Monday, 5 January 2015

HEATING A HOUSE

Happy 2015!

We had a lovely Christmas and New Years and now it's back to real life while I start 2015 with 19 straight days of work. Yippee! ;) I like to think of it as character building. Moving on.

I'm also starting off the new year with a riveting blog post (totally kidding). Segue. Are you cold? Because I am. (Especially today - pretty much all of Canada is at least 30 below right now with that blasted wind chill.) In our little old house - built in the 1950s or 1960s - we are constantly trying to come up with ways to make it warmer. Our house is heated by a forced air electric furnace and because hubby and I both grew up in homes with wood stoves, it just doesn't cut it for us. We fully insulated the attic a couple of years ago which has cut down on heating costs but doesn't change the fact that electric heat isn't cozy. During the day we're ok but to save money hubby turns the heat down at night and I freeze a little in bed. Correction. I freeze a lot. When I'm there (remember - 19 straight days).


We were thinking of buying a space heater until he found the Eco Heater on the Home Depot website last week. It's only $99 and after reading the reviews we figured why not try it? I like to think of it as a big, magical heat square. (Really. I'm not kidding. Totally accurate name.) I truly find this the strangest little contraption. It's a convection heater so there is a little (and I mean little - like size of a deck of cards) 400 watt heater on the back of this ceramic (?) tile. You mount the whole thing to the wall and it plugs into an outlet. This little heater warms the air trapped behind the magical heat square, the warm air gradually rises, pulling cold air in behind, which then is heated, etc.


Now - if you are looking for a way to warm your bedroom at night I have to tell you. We are impressed that this strange $99 contraption works because I seriously had my doubts. I might have even laughed. The accurately named "magical heat square" might have come to be because I was...making fun. The wall, the floor nearby, and even the bed is warmer than before. Full disclosure - I find if the bedroom door is open it isn't very effective. Even with the door closed it certainly doesn't make the room hot by any stretch of the imagination, but you can feel a noticeable difference between the hallway and entering the bedroom. From the online reviews, people who had no additional heat source in a room didn't like this product, but for those who are just looking for a little additional warmth, it's pretty good. No doubt about it - I am warmer in bed now with the door closed. The instructions say you can paint the square the colour of your wall, but we find it actually gets quite hot to the touch so I wouldn't try to paint it. And I would never leave it on when I'm not home.

That was the only addition to our house over the holidays so I thought I would share! We are slowly trying to update our spare bedroom so hopefully soon I will have some photos. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS: POST THREE

These books are for the especially little people in your life. A few are classics you probably grew up with and a couple of new ones I have found when buying books for the children in my life. (I have a few favourite books from when I was little but they are not easy to locate so I haven't included my all time faves here.)

1. Little Critter - Mercer Mayer. This one is a collection but all of the Little Critter books are lovely with a little lesson. I particularly remember "Just Me and My Dad".
2. The Dark - Lemony Snicket. This is a new one I bought for my cousin's little girl. It is the story of Lazlo, who is afraid of the dark until one day he confronts it head on and discovers it isn't so scary after all. Really cute and the illustrations by Jon Klassen are full of mute colours and I think they're beautiful.
3. Franklin - Paulette Bourgeois. Another classic collection. Same old turtle. You know him and you love him (she wrote those favourites I was mentioning earlier an if I ever find them in print online I will post about them)!
4. Curious George - Margret an H.A. Rey. My mom bought me a Curious George Christmas book this year. Enough said. This was a household favourite and the one I remember best is "Curious George Bakes a Cake".
5. Press Here - Herve Tullet. A genius book. I bought it for my friend's baby and it is sooo incredible. It is interactive, telling the child what to do for each page (e.g. press all the yellow spots) and on the following page the spots have changed! It is so awesome.
6. I Want My Hat Back - Jon Klassen. You might remember his name from point number two. I picked this up in a store and read it all the way through. It makes me laugh.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS: POST TWO

Here is a selection of books if you have a child age 9-12 in your life to shop for.

1. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery. This book has a special place in my heart. Anne is a heroine with imagination and gumption. Everyone will love her and the trouble she gets into. Boys or girls will probably enjoy this book but perhaps geared more to little girls.
2. Silverwing - Kenneth Oppel. I happened across this book as a kid when Santa left it for me. It might sound strange but it is the story of a bat. It's a great one and it's part of a series if you like it. For boys or girls.
3. The Sky is Falling - Kit Pearson. Kit Pearson is a Canadian treasure, I tell ya. Nora and Gavin are a brother and sister displaced to Canada from England during WW2. A great story and interesting from a historical perspective, too. Again, part of a fantastic trilogy. More of a girls' book.
4. A Handful of Time - Kit Pearson. I had to include another Kit Pearson. Really you can't go wrong with any of her books. In this one the main character winds back a clock and goes back in time to when her own mother is growing up. More of a girls' book.
5. Harry Potter - JK Rowling. Any and all of these. Book four on are a bit dark but the first three are definitely appropriate for 9-12 year olds. Harry is 11 in the first book so I love the idea of starting to read them as a 10-11 year old. Obviously for boys or girls.
6. Underground to Canada - Barbara Smucker. The story of Julilly - a little girl traveling to Canada on the underground railroad. A great way for children to learn about a terrible part of North American history but also how slaves were able to escape to freedom. I read this in elementary school so I would recommend it for 9-10 year old boys or girls.
7. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis. You know it. You love it. Spread the love by sharing it with a child you know. It's a religious allegory with Aslan the lion as Jesus. I myself am hoping Santa brings me the series someday. ;) For boys or girls.
8. Holes - Louis Sachar. This was a favourite of both my brother's and mine (and our mom loves it too)! A boy is sent to a camp for delinquents and is forced to dig holes all summer. Eventually we find out what they are looking for... For boys and girls! Also a movie.

Friday, 5 December 2014

BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS: POST ONE

Some of my best friends are books!

Here are some of my favourites for young readers, range 6-8 years old. These are also perfect bedtime stories to be read with Mom or Dad.

1. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White. Classic - a touching story of friendship. You already know it. A pig and a spider become unlikely friends.
2. Stuart Little - E.B. White. Another classic and beautiful story. The adventures of a little mouse who lives with his (human) family.
3. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Louis Sachar. A fun little book that has lots of silly stories (like the elevator that only went down and the other elevator that only went up. They worked perfectly well...one time each).
4. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne. I read this classic book for the first time last year and it touches my heart. There is wisdom, kindness, and love there. I highly recommend it as a bedtime story to share - you will love classic Pooh. Silly old bear.
5. The "Fudge" Collection - Judy Blume. It seems to be a favourite of elementary school teachers (at least at my school)! Another light-hearted one for the family.
6. Amelia Bedelia - Peggy Parish. The misadventures of a nanny who always gets it wrong.
7. The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster. I would consider this to be at a slightly higher reading level but it is such a wonderful story that children in this age range will love, too. Full of literary puns and expressions ("jumping to conclusions" and a "watch dog") it is the story of Milo who is always bored and drives through the mysterious tollbooth that arrives at his house one day only to find the best adventure. This is one of my all time favourites.

Children's Books

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING TIPS

I mentioned earlier we were determined to finish our Christmas shopping before December first this year. We felt so accomplished to achieve that goal and I am still so excited that the shopping is behind us. I thought I would put together a list of some of my shopping tips that help make the holidays more enjoyable. (Consumerism is not the reason for the season but I do enjoy choosing gifts from my friends and family that I think they'll like. So sue me.)


1. Start early.
This might mean asking your family members for their Christmas lists in October (like we did) but if you're going to be finished early...you have to start early. When you do it this way you can look for sales all year long on items you plan on purchasing, rather than pay full price in December.

2. Then stop.
When you start your shopping a few months in advance it's easy to spend too much if you're not careful. If you've finished shopping for someone cross them off your list and stop looking! Otherwise you're going to end up spending twice as much as usual...or wish you had bought them something else.

3. Take notes.
It's August and you're visiting your parents. Your mom mentions that she has never had a salad spinner and would really like one someday. Write it down! Hubby is the best at this. He keeps a list of things I mention all year and then decides if they're worth buying. These are some of the best presents because it's something you want but then you forget. And you feel like someone out there actually listens to you.

4. Online shopping is your friend.
Seriously. I don't buy everything on line but it gives you way more variety than the mall. Embrace it. I'm talking to you, Mom. Places like Etsy have super cool stuff that no one else will have. I like that for certain items.


5. Buy what people want.
Some of my most frustrating shopping experiences have been years when no one wanted anything. I think it's pointless to blindly purchase things that people may not like or use. If you have a list I buy something from it. The exception - my husband. I know him well enough to buy things he didn't ask for. Otherwise I have to reeeeally know my brother will love what I chose for him before I stray from "the list".

7. Keep a few small gifts on hand year round.
If amazing lip gloss goes on sale at Sephora I buy a few. Then I have a simple and small gift that I know my friends will love and I don't have to specifically find them something when I'm out shopping.

6. Wrap all at once.
It takes too much time to get out the wrapping paper, tags, cards, etc to do it at more than one sitting. Devote an evening to wrapping and just get it done, people.

7. Be a joyful giver.
Hopefully you're buying presents because you love the people you are buying them for and want to make them happy. So have fun finding them the perfect gift!