The new identity

Boxed in by Capsules

After long threatening to, I grabbed a stack of money (figurative stack) and went on a clothing shopping spree to give my wardrobe a refresh. I was so excited about it. I accidentally stumbled upon a great capsule wardrobe and for about a week, I was excited to get dress again.

Turns out I had used up all the “easy” outfits and after years of reading and replicating OOTD blogs, I couldn’t bring myself to repeat an outfit.

Ok, it also didn’t help that the weather was being terribly uncooperative, and so I was always reaching for the same two sweaters that were guaranteed to keep me warm, and one of which was wool, so it needed a good layer underneath to keep the itch at bay, and I had to wait for the boots I wanted to arrive at my door since they didn’t have my size in store…

You get it. I had lots of excuses. Not all of them entirely valid. You see, the problem at the heart of it was thinking that once I had a solid capsule wardrobe, the pieces would put themselves together. I don’t know whether I envisioned them jumping out of the closet on their own when I opened the doors, or whether birds were going to go in and choose them for me Cinderella style, I don’t know. But somewhere my brain didn’t make the connection that it was going to called into duty as early as 5:30 in the morning to actually piece them together.

But at least I know on those mornings when my brain doesn’t want to put the effort into it, it all pretty much goes together.



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Cara Reads: A Number of Things

I swear there is a Margaret Atwood work of prose that begins something along the lines of : “As a Canadian, I put geography first.” For so long, Canada has been heavily rooted in our geography. We have mountains. We have lakes. We have three oceanic coasts. And we have weather. All of it. Maybe not monsoons, but maybe global warming will be headed in that direction? But as all Canadian writers know, our identity is heavily wrapped up in our geography.

And geography is the undoing of Jane Urquhart’s A Number of Things: Stories of Canada Told Through Fifty Objects. Written as a tribute to Canada for our sesquicentennial this year, Urquhart examines objects rather than landscapes to describe the history of our nation.

Or rather, describe her views of the history of her nation.

I get that it is impossible to define a country with diverse landscapes, diverse climates and diverse cultures, but she tries. Weakly. to represent all of Canada. There is the token dance hall in the prairies (I have not been to that specific one. I have been to a similar one, and have heard stories of many others). She makes the necessary reference to the Arctic and the Franklin Expedition. She mentions a couple things about BC, a random story about Newfoundland, but mainly rests in what all Canadian writers like to believe is the heart of Canada: “Northern Ontario” — which is essentially about the top 2/3 of the province. There are nods to various cultural groups within Canada. Four if I remember correctly. She starts and ends the book with mentions of Indigenous artefacts.

But anything outside of faux-wilderness experiences of Ontario oh so common to Canadian literature (particularly, I want to say, from the 70s, but it has been a while since I’ve actually studied it) seems almost an insult or passing reference to “that branch of the family” that is given an invitation to Christmas dinner, but is smart enough to know it was extended only out of etiquette.

Don’t get me wrong. I usually love Jane Urquhart. I brought her novel The Stone Carvers on the train as my companion for an 18 hour ride to Chicago. But to have yet WASP Canadian writer defining Canada? It’s exactly as boring as you think it’s going to be.


But this goose… this goose has all the pluck I had expected from this book

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Five Things Friday

What a week. I should count myself very lucky to be working in a job that is rarely high stress and rarely requires overtime. Except January. When it’s both. With the early mornings, short lunches and late “quitting time,” this week has been rough. And a lot of the time? I felt like I was failing.

But here’s the thing about failing: sometimes it’s better to fail.

  1. Despite my best efforts to try and get ahead of the mountain of work so it wouldn’t keep me from going to bootcamp in Thursday night, it didn’t work and I ended up staying late. But rather than rushing home to eat to rush back out again, I got to spend some one on one time with each girl, went through M’s clothes to pull out the ones that are too small, and fell asleep on the couch just after 9, which was perfectly fine with me in the end.
  2. I hit the “gym” hard in the mornings as a way to kick my butt into gear since I can’t ingest coffee the way most humans do. And then my knee crapped out on me one day walking for some tea because I hadn’t been planning my workouts well, and forgetting to stretch. A few quick stretches later, it was ready to finish the walk, and after a day or two of rest, I know what I’ll need to do to keep it from happening again.
  3. It went from above freezing to windchills so cold it felt like razor blades on my fully clothed legs. But I am the queen of layers and while I am still on the fence about wearing ski pants on the bus (great for waiting for it, a little too warm while sitting on it), extra tall socks, and lots of layers on my torso have kept the bone chilling coldness at bay plus it meant having lots of cozy options when the drafts through my office windows picked up
  4. We had planned to go out for supper for my birthday last Friday, but my parents wanted us to have supper with them, so we postponed until this Friday. But then the plans we thought we’d made for babysitters didn’t so much happen and we didn’t realize it until too late, so instead, we are spared having to go out in the cold, after a very long week, and instead get to go home, eat some comfort food, and relax.
  5. I’ve been coming home rage-y and frazzled. My supper table rants are not going over well with the younger set and don’t always make me feel any better. But I’ve learned to take them as a sign I need to take some time in the all too short evening to look after me, even if the answer has just been “go to bed”.

Everything at work peaks next Wednesday and then quickly falls off so the end? It’s in sight. And I know every year is like this and I get through. And in a few weeks, I’ll be down knocking on a coworkers door begging to take some of her work because I’m bored. That’s just the way this job goes.

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Legs on Fire

Like most the world, I took a lot of time off because of the holidays. And I don’t just mean time off work, but also time off working out. My workouts had slowly been ramping down. It used to be a 6 days a week with a walk on the 7th between bootcamp and running. And then I slowly dropped down to, well, nothing. Bootcamp took a hiatus. Miss M stopped being a reliable 5 am alarm.

So I had to push myself this weekend knowing bootcamp started back. A quick workout of standbys like squats, burpees, and star jacks? Should be easy right?

Monday morning I had planned some active recovery, but my legs refused to hold me up when my alarm went off. All day, every time I went to stand up to get a file, jump up to wave and direct a student over to me, or refill my tea reminded me just how quickly I could you lose it if you don’t use it.

There is no greater epiphany here because really it’s just the simple truth. Don’t expect your muscles to keep working the same way if you don’t keep up the same activity level. No amount of new equipment, new workout spaces or tricks to get ourself out of bed can can motivate me to pick up the more rigorous training schedule. But maybe, just maybe the fire in my legs will light the fire under my butt back in shape.

And then maybe I’ll also remember to stretch!


It would really be a smarter idea to have the snooze button that much smaller than the stop button. Maybe then I’d actually get up rather than snoozing all the time!

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Not For Chickens: Egg-Free Birthdays

I knew I was going to make C’s first birthday cake at home, because, in my mind, that was what a Good Mom™ does for their children. And then when her egg allergy cropped up, (and our nearest egg-free bakery cake option was heavy as a brick and dry a sand), I didn’t really have a choice. Since I like my cake to be light and fluffy, I settled on this recipe for the best vegan cupcake because the blogger described it as “light fluffy, sweet-vanilla deliciousness”. While I made it in cake form, and that ended up being heavier than a cupcake would have, it was still a lot lighter than anything else I tried (though mine was not very vegan with butter and milk in place of their animal friendly alternatives), but the recipe hinged on mixing just the right amount, with too much or too little mixing spelling disaster. What was really neat was seeing the ingredients weirdly bubble up, but the whole experience (especially since it all culminated the day before I went back to work), was not enjoyable in the least for me.


C is very insulted I censored her image here. She wants you to know she was very cute on her first birthday. I agree.

The next year, we were back on eggs and I went with a cake mix, and store bought icing. Multiple boxes of cake mix. Ah yes, the birthday where we discovered that the oven’s thermostat didn’t work. In the end, they were super cute. And again, super stressful. I resolved the next year to just buy a damn grocery store bakery cake with all the princesses on it, and everyone would be happy.


And then we found out sweet M couldn’t do egg. Sure, at C’s birthday, she didn’t NEED cake, but since she’d be underfoot, we didn’t want to chance her eating more than a couple crumbs, and so there I was again, baking. Fortunately, I was still lazy and crazy, so I tried the pinterest-style hack: a box of cake mix and a can of sprite. Guys, my world was rocked. Not only was it fun to watch all the foam and bubbles as I poured the soda into the mix, but these were also the most moist, delicious, light, fluffy cupcakes I had ever experienced! I would eat these every day if I could. Hands down the best cake I’ve ever tasted. Ever. And they were so light, I didn’t feel guilty wanting seconds. The problem was they were TOO moist, and the icing (also store bought) began to run while we waited for guests to arrive.


So when Madeline’s first birthday rolled around, I went old school. Really old school. 1930s old school, when eggs and milk were expensive and so many housewives made do without. Some 80 years later, the cake is now known as “crazy cake” but still uses 7-9 pantry staples. It makes an adequate cake. It tastes a little more like baking soda than I would like, and you have to make it into cupcakes or double-to-triple the recipe to make a decent looking cake, but it never fails. So this cake? It will never be my first choice, but it will likely the cake I’m going to be making for at least the next two years at every birthday party we have.


But the day we drive home from the hospital after M’s first successful food challenge, I’m going to stop at the grocery store and pick up a cake. Because while I’m sure I will have honed my baking and decorating skills in that time, there is nothing I love more than knowing exactly what the cake is going to look like, and taste like, and best of all, not having to do anything for it.

Thank goodness I no longer believe in the myth of the Good Mom™.

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Five Things Friday: Resolution

Tomorrow, I turn 34. I’m entering my mid-thirties, and it’s comfortable. That being said, being comfortable makes me twitchy, so I need a few resolutions to keep my life rolling.

  1. Make a move in my career by September. It can mean moving to a new position where I am, looking outside of my current organization, or applying for further schooling. Yes, I said this on Wednesday, but that’s how I know it’s important enough to lead this list.
  2. Really focus on making the most of my time. I seem to always be saying: “priorities aren’t a list you have in your head. Priorities are how you spend your time” and while I know that, I don’t always act on that. I’m putting in more structure to my free time to actually do what I say is important to me. In a couple weeks, I’m taking my first (since the old days of 4-H) photography workshop. I’m also limiting the number of evenings I’m allowed to default to just watch TV.
  3. Read more books. I really fell off the book reading this year, and I miss it. Hopefully the last point will help with it, but I’ve got a stack of books I’m excited to read, and (knock on wood), I’m starting to get enough time back in the evenings to actually jump into a book.
  4. I’m going to run a 10K by Thanksgiving. I don’t know whether it’s going to be an actual race, or just around my neighbourhood, so long as I run ever meter of it. I also know that running itself isn’t the best for my body, so I’m going to make sure that I’m exercising regularly, cross-training as needed, to make sure my knees (or any other body part, but really looking at you, knees) don’t let me down.
  5. While I’m busy working on me, making sure I’m taking time for Scott. Right now our shared interest is… our kids? Finding a food everyone will eat so we don’t have meal time fights? We need to work on that.

I think 34 is going to be a good year, and if I even achieve one of these, it’ll be even better!


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C Reads: November / December

When I decided to do a Christmas based C Reads at the beginning of December, I had to remember to go back to do the non-Christmas based books we also picked up during that time.  Now let’s hope I remember them!

24683269778_d6e6c554aa_kBaby Swap by Jan Ormerod and Andew Joyner is pretty cute. A girl is tired of her baby brother, and so when left alone with him (side bar: WHA?!?!?!), decides to trade him in at a nearby baby store. After test driving a few other babies, she decides her own brother is just perfect… d’awwwww.

Captain Jack and the Pirates by Peter Bently & Helen Oxenbury is a lilting rhyming book, but I’m pretty sure that C didn’t quite get it. The words describe a pirate adventure, and the pictures show kids at the beach. Obviously, they are playing pretend, but she never really took to this book too much and I think that it was too grounded in reality.

A Bedtime for Bear by Bonnie Becker and Kady Macdonald Denton is sweet — a bear is very particular about his bedtime routine, but his house guest disturbs it… until he realizes how disturbing his particularities actually can be, at which point he welcomes his little friend warmly to help ease his fears. The illustrator is originally from Winnipeg, which I always find neat.

Curious George Learns the Alphabet by H. A. Rey isn’t your typical alphabet book. Yes, there is “A… Apple” type stuff, but it focuses more on Curious George learning to form words from the alphabet, which was really neat (albeit a long book! It actually cues you to take breaks along with George). A little over C’s head at this point, but she still liked trying to spell.


I Am Small by Emma Dodd is the sweetest little book you will find in this list today. It’s geared quite young — we got it for M — but it is one of those heartwarming books you hope any of your kids wants to read it. A small penguin compares him/herself to the world, which is big, but ultimately learns that with his/her parents’ love, s/he can feel huge.

Wake Up Rupert by Mike Twohy was on repeat here. Possibly because you have to try to crow really loudly, and what kid doesn’t like to disturb their younger sibling’s sleep with a great crowing? It’s about a rooster who realizes how important his job of waking up the farm is, even if it means getting up early, because no one else can do it quite right.

Alligator Baby by Robert Munsch and Michael Marchenko was my favourite of the set. In classic Munsch fashion, the kid in the story is the one that has to control the terrible antics of the parents, this time with a mother giving birth at the zoo instead of the hopsital and bringing home the wrong baby. Super fun.

Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen was not as bad as I thought. I was really worried about getting a baseball story when I have little love for the sport. Turns out that’s ok — this one is really about physics and space travel. Baseball just happens to be at the beginning at the end. As happens in all books about a kid saving the world from an asteroid headed for earth using a robot he built in his backyard.

The Peanuts Movie: Charlie Brown is Not A Quitter by Maggie Testa might have been better had we seen the movie. Instead, it’s a somewhat clunky retelling of what is likely just a portion of the story line. But in the end, everyone loves Charlie Brown, as always happens. Right?


Spot the Puppy In the City by Alexandra Koken and Joelle Dreidemy got the least love at our house. Maybe it was because it was borrowed along with the majority of our Christmas books, maybe it was the book itself. I honestly can hardly tell it and another one of the seek and find books we had a while ago apart.

Puppy by Keith Graves was a fun read. It seems to borrow from comic book formats, which are really big with C right now, in telling the story of a caveboy who finds a “puppy” and adopts it as its own.

Charlotte The Scientist Gets Squished by Camille Andros and Brianne Farley probably would win the award for this set of books from a pedagogical yet entertaining slant. Charlotte the Scientist has too many siblings and they get in the way of her experiments. Using the scientific method, she experiments on how best to stop being squished. Its sweet because it shows how much she ends up realizing she loves her siblings. It also provides additional ideas of experiments to follow and the opportunity to share them online. Obviously, that last part was above C’s head quite a bit, but it was fun for her to see a hypothesis somewhere other than Dinosaur Train.

Mr. Nervous and the Pirates by Adam Hargreaves was on repeat. For both girls.  Ok, the first few pages on repeat for M, since she didn’t have the attention span. It’s half about Mr. Nervous overcoming his nervousness, and half about people around him learning to be nervous, and concludes with Mr. Nervous no longer shaking with nervousness but with rage. Not sure it’s the healthiest book to be reading children, but between the gold leaf (imitation, I have no doubt) and the general Little Mr / Little Miss book premise, it was popular.

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Five Things Friday

I wasn’t going to do a year in review post. I find the first year after having a kid — especially being off work for that time — I tend to lose myself. But as I lie here in bed this morning, with M catching up on some much needed sleep that I hope will help her finally get over this cold, the last year still looked pretty good.

  1. We survived the rough months of intensive treatment for M’s feet. We started the year with a slipped cast, persevered through a double tenotomy, and cried through the first couple weeks of boots and bars. When we finally went down to nighttime wear only, it was like a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders, and we could finally start living rather than just making it through. And she has proven to be resilient through it all, sometimes even making less of a fuss than I did.
  2. Miss C? Thriving. It’s the only way to describe her life. Sure, her sister was hitting major milestones common to the first year of life, but C? She hit her share too. She potty trained, in retrospect, like a dream. She started preschool like a champ. And despite screaming anytime she was in auntie’s swimming pool all summer, blew me away when she re-started swimming lessons after the summer break, being so brave.
  3. I re-discovered my love of fitness and running and let myself make that a priority. I’m not sure my working schedule would necessarily allow it any other time, but the summer of twice a week boot camps, and three night a week runs, and a few other workouts in there for good measure? I never felt so strong and confident in my life.
  4. Scott started a new job in March, and while there are always bugs and crashes at the worst times in IT, he seems much more at ease about going in to work each day.
  5. I was glad to go back to work. I still have outgrown my job and I’m still not sure where to go from here, but I like having that additional purpose in my life. I like having goals outside of my house, and I like the idea that what I do matters. I still hate that someone else gets to spend more of my kids’ waking hours with them, but I also know that they are doing well and I am doing well, so we must be making the right decisions.

All in all, I’ll say it’s been a pretty good year, after all!

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Five Things Friday

We’ve all been sick this week so it’s been tough getting into the Christmas spirit. But as of today, we are on Christmas Break (oh how I love working for a university!) and so I’m snuggling my littlest girl and while I know the house NEEDS to be cleaned before I can enjoy the festive season, I’m starting to feel the peace that adults seem to seek at this time of year.

Scott is on my case a bit this year about being too adherent to Christmas traditions (“but do you need to do them every year?” Yes, because that’s what a tradition is!) so I thought I’d list my five favourite Christmas traditions

  1. Christmas music ad nauseum. In the car. At work. At home. There is such a breadth and depth of this genre (since it encompasses all genres), I never tire of it.
  2. Bailey’s in my hot chocolate. Disaronno in my Coke. I miss Regina for it’s ready availability of mead at the holidays but these two alternatives work well for me.
  3. Butter tarts. It’s not Christmas without them, and even better is when Scott makes them for me.
  4. Playing Christmas carols on piano. Sounds like #1 but it’s different listening to something and playing something.
  5. Christmas movies. Oh the number of them keeps growing so we have to start watching them earlier and earlier but it’s a fun treat to let the kids watch full movies. You know, for the first 5 minutes until they realize they don’t have the attention span.
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Life gets in the way

Today’s post was supposed to be about the successful attempt to become a morning person with tips like “start the day with a workout” or “actually go to bed when you say you should”. But here’s the real secret to waking up earlier:

Life makes you do it.

It’s the baby that relatively consistently screams at 4:45 am unless she cuddles next to you, forcing you into a position that is not conducive to sleep.

It’s the return to work that brings the chaos of having two kids, two working parents, and, oh ya, the craziness of the holiday season that means you need to use every waking moment to get things done.

It’s the weird cold that hits you (not surprisingly) the day after the night you’re up with the sick toddler from 2 am until 5am causing you to fall asleep before supper that night and then wake up after 11 hours of sleep and have it be 5 am.

And soon, going to be at 930 feels late, and so waking up at 530 feels…

…nope. Not normal.

It feels like a kick in the face because you know you could still be sleeping if your body hadn’t wanted to be a morning person and your brain isn’t on board.

I’ll get there. And then I’ll write the post on how I managed it. But for now, I am a morning person not by choice, but because life got in the way.

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