grandpa
We also made a trip to Creston for the May long weekend to celebrate my grandma's 75th birthday (sorry, Grandma, now the Internet knows how old you are) and my uncle's 50th. It was lots of fun to see a good chunk of my family. We drove over the mountain for a day to visit my other grandparents and uncles in Salmo. We took the kids to the Blossom Festival parade, which they really enjoyed; Zoe especially appreciated the candy-throwing.

Simon's first stitches
The kids and I created a "Summer Bucket List" at the start of their summer holidays: a list of all the summery things we wanted to do this summer! I'm happy to say we completed the whole list! We had a great time visiting the U-pick strawberry patch, learning to ride a bike on two wheels, camping in the back yard (thanks to our neighbours who lent us a tent!), visiting the legislature grounds and splashing at the city hall wading pool. I highly recommend this to parents; it solved a lot of problems: it kept me accountable to doing fun summer things while the summer is here and once something was done once, the kids didn't beg to do it again. As an example, we kept waiting for the ice cream truck to come around and catch it; when it came, we could all excitedly go out and choose an ice cream. After we checked it off our bucket list, they never asked to do get ice cream from the ice cream truck again. It made it fun for everyone, mom & dad included! One of our summer bucket list items was to go to an outdoor swimming pool. Shortly after I'd given the 5 minute warning to Simon and Zoe, Simon ran right into a pole at the splash pad and ended up with his first set of stitches.

Zoe on her bunk at camp
I took Zoe down to Mill Creek Camp, near Pincher Creek, where my sister Alison directs the camp, for her first sleep away camp. We went down early and hung out with my sister and newest nephew,  Caedmon. Then I took the boys to visit my parents in Lethbridge for a couple days, since Zoe's camp was so short, I didn't want to drive back to Edmonton to turn around a couple of days later. We picked Zoe up from camp and then we all camped with my parents at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park for a couple days. We had a great time breaking in mom & dad's new 5th wheel! Zoe had such a good time at camp; she said how sad she was to leave and how much she missed her new friends as we were driving home. She's so excited to go again next year.

Camping with Gramma and Grampy

Though hail damaged, I
grew a zucchini the size of
my leg!
I planted my first real garden this year. I've been container gardening for a few years, but I built one raised bed at the end of last summer and two more this spring: three 4x8 raised beds. I planted strawberries, tomatoes, beans, peas, lettuce, herbs, zucchini, cucumbers, stevia, leeks, and a whole bed of carrots! It was a great year for gardening, with lots of sunshine during the day and rain at night, until the awful hail storm that ravaged the garden on my way home from the grocery store. Despite the hail, I still ended up with some edible vegetables and the desire to have a go at it again next year.

Unfortunately, the entire time I was on holidays from work, taking the kids here and there, camping and  visiting and driving, I had the worst cold of my life, which, as it turned out, was actually pneumonia (or turned into pneumonia... I'm not really sure how these things work). It was an acute case of pneumonia, apparently, but still, it sounds pretty dramatic. I ended up taking another week off work in sick time. When I was still not getting much better, they ordered some blood work and diagnosed me with mono as well. To top that off, a few weeks later, I also tested positive for strep. So, that was my summer! I was so grateful for some fantastic neighbours who looked out for our kids so much as they played with their kids while I tried to get some rest in the afternoons. Our block is fantastic!

Back to school for Zoe & Simon

Isaac showing us how old he is
The older two children started back to school in the middle of August, which is a little earlier than most kids, but their school follows a year-round schedule, meaning they get an extra week break at Thanksgiving and Easter. Our kids are still keen to get back to school, so it's a schedule that works well for us. Simon started Kindergarten and Zoe started grade two. We had our first report cards and demonstration of learning this fall: Simon is right on track with where he should be and Zoe's report card was absolutely glowing. Her teacher couldn't say enough positive things about her, how pleasant she is to have in class. We are very proud parents! Simon has been secretly learning how to read; he sometimes pretends he doesn't know how, but then he'll just read something to us, out of the blue! What a kid! Isaac turned 2 this fall and is well into the terrific twos... or at least that's what we'll call them. He's sweet and hilarious one moment and an absolute terror the next. It's a good thing he's so cute or I'm afraid he wouldn't have made it this long; one can only handle being yelled at by a toddler for so long. He's been the slowest to talk of the three children, which makes for a lot of being yelled at because even though he doesn't talk much, it doesn't mean he's without an opinion! More recently he's been taking bigger strides with adding words to his vocabulary. He can recognize and say most of his letters and numbers, which is kind of fun, but I wish he'd focus more on saying the things he wants and use those words instead of the yelling and grunting.

The two of us at a vineyard in Quebec
Dan and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in July and October, not because we have two anniversaries, but because our anniversary is actually in July and we took a celebratory trip in October. In July, we went out to Taste of Edmonton (a festival with sampling of foods from all over the city) and discovered that Edmonton tastes delicious! Then we took a trip in October to Montreal! Dan's parents came out to watch the kids for us, while we flew to Montreal and took in the city for a few days around Thanksgiving. We visited with some friends in the Eastern townships, toured a winery, purchased a piece of functional art, ate some fantastic food and just spent a lot of time together. It's amazing how much you can do in a day with just 2 adults! Everything takes so much longer with kids.

Salted Caramel Cupcake
This fall, I kick started my business by marketing a little more, mostly at my workplace, since I'm pretty confident that my best marketing is going to be word of mouth and just getting people to try my cupcakes. It's gone pretty well. I donated some cupcakes to King's annual banquet dessert auction and they were auctioned off for a very good price! So, I've been baking and decorating a lot of cupcakes this fall. It's been fun doing something I enjoy, something I can do from home while the kids sleep and Dan works and tells jokes. I baked a lot of cupcakes for the King's Guild Craft sale, which was a good learning experience. I learned that next time, I don't have to make nearly so many cupcakes! All in all, not so bad, though. I got my first non-word-of-mouth order through Facebook this last week, so my little marketing campaign through Facebook was at least a little bit successful.

Simon caught me working out.
I'll be back at it full force in 2013!
I'm gearing up for another round of P90X in the new year; I've let myself get a little soft, so it's time to whip this body back into shape again. Sometimes I wish I could keep it going strong all year long, but this cycle to life isn't so bad either. It's going to be quite the test of will to be able to run a cupcake business and not eat any leftovers! I'm thinking of taking my business on a bit of a New Year's resolution with me: experimenting with healthier recipes and natural sweeteners, but not compromising on taste and beauty.
We worked on a little project in preparation for Christmas this year: a recipe collection of our kids' favorite recipes! We printed up copies for some of our loved ones, but we also ordered this pdf version for you to enjoy! Click here to view our favorite recipes collection for 2012!

pdf version of our recipe collection!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Day 8: Go sledding!

I'm a little behind on posting about our Advent activities. This post is about Saturday's activity.

It was a great idea to go sledding as part of our Advent Activities! We arranged with some friends who we don't see often enough, all spur-of-the-moment-like, for them to join us in our sledding activity. They planned to come over after nap time and we would all go to the little hill at the park near our house. Then we would follow it up with hot chocolate and a casual dinner at our our house. 

We all have little kids, so we knew we wouldn't be out for long, but even I was surprised that our trip took us only about 25 minutes. It was pretty cold out there, especially for little ones, particularly when we got to the top of the hill. Isaac woke up from his nap kinda grumpy and hey, he's two, so you're never really sure what he's going to do. I carried him to the hill (which is quite the work-out since he's nearly 40 lbs!) and when we were nearly there, he just randomly started having a little temper tantrum. Who knows what's going on in his little uncommunicative brain?! Sure makes for fun outings (why is there no sarcasm font, yet?).

It's a good thing he's so cute or these twos would be unbearable!

One of the few trips down the hill on a cold day. 
We were breaking in the snow, too, so it wasn't very fast moving. 

Everyone was much happier after we got back home and comfortable with our hot chocolate and mulled wine. We had a yummy supper of fresh bread, cheeses and meats from our local Italian Centre Shop. It was so great to visit again with our friends we haven't seen in a while.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent Days 6 & 7

I'm so pleased with how this first week of our Advent Activities has gone! It's been lots of fun; I've been on top of things and for the most part we're having fun and not losing our (my) sh*t. :)

Yesterday we decorated the gingerbread houses that I assembled the day before. I sorted all the candies I bought into egg cartons so that everyone had their own set of candies to use and there was no fighting over a popular candy (you can never know what that will be, either).

Simon begins.

Zoe topping her house with peppermints

Three extra hard cookies were included in the kit to decorate and I allowed the children to eat them. (I took a bite of one and decided it wasn't worth the calories it contained, so I pitched the rest.)

So much candy

Snack break

All decorated. And flying high on sugar!

Tonight's activity was a welcome change: sleep under the Christmas tree! This activity is new this year; I can't remember where I found the idea or if I came up with it myself, but it went very well. Isaac did not participate in this activity, either: too little. We brought up the sleeping bags and moved some of the furniture around to accommodate the little sleepover. They chose to turn off the Christmas tree lights when they were done reading a few Christmas books and are already fast asleep. Such good sleepers. We'll see how it goes in the morning when they wake up and break into the gingerbread houses... 

I still think I have some work to do capturing both people, low light and Christmas trees...

This is a fun shot, even though the light is a little off.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Activities: Days 3, 4 & 5

Continuing on with Advent today, our last three activities were fun for both the kids and me. It's a little work to put these things together, but the kids enjoy them so much and I love making opportunities for them to enjoy all the fun of the season instead of it all just being about gifts.

As I mentioned last time, Monday's activity was to make cinnamon dough ornaments. They turned out great, though I think I baked them too long so they aren't smelling as cinnamon-y as I'd hoped.

Cinnamon dough ornament making

Ornaments baked and ready to hang

Tuesday's activity was writing letters to Santa. I printed special stationery for the kids to compose their letters and we even got them in the mail yesterday morning on the way to school. You have no idea how much that makes me feel like a supermom. 

Last night's activity was making paper snowflakes, which I mostly let the older two children work on while I put Isaac to bed. When I finished that up, I joined them to make a couple myself. I bought double-sided tape at the dollar store the other day, which was the perfect adhesive for hanging our snowflakes on our patio doors.

This afternoon's activity is to decorate gingerbread houses, which made yesterday afternoon's activity for me making royal icing and assembling the gingerbread houses so they are all ready to go after lunch tomorrow. I bought these little houses at Bulk Barn. They were very basic: just the houses and cheap piping bags that had holes in them (well, the only one I tried to use had a hole in it and since I have plenty of my own piping bags, I abandoned the kit bags). I always think the kits come with too little decorating candy and too little icing, so I chose my own candy from the vast selection at Bulk Barn and I have a much better assortment than the kit houses! Fun fun fun!

I have also been playing with my camera a little more this week. I am proud to say after reading through a few helpful blog posts and watching a couple YouTube videos, my camera is currently in manual mode! Even with the tough evening indoor lighting, I am taking pictures without a flash and managing to balance exposure okay. Before I would shoot in auto - no flash mode with my fixed 50mm lens, which for the most part worked okay, but I think my pictures are looking just a bit better than they were a couple weeks ago! Yay. Took me long enough.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Begins!

So, we're off to a good start with Advent this year. Although it was a busy weekend making this cake on Friday:

and celebrating mister evangelist's birthday Friday night by going out for fantastic mexican food and then to Meghan Smith's concert, I managed to get the house tidied on Saturday in time for Saturday afternoon nap time when Isaac took a nap and Zoe helped me decorate the tree (Simon happily played on the computer uninterrupted). Decorating the tree was Advent Activity #1.

Advent Activity #2 was Watch a Christmas movie with popcorn. We chose two movies: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Two of my favorites.

Today's activity is making cinnamon dough ornaments. I used this recipe here, except I forgot to check it ahead of time and used pumpkin puree instead of applesauce because I'm out of applesauce. The dough is all made and ready for when the kids get home from school. My hands smell like cinnamon and soon our tree will, too!

Tomorrow is letters to Santa. I found some cute printable stationery to use that other bloggers have graciously provided. Here's the link. If you use Google image search you can find more Letter to Santa print-ables.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Experience Advent

Last year we began a tradition for Advent, where instead of unwrapping bits of sub-par chocolate to countdown to Christmas, we DID things instead... seasonal things, Christmas-sy things, religious things, special things, crafty things, things we'd do anyway to anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It was sooo fun! It wasn't perfect. We got sick and had to skip some things or alter them. Sometimes one parent took the older two kids to do things while the other stayed home with the sleeping 1 year-old. But it went well enough to do it again. It really helped me celebrate and make memories with my kids instead of getting paralyzed by how much there was to do.

I'm pleased with myself that I've got this year's activities all ready to go for December first!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012


So, I suppose I just let the last year and a half slip by without doing anything over here, huh? Sorry about that. Forgive me? I'd like to do a better job of working up my side business, so I should probably plug in on the old blog and figure out what happened to my Artfire link. I deleted the sidebar link today, but it hadn't been working for a while and I never took the time to look into what had gone wrong. I feel like I've squandered a bit of time and money with my ArtFire subscription, since I haven't been taking full advantage of it.

Why not put a cupcake picture in the middle of a post?

I've been thinking a fair bit about why I haven't gotten more stuff done in the last couple years,** since I feel pretty incredibly lazy knowing all the things I should get done and then I add my Pinterest obsession to the mix and there's a million more things that I want to do and be and, well, it can leave a person feeling kind of down about themselves. I'm not usually a down about myself kind of person, but I certainly feel like I've been lacking motivation and follow through and I want to get to the bottom of it so I can find the ladder and climb out of whatever pit of procrastination I've fallen into. I've traced it to a few things: two years ago we moved from a 3 bedroom, 1050 sq ft condo into a 5 bedroom, 1600 sq ft 80 year old house which needs a fair bit of work, with very little know-how and very little extra money. Two years ago, I gave birth to our third child: a wonderful lot of laughter and a bit of chaos. And it all seems to come down to one word: overwhelmed. And it's debilitating. And paralyzing.

** I know many of you think that I'm some kind of superwoman who gets loads of shit done and has it all together. And to be fair to myself, in the last two years we moved, had a new baby, raised that baby to be a happy and healthy two year old (on top of parenting the five year old and the seven year old), replaced our kitchen ceiling, painted all but a few rooms of the house, put in a raised vegetable garden. I also did P90X twice and lost 42 lbs, which means I'm down to pre-wedding weight. But there are also many afternoons and nights where I think I should be doing something... getting my basement organized, painting and organizing the craft room, decorating my house properly, organizing the rest of my house properly (I still feel like I haven't fully moved in on some days!) and I just sit there with no get up and go.

And sometimes I think that perhaps I'm afraid of failure so I don't push myself to succeed. I'm afraid that my results will never look like the cute pictures on Pinterest and I'll be disappointed in all the effort that I expended to get to the failed result. And when I face the reality of these fears, I'm saddened at myself because it's kind of new to me to be so afraid to fail, or at least to be aware of the fear and for it to paralyze me like this. But the overwhelmed feeling is contributing to the fear because I feel like there's so much to do that I can't possibly get it all done, so why even start?

So I need to do something. I'm not sure if this is the right place to start, but waiting for myself to get the motivation and energy to get the craft room to a beautiful and work-able place hasn't happened either, so maybe I have to work backwards. So I agreed to make some cupcakes for the dessert auction portion of the annual banquet at the university I work at: The King's University College. And I took it on as a little bit of a promotion challenge. I knew deep down that not many people would take my business cards and it probably wouldn't result in much new business. But my cupcakes went for $105! For one dozen Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes (oh! they were sooooo delicious!). And one person liked my Facebook page. That was enough encouragement for me to get going on doing a better job of this business.

I decided to work on my business whenever my husband is out doing comedy (more on that later, perhaps), so that'll give me at least once or twice a week, which is more than I was doing before! Bit by bit.
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