Thursday, November 16, 2017

12 Holiday Events to Bike To in Vancouver

Santa Claus Parade 2016 "box seats"
The holiday season is fast approaching & I've been making a list, checking it twice... of things to do with the kids. I try to focus on the fun activities & family time when our family celebrates Christmas, & not so much on the gifts. They're also at the age where they're really into Christmas & both still believe in the magic, but I know (le sigh) that won't last for much longer. So I'm determined to make the most of the magic this year & take advantage of the many holiday events right here in our backyard.

The kids love thecarousel at the Vancouver Christmas Market
While I was compiling a list of activities that we want to go to or have gone to in the past, I thought I'd share it with you too. Since we mainly get around by bike, I have kept this list to places that are within Vancouver city limits, generally less than a 30-minute ride from home for us. Most of these locations also feature rockstar parking for cyclists--there are generally racks right by the front entrance so you don't have to pay for car parking or dodge SUVs in the parking lot as you walk to the event with your small children in tow! Bonus: more than half the events in my list are free to attend!

One of the homes along Trinity Street several years ago
  1. Scuba Claus at Vancouver Aquarium The aquarium is fun any time of the year, but it's even more exciting during the holidays. Spot Scuba Claus in with the fish & catch an interactive version of the holiday classic, Rudolph, in the 4D theatre. Stanley Park is easy to get to via the seawall & several of the bikeways through downtown.
  2. VanDusen Festival of Lights  get your VanDusen tickets online here to save money & skip the lineup. Bike up Heather or take the 37th Avenue bikeway.
  3. Bright Nights Christmas Train is on for the 20th year, raising money for the Firefighters Burn Fund. If you don't necessarily want to pay & line up to ride the train, you can always just wander around the lights display with some hot roasted chestnuts or popcorn from the vendors there.
  4. Bike the Lights! There are quite a few neighbourhoods in the city that vie for the title of best decorated during the holiday season. Keep an eye out on your travels & plan a route near home that takes you through the twinkling lights. Or check out Family Fun Canada's fairly exhaustive list of locations that have good lights displays. PS: though the Trinity Street Lights Festival officially ended, the neighbourhood still goes all out with their lights & decoration displays. 
  5. Visiting Santa at Oakridge I love looking back at every year's Santa photo & it was something I grew up doing, so we've continued the tradition with our kids. Photo package details & pricing are here. The absolute best Santa is the one at Oakridge Mall. Besides the fact that he's a family friend, he ranks on the lists of best Santas every year from many other families in the city. Oakridge also offers Quiet Days with Santa, a more sensory-friendly event for kids who may get overwhelmed by all the lights & noise.
  6. Vancouver Christmas Market Taste a little bit of Germany, right in the heart of downtown Vancouver, in Jack Poole Plaza. The market has been part of our holiday tradition since its inception--eight years now, I believe. It's easy to bike to along the protected lanes downtown & there are usually racks available at a nearby building. Stay tuned: I'll be writing a more complete review of this year's market soon!
  7. Vancouver Christmas Tree Lighting December 1st, come out for the hot chocolate, treats, live music, & activities. The event is also a fundraiser for the Vancouver International Children's Festival--so it's a great chance to support another amazing family-friendly event. 
  8. Christmas at Canada Place Woodwards is long gone, but the holiday window displays live on, inside the halls of Canada Place! It's nostalgic good fun & it's free.
  9. Holiday Heights at Bloedel Conservatory is a fun newish event. The view is fantastic from the ferris wheel there & you can warm up inside the tropical paradise of the dome afterward. It's a bit of a hill to bike up, but if the roads aren't slippery, it's doable.
  10. Robson Square Ice Skating is free, skate rentals are $4. In contrast to my childhood, where I swear I spent several hours a week on ice skates, my children have barely skated. I play to remedy that downtown at Robson Square this year.
  11. Lumiere Festival at Jim Deva Plaza is a relatively new event in one of Vancouver's newest public plazas. Besides the gorgeous light installations, there are performances during the week that it's open--December 2-9 only. Looking forward to seeing this one for the first time!
  12. Candy Town is happening in Yaletown, as always, on the 25th of November. This year we don't have any conflicting events, so we might actually make it to see the event.
  13. Linny meeting Scuba Claus in 2012
  14. Santa Claus Parade is back for another year, Sunday, December 3 in downtown Vancouver. Bring non-perishable, nutritious food donations to the parade for the Vancouver Food Bank & Telus will help your gift go further by giving $1 for each item, up to $20,000.

Are there any other fun events in the City of Vancouver that I've missed? Let us know in the comments!

Also: if you're interested in biking with us & other local families to some of these events, join the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook Group--we may post some organized group rides there or you can let people know you're heading out & informally meet up along the way. Nothing more fun than a little "bike parade" of families riding!

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Five Vancouver Transportation-related Projects You Should Provide Feedback on this Fall

Here's your chance to make your voice heard on five different upcoming projects in the City of Vancouver. I'm sure at least one of them will directly affect you. Here's the details from the city on how, where, & when you can provide feedback about each of the projects:

Throughout November, the City of Vancouver is inviting the public to provide feedback on a range of transportation-related projects. We want to hear from you on projects that will help alleviate congestion, make streets safer, create better places for people, and address the changing needs of our streets.

1. Northeast False Creek - Northeast False Creek will be a destination for people from all over Vancouver. With the area plan for Northeast False Creek now in its final stages, the public is welcomed to a pop-up shop to see how community consultation over the past 18 months has shaped the future of the area and learn about how the new transportation network would function.

Pop-up Shop at 511 W Broadway (at Cambie):

Saturday, November 18, 11 am - 5 pm
Monday, November 20, 11 am - 5 pm
Tuesday, November 21, 11 am - 5 pm
Wednesday, November 22, 3 - 9 pm

More details on Northeast False Creek.

2. Cambie Bridge - Over the past decade, walking and cycling volumes have grown steadily on Cambie Bridge. While there is a dedicated sidewalk for pedestrians on the west side of the bridge, there is no dedicated path for people cycling. We are looking to address overcrowding issues for people walking and cycling on the shared-use path on the east side of Cambie Bridge. The City is considering an option to add a new interim southbound protected bike lane is being added on the west side.

Provide feedback into the interim option:

Attend an open house:  Thursday, November 30

More details on Cambie Bridge.

3. Georgia Gateway West - We are beginning a transportation planning process for Georgia Street, between Chilco St and Nicola St, to explore how to make Georgia a complete street that is safe, efficient, and welcoming for people of all ages, abilities, using different modes of travel. We want to learn from residents, businesses, and road users about their experience of Georgia Street and what could make the street safer and more welcoming.

Attend an open house: Saturday, November 18

More details on Georgia Gateway West.

4. Alexander Bikeway - We're planning updates to Alexander Street to make it safer and more comfortable for cyclists of all ages and abilities by slowing traffic. This will help address a major gap in our cycling network by creating better cycling connections between Gastown, Strathcona, and beyond.

Attend an open house: Tuesday, November 21

More details on Alexander Bikeway.

5. Mobility Pricing - "It's Time" for Metro Vancouver to have their say on how we use and pay for transportation throughout the region to reduce congestion, promote fairness and support investment in our roads and transit system. The "It's Time" project is looking at how Metro Vancouver's transportation system can be improved through decongestion charges, where users pay their fair share of the road services they use.

Share what you think needs to be addressed from a Vancouver perspective, and help build a tailored approach to alleviating congestion in Metro Vancouver.

More details on Mobility Pricing.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Games Night & Tetris Dual

Our kids are just getting to the board game age, so we generally try to keep things simple when it comes to board games. Snakes & Ladders is a perennial favourite, but the latest one that's getting all the love in this house is Tetris Dual. It involves lots of creative spatial thinking to fit the odd-shaped pieces together, just like in the old arcade game we all know. It's a two player game with a simple electronic display to keep tally of points & whose turn it is.

The kids actually had a lot of fun playing with it in their own way, trying to stack all the pieces in the board, one at a time & fill it perfectly without any gaps.

Though I love the original video game version of Tetris, I prefer this one for my kids. They can play at their own speed & work on actual hand-eye-coordination & fine motor skills using their hands, rather than just clicking or tapping a screen. A bonus for my son is that the game pieces are his two favourite colours: orange & turquoise!

Tetris Dual is great for kids aged 6-10. It generally retails for around $30 in Canada.

If you're interested in finding out more about Tetris Dual, or some other fun board games to amp up your family games night, check out Kroeger Games Night! Kroeger will be hosting a Facebook party & GIVEAWAY on Friday, December 1 from 7:00pm - 8:00pm EST & they would love to have you participate! During the Kroeger Games Night & Facebook Party they will be answering questions, sharing fun facts, showing games night photos & more! So head over to like Kroeger's Facebook page & pop by Friday afternoon/evening for the party.

Disclaimer: I was given copies of the above game to facilitate this review. I was not financially compensated for writing this post. All the words & opinions above are my own.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Holiday Gift Idea: #Blurb Layflat Photo Books

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links & I received compensation for this post.

I'm still amazed at the things I can make online these days & making beautiful quality photo books is no exception. I've used Blurb a number of times to create gifts for the holidays & this year, they've got a great new option for those books: Layflat! This feature turns any photo book into a layflat showcase with a gorgeous collection of seamless spreads at Blurb. Now you can go corner to corner & edge to edge across an entire two-page spread without losing any part of the image to the center.

I know it's a little early to be posting about shopping for the holidays, but ordering your photo books early means less stress in December, right? Head on over to Blurb's site to take a look at what you could do with Layflat--the website is easy to use & order one or multiples of the book you create. & don't just limit yourself to photo albums. What about an illustrated collection of your favourite holiday songs? Or an archive of your kids' best artwork from the year?

If you do buy from Blurb via one of the affiliate links in my post here, I can earn a small commission from the sale. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama!

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Bronte 4.2

 This past month has been a busy one for Bronte. She went to the dentist & willingly participated in a checkup & cleaning for the first time. Previous appointments she barely opened her mouth.

She has become a lot more interested in writing & reading, regularly scribbling some of the letters of her name on bits of paper & pointing them out when we see them when we're out. I wonder if she might be reading by kindergarten.

Her drawings are also getting more detailed & funnier, generally featuring people, always with a story of some sort behind them. I find it fascinating the details she uses to signify certain things in her pictures. Female people get eyelashes around their eyes, but not male. It's easy to identify pictures of her papa, as he always has zigzagging lines (wrinkles) across his forehead. Animals very often have many more legs than they would in real life & she carefully draws teeth on people & animals. Fingers are also extremely important.

A post shared by Oliver Kuehn (@oliver_bikes) on

Little B is really into dolls, whether babies or her new Barbie & loves her stuffies. It's always an argument trying to convince her not to bring them to preschool, or to the playground, or wherever she's going. She probably spends more time playing with Lego & Duplo at home, however. I keep thinking that the kids are too old for the Duplo, then they start playing with it multiple times a day again...

Halloween was really fun this year. Both kids were quite excited about it & Bronte particularly enjoyed trick or treating. We stayed out for a bit over an hour & they got a mountain of candy, some of which was traded to the "Switch Witch". Bronte was quite pleased with the toys & craft supplies she got in exchange for her treats.

The other milestone we hit this month was having a family board game afternoon, where Bronte, Linnaeus, Oliver & I played a whole game of Monopoly Junior. It is a fairly quick game but both kids were pretty engaged in it for the whole time & Bronte won! I'm hoping we'll be able to play more games soon--I'm super excited to be at this stage already. mile

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Flu Shots: Check! #ForJudeForEveryone

Lollipop for my brave girl during her flu shot
Photo: Oliver Kuehn
Yesterday we all got our flu shots at the local community health clinic. We got there about three hours into the drop-in, so they were out of Flumist, which meant the kids would have to get a needle this year. I thought it would be helpful for Oli & I to go first so the kids could see how it all worked, but Brontë was having none of it.

She sat herself down on the chair & said, "I'll go first!" I suggested she sit on my lap while she got her shot & she vehemently refused. Okay, then!

True to form, she chatted through the whole thing, sat still (well, still enough), & hardly reacted when she got the jab. Said it didn't hurt (thanks no doubt to the expert technique of the public health nurse who does this all the time!) & was excited to have the lollipop I'd brought from their Halloween stashes.

Linny was really anxious, so Oli & I went next. I was hoping after seeing three of us get poked with no reaction, that Linny would calm down a bit & willingly sit for the vaccination. No such luck.

We could have waited, banking on the next drop-in flu clinic in early December to have a supply of the nose spray version but Linny is the most at-risk person in our household because of his asthma, so I really wanted to get his shot done with as soon as possible. He generally only gets asthma when he's sick & I really don't want to see what a virulent strain of influenza might do to him. So I sat in the chair & held him down on my lap against his protests. We managed to keep him still enough for the nurse to administer the shot & then he calmed down once it was over.

I talked with him later that day & he didn't seem upset with us--I think he understands how important getting vaccinated is. He remembers being in the hospital for four days just before Christmas a couple of years ago. That asthma episode was triggered by a cold--just a common cold. We also talked about the importance of keeping ourselves healthy to protect people we know, like his baby cousin, his elderly grandparents, his friend who has epilepsy, another friend with cancer, & all the other people we come into contact with who are at higher risk of serious harm from the flu.

If you haven't got your flu shot yet, it's really easy to do! It's free for anyone in a higher risk group, or who is a household contact, though at the public health clinics, they will probably vaccinate anyone regardless. Your doctor can do it, pharmacies administer flu shots & there are often drop-in clinics at workplaces, shopping malls & other public places.

For more information on where to get your shot in Vancouver, visit the VCH Flu info page. If you're outside the City of Vancouver, including all of Canada & the USA, see the Flu Shot Locator on For Jude For Everyone

By the way, For Jude For Everyone is a great resource for information on the flu & a reminder of the potential tragedy that can come of influenza. Jude was a two-year-old who died of Influenza B in 2016 after contracting it from his older sister. The site is part of a campaign that his family launched to prevent more deaths from influenza.

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