Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rainy Spring Break? Come to Playdome!

After a long, cold, and snowier-than-usual winter here on the west coast, I was hoping for a nice, warm spring break. Well, we know how that turned out. Just a few days left of our school break, but we've got something really fun to do today: Playdome!

From the top of the ferris wheel in Playdome
Playdome is Western Canada’s largest indoor carnival, happening at BC Place from Wednesday, March 22 – Sunday, March 26, 2017. PlayDome features more than 45 rides and attractions, plus the usual guilty pleasure carnival snacks like mini doughnuts and cotton candy, plus games, all in one big warm, dry stadium.

I started going to Playdome with my students years ago when I taught ESL, and I've continued the tradition with my own kids in the last few years. We're pretty excited this year because both kids are now old enough and even three-year-old B is tall enough to go on many of the rides! (Check out the height restrictions for each ride here) No matter what the ages of your kids, if they like carnival rides, there's something for just about everybody at Playdome.

Playdome is open every day from 10:30am-9:00pm daily, except til 6:00pm on Sunday. Tickets are available at the door and online: $29 for a single-day Dome Pass; $49 for the 5-day Ultimate Pass, $8 for a Guest Pass (for parents or caregivers who don't want to go on the rides). Children under 2 years old admitted free (for safety reasons, they are not permitted to ride).

Find more information at or phone 604-669-2300.

If you want to share your experiences at Playdome, Follow BC Place on Facebook and tweet @BCPlace using the hashtag #PlayDome. Watch my Instagram feed for our adventures at Playdome this year: head over & follow Spokesmama there if you haven't already. :)

Disclaimer: our family received complimentary admission to Playdome as part of the media event. 

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bye Bye Baby Seat

Bye Peanut Shell, thanks for the memories!
This week I finally got around to something I'd meant to do for ages: removing the last baby seat from the Yuba Mundo. We bought our Yuba Mundo longtail at the Bike Doctor almost three years ago. At the time, we had one Peanut Shell seat on it for each kid. We soon realized Linnaeus didn't really need a child seat, being well past the stage of napping on the bike & fully able to hold on himself without being strapped in. So around his fourth birthday, we swapped the seat for a seat cushion, foot pegs & his own set of handlebars to hang onto.

Bronte rode in the remaining Peanut Shell for about two years, counting thousands of kilometres, taking many a nap. Until she decided she was far too big to sit in a baby seat. To be honest, we were really reluctant to let her sit on the deck on her own, unsecured, so we put it off & tried to convince her to submit to being buckled in as long as we could.

Then the Bakfiets sort of fell out of the sky (lucky 'barn find' on Craigslist that we had to do a lot of work to) & that was both kids' ride of choice due to the novelty of sitting in front in their own tiny living room, essentially. After a month or two, the kids started to realize that they could each have a cargo bike to themselves (aside from the parent who was pedalling it, of course) so they started riding on the Yuba again. Gradually, we started letting Bronte ride on the deck on her own, first on off road paths like the seawall, then short rides to preschool, etc.

So it was finally time to remove the last vestige of baby gear from our cargo bikes. I'm actually a bit nostalgic about it. We're at the point where all the baby gear is piling up: crib, baby chair, booster seat, baby toys, bike seats, but we're past the baby stage in our family. We need to pass this stuff along to the next family so it gets used, rather than just collecting dust in our garage.

The Yuba, all stripped down to haul "big" kids
So now, here we are with a sleek looking longtail. Well, sleeker than before, anyway--it's still more of a minivan than a sports car. Now carrying cargo with the bags or strapping things on to the rear deck will be even simpler. Towing bikes--which is one of the main advantages of a longtail bike over a bakfiets--will be much easier now without the legs of the baby seat in the way. Probably the biggest difference will be for carrying an adult passenger--it's a lot easier to hop on the back of the bike without a baby seat to get a leg around.

Another thing I got done today was to plan the next Vancouver Family Biking event. Join us April 16th for our third annual Easter Bonnet Ride & Egg Hunt! We'll be donning our craziest Easter bonnets, decorating bikes with bunnies & riding out to Jericho to find some eggs in the grass & have a picnic. You can find more details on the Facebook event page here. Please RSVP on the Facebook event page so we know how many treats to bring to the egg hunt.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Making Commercial Drive Better for Everyone

Photo Credit: Canadian Veggie Flickr via Compfight cc

A link popped up in one of my social media feeds today to a British Columbia Cycling Coalition page, asking us to write to Vancouver's City Council in support of adding bike lanes to Commercial Drive. I do occasionally email my various elected representatives, when I get around to it, if I've got the time... You know how it goes. But today I wrote a letter to our city council because it was so easy to do on the BCCC site. They've got a form set up that will email all of City Council--no copying & pasting or clicking through various sites.

There has been a lot of very vocal push back from business owners on the Drive who fear that bike lanes are going to somehow decimate their livelihoods, despite all the research that shows drivers make up a very small portion of their customers. Experience in other cities around the world and research on the separated bike lanes that have been added in Vancouver show that they are a great thing for business and make a neighbourhood so much safer for cyclists and pedestrians too. I fear that the people who support the idea of devoting more of the streetscape of The Drive to all the active transportation that's currently the majority of traffic there are not being loud enough. If you would like to see bike lanes on Commercial Drive, write a quick letter to City Council showing your support.

There's a lot more information on BCCC's site here, including the form to easily write a letter to the city.

Here's what I wrote, mostly off the cuff, this morning:

I'm writing in support of adding bike lanes on Commercial Drive and turning it into Vancouver's first proper Complete Street. This is particularly important to me, as I live in East Vancouver, not far from Commercial, plus walking and cycling are my family's primary means of transportation.

We actually don't shop on Commercial Drive very often anymore, though we would like to, because we don't feel that safe biking there since we've had children. We prefer to shop in areas like Commercial Drive because of all the great independent shops, cafes, and for the community feel to the place. We normally have a few stops to make at various businesses, but on Commercial Drive, that is particularly awkward by bike. We don't feel safe riding *on* Commercial Drive from shop to shop, but riding all the way over to the nearest parallel bike route to go north or south a block or two doesn't really make sense. Walking our cargo bike with the kids in it is heavy & very difficult on narrow sidewalks that are as congested as Commercial Drive can get.

Fully separated bike lanes along Commercial would help us feel much safer riding with our children and make it a lot easier for us to go from stop to stop at the various businesses there. I know the bike lanes would also make it safer for us to walk in the area as well, creating more of a buffer between pedestrians and traffic and narrowing the crossing distance when we do have to cross the car lanes.

Even when we leave the bike at home and walk from place to place around Commercial, the sidewalks feel quite crowded and difficult to navigate with a stroller and small children. Crossing the street at most of the intersections feels risky and I've had many close calls with drivers turning into crosswalks or being rude and aggressive.

My letter has focussed on *our* experience as cyclists and pedestrians on The Drive, but I know there are many other families with young children like us in the city who get around on an ever growing fleet of cargo bikes, as well as pulling trailers and toting child seats on their bikes. Cycling and walking are both growing mode shares in the City of Vancouver, as I'm sure you are aware.

I would love to see Commercial Drive--the space from one property line to the other across the street--devoted more equitably to pedestrians and cyclists, reflecting the fact that walking and cycling make up such a large portion of the traffic through that area. I think this is a great opportunity for the City to show leadership and demonstrate how much better the Commercial Drive community can be when it becomes a Complete Street.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Eat, Drink, & Be Merry in Support of Mount Pleasant Family Centre Society

Got plans for Thursday, March 9th? Join me at Mount Pleasant's historic Heritage Hall for Savour Our Neighbourhood, a celebration of local food & drink in support of the Mount Pleasant Family Centre Society. Enjoy a sleeve or two of beer from tasty local breweries Bomber, Parallel 49, & Main Street, or a glass of wine from BC Wine Studios, taste a wide array of appetizers & treats from local restaurants Fable, El Camino's, Batard Bakery, Earnest Ice Cream, Eight & a Half, The French Table, Nuba, General Public, & Bob Likes Thai Food. Bid on a few choice items in our silent auction, try your luck in the basket raffles or draws for prizes like two flights to anywhere Westjet flies, or a weekend at the Tinhorn Creek Guest House. All accompanied by the musical stylings of Juno Award winning pianist John Hall.

Don't take my word for it--check out the photos of the past three years of the event here. It's always a fun evening.

Some tickets are still available--get yours soon to avoid disappointment! Buy them online at Eventbrite here.

Savour Our Neighbourhood
Thursday, March 9
Heritage Hall
3102 Main St, Vancouver, BC

Tickets $50 (includes a drink & all food)
Westjet draw tickets $20 on Eventbrite, $30 at event (if still available)

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Bronte 3.5

Time for another update on Bronte. Little B is almost three & a half, well into the "threenager" stage. She still really likes to help & is often willing to do exactly what I ask her to do... unless of course she isn't. Then nobody, nothing can make her change her mind. I keep trying to remind myself that her assertiveness will serve her well when she's older, but man it can be hard to parent a kid this fiery.

I'm really enjoying how much she's been into drawing & painting lately. She paints several pieces every day with the tempera paints on her little easel set up in the kitchen. Most of them are black & white, lately they're portraits of people or bunnies, often painted with a particular recipient in mind--her friends, preschool teachers, mama, papa. I recently saw a photo of her & a little drawing she did a year ago--her illustrations of people have come a long way. They still look a lot like potatoes with limbs, but there is a lot more complexity, with things like eyelashes, pupils, hair, ears, fingers, etc.

She's still really into singing & does it often throughout the day, improvising new lyrics to the songs she's learned in preschool. Her current favourite is one about rain turning into lemon drops & gumdrops.

B has also been pretty excited about all the snow we've had in the past couple of months. She seems fairly immune to the cold (she's got a lot of northern European blood in her, clearly) & will often refuse to wear warmer mittens or even a jacket when out in single digit temperatures. Whenever Oli or I go out to shovel the sidewalk, she has to come out & help, leaving clumps of salt on the steps or moving the snow around with a little toy shovel.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Modo is 20!

I'm coming up on my 14th anniversary as a Modo member, but the organization has been around for 20 years now! It's amazing to see how it all started--check out this short video Modo put together for the big 2-0:

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Take your Blog to Book with BookWright by Blurb

**I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama!
Blog to book with Blurb's Bookwright!
I've been writing here at Spokesmama, formerly The Sprog for about seven years now. Though I've had the best intentions, I've been rather haphazard with printing photos & creating scrapbooks as the kids have grown from newborns to little people that they are now. I have put a lot of effort into this digital space, but sometimes I'd just like it to be more tangible.

So I was pretty excited to hear about one of Blurb's latest book creation tools. Blurb offers a new feature that helps bloggers to take content from their site & easily slot it into a template to create a real, actual book you can hold in your hands. This new feature accepts just about any blog building tool, including Blogger, Wordpress, & Squarespace, pulling text & images directly into the tool.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Seriously, though, it isn't. You have total control by converting blog pages into your own print-ready layouts with BookWright’s help. I'm really into the idea as a way to create that baby book I'd neglected, but this tool is a great opportunity to build your business brand or create profit opportunities from content you already have by making a digital or print book. Can't wait to try it--stay tuned for a review in future...

Learn more about BookWright right here.

**I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama! 

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