Saturday, January 20, 2018

Six Great Children's Books About Biking

Books are wonderful things that can teach children about the world they haven't seen yet, as well as make them feel a part of it when they see themselves represented. There are a tonne of books out there where people (or ducks, for that matter) drive around in cars & trucks, but it's a little harder to find books with cycling as a big part of it. We've tried to find a few for our children's collection, & by the looks of the thread on a recent post in the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook group, we're not alone in that.

Here are a few bikey books to find at the library or buy for your kids (or better yet, suggest as gifts instead of yet another stuffie or forgettable plastic doohickey). Hat tip to Lise for starting the thread in Vancouver Family Biking!

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World, as you might guess from the title, is non-fiction, all about the history of cycling in Amsterdam. The colourfully illustrated picture book focuses on the story of young mom Maartje Rutten & how she helped to change her city for the better. There is also a short bibliography at the end of the book with some great online resources if you want to learn more.
Duck on a Bike is a book after my own heart: it's sort of about a cycling advocate. Except he's a duck & the others he convinces to bike are also farm animals. A great read for preschoolers, in particular. Also, if you ride regularly, many of the other animals' reactions to Duck will sound familiar to you.
The Girl and the Bicycle looks like one we'll need to get from the library. It's a wordless picture book where a girl sees a bicycle she wants to buy, then works hard for a nice neighbor to earn the money to buy it. At the end of the story she gets a lovely surprise.
Along a Long Road is great for very young children, with one or two words on most pages. Frank Viva's bold & delightfully odd illustrations are so simple but they really capture the experience of riding a bike & the little details in your environment that you can see when travelling that way.
Mrs. Armitage on Wheels is one we haven't read yet, but we clearly need to, ASAP. First off, it's written & illustrated by Quentin Blake, one of my favourite artists. Secondly, how could you resist it after reading the teaser on Amazon?
"Mrs Armitage sets off for a quiet cycle with her faithful dog, Breakspear, but she just can't help thinking of ways to improve her bicycle. Before very long she has added three very loud horns, a bucket of water to wash her hands, a complete tool kit. And by the time she has also added a seat for Breakspear, two umbrellas, a cassette player and a mouth-organ, Mrs Armitage is riding a very eye-catching contraption. But it is when she finally adds the mast and sail, that Mrs Armitage really runs into trouble..." 
Bear on a Bike has a very repetitive call & reply type structure that my kids loved because I would read the part on each page that was new, then they would complete it with the last bit. It comes in sturdy board book format that can handle the rowdiest toddler. Bonus: the edition that VPL has is bilingual, in Spanish & English!

Hope you enjoy these bikey books with your littles. The Vancouver Public Library has all six of them, however, Mrs. Armitage is only available in Spanish & French. If you have a favourite kids book about biking, I'd love to hear about it--let me know in the comments! Also, this is only a sample of the books mentioned in the thread in Vancouver Family Biking--join the conversation here!

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Bronte 4.3 & 4.4

Hm, so I think I missed a month of updates on bubs in all the holiday hoo-ha, then got distracted a bit while B was at BC Children's Hospital for eight days. She's just finishing up a course of antibiotics, plus we'll have some followup testing at the hospital but she's fine. So let's combine the past two months into one update, shall we?

Bronte's favourite things:

Drawing on paper, herself, the laptops, furniture, books. She has started copying the black & white line drawing that I have been doing a lot lately & I have to admit, I'm pretty impressed. Shes' also getting better at writing her name in the correct order. Es still look a lot like combs though.

Making anything, especially jewellery or perler bead creations. She was pretty excited to be allowed to use scissors to make paper snowflakes.

Her stuffed animals, though not ever any specific one for long. This was handy in hospital when we needed to launder a couple of them.

Popsicles: many of these were consumed in hospital, despite barfing up the first one due to her post-anaesthesia nausea. She'll eat any flavour, but if given a choice, it needs to be cherry.
Dresses, the more colours & prints she can combine together with her leggings, shirts, & socks, the better. I really should try to document these outfits more often.

Yogurt. This kid would eat at least a litre of the stuff every day if we let her.

Dogs & cats. This is Elvis. He lives a block down the street & just walks into our house sometimes. He barely tolerates Bronte, probably because she loves him so much.

Moving constantly. It is very difficult to get a clear photo of this child because she literally never stops moving. Here she is, about two minutes after a blood test. Bounces back quickly, this one does.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Stocking Stuffers for Kids

What sort of things do you put in your kids' Christmas Stockings? When I was a kid, there were a few things that I found in there every year: chocolate coins, an orange, & a candy cane. I often got a few useful gifts in there too, like underwear or socks, plus a few other small items. Now that I'm stuffing stockings for my own kids, I like to give them a mix of fun stuff & useful stuff, while trying to stay away from low quality plastic stuff that'll end up in a landfill in a matter of months. But I also don't want to spend a mint on stocking stuffers, so affordable is key.

Here are a few ideas for affordable stocking stuffers for kids (& let's be honest, a lot of adults would like many of these too):

  1. Play Tape--masking tape with roads printed on it that can be put down in different ways, then peeled up & recycled after, great combined with a Hot Wheels car or two. Comes in two widths, lots of colours, & is available in store at Walmart for just $5.
  2. DIY Kit--felt plus embroidery thread & a needle, or homemade playdough (check out Mama.Papa.Bubba for loads of ideas)
  3. Mini Sketchbooks--I generally look at Opus Framing for any art supplies, since the quality is generally so much better. A tiny blank book is portable for entertaining kids at restaurants, or in waiting rooms, & even road trips. Get a 5"x8" book for just $3 at Opus.
  4. Bath bombs--if you DIY these there are tons of tutorials online. I bought the citric acid & cream of tartar at Famous Foods for about $8, which will make at least a dozen of them. Or buy ready-made bath bombs at Lush for $6 & up.
  5. Blue Orange games in a tin--they're small, they're portable, & they practise useful skills like scanning, math, reading, etc Ring It is one of my kids' current faves, available online for $16 
  6. Reflective bracelets or tags--useful for walking & biking in the darker mornings & aftermoons. MEC has a great selection under $5, but I particularly like the reflective pins made by PoCampo--they're a little more stylish & still only $10 for two of them.
  7. Ikea stuffies--inexpensive, cute, machine washable & dryable (both important qualities for children's toys!), $1-20. I particularly love the SAGOSKATT line which are designed by children: the proceeds go to children's charity focussed on the importance of play.
  8. Turbo Turtle lights--designed for easily attaching to a bike, but they also work great on backpacks & zipper pulls when walking. $7 from MEC

Hope this list helps you save a little time in your holiday shopping. Are you finished yet, or are you more of a last-minute shopper? Have you cut back on the consumerism this year? I'm curious to hear how the holidays are for you. Let me know in the comments below!

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday Activities Advent Calendar

Counting down to Christmas with an activities Advent calendar
It's December 1st & I'm officially starting the Christmas season in our household. Though, truth be told, we've already been to several Christmas events like the East Van Panto, a couple of Holiday parties, & visiting Santa.

I love doing a Christmas countdown with the kids, & Oliver grew up with the tradition of the Advent calendar, so we're continuing the tradition in our own way. This year is a combination of things we've done in the past. Using the giant tree-shaped felt board with a set of numbered felt ornaments that I made a few years ago, plus some small gift bags I got at Ikea, we're doing an activities countdown calendar.

The giant felt tree Advent Calendar
I made up a list of holiday-themed special events & simple activities to do with the family, then created a set of cards with clipart images to go with each. Each day, the kids will get to take the number off the calendar, put it on the felt board tree, & read what the special activity is for the day. Some days it's extra special outings, like today, when we biked over to the Vancouver Aquarium to see all the critters, plus Scuba Claus & Rudolph 4D. Other days it's going to be easy things at home, like making paper snowflakes.

While this whole activities calendar thing seems like a lot of work, it's actually very affordable & great for slacker parents--hear me out! There was a bit of prep getting the bags & hanging them up (I used rick-rack & mini clothespegs to attach them) but you can easily use envelopes, brown lunch bags, paper clips, regular clothes pegs--whatever you've got around, or can find in a quick trip to the dollar or grocery store. The secret here is that you don't need to plan out the entire month in advance. As long as the bags/envelopes are opaque, the kids won't know that you're deciding the night before what the activities are going to be. You could even print or hand write them as you go.

Saying hi to Scuba Claus at the Vancouver Aquarium
There are some great variations on this too--one of my Facebook friends is doing fitness activities with her family each day, & Jen of Mama.Papa.Bubba has a sweet Kindness Calendar version (with free printables). & if you want to go the more usual route with chocolate--it's easy to pop one or two of those in the bags as well.

Follow our holiday adventures on Instagram with the hashtag #activitiesadventcalendar

Have you done a countdown calendar like this? How did you do yours? Let me know in the comments! 

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

6 Things to Do with Kids at the Vancouver Christmas Market

We've been going to the Vancouver Christmas Market since the beginning, back in 2010, which is also when Linny was born. This will be his eighth & Bronte's fifth year going to the market & I'm looking forward to taking them during the holidays because the Vancouver Christmas Market has introduced even more interactive & family-friendly activities this year. 

Here's the list of six things to do with the kids at the 2017 Vancouver Christmas Market:
  1. Visit Santa Claus: Take a special journey with your kids and deliver those Christmas wish lists to Santa Claus in person. Santa will be taking time out of his busy toy-making schedule to visit the market at the Photo Hut each evening. Complete with beautiful lights & festive feels, kids can experience a magical fantasy world as they sit on Santa’s knee, pose for photos and share their Christmas wishes. Santa & Mrs. Claus will be at the Photo Hut daily from 5pm-9pm, & from 2pm-6pm on December 24 as he has a special job to attend to that night.
  2. Take a ride on the Christmas Carousel: No childhood is complete without taking a whirl aboard Vancouver’s only Christmas carousel. But it’s not just for kids. The whimsical woodland creatures & nostalgic music will trigger some of your fondest childhood memories. You must be at least 2 years of age & 36 inches tall to ride the carousel. Tickets cost $3.   
  3. Meet Holly & Jolly: Everybody’s favourite gingerbread mascots, Holly & Jolly will be on hand spreading festive joy throughout the market once again. The delightful duo love to dance around with visitors, give big warm hugs & pose for silly selfies.
  4. Kinderhut Hunt & 4Cats Crafts: New to this year’s Vancouver Christmas Market, children & adults alike will delight in arts & crafts activities at six Kinderhuts throughout the market. Thanks to our friends and partners, 4Cats, your little ones can write a postcard to Santa, create spin-art snowflakes, build their own snowmen & more. But the fun doesn't end there. Complete the Kinderhut Scavenger Hunt by collecting a stamp from all six huts to receive a free ride on the magical Christmas Carousel. Maps are available at the Info Hut.
  5. Gingerbread Decorating: One of the best parts of the holidays is the sweet scent of gingerbread that fills the air. So, if you’re looking to create a Christmas tradition that your kids will always remember, come on down to the Gingerbread Haus. Purchase a decorating kit containing a gingerbread cookie, & adorn it with sprinkles, smarties, marshmallows & other sweet treats. Once you’ve created your delicious delight, store it in a free container to keep your cookie nice & fresh.
  6. Warm up with some Kinderpunsch: Just what its name translates to - Kids' punch. After all, warm & spicy drinks like aren’t just for adults. This alcohol-free hot punch made with herbal tea, fruit juices & spices will warm the cockles of your heart. Perfect for a brisk winter’s eve, kinderpunsch is available at Das Apfelhaus. 
For more info on food & drinks at the market, check out Eating My Way Through the Vancouver Christmas Market.

The Vancouver Christmas Market is on til December 24 at Jack Poole Plaza, next to the Vancouver Convention Centre, surrounding the Olympic Cauldron. It's easy to reach by transit--near Waterfront Station & the #19 bus route. Biking there is a cinch as well--the seawall & the Hornby bike route lead there. There isn't any additional bike parking for the event, but you can generally find a rack nearby at the convention centre, or the office building across the street. Tickets are $5-10, free for kids under six years old.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Eating My Way Through the Vancouver Christmas Market

Christmas is just a month away, so it's time again to eat, drink & be merry at Vancouver's Christmas Market!

This year's market returns to Jack Poole Plaza, home of the Olympic Cauldron next to Vancouver Convention Centre West. This year's Christmas market is bigger & tastier than ever with more than 55,000 square feet of space, live entertainment, & new hands-on activities for children around the market.

For more info on the market with kids, see 6 Things To Do With Kids at the Vancouver Christmas Market.

For our household, going to the Vancouver Christmas Market has been an annual tradition since the start back in 2010. For Oliver, aka Spokespapa, it's a way to share a wee bit of his German heritage with the kids.

It's also one of the few events in the city where you can order an alcoholic beverage & wander around drinking & shopping. If you drink alcohol, don't miss out on the Feuerzangenbowle, which is basically hot, mulled wine spiked with a shot of extra brandy. For the kids & non-drinkers, check out the hot apple cider from Das Apfelhaus.

Last week I got the chance to try out many of the Vancouver Christmas Market's culinary delights & I have to say, I left completely stuffed. There's a lot of fabulous (read: meat-centred) traditional European fare on offer, but there's also many vegetarian & vegan options as well.

I pretty much ate one or two of everything in sight, so here are my highlights:


Das Gulasch Haus serves delish Hungarian gulasch in a bread bowl, with both beef & vegan options of this European comfort food available. 

Mushroom soup

At Taste the Wild I had a sample of their wild mushroom soup. Creamy & packed with tender mushrooms, I really wished I had room in my belly for more. They also sell a wide variety of dried mushroom products so you can make your own at home.


I don't know how I managed to get to this point in my life never having tried raclette, but now that I have, I'll be back to Cheese Me Raclette. This is a typical Swiss dish, essentially melted cheese scraped from a wheel onto potatoes, served with pickles & pepper on the side. Great for a damp, Vancouver evening!


To me, nothing screams traditional German street food like a big sausage on a little bun (with sauerkraut, of course!). Head over to Freybe Brat Haus for a meaty delight with just enough bread to keep your fingers clean, as the Germans do it.
Chimney Cake eating technique


Okay, maybe it's a tie for The Most German Street Food: pretzels! Pretzel Haus serves up warm, chewy, face-sized Pretzels, which are something we always get at the market. Get some mustard on the side for dipping for an authentic snack.

Chimney Cake

Last but definitely not least, I had seen the Transylvanian Bakery Chimney Cake before, but never tried one until this year. I was definitely missing out. a long strip of soft dough, wrapped around a wooden roller, rolled in sugar, then baked to caramelize the outside, then sprinkled with coconut or walnut. It's a great treat to share--take turns peeling strips off to eat, or eat it straight off your arm, a la Bronte.

The Vancouver Christmas Market is on til December 24 at Jack Poole Plaza, next to the Vancouver Convention Centre, surrounding the Olympic Cauldron. It's easy to reach by transit--near Waterfront Station & the #19 bus route. Biking there is a cinch as well--the seawall & the Hornby bike route lead there. There isn't any additional bike parking for the event, but you can generally find a rack nearby at the convention centre, or the office building across the street. Tickets are $5-10, free for kids under six years old.

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