First Day of School

The first day of school for the public school board in Ontario is always the day after Labour Day, which this year ends up being today. My girls are back to school, and although part of me is sighing in relief that they’ll be in someone else’s care for a couple of hours every day, I know the house will also seem echoingly empty without them around. I think I’ll learn to live with it, though.


Thing 1 and Thing 2’s lunches for the first day of school.

School-provided lunches really aren’t a thing around here; heck, the school doesn’t even have a cafeteria. Everyone brown bags it, although some kids do get a special lunch delivered by the “Lunch Lady” once or twice a week, which has never really seemed like value for money to me. Most of the year my girls pack their own lunches the night before, and they have almost since they started to go to school. I tried to pack Thing 1’s lunches for her starting in Junior Kindergarten, but too often more than half of the food came back home – although her teachers reported that she was complaining of hunger. Once Thing 1 made her own lunch, a lot less of the food came back home, and the complaints became rare. I had to help her out a lot at first, but by the time Thing 2 started school, she wanted to make her own lunch to be just like Thing 1. I’m not saying that it’s not a struggle sometimes. What should be a short and simple process can take ages when the kids do it themselves. Sometimes they are more interested in doing just about anything else and getting them to make their lunches can be a seemingly endless argument. But in the end, I think that the independence is important, and that it’s a good thing that my children learn basic food handling and prep early on. My husband and I are always nearby to make sure that they make healthy choices — and to ensure that they don’t accidentally bring anything with tree nuts or peanuts to school.


Thing 2’s lunch.

However, on the first day of school, for a special treat, I like to pack their lunches for them. I made up some fresh whole wheat bread using the Nan’s Pan Rolls recipe, and I also threw together some Blueberry Bran Muffins. The bread I used to make Hungarian salami sandwiches with mayonnaise (even though I prefer mustard myself). Each girl also got Goldfish, strawberries, vanilla yogurt, and string cheese. I packed Thing 2 a container of sliced English cucumber, while Thing 1 prefers an apple.

Am I the only one who finds those “school lunches in other countries” videos and articles interesting? I don’t know if you could consider this to be a typical Canadian lunch, though. I remember being very interested in my classmates’ lunches when I went to school because they were all so different. Some of them contained Wonder Bread sandwiches with peanut butter and jam or bologna and mayonnaise; others ate crusty French bread, sharp cheese, and cherry tomatoes; others always contained a thermos of soup and a travel package of crackers; others had warm dishes of rice and curry and spice. Some kids ate the same thing religiously, others had an entirely different daily menu. I think our household was somewhat between those extremes, with recurring favourites alongside seasonal and leftover dinner fare.


Thing 1 and Thing 2’s school bags, packed and ready to go.

At any rate, my kids’ lunches and supplies were ready the night before. New-ish outdoor shoes were set by the front door, brand new sneakers were in their backpacks, packages of markers and pencil crayons and duotangs and paper filled up the rest of their bags. Their lunches and water bottles were in the fridge, waiting to be grabbed on the way to the door. Hopefully all of this preparation will set a positive tone for the rest of the year. Will they like their new teachers? Will they get along with their classmates? Will they enjoy the new challenges that their schooling puts in front of them? Who knows? There’s really nothing I can do to influence most of that. But lunch, though, lunch I can do. And no matter how the first day turns out, it always goes better on a full stomach.

At The Park

There are a lot of public parks in the Ottawa area; a lot of them even have splash pads and water features. This means that if you’re looking to do something with the kids (or even just to get outside yourself), there is always somewhere to go and something to do — so long as it’s not pouring rain. I take advantage of this on a regular basis. My kids are old enough now to pop off together to the closest park for an hour or two. However, their range is pretty small (they only just learned to ride bikes without training wheels earlier this summer), and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with them going much further or crossing major roads alone in any case. So whenever it’s nice out and the girls are getting restless, I head out to a park.


Brewer Park


Knitting at Cardinal Creek Community Park. That day I was working on the start of an adult sock in Araucania Yars Huasco 100% extra-fine Merino wool (colour 101, dye lot 74403) on 3.5mm circular knitting needles.

We alternate between parks, sometimes staying close to home, sometimes packing a lunch and driving downtown or even across town to check out some new scenery. I stuff a novel, a knitting project, and my phone into my purse, which is enough to keep me entertained for hours. No matter where we go, I also have to bring about a tonne of sunscreen. It probably hasn’t escaped anyone that I’m a blonde and my kids are redheads, so sunscreen is not an option, it’s a necessity. The kids invariably come home soaking wet, exhausted, and happy. To me, that’s a successful summer day.

Ottawa ComicCon Day 1: My Photos

I brought my camera along to Ottawa ComicCon on the days where my costume would allow it, and I took plenty of photos. Of course, I didn’t notice that my ISO was bumped up ridiculously high until well after the fact — something about wrangling children and costumes in a crowd makes photography somewhat challenging. So most of my photos are really grainy. Even so, I here are some of the most fun costumes that we saw; of course, the ones my kids wanted to have their pictures with are ones that they’re familiar with, so Friday’s photos concentrate on kid-friendly productions.


Thing 1 and Thing 2 with Stitch (from Lilo & Stitch).


We found three Pikachus (Pokémon) in the same area, so we rounded them up to take photos with my little Eeveelutions. I don’t think any of them know each other.


Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the T.A.R.D.I.S. in the Doctor Who booth.


Thing 2 with a Dalek, which was her favourite because it was orange, her favourite colour. In the Doctor Who booth.


Thing 1 with a blue-and-silver Dalek in the Doctor Who booth, also chosen because it contains her favourite colour.


Thing 2 and Thing 1 beside their favourite parts of the Star Wars universe: the droids! (R2D2 and BB8 from the 501st’s booth.)


Given that they went as characters from Zootopia last year, Thing 1 and Thing 2 were thrilled to meet Judy Hopps.


Thing 1 and Thing 2 were very happy to meet Jack Skellington and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas — especially Thing 2, as it is her favourite movie. Don’t let her expression here fool you.


My mother took the kiddos for a few minutes, so I had a chance to snap a pic of this fantastic Storm (X-Men).


RWBY character Ruby, with a Grimm.


Thing 2 with Pokémon Cubone. This poor guy couldn’t see through his head piece at all! Looked great though.


Thing 2 and Thing 1 with Hipster Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas), as executed by the fabulous Lilithia Dark. She even let Thing 1 hold her stuffed Zero! The girls were super excited — once again, especially Thing 2, who adores this movie. “Mommy, she was so awesome!” I agree.

If you recognize yourself or anyone you know in my photos and want me to link to your cosplay page/Facebook/blog, just let me know!

Ottawa ComicCon Day 1: Pro Photos

Every year at Ottawa ComicCon (except for the first one, since he didn’t have a booth) we have our pictures taken by Richard Dufault Photography, also known as Open Shutter Photography. After putting all of that time, effort, and funds into making those costumes, it just makes sense to me to have photos professionally done to record the event. Richard does great work and I am always so happy to see the results!

(It should go without saying, but all of the photos in this post were by Richard Dufault.)


Thing 2 as Flareon, me as a Pokémon Go player, Thing 1 as Vaporeon, and my mom as another Pokémon Go player.

Day 1 (Friday) we dressed up as a group as Pokémon characters/creatures. On the day where I take the kids, they get to pick the costumes that they want me to make — within reason. The rules are that they have to make up their minds at least a month before ComicCon, and they can’t change their minds once I’ve started buying supplies. Hence, our Fridays are usually costumes for whatever movie, TV show, video game, or book they’re currently most interested in. The rule is also that they have to wear this costume again for Hallowe’en, so I try to make something that they won’t grow out of too quickly.


Thing 2 as Flareon, me as a Pokémon Go player, Thing 1 as Vaporeon, and my mom as another Pokémon Go player.


Thing 1 as Vaporeon (an Eeveelution, or an evolution of an Eevee).


Thing 1 as Vaporeon.


Thing 2 as a Flareon (an alternate Eeveelution).


Thing 2 as a Flareon (an alternate Eeveelution).


Me as a Pokémon Go player, Thing 1 as Vaporeon, Thing 2 as Flareon, and my mom as another Pokémon Go player.


Thing 1 as Vaporeon and Thing 2 as Flareon, posing with Richard’s fancy lightsabers.


Our group expanded a bit later to include additional Pokémon characters! Me as a Pokémon Go player, Kelsey Joustra as Umbreon (another Eeveelution), Adam Joustra as a member of Team Rocket, Thing 2 as Flareon, Thing 1 as Vaporeon, and my mom as another Pokémon Go player.


The three Eeveelutions show off their tails! Thing 2 as Flareon, Kelsey Joustra as Umbreon, and Thing 1 as Vaporeon.


Gotta catch ’em all! Me as a Pokémon Go player, Adam Joustra as a member of Team Rocket, my mom as another Pokémon Go player, Thing 2 as Flareon, Kelsey Joustra as Umbreon, and Thing 1 as Vaporeon.

I can’t wait to post the rest of the photos from the weekend! Saturday’s pro photos are up, but I’m still waiting on Sunday’s. Not that I don’t have enough photos of my own to process in the meantime. There were so many creative, detailed, fantastic costumes to check out — which is, let’s be honest, my favourite part of ComicCon.

Two Weeks Until ComicCon

The countdown to ComicCon continues, and I am seeing some progress.

I’ve managed to get Thing 2’s bodysuit finished, which is, to me, the most difficult part. I hate sewing stretch fabric, but a bodysuit really needs to be stretchy. This is especially true for children, who will shed costume pieces if they find them too uncomfortable. These costumes have to work for ComicCon and Halloween, so I’d like them to be worn for more than five minutes at a time. Of course, when sewing this bodysuit I managed to put in one of the sleeves inside-out the first time. This seems to be an inevitable state of affairs for me whenever I make clothing.

I also painted Thing 2’s shoes for the costume, since we couldn’t find any in bright orange.

My Day 1 costume is pretty much complete, much to my great joy. I didn’t do a lot of sewing for this one (just the belt and the white part of the sleeves, actually), but there were a lot of little details that needed to be carefully painted and then dried. I probably could have sewn it in less time, but definitely not for less. The cap was $5.00 at Michaels, the shirt (which was blank and plain blue at the time) was $2.49 at Value Village, and the skirt was $3.99 at the same place. The gloves were $2.50 at the dollar store. I already owned multiple pairs of black leggings. The belt was made out of scrap fabric from my stash, and the buckle was made out of a $0.79 plywood circle from Michaels. The most expensive things were the shoes, which I paid $29 for (I think) at Payless, but they’ll get lots of use after the Con, so I don’t feel too bad about that purchase.

Welcome to My Craft Room

For many, many years I didn’t have a craft room. I worked wherever I could find the space: in my bedroom, my living room, all over the dining room table. Then the kids came along, and I found it increasingly more difficult to work on large projects because I had to have every last piece tidied up at the end of each crafting session. I couldn’t leave painted pieces out to dry, or pinned items ready for sewing, or even a simple needle and thread where the kids could get at it. Which is why I couldn’t have been more overjoyed when we moved to our current house and I could wall off a section of the basement as my own — separated from the rest of the house by sturdy baby gates.

I finally painted this space and really made it my own last summer. As you can see, it’s just a long stretch along one wall of my basement, “walled” off on one side by copious second-hand bookshelves. There are more shelves on the other side in the kids’ play room, and they’re all screwed together, making a solid-but-temporary barrier.

The kids aren’t babies or toddlers any more, so I can do without the baby gate and trust, for the most part, that they will leave my things alone. It’s a good thing, too, or they’d never get their costumes for ComicCon or Halloween in time, let alone all the little constant repairs that I have to make on their things.

Those first two photos were taken immediately after the renovations were complete and before I’d had a chance to get into any major projects. Right now… Well, it’s less than three weeks until ComicCon, and every surface is covered with costume pieces in the works. I’ll mostly be living in this room until then.

When I’m making costumes, especially when I need five on a short time limit, I have to multitask. Today I’m working on a ball cap, a T-shirt, a skirt, a pair of sneakers, and a head. That last “head” one is my most ambitious project this year, and I hope like heck that I manage to get it done in time.

If you already recognize what the costumes are going to be, well, you’re as big of a geek as I am. Congratulations! I’ll probably see you in a few weeks at ComicCon. Don’t hesitate to say hi!

Three Weeks Until ComicCon

There are three weeks exactly until Ottawa ComicCon, and I am starting to panic. I am a cosplayer, and the costumes I’m hoping to complete have barely been started. The next twenty one days are going to be crammed with sewing and building, in addition to the usual cooking.

To give you an idea of the kind of costumes that I make, I have put together photographs of what I consider to be my best Con costume work. I have been attending since the first Ottawa con in 2012, and I generally wear a different costume every day. Not only that, but when I bring the kids, I make costumes for them as well. So that’s five costumes I have to have ready in three weeks. I have nobody to blame for this tight deadline except myself… And that dratted cold that ate up pretty much all of last week.

The photos start with the most recent, and progress to the oldest. All costumes made by me unless otherwise specified.


Clawhauser (me), Judy Hopps (Thing 2), Gazelle (Thing 1) and Bellwether (Mom, who made her own costume) from Zootopia.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Thing 2 as Judy Hopps from Zootopia.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Thing 1 as Gazelle from Zootopia.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Me as Edna Mode from The Incredibles.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Me as April O’Neil from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Astrid (Thing 1) and Stormfly (me) from How To Train Your Dragon.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Ruffnut (Kelsey Joustra), Tuffnut (Adam Joustra), and Stormfly (me) from How To Train Your Dragon. Kelsey and Adam made their own costumes.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Thing 1 as Astrid from How To Train Your Dragon.


Thing 2 as Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon.


Me as Pyro from Team Fortress 2.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Pyro (me), Heavy (Ian Walton), and Sniper (Karen Turnbull) from Team Fortress 2. Ian and Karen made their own costumes.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Gru (me) and a Minion (Thing 1) from Despicable Me.
Photo by Richard Dufault Photography


Thor (Thing 1) and Frigga (me) from Thor. The Thor costume is store bought.


Me as The Penguin from Batman.
Photo by Karen Turnbull.


Thing 2 as Harley Quinn from Batman.