Happy Sinterklaas!

December 5th is Sinterklaas! E got a big bag of candy at school today – that’s what you get at a private school where the majority of the parents are Dutch. The parents committee does a treat for the kids one day a month and that’s what it was for December. We didn’t get to a Sinterklaas celebration this year but J took the girls last year to the big one in New West. Unfortunately that one got cancelled this year. Anyway, we’re not huge into Sinterklaas, but we did get the girls to put their shoes by the door – they’ll find Pocky, Kinderbars and gummy bears in there in the morning. Maybe an orange too!

The Olive Press

Have you heard of Buck Denver? Jelly Telly? Phil Visscher? Veggietales? Well, Veggietales was created by Phil Visscher. He has gone on to create a new animated Christian franchise called Jelly Telly and one of the main characters is Buck Denver. Buck’s got a new DVD out called “Why do we call it Christmas?”

 

which is part of the “What’s in the Bible?” series. Have you seen it? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, for your kids and for yourselves! You’ll find out about the history of all the different Christmas traditions we have from trees to St. Nick and Santa to Dec 25 and more. I learned as much from it as my kids did!

He laughs

Mr. T laughed on Tuesday, once for J and once for me. But we can’t get him to do it anymore! He definitely has the biggest smiles of any of our kids though. His entire face smiles and he opens his mouth so big it’s hilarious. His coos need less coaxing and he is the sleeping champ. Who could ask for anything more?

We spent the weekend in Smithers at J’s family reunion. It’s halfway up BC so we did a two-day roadtrip there and back:

They ar watching Pocoyo on my iPod. And yes, they are wearing matching outfits. I’m cheesy like that.

Despite the rain each day, we had a good time connecting with “long-lost” cousins and getting to know their kids.The girls were in play heaven. There was a trampoline and sandpit at the farm, endless field to run, tether ball, bubbles, crafts, ATV rides, chairlift up the ski hill, cute town, pony ride, mountains of food, campfires and smores, and piles and piles of cousins to play with. If I didn’t check in with E I probably wouldn’t have seen her all day long. C needs a little more support and would come find me every so often for a hug or a chat or some help. Smithers is a cute little town in the mountains to which I’d never been. J’s been there a few times since he has family up there. It was a great weekend and because there were so many willing arms, we got a break from Mr. T too (who really isn’t much trouble to begin with) and had quite a relaxing weekend. Tons of food of course and tons of rain, but we were in a camper (the variety of RVs was amazing…). The farm has a big outdoor shelter which was used for meals, a fire pit plus several propane fires, a few porta-potties, and countless aunts, uncles and cousins to chat with.

This week we went to a Vancouver Canadians baseball game with Mr. T:

What a beautiful night to be out! We left in the 9th inning (Vancouver was kicking butt) and headed to Kits to catch the fireworks. Then last night we saw Sarah McLachlan with the VSO and took Mr. T again – what a cultured boy already! Good thing he loves to nurse and sleep. Not one person made a negative comment about having a baby at that concert. In fact, everyone was just oohing and ahing. Several couples commented that they missed their own baby at home with a babysitter. A few pregnant ladies commented on how they would, after seeing us, feel comfortable taking their babies out. And I ran into some old colleagues for a few minutes. Oh yeah, did I mention that the concert was fantastic?

I’ll try to get around to posting pictures soon as well as some more regular blogging. I have lots of draft posts and interesting ideas, just need time to do it!

Then again, E & C start school in September. E’s in kindergarten (yikes!) and C’s in preschool. Amazing!

Here’s a common sight in Smithers. Enjoy!

Snapshot of the last month

The last month or so has been a lot of fun. Here’s a peek at what I’m up to and a some pics for you to enjoy too!

On My Nightstand: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. If you’ve never read a Neil Gaiman book, you must go do it right now. I recommend Neverwhere. That’s where I started. And I truly never want to be without a Neil Gaiman book close by again. He also writes graphic novels (Coraline) and children’s books (although those are a bit too out there for my girls so far.) I just finished a “space opera” called Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross. It was one of those books about the robotic future that seemed kind of close to home and kind of unbelievable at the same time. It also made me laugh out loud. A lot. Like on the plane to Mexico. And on the beach in Mexico. And in my room in Mexico. I did a lot of laughing in Mexico, but nobody knew why I was laughing.

Want To Read: Lord of the Rings again. We watched the movies again over Christmas (hooray for Blu-ray) and it made me miss the books. But they’re a bit heavy for my liking right now. I’m also really into cheap or free books right now. We go the library a lot and I just pick something from the feature shelf or buy something from the sale table. Seriously, 25c for a book? That’s just awesome. Thinking about the Kindle too. J’s cousin had one on the beach in Mexico and I have to say it’s was pretty slick.

TV Worth Watching: Don’t watch too much lately but I’ve always liked Rachel Ray. J and I have started to watch the original Battlestar Galactica series because we liked the new one so much. But it is so terribly bad that I’m not sure if we’ll get far in it. I’m also taking out a lot of old movies from the library. Especially Audrey , my all-time favourite girl to watch. I often put something like that on when I fold laundry in the evening (yes I spend some evenings folding laundry. I know. Great date night.)

Movie I’ve Seen (in or out of the theater): Tangled 3D with the girls was awesome! What a cute movie. And the two movies on the plane weren’t bad: Life as We Know It with Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl was better than I expected (even though it was predictable) and Going the Distance with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long (and a great portrayal of a mom by Christina Applegate) was cute. And one day in my hotel room while I was futzing around before heading to the beach I ended up watching Inspector Mom 2 – totally cheesy but I couldn’t get over Danica McKeller – Wonder Years, anyone?

super epic rainbow cakeIn My Kitchen:Before we left for Mexico I went on a let’s-eat-everything-in-our-house phase. So we bought very few groceries and tried to eat what was in the freezer and cupboards. So it made for some interesting meals and combinations. But I did make a “super epic rainbow cake” for E’s fifth birthday (thanks to Whisk Kid for the recipe!) and it was a total hit. I also made some delicious fried fish (kids love it), steaks (hubby loves it), and mini lemon bundt cakes (I love it).

In My Ears: Hasn’t changed much lately. I listen to the radio and whatever’s in my iTunes library. I have a lot of old music and I listen to a lot of kids music. Harry Connick Jr. is permanently in my car because the kids love it (ask lil C to sing the Oompa Loompa song for you…) . I did some karaoke in Mexico and got a couple of good cheers too!

Places we went: Huatulco, Mexico. Getting there was alright. Being there was awesome. Coming home was a nightmare. Our flight was delayed 3 hours (meaning we spent 6 in the airport waiting area), then made an “emergency” fuel stop in Abbotsford (10 minutes from Vancouver -were we running on fumes?) which turned into a 2 hour in-plane wait for a new crew (with no food or water offered). Pregnant lady was hungry!

Looking forward to going: nowhere! Baby is due in early June and there are no travel plans between now and then. These days I look forward to going to the bathroom and to bed. And to the fridge 🙂

What I’m Looking Forward to this Month: Valentine’s Day and a night away at a marriage retreat with J. Love you, man!

NOW then.  Your turn!  What are YOU into this month?  Fill up the comment space or borrow this for inspiration on your own blog.


Snapshot of the Last Month

I saw this on SortaCrunchy and thought it was a neat idea. As I’ve said (several times) before, I’m an inconsistent blogger. I just can’t find the time to be regular about it when there are so many other things on the plate. That being said, here’s a glimpse into what’s happening.

On My Nightstand: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea – no kidding. It’s been years since I read this and I am loving it. The last time I read it was in a bathtub and I dropped it. In the water. How appropriate. Also reading a book about modern-day thriftiness. Has some great ideas and recipes. More of a browser than a cover to cover page-turner.

Want To Read: Something from my bookshelf. We have lots and lots of books that haven’t been read yet or in a long time. Something by Tim Kimmel maybe, or Margaret Atwood, or maybe C.S. Lewis. Many choices. Plus want to find out more about Mothering magazine (a friend raved about it).

TV Worth Watching: I’m not really watching much TV these days as we don’t have cable. The few public channels we get have been unwatched since we moved in. I guess hockey starts soon. We finished all episodes of Battlestar Galactica but have the original series to watch. So maybe that will be rainy night viewing. As an aside, we just saw one of the BSG actors in a local Shakespeare play. Alessandro Juliani played Henry V. And it was awesome.

Movie I’ve Seen (in or out of the theater): We’ve recently watched Premonition (alright), Inception (good), G.I. Joe (terrible), Young Victoria (nice), Becoming Jane (beautiful), W. (interesting), and I’ve watched a bunch of old Katherine Hepburn films. Hands down, Katherine Hepburn wins my vote. That lady could act!

In My Kitchen: I’ve been experimenting with a lot of recipes lately but all of a sudden I’m craving comfort food – must be the fall weather. We’ve had Ikea meatballs twice (just love em!), manicotti, tortellini, homemade pizza (C’s favourite food in the world right now), and a couple of BBQs. Best sweet of the month was The Pioneer Woman’s pineapple upside down cake but made with prune plums. Oh. Yes. It is good. Beware the butter. Also, prune cake. Don’t despair the prunes! It is delicious. I’ve made it twice and nearly ate both of them by myself. Please go out and buy yourself some prunes and make this cake. You might want to beware the butter again though. Maybe only make one of these cakes this month. But please do make one of them. And then make the other one next month. Or just toss it all and make them both for Thanksgiving and forget the turkey. (kidding!)

In My Ears: Addison Road, Plumb, Sanctus Real, Casting Crowns, Jamie Soles. Look ’em up on iTunes. You won’t be sorry.

Places we went: Apple Day at a local historic farm with the kids;  a weekend in Fairhaven for our 7 year anniversary. What a lovely village! We’ll be back there.

Looking forward to going: nowhere! Maybe we’ll have a month with no travelling. That would be awesome.

What I’m Looking Forward to this Month: ummmmmm, slowing down.  Pumpkin carving, roasting a turkey in my own kitchen for the first time, piles of leaves, starting to teach piano to Emma, starting The Truth Project with a new Bible Study group.

NOW then.  Your turn!  What are YOU into this month?  Fill up the comment space or borrow this for inspiration on your own blog.

Hup Holland!

Hup Holland! Congratulations to the Dutch soccer team who just made it to the final of the World Cup. And for your visual pleasure a random assortment of photos.

Aren’t we adorable? E’s about 6 months old here. Actually, we were at a Dutch fundraising dinner at J’s parents’ church. We still have those hats…

Love the sneer. As in, I can’t even crawl yet but I’m a soccer star! Just try to stop me!

Here’s her latest orange look.

Here little C getting her first haircut! Now you can actually see her beautiful gigantic brown eyes. And she can see the world.

Here’s our old neighbour (miss you!) who is also a hairdresser. She’s great! She gave both my girls their first cuts and E’s subsequent ones as well. She’s done my hair a few times and J’s too. Look at C’s gappy smile! That’s from thumb-sucking…

Anyway, I think it’s time to go unpack and organize something…

Day 25: a long ferry and a longer drive

The ferry ride was gentle and soothing and even with the loudspeaker wake up call the girls didn’t wake up. J felt a bit sick when he awoke but we decided to have breakfast on board. It was a delicious buffet with more choices and especially more fruit (to little C’s delight) than a hotel continental. The weather outside Port-aux-Basques harbour was nasty and we circled the mouth of it for an hour before making it to port. It afforded us a more relaxed breakfast than we’ve had in a while and time for some play and even a nap for mom (who has a hard time falling asleep).

When we got off the boat and onto The Rock, we started driving. It’s a full day of driving to make it to St. John’s and we only stopped for a coffee and bathroom break or meal. The scenery is similar to coastal BC and northern Ontario. When you see the craggy rocks and evergreen forests and bays and lakes you feel as if you’ve come full circle somehow. Also, the weather is cold, rainy, foggy, windy, and probably even more miserable than Vancouver. The wind whips bitterly and chills you in an instant. You want nothing more than to be back in the warmth and safety of PT, snugly the master of your little domain.

The girls slept most of the day, making up for the night before. We listened to the rest of The Silver Chair and started The Last Battle before we got to St. John’s, only we couldn’t finish it. A little more listening for the flight home…

We stopped for lunch in Corner Brook at Jungle Jim’s. It was a filling and tasty meal and the girls had a hoot with their tiki mask menus. Dinner came late at night, around 9pm, when we finally found a place and one that was open. It was a diner that had not much food left but had delicious soup which warmed us up. Then it was the final hour to St. John’s and our home for three days, a one bedroom apartment on the second walk-up level of a blue clapboard house in town. Adorably quirky buildings seem to be the houses we like to stay in (think of D & G’s and Auntie J & F’s) except this one belongs to neither friend nor family, will not have meals or snacks whipped up (unless M gets so inclined…), and doesn’t have the benefit of any playmates for E or C. But it is our cute little home nonetheless. Given the miserable state of the weather, you can be sure we’re not planning on spending two days wandering around the city by foot, so a home for us to relax in between the rain and the exploring is welcome.

And so off to our little beds at last!

  • Melodies: Narnia: Silver Chair & The Last Battle, Def Leppard
  • Miles: 560 (900 km)
  • Meals: MV Atlantic Vision buffet, Jungle Jim’s, some diner in the dark
  • Meltdowns: none. All day sleeping in the PT does the mood good!

Day 23: blessing upon blessing

Oh what a Gentle Island! Oh what gentle beds! Indeed they were new and they were so comfortable. We had our hotel continental and then loaded into the PT to go to Green Gables. Where else? The home of Anne Shirley, the land of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and some of the prettiest scenery we’ve seen so far. The last is so gently sloping here and there and gives one the impression of simpler times. On the way to Cavendish we found The toy Factory, a lovely toy store with a workshop in the back where the owner made wooden toys. She also stocked her shelves with all manner of imaginative toys including an extensive selection of playhouse for princesses, knights and families and play figures. The girls had a grand time playing and then selected a handmade top as their souvenir.

Then we got to Green Gables and tried to eat a late lunch. Except we were trying to buy lunch at a small cafe at 3pm so of course they didn’t have any lunch left, only pastries. Lunch consisted of a cinnamon bun, blueberry Danish, scone, chocolate milk and, of course, raspberry cordial. Green Gables was an actual farm at which Montgomery spent time although she did not live there. It’s been restored to the descriptions of her books and one can tour the barn, farmhouse, grounds and as always, the gift shop. We picked up a children’s version of Anne of Green Gables for E and fondly remembered the movies and shows. Then it was time to go and see what else there was to see. We also got a recommendation to go to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner.

 We had passed a restaurant in the next town that advertised lobster suppers and a 60 foot salad bar – it turned out to be Fisherman’s Wharf. What a restaurant! You pay as you enter and they have a salad bar only price for children based on age. How cool is that! We ordered one lobster and one crab dinner and then took our turn at the long, long salad bar. The bar included, as one would expect, salads, but also included cooked vegetables, rice, potatoes, some chicken dishes, jello, and non-stop mussels. It was all better than expected and also included piles of desserts, along with coffee & tea & juices. We had a turn at the bar and then ordered our mains. Both C and E tried the crab and E loved it. She tried the lobster too but didn’t like it. She had more fun picking the meat out of the shells. C liked both and was happy to eat bits of everything. Besides the heaps of cakes, pies, squares, éclairs, ice cream, and whip cream, there was made to order strawberry shortcake – we had two! All in all, it was a scrumptious meal.

After our supper, we went next door to the big playground to tire out the girls. And the park were some vaguely familiar looking equipment – turns out the park included an outdoor fitness area with machines designed to get one moving using body weight. So we had a mini-workout (after the heaps of dessert…) before driving some more. We pulled off on the north coast at a place with beautiful “white” sand beaches. Funny, the sands actually look white when all you’ve seen is red dirt, but in actuality it’s really more pink. We had fun as the sun set racing away from the waves and then showing a local family the PT. They had a hoot sitting in the cells and then recommended places to go that would really show us “our island”. If only we had more time! Montgomery wrote about the emerald, sapphire and ruby of the island and when you drive around, especially on a clear day, you are struck by the emerald of the vegetation, the ruby of the dirt and the sapphire of both the sea and the sky. Stunning!

And back to our hotel to bed once again. When we got there we remembered that we still hadn’t booked our ferry to Newfoundland for the next night. And when M got online, the ferry was sold out. In fact it was sold out to vehicles for the next three days… ack! We are the world’s best procrastinators. J called the Marine Atlantic office and she confirmed that yes indeed the ferry for tomorrow night was sold out.

However.

After J talked about the business and PT and M silently prayed the lady found some spots available for commercial vehicles. Hallelujah! She booked us in. We also were able to book a sleeping cabin, since the ferry was overnight, approximately 8 hours. Another hallelujah!

  • Melodies: can’t remember… birdsong
  • Miles: 63 (100 km)
  • Meals: hotel continental, pastries at Green Gables, lobster & crab at Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Meltdowns: it was a good day!

Day 17: exploring our favourite place

We woke up in time for church! Everyone got dressed and out the door in time to go around the corner to Casse Crêpe Breton for yummy crêpes. Fresh strawberries for the girls and one with ham, egg & cheese, one with raspberries and chocolate for M & J. Délicieux! Then J went to move the truck for parking while the girls walked the five minutes to church. Only M turned the wrong way and was a little lost. Happily, we noticed J after a few minutes and found the church only a minute after that. Unhappily, the church had a sign on the door saying that the congregation was joining with another congregation for worship today. We almost abandoned our Reformed roots and headed off to the Notre Dame in the middle of town when M decided to Google the name of the other church which was printed on the sign. It turned out to be only a few minutes away and didn’t start for another 45 minutes so we headed over.

It turns out that there was a touring performing group called Victory Voices from Ontario and they were presenting their last show of their tour in the service at the Chalmers-Wesley United Church. Good thing because neither of the girls were interested in church otherwise! It was a group of middle/high schoolers doing a modern musical of Moses’ life from birth to the Ten Commandments. E’s interest was high; C kept saying, “Abatah (Avatar)” because Opa showed her a game on his iPhone from the Avatar movie and M has it on her iPod. “Abatah! Eyeee-pot. Me!” She sat watching if for awhile and spent the rest of the service gleefully running up and down the pew or the aisle. Happily the woman behind us what charmed by her and nobody minded her antics. The choir group was enthusiastic, the music was a cross between jazz and blues, and the narration and dialogue was humorous.  After the service we enjoyed refreshments in the church basement.

We headed back to the hotel so C could have a proper nap. J took E swimming – we haven’t been making enough use of the hotel pools that we’ve had access to. Then we had quiet time before going back out. We took the Funiculaire down and wandered around the lower old town. It was every bit as lovely and neat as we remember, perhaps even more so. E eventually fell asleep in the buggy and so we ended up at a restaurant for dinner in relative peace (that happens when one or the other or both are out…) the food was good and we were on the early side of the dinner rush so we left before the restaurant got too busy. E then woke up and we headed back up into the upper town for some wandering and eventually made it outside the old town gates to the Legistative Buildings. It must be the time of year for maintenance for many of the Legislatures we have visited have been covered in scaffolding. The night was mild, full of happy people, lights, horse-drawn carriages, and atmosphere. We had a good time. Back in old town we found  Trattoria de Mike’s for late night chocolate chaud and dessert. Then we went back to our hotel and settled into bed.

It is a funny thing to go back somewhere that one holds in very high regard in one’s mind. The first time we went to Quebec City was in late October of 2004. We were still newlyweds (just over a year married) and travelling on J’s first business trip for a conference that happened in the Frontenac, one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Canada. Because it was just after Thanksgiving and just before the Christmas pre-season the city was nearly deserted giving us the feeling that we had it all to ourselves. Even though many tourist attractions were closed the hospitality we experienced in all that was open was extraordinary and the culinary delights we experienced are still some of the best we’ve ever had. Of course, because we had no children, nor any notion of what having children might mean in our lives, we were able to give attention to each other and the city and the holiday that was complete and undivided. We were wholly absorbed in the beauty, history, and charm of Quebec City.  That trip still stands out in our minds as one of our best travelling experiences.

So it was with high expectations and fond, rose-coloured memories that we arrived in town. We were not only excited to be back in the city we loved but to share it with our beloved daughters. Only too soon did we realize that all of the things that made it such an exceptional experience the first time were different. It was the May Long weekend and the city was packed to the gills; we not only didn’t have the city to ourselves, we were just one family among dozens, one group among hundred, one buggy in a sea of tourists. The weather was not only sunny and beautiful but almost unbearably hot with the sun and heat reflecting off the cobbled roads and old stone buildings. Our dining experiences were not the gastronomic discoveries as they were in the simply because children, as Nigella Lawson put it, have very bad taste; even cultured, well-travelled children such as ours. Fries and burgers it is…

All was not lost though because being the analytical people we are, we came to understand where our snappy moods were coming from. Unfilled expectations can cause many unkind situations and this was the perfect example. So we talked about it and dealt with it. This would not be the perfect holiday in our perfect town. We were parents now. Buggy pushing, bib carrying, diaper changing, child dragging parents. And being a parent changes how one experiences things.  We cannot give undivided attention to each other or to absorbing the culture and history around us. We experience things filtered through our children, who are not excited by the same things as we are. And that’s ok. They remind that world doesn’t exist way up high. It also exists in the four feet of their existence, the same four feet that adults tend to forget about.

  • Melodies: church bells, street performers, Victory Voices choir from Ontario
  • Miles: hoofing it around town
  • Meals: crepes at Casse Crêpe Breton, lunch at church, duck confit at L’Échaudé, apple crisp and raspberry ice cream crepe at trattoria de Mike’s
  • Meltdowns: E-lots and lots. It was not a good day for E.

Roadtrip Planning

I’ve settled (finally) on our online roadtrip planner. I’m using TripIt. After trying out many planners (Yahoo, Google Maps, TripTik, TripWiser, Rand McNally, Freetrip and a few others) I finally picked TripIt.

It’s still not perfect but it’s working so far. What I really wanted was a program where I could click on the cities/places on a map, put them in the order of visit, have the distance and time calculated plus routed on a map, and then place each leg of the trip on the right date.

TripIt lets me do all that without the clicking the places part. I manually type in the names of the cities and pick the date on which I plan to to do the travelling. It will then calculate the route, time and distance using Google Maps. Since we are making about 13 planned city stops (which have to be on weekday for business meeting) I have to be pretty meticulous about planning the time of day that we drive as well as the exact day we arrive or leave a city. It’s more of a Canadian Capitals tour than anything!

I am currently really excited by the trip. By 4pm I might be terrified again. Remember that I’m travelling this with two little kids (by little I mean 4 years and 2 years). Happily they are both girls, used to sharing a room, play very well together, and love adventure. We have travelled with them plenty of times – E had been on about 15 planes by the time she was 3 1/2 and C has been on about 12 in her 2 years. They don’t fly free anymore (we’ve only paid for E once) which is why we used to take them along on business trips all the time. Then again, we’ve only flown one trip with them both. All of the other trips were with each child separately. And we haven’t been real roadtrippers since we ourselves were children.

So we have magnadoodles, LeapFrog story pads (they each have their own), stickers, Colour Wonder markers & paper, a portable DVD player with some new shows (C’s birthday gifts provided some new entertainment), books, radio shows (like Paws & Tales and the Chronicles of Narnia), podcasts (for J & I!)… I’m sure we’ll be playing many hours of I Spy, Are We There Yet, and learning some much loved roadtrip songs (There’s a Hole in My Bucket, 99 bottles).

If you have any more tips or ideas for things to do or see while we’re travelling, I would love to hear them!