Monday, October 26, 2020

All Aboard the BRIO Train - Choo Choo! {review}

The set we were sent for review #Sponsored 

My kids loved playing with trains when they were young. We had a few different sets, and they saw a lot of use over the years. Trains are the type of toy that is classic. Most kids enjoy playing with them at some point, and they never really go out of style. When I was offered the chance to review the BRIO line of Smart Tech trains, I couldn't turn it down.  My kids are older, and not really into trains at this point, but I knew it would be a great item to fill my readers in on.  

The Smart Tech trains are battery operated and will run along the tracks. They make noise, and there are tunnels and other accessories that can be used with the sets as well. The Smart Tech trains can be paired with the Smart Tech Sound app (not necessary to use the sets, just a bonus) and with the app the sounds can be customized.

I was sent the Brio Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Travel Set. It didn't take long to put the track together (it is best on a firm, flat surface - I didn't have room anywhere but my carpet, and it was fine, but would be better on a smoother area). 

In addition to the track and train, the set comes with 2 people, luggage, trees and tunnel. If you stand the people on the platform, they can even hold the luggage in their hand.


I really like the BRIO line of Smart Tech toys. It is easy to use the imagination, be creative, uses fine motor skills and its fun! If you have a pre-school or school aged train lover in your life, this line would be a great gift. The sets can be used together, and other accessories can be purchased to go along with them also.

Here is a short video I took of the train. It did have a little trouble getting up the hill, however I think that was because the tracks are on carpet so it wasn't completely even. As mentioned above, it will work best on a flat, firm surface.


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hamilton Beach Sure CrispTM Toaster Oven {review}

  

We recently completed a kitchen renovation, and are planning on changing out our appliances slowly to match.  Most of ours had been white, and we are now wanting to go with stainless steel.  The dishwasher was the first one to replace, as it broke before we started the reno.  Just after the kitchen was complete, I was contacted to see if I was interested in trying out the new Hamilton Beach Sure CrispTM Toaster Oven .  Our old one still worked, but I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to change it out, and was able to gift it to someone on my local buy nothing site (I try and keep things out of the landfills when possible)

The Sure CrispTM Toaster Oven will toast, bake, broil and air fry! I haven't used any type of fryer before, so I was excited to give it a try. I decided to make french fries in it for the kids to have with lunch.  I put them in the fry basket, placed it on the pan and chose the correct setting.  They came out hot and crispy. Much better than baking them in the oven, and so much healthier than a traditional fryer that uses oil.




My 10 year old really likes being able to make his own food, but when he is making a serving for just himself, I don't want him using the oven for such small portions. This is the perfect size for him, and really easy for him to use.


We have used it for toasting bread and bagels. It took me a couple times to get the timing right for the perfect crispness that we like. It is faster at toasting than our old one was. I think I have it figured out now though.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Happy (early) 40th Birthday To ME!!!!!


This month, I will be turning 40. Hubby and I discussed it last year, and he was going to plan a big pool party to celebrate. Then, covid happened. It messed with all those plans, the big shindig will be for my 41st instead.  We will just be having 1 or 2 friends over for a socially distant bbq and swim.

I wasn't really sure what we would do to mark this big birthday, and then in early June, my dishwasher broke. We had just finished cleaning out the backyard in preparation for the pool.  When it broke (somehow it ended up with a crack in the base of the dishwasher - it almost looks as if something burned into it), I came up with a plan.  When we bought this dishwasher, the technician and hubby had to break apart the old one to get it out. Then, they had to break the counter top to get the new one in. When the original owners put in ceramic tile, they didn't lift up the cabinetry, they just added a subfloor and tiled. Which meant the tile was about 1 inch above the base of the cabinets and dishwasher.

Since the counter was already broken, and my cupboards were missing a couple of doors, and one drawer was broken (Mr. J used to step on the handle to climb onto the counter), I decided it was time for a new kitchen.

Hubby and I have been discussing it for a while, and we had 3 scenarios in mind. The first was the cheapest, just buying new doors and replacing the counter.  The 2nd was all new cabinets/doors, counter - and extending the counter past the sink to make an island/breakfast bar. The 3rd was completely gutting the kitchen (including the floor) and changing the layout.  We like to call option 3 the "dream kitchen". Unfortunately, the dream kitchen was not in my budget, but we were able to go with a combo of #2 and #3. We hired someone to custom build all the cabinets (and he had a couple of design ideas for us which gave us a bit of a change) and we also changed the place of the pantry. It used to be directly across from the counter, which didn't give a lot of room to walk by, we switched the location to the opposite wall, next to our patio door.

I am so happy we did it, although it was an incredibly disruptive renovation.  The kitchen really is the heart of our home. I spend a lot of time in it, and not having a sink for 2 weeks was rough. I washed all the dishes in the bathtub. 

The cabinets only took 2 days to get in, but then we had to have them measured for the counter, and that took a week before we could get it installed. We were lucky, and managed to have our plumber booked for the same day as the counter, so my kitchen is now complete.

If we ever do go for the "dream kitchen", I will pay someone to do the demo, and I will also go to a hotel for a week or 10 days to cut down on the disruption of not having a functioning kitchen.  It was nice that it was during the summer, so hubby was able to bbq many of the nights,

And now, pictures!

BEFORE






DEMO
We all helped with the demolition. Hubby did the majority of the tear down, while I carried all the old stuff out to the garage.  The kids were very excited to get to help destroy stuff, and it didn't take any convincing to get them involved.







AFTER



There was a counter beside the fridge, and the cupboards weren't very deep.  He brought the cupboards over the fridge out and made them deeper, as well as added vertical slats for my baking pans. Then he made a shelf for the microwave, added in 2 drawers and brought the upper cabinets out to be the same depth as the lower ones.  This is actually my favourite part of the "new kitchen"....although I do really love the island.

We extended the counter by the sink to have an island/breakfast bar. Added an extra cupboard on the wall, and moved the pantry (also making it larger than it was).  He built us a display shelf as well (which we needed - the space was missing something, and the shelf fills it well)

We still haven't found the right chairs/stools - but these 2 were being given away on my local buy nothing site, and they work perfectly for now until we find the ones we want.


The new pantry. It is 10 inches wider than the old one, and 5 inches deeper. It actually allowed us to remove the pine unit we had in the opposite corner before, so has opened up the other space.

As the rest of our appliances die, we will be replacing them with stainless steel to match the colours in the kitchen.

It was a very busy summer in terms of renovations. The backyard was a much bigger reno, but it wasn't nearly as disruptive.  I am very glad that we went ahead with it (and we really managed to luck in that our cabinet guy was able to book us in August, it was pretty quick turn around from making the decision to having it installed.)  Now we will be moving onto changing Mr. J's room. New paint, new bed, new closet.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Sunshine and Summertime

 I am a little in shock how fast this summer has gone by.  I think I say that every year, but I expected this one to really drag out, since the kids have been home for 5 months.


My kids start back to school on September 3rd, and they will be going in person.  There was a lot of discussion between my hubby and I on whether to send them or keep them home.  In the end, this decision is the best one for our family.


I am fully aware (and prepared for) the fact that we will likely end up with virtual learning again not far into the year..... but for now, they NEED this.  They need to see their peers in person, even if they will be wearing masks.  They need to be in the classroom, even if they don’t look the same and routines are very different from what they are used to.  Even if it’s only for 2-6 weeks, they need that connection with the “outside” world.


This summer has been filled with swimming and biking, you tube and video games.  




This weekend, Mr.K and I picked up my mom and took her to a sunflower field!  The family opens it up for visitors, and it’s such a wonderful place to visit.  They ask for donations to help them care for the animals they rescue.







I hope that you have had a fun summer!  Drop me a line to let me know how you are doing, and what school looks like this year for your families!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Backyard Campout




Mr.K joined Beavers a few years ago, and discovered a love for camping.  It shouldn’t surprise me, as he has always loved being outdoors.  I had never been camping before, but last year joined some of the Cubs and Beavers and their families for a family camp.

I had quite a nice time.  I told him we would go camping again this year.  With Covid, his group hasn’t met since March, and all activities had to be cancelled.  That meant no spring Camporee, and no summer family camp.

We were supposed to go camping with friends this summer, but when my mother was diagnosed with cancer in the winter, we decided to hold off on booking anything as at the time, we didn’t know what her treatment would be.  The Covid happened, and we decided to hold off until next summer.

Mr.K was disappointed by this, so I told him that once the backyard was finished, we could camp ack there.  We had never done it before.  Previously, we did not have a fenced in yard, and our deck was full of patio furniture and a dining table.

Now that the yard is fenced, I am much more comfortable staying outside overnight.

Yesterday evening, we set up the tent.  Made dinner (walking tacos), played Sorry, swam, had a campfire and made s’mores. We went to bed in the tent, and woke up this morning.





It was quite the enjoyable night. Next time, he gets to camp with his dad!  I know he would love to do it with friends, but with the pool that makes me uncomfortable, so for the next few years it’s mom or dad!

Have you camped out in your backyard? Do your kids do it?


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Backyard Transformation - Creating Our Oasis #ThePiccoOasis

We have lived in our home for almost 16 years. Originally, it was going to be a short term place. 5-10 years, and then we were hoping to build a custom home on land just outside the city. Time went on, we had 2 kids and realized that the likelihood of building our "dream" home was pretty slim.

We had some ideas of how we could make this home into our forever home.  Some of those ideas including renovating the kitchen, putting an addition onto the upstairs, finishing the basement - and a "dream" we didn't think was likely to become reality - an inground pool in the backyard.

Anyone that has followed me for a long time, will likely remember that we used to get a summer pool membership at a local hotel.  We did that for 3 summers. It was a lot of fun, but packing everything up and heading over for a few hours, then coming home - and sometimes Mr. K wanting to go back later in the day - it wasn't "easy". It was work.  Sometimes we would arrive and it would be so busy that all you could really do was stay in one spot, slowly working your way around. Other times, we would be the only ones there.

It really had me wishing that we had our own, so all we needed to do was throw on the swimsuits and walk out the back door.

Hubby and I talked about it off/on for a couple of years. Last year we did ALL of our research, met with 4 companies and decided to take the plunge!  It was exciting and a bit scary all at the same time.

In the fall, we demolished the play structure hubby built for the kids years ago, and took apart half of our deck.  We kept part of it so we could still sit out back in the spring. A few weeks ago the rest of the deck went.  It was quite strange staring at a completely empty backyard.

Our original install date was pushed back, by 2 weeks because of Covid. The company was shut down for a few weeks during the lockdown.  

The day they came to dig was super exciting. Mr. K and I spent quite a bit of time watching the machine. They pulled up a tree stump, a lot of big rocks and one GIANT one.  I would have loved to keep it, but it wouldn't fit in our backyard with the pool, and I couldn't think of somewhere in the front to put it...... hubby came up with a great spot, but it was too late at that point because it was gone.

The walls went up the second day, and the backfill on day 3. Really interesting to see how quick it starts to take shape.

Once the backfill was done, they were able to pour the concrete surrounding the pool (and the rest for our patio).  

Over the next few days, the concrete was cut, the equipment went in (and hubby built privacy panels to surround the equipment) and then the fence. 


Afterwards, we just needed to wait for our liner to arrive so we could finally fill it with water. It felt like it took forever. For 2 weeks we had a pool that was practically ready, but unable to use.  The upswing in pool purchases this year (with people staying home instead of vacationing) meant longer than usual waits for delivery.  While we were waiting, we worked on all the little jobs that would be needed to "complete" the project.  A walking path from the front of the house, filling under the fence with rocks, a towel rack, setting the patio furniture back up under the gazebo.



It was neat watching the water fill up




#thepiccooasis, backyard pool, small pool, tiny yard, inground swimming pool
#ThePiccoOasis



When planning a project like this, which is incredibly expensive, it can be nerve wracking hoping you picked the right people for the job.  We are very pleased with how everything turned out, and would definitely recommend the contractors we used.  We had a vision, and they were able to bring that vision to reality for us.....#ThePiccoOasis is finally here!


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Trolls World Tour - Now Available


Trolls World Tour "Dance Party Edition" was released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu ray and DVD on July 7th. You can now see what Poppy, Branch and the rest of the Trolls gang have gotten up to now. This latest edition allows viewers to learn the dance moves, as well as the song lyrics, while they watch along.

We are in the middle of a big heat wave in Ottawa, and looking for things to keep us cool. An afternoon in the air conditioning watching a movie is a perfect way to cool off. We have been doing a lot of work outside (our pool is almost ready - but not quite). We definitely need a break from the heat in the afternoons.

If you have a troll fan in your life, make sure to check out the Tales of Mommyhood facebook page for a flash giveaway!