Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: Goh Ballet's The Nutcracker + 4 Tips for Bringing Little Kids

Last night my four-year-old & I did something totally new for us: we went to the ballet. Not just any ballet, but possibly the most famous one: The Nutcracker. It was a lovely evening overall.

Incredible cast

The Nutcracker involves a huge international cast of hundreds of dancers, including some adorable elementary school age lambs & mice. I feel privileged to have seen Paloma Herrera perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Her masterful control over every single movement of her body was a wonder to watch & she certainly stole the show.

A delight for the senses

The gorgeous costumes & beautiful set design were a delight to see & the live music provided by members of the Vancouver Symphony orchestra was fantastic. We had a lovely chat with the trumpet player during intermission when I showed Linnaeus the orchestra pit.

To bring the kids or not?

My four-year-old was just able to sit through the two hours or so of performance with a fair bit of wiggling, adjusting his booster & occasional seat switching. Lots of families go--it's definitely a kid-friendly ballet. I saw children as young as three or so, but most of them were somewhat older. The intermission provides a welcome break for little kids to move around & get a bit of pent up energy out. Of course, every kid is different--you know yours best.

If you do think your kids are ready for the ballet, here are my suggestions for how to make the best of the evening.

4 Tips for bringing little kids to the Goh Ballet Nutcracker

  • Do your homework. Read the Nutcracker story with your child a few times before you go so they can follow the action--there's also a short synopsis in the program.
  • Be punctual. Try to arrive at least half an hour early--getting to your seats is slow, plus you'll want time to get drinks or use the washrooms before sitting for an hour. If you don't get into the theatre before the show starts, you'll have to wait outside until the intermission.
  • Get a boost. Ask the ushers for a theatre booster seat to give your child a better view.
  • Keep the kids busy. The programs have a colouring page in the middle & crayons are handed out in the lobby, so kids will have something to do if you have a little bit of a wait before the performance begins.
I hope you enjoy the show as much as we did!

The Goh Ballet Nutcracker premieres tonight & runs until December 22nd. Tickets are still available at

Disclaimer: I received free tickets to the media preview of The Nutcracker to facilitate this review, but was not otherwise compensated for this post.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Donating Blood is Easier Than Ever

Try the Canadian Blood Services App
When was the last time you donated blood? If it's been a while, or maybe if you never have, there are some changes you should know about. Canadian Blood Services is trying to make donating easier with a few new things:

  • Wi-fi in clinics
  • New mobile app to make booking appointments more convenient (for Android or iPhone)
  • Mobile-friendly website
  • New eligibility quiz online to help understand if you can donate

All this is in addition to the friendly staff & volunteers at Canadian Blood Services Clinics, cookies & snacks, juice & tea that go along with donating. I know the rest of your 2014 calendar is probably looking pretty packed, so make an appointment for January. Add donating blood a few times a year to your list of resolutions.

If you aren't eligible to donate for transfusions, you can still help by donating blood for research, donating money, or volunteering.

Visit for lots more information, & you can follow Canadian Blood Services on Facebook or Twitter.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Simplifying the Holidays

My one craft for the season: clothespin wreath card holder
When it comes to Christmas, I'm ambitious. Well, in my head, anyway. I start daydreaming of Pinterest-worthy mantel vignettes, beautifully decorated sugar cookies, a heap of home-made gifts, hosting several events for friends & family... then I remember I have two small children. & we don't even have a fireplace, let alone a mantel.

So this year, I'm calling it "simplifying" rather than "laziness", "I didn't have the time to finish half the gifts I started working on" & "oops, I forgot about baking anything". Rather than have soaring ambitions inspired by online galleries of professionally decorated homes, I'm going to aim lower. Here's how I simplified:

  1. Use last year's advent calendar. I think this was the only big DIY project I completed (by the skin of my teeth--I was sewing the numbers onto the baubles the morning of, half the time). It should be noted that the advent calendar is just a large tree-shaped felt board, with a bunch of felt numbers that look like tree baubles. No chocolates or toys or activities to organize. Just iron the thing & hand my kid a number each morning to stick up.
  2. Try for one craft. I love making things, but who has the time now? I picked something that can be done in small chunks of time while Bronte is napping & Linnaeus is occupied. I managed to actually complete a clothespin wreath which holds our Christmas cards. I have started another one, but it's pretty simple. If I finish that too, then I'll feel like I'm really winning Christmas!
  3. Get my shopping done early. I'm still doing as much shopping as last year, I just got the bulk of it done earlier, so I had more time to relax most of December. Well, as much time as any stay-at-home-parent with two small children gets to relax. I should also mention here that I only really give gifts to children--except for my husband. Not my parents, sisters, friends, etc. We started doing this a few years ago, donating money to charities (SPCA & Amnesty International currently) instead.
  4. Cut back on the Christmas cards. I did still write out about 15 of them, but mostly just to family. I'll probably hand-deliver at least a third of those because they're for people who live in our neighbourhood. For everyone else, I think I'll send out a greeting via email.
  5. Not overdoing the socializing. Oli's going to his work Christmas dinner & I'm going to one for the Board & staff of the Mount Pleasant Family Centre. We'll go to my sister's for a big dinner on the 25th & that's it for big social events. We will probably try to get to a few of the Christmassy attractions on my December bucket list, weather/naptime permitting, but I'm not going to stress if we miss a few of them this year.

I could probably think of one or two more things, but there's a toddler climbing on me, so I'll sign off now. What about you? How to you make your life easier during the holiday madness than is December?

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Spiked Milk? Drinking & Breastfeeding

Beer & Breastfeeding?
It's the holiday season & that means more parties, more get-togethers with family, & probably more drinking. For those of you breastfeeding mamas out there, this might be a bit stressful. If you want to indulge in a little rum & eggnog or maybe some mulled wine, you might have some questions.

How much can I safely drink while breastfeeding? Should I abstain completely just to be safe? Can I pump & dump to get the alcohol out of my milk? 

I should start by saying right off that I'm not a medical professional or a researcher of any kind, but I do pride myself on making decisions based on science. A few years back, probably just before Linnaeus' first Christmas, I started googling to find the facts on drinking alcohol & breastfeeding.

I found a short article on Motherisk: Drinking Alcohol While Breastfeeding: Will it Harm My Baby? It's worth pointing out that the recommendations in the Motherisk piece are for newborns, because "infants detoxify alcohol in their first weeks of life at only half the rate of adults." If your baby is older than that, you may not want to be so conservative.

If you just skim the article, you might be scared away from drinking at all. However, the chart that follows the article is pretty useful. You can assess how long it'll take your body to clear the alcohol from your milk by your weight. For the average mom, that'll be two or two & a half hours for one drink.

If you have a nursing baby that's older than a few weeks, you might be wondering if you really have to wait two or three hours after drinking to feed them. As the Motherisk article mentions, there is no established safe threshold of alcohol for babies. That said, it's worth mentioning that your milk will have around the same amount of alcohol in it as your blood. It all depends on the strength of the drink, & your size, but if you have just one drink, most likely your blood alcohol level (& thus milk alcohol level) will be less than 0.1%. The drink you had was probably 40 or 50 times that strong--it's very diluted in your milk.

If you had a drink with 0.1% alcohol in it, it's likely you'd never notice. Or, maybe I should say, when you've had a drink with 0.1% alcohol, because you probably have. A glass of orange juice could have that much alcohol. Ripe fruit, or fermented foods like miso, kefir, kombucha, pickles, may have more alcohol than your breastmilk after one drink. (source) Have you ever given your baby fruit juice or ripe fruit? I don't say this to freak you out, but just to say that alcohol is actually in a lot of foods that we & our children safely eat all the time.

La Leche League has an FAQ on alcohol & breastfeeding as well, with even more information from diverse sources.

I hope this has been useful to you & gives you a little peace of mind, whether you choose to abstain, wait to nurse until your system is clear of alcohol, or drink moderately while nursing. Enjoy the holidays!

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Things my Toddler has Thrown in the Toilet This Month

  1. Playmobil barrel (flushed)
  2. Knit finger puppet
  3. Sandra Boynton board book
  4. Sandra Boynton tub book
  5. Papa's toothbrush
  6. Toilet paper roll (empty)
  7. Toilet paper roll (full)
  8. Hairbrush
  9. Automoblox wheel
  10. Her shoe (nearly flushed)
  11. Her hands (I've lost count how many times)
Let the record show that we do in fact have a baby gate between the living room & bathroom. I've considered a toilet lock, but I'm afraid it, like the gate, would also be four-year-old-proof. Speaking of Bronte's brother, I don't remember Linnaeus doing this when he was really little. Please tell me this is just a phase. A short phase? Also: how do you disinfect a board book?!?

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

DIY Decorating Thrift Excursion to Value Village

Did you read my tips for DIY Decorating on a Budget? Go ahead, pop on over. I'll wait.

Hey! Nice to see you back! Now that you know my thrifting secrets, here's how my Value Village shopping trip went. For the tablescape challenge I headed to one of the Value Village stores near me (the Victoria Drive location, if you were wondering) to peruse the racks. I was expecting a lot of knick-knacks & I wasn't disappointed. I went in with an open mind & tried to look for what things could become, instead of just what they looked like at the moment.

First thing to go in the cart: a metallic red dimpled ceramic bowl. I am pretty sure this will be awesome when it is no longer red.

These little trees remind me of one my mom has. Except hers has all the coloured 'lights' still. I already have plans for these two.

These did not come home with me but I was tempted by the kitsch factor of these chubby little holiday candles.

I saw a lot of colourful ceramic churches, houses, & other buildings, but these white ones just grabbed me. My aunt has a little Christmas village that she sets up on her mantel every year. I think I'm going to create one of my own...

If you need shatterproof baubles, try Value Village--this massive lot were $10, I think? We already have a set like this.

Always worth perusing the bagged up doodads for potential craft supplies. Didn't find anything to take home here... this time.

Tempting, very tempting.

I may have to go back for some of these. I have a weakness for goofy Christmas socks. But I was already a bit over budget, so maybe next time...

Oops, forgot to bring my own bags. I did, however, bring some extra padding for the ceramics. This is about the only way to use disposable diapers twice.

Somebody was quite enamored with the tiny little buildings & immediately set up a parking space for his Fiat. It was adorable... until he dropped one of the trees. Ugh. Ceramic tree on ceramic tiles smashed to bits. So many bits that I couldn't even use a lot of them when I glued it back together. The newly reconstructed ceramic tree is at least 10% hot glue now.

Stay tuned to see the results of the next step! (Hint: it will involve spray paint)

Disclaimer: I received a $25 gift certificate from Value Village to participate in the Tablescape Challenge, but was not otherwise compensated for this post.

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