Monday, May 30, 2011

Running the Valley Trail in Whistler

The Vally Trail in Whistler is 35KM of paved and/or crushed gravel trail. You can enter it off trails from Alta Lake to Green Lake. The signs for the trail are not always clear but if you are on a paved long trail labeled "share the trail" at the entrance, you are probably on part of the valley trail.

We stayed at a resort in the Upper Village and we were able to access the trail off of Lorimer Road. We ran to Rainbow Park, around the entire Alta Lake and then back again to the village. The round trip was 11.4KM. It's a gorgeous run through lakes, parks, executive style homes, golf courses, forest, and of course stunning views of snow-capped mountains. We encountered a few walkers and bikers on the trail but it was mostly quiet.

Running or biking the valley is definitely the best way to see it. If you are a runner and especially if you have a small child you can push a jogging stroller, I highly recommend this valley run. The trail is paved and in excellent condition. We timed our runs with Tristan's nap time in the afternoon so it worked out great. Being away on vacation, he had to nap in his stroller every day. When he wasn't napping, he just sat back and enjoyed the views. It must be nice to be pushed about in a chariot for such a lovely tour :)

Whistler: dining out with small children

There are a lot of families in Whistler. It is definitely a family friendly destination. Not every family will have access to a full kitchen during their stay so dining out is a must. Planning meals and eating also consumes a lot of vacation time. We spent a full week in Whistler and as a result, we dined out a lot. We're not used to dining out a lot. Back at home, we only eat out maybe once or twice a month. Even when we traveled to Puerto Vallarta, we didn't dine out much. There however, we did have access to a full kitchen.

We sat at coffee shops like Moguls and Starbucks. We dined at a small eatery called Gone Eatery three times. They serve organic coffee, sandwiches, soups, pasta, and nice breakfasts. Prices are very reasonable and the place is very mellow with many families with small children there. I wouldn't have known about them if I didn't do my research beforehand since they are somewhat tucked away in the Village Square. You have to access it through the bookstore and I think they are affiliated with Moguls Coffee.

Another place we had repeat trips to was Wild Wood Pacific Bistro. They are also a bit tucked away in the Village North. They have good affordable food. In fact, the food they serve is somewhat like fine dining. They are right next to a tennis court. They have nightly specials and serve big delicious breakfasts.

As for fine dining, we went to Quattro and Edgewater Lodge Restaurant. We visited Quattro mainly for their $10 pasta night. I've always wanted to try this restaurant in Vancouver but here was a our chance. We totally scored with this deal too since their pasta normally sell for $24. I was talking to Jean-Louis about how easy it is to make a $24 pasta dish. You buy good quality pasta, use wine, organic herbs, quality oils and basically use organic wherever possible and that will totally rack up the price. The result? Quattro-quality pasta that tastes oh-so-good!

At Edgewater Lodge Restaurant, we splurged on their dine-out 3-course special. We ordered unique dishes and stuck to fish. We're not used to 3 course meals at restaurants anymore but Tristan was there to help us eat. He tasted pretty much everything we ordered and didn't complain. The kid knows what good food is! :) Besides the elegant tasty meal, we enjoyed the fantastic lakeside views. Because the restaurant sits on an island off of the lake, there are great views for everyone. Because we made reservations and arrived early, we had the best seat in the house:)

There was a restaurant a minute away from our resort called Ciao Thyme Bistro that specialized in organic cuisine and we went there for breakfast on the day we did the Peak 2 Peak. They had a 2 for 1 eggs Benedict. Yeah, we totally took advantage of the dining specials in May! :) We also noticed they had $1 day-old bakes by the till so we grabbed a cinnamon bun and pecan and dry blueberry scone. That evening we decided to order pizza and stay in to watch our last DVD movie. We ordered 2 large feast pizzas from Dominos using my 2 for 1 Entertainment coupon. Am I resourceful or what? We had leftover pizza the next day too when we got home.

Vacationing in Whistler with a 2 year old

There aren't many tours to take or activities to join when traveling with a 2 year old. Whistler is no exception. When I researched and planned our trip there for the end of May, I discovered that a lot of cool tours like zip-lining, adventure zone for the kids, river rafting, and bear safaris had an age limit of least 4 years old. It turns out because we were going near the end of May, a lot of the summer activities like the mountaintop barbecue was not even opened yet. In fact, there are stores in the village that are closed until June. It's slow season right now in Whistler!

We went to Whistler with Tristan for a week, from Sunday to Sunday. We made the best of it and ended up having a good and relaxing time. As I mentioned in my last post, there were lots of dining specials so that was great. Especially because we ate out A LOT. I saved ourselves a few meals going up since I cooked a huge batch of fried rice shortly before we left for Whistler. I made us what I call, mountain retreat granola for snacks and brought along a couple containers of frozen food. We went grocery shopping beforehand as well so we had fresh bread, milk, and fruit. We were only able to do this because Whistler was a 2 hour drive away from Vancouver. In fact, I think it took us more like 1 1/2 hours. Our room did not have a kitchen but there was a small fridge, microwave, and dishwasher. The dishwasher was just a waste of space, in my opinion.

Over the course of the week, we did a lot of things. We were never bored. Our resort was just minutes away from the village so we walked a lot. We took pictures and stopped by many coffee shops. Tristan played in the nice park in the village. We cruised around and got more activity information and then planned our week day by day while we sipped on coffee. We ended up taking part in two paid activities: 1) TreeTrek Canopy Walk and 2) Peak 2 Peak sightseeing.

We observed the weather like a hawk and chose a nice morning for the TreeTrek tour. ZipTrek, the company that offered this tour, was very accommodating and lent us a hiking backpack to carry Tristan in. We also had a car seat for him inside their shuttle bus. There was no charge for the backpack and because we could carry Tristan, there was no charge for him for the tour :) For those who are too big to carry, kids need to be at least 6 years old to participate in this tour. We had a good time and Tristan was well behaved. The tour lasted around 2 hours.

The Peak 2 Peak opened for the summer season on May 28th. Since we were leaving on the 29th, we had to go on the 28th. I feel a bit foolish because I noted down all the great hikes on the top but there is no hiking at all this time of year. The top is covered in tons of snow and there is skiing until August. I thought maybe some of the popular trails might have been shoveled. No chance! We enjoyed the 20 minute private gondola ride up to Whistler Mountain from Whistler Village and then the 11 minutes Peak 2 Peak gondola ride across to Blackcomb Mountain. We ended up going back and forth a couple of times since we wanted to ride the silver gondola with the glass viewing floor. Tristan really enjoyed riding in the gondolas too. The views from above the mountain was amazing. It wasn't that cold up there but then again, I was wearing a ski jacket. I realized during our trip that I under packed and would freeze up there. Luckily, there were tons of sales for snow gear and apparel right now :) Not all the restaurants on the mountain were opened either. Again, it was slow season. We bought some mushroom soup and fed Tristan inside one of the eating areas while we watched the snowboarders and skiers go down the mountain. It was winter wonderland up there and it snowed too!

It's funny to think we walked and played in the snow on top of the mountain because in the valley below, we were hiking and swimming. In fact, one of Tristan's favorite activities in Whistler was swimming. We took advantage of the heated outdoor pool at our resort and on the day it rained, we went to the Meadows Park Sports Centre to swim indoors. We bought a inflatable life saver for Tristan and he was able to float and move all on his own in the pool. It was the best $1.50 purchase we made at the dollar store :)

Here are some of the other things that we did:
  1. Running while pushing Tristan in the jogging stroller (11.4KM, more on this later)
  2. Hiking to Nairns Falls (1.5KM one way, highly recommended for toddlers!)
  3. Whistler library story time
  4. Dine out event at Edgewater Lodge Restaurant
  5. Watched DVDS together in our room (free to borrow from the resort)
  6. Shopping in the village
  7. Drove south looking for hiking trails (ones we wanted to do were closed:()
  8. Visited Lost Lake Park, Rainbow Park (flew a kite)
  9. Drove to Pemberton and had coffee
  10. Took advantage of many daily dining specials (e.g. $10 pasta Thursdays at Quattro)
  11. Sleep! Lots of sleep!
Whistler was fun. Jean-Louis and I have only been there once for a weekend and it was during the winter season. This was our first trip in the Spring. We had never gone up the mountain either so that was new. The lakes and parks in the valley and in the nearby area are stunning. The food was delicious and luckily for us, didn't cost us an arm and a leg. Tristan more or less ate well. He was really okay to dine with. Surprising.

Since we shared a room, it was hard to do other things when Tristan fell asleep. It was hard for him to sleep while we were still up. The simplest solution was for all of us to sleep at the same time. That meant keeping Tristan up a bit later every night and we had to sleep earlier every night at around 10:30PM. No matter when we slept, Tristan would still get up at 7 or 6:30AM. After a week of all of us together, I'm ready to give it up. Tristan was still a handful here and there so I'm glad this was just a vacation. We're so glad to be back home in Vancouver and back to our routine! You never know how much you miss home until you leave it for awhile :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

We're still in Whistler!

A week in Whistler seems a bit long but we have managed to occupy our days here quite well. We have more activities scheduled and will be busy until we leave on the weekend. I'll be doing a more comprehensive post when I return home but here is a bit of an update.

We arrived on Sunday after a short drive (1.5 hours) from Vancouver. Tristan experienced motion sickness for the first time and puked in the car when we were 5 minutes away from our destination. It was awful and the car seat still stinks! I guess we won't be selling this car seat when he outgrows it. I thought he was sick but he's fine so it must have been motion sickness. Jean-Louis says he got motion sick a lot as a kid so there you have it! I'm beginning to think Tristan has acquired a lot of bad things from both of us:(

Today is the first day it has really rained. The past few days it showered a bit here and there but the weather was mostly nice. It's raining constantly now. We have been obsessed with the weather and had already planned ahead so we're heading to the indoor pool today at
a nearby sports center. Tristan loves to swim! Who knew? He is all smiles in the pool :)

It's slow season right now in Whistler. Many shops are closed until June. The village is somewhat of a ghost town during the night and morning. The cool thing besides it being very quiet is that there are lots of dining specials going on. There is Dine Out Whistler but there are also other cool deals like 2 for 1 pasta night Wednesday at Gone Eatery, which we enjoyed last night, and $10 pasta at Quattro tonight. Eating out in Whistler is generally very expensive but with these deals we aren't spending much at all on food.

The village is as charming as we remembered it. People here are friendly and laid back. We were told there is skiing here until August. The mountains are full of snow. The valleys and lakes are beautiful. We're from Vancouver though and feel a bit spoiled. It's beautiful in Vancouver too. It's nice to be on vacation and sleep a lot but with a 2 year old, there aren't a lot of activities we can take part in. We knew that coming here but it's still cool. Also with a toddler, everything is two or three times as slow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Worrying about childcare in 2 years

Daycare is awesome but it's only available until your child starts elementary school at the age of 5. After that, kindergarten kicks in and it's full time until around 3PM, Monday to Friday. Unfortunately, a work day for most people is 9-5PM. On top of this, there is about one Professional Development Day at school every month for which there is no school for kids. Here is where "out-of-school care" comes to the rescue. This paid service takes care of all this.

The other day, my sister told me to get on the waitlist for out-of-school care. There is a lot of demand for it and it may take a year or so to get in. I haven't even thought of this yet. In fact, I don't even want to worry about this now. I have no full time job to return to and I have no idea what I will be doing in two years when Tristan starts school. We may not even be living in this neighborhood. Which school would we even waitlist for? I suppose it wouldn't hurt to waitlist at a few different places since there is no fee required but having to do so right now sort of makes me mad. It really is a crazy world out there if you need childcare help.

So there's out-of-school care, great. What about summer care? There is no school for the entire July and August and even some parts of June. What do young kids do? Summer camp could be an option but I don't think those would go for that long. I also hear they are super expensive. We of course could go on vacation in the summer but France is super hot in the summer and I told Jean-Louis I would never go back there during the summer again. Also, if I were to start a new job, I would only be entitled to two weeks vacation a year. This could be a big problem for us. How do other families do it? We have no family or friends here to help us and there doesn't seem to be a lot of options there for us that won't cost us an arm and a leg. We may have to hire a nanny for the summers. Ugh. A friend of mine suggested babysitting from nearby friends. Unfortunately, I don't have those kinds of friends I can make deals with:(

Since I'm thinking about it now, I did a quick search and came across this article talking about summer care: Cost-Effective Summer Childcare Options. There's definitely lots to think about. When looking for a link for more information on after-school care, I read that "Most offer a full-day summer program." That might be a good option for us too! I can't believe I'm worrying about it now and it's still two years away. It's a crazy world, I tell you!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our cute toddler biker

Tristan bikes on his strider outside from Mommying Around on Vimeo.

It's time to sell our baby stuff

It's strange how we often hold onto our baby things for such a long time, even long after we decide we won't ever be using these things again. Tristan is almost 2 1/2 now and well, it's time to actively start selling some of our baby things. If I knew a family member or close friend were having children within the next couple of years, I would probably hold on to some of these things but that just isn't the case. I still can't quite part with all of Tristan old clothes so I'm going to hang onto those for a bit longer. I don't know why. They are just too cute and nice to part with:( It's sad to see these things go, especially because some of these can't be purchased anymore. The reality is we need to declutter and make room for future things we'll acquire for Tristan like toys and more toys I guess.

To start, I have only advertised a few things on craigslist. Three items to be exact. I have already made one sale on the car seat adapters and have had many inquiries about our car seat but no deals yet. The only other thing I'm selling is the bouncy chair. Everything is in great condition so I'm firm about the price I advertised at. If they don't all sell, it's no big deal. We'll just have to figure out something else to do with it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How I like to spend my Mother's Day

Instead of relaxing, taking the day off and going to the spa, I spent the day baking. Not that going to the spa isn't great, if you like that kind of thing but I would rather cook or bake because that is what I enjoy doing. It's Mother's Day so we should do what we want and if we can get a bit of a break from "mommying" in the process, that's even better :)

I am happy to take control of planning my holidays and special occasions. I'm also the bake-my-own-cake kind of birthday girl so big surprise there :) I don't have big expectations from Jean-Louis. I know he can be thoughtful but now with Tristan, I just don't expect that much from him. I hear of moms who become disappointed when their husbands don't plan anything special for them and they wait all day for a surprise that doesn't happen. I imagine it would be sad. I would rather plan something myself and know that it's going to happen rather than do nothing on Mother's Day. Like most occasions, I think acknowledging it with a nice meal and cake is best.

This year, I decided to host high tea and invite my sister and her family of four over. They ended up bringing a guest so there were 8 of us in total. I didn't want to spend the day slaving in the kitchen and be all tired from it so I planned on making just one thing. The one thing, as it turns out, took a day and a half to prepare! Yes, I finally made croissants! They turned out just like what I imagined and somehow I feel like I have crossed over the line to an extreme-foodie :) I made plain croissants, as well as a few pain au chocolat, and a few with ham and cheese rolled inside. They were all yummy. I love how there can be so many variations once the basic recipe is there.

Other things we served, which were bought and/or assembled, were avocado and cheese topped mini toast, foie gras topped mini toast, and tuxedo truffle cake. We served this with a French Earl Grey orange mandarin tea and Chinese sphere jasmine tea. We didn't over do it this time but then again, it wasn't meant to be a meal. The croissants were sort of huge though and some people did get full. I didn't know they would grow that much when baked. Yeasty!

So there you have it! I spent my Mother's Day baking and hosting a tea party. The best part of it was that my croissants turned out great and all the guests liked it too. Can you tell by all the croissant pictures I posted ? ;) Even Jean-Louis raved about it and he was skeptical since he saw me skip steps in the recipe here and there along the way. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer, which I purchased in advance as a Mother's Day gift for myself. Yes, I do that too :) In fact, I think this is the first gift I have ever bought myself for Mother's Day.

Lastly, Tristan made me a beautiful piece of canvas art in daycare for Mother's Day. You can see his fingerprints in some parts too :) I was quite impressed. An artist in the making, you think? :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tristan's favorite books

We have lots of books for Tristan. Among his favorites are Curious George, Thomas the Tank Engine, The Octonauts, his French vehicles books such as La tractopelle d'Axel. A year ago, Tristan loved the Karen Katz books.

We read to Tristan a lot. We basically either play or read for entertainment since we don't allow him to watch many videos, movies or play with the iPhone/iPad too much. Some times we read to him too much or at least it feels that way. When I say too much I mean for 3 hours or more a day. He loves books but when it gets too much for us, we actually have to tell him "no." Mommy needs a break from reading. Sorry babe.

Since Tristan loves reading so much, we some times use it against him if he misbehaves. We normally read to him every evening before he sleeps. If he is very bad, we simply don't read to him at night. We're so cruel, eh? When we tell him no because he was bad, he does get sad but he gets over it. It kind of breaks my heart though:(

Here are some of Tristan's favorite stories:
  • Curious George and the Dump Truck
  • Thomas the Train: Go Train Go
  • Thomas the Train: Stop Train Stop
  • Thomas the Train: The Crack in the Track
  • Thomas the Train: Blue Train Green Train
  • Le bus de Marius
  • La tractopelle d'Axel
  • Baba Yaga the Flying Witch
I think it's great that Tristan loves to read. He loves being read to but he is starting to copy us and he is trying to read back. For instance, we read so many of the same stories over and over again that he actually knows what is going to happen so he tries to read back from memory. Because some of the pages have just a few words on them, sometimes it does appear that he is reading straight from the page! We're impressed but then again, we have only read everything a gazillion times.

Jean-Louis is somewhat of a bookworm so if Tristan turns into one, we'll know where he got that from. It's cute watching the two guys read together. Jean-Louis would read and Tristan would sometimes repeat what Jean-Louis says line for line until the end of the story. He's going to be a dorky child when he grows up! I love it :)
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