Wednesday 29 November 2017

The Polar Express

My husband and I have really been trying to move towards experience based gifts.  As we work towards more simplicity in our lives, we are becoming much more intentional about making memories rather than collecting things.  In our family, the adults don't exchange Christmas gifts.  We do, however, always buy something for the grandparents from Miss. E.  This year we did something a little different.  Miss. E took both sets of her grandparents on the Polar Express in Stettler, Alberta.

I booked our tickets on the week that they became available.  I was only able to attend the opening weekend, so I booked us on one of the Saturday trains.  I booked by phone, as they don't do online bookings.  The person I spoke to was courteous and efficient.  Our tickets arrived shortly after in the mail and I made sure to put them in a very safe spot.  The person I spoke to gave me all the information that I would need and told me that we were encouraged to wear our pajamas on the train.  (Just like in the book or movie.)  I made sure to pass that information along to the grandparents, who all agreed to join in on the fun!

Hubby's parents came down the night before and we had a lovely time catching up with them.  On the day of the train ride, we all piled into my Jeep (I truly have easy-going, wonderful in-laws) and headed to Stettler.  Stettler is a 2.5 hour drive from where we live.  We had supper before we went to the train.  It felt a little strange to be out dining in our pajamas, but the restaurant workers seemed to know that we were headed to the Polar Express.

The train station was well set up with bathrooms available to all the guests.  I quickly ran to bathroom with Miss. E.  Bathrooms are super important to a 36 week pregnant lady and a 3 year old!  They had warm up tents available for the guests so we didn't have to stand out in the cold.  (Although, it was unseasonably warm that day.)  The experience began right away when a goofy "hobo" character approached my daughter and asked her to trade her ticket for a radish.  We politely declined and he moved about the crowd, asking all of the children to make the trade with him.

The train came into the station after a short skit on the platform.  The train came into the station while holiday music played.  The characters were all at the windows of the train waving to the crowd.  Miss. E was enthralled and excitedly waved back to all of them.  I got choked up that she was so swept up in the magic of it.  Ahhh... hormones....

We boarded the train and the inside was delightfully decorated in holiday decor.  There were lights, tinsel and Christmas music playing in the background.

The train ride included hot chocolate in a beautiful souvenir mug, a cookie (which my Dad traded with the 'Hobo' for a radish), dancing and singing from the crew and a lovely retelling of The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg.  We each received our golden ticket for the North Pole which was stamped with the word 'Believe'.  

When we arrived at the North Pole we saw thousands of twinkling lights, the North Pole workshops, Santa, Santa's sleigh and the Elves.  Everything was magical and Miss. E was so enthralled with the Christmas lights.

Santa then boarded the train and gave each child a sleigh bell.  Miss. E is usually afraid of Santa but did really well.  Santa was very kind and jolly.  As we headed back to Stettler, we were given songbooks so that we could sing along with the Christmas carols.  All of the children were having a blast, wildly jingling their sleigh bells to the music.  

We had a magical time on the Polar Express and would highly recommend going.  Miss. E had so much fun with all of the sights and sounds and her grandparents thoroughly enjoyed sharing the experience with her.  It is such a fun family outing and a well-run one at that.  I am thankful that the crew on the Polar Express was intent on making everyone's experience absolutely enchanting.

** I was not compensated in any way for my review of the Polar Express.  The kind people at the Alberta Prairie Railway in Stettler don't have a clue who I am.**

Thursday 23 November 2017

Peaceful Simple Holidays

Hi Everyone!  Happy American Thanksgiving!  With the holiday season upon us, I wanted to share a few tips on how to have a simpler holiday season.  Sometimes we can miss out on the meaning of the season when we are rushing around trying to do everything.  I prefer a 'slow' holiday.  This is how I achieve it.

1.)  Plan ahead.  If you need to save up for your Christmas purchases, start early.  If you have people on your list that you can pick things up for throughout the year, do it.  Sit down with your family and discuss your expectations for the holiday season before saying yes to anything.  A little planning goes a long way.  We need to be intentional about our holiday season and how we want to spend it.

For example, our baby is due 3 days before Christmas.  I did my Christmas shopping for my daughter in August.  We stick to basic gifts and I already knew what we wanted to give her so I went ahead and got that part of my shopping done.  We also made a "no plans" rule for December because we can't be sure of when Baby will arrive or how I will be feeling.  Our families are both aware of this and are very understanding.  I said no to Miss. E performing in her Christmas concert as it falls just a few days before my due date.  I also said no to my staff Christmas party.  All of this planning ahead will help to keep our holiday season quiet, which we may need more than we know!

2.)  Cut back.  This is a tough one.  I know.  We like to go all out at Christmas time, but in doing so we often break the bank and burn ourselves out. For a lot of our family and friends, this past year was a nice step in the right direction for economic recovery.  Our local economy is slowly turning around and people are working again.  It has by no means been a lucrative year for most people that I know.  There is no shame in cutting back.  In my family, we have cut out all gift giving between the adults and we focus on buying only for the kids.  We have decided with friends to only gift on birthdays, rather than at Christmas.  We also spend less on the gifts that we do purchase.  Giving is a wonderful thing, but only if you aren't putting yourself at financial peril to do so.

I have also cut back on commitments this year.  Our situation is a little different than most people's so my cut backs have been far more severe than they would be normally.  We switch the holidays between my family and my husband's family every year.  I always mind my calendar to make sure that we are still carving out time to just be at home and get our housework done.  I make sure not to schedule anything on work nights so that everyone has enough sleep.  If we say yes we truly weigh the consequences and what we may have to give up in order to commit.

3.)  Give back.  This time of year can be really tough on the less fortunate.  It means a lot when we can give back to those around us.  This can be done financially or through volunteering.  I like to support my local food bank, especially since it's usage is up and donations are down.  Homeless shelters are vital at this time of year to help shield people from the frigid elements.  If you are able to help financially, please consider doing so.  If you are able to help an organization with the gift of your time, please do that.  Christ calls us to take care of one another.  Let's make sure we heed the call at this special time of year.

What are your tips for having a simple holiday season?

Friday 17 November 2017

High Five For Friday- 16.11.17

Baby time is getting close!  I am 35 weeks pregnant.  We had a good week.  I am linking up with TifDellaKatie, and Becky for H54F.   Let's jump in!

1.)  After a LONG week of recovery, Miss. E seems to finally be back to her sparky self.  This last stomach bug and cold really knocked her down.   I am happy to see her doing well again!

Cheering on Daddy's football team.

2.)  I finished almost ALL of my freezer meal cooking this past weekend.  It was a lot of work, but I am so relieved to have it all done.  I have one more soup to make and freeze, which I plan to do this weekend.

3.)  Work went really smoothly this week, which is always a wonderful thing.  I was super uncomfortable on Wednesday due to where Baby was lying, but I made it through the day.  I waddled a bit, but other than that I was fine.  Ha ha!

4.)  Miss. E (and Hubby) helped me set up the baby room.  I have everything washed and ready to go.  Miss. E was a wonderful helper and was happy to stock the change table with me.  Everything is coming together!

5.)  I had an ultrasound today to check on baby's growth and position.  I was thrilled to learn that baby has his/her head down.  I was so sure that Baby was still transverse.  The ultrasound tech showed me a few really cool things like Baby's heart, feet and the fact that we could see hair!  It was fascinating.   It is always fun to see Baby and I am very excited to meet our little one!

How was your week?  Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Baby Prep- Frozen Meals

Baby is due to arrive in 6 short weeks.  I have been busy making lists and trying to get things in order before our little one makes their grand entrance.  This past weekend I made several meals and froze them.  It was a lot of cooking, but it will be worth it when we have a newborn and a toddler to take care of!  The original plan was for Hubby to be home on the weekend while I cooked.  He would have kept Miss. E occupied and I would have concentrated on my cooking.  Alas, he ended up working the weekend.  I forged ahead.  It took a little longer with hundreds of interruptions and a lot of 'help', but I managed to get everything done.  

When planning which meals to make, I chose some of our family favourites.  I find all of these meals easy to prepare and I know that they all freeze well.  I did my grocery shopping the weekend before my cooking weekend.  I measured out how much of each ingredient I would need and then shopped accordingly.

Freezer Meals

Squash and Carrot Soup
Sweet potato soup
Hamburger Soup
Banana chocolate chip muffins
Energy bites

I spread my cooking over 4 days.  One day I made the squash and carrot soup.  The next day I made all of my hamburger dishes (lasagna, hamburger soup and chili).  I spend the next day baking and made muffins, cookies and energy bites.  Everything turned out really well and I am looking forward to having these meals to enjoy after Baby arrives.

What are your go to freezer meals?  Do you do freezer meals regularly or just for certain seasons in your life?

Friday 10 November 2017

High Five For Friday- 10.11.2017

It is that time of week where I join TifBeckyKatie and Della to share 5 highlights from my week.  Let's jump right in, shall we?

1.)  Last Friday and Saturday I did 2 huge shopping trips.  I plan to make a bunch of freezer meals this weekend for when the baby arrives.  I got everything I needed on my lists, which is almost unheard of.  I usually forget something or the store will be out of something.  The shopping trips went well and I am excited to get some meals in the freezer.

2.)  I went in to work for a few hours on Sunday to prepare for our big day on Monday.  It was well worth it because Monday went very well.  I am so relieved to have that project over with.

3.)  I was going to take my family out to celebrate on Monday evening, but Miss. E came down with a nasty stomach bug that afternoon, so we stayed home.  Hubby brought home pizza for him and I which was nice. 

4.)  Miss. E is finally acting like she is feeling better today (Friday!).  She slept really well last night so I am hoping she kicked the rest of those bugs to the curb.  She was pretty lethargic this week and running a high fever so I was beginning to worry.  I am glad that she has finally perked up.  P.S.  Did you know that they make chewable Tylenol for toddlers?  I just found this out! 

5.)  Hubby brought in the baby change table the other night and we arranged the room.  I ended up putting furniture in a different arrangement then I had wanted, but I think that this will work nicely.  It is all coming together and I am starting to realize how soon this little one will arrive!  (6 weeks!)

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday 8 November 2017

October- Goals and the No Spend Year

We are nearing the end of the year and I can say that I am happy (for the most part) with the progress of my goals.  Only 2 more months left to go!  

#1-  Complete a No-Spend Year.

I bought something on my "Banned" list with my birthday money.  I bought myself winter boots.  I had banned shoes on my no-spend year list.  I took my daughter to daycare wearing my current boots in the snow.  By the time I made it to work, my socks were soaked and my toes were cold.  I feel strongly that I need to put my the health of my feet first so the other boots are hitting the trash.  I ordered quality boots that will last me many years.  I live in Canada and winter came early this year.  Our temperatures go as low as -40 degrees Celcius (-40 Fahenheit) and I am not risking my toes.  I knew that my boots were starting to leak last year so I am not sure why I didn't put it on my approved spending list.

#2-  Establish a Self-Care Routine

Let's talk about this.  I really thought that I was doing well with this goal and I was.  Life threw more than one curve ball at me in October.  I had a huge deadline at work, a major fundraiser for the local daycare (I am on the committee), pregnancy related nausea/dizziness/headaches/fatigue and I was working a LOT due to my co-worker being on vacation.  It all added up to one large meltdown where I was bawling an hour before the fundraiser was set to begin.  I have looked back at my busy month and I am not sure what I could have done differently.  Most of the curve balls were out of my control, besides the fact that I didn't take a sick day when I was feeling awful.  In hindsight, that wasn't practicing good self care.  I have been reading an interesting book by Gretchen Rubin called The Four Tendancies.  I am an upholder with obliger tendencies, which means that I am good at meeting both inner and outer expectations.  It also means that sometimes I work too hard to meet outer expectations and I occasionally experience burnout because of this.  I find my work to be a heavy expectation at times.  My work involves the health of my clients (I am a lab and x-ray tech in a small town) and I find it really hard to call in sick when I am ill because I know that my clients are often dealing with much worse situations.  I need to start putting my health first, especially in this last month and a half of my pregnancy so I am working to set up some clear boundaries this month.  The first boundary is working out well and my co-worker was able to lighten my schedule substantially which has already made a tremendous difference in my well-being. 

#3-  Say Yes to Family Time

This has been going well.  I am finding the "rules" that we set earlier in the year are working really well for our family and are surprisingly easy to follow.

#4-  Start school in September.

This is being postponed until after Baby's arrival.

#5-  Learn more about traditional prayers and incorporate them into my prayer life.

I am still working on figuring out how to make a habit of incorporating these tradtional prayers.

#6-  Establish a routine for the blog and stick to the blog's vision.

Ummmm..... yeah.  So that burnout that I mentioned above?  Well, that lead to a really bad blogging month.  I have worked to circumvent that this month with better planning and a lighter load at my job.  

October was a good month of learning for me.  I hope to apply what I have learned for a successful November.  How are your goals going?

Friday 3 November 2017

High Five For Friday- 03.11.17

Another week has already flown by!  I can hardly believe that it is November.  It was a fairly busy week with a few sleepless nights and one killer migraine.  Ick.  I am feeling better today and hope that this will hold out for the next few days.  I have a big work project coming up and I need to be at my best for the next few days.

I am linking up with BeckyTifKatie, and Della to share 5 highlights from my week.  Make sure to check them out and all the other great bloggers linking up for H54F!

1.)  I had 5 (!) wonderful days off from work.  It was very much needed.  I spent time catching up on housework, sleeping, and getting ready for the coming week.  My brother and his girlfriend moved over the weekend and we stopped by for a quick visit and a housewarming gift.  I was no help at all with the move because of my bump, so I figured I should at least bring them some goodies.

2.)  On Monday I had a good visit with my best friend from school.  Our kids played fairly well together and it was nice to catch up with her!

3.)  Tuesday was Halloween.  It snowed all day long.  It was super pretty, but it put me in the mood for Christmas, not Halloween!  Ha ha!  Miss. E and I went out and built a snowman and enjoyed the snow.  We were still outside when the trick-or-treaters began to arrive!  Miss. E enjoyed handing out candy with me and trick-or-treating with her Dad.  It took convincing to get her in a 'costume'.  Inside the house she was a ballerina (thanks to her play clothes) and when she went out she was a princess.  It can be hard to get a costume over a snowsuit, but we did our best.  

4.)  This week has been quite productive at work and I am hoping that today is the same!  My work project ends Monday.  I hope I can relax a little after that.

5.)  I have made my freezer meal grocery list for when the baby comes.  I have all of my meal prep days planned.  It makes me feel better to know that a plan is in place so that we will have some meals on hand after the baby comes!

Have a fabulous weekend!