egg baby

Children of the eighties...

Did you have the assignment in high school to take care of an inanimate object like a bag of flour or a doll or some such nonsense to teach you about the responsibilities of raising children?

Saucy's was an egg. She still has it... him. The students were encouraged to decorate their eggs to match their personalities. Meet Tom Selleck, Jr. He looked just like his father. Isn't the resemblance uncanny? 

He bears one small tattoo - the signature initials of Saucy's teacher Mrs. Kiss, to prevent unfit parents from passing off any egg from the refrigerator as their infant in case of breakage. On the backside, he is dated April 1985. Saucy's first baby is 24 years old. He has resided these many years in a tiny piece of Tupperware meant to hold a single deviled egg. It suits him.

Friends, what is the silliest thing you saved from your high school years? Spill it. There is no judgement here. Just a rotten smell if it breaks wide open.

quick bathroom makeover

Last night, Loopy and I put up one simple roll of damask wallpaper in our powder room. I found it last week in the clearance bin at Home Depot.

Here is the "before" of our little guest washroom... it was fine but it had no personality, no spark. It is painted a nice powder blue shade and I'd put up a bit of the textured wallpaper behind the mirror and painted it the same as the walls... still, no spark.

Now, plenty of spark! I filled a jar with my glam crystal collection. The red and white damask looks gorgeous against the powder blue. I think it's my new favourite colour combination. 

Although, I admit that I rethought the red after visiting Crave Cupcakes in Calgary. I adore powder blue and chocolate brown... but I've done that throughout the house in various ways. We needed something new, something dramatic.

Now I think I need to find red hand towels, don't you agree?

Frank Sinatra is framed near the sink. It's Frank's world, we just live in it, remember?

Friends, Miss Loopy herself hung half of the wallpaper, including the very tricky last pieces that needed to be sliced together... you know... when you run out of matching bits and have to use what you have in that awkward spot behind the loo. She did that part, all by herself... and look, you can't see where the bits meet. She's got a knack.

I really {heart} damask. Can you see why? 

Edited, July 31: Friends, a few of you have pointed out that the pattern is upside down and I do believe you are correct. Loopy and I debated about it as we pulled the paper off the roll. I insisted that paper came off the roll "right side up."

I went upstairs to our bedroom to inspect the damask hanging behind the bed. It is the same pattern in brown and pewter. It was hanging the other way, we'd had it put up by a professional. I decided at that point, there was probably no right side up or right side down for damask... do you think I was wrong? Is this going to drive me crazy? 

Well, I can always keep my eyes peeled for another roll in a different pattern and colour and change it again in the spring...

it was juuuust right

So soon after our trip to Vancouver where we experienced the ups and downs up cupcakery (see post below), Loopy and I found ourselves in Calgary this weekend... where we found the perfect balance of presentation, packaging, customer service, and frosting:

Behold: the second location of Crave Cupcakes, in Willow Park Village. Conveniently located across the street from Loopy's orthodontist... imagine that! We must have been born under a lucky sprinkle shaker. The "hours of sweetness" are listed in the window.

This place struck the perfect balance of clean, sleek design with a cool retro vibe. I would also like to mention that the staff was very friendly! I took a nice photo of the girl handing me my package, but alas, I forgot to ask her permission to post it here so you will just have to imagine a really cute blonde smiley girl {here}.

Oh, the display... all of those gorgeous cuppycakes, calling to us from behind the counter. We decided to get a mini assortment of twelve, plus the cupcake of the month: a strawberry mascarpone cupcake. I took one bite of that cupcake and informed Loopy she wouldn't like it at all and that surely I would have to finish it on the way home... and I did. 

All of the flavours were a hit, except the Nutty Over Chocolate, Loopy found the peanut butter frosting to be a little overwhelming. She didn't finish it.

Check out the packaging! Perfect! You can see the cupcakes, they don't get squished, easy transport... and a real fabric ribbon. Saucy lurrves.

As we rolled down MacLeod Trail to head home we spotted the Crave Wagon heading out to make a delivery. I was jealous. I wanted to be driving the Crave Wagon instead of my Jeep.

If you go to Crave, check out the signature Crave-O-Licious chocolate cupcake with baby blue buttercream and chocolate shavings. To.die.for. They use real butter in their frosting (thank you) and the cake and icing are so very, very soft and fluffy (thank you again).  I dedicate this installment of Silly Haiku Wednesday to this cupcake:

Dear Crave-O-Licious,
You are the most delicious
Empty calories!

... the happiest empty calories that I've had for a very long time that I've not baked myself. We'll be back. See you on Labour Day weekend.

big city cupcakes vs. original cupcakes

When we were in Vancouver, I just had to scout out the cupcake scene. Veto indulged me... who can resist baking review? In the name of good cupcake blogging, he agreed to come along and do some undercover shopping and sampling. What follows is my honest, unbiased review of two cupcake shops.

Our first stop was at the new store in town: Big City Cupcakes. As chance would have it, we visited them during their first week of business. Things were brand-spanking new and all sparkly and shiny. Here I am, outside the Howe Street location... check out the eye-catching billboard-style window art. This place has a cool, modern, hip vibe.

Big City Cupcakes is taking on the original cupcakery in Vancouver: Cupcakes by Heather and Lori. We visited the Thurlow Street location, closer to the heart of shopping and tourist stuff near Robson Street. This bakery is old-school cute and funky.

The Big City Cupcake displays are sleek, with stainless steel counters and plexiglass barriers.

Although they were quite uniform, I thought the amount of frosting on the Big City Cupcakes was a little weak. I like lots of frosting, as you know. I prefer my little cake to be almost tipped over under the weight of icing. I think they're going for a unique look but it fell a little flat for me. If you're not a fan of frosting, you can always take it off. Not having enough frosting is a sin, do you agree?

The display vibe at Cupcakes is retro-charming. Brown and pink polka dot walls and cafe-style display towers add to the appeal of these cupcakes, available in three sizes, all with ample frosting.

Oh, and I also liked the little extras and displays scattered around the store. Cupcakes also sells souvenier hats, tees, totes and gift cards. Bottled water with the store logo on it? Cute, cute, cute. I love gimmicks like that. I admit it.

Check out the amount of frosting on those babies! Ample. It was really delicious frosting, it had a very creamy texture. 

Veto and I agreed, after extensive "taste testing" that the original Cupcakes by Heather and Lori were superior in presentation, texture and taste. The Big City Cupcakes tasted like they were from a mix, were dry and crumbly (not good in the rental car) and the frosting, although it had a nice flavour, was really dense and not fluffy at all.

In the presentation category, although Big City Cupcakes had a hip new vibe I preferred the quaint eatery-style of Cupcakes. They were both well executed and Big City gets marks for being original... Cupcakes, although the decor is cute, isn't very creative... just traditional.

In the customer service category, Big City Cupcakes kicked butt! The girls were so very friendly and talkative, offering suggestions and visiting with all of the customers. I lurrved those gals. 

Unfortunately, the two girls at Cupcakes were grumpy and impatient. Yes, it was hot in there. There was nobody behind me so I was taking a little time picking out my cupcakes, but they were really unhelpful. Also, I have to tell you this: the girl who rang in our order overcharged us by about eight dollars and when we corrected her, she was very cranky about it. She checked her adding, claimed she was right and when I explained my calculation to her, she rolled her eyes and re-rang the entire order in again... and we were right. With no apology, she gave us our change and barely said goodbye and sent us packing without a receipt. Gah.

The Big City Cupcakes were packaged well and looked just like their billboard style window display when we left the store!

The Cupcakes by Heather and Lori products were shoved into a box without an insert to keep them apart... gah! Even I have cardboard inserts for my cupcakes here at home! They didn't travel to the car especially well and I would have been terribly disappointed if I were taking them to a shower or party, they didn't look nice once we left the store.

Overall, taste and store appearance: Heather and Lori WIN. Customer service and packaging: Big City Cupcakes WIN.

Reader, does taste and appearance trump customer service and packaging?

seven (or more) answers

Last week I asked for seven clever questions. A few of them are so clever, they might have to be entire posts someday. In the meantime, to get this ball rolling and I will answer questions from seven readers. If your question is here... email me with your mailing address! My email info is in the sidebar. Thanks for your questions!

I just had to start with this one from BAM:

Once, I had last-minute dinner guests and no dessert plans. I had lots of fruit on hand so I made a simple syrup mixture and let it cool. I pureed kiwi fruit and put it in one Ziploc bag and pureed watermelon in the another. I added the simple syrup and some salt to each of the bags and placed them in the freezer. Every ten minutes or so, while I was preparing the rest of the meal, I opened the freezer and squished the bags around. 

By the time dinner was finished, the bags were each frozen to a nice, sorbet-like texture. I placed one scoop of each flavour into serving dishes and topped it with fresh blueberries and pomegranate seeds. It looked pretty and festive and as though I'd been planning it for ages.

Okay, I am totally doing that again in the next week or so. I haven't thought about that one forever.

Thanks for the questions, Hollie. I think I would be  girl superhero/insurance hawkster Erin Esurance. For reals! She fights costly premiums and she has a sweet pink bob!

Erin wants Hollie to know that Jewish girls don't have tattoos, because if you have a tattoo you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery.  But if I had a tattoo, I guess it would be... Erin Esurance.

Rhonda Roo wanted to know:

Ummm... is it odd that I carry a pink jewelers loupe in my purse? I mean, you just never know. Someone might give you a bracelet or a ring and you might have to slip into the bathroom to make sure they're real diamonds before you get too enthusiastic.  The Secret Weapon gave me my pink loupe years ago and it comes in handy for all sorts of things. Oh, and you look pretty cool when you pull it out of your Juicy handbag when you're shopping.

Gail at Crafty Little Beana asked two questions and they were both so good, I answered them both. She asked about my hair:

I haven't seen my natural hair colour since I was about sixteen. You can see that Loopy has followed in my highlighted footsteps. 

In fact, the same person who does my hair now is the same person who did it then: my BFF, Andrew. He practiced his styling skills on me in high school, and later, in beauty school. I was his hair model more than once when he was styling in competitions and The Fan could tell you a few stories about his "experiments" that left me yellow, purple, black, permed, pixie cut, shagged, shorn or beehived. 

Andrew has a top-secret formula that he honed over 25 years of working with my hair. He claims to have it written down on a special card in his salon, but he went to Italy once and I decided I just had to get my roots done in his absence. His top-secret formula at the hands of any other is just not the same. 

Plus, he shares all sorts of mood-altering pills with me. She also asked:

Regular readers of this bloggedy-blog will remember that Loopy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby and later, with Asperger's Syndrome, a social disorder that is related to autism.

I have a few key ideas to share:

First, children with special needs often have multiple disorders. This was obviously Loopy's case. I was so focused on her physical needs and working at therapy to meet her needs regarding her mobility issues that it was easy to miss the signs that something else was wrong... she wasn't diagnosed with Asperger's until she was almost twelve years old. Behaviours that should have been an indicator of  Asperger's were "explained away" as being part of her initial diagnosis. In hindsight, my mommy instinct was telling me that something else was wrong... but I didn't listen. 

I mean, would you ever think that two things could be wrong with your child, let alone one? Once we got the second diagnosis, things got much easier for us. Suddenly, we had more information, access to more help, and most importantly: a plan. 

Of course, I would also say that every parent, but especially the parents of children with special needs, need to listen to their mommy instinct. You know your child best.

I have also tried my best to teach Loopy to be her own advocate. Sometimes, this has backfired because people with Asperger's have less of a "governor" when it comes to speaking their mind but it generally helps. I won't always be around to guide her and stick up for her, she has to learn how to do it for herself. It would be easier to step in and make more decisions for her and spend more time on her behalf dealing with teachers but she really needs to learn how to do this. When I do advocate for her, I make sure she is part of the discussion and process. I always try to model firm, businesslike behaviour when I deal with teachers and doctors. That's why I was so upset with myself when I "lost it" on the last day of school and left some frustrated parting thoughts with the principal. 

We don't have private schools here where we live, so that wasn't an option for us. Homeschooling may have been an option, but not for Loopy. She tends to be withdrawn as it is and she needed the forced social interaction of the public school setting. Otherwise, she would be downright anti-social.

Lastly, it has been our experience that since Loopy was a tiny baby, sometimes we weren't told outright what programs or assistance would be available to us, and it didn't occur to ask. For instance, I had no idea that the government plans would pay for diapers and incontinence supplies or a lightweight wheelchair... we needed these things until she was about eight years old. The doctors thought the nurses told me who thought the therapists told me. It was a giant muddle. Make sure you ask the golden question, "who can help me with this?" and don't be afraid to ask for help. It also didn't occur to me to ask for a wheelchair parking sticker for my vehicle until I'd wrestled with her wheelchair for a year.

Michelle, while I am a fan of Hawkins Cheezies, I must admit that I also enjoy Old Dutch dill pickle chips. I'm told they are a Canadian "thing" and when I mentioned them on this blog before, there were plenty of quizzical comments about them. Yes, they taste like... pickles.

Aside from the excellent snack foods, Canada is home to a wonderful health care system, and some very talented musicians. I really dig Canadian music. I'm not talking about just Celine Dion and Shania Twain!

Check out Michael Buble, Chantal Kreviazuk, Avril Lavigne, Sam Roberts, The Tragically Hip, Diana Krall, Alanis Morrisette, Barenaked Ladies and Jann Arden. 

You won't be sorry.

I'm glad you asked that Jenn. I have just found what I think is possibly the best mascara I have ever used: Make Up For Ever "Smoky Lash" Professional Mascara. In black, of course. I lurrve it. It goes on without clumping and added great length and definition... just what I look for on a mascara. It stays on in this summer heat but comes off nicely with just one cotton ball of makeup remover. I hate having to use extra makeup remover!

Oh, and if I didn't answer your question here, I might pull some questions out another day. In the meantime, some random answers are: no, yes, an Armani dress for forty dollars, Paris, Sassy, cold pizza with hot chocolate, no, yes, many, a list-maker, I'm not telling you that, Campbell for a girl and Kendrick for a boy (not mine, Gracie's), Grace for mine, and four cupcakes in one sitting.

hello kitty necklace challenge

Loopy and I visited the Sanrio store in Chicago. We are suckers for the Japanese cartoon cat. Aside from gawking at the general silliness of Hello Kitty waffle irons and door mats, we drooled over the showcase of dazzling collectible necklaces. I snapped some shots through the glass with my pink spy-cam.

Who needs a Hello Kitty guitar, bicycle or umbrella when you can have serious bling? They were not a light touch. Unattainable on our shopping budget at $150.00 each. Scandalous!

Veto would (rightfully) commit homicide. Or have a stroke. Neither scenario is ideal.

They were so lovely. We kept thinking about them. Then it struck me... $150.00 is so very unreasonable, but I figured the materials for each piece had to cost less than ten dollars.

Could I make Hello Kitty collectible jewelry for Loopy for less than ten dollars? Yes.

Hello Kitty Petal and Pearl Necklace

Hello Kitty pen: $3.95 (I snipped the dangling Kitty charm off it)... still have the pen!
Forever 21 necklace: $5.99
Gold tone jump ring from supply box: pennies

Total: $9.94

Hello Kitty Pearl and Tattoo Necklace

Hello Kitty cell phone charm: $5.95
Faux pearl necklace with rhinestone clasp: $1.00 (Claire's 10 for 10 rack)
Pink bow cell phone charm: $1.00
Miscellaneous bedazzling jewels from stash: pennies

Total: $7.95 plus jewels (pennies)

Hello Kitty Serious Bling Necklace

Gaudy rhinestone prom necklace: $5.00 on clearance table
Pair of Hello Kitty earrings: $1.00 (Claire's)
Heart-shaped Hello Kitty key chain: $1.00 (Claire's)
Hello Kitty silver charms: free (thanks Pam!)
Swarovski heat-set crystals: $4.50 (with 50% coupon at Michael's)

Total: $11.50

So I blew the budget on the last necklace but it is the closest to the ones we saw in the store... and probably the least likely to be worn by Loopy, ever.

But I did it. I made $150.00 necklaces for an average of ten dollars. *APPLAUSE SIGN*

And... on a disappointing note... I had no idea that I was nominated in this category for the BlogLuxe Awards at the BlogHer convention this weekend in Chicago. No idea whatsoever... and I could have pressured all of you to vote me into the finals, and gone to Chicago this weekend to lose, but hey, how cool is that? Perez Hilton was also nominated in this category but failed to make the finals, so I am in the company of blogebrities.

The category "Guilty Pleasure Blog" is described as,

"The blog you love to hate or hate to love, but either way you find yourself reading it when you should be doing other stuff. You just can't help yourself."

So whether you love to hate me or hate to love me, thanks for the nomination.


loopy's new look

It must have been time for a change around here. Loopy decided to take her hair darker, shorter, and with a slight bang. I decided to take pictures.

I like to add some interest in our photo shoots with props or costumes. Today, I grabbed some feather butterflies from the craft room and away we went. They kinda/sorta matched the butterflies on her blouse. It's just what she happened to be wearing.

I don't know what is more fun: taking the photos or playing with them in PhotoShop. Sometimes we plan our photo shoots, and that's quite a lot of fun for me. Today, we just grabbed the camera, and went... down the alley.

Loopy was not amused. Alleys can be a little... sketchy. At the best of times. 

She questioned my sanity. I had to work fast. She does not have the patience for my silly locations, especially when they are stinky and filled with cats.

You see, we started out on the steps of the school, with her pink guitar. We weren't feeling it.

I needed more indirect light. I didn't have my reflector, because of that whole grab-the-camera-and-go thing. The light was too bright to be anywhere but in the shade of the alleyway.

So, I turned the vehicle around and opened the door. The mirror on the door reflected the light directly onto Loopy.

See behind her, on the wall of that old garage? That is where the reflection of my side view mirror ends.

Isn't it amazing what you can do post-production, as they say? Here, I added more blue and increased the contrast. Use your burn tool around the eyes, that's a little trick I use. It makes them pop.

I lurrve square photographs, don't you?

I am constantly amazed by the simplicity of backdrops found all over the city. The side of a funky old, soon-to-be condemned garage. Who knew? 

Remember, I like to use my crop tool. Check out the difference between the two following photos:

Perfectly nice, but the heel of her little sandal is distracting, and so is the hinge on that gate. Notice that I am trying to frame my shots in thirds as I shoot, it makes for easier editing since I subscribe to the rule of thirds anyway. 

If this photo were cropped tighter:

Voila! Less distraction and more focus on that Loopy little expression. Classic Loopy, right there.

Remember, if you take enough shots, something will work out and all of the elements will click together nicely.

We're getting our photo shoot groove on. We have another planned and if the weather holds out, we'll do it this week. Local readers, check your back alleys.

Oh, and did you notice? You were probably directed to my custom domain: I told you things were changing around here.