Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Have Your Say on 10th Avenue Bikeway

10th Avenue Corridor Public Open Houses
The City of Vancouver wants to hear from you!

The City is improving the 10th Avenue Corridor to better accommodate people of all ages and abilities who walk, cycle, and drive.

Over the past year, the city has built on public and stakeholder feedback to develop a recommended design for the Health Precinct between Oak and Cambie Streets, and to advance potential designs for parts of 10th Ave from Quebec Street to Guelph Street and from Commercial Drive to Victoria Drive.

Public Open Houses
Join city staff and other engaged citizens at a public open house to review recommended designs as part of the city's third phase of consultation. Meetings will be drop-in open house format. City staff will be available to discuss the project, answer questions, and gather your feedback.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 4 PM – 7 PM
Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, 818 W 10th Avenue

Wednesday, November 23, 2016, 4 PM – 7 PM
Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, 154 E 10 Avenue

Saturday, November 26, 2016, 11 AM – 3 PM
Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, 818 W 10th Avenue

Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 4 PM – 7 PM
Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Drive

View display materials and complete a feedback form online at or click on the links below. If you can't make it to the events in person, there will be an online feedback form, available November 22nd.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

New Bike Day: Kid Edition

It wasn't that long ago that Linnaeus learned to ride his green 16" Norco bike without training wheels, but he's already too big for it. He's had it over two years, so that's not bad in terms of longevity. It's also a single speed with coaster brakes, which is okay for learning to ride, but inadequate for commuting 4km uphill to school. So I started looking for a decent 20" commuter bike for him.

My wish list included:

  • front & rear hand brakes
  • fenders
  • rear rack
  • short reach brake levers
  • internal gear hub with at least three speeds
  • easy to shift grip shifters
  • light frame
  • dynamo lights

There are a few companies in Europe that make great kids bikes with all of the above--the German company Puky, for example--but getting one to Canada is difficult & expensive. Woom & Islabikes--both American--make some fantastic models for kids that tick most of the boxes on my wish list, but they're also quite expensive given the exchange rate & shipping.

The next best option seemed to be to get a decent light frame bike & modify it to add as many of the above features as possible. I settled on a Trek Precalibur single speed. It's fairly light, comes with front & rear hand brakes. The brake levers on it have an adjustable reach & Linnaeus can use them easily. The cranks actually have two positions for the pedals to allow for more adjustment as his legs grow. I like the full chain case too so we don't have to worry about his pant legs getting grease stains or getting caught in the chain.

Trek makes several versions of the Precalibur, but the horizontal dropouts on the single speed model we bought mean we can easily adjust chain tension by moving the rear wheel back or forward, so we can add an internal gear hub. Fenders shouldn't be too bad to find in this size & hopefully we can work out a way to attach a rear rack without having any eyelets on the rear of the frame.

It looks as if Trek is phasing out this particular version of the Precalibur, so we had to hunt a bit to find a dealer with one in stock. We picked up the bike from Cap's Westwood in Burnaby on our way home from a trip to Maplewood Farm recently (with a Modo minivan). Linny tried it out in the parking lot & I have to say, I'm glad we didn't bike train bike home with it, like I was originally planning. He rode straight into a curb & nearly crashed because he has no experience with hand brakes & tried to backpedal to stop. Happy to have the option of booking a Modo minivan whenever we need to transport things like this.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Handmade Halloween: Black Widow Spider

I love making Halloween costumes when I can; I've been doing it for ages (see a list of costumes I've put together for myself in this post here). This year, the kids were inspired by a photo I showed them from Facebook of a baby dressed up as a spider. I was pretty excited, as this spider costume has been on my bucket list for a long time, since my sister did it when she was in elementary school.

After mulling it over for a bit, I picked up most of my supplies at our local dollar store. This is the materials to make TWO spider costumes:

  • four pairs of black men's socks
  • a bag of googly eyes
  • a sheet of black glitter felt
  • a sheet of red glitter felt
Other supplies that I had on hand were:

  • black thread & needle
  • hot glue gun & glue sticks
  • embroidery floss
  • scissors
  • Xacto knife
  • old pool noodle (a thick one)
  • two black hoodies or jackets
  • black pants, shoes, gloves
The process is pretty simple, not a lot of sewing skill required. It took me about two to three hours total. You could do it much faster if you used hot glue or fabric glue or even staples to stick things together, but I used Linny's regular jacket & hoodie, so I wanted this all to be easily removable tomorrow.
  1. Cut out two segments of pool noodle that are the same length as the socks. Slice them into quarters lengthwise so you have eight long skinny pieces of pool noodle. If you can't find a thick pool noodle, you could use a regular one & cut it into halves or thirds.
  2. If you want slightly thinner arms as I did, turn the socks inside out & sew a seam from the top of the heel all the way to the toe, about 2-3cm in from the edge. Turn right side out & stuff pool noodle sections into the socks.
  3. Sew the open ends of the socks to the side seams of the hoodies/jackets. Sew the red hourglass shape to the front of the chest (or the back, if you're really going for biological accuracy). I stitched just one side on & then safety pinned the other side down since both jackets had a zipper down the front.
  4. To make the fake arms move with the child's real ones, use the embroidery floss to sew through the pool noodles, leaving 5-10 cm between each noodle & knotting the thread on each arm, then attaching it to the underside of the wrist of their jacket.
  5. Fold both felt sheets in half & cut two hourglass shapes from the two red pieces for the black widow marking; two semicircular pieces from the black for the head/mask. Cut a jagged edge along the flat side of the black semicircles to create fangs.
  6. Hot glue the googly eyes to the black mask part, (I did six large ones, but you could do more, or different sizes too) then safety pin it to the top of the hood. Alternatively, you could cut eye holes in the mask before hot gluing the googly eyes, then attach elastic straps to the sides to create a half mask. 
Voila! Black widow spider costume, times two. This cost me less than $10 in supplies. It's going to be warm--Linny's costume is his winter coat, Bronte's is her brother's big hoodie which she'll wear over her winter coat--but light so they won't get tired. In theory, I could remove the seams out of the socks & Oliver could use them later. The pool noodle I used was an old one that had been degraded by sunlight & no longer floats properly. I will probably convert the masks with an elastic strap & put them into the "Tickle Trunk" for the kids to wear another time. 

Did you make Halloween costumes this year or in the past? Tell me about it!

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Where can you buy a cargo bike in Vancouver?

Tandem Bike Cafe, one of a growing number of cargo bike dealers in Vancouver
If you're looking to buy a cargo bike in Vancouver, there's no one stop shop to test ride different brands. Quite a few brands of cargo bike, like our Bakfiets, aren't even sold here in brick & mortar stores--your only option is buying online. Until we get a great family & cargo biking shop (like Seattle's G&O Cyclery) here in Vancouver, you'll have to pound the pavement a bit.

In the interests of making that easier for you, I've compiled a list of bike shops that sell cargo bikes here in Greater Vancouver.

Cit-E-Cycles 3466 West Broadway Vancouver 604-734-2717
Pedego Stretch, Juiced Riders ODK 
Read about the daily school dropoff run on an electric Pedego Stretch by Lee-Anne Ekland on Mom Pardigm.

Dandy Lion Cargo  1793 West 61st Avenue Vancouver 604-355-1898
Larry vs. Harry Bullitt
Jordon & Amy sell out of their home--you'll need to call to make an appointment to test ride their bike.

Dream Cycle 1010 Commercial Drive Vancouver 604-253-3737
Surly Big Dummy
Dream focuses on custome bikes, but they do sells Surly longtails--they may not have a floor model, so give them a call if you're hoping for a test ride.

Grin Technologies 205-950 Powell Street Vancouver 604-569-0902
Xtracycle Edgerunner, Ezee Expedir, Juiced ODK
Grin specializes in e-assist, so all their cargo bikes are electric assist models.

Mac Talla Cycles 2626 East Hastings Vancouver 604-707-0822
Kona Ute, Yuba?, Babboe?
Mac Talla didn't have any floor models available for test rides last time I was in--call ahead to ask.

Mighty Riders 10 East Broadway Vancouver 604-879-8705
Surly Big Dummy; Xtracycle Edgerunner
Ed generally has Xtracycles on the floor for test rides, Surlys might need to be ordered.

More Bikes 1856 West 4th Avenue Vancouver 778-379-9168
Yuba Boda Boda
More Bikes also has a location in Wesbrook Village at UBC.

Reckless Bike Stores 110 Davie Street Vancouver 604-648-2600
Babboe Big & Babboe City
Reckless has three locations downtown & in Kitsilano, the Davie Street location has Babboe on the floor.

Sidesaddle Bikes 2496 Victoria Drive Vancouver 604-428-2453
Bike Friday Haul A Day 
Andrea & Lucas opened Sidesaddle specifically as a women-friendly shop. They have at least one Haul A Day available for test rides. I posted about the shop not long after they opened.

Tandem 3195 Heather Street Vancouver 604-376-8223
CETMA; Metrofiets; custom longtails
Clint's personal Metrofiets & CETMAs are available for test rides most days--call ahead to be sure they're at the shop. This is where we go for service on our bikes--the mechanics here really know & love cargo bikes. Here's a short review I wrote after borrowing Clint's CETMA for an afternoon.

The Bike Doctor  137 West Broadway Vancouver  604-873-2453
Babboe City Cargo; Wike Cargo Box; Yuba Mundo, Boda Boda, Spicy Curry
Bike Doctor usually has a floor model of most of their cargo bikes available to test ride. We bought our Yuba Mundo there in 2014--you can read much more on that on my cargo bike FAQ page.

That about wraps up my list. Please let me know if you know of other cargo bike selling shops in the city that I've missed!

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Welfare Food Challenge: Meal Plan

The Welfare Food Challenge starts today. If you haven't heard of it before, the Challenge exists to highlight the inadequacy of welfare rates in BC. A single person receives only $610 a month, a rate that's been frozen for over 9 years. After you pay for the bare minimums to survive, you've got about $18 per week for food left over. (more info on the math here) Raise the Rates, with others, is working to increase awareness of the extreme poverty of people on welfare; & how this poverty costs the people of BC in human suffering & billions of wasted dollars every year.

The campaign inspired me to see what eating on $18 per person per week actually means. I sat down with an actual pen & paper, pulling up the calculator & Save On Foods app on my phone. I planned out the cheapest set of 21 meals I could think of. Here's what I came up with:

  • breakfast: on sale cereal with milk or oatmeal
  • lunch: peanut butter sandwiches with half an apple for lunch every day
  • dinner #1: boxed macaroni & cheese with wieners & frozen peas
  • dinner #2: beans, rice, & salsa with cheddar
  • dinner #3: green beans, potatoes, chicken thighs
  • dinner #4: tofu stir fry on rice
  • dinner #5: hot dogs with baby carrots
  • dinner #6: vegetarian chili with cheese
  • dinner #7: tuna rice casserole with peas & cheddar
This limited menu comes to $72, assuming I could get many of the things on sale or at dollar stores. It includes two to three servings of fruit & vegetables per day--much less than is healthy. It also assumes that we already have condiments & pantry basics like cooking oil, salt, spices, sauces. There are no snacks & no desserts. There's only enough milk for 285ml per person per day--cereal & a bit for cooking or maybe a small drink for the kids. It's also counting on a bit of savings from buying a few things in bulk for the four of us--a single person likely couldn't have even this variety of food.

I'm fairly sure it's impossible to get enough fibre, protein, or fresh fruit & vegetables on this little money. & even if you are extremely resourceful with free community meals, picking up the occasional day olds that some restaurants toss out & go to the food bank, you would still be hard pressed to eat healthily.

I can't imagine eating this way, day in & day out. There's no room for going out for treats, there's no room for birthday cake or having a friend over for dinner. There's no room for variety. The stress of shopping for food & making ends meet with this tiny budget would be soul crushing over the long term. 

While I spent an hour or so puzzling this out, I don't plan to actually eat this way this week. Most of us are recovering from bad colds & I honestly don't want to subject my small children to such poor nutrition for the week. It breaks my heart that so many children & adults in this province have to live on so little. 

Please help me send a message to our government that this needs to change. Go sign the petition to raise welfare rates & write a letter to your MLA to ask for action on the issues that impact poverty: get rid of the arduous barriers to receiving income assistance, increase the minimum wage, provide more publicly funded childcare, increase low-income housing stock, & raise the welfare rates. A sample letter is provided at this link

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bronte 3.1

Bronte entertaining wee baby B outside Tandem Bike Cafe.

Bronte, currently:

Gotta tuck dolly in too.

  1. looooves preschool. She asks to go every day, even on the weekends. She's particularly thrilled about the scissors, giant blocks, tiny plastic animals, & singing.
  2. still has some hilarious pronunciations, like ukulady, dolophant, & regularly substitutes W for R, & F for TH producing oh-so-cute words like fwee, when asked her age.
  3. has been very shouty lately. She is not at all afraid to let someone know when they've overstepped her boundaries. But sometimes she just gets weirdly possessive, like when she wanted all the cafe toys to herself--sharing them with the other two three-year-olds was hard.
  4. loves babies. She'll spend quite a while making faces & sounds at a wee one in a stroller. Happily, she's gotten to the point where I'm not worried she'll poke them in the eye or something, but I still have to keep an eye on her, because she's convinced she should hold all of them.
  5. spent about two weeks telling every single person she met about her new pedal bike. She's calmed down a bit about it, but still needs to ride it every day. No idea where she gets the obsession with bikes from...
  6. has gotten attached to her dolly again. She has gone through phases in the past year & a half where she won't leave home without it for a while, then it sits abandoned on a shelf for months.
  7. quite likes eating salads these days. Mostly caesar salad or similar creamy dressing, but hey--I'm not complaining.
That's my girl in a nutshell. 

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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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