Winterlude 2017

Rob and I decided to spend the night away for a little R&R this weekend. With our upcoming vacation it seems a little odd to want a day off, but my stress level was getting pretty high and just a few hours away was the perfect resolve.

Since we were solo we decided to brave the cold Canadian weather and check out all of the Winterlude festivities downtown. Read More

Our 4th Weekend

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We had such a wonderful 4th weekend. One of the many nice things about living in Canada is that we get to celebrate double holidays often and Rob gets extra long weekends.

The 1st was Canada Day so we decided to try someplace new. We ended up finding this cute little down about an hour away with an Aquaratarium. There were some fish and a few otters but the best part was all of their interactive exhibits. Very child friendly.

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My parents came to visit for the weekend and we decided to make a trip out to our favorite farm and eat pick some strawberries. The kiddos jumped right in and new exactly what to do. That night we have fresh strawberries and home made whipped cream! I also freezed a few pounds to make jam once we get all the materials to can.

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The most exciting event during the weekend was celebrating the 4th at the Ambassadors house. He hosts an amazing event and it was a lot of fun to dress up and eat some amazing food.

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Hope you all had a wonderful 4th.

A Moving Must Have: First Night Box

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So we have been in this house a little over three months and this post is LONG overdue. Honestly, I thought I had already published it but as I looked through my drafts list I found it, almost complete, and decided it was better late then never!

In the last seven years I have moved seven times, six with Rob, and four with kids in tow. These moves included on campus housing –> townhouse –> single family home –> apartment –> hotel –> and now a rental. I have learned a lot about the dos and don’ts along the way that could make or break a move.

Even if you carefully mark your boxes it can be a little overwhelming once the movers have left and you find yourself boxed in. Two or three houses ago moving didn’t go according to plan and we were bringing in the last of the boxes close to midnight. As if moving all day wasn’t exhausting enough we had to spend the next two hours searching for towels, the remote for the bed, and toilet paper. From then on I always packed a first night box filled with items we might need before we are able to get any boxes unpacked.

First Night Box Materials

Make sure your first night box is sturdy and stands out from the rest. A clear plastic bin is a great option that can be used again and again. Your box may vary based on the time of year and size of family. If we are staying in the new place before the movers are scheduled to arrive we take it with us or use the above as a shopping list once we have arrived.  You can go one step further and secure a clear sheet protector on the inside of the box and make a list of its contents. It’s a nice visual place to check off items as you pack helping to make sure nothing is forgotten.

In our most recent move to Canada it was great after a long trip to open this beauty up, grab what we needed to settle in, and get a good nights sleep in our new home.

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Something else that has been really helpful the last few moves was a large Post-It outside each room. Each room had a letter so when someone came in with a box or furniture I could say room C instead of 2nd room on the left. I also listed the large pieces of furniture that would stand out from the rest so they knew where it went if I was temporarily distracted.

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One Month As Canadians

I can’t believe we have been here over a month already. Aside from the office/craft room we are just about done unpacking and decorating. This has definitely been my favorite house to decorate so far. You will see why in the coming weeks when I reveal some of my favorite rooms in the house.

Although there isn’t a huge cultural change moving from the US to Canada there have been a few things that caught my attention over the last month that I thought would be worth remembering later on when we look back at this experience. Overall I love that the primary language is English, all signs are in English (and also French), their currency is’t too different than ours, and there are many chain stores here that we are use to like Michaels and Five Guys.

We now drink milk from a bag and if we want whole milk we grab the 3.25%.

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I was so wrong in assuming that all Canadians liked the cold weather and winter. I can’t believe how many have already started complaining about the cold weather.

Canadians CANNOT drive in the rain, at all. But they are super nice and will usually let you in without requiring you to be aggressive at first.

If you don’t understand what something says it means you are on the French side and need to turn it over.

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One way signs have no writing on them just the arrow. It’s such a tease and like a blank canvas I want to write all over it.

My absolute favorite is the use of the word “eh?” I can only hope that I catch onto it and start naturally using it in my lingo before we leave.

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My Canadian phone auto corrects to cheques, favourite, colour, and fibre. It makes me feel a little more sophisticated!

It’s AWESOME when the exchange rate is in your favor but balancing your budget sucks if you still have a US bank account and credit cards.

And the most surprising and a little disappointing is that Ritz crackers are in a bag….?!?!?!

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Making An Extended Stay Hotel Trip More Like Home

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Part of the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) process is staying in a hotel for awhile between pack out and when your goods arrive at your new home. Luckily we found a nice pet friendly extended stay hotel in the area. While it has some awesome perks, it still isn’t easy. Being able to go downstairs for breakfast is great, but that means I have to shower and get dressed 🙂 Having a kitchen is also helpful but cooking without any of your own cookware can be challenging.

We finally leave this week for Canada and I spent some time reflecting on what we brought to make our stay feel more like home. I also thought about a few things we didn’t bring that would have helped. Here are just a few of the most important ones I came up with.

1. Pillows and blankets, and lovies
While they can take up a lot of space in a suitcase, it’s amazing what a difference having your own can make. The smells you are use to and the textures can instantly remind you of home.

2. Hand Soap
I don’t know about you but using the bar soap in the bathroom always annoys me. For a short weekend stay it isn’t a big deal but with lots of diaper changes and messes to clean up I wash my hands a fair amount. Instead of throwing away our soap containers from the apartment I brought them along to use in the hotel bathrooms and in the kitchen. Having a familiar scent around was refreshing.

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3. Diffuser
If you tend to use a lot of candles in your home or diffuse essential oils, I think having 1-2 in your hotel is a must. We brought along our main diffuser for our room and our travel one for the kids room. Not only did it help me keep calm during a pretty stressful time, like putting together my daughters ONEderland birthday, but it kept the rooms smelling nice.

4. Towels
Even at the fancy hotels towels are a little gross. I mean, think about where they have been. Even bleached I still cringe. Now most people who have to fly out on a PCS won’t want to waste valuable space on towels but depending on how long you will be in a hotel it may be a worth while investment. You can find reasonably priced linens at Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond using coupons.

Hotel Favorites

VTech Spinning Lights Learning Hippo | Lamaze Flip Flap Dragon | Play-Doh | VTech Write and Learn Activity Center | Tinkertoy Wild Wheels Building Set

5. Books and Toys
I will admit most of our car was toys and books for the kids. While it was a little bit of a pain to pack them up and haul them to the hotel and then to Canada, it was WELL worth it. Having some familiar toys around to keep them busy really helped keep all of us sane on those rainy days when we didn’t want to venture out. Here were a few of our favorites that still packed fairly well in suitcases.

6. Hanging Clothes
Utilizing the closets and drawers allowed us to put away all of the suitcases which instantly made it feel more permanent. It was easier to find clothes, pack for our vacation, and keep the rooms as clutter free as possible.

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7. Flowers
Even a small bouquet in a glass will instantly brighten up a room and help it feel a little more like home. Some of my favorite places to grab a bunch of flowers or nice arrangement is Costco and Wegmans.

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8. Kitchen Items
I found this mini IKEA dish rack at a thrift store years ago and it is my favorite travel item. It’s great for keeping the kids cups and medicine droppers off of the counters. I also always have a small bottle of Dapple (for the kids stuff) in our travel bag. Instead of throwing it away, I brought along the left over dish soap from the apartment. Although the hotel provided us with dish soap and dishwasher pods, it was nice to have our own.

9. Snacks and Drinks
Most extended stay hotels have a kitchen that comes with the basic necessities to cook meals. It was nice when we got tired of eating out to make spaghetti or make a quick PB & J. In addition to a few staple groceries, we made sure to have some of our favorite snacks on hand. It saved us money buying in bulk instead of raiding the vending machine late at night. I had the kids favorites including apple juice to maintain their routine of after nap snacks etc…

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10. Night Time Routine Comforts
Special bath toys, sound machines, and lovies really seemed to help Parker and Caity adapt to their new home. Nightlights and battery operated candles are also helpful to light up the rooms enough to move around without having to turn on the harsh hotel lighting.