I Need A Milkshake

The title of this post has nothing to do with anything, except that I really do want a milkshake right now.  So I mean, it’s honest, if completely unrelated to the rest of the post.

I’m really scattered right now, so I’m going to apologize in advance because I feel like this is going to be all over the map.  I’ll try and keep it coherent, I promise.

Let’s start with a quick weekend recap.

Remember how I mentioned that my cousin and his wife are involved with J-Bird’s softball league?  Well, they both play on one of the adult teams (along with coaching and whatever it is that they do) every Friday.  I’d been thinking about taking J-Bird to see the grown-ups play since he’s been loving baseball so much, so when I found out that they were having a themed game where everyone was coming with beach-themed accessories, I knew that was the game that I had to take him to see.  Because, hello, baseball and water wings?  Yes.  There were swim trunks and pool floaties and water guns everywhere.

Surf n Turf Theme Baseball

Here’s a picture of my cousin at bat, followed by one of his wife just before the game, because when your family is playing baseball in pool floaties and water wings, you have to share that with the internet, obviously:

Surf and Turf Theme

Surf n Turf Theme

Saturday was less interesting.  George spent most of the day doing yard work and running errands while J-Bird and I sat in front of the fan in the living room and tried not to melt.  (So, in case you were wondering, no – our air conditioning has not been fixed.)  On Sunday, I was supposed to go to a baby shower for my high school BFF (who recently had an absolutely gorgeous but slightly too early son), but I woke up with swollen glands and a sore throat, and I was not about to take my summer cold to a new mama who spends all day in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.  Not. Happening.  Instead, I moped around on the couch and whined about how I was missing out, so y’know… not my most productive of days, either.  Although, George did go out and get surprise Dairy Queen Blizzards after dinner, so that helped with the moping (and I also got an awesome picture of J-Bird with his face covered in Oreo crumble).

Speaking of J-Bird…

It’s his birthday on Thursday.  He is going to be ten.  TEN.  You guys, do you have any idea how old that makes me feel?

Schmidt GIF

George took Thursday off so we can surprise J-Bird with a trip to the movies to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 in the afternoon.  J-Bird’s dying to see it.  I’ve lost count of how many times he’s actually seen the first How to Train Your Dragon movie, and he’s watched every episode of the cartoon TV series at least three times.  He’s going to be so stoked.

He also has a softball game on Thursday night, so I’m making some adorable baseball-shaped sugar cookies and taking a variety case of pop (the kind with like, orange and grape and cream soda and stuff) to the field for post-game birthday celebrations with the team.  (If you haven’t already “liked” my Facebook page, you should go do that now since I’ll be posting a picture of the super-cute baseball cookies once they’re done!  Or… the hilarious aftermath if everything goes awry, and you don’t want to miss that, now do you?)

Oh, do you guys want a baby update?

Everything is moving along as expected.  I’ve decided that Baby H is going to be born on August 26th.  I mean, if you ask my OB/GYN, he’ll tell you that September 9th is the due date, but I picked J-Bird’s birthday based on a gut feeling, so we’ll see who wins what happens this time around.  The nursery is still nowhere close to being ready, so that’s pretty stressful, but not stressful enough for me to hope for more time.  I have to pee every time I stand up, and if I’m awake, I’m hungry, so yeah… I’m getting about ready for this little dude to make his grand entrance.

OK.  That’s it.  I have to waddle up the stairs to the bathroom (again) and then find a snack (again).

But I want to live vicariously through you guys, with your fantastic summer plans and lack of alcohol restrictions.  What have you been up to?

Tourist in My Own Town: Taste of Lawrence

Last summer, my gorgeous friend Kelly came to Toronto for a visit.  We were out having dinner/drinks and chatting away when she used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since – she was talking about taking her two daughters out to a bunch of different places and said “I feel like a tourist in my own town”.  Tourist in my own town.  I don’t know what it is, but I love it.

So it just became a new feature on the blog.  See, Toronto has about a gazillion events that take place during the summer (I’m not kidding; there was just a news report on how tired Torontonians are of having these constant street closures due to summertime events/festivals) and since I actually like the summer and don’t feel the need to hibernate, I can go play at the events and then tell you guys about them.  You can be tourists with me!  (Disclaimer:  I’m pretty pregnant these days, so while this currently feels like a fantastic idea, I can’t guarantee that I won’t change my mind about wandering street festivals and amusement parks while carrying 40 extra lbs and doing the preggo-waddle.)

This past weekend, we just so happened to have hit up one of Toronto’s annual street festivals, and of course I took photos, so let’s recap!

It’s called “The Taste of Lawrence“, which is a blatant rip-off of one of our bigger and longer-running street festivals, Taste of the Danforth.

About four years ago, I lived in a condo right at the intersection where The Taste of Lawrence took place, and it was pretty convenient to be able to step out of my front door and into a street festival.  I’m pretty sure that for all three meals on the Saturday of that weekend, I just took the elevator down, picked a food vendor, and bought something delicious.  J-Bird loved it.  There was a small midway, and there were only a few rides that he was big enough to go on, but he rode them over and over and had a blast doing it.  When the sun went down, we walked to the main stage and watched a hula-hooping show where they set the hula hoops on fire.

J-Bird has wanted to go back every year since, but it always fell on a weekend where he was at his dad’s and he kept missing out…

Until this year.

This summer, things have worked out differently and J-Bird was around for the Taste of Lawrence weekend, so obviously I had to take him.  (Plus, I found out that there was a Beaver Tails stand there this year and there was no way that I was missing out on Beaver Tails, you guys.  Those things are delicious.)

We found a spot to park, made our way over to the tents, and what should so happen to be right in front of me but the Beaver Tails stand.  Obviously it was fate.  If you’ve never had Beaver Tails before, let me describe this magical item to you:  it’s a piece of dough that is pulled and stretched in to the shape of a beaver’s tail (duh) and then fried.  Then it gets brushed with butter, and then you can choose from a bunch of magical toppings.  Years ago (and I’m talking like, well over a decade) I worked in an amusement park with a Beaver Tails location, and your options were pizza sauce and mozza cheese, Nutella, apples and cinnamon, or cinnamon/sugar/lemon juice.  The end.  Their menu has clearly expanded because there were way more options, and I ended up going for something called the Choco Vanil’, which was vanilla icing with crushed Oreo bits on top and then finished off with some chocolate sauce.  #NoRegrets

Taste of Lawrence 2014

Both of the boys opted not to get a Beaver Tail, because they’re insane.  (Although George definitely took a few bites of mine.  FYI, stealing bites of delicious deep-fried pastry from a pregnant woman is not safe, and you probably shouldn’t try it at home.)

We wandered the festival for a while, checking out a bunch of booths.  J-Bird found an ice cream truck and we told him to pick whatever he wanted, and he chose a Rocket.  A Rocket, you guys.  As in those three-coloured Popsicles that we can find at any convenience store, except this one wasn’t even Popsicle-brand and it was $3.50.  There were sno-cones and slushies and soft-serve ice cream dipped in chocolate sauce, and my kid picks the one thing that he can get literally any other day.  I do not understand the brains of children.

One of the booths was selling natural honey/wax products and they had bees at the table, which George and J-Bird thought was the coolest thing ever.  I was not so impressed.  Bees + AJ = not friends.

Taste of Lawrence

Every year, my amazing friend Jenny gets a booth for her yoga business (and to sell beautiful mala bead jewelry), and I always drop by and say hi.  (Don’t mind the arm, that’s just my little photo-bomber in action):

Taste of Lawrence

J-Bird was starting to get impatient for the midway fun, so we said goodbye to Jenny and her husband and walked the final stretch to the “fun zone” – the place where the games and rides were.  I feel like you have to go through some sort of serious sales-pressure-training-course to become a game operator at a carnival midway, because OMG they are so pushy!  And there’s like a whole strip of them in a row, so after you say no to one, the next one starts calling at you, and they will totally use anything they can to try and get you to play.

And it worked, because here’s J-Bird throwing darts at a dragon.

Taste of Lawrence

(He totally won, in case you were wondering, and now we have a stuffed ninja-penguin worth about $2 in crappy materials that cost $12 in darts.  I know, I know, you’re not paying for the prize, you’re paying for the fun.)

It turns out that J-Bird has grown so much since his last trip to Taste of Lawrence that he’s officially big enough to go on every single one of the rides, so he opted to skip the “kid rides” and go for the bigger stuff (although he wanted someone to ride most things with him).  Since I’m currently not able to do anything fun, George got to go on all the rides and I got to stand off to the side and hold water bottles and balloons and ninja-penguin stuffies.

Taste of Lawrence

But it also meant that I could get pictures of my two favourite people on carnival rides together, and I can’t think of a better way to end off this post than with some snapshots of my boys having a blast:

Taste of Lawrence

They both loved The Scrambler

Taste of Lawrence

True story, this was kind of terrifying to watch. They ended up at a 90° angle while spinning!

Taste of Lawrence

J-Bird said this one gave him butterflies every time it was on the down-swing.

Taste of Lawrence

J-Bird went on The Gravitron alone, and I mean, ALONE – he was the only person on the ride!

So that’s the first “Tourist in My Town” post.  We measured J-Bird and found out that he’s tall enough to go on almost everything at Canada’s Wonderland, which George is super stoked on, so I have a feeling that there will be a Wonderland post coming up this summer, too – stay tuned for that!

What’s your favourite annual event or tourist hot-spot in your town?  

Parties and Projects

I’m not trying to be dramatic or anything, but it’s about a thousand degrees in my house today.  Celsius.  So what I’m trying to say is that I’m slowly melting and I need you guys to cut me some slack if my writing is sort of rambly or scattered, k?  Awesome, thanks.

Exciting things are afoot here at Chez AJ (and George); things like baby showers and birthday parties and art projects.  Let’s start with the baby showers.

There are still two and a half months to go until Baby H is due, and already he is the most spoiled child.  I know this because there is not one, not two, but three baby showers planned in his honour.  (I have affectionately dubbed them “The Greek Shower”, “The Emm Shower”, and “The Friend Shower”, named according to the majority of their attendees.)  ”The Emm Shower” is coming up in a few short weeks, and “The Friend Shower” takes place early in August, but “The Greek Shower” happened this past Sunday, so let’s talk about it.

(If you’re a dude and/or you find baby shower stuff boring, no hard feelings – just scroll right on past the upcoming photos and find your way to the section on J-Bird’s upcoming birthday or the art projects I’m working on.)

So, I had this baby shower on the weekend…

My sister-in-law (Nikki) and my mother-in-law (Elli) and Nikki’s sister-in-law (Alex) all joined forces to put together the first of the showers for Baby H, and it was a smashing success.  They held it at The Mandarin, which is a chinese buffet here in Canada, and I think I filled my plate three times before finding out that oh, btw, there’s also cake.  (Painfully full by the end of the shower, you guys.  Thank goodness for stretchy clothing.) 

Want to see some pictures?  Of course you do.

Baby Shower Selfie

Let’s start out with the obligatory “I’m going out somewhere” selfie that I obviously took before leaving the house.

Baby Shower

That’s my mother-in-law on the left, with her BFF Toula.

Baby Shower

These gorgeous ladies are (clockwise from top-left): Penny, Jenny, Toula, and Natasha.

(That beautiful blonde right there is George’s cousin’s wife, Penny, and I am very tempted to steal her hair colour.  And cut.  But I digress…)

Baby Shower

The brunette is my sister-in-law, and she’s with her long-time friend Ellie

Baby Shower Cake

How freaking adorable is this cake!?

Quick side note on those tiny shoes?  They’re an ornament and you write the baby’s birth info on the bottom (date, weight, length, etc).  LOVE IT.

Baby Shower

Obligatory group shot!

Baby Shower

OK, but seriously, I haven’t even started setting up the nursery and look how full it’s getting. #FreakingOut

Baby H got so spoiled that the nursery is jam-packed with stuff and I have not even started getting it ready yet.  Like, it hasn’t been painted, the crib is not set up, I haven’t even taken out all of the furniture from when it was George’s office.  And our summer is quickly filling up with plans, so it’s probably time to get moving on that.  Ugh.  Maybe I can hire some teenagers to come do it.

Oh!  I almost forgot!  You guys, I made a speech in Greek at the shower.  Like, really terrible Greek, but still in Greek.  It was the most nerve-wracking thing ever, especially in a public venue where a bunch of random strangers at other tables were staring at me, but I think it was a success.  I mean, my MIL cried… so either it was a hit, or Google Translate let me down and I said something horribly offensive.  I’m hoping for the hit.

While we’re on the subject of parties, let’s discuss J-Bird’s upcoming birthday for a sec.

I am still trying to wrap my mind around the part where J-Bird is turning TEN.  

Every year, I get him to pick a “theme” for his birthday party and we work with that.  Last year we did a safari theme that resulted in me holding a lemur (so in other words, that party will never be topped, ever), and in the past we’ve done Harry Potter, Scooby Doo, and a bunch of other themes.  This year?  J-Bird wants Pokemon.  Because of course he does.

You guys, I am the Jon Snow of Pokemon.

Jon Snow

But he is adamant.  It has to be Pokemon, because he is turning ten and that’s when Ash Catchem (or whatever that kid’s name is) started training Pokemon and so obviously it has to be his birthday theme.  So I’ve been Googling like a fiend, and I think I’m actually starting to come up with some ideas that don’t completely suck.  Plus, I made his invitations in the shape of little Pokeballs (which I think is what the Pokemon characters are stored in or whatever) and they came out pretty cute:

Pokeball Invitations

I’ve got a month from today to get everything all figured out, so that’s probably enough time… I think.  Although with the level of scatterbrained that I’ve been lately, I may need to consider calling “all hands on deck” and recruit my mom for some assistance on this one.  (If you happen to be a Pokemon expert, please feel free to leave a comment below and share some of your expertise in the form of decorating / game ideas, k thx.)

Plus, I’m swamped with projects in the studio, and it is AWESOME.

Actually, I’m not going to tell you about that stuff just yet.  I mean, I was planning to, but this post is getting crazy-long now and also I’m melting and I need to go stick my head in the refrigerator door for a few minutes and then get back to work on these super-awesome studio projects.  But I promise that I will tell you all about them really, really soon, k?

Wish me some relief from the heat!

Tuesday Brain Dump

I’m feeling like a crazy, scattered mess right now, so instead of writing a real post, here’s a point-form style “brain dump” of what’s happening in and outside my head.

  • This morning I had my gestational diabetes test and now I have two poke-marks in my arms from the blood testing and my inner elbows (or “elbow pits”, as I like to call them) are sore.  
  • I’m finding that I am very easily distracted lately, which is not at all conducive to productivity.  For example, the dog is currently pacing in the living room as George gets ready to go to the gym, and J-Bird is talking to George about some video game that he likes, and it’s taking every fibre of my being to keep my eyes on the computer screen and my fingers on the keyboard.
    Keep Writing...
  • The landlord and his wife (who live downstairs) are doing laundry and my house smells really strongly of charcoal, and I feel like those two things are related.  If things are not properly vented and I die of some sort of toxic poisoning because of it, I have asked Jodi to avenge my death.  Internet, it’s your job to make sure she carries out my request, k, thx.
    avenge me
  • J-Bird’s birthday is coming up soon and he wants to have a Pokemon party.  What kind of Pokemon-themed activities can I do with a bunch of 10-year-old boys?  I know basically nothing about Pokemon, except that there is an irritating yellow creature named “Pikachu” with a lightning bolt tail who says nothing but his own name.  And that is all.
  • Every single one of the nails on my left hand has broken.  Wahhhhh!  How am I supposed to paint my nails in pretty colours if I don’t have any nails left?!  (Speaking of pretty colours, I need to get my hands on all of the colours in Essie’s “Mirror Metallics” line.  I have No Place Like Chrome and it is amaaaaazing and now I am dying for Blue Rhapsody and Nothing Else Metals.  And no, I am not in any way sponsored by Essie – I am just madly in love with the collection.)
  • I decided to make some “tweaks” to my art website on Friday and it turned into a complete overhaul.  I’m still making adjustments and adding to it, but it’s officially live and working, so please feel free to go check it out – and let me know if you find any bugs or if you have any suggestions to make it even better!

Is that it?  I think that might be it.  My brain is feeling a little less overwhelmingly cluttered, so at least this update was beneficial for one of us, right?  OK, I promise I’ll be back soon with an actual blog post that is not just a decluttering of my pregnancy brain… deal?

And Then I Fell In Love With A Goat.

Last weekend, one of my oldest and most awesome of friends, Shannon, invited us out for a visit and a trip to the “spring fair” in her town, which obviously I was 100% on board with –  I am not about to turn up a chance to see her two adorable sons, Little G and Baby G, nor was I going to miss out on a fair that advertised something called “Celebrity Pig Racing”.

Saturday afternoon, George and I hopped in the car and left the city.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we drove along with the radio turned up and the windows all the way down.  As we got closer and closer to our destination, I wondered more and more why we live in the city.  Forget smog and concrete.  Check out the roadside view where Shannon lives:

Horsies!

When we first arrived, Little G was taking a nap, but Baby G and Puppy Casino were wide awake and kept me giggling while Shannon and her husband Brett put the finishing touches on dinner.  Speaking of dinner… Oh em gee, you guys.  I wish I had taken a picture of the food!  It was so delicious – there was steak and chicken, amazing potatoes, asparagus, kale salad… everything was fantastic.  And Casino?  Well, she knew exactly where to sit:

Baby G and Casino

 

After dinner, we made our way over to the fair.

(Are you ready for this?  It’s about to get super photo-heavy up in this blog.)

We started out in the agricultural tent, where they had baby holstein cows and tables with pamphlets about farming, and oh yeah, also these two goofballs:

Goats

They stopped eating for the photo op, I’m not even kidding.

Outside the agricultural tent, I found the perfect George-sized vehicle:

Tractor wheel

It was almost 6:00, and I was on a mission, you guys.  At 6:00 pm, the Celebrity Pig Races were starting.  I had no idea what they were, but I know that I had to see them, so we made a beeline for the “race track”.  

It turns out that “Celebrity Pig Races” are basically just races featuring pigs with entertainment-related names (i.e. “HAM-mah Montana”).  Even still, they are adorable:

Celebrity Pig Races

But there was something even better.  

Shannon told me that the fair had:  A PETTING ZOO.  OK, yes, I am an adult, but whatever, dude.  Hook me up with some of that $2.00 petting zoo food and let me go touch all the furry things!  I grabbed a second cone of petting zoo food for Little G, and together we walked through the gate and in to PARADISE.

Petting Zoo

PRO TIP: Apparently if you neglect the birds and focus on the sheep, ducks will get mad and bite you to get your attention.

OK, this is where the magic happens.  

So, I found this little pig, and when I was petting him, he dropped on to his back like a dog and waited for belly rubs:

Piglet Belly Rubs

And when I was kneeling down and rubbing his fat little tummy, I felt a small child fall against my back.  Or so I thought.

Until suddenly my earlobe was wet.

It turns out that what I thought was someone’s child falling against me was actually a baby goat climbing on to my back and then nibbling on my ear.  And my hair.  And now we are in love and I’ve decided that his name is Obie and I can’t stop thinking about him:

AJ & Obie the Goat

It turns out that I wasn’t the only one falling in love with baby goats, either.  Check out Little G:

Little G and the goat

I feel you, Little G. I want to take them home, too.

Meanwhile, George was shopping for dinner making friends with the chickens:

George and the chicken

I could have stayed at the petting zoo forever, but there was more fair to see!  So Shannon took Little G to clean his hands, and George and I made a quick visit to see this dude before we left the petting zoo area:

George and the horse

Obviously George is a country boy at heart and we need to move to a farm and get Clydesdales and baby goats, right?

Shannon and Baby G

The beautiful Shannon and Baby G, patiently waiting for us to finish up at the zoo.

And what’s a trip to the fair without a stop at the midway, right?

Little G

Little G and his dad led the way to the rides!

Little G and Baby G

While there wasn’t much that Baby G could go on, with the exception of the trucks above, Little G got to try out a few different rides.  (I think that he was more excited about being in charge of carrying the ride tickets than he was about actually riding anything, though.)

Before we left the fair, the boys had to try and win something through a display of showmanship, of course:

Carnival Games

Except they did it all wrong.  Everyone knows that carnival games are a huge scam.  The key to winning is to choose one of the games where multiple people compete and then you’re destined to win… (or to play my personal favourite game – the one where you choose a floating duck and win a prize because every single duck is a winner).

It was such an awesome way to spend a Saturday and I’m so glad that Shannon invited us.  We’re totally going back next year.

And if Obie is there, I’m bringing him home with me.

Softball, Sunburns, and a Sore Loser

First things first.

I am a sore loser.

If you follow along with my adventures on Facebook, then I guess you already know that we didn’t get the house.  James van der Beek helped me to sum up my emotions quite nicely:

No house for us.I texted George to let him know that we were stuck in this hellhole house for a while longer, and requested that he please bring home something either chocolatey or ice cream-based (he brought me a double chocolate chip frappucino, which counts as both), and then I sat here and wallowed for the night.  Our realtor has since sent me a half-dozen more listings, but I’m not ready to like any of them.  ”Can I walk to the beach from any of these places?  Oh, I can’t?  UNACCEPTABLE.”  (For the record, I definitely didn’t actually say that to the realtor because I’m not that bratty.  Usually.)

So basically, we’re back to the drawing board, only things just got a little more difficult because George has reduced the distance in which he is willing to move, and it just so happens to have cut out the exact town that my search was focused on.

Alright, so now that you know that my dreams have been shattered we didn’t get the house, let’s move on.  It’s still a touchy subject for me and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  *pouts*

This year, we signed J-Bird up for softball for the first year ever.

I know nothing about being a “sports mom”.  I have had about a hundred million questions since practices started a couple of weeks ago, but luckily for me, my cousin and his wife are softball pro-stars who just happen to hold some sort of fancy leadership positions within the league, and they have been able to answer all of my new-softball-mom questions.  (Shout-outs to  ”Mr. and Mrs. Mac” – if you’re reading this, thanks so much, guys!)

Saturday was opening day and J-Bird played his first ever actual softball game.  And he loved it.  His coach seems awesome (plus he totally reminds me of Vince Vaughn) and the team won.  By eleven points.

I generally don’t post pictures of J-Bird on the interweb, but I think this picture perfectly sums up J-Bird’s “opening day experience” and I just have to share it:

J-Bird at Softball

I was totally overwhelmed by the show of support for J-Bird, too.  Obviously George and I went to watch his first game, but J-Bird ended up with his own cheering squad in the bleachers:  his paternal grandparents came (armed with an awesome camera!), my aunt was there, my friends Becky and Pete surprised us (and they brought baseball-themed cupcakes!), and my aforementioned cousins (Mr. and Mrs. Mac) came to watch some of J-Bird’s game, as well.  My mom had to be out of town and I don’t think anyone has ever been so upset about missing a softball game, ever.  She texted my aunt and I throughout the entire game with messages of support for J-Bird and requests for us to send photos/videos throughout the duration of the game so she could be there “in spirit”.

J-Bird at Softball

A portion of “Team J-Bird” in the bleachers.

Photobombed

George and I got photobombed by my cousin, Mr. Mac.

OK, remember how I said I was totally new at this whole “sports mom” thing?  Yeah.

Guess who forgot to bring sunscreen to the ball park?

I really didn’t think it was going to be an issue.  I mean, the game was at 10:30 in the morning, and the sun is really at it’s strongest point in the afternoon, y’know?  Plus, we have just barely started to get nice weather here in Toronto, so I guess “summer prep” hasn’t been on my mind at all.  And George doesn’t ever think about sunscreen, because he has magical Mediterranean skin that just darkens to a fantastic golden-brown tan in the sun.

When I realized how hot it was starting to get, I figured my nose and cheeks would probably get pretty pink – that’s where I always burn.  It was okay, though, because the game was pretty much over by the time I started to think “hmm, maybe I should have put some sunscreen on before we came”.  Here’s what I was not expecting:

Sunburn

Check those awesome inverse-raccoon eyes from my sunglasses.  Or how about these sweet lines from the straps of my tank top:

Sunburn

It hurts, you guys.  It hurts so much.  I have been more or less coated in a film of aloe vera gel since Saturday evening, and yet I am still so pink that I would pretty much disappear in the Barbie aisle at Toys ‘R Us.  And what’s worse is that I know better.  See, I was not blessed with the smooth, flawless back-skin of a movie star (or even just your average person).  My back is a connect-the-dots puzzle of icky moles and I have already had three of them removed for being “suspect” and been warned by medical professionals that sunbathing is not the ideal pastime for me.  I never thought I would show this on the internet, but here goes:

Sunburn

If anyone has been made aware of the importance of sunscreen, it is me.  And yet, there it is:  photographic evidence of my super-sunburnt skin.

The moral of the story is:  please wear sunscreen.  Even if you do not have constellations on your back made up of icky moles, and even if you think the morning sun is not that strong, and even if nobody ever told you that apparently your skin becomes even more sun-sensitive when you are pregnant, just keep a bottle of sunblock on you.

Because if you don’t, you could end up like me and have to coat yourself in aloe vera gel, and then George won’t let you lie back on the couch because you’re “greasy” and you’re going to “ruin the microfibre”, and you won’t be able to sleep at night because the sheets will hurt your skin too much, and people at Starbucks will all stare at you because you have gigantic white circles on your face where your sunglasses were, and none of that stuff is fun.  Just trust me on this one.

 

 

The House.

Yesterday, George and I went to look at a house for rent.  Yeah, we already have a house that we rent, and we really haven’t been actively searching for a new place or anything, but it’s one of those situations where we sort of accidentally found this available rental and then fell in love with it.

My mom’s realtor offered to take us for a viewing, and George happened to have the day off, so we drove out and met the realtor and oh em gee, you guys.  As we started getting closer to the address plugged in to my phone, the houses started getting nicer and nicer.  They were huge, with fancy cars out front and perfectly manicured lawns.  I turned to George.  ”Dude… this house is in our price range, right?  That wasn’t a typo?”

We pulled on to the street and the house was only two doors in.  I got out of the car, stood in the driveway, and immediately texted my friend Jodi:

“I’m standing in the driveway right now and I’m looking at a marina.”

The realtor took us through the house and in to the backyard, and I fell in love with a million different features while George remained completely stoic and unreadable.  I fell in love with the gorgeous bathroom that has entrances from the master bedroom and the hallway, with its fancy backsplash tile and tons of cupboards for makeup storage.  Then I fell in love with the gigantic, lighted walk-in closet attached to the master bedroom.  And then the built-in dishwasher and the huge pantry in the kitchen.  (Can we go back to the bathroom for a sec, though?  For real, look at this:)

Gorgeous Bathroom

It’s especially impressive to me because my current bathroom is so very ugly.

There was only one problem that could be spotted with the house, and that is the lack of a fenced-in backyard.  The backyard is wide open and fence-free.  That doesn’t even sound like an issue, I know, except… well… this:

Jack the Dog

That sucker, who likes to run around (you know when dogs get “the zoomies”??) and who I can’t actually walk in my current, watermelon-bellied situation.  Suddenly, yet another chore falls squarely on to George’s shoulders. But we’ll find a workaround.  We have to, because here’s where that magical house up there gets even better.

Know how I said you could see the marina from the driveway?  That’s nothing.  Here’s what you find at the end of the street:

Bike Path

And if you should so happen to follow that little bike path through the woods for a leisurely ten minute stroll?  Why, then you’ll happen upon this dreamy scene:

The Beach Pickering

I tried to hold it together in front of the realtor, you guys, I really did, but I just could not contain my excitement about being that close to a beach, I just couldn’t.  ”I HAVE TO LIVE IN THIS HOUSE!” I shouted at nobody in particular.  (When we were back in the car and realtor-free, George definitely mocked my lack of poker-face.)  

And that is the story of how we just sent off a rental application for a house by the beach, even though we weren’t actively looking to move and only crazy people think that moving while pregnant is a fantastic idea.  (Seriously, if we get this place, I will be 8 months pregnant by the time we actually move there - 9, if you go by the “pregnancy lasts 10 months” measurements – and thus, absolutely useless to George.)  We’ll know by tomorrow, so if you could all just cross your fingers, that would be awesome.  I would really like to spend the month of August with my feet buried in the sand, hanging out at the beach with J-Bird before Baby H’s arrival.

Wish us luck!

The Panic Files: Baby Steps

Remember when I told you guys all about how I was a crazy hypochondriac who also suffers from generalized anxiety disorder?  Did I also happen to mention my weirdo thyroid?  Let’s do a brief summary just in case I left that out (or you’re new around these parts and don’t know what’s up with my panic attacks):

I have had an anxiety disorder for more than a decade, and yes, I have seen a therapist, and yes, I am medicated for it.  I also have an auto-immune disorder called Graves’ Disease.  One of the fun things that happens when you have Graves’ is that you end up with a hyperactive thyroid, and hyperactive thyroids have a tendency to worsen anxiety.  See how it all comes full circle?

My anxiety disorder was diagnosed back in 2002, long before anyone knew what was happening with my thyroid.  It would be almost another decade before the Graves’ Disease diagnosis happened, and while the two can go hand-in-hand, my specialists are certain that my anxiety disorder wasn’t caused by my thyroid issues; it just happens to be worse because of my Graves’.  (Still with me?  I know, I know, I’m all rickety and falling apart!)  During the “peak” of my hyperthyroidism, when we were doing all the testing and looking at treatments and waiting for something to start making a difference, my anxiety got so intense that I stopped leaving my house.  The only “safe zone” I knew was my living room, and even the living room didn’t make me immune to panic attacks… but I knew that I could lie down on the couch and close my eyes and wait for the terror to pass.  The farthest I ventured was downstairs to the lobby of my building to pick J-Bird up from the school bus, and most days I would stand in the lobby with my hand on my heart, trying to will it to slow down a little and pleading with myself not to hyperventilate.  

It totally sucked.

My doctors doubled my anti-anxiety medication and started me on beta blockers (because my heart was under pretty serious strain at that point) and anti-thyroid meds.  And little by little, things got better.  I don’t take beta blockers anymore, and my heart is totally fine.  I’m on half the dose of the anti-anxiety medication that I used to be.  I will have Graves’ Disease forever, but my thyroid levels are at a high-normal range now, and most of the hyperthyroidism symptoms have eased off a bit.  (*knock on wood!*)

But I’m still struggling with being in public alone.  I mean, I can leave my house now, so there’s that.  In fact, I beg to.  I work from home and although I love it, I get stir crazy sometimes.  Every single day, I ask George to take me somewhere – out for coffee, to the grocery store, to the art store, anywhere – just so I can get out for a bit.  I can’t do it alone –  I need George.  George is my anxiety-crutch.  And yet, I can tell there’s been progress.

I remember being in a grocery store about a year and a half ago, picking up something to throw on the barbecue, when George asked me to go get hamburger buns.  They were only three aisles away from where he stood, and yet I walked to the bread section on legs that felt as though they were made of Jell-O.  My heart felt like it was sitting in my throat, and I was convinced that everyone in the store could probably see the beads of sweat forming on my face.

Fast-forward to a year later, and this is what I look like right now:

AJ at Starbucks

That’s me, at this very moment in time, sitting in a Starbucks and writing this blog post.  Why isn’t George in the picture?  Because he’s not here.  He dropped me off with my laptop and some Frappucino-money and then drove to the gym a few blocks away for his daily workout.  I’m sitting on my own, typing away, taking sips from my double-chocolate-chip frap, and pausing every so often just to look around the store at the dozen (or so) strangers who are also seated at tables in this very location.  Some of them are on their laptops.  There are two women chatting away in armchairs, their venti cups waving around in their hands as they talk.  A college student is studying a few feet away from me, his textbook open and a pen in his hand.  And me.  I’m here, too.  I’m not trembling, and my heart isn’t racing, and I’m not wishing that I was at home in my “safe zone”.

It took almost two years of baby steps, and sometimes I stumbled, but here we are.  I’m alone in a (busy) public place, and I’m doing just fine.

An Update: Artworks-in-Progress and Pie Crust Cravings

You guys, I have been a busy little bee since I last posted.  I have so many art projects on the go right now and it. is. FANTASTIC.  Wanna see what I’ve been up to?

I’ve been getting my hands dirty with some clay sculptures.  Each one is hand-sculpted, primed, painted, and then glazed.  Some of them are finished and available on my online store:

The Tree House

 

Gnome Couple

 

Trio of Snails

 

And some of them are still primed and waiting to be painted:

Primed Clay Work in Progress

I’ve also been working on a series of three watercolour & ink paintings for all my yoga-lovers, inspired by my favourite yoginis!  They’re still a work in progress, but I have a sneak peek to show you and hopefully prints will be available very soon:

Yoga Prints Available Soon

I’ve got a few digital portrait commissions that I’ve been working on, as well – both of pets and of people.  A really beautiful couple from London are using my illustrated version of them on the save-the-date cards for their upcoming wedding!  I’ll be posting their finished portrait – along with some super-adorable commissions of pooches – on my art Facebook page, so make sure to “like” it so you won’t miss those!

Remember how I said I was quitting web design?  That’s going to have to wait.  As it turns out, my super-slow period has ended – at least for the time being – and I’ve got a number of projects to take care of before I exit the game.  (George is especially stoked about this particular update.  He has been nothing but supportive in every way - three cheers for the Amazing George! – but I think that when I said I was thinking about quitting as a freelance web developer and focusing on art only, he secretly heard nothing but the words “starving artist” and then a bunch of “wah-wah” sounds, like I was Charlie Brown’s teacher.

 

 

On the baby front, things are… interesting.  Did I already tell you guys that I’ve got a touch of the ol’ pica?  That’s fun.  (It’s all good, I have it under control and I have not eaten any non-edible substances, promise.)  My actual food cravings are interesting as well (albeit, delicious).  They change fairly frequently, although banana has been a top craving contender since day one.  A few days ago, pie crust became a thing that I had to have.  HAD. TO. HAVE.  Not an actual pie with filling, though.  Just the crust.  I posted about this particular craving on Facebook and was mocked… until I posted a picture of the pie crust “cookies” that I made.  Yeah.  Suddenly, minds were changed and pie crust “cookies” were being craved by my non-pregnant friends as well.  In fact, you should probably make them because they’re freaking delicious, and ridiculously easy.

Pie Crust Cookies

What You Need:

• pie crust, obviously.  (I used Pillsbury ready-to-bake pie crusts because I am lazy, but you could use your favourite recipe or any pre-made pie crust that you like.)
• ½ c. white sugar
• 2 tsps. cinnamon

How to Make ‘Em:

• Roll out your dough, if necessary.  My Pillsbury dough is just rolled up, so I just had to unroll it, but if you’re using real dough then you’ll want to make it about an eight of an inch thick, give or take.
• Cut out your cookies.  You could use cookie cutters and make them super-cute, I bet.  I am pregnant and impatient, so I just cut them in to strips and then cut up the strips, because it seemed faster and I could make the most cookies out of my pre-made dough that way.
• Sprinkle your cinnamon/sugar mixture on to your cookie shapes.  (The Pillsbury dough is a little bit dry and I didn’t think the sugar-mixture would stick, so I brushed the tiniest bit of water on top of the dough first.  Let’s make that a judgement call, not a necessity.)
• Bake ‘em!  Most pie crusts bake at 350C (10 mins should do the trick), although again, my Pillsbury dough likes to be different and needs to bake at 450C for 9 mins.  Just keep an eye on ‘em and take them out when they’re goldeny-brown and delicious looking.

J-Bird and I are going to make a second batch right now using a mixture of cocoa powder and powdered sugar in place of the cinnamon-sugar, so I’ll let you know how those turn out.  Yum!

All Art, All the Time

I’m typing this with terracotta-coloured clay under my fingernails and acrylic gesso smeared across my hands.  I’d be surprised if I didn’t have art supplies smudged across my face.  My hair is up in what is probably the messiest top-knot of all time.  I’m a mess, and I love it.

Hot Mess Artist

Lately I’ve been kind of mopey and stressed.  I haven’t been able to contribute to the household finances very much, and I’m not okay with that… but the web design biz has been slow for long enough that I’m pretty close to giving up on it after 14 years in the game (more on that in a later post).  I’ve also been somewhat bitter about our pregnancy complications, and while everything is currently going well (*knock on wood!*) and I’m starting to feel better about things, I’m still kind of pouty that we’re considered a “high-risk” pregnancy.  Plus, modified bed rest is super boring.  Oh, and also, I’ve been having a terrible time sleeping lately.  Baby H has taken up in-utero Greek dancing or something, which he likes to practice around midnight.  I’m also convinced that he’s using my bladder as a trampoline, because I can’t make it through the night without getting up to pee, and Jack has recently decided that it’s his life’s ambition to sleep in whatever position takes up all of my space and makes me as uncomfortable as possible – and bonus points if he can manage to shove all four of his paws in to my spine.

*phew*  Wow, did I just go on a rant or what?  But bear with me, it’s totally topical.

I want to be an artist.  I have an amazing artist friend who makes her living selling awesome paintings and I’ll admit it… I am super jealous.  That, you guys.  That is what I want to do with my life.  I bet you when people ask Christie (the amazing artist friend referenced above) what she does for a living, she says “I’m an artist”.  BAM.  Full of confidence and without turning it in to a question.  Wanna know what I say?

Sometimes I make art?

This Chick, who I have sort of turned into my very own life coach, already knows all of this about me, because she’s been listening to me whine about wanting to be an artist for what probably feels like forever - (sorry, Jodi) – and she is not shy about verbally kicking my ass a little bit when I need it.  ”Oh, you want to be an artist?” she said one day, after I’d thrown myself a particularly pathetic pity party via Facebook chat.  ”You keep saying that, but what did you paint today?  What did you draw?  Show me what you made.

I wish that I could tell you that that was enough to kick my art goals in to high gear, but it turns out that apparently I needed something more to really set the wheels in motion.  And that’s where my über-rant up there comes in.  I started getting overwhelmed with stress and crankiness and self-pity and lack of sleep, and one day last week, I turned to George and just kind of let it all come pouring out:

“All I want to do all day is art.  I want to paint, and I want to draw, and I want to bury my hands in clay, and I want to make tiny Fimo miniatures, and I want to… I don’t know, do glass blowing or whatever.  I just want to make things all of the time and I want that to be my job, and why can’t I make that happen?!

Meltdown chez AJ

*pant* *pant* *pant*

George’s first response was to advise me maybe NOT take up glass-blowing, as he doesn’t feel like someone who is as accident-prone and clumsy as I am belongs anywhere near molten glass balanced precariously on a blowpipe.  And then he said, “So, that was quite the outburst.  Why don’t you go sculpt something with the new clay I bought you and try to relax a bit?”

So I made some snails.

Snails in progress

They’re a work in progress.

And then I started on a little “tree house”…

Tree House Clay

Also a work in progress…

And now, our dining room table is covered in:  three sculpted and primed snails, one large clay mushroom, a drying terracotta tree trunk, a bowl of slip, a container full of paint brushes, a bottle of acrylic gesso, two primed and drying canvases, a bottle of ink, a calligraphy pen, watercolour paper, a notepad covered in art project ideas, my laptop, and my Wacom tablet.  (George is totally okay with me spreading everything out across the dining room table instead of using my drafting table, of course, and never complains about it at all.)

So, here goes:

Hi, I’m AJ, and I’m an artist.  I have a lot of projects on the go right now, and I’d love it if you’d follow my art page on Facebook and “like” the kind of stuff you want to see more of, because I’m going to be posting a ton of very different things while I figure out my style.