Thursday, November 20, 2014

Get Outside! (Even in Winter with the Kids)

Four of us bundled up for a cargobike ride
Besides the fact that kids need a few hours of exercise a day & the easiest way for mine to get that is at the park, we also bike everywhere. Year round, rain or shine, we're on the bike going where we need to go. So when I saw a few posts floating around Facebook about how to bundle kids up for the recent cold weather here in Vancouver, I thought I might have something useful to share with you.

Here's a roundup of tips for getting the kids outside & keeping them warm. One caveat, before we get going: these tips are based on my experience here in Vancouver, where the temperature only very rarely gets past the single digits below zero,  & we only get a week or two with actual snow stuck to the ground, so if you live somewhere colder, they may not apply.

Baby It's Cold Outside!

During Linnaeus' second winter, I wrote Winter Baby Tips, with some ideas to keep your tot toasty when they're strapped into the stroller or baby carrier, including a review of our favourite item of baby clothing for winter: the MEC Ursus bunting.

Honey, I layered the kids

Now that I've got a preschooler & a toddler, my focus is more on clothes for the chilly visits to the park or bike rides. Rain or shine, it's all about the layers. On cold but dry days, that looks like winter coats, maybe an extra fleece underneath, hats or hoods, long underwear or leggings under pants, mittens, thick socks & boots. For cold & wet days, we go with fleece layers over clothes, gumboots with double socks, water resistant mittens, then one-piece rain suits over everything. We have both Tuffo Muddy Buddies (I get ours here) & MEC Newt Suits.

I particularly love MEC's fleece hoodies for little kids--the hoods are snug & close fitting, so they work under a muddy buddy hood or a bike helmet & are difficult for toddlers to pull off.

Forgetting anyone?

You're probably all focussed on keeping your kids warm at the park, but like me one day last week, forgot about yourself. I should have worn warmer footwear than the leather riding boots I had on, & maybe an extra pair of leggings. My toes were numb by the time I got home from the park at dusk, even after the mostly uphill bike ride home. Oops!

Bringing along a hot drink in one of these awesome spill-proof Contigo mugs (full review here) is good too--it'll stay hot for the entire time you're there & keep you warm from the inside out. Also: they just squeeze into a bike bottle cage, if you're riding.

That's a wrap

Lastly, I'll leave you with a little motivation to get out there for walks or rides in the holidays: I♥Biking: Riding in Winter.

Have you got any tips to share for keeping kids warm outside in winter? What about those of you who are in cooler climes than the balmy Wet Coast of Canada?

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

2014 Christmas Bucket List

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7 via Compfight cc

A few times a year, I like to make lists of things I don't want to miss out on. There's so much to do during the holidays, that I find it helpful to have a bucket list to remind me of the activities I don't want to forget. We'll be having a big Christmas dinner & spending as much time  with family as we can, of course. Here's what I'd love to do this holiday season:

  1. Going krazy karpeting at a local park (if we get enough snow)
  2. Making gingerbread houses (probably out of a kit)
  3. Baking & decorating cookies
  4. Decorating a real tree
  5. Building a snowman (again, if we get any snow)
  6. Riding the Christmas Train at Bright Nights in Stanley Park
  7. Biking to the Trinity Street Light Festival
  8. Making some gifts--we'll see how much time I have for this with two active kidlets this year!
  9. Sending out holiday cards
  10. Santa photos (maybe early enough to send them out in the cards!)
  11. Drinking Glühwein at the Vancouver Christmas Market
  12. Making more seasonal decorations for our house
  13. Making an evergreen wreath
  14. Visiting the VanDusen Gardens Festival of Lights
  15. Buying Hope in Shadows calendars from a street vendor
I doubt we'll check off every single thing on this list, but it's nice to have a reminder so I don't get to December 24th before I remember that I wanted to take the kids to VanDusen, or something...

What activities will you be doing this holiday season? What are your top three can't-miss-out activities that you want to do with your family?

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Review: Foost First Knife

Foost First Knife in action (image via Foost)
I can't remember where I heard about Foost First Knife, but when I checked out their website, I loved the idea for three big reasons. First: Linnaeus is going through a stage of wanting to do nearly everything I do--typical for a four-year-old, I think. Almost every day, when I'm baking, chopping vegetables, or making lunch, my little shadow pops up behind me & asks, "Can I do that too?" I have tried helping Linnaeus use our kitchen knives before, holding his hands & making sure the sharp Henckels blade doesn't slice into his fingers. But that was before baby Bronte started walking, climbing, & generally causing chaos if I'm not watching her like a hawk.

The weight & size of the Foost First Knife are well designed for small hands & it's serrated but doesn't have an edge on it, so it'll cut through hard vegetables like carrots, but not injure little fingers if it slips. So I could theoretically leave Linnaeus chopping veggies for a minute while I grab his sister off the kitchen table or pop a piece of errant Lego out of her mouth. Billed as a knife for kids from 2-10, I think it's ideal for the lower half of that age range. If you've got a child that's six or older, there's the more advanced Foost Next Knife.

The second reason I like Foost First Knife: when Linnaeus is more involved in making & serving out the food we eat, he eats better. Linnaeus was excited to get his knife in the mail & guessed what it was before I opened the package. We tried it out on some cheese at lunch time, then some carrot sticks. With harder foods, you need to saw through, so you're not going to get precise slices. But then again, were you expecting perfect medallions from a four-year-old? When I sent carrot sticks to preschool for snack time, a lot of the time they come home unopened. But when Linnaeus gets to cut the carrots himself, he always eats them.

The third thing that made me want to share this product with you: Foost isn't a company that's just trying to sell gadgets for kids, they want to change the world. Kate, a dietitian, & David, a children's education specialist & entrepreneur created Foost to teach families about benefits of eating more fruits & vegetables & how it can be fun, via classroom demonstrations, parent education, & fundraising. They own & operate Foost in Melbourne, Australia, where they live with their four children. 

I think Foost would make a great stocking stuffer. Foost also makes another gadget that sounds like fun: a vegetable noodler. It uses a spiral plane blade to cut long strips from all sorts of veggies. Imagine the colourful soups & pastas you could make & how many vegetables you could get your kids to slurp up! Or if you wanted to make a bigger gift of it, Foost also sells the Mini Chef Pack which includes an apron & a chef's hat, or the Junior Chef Pack which contains a Foost Next Knife, apron, chef's hat, mesh safety glove, veggie scrubber, & a veggie noodler.

Like the Foost Facebook Page to continue the conversation about healthy eating with your family. 

For more colourful recipes and tips visit

Disclaimer: I received a free Foost knife to facilitate this review, but was not otherwise compensated.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#EcoClutterBuster Update: Taming the Kids Closet

I actually found more after I took this photo
It's been quite a while since I posted about my quest to eliminate the clutter in our house without throwing things into the landfill with this year's #EcoClutterBuster project. I accomplished a major decluttering project this past week that I thought I'd share with you.

Last weekend I participated in a clothing & kids' stuff swap at a friend's housing co-op. It's the first I've been to in years, but I thought it would be a good idea to pass on some of the clothes that are a little too well-loved to consign & I haven't passed on to friends' children. I have a few bags & bins where I toss clothing as they grow out of them. I pitch things of Bronte's in there a couple times a week--she's growing like a weed still--so I knew I'd have quite a bit to bring.

Then I got to work sorting the too-small clothes, unused toys, & outgrown baby gear. I filled THREE Ikea bags, two large fabric shopping bags & tossed a few items on top of the pile. It was about the same volume as Bronte's crib, which is where most of the stuff was stored. Though I shouldn't let you think I'm as organized as to have it all in one place. I found maternity clothes in my room, gear, shoes & toys in the living room, clothes in the kids' closet, the bin behind their door, the crib, their dresser drawers, & a few things in our storage rooms too.

The Yuba Mundo was stuffed to the gunnels with toys, books, clothing, baby gear, shoes, diapers, bottles...

If I'd had a small car, this stuff wouldn't have fit in the trunk. Luckily, the giant GoGetter panniers of our Yuba Mundo hold a ton of stuff & I was able to strap the rest on top of the rack, in the child seat & the BreadBasket. I'm not sure how much the load weighed, but from the way the bike handled, it wasn't more than when I bike Linnaeus, his friend, & Bronte to preschool one day a week. I got a lot of smiles & comments as I rode over to Commercial Drive in the gorgeous fall weather. Definitely a fun way to cut the clutter!
I brought home seven items for the kids.

I think the majority of what I brought went home with other families at the swap, but when I helped clean up, I noticed some going into the donation bags, to be picked up by the Developmental Disabilities Association, I believe. I did bring a few things home from the swap, but you can see from the pictures, it was definitely a huge net loss of clutter in our house!

Have you ever participated in or hosted a clothing swap? What was your experience like? Do share... 

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Christmas Gifts with Impact: Hope in Shadows Calendars

Have you started thinking about Christmas shopping yet? Have you got anyone on your list that you just don't know what to get? Maybe a coworker in the Secret Santa gift exchange, or a sibling who already has everything? I've got a suggestion for you: a Hope in Shadows calendar. 

This year's calendar features a photograph by Sonia Samuels, one of 250 participants in this year’s Hope in Shadows photo contest. This is the 12th year of collaboration with Downtown Eastside members sharing photographs & stories focused on what is meaningful about their community.

Sonia’s photo is one of thirteen compelling calendar images, each one telling a different story about the Downtown Eastside community. Once the contest wraps up & the winners are chosen, thousands of the gorgeous large-format colour calendars are printed. Then the Hope in Shadows street vendors speak to thousands of people from all across the city, sharing the stories and building bridges between communities. Every calendar purchased creates employment opportunities for those hard-working vendors: They buy each calendar for $10 & sell them for $20.

You can create positive change in your community through one simple act: buy a calendar.

Sonia's photo is featured on the cover of this year’s calendar and captured the contest theme "the community we have built". You can read Sonia’s story here

Look for licensed calendar vendors around transit hubs, busy pedestrian intersections & all over downtown. Purchase a calendar for yourself, & give another one to family or friends. Sharing stories like Sonia's can help change perceptions so many have of the Downtown Eastside community.

The action is easy, but the impact can be huge: Buy two calendars, give one.
Look for vendors when you're out, or check the list of locations & usual hours on the Hope in Shadows site here.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Linnaeus 4.3

This month saw a few fun things & a few new things for Linnaeus:


His first Smaland visit at Ikea. Now that the lockout is over, we finally went shopping there again. He loved it & I loved not having to wrangle him in the store. Win-win!

Halloween! This was actually his fourth time trick-or-treating but he really got into it this year. He said "trick or treat" at all the houses we went to without much prompting, said "thank you" when he received candy without any prompting & really loved the fireworks & running around in his dragon costume.

Waking up early hungry. Linnaeus is NOT an early riser--none of us are--but he's been waking up before dawn some days, coming into our room & demanding that we feed him. Growth spurt, I guess?

Related to the above point, but not what you'd expect, he hasn't gained any weight in months. He's growing in height, but is still only 38 pounds. Which means we haven't had to buy any new shorts or underpants for over two years, but it also means he's not quite big enough for a belt-positioning booster seat in the car.

Monopoly Junior game with Mama & Papa
His interest in letters & numbers has returned. While not so interested in Boggle Junior, (thankfully I didn't buy it but borrowed it from the toy library) he really liked playing Monopoly Junior.

(click here for my full review of Monopoly Junior)

He's starting to draw pictures, finally. I admit, I was starting to worry a little, because whenever I gave him the opportunity to draw anything with chalk, crayons, paint, pencils, markers, you name it, he might scribble a bit, but usually would flat out refuse to make any marks at all. It's fairly normal to be drawing recognizable people & objects at his age so I was concerned that it might be a bad sign. Whew. I don't think he's going to be as interested in making art as I was--I spent a lot of time drawing every day from when I was a toddler right through to adulthood--but hey, not everyone is an artist.

MamaPapaBubba inspired candy colour experiment
He's hit the Whys?, asking the reason for things constantly. This can be annoying, like when he asks things that don't really make sense, or can't really be answered. But sometimes it means we get to do fun experiments or talk about how things work, which I love to do.

Linnaeus is slowly getting more independent with using the bathroom, getting dressed, taking shoes off when we get home, & things like that. I still can't expect him to do any of it consistently (he's very good at going to the toilet when he needs to, he just asks for help with wiping, or company while he's in there sometimes) but it's slowly happening.

One of his favourite things do to is trike riding at high speeds. Between drop-in sessions at the family centre & three days of preschool, he does this four or five days a week. It's one of the main ways he gets his hour of vigourous exercise for the day.

Triking in "Robson Park Lake", aka the huge ball court puddle
He still loves warm drinks & has them with most meals. Favourites this month are hot lemon (lemon juice in hot water with a teaspoon of honey--great for the monthly preschool cold he gets), hot chocolate (a teaspoon or two of black cocoa, a teaspoon or less of honey, a half cup of hot water, a half cup of milk), "Inka" (Akava, a chicory/barley based faux coffee drink. It's changed names twice since we started drinking it, but we still refer to it by its old name), "milky tea" (usually rooibos with lots of milk).

How about you? How are you getting your exercise these days? What are your favourite hot drinks at this time of year?

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