Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teaching an old mom new tricks

I have an e-commerce website and now I have this blog.  I often get asked by people about who made my website.  When I say that it was me they are often shocked.  I don't think that the shock has so much to do with the fact that I personally am capable of creating a website myself but really more that someone they know; a mom, a crafter, a businesswoman; knows how to make a website, knows how to code. 



Now I would never claim to be a master coder. I really only know some basic html coding. But that small amount of knowledge has opened doors for me and provided opportunities and income that I would never have had if I had not known how to code.




I love this video. It really highlights the benefits of teaching coding in schools.  Coding is something I wasn't taught growing up, I taught myself out of necessity on a job.  While it is true that in grade 4 I was given access to a PET computer and I learned a few commands to move the cursor around the screen but after that I really had no computer training except to learn to touch type.

Code.org is a non-profit whose goal is to expose all students to computer programming.  They believe that computer programming is a liberal art and something EVERY student in the world should be exposed to at some point in their childhood education.
 
I love their interactive learning tools that allow anyone to dip their feet in the coding waters and try a few fun coding activities.  I especially loved making Karel the dog move around and pick up his ball simply by typing a few lines of code. 
 
The idea of coding can be really intimidating. It feels like a foreign language and in some ways it is; but learning to code helps you to learn to problem solve. I think my kids would love to try Scratch, a free program you can download.  It basically works like Lego, allowing them to snap together scratch blocks of code to create their own interactive stories, games, music and art projects. 

As I've worked to grow my blog I've been forced to learn more about technology, social media, etc.  It seems there is always something new on the horizon and something more to learn.  But that is part of what I find appealing.  It is great for an old mom like me to learn new tricks and skills. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On top of the world at the CN Tower...and saving money!

Our kids have been begging to go to the CN Tower. Last Family Day weekend we finally made the trek.
 
I logged on the night before and bought our tickets. Within 2 hours they arrived in my in-box ready to print (see Money Saving Tip #1 below for more on this). By pre-ordering them it also meant we could skip the line-up to buy tickets when we arrived and that is always a good thing. 
 
 
The kids had heard about 360 the revolving restaurant. They thought it sounded like fun and wanted to eat there. A brief glimpse at the formal (and expensive) menu made me believe this was a better fit for a romantic dinner sans kids so we opted to eat before we went up. I have since learned that elevation to 360 Restaurant and the Look Out and Glass Floor Levels is complimentary with the purchase of a main entrée by each guest so if you take that into account it wouldn't be as expensive but I still think we made the right decision for our family. I didn't know about Horizons, a more casual restaurant on the Look Out level, which would have been good for us all. Next time for sure.

 
 
The day of our visit was a mixed bag of weather. Worried that this might be the quickest trip up the tower ever (and $70 down the drain) I threw a notebook and some snacks into my bag so we could do some activities while up there. We were lucky. It was a very quiet day at the CN Tower. We were able to slowly walk through the museum area en route to the elevators and give the kids a bit of history and trivia before our ascent.


As expected, the elevator ride and jumping on the glass floor proved to be the big hits with the kids. We had a great time looking around at the different parts of the city, looking for landmarks, our house, dad's office, etc. The kids thought it was hilarious when we went out on the observation deck because one side of the tower was sheltered and the other side was so windy you could barely walk. We went around at least 3 times.
 
 


  
My nifty notebook proved useful. I wrote the letters A through Z down the sheet and we searched for things that began with each letter. The kids had a blast with this and came up with some really creative ones. Some favourites were 'sunbeams shining on the lake', 'skaters at Harbourfront', "Aquarium site" and "blowing kids on the observation deck". We kind of cheated on Z (zillions of buildings) and X (Exhibition grounds) so if you do this and find good ones, be sure to let me know.
 
 


It was a great day. The $10 I saved on tickets was quickly spent in the Souvenir shop that the elevators conveniently drop you off in. To keep the memory alive a little longer I created a wordsearch for them using words that reminded us of our day at the CN Tower. It was a fun activity that encorporated some of our list from our view at the Top of the World! The kids really loved seeing a Toronto landmark up close and personal. Both my husband and I think it was probably 20 years since we've been up the tower so it was fun to see it again through the kids' eyes. 
 

Money Saving Tip #1:

A friend had given me the tip that you can purchase a family pass ahead of time at the Costco.ca website for $69.99 (+ tax). The same tickets would have been $79.96 (+tax) at the tower. So, I saved about $10 by ordering through Costco BUT the Costco pass is for 4 people of any age so if you had 4 people over the age of 13 your savings would be over $25 and that's significant. 
 

Money Saving Tip #2:

If you are visiting Toronto or plan to explore more of the city I would suggest looking at the Toronto City Pass. It gives you entry into:
  • Casa Loma
  • CN Tower
  • Ontario Science Centre
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • Toronto Zoo

It is valid for 9 consecutive days from the first day of use and there are some other terms in the fine print that you should read first. Again you can buy cheaper passes at the Costco site or buy directly from the City Pass site but at $58.40USD (City Pass)/$52.99 CAD (Costco) for an adult and $34.50 USD (City Pass)/$31.99 CAD (Costco) for a child it would be a great way to see some amazing attractions at a fraction of the cost.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tooth...ache

My family had a great holiday last week but the entire time we were away my son's front tooth was hanging on by a string (or whatever teeth hang on by).  I desperately wanted to reach over and yank it out.  I couldn't handle staring at the grotesque tooth dangler.



I restrained myself - well, my husband restrained me if we are being honest here.  I managed the whole week without pulling it out although I did offer a lot of crunchy carrots and apples to him.  I knew it would come out in due time and last night it happened on its own. 

As we were clearing the table my son ran into the kitchen, the pearly white tooth in his hand and a HUGE gap in the front of his mouth.  I have to admit that I squawked a bit, squeeled a bit, and basically shed a tear.  My desire to pull out that tooth and rid myself of staring at it hanging there was overwhelmingly overtaken by the realization that my baby is growing up, that he's not going to be my little guy forever.


 
 
The immediate change in his appearance was startling to me and this is before those huge gangly adult teeth start pushing their way in.  In retrospect I am glad that I managed to contain myself last week and enjoy our time with him looking like my 'little guy'.  We had lots of cuddles, playtime and handholding.  I know that my mama's boy won't be a mama's boy forever so I should stop and enjoy each stage and not try to rush them. 

Now I need to embrace the huge front tooth phase.  I hope I'm up for it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How My Son Sees Me...

A little while back I wrote about a project I did making over our door handles with spray paint.  In the process of preparing this post I completely forgot to take a 'before' shot of the door handles and began a search through my photo archives for a photo with the doors in the background.

In searching I came across a slew of photos of myself, all taken by my son probably between the ages of  3 and 5.  It was really funny to see me through his eyes.

This is how I thought he would see me...


Nope, turns out he really just sees me bending down to fit in the frame of his photo, usually with a pretty cheesy grin.


Now if only his stuffies could talk.  Then we'd know the whole story.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I love you because...Happy Valentine's Day!

The kids and I had a great time working on homemade Valentine's for their classmate's this year.  The ideas were some that I had mentioned a few weeks back, my daughter chose friendship bracelets and my son chose Superhero valentines.  We worked on them on and off over a week so that it didn't seem overwhelming (my poor girlfriend was drowning in melted crayons and embroidery floss when I spoke to her on Sunday) and the kids were really into it.  We didn't save any money doing our valentines this way but we did have a lot more fun and they were so proud of the results. 

As for Valentine's for the family, I went the homemade route for those too.  I thought it would mean more to them in the long run.  I can't wait to see their faces after I give them each their Valentine.  Inside I listed about 15 reasons that  I love them.  They ranged from sentimental such as "I love you because you are caring" to the obscure "I love you because you always offer to help grate cheese (and steal half of it)".  On the cover of each I printed out the poem below on a heart shaped piece of paper.



We shouldn't really need a date on a calendar to remind us to celebrate our love but with life moving so fast, sometimes it is good to have a reminder.  Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hate...spray...love!

When we moved into our house 7 years ago I loved almost everything about it but I hated the brass doorknobs on the french doors leading into our living room and our bedroom hallway.  I don't know what it is about brass but I just don't like it.  I wanted to change them out but to be honest, with a toddler, a baby on the way and then the busy life that ensued, I just never got around to it.  Not to mention, there always seemed to be something else to spend the money on.


 

Then, last spring I was in the hardware store when I saw this can of Rust-oleum Metallic oil rubbed bronze spray paint.  All the other metal accents in these rooms are brushed bronze.


The handles themselves are good quality and in fine shape so I decided it was worth a try. 


Oops - forgot a before shot.
Because I hated them they were never featured in photos so this is the best I could do. Sorry!


I removed all of the handles from the doors and used an egg carton to support them for spraying.  I took them outside, put a sheet down to protect the lawn then went to it. 




The spray was very easy to use and produced a really even coat.  I had 3 sets of handles altogether.  I gave each handle two coats of the spray and had lots left for other projects.    After drying overnight I put them back on the doors.  They looked great.



I have now had them on the doors for about 10 months.  There is absolutely no wear and tear, they are holding up beautifully.  The can cost me about $9 with tax.  I'd say that was a pretty creative idea done on a dime.   

Friday, February 8, 2013

What's your fortune Valentine?

I love these ideas for valentines.  They would be perfect to make and share with the entire class.  Grab the supplies, call the kids and have fun making some valentines this weekend.

Fortune Cookie Valentines:


These are really simple to make.  If you can cut a circle then you can make these fabulous fortune cookie valentines. 

Image & Idea: Martha Stewart


Materials Needed:

  • felt in pink and red
  • scissors
  • ribbon in pink and red
  • floral wire
  • wire cutters
  • candy & messages to fill the fortune cookies

Instructions:

For full instructions click here.

 

You Rule Valentine:


This is a great valentine to make for the entire class.  It is a great non-chocolate/non-candy alternative.

Image & Idea: Thompson & Spring

Materials Needed:

  • rulers
  • red construction paper
  • printer
  • heart stickers
  • exacto knife

Instructions:

Find the clear instructions here.

Have a Ball Valentine:

Another really adorable and candy-free alternative for the class.  Bouncy balls are readily available in dollar stores and kids love them.

Image & Ideas: The Creative Mama

 

Materials Needed:

  • bouncy balls
  • cello bags
  • printable headers
  • stapler
  • scissors

Instructions:

  1. Print out the headers for your bags then cut them out.
  2. Put a ball in each bag.
  3. Staple the header onto each bag.

 

For Teacher:


Teachers love valentines too! This adorable printable makes it simple to show your teacher how much you appreciate all they do.


Image & Idea: Skip to my Lou

Wishing you a wonderful weekend with your valentines!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Make a Hockey Puck Pal - It's a Hockey Night in Canada Party!

Hockey Puck Pal:


Your little hockey lover needs a buddy.  This craft is fun and easy for kids of all ages and a perfect activity for a hockey party.  While this buddy may not be cuddly, it is a great reminder of the game your little hockey player loves!



You’ll Need:
  • Plain hockey pucks (no logo - at least on one side)
  • Googly eyes
  • Felt or constructon paper in lots of colours
  • scissors
  • White glue/hot glue gun
  • Feathers, pipe cleaners, plush hair, pom poms, sequins, etc.


Instructions for making a Puck Pal:
  1. On the table lay out a pair of scissors, a puck, a bottle of glue and some googly eyes at each place.
  2. Have the children cut out arms, hands, legs, feet, a mouth, etc. from felt or construction paper.
  3. The kids can design hair for their buddies using feathers, pipe cleaners or other embelishments.
  4. Use the glue to stick on all the felt body pieces including the googly eyes.
 

Monday, February 4, 2013

It may be contagious ...but I hope it spreads!

I stumbled upon this video for Noah and the Whale's "Give A Little Love". It depicts perfectly how positivity can breed positivity and how the energy we give off is contagious. I instantly fell in love.

 

 
My husband and I are really trying to instill in our children the concept of the 'golden rule'. It is simple but powerful; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

While the 'golden rule' concept is simple it can sometimes be difficult for kids to remember in their day to day lives. That is why I love this video. It effectively demonstrates the snowball effect of following the 'golden rule, of treating others with respect and care.   

Grab a coffee, take a seat and enjoy!


  
I plan on sharing this video with my kids.  I think that by seeing the 'golden rule' concept play out in front of them it will make more sense to them and better remind them to make these choices every day.  Imagine our world if everyone did it!



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