March 2016

Easter then and now

by DaniGirl on March 28, 2016 · 3 comments

in Ah, me boys, Photography

I was looking through some old Easter photos and couldn’t help but notice that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I find it fascinating that the photos I chose to keep are so similar in composition and pose, and focus on the same aspects of their personalities.

Tristan, age 7 and age 14:

Tristan old and new Easter copy

Simon, age 5 and age 12:

Simon old and new Easter

Lucas, age 3 and age 8:

Lucas old and new Easter

Well, at least one thing has changed: my mad photo skillz are clearly improved!


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In May 2014, I wrote a post lamenting the fact that after six weeks of walking, exercising and conscious food choices, I had still failed to lose a single pound. Not too long after that, I started using My Fitness Pal to track not only exercise but food choices, and started making slow but steady progress. I did pretty well through the summer, losing nearly 10 steady pounds, and then my weight crept back up again over a long, cold and icy winter.

In April 2015, I was back on the bandwagon again and once again lamenting my lack of progress. Back to food and fitness tracking I went. Thanks to daily step goals, food tracking and power yoga, I dropped what I’d regained and by July was at my goal weight, a full five pounds less than I’d managed to go in 2014.

Here we are in March 2016 (see how I start paying attention a little earlier in the season each year?) and that darn winter creep has me up another five pounds. There’s no whiny lament this year, though. My weight is still equivalent to the lowest point in 2014, and I’m sure I can banish that pesky 5 lbs and get myself in my happiest range, which is anything under 170 lbs. I think the two things that kept me from completely regaining the weight I’d lost over the winter this year were regular power yoga (so good for strength!) and the fact that I’ve kept up parking the car in the driveway and walking the kilometer or so to pick up the boys after school all through the winter. I can count on one hand the number of times we capitulated to the weather, and I drove another handful of times when I was running late, but in general, we were diligent about getting in those daily walks.

I haven’t yet resorted to food tracking again, but I love tracking my daily steps. I’ve had a FitBit that I’ve used pretty regularly for the past three years, and I’ve seen steady improvement on my dedication to leading a less sedentary life. So when the nice folks at TomTom offered me a review unit of their new high-end fitness tracker, I was happy to try it out.

The TomTom Spark GPS Fitness Watch has all sorts of interesting features way beyond a simple step tracker (but it has that, too!) Most interesting, it stores up to 500 songs from your music library, so you can leave your phone at home and listen to your workout playlist via Bluetooth headphones. The TomTom Spark also has a continuous heart rate monitor, a sleep tracker, race mode and interval training mode, and multi-sport mode. It also has something I’ve wished all along my FitBit Flex had: a watch! The official description says:

TomTom Spark is the latest in the complete line of TomTom wearable fitness technologies. The 24/7 activity tracker continuously logs steps, active minutes, distance, calories burned and sleep duration. TomTom GPS tracking provides real-time information including time, distance, speed and pace. The built-in heart rate monitor accurately tracks heart rate, without the need for a chest strap. Multiple sports modes let users track their activity inside and out, across running, cycling, swimming, treadmill and gym workouts.

Pretty neat, right? I wore the TomTom Spark for about a week to try it out, and in general I really liked it. I wore both the FitBit and the Spark on the same wrist for a few days and found they were fairly agreeable about the number of steps taken, which is great. I’m always less concerned about the actual steps and more concerned about one day relative to the next.

TomTom

Here’s what I’ve noticed about the TomTom Spark so far. Out of the box, it’s quick to charge and super-easy to figure out. There’s a square button under the watch face, and you can push it left to see your steps, up to see your music, right to access multi-sport modes and timers, etc. Although it’s bulky and at least in the black model I received, a little industrial looking, the strap is SO MUCH easier to use than the FitBit one I’m always cursing. It was pretty much plug-and-play with the My Sports app, and it automatically scanned my computer to find music files so I was able to add my favourite iTunes playlists with two clicks. The GPS tracking is very entertaining, especially for someone who has a weird fascination with maps. I want to use it to draw pictures – except for maybe not so much the penises. Ahem.

In truth, I think the TomTom Spark has way more features than I will ever use. I have a few friends who are runners, and they would LOVE the timers and distance trackers. I think it’s pretty cool that it also has modes to track everything from swimming to cycling to the treadmill. All that to say, it is more my dedication to competitive sports that is lacking and certainly not the features on the Spark.

There were a few things that I did not love about the Spark, and they are personal peccadilloes based on what I’m already used to. If I were to trade in my FitBit, I would miss the small community of cheerleaders (and challengers) I have built up, and one of my favourite features on my FitBit is the little victory buzz it emits to randomly scare the crap out of me celebrate when I achieve my daily step goal. And the help section for the Spark is entirely comprised of YouTube videos. I know most people would love that, but I’ll happily wade through a 10,000 word help article before capitulating to a two minute video.

Do you use any fitness trackers? What features do you love and what features do you covet? And, have you drawn any cool pictures with your GPS?? I think that’s the feature that I’m going to play with this week!


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Photo of the day: Easter Candy

by DaniGirl on March 26, 2016 · 0 comments

in Photo of the Day

The Easter bunny got a bit of help putting the treats together.

Easter candy!

Unfortunately, the “helper” kept getting distracted by the photogenic qualities of the colourful candy!


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I couldn’t tell you whether it’s me or the boys who more love decorating Easter eggs. They all have a lovely artistic streak in their nature, and I’m delighted to have them trapped in a room doing an activity together that’s delightfully photogenic. Wins all around!

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I always start going for documentary-style shots of the activity and their interactions.

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I try to catch their different personalities.

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And then I just had fun with the shapes and colours.

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It might be an early and icy Easter, but it’s definitely a colourful one!


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Photo of the day: Sunshine smile

by DaniGirl on March 19, 2016 · 0 comments

in Lucas, Photo of the Day

I wanted to capture that delightful gap-toothed smile before it was gone.

Lucas smiling

I hope the sparkle in his smile is always there.


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One of the boys has a peculiar but charming personality quirk: he abhors making decisions. Not only is he stressed by big decisions, but he actively avoids making even such minor decisions as milk or water with dinner. In general, he would prefer to be served with a decision made than to take an active role in decision-making.

I am beginning to think this might be a latent personality quirk he inherited from me as I die a death of a thousand paper cuts in the endless number of decisions involved in our pending kitchen renovation. From the fundamental “should we or should we not renovate the kitchen” to the minutiae of 3/8″ difference in sink depth, I am feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of options at every turn.

We’ve narrowed down the options somewhat. We’re going with Ikea’s SEKTION design (it’s specified in some sort of international treaty that we need to capitalize Ikea product names, right?) sitting in pretty much the exact footprint of the existing kitchen, minimizing both cost and trauma to the change-averse members of the family. We’ve had a kitchen reno in our sights since we moved in almost six years ago, if for no other reason than to replace the spectacular bio-hazard that is the 1960s vintage faux brick backsplash wall behind the oven, and to do something with the gaping hole left when we had to tear out the over-fridge cabinets to accommodate our monstrosity of a fridge. (I have never in six years regretted investing in the biggest fridge we could afford at the time.) And over the years we’ve lost three full cupboard doors, with two more hanging at drunken angles, the brace holding the sink up has snapped, and the laminate on the counter has started to peel up. I’m pretty sure the previous homeowner invested just enough in upgrading the kitchen to last the length of the building inspection and not much more. TL;DR: we have some maintenance issues to address.

And, I have a wildly covetous desire for pot drawers. I swear, the real reason we are spending tens of thousands of dollars on this kitchen renovation is so I no longer have to lose my ever-loving mind every time I shift my way through eight nested stacks of pots and colanders because I am reaching for a pot lid or I send a precariously stacked Jenga game of plastic sandwich containers crashing across the kitchen floor in my search for the salad spinner.

Ugh. TOO! MANY! CHOICES!

Ugh. TOO! MANY! CHOICES!

So, a record of decisions made to this point: yes, we will renovate the kitchen. We will renovate the kitchen this year. We talked to the bank and worked out a budget, over which I choked and balked and raged and finally made an uneasy sort of peace. (Seriously, people spend HOW MUCH on kitchen renovations?! I spoke to more than one company that wouldn’t take on our project because it was just too small.) We decided on a white-on-white colour scheme in a country-modern, clean and simple style. We decided to build Ikea components into the existing footprint and to retain our original appliances. And we decided to put in a pot drawer every time the option became available.

Phew, that was a LOT of decisions. So, we’re done now, right? Someone will come over and wave a magic wand and we can has kitchen?

Sigh.

I think I’m probably nearing 20 hours invested on the Ikea website and with the Kitchen Planner, alternately known as The Most Aggravating Piece of Software on the Internet(TM). (Oops, there goes the potential Ikea sponsorship.) It actually works beautifully in store, and is a fascinating tool — if you can get it to load. The Ikea associate to whom I kvetched said it may have been because I was trying to run it on a MacBook, but I find it just as cantankerous and difficult to load on the boys’ PC. Every now and then I hit my kitchen-designing stride and started to have delusions about actually executing at least the design portion of the project ourselves, and then we hit a snag like a 38″ footprint for a 36″ cabinet, or confusion over MAXIMARA versus FORVARA, or the idea of not just finding and engaging but managing multiple subcontractors comes up, and we realize that we are in way, WAY over our depth. And also, I remember that I am pretty much completely lacking in mechanical aptitude, and the ability to assemble an Ikea wall unit over 16 hours does not make me a master cabinetmaker.

So, we’ve thrown in the (FRÄJEN) towel and have contracted the job out. Oh joy, there are MOAR DECISIONS. Finding someone to do the job has been painful. You don’t need to know the details, but suffice to say the story is long. We’ve decided to go all in, with a company that will design, purchase, manage and install the entire kitchen from start to finish. It will be four times the price than if we did it ourselves, but we will have an actual kitchen at the end of the process, which is a dubious outcome if we took on the project ourselves. And neither Beloved nor I will be facing felony charges for assault on a FINTORP.

All this to say, strap yourselves in and get ready for the next great bloggy series, “Remember that time DaniGirl lost her everloving shit over the kitchen reno?” Good times indeed.

Today’s question, my bloggy pretties, is about exhaust hoods. (There is a delicious irony in me reaching the breaking “exhaust” point and finally moving to crowdsource over an “exhaust” hood, yes?) We are not currently equipped to vent our kitchen exhaust outside, and while I don’t see it as being an insurmountable task, I am leery about punching a hole in the building envelope for any reason. Also, truthfully? I’d love to trim that item from the budget. I’m quite sure that our existing microwave/exhaust hood combo does nothing more than coat my forehead in aerosolized food particulate, but I am still leaning on investing in a recirculating new hood rather than upgrading to a ducted venting one. (And eep, did you know you were supposed to clean those filters? Did I mention six years? *cringe*)

Share your vast knowledge on the subject of range hoods, will you? Save me at least this one decision from the otherwise random and capricious impulses that have governed most of the key decisions to date!


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Ketchup wars

15 March 2016 Canadianisms

I have been following with interest the story of French’s versus Heinz ketchup. If you’ve missed it, the story so far goes something like this. Last year, worlds collided in the condiment aisle when Heinz introduced mustard not too long after French’s introduced ketchup. There was a lot more going on behind the scenes than […]

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Should parents stop sharing info about their kids on social media?

13 March 2016 Meta-blogging

I I’ve always taken articles about the dangers of posting photos or personal stories about children online with a grain of salt, and any perceived risk seemed infinitesimally remote, especially when compared with the vast richness that the blog has brought to our family’s lives. That’s why I was taken aback when a few bloggers […]

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A love letter to Tristan, Age 14

8 March 2016 Tristan

My sweet, funny man-child: Tristan, today you are 14. As I write this, you are busy sifting through books, papers and Lego sets to replace an older, smaller bookshelf with a larger one we filched from the curb last night. It’s a great metaphor for where you are in your life – trading in Captain […]

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Photo of the day: Moonset behind the bridge

5 March 2016 Photo of the Day

I took this photo last week and forgot to share it. I was on my way to work and noticed the fat orange full moon setting to the west. As I was driving down River Road, I wondered if the moon would line up perfectly in the arches of the Strandherd-Armstrong bridge. I drove through […]

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