Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Camping with Modo

Cramming the last few things into the Modo Kia minivan

Helpful children being helpful while setting up the tents 
Home sweet home for a couple nights

Playing with some lake foam, which our resident biology teacher told us is due to naturally ocurring phosphates

Camping fashion in full effect! 
Hello! How was your summer? Clearly, from the dearth of posting around hereabouts, mine was a bit busy. Hoping to get back into the swing of things once both kids settle into their school routines (OMG, I might actually have a few hours a week where both children are at school & I'm not working & I have time to do stuff. Like write. OMG)

The last week of August we decided to squeeze the last of the good out of summer & tried out something new with Modo: a camping trip with two families in one vehicle. Yep, that's four adults & four kids who all require carseats/boosters.

We'd reserved a couple of nights at North Beach campground in Golden Ears Provincial Park--it wasn't too busy Sunday/Monday night. We booked a Modo eight passenger minivan & crossed our fingers that we'd fit ourselves & all our camping gear inside.

Okay, crossing our fingers was a bit of an exaggeration... Last summer we bike camped with the same friends--Four Kids, For Adults, Four Bikes, Four Days--so we all had experience packing fairly light for eight people. We use relatively compact & light gear--thin foam mats, thermarests, fairly light tents & sleeping bags, small backpacking stoves--so I wasn't seriously worried about fitting in the essentials, but we also threw in a few extras, like two hammocks & folding camping chairs, a cooler full of beer & a lot of tarps.
Someone found the Kool Aid packet

Sunday the weather was a bit iffy & it actually did rain quite a bit shortly after we arrived, but we'd just set up a large tarp over the picnic table. Setup had been pretty quick--two MEC Camper 4 tents, unrolling the sleeping mats & bags inside, unfolding a few chairs & stringing up a tarp between the many trees. Et, voila! Base camp for two nights.

Golden Ears Provincial Park, if you didn't know, has three different campgrounds--pretty standard provincial park setups, though ours only had one water source, which was a hand pump that spewed out urine coloured water. Since nobody mentioned the water being a problem to drink, we didn't worry. However, when we discovered a tap with cleaner looking H2O on our hike the next day, we refilled the water jug there.

Day two we went on a great hike--only about 7 km round trip, but that took us about five hours including lunch at the viewpoint as well as many many stops for each of the small children to pee, etc.

Potty breaks were basically the theme of the hike, with children calling for them at least a dozen times altogether. I wish I was kidding or exaggerating on this. But hey, considering they're 6, 4.5, almost 3, & 2, they did very well.

Linny loves his MEC turtle headlamp
I brought my Nordic poles & my hip held out quite well on the hike--I ended up with more pain in my foot, unfortunately. It was great to get out into the woods with the kids--Linnaeus hiked the whole thing without complaint & Bronte did about half of it, the rest of the time riding in the Beco carrier on Oliver.

On the last day, after we packed up, we headed to a different beach on Alouette Lake, accidentally ending up too far south & going to the one near the dam. The weather was breezy & not too warm, plus it was a Tuesday, so the beach was not busy at all. We ate our lunch at one of the many picnic tables there & I went for a short swim in the lake. I can't even remember the last time I actually swam in a lake.

Our two littlest campers rock chucking at North Beach on Alouette Lake
Though it's a bit squishy to fit four adults & four children (all requiring car seats or boosters) in a minivan, the drive was only an hour each way. I'd definitely do it again--it's fun to all be together in one vehicle & it saves some money--two separate Modo bookings would cost more than the premium vehicle cost.

Gorgeous spot for lunch from the viewpoint we hiked to

The final highlight of the trip was taking the van through the Shine automatic car wash on our way home. I shot a little video of the experience--a first for all the kids & a long time since the adults had been through one. Maybe car washes aren't a big deal to you, but for car free kids they're apparently AMAZING. (PS--Modo members: did you know if you get the Modo vehicle washed, you can get reimbursed plus earn a free hour of driving time?)

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bronte 3.0

& poof, my baby is a preschooler. This summer went by fast! Suddenly I have two kids in school. Facebook is showing me photos I posted three years ago of baby girl's arrival, so of course I'm getting all nostalgic & marvelling at how far she's come. From a pink, wiggly newborn with a pudgy little face, she's turned into an assertive, articulate, generous, intelligent, independent, athletic child. Happy birthday, little B.

Putting some elbow grease into unwrapping her birthday presents.

Zip tied an ice cream bucket to her runner bike. Thrilled.

Another big milestone passed this month: TOILET TRAINED!

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bike To Shop Day Vancouver

Today is Vancouver's first Bike to Shop Day! Though I've been biking to shop since I started bike commuting almost twenty years ago, I still get a bit of a thrill when I bring a bunch of stuff home under my own power. (Here's an illustrated list of some of the more impressive things I've transported home by bike here if you're curious)

Spring 2015 a hashtag all about shopping by bike went viral. #Quaxing was all over Twitter & Instagram--do you remember? Here's my post on what it is & how to be awesome at itSpoiler Alert: you don't need a ton of expensive gear to do it! 

Also last year, before Bike to Shop Day was really a thing in Vancouver, I wrote a list of six reasons why you should try biking to shop. Reasons to add to the list: win prizes! Get free snacks! Save money with discounts at participating businesses! Meet some new friends on the themed rides!

HUB has all kinds of fun planned today between 11am & 3pm, from Celebration Stations, like during Bike to Work Week, several themed rides with experienced bike to shoppers along the way to give you tips & tricks for things like transporting pets by bike, plus free bike repairs, snacks, & more at the stations. Find a map of the celebration stations & more information about the rides here. (PS: I'll be talking family biking at the Celebration Station in Victory Square downtown--come by & say hello!)

Register for Bike to Shop Day: it's free online & makes you eligible to win the grand prize: a trip for two to the Okanagan with Accent Inns and Pacific Coastal airlines! You'll also help HUB gain valuable data that they can share with local businesses & decision-makers. (*cough* Commercial Drive BIA *cough*). As long as you're biking to shop at some point, register by midnight & you'll be entered!

See you on the bike paths!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Bronte 2.11

Making friends with some random women at Faculty Brewing

One month to go until Bronte is three! Since I'm getting behind in my posts again, I'll keep this one brief. Here's where we're at these days:

  1. Full speed ahead! Bronte has started running pretty much everywhere she needs to go, which is somewhat terrifying when we're walking on the sidewalk, & means that she falls a lot & has some pretty impressive wipeouts, since she's going so fast most of the time. Her legs are constantly decorated with bruises & scrapes.
  2. Doctor Bronte 'doctoring' me
  3. Not there yet with toilet training. She is pretty good about peeing on the toilet when she's not busy with something, when we're at home. However, she has never, to this date, actually pooped on the toilet. I'm not sure if she prefers to do it in a diaper or pull up, or if she's just not able to predict it yet. She can definitely tell us when she's already done it. Very frustrating with less than a month to go until preschool, where she is expected to be trained.
  4. Dressing herself most days. I can occasionally pick out a whole outfit & put it on her, but generally, she has Very Strong Opinions about what she wears, if she doesn't insist on putting it on herself.
  5. Helping herself. Bronte has also started getting her own food. If she feels like it, she'll just grab a popsicle out of the freezer. Or try to pour herself a glass of milk from the 4L jug in the fridge. Or dig out a handful of the birthday cake I just made for her brother that's cooling in the freezer.
  6. Very observant of details. Whenever we're riding, if there's someone on a Mobi bike riding by or a Mobi station, she points this out excitedly. She pays a lot of attention to birds & bugs whenever we're outside too. Not sure exactly why, but she has a bit of a thing against pigeons & will try to chase them off, while roaring, "Go away, pigeon!"
  7. Constant copycat. She wants to be just like her older brother, which is kind of adorable when she puts on his superhero costume & runs around the house shouting that she's Super Chameleon (with a French accent like he does it). Other times, like blowing snot out of her nose into the air just before I get there with a piece of kleenex, not so much.
  8. Scrappy Susan. Bronte & her brother get into fights, oh, at least hourly. More often if they're stuck together on a bike, in a car, at the dinner table, or trying to play with the same toys. Though he's three years older, about a foot taller, & 30% heavier than she is, it tends to be a fair fight. Or he loses... 

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Friday, August 5, 2016

#CarFreeCamping: Food for Four (+ 8 Tips)

Planning the food for four of us to spend three days camping was a fun challenge. Since we carried everything on transit, we tried to keep the food light & packable, picking up a few heavy or fluffy/crushable items in Nanaimo near the end of our journey to Newcastle Island. Here was our menu:

Making oatmeal for breakfast
Day one we were travelling until nearly dinner time:
Lunch: fruit, nuts, carrots
Snack: potato chips
Dinner: fire roasted hot dogs
Dessert: roasted marshmallows

Day two we walked around a bit & explored the two beaches near either end of the camp site:
Breakfast: oatmeal with chocolate chips
Lunch: fruit, carrots, nuts, peanut butter & jam wraps
Snack: potato chips
Dinner: pasta with tuna, peas & alfredo sauce
Dessert: roasted marshmallows, chocolate

Picnic lunch at Midden Beach on our long hike
Day three we went on a long hike (about 8km) so there were lots of snacks:
Breakfast: oatmeal & chocolate chips
Snack: nuts, raisins, apples, oranges
Lunch: peanut butter & jam wraps
Snack: chocolate, potato chips (yes, again--Oli bought THREE bags in Nanaimo!), carrots, cucumber
Dinner: brown instant rice with red lentil dahl
Dessert: roasted marshmallows
Snack: popcorn (Jiffy pop!)

Day four we packed up & left our camp site by lunch time, then spent the rest of the day in transit until a late dinner at home:
Breakfast: oatmeal with chocolate chips
Lunch: sandwiches, sausage, carrots, apples, cucumber
Snack: trail mix, cookies

Great new bike racks outside Famous Foods
For drinks, I packed quite a bit of powdered whole milk, but the kids didn't really like drinking it straight. It was great in our tea & in the oatmeal, however. I'll probably bring a lot less next trip. The kids are pretty good about drinking plain water, but just to keep them really hydrated, I brought a few single packets of Kool Aid. They loved it, even when made at half strength, & sported red 'moustaches' most of the weekend.

Oliver picked up a cheap 2L 'cardbordeaux' & a few cans of beer too, which we had at dinner & in the evenings. We specifically went for red wine & dark beer so they'd be tolerable to drink once they weren't that cold anymore.

A few useful tips I used on this trip:

Famous Foods selection of vaccuum packed pastas 
  1. Famous Foods is a great place to shop for backpacking food. They have powdered whole milk, which tastes way better than the usual powdered skim that I've bought elsewhere. Their freeze dried peas & onions are super light & taste good when rehydrated, which only took soaking in water (they also sell freeze dried corn & soup mixes). I didn't buy this, but there were some great looking vaccuum packed pasta & sauce dishes there too for about $5 for three servings. I think I'll try those next time
  2. Multipurpose ingredients make packing easier. Apples were eaten whole, sliced into tortillas for wraps, chopped to sweeten oatmeal. Chocolate chips & raisins also went into oatmeal & made trail mix with almonds.
  3. The Coghlan's multi spice shaker is refillable--I switched the paprika for cinnamon. We also used the salt, pepper, cayenne, curry powder, & garlic powder.
  4. Dense, light, high protein & fatty foods are great for active trips. We brought landjaeger dry sausage, which doesn't really need refrigeration, plus a lot of almonds, as well as a small amount of that 'powdered' shelf stable parmesan for our pasta dinner.
  5. No Name marshmallows are great--they taste just as good as the brand name ones, which is more than I can say for their vanilla ice cream. Ugh.
  6. Buy food according to cooking times. I got red lentils because they cook faster & don't require soaking rather than the green that I prefer. I chose rotini instead of other types of pasta because it cooks two to three minues faster. This isn't a huge thing, but on a multi day trip, it could make the difference between running out of stove fuel early or not.
  7. Tortillas don't squish. We ate wraps for lunch two days on the island--tortillas are great camp food, while not light, they are really compact & don't get damaged in transit. 
  8. Ziplocs are your friend. I measured the amount we needed for the trip & packed most of our food in zipper bags: oatmeal, powdered milk, chocolate chips, almonds, raisins, lentil dahl mix, freeze dried peas, pasta, pre chopped carrots, baby carrots.
Chocolate oatmeal for breakfast
I think we had a good balance of healthy food--we actually ate a fair bit of vegetables & fruit, kept fairly well hydrated, & didn't take too much food home with us. 

A few things I'd change about our trip for the next time: I brought way too much powdered milk, about 20% too much pasta, rice, oats, & lentils. We definitely didn't need three bags of chips--one would have been enough. More peanut butter would have been nice too, but we made the small amount last. Also, I needed to add more of the freeze dried onion to the dahl mix.

I'm pretty pleased with myself--this was the first trip I've planned where food weight was really a consideration. All our past camping trips were by car, where weight is fairly irrelevant, except for the bikepacking trip last summer to Galiano, but our friends planned the food for that one.

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