Monday, September 26, 2011

The 3 and under advantage

Before Tristan turned two years old, we took full advantage of traveling. We went absolutely no where until he was 18 months old though. At 18 months, we felt he was well behaved enough to take out more in general. We went to both France and Mexico and he was free for both trips. If your child is under 2, they fly for free. It's a sweet deal really :) Because he didn't eat much, the cost of food was almost nothing and every place we visited was also free for him. Train rides were free, bus rides were free, admission to the zoo was free, and any buffet we went to was free. Of course if Tristan wasn't with us, we wouldn't be going to the zoo to start with but you get the idea :)

Once a child turns 2, things change. Tristan is 2 1/2 and turning 3 in a couple of months so he is still free for most things. The big difference is air travel. There are rarely any child rates anymore so he pays the same price as an adult. That is huge! That is something like $1000 to fly for him! Not only that but a lot of vacation tour activities now require a child rate or adult rate for him to attend. Can you imagine paying an adult rate for a 2 year old dinner cruise or Mother's Day buffet? Crazy! So this is how we are going about choosing what to do with him. We look at all the activities we want to do and then we favor the ones where he can still go for free. Some times the child rate is only a few dollars less than the adult rate, which is ridiculous. We figure at this young age, he won't remember a lot of what he is experiencing anyway. For instance, we would rather pay $200 for a helicopter ride for him when he is 5 years old than pay for it now.

2 used to be our goal for doing a lot of things with him but now we're paying a lot of attention to 3. The fact is, besides air travel, 3 and under is a huge advantage. A lot of the tourist attractions such as the Vancouver Zoo do not require any admission fee for children 2 and under. The Vancouver Aquarium is free for children 3 and under. Tristan has already been to the aquarium but we are definitely going to go back a couple more times before he turns 4! The zoo will be new so we're aiming to hit that in the next month or so. Some activities are free for 3 and under but being under 3 allows you to go to most places for free. At Confederation Park, kids 2 and under ride the miniature train for free. Maybe 3 is free too. We just visited the Museum of Vancouver this past weekend and I noticed it was free for 4 and under. Children 4 and under also ride the skytrain and bus for free. Tristan is still free for a lot of meals at dinner cruises and buffets so we'll be hitting some of those too. Some cruises, dinner shows, and buffets actually give freebies to kids under 4 or 5. I mean how much can they eat, right? If your little kid is anything like our Tristan, eating off our plate is plenty!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Daddy is cooking vegan dishes

Once upon a time, Jean-Louis used to cook once every two weeks or once a month. It's been so long ago, I don't remember which. Needless to say he doesn't cook much and has very little interest in cooking. I am perfectly okay with this since I love to cook. He helps out by washing dishes :)

Lately, Jean-Louis has been obsessed with the idea of becoming vegan. We have had plenty of discussions about this every day. Discussions have now turned into arguments. I don't even want to get into this here so I'll just say that Jean-Louis is back on board cooking once in awhile. When he cooks, he will cook vegan and I will assist in grocery purchasing, cooking supervision, and the occasional assistance in the kitchen.

This past weekend, we purchased the last few items he needed to make his meaty spinach pesto lasagna. I have to say I was pretty skeptical at first because it contained fake meat and fake cheese. I didn't look at the recipe beforehand myself since I wanted to leave it all to Jean-Louis. As the dish came together though, the house smelled of fresh pesto and roasted nuts. As it turns out, the vegan lasagna exceeded my expectations. Then again, my expectations were pretty low :) For a vegan dish, I thought it was very good. Now, if we had made it vegetarian and substituted the soy mozzarella with real cheese, it would have been pretty close to awesome I think! It was a complete meal and loaded with healthy stuff like spinach, garlic, tomatos, walnuts, cauliflower, and tofu. We couldn't find tofu ricotta anywhere so we just used plain tofu. Now that I look at the recipe, I see that we had to make that! Dude! Jean-Louis must have missed that point. We were all over town at Choices, Whole Foods, and specialty stores looking for tofu ricotta! A non-existent fake cheese. I guess next time I will look at his recipes beforehand:(


The vegan lasagna turned out good. For Jean-Louis' return to cooking, I thought he did well. It did take him three hours to do this one dish, plus chickpea nibbles. He was completely exhausted afterwards :) The hard work paid off though since Tristan ate all of his dinner that night! We also had leftovers for the next day and we froze some for lazy nights :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Giant zucchini

From ma's (aka grandma's) garden

Monday, September 12, 2011

Butterfly sugar cookie on a stick

It has been nearly a year since I started making sugar cookies. Last Thanksgiving, I made my first attempt at making and decorating sugar cookies. I didn't have the proper supplies so it was awkward to decorate and I was embarrassed by the way they looked :( Since then I have been making sugar cookies for pretty much every holiday or birthday I could think of! That's probably once every one or two months :)

When my nephew turned 4, I made him a Lightning McQueen cookie puzzle. This past weekend, my niece turned 7. I thought about making her a cookie puzzle too but in the end I wanted to try something new and surprise her. I had this great idea to make a bouquet of flower cookies but then thought how those would be better suited for a lady friend or even my mom. For a little girl, butterflies would be more appropriate :) I remembered seeing the butterfly cookie post from Annie and loved the way they looked. After all, Annie is like the cookie and cupcake queen!

I made about a dozen big and thick butterfly cookies. I have never made my sugar cookies this thick before but the size of the cookie stick demanded it! Cookies don't rise much when baked and I didn't want to risk them falling off. I chose seven of the best looking cookies and placed them aside for my niece. Yup, one cookie for every year :) I let them dry overnight before even attempting to package them. Again, I didn't want to risk ruining them and I sort of needed more time to brainstorm packaging ideas.

The next morning and the day of her birthday party, I came up with a nice packaging idea. I had to work with what we had at home so I took a large bubble tea disposable cup with a lid and filled it with mini marshmallows. We had bubble tea recently and ended up washing and keeping the cups since they were in such great condition. They also didn't have any designs or logos on them so in our minds they were perfect for reuse. Yeah, we're nuts in that way :) It really was perfect because the cups were tall, somewhat transparent, and worked great in supporting the long cookie sticks. I knew I had to fill it with something to weigh the cup down and further support the cookies. Something sweet would be great and I immediately thought about M&M candies but I didn't have enough of them :( Boo. Then I remembered I recently bought two bags of mini marshmallows to try fondant. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. A cloud of marshmallows with butterfly cookies hovering above :) Not that people would get it but it was enough convincing for me!

I must admit after decorating the cookies, I was scared about the packaging. I really didn't want them to break. I had no idea how to get them to my niece. I didn't even have a box long enough for them. I also hated the thought of having to lie them on top of each other. In the end, I found a way and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. All this brainstorming brings me back to my applied technology class in Junior High. When I was 14 or 15. A gazillion moons ago! You know the class where you were given a limited supply of specific goods and then told to build a building? Yeah, that course!

Toddler at an older kids birthday party

Because Tristan is a toddler and almost 3 years old, we have mainly witnessed him around other toddlers or young children his age. There's daycare, story time at the library, and StrongStart at the school. We see him playing on his own and interacting with other kids and babies. We see all levels of development and kids are constantly on the move and have little attention span.

Yesterday, we went to my niece's 7th birthday party. Tristan has played with her many times and he has another cousin who is 4 years old. Many of the kids at the party were my niece's age since they were her friends from school. Tristan is turning 3 in November and was the youngest child at the party. Tristan mainly played by himself, as he usually does, but I noticed none of the older kids were interested in interacting with him either. The older kids played with each other and I guess it was because they all knew each other or are all around the same age.

As an observer from the outside, it was interesting to see how different 7 year old kids are compared to toddlers. The first word that comes to mind when I think about how they play together is "structured." The 7 year olds play very well together and have very structured play in that they play in sync with each other and move quickly. For example, a line up was formed to hit the pinata and when it was the older kids turn, they proceeded immediately after one another, without being prompted or guided to do so. When it came time to bring out the birthday cake, again everything happened so fast. There was no waiting and I even missed the photo shot of my niece blowing out her candles later on. The kids sang Happy Birthday first. Immediately after that they all sang a celebration song in French, something they learned in French immersion school. It was as though they had planned it all along but I know they didn't. They sang well together too and they were all in rhythm. I was impressed. Later a slip and slide was brought out for the water play and kids were sliding and throwing themselves on it one after the other. There was no break! I ended up taking 200 photos at the party, many of which were at the slip and slide. There was action every second! 7 year olds are fast and when they decide to do something, they don't hesitate. This of course all makes sense since as children grow older, they mature and become more like adults. After being around Tristan so much and seeing him with other toddlers and kids his age, I have only been thinking about toddler development. Until now. I was just wowed by the structured play and maturity of the 7 year old group.

Tristan will be 7 years old one day and will behave just like this. It's a crazy thought because he is still baby-like right now in so many ways. At 2.5 years old, he still eats in his highchair with a bib and we have to coach him along sometimes. He may or may not want to do something and it could take awhile for him to do it. He's indecisive, moody, and unpredictable. Okay, he's a toddler and there is just no comparison. Toddlers and 7 year olds are too different. But one day, he will be 7. Then 18 and before you know it they will move out and go to university. Crazy. And sad for us parents:(

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First day in the 3-5 room

While many parents are excited and stressed about the first day of school today, I was excited about Tristan's first day in a new room at his daycare. He has graduated from the Toddler room and is now in the 3-5 room. It's the big boy room! Kids ages 3 to 5 attend this room. Apparently, some of the kids in the room even attend kindergarten as well. Maybe this has changed now that kindergarten is a full day.

Tristan will be 3 years old in less than 3 months. Because he is ready now and there are spots available in the 3-5 room, he is starting this program this month. September is a big transition month for daycare because many of the kids in the 3-5 room are starting Kindergarten or Grade 1 and will leave the daycare. That allows all the rooms to shift upwards and free up space for new kids to join the daycare. Tristan and another little girl from his toddler room moved into the 3-5 room today.

When I dropped Tristan off this morning, he was excited. He gave his lunchbox to one of the staff members, grabbed a book and sat on the couch by himself looking at it. He just made himself at home. Just like that :) I noticed the other little girl from his toddler room was not coping so well. I am not sure she was quite ready to come into this room but if she didn't now, there may not be space for her for months. I think she has only begun potty training and typically, you need to be fully potty trained to come into the 3-5 room. She looks much smaller than Tristan. When her dad dropped her off and left, she cried. She has been to the daycare for a long time too but the new room was overwhelming to her I guess. Poor girl:(

One of Tristan's best friends is in the 3-5 room. We have talked about the 3-5 room change for a long time now and he loves that "he is a big boy now!" In this room, Tristan will learn more independence. There are no more individual daily report sheets. He may not be reminded to drink water and will have to learn to ask for water more when he is thirsty. In fact, when I picked him up today, the second thing he said to me was "can I have some water please?" It makes me wonder how long he has been thirsty for. It was so hot today too.

In the toddler room, there was one staff member for every 4 children. Here in the 3-5 room, there is one staff member for every 8 children. In kindergarten, there may be one teacher for every 22 children. The program in the 3-5 room will prepare Tristan for kindergarten and I am thankful for that. It's a huge transition, especially if a child has not been to daycare before. Tristan is doing great so far and I'm not worried about him at all. They say that some kids have a hard time transitioning from being one of the biggest kids in their room to being one of the smallest kids in the new room. A lot of Tristan's friends are already in the 3-5 room and he also knows the staff there. Even if he hasn't been in that room a lot, he is familiar with the people and has been in that same building since he was 13 months old. This gives him a huge advantage in adjusting to the new room. It's so hard to leave your child at daycare for the first time. Some of the parents are going through that right now in the 3-5 room. I feel for them and thank goodness we won't have to go through that pain again.

Weekends are full of family field trips

On weekends, we tend to go all out in entertaining our toddler. At least it feels that way. When Tristan stays home with me on Thursdays and Fridays, we mostly stay home and he plays on his own a lot. If we go out to the library or walk down the street to the store, I count that as plenty of outings for the day. Compared to weekends, it's just plain boring to be home with just mommy.

This past weekend was a long weekend because of Labour Day. On Saturday, we went to the Burnaby Village Museum. We shopped at the farmer's market first and then we toured the village. We also took Tristan on the carousel for the first time. This was our second visit to the museum with him but the first time, the museum had just closed but we still went in. I have never been on the carousel myself but we thought Tristan would enjoy it. We decided to put him on one of the biggest horses since they had poles that went up and down. It looked like more fun and the big ones were pretty. The moment I placed him on it, he was scared. He didn't asked to be removed but he was whimpering a bit. I had my arm around him the whole time and spoke to him as the carousel circled round and round. Wow. That was one fast ride! We felt the wind blowing at us. In the end, Tristan said he had a good time. I think it was a mistake to put him on it so early. At 2.5, he may still be too young, especially for the big horses. After all, adults ride on the big horses. Oops.

We finished off our grocery shopping at Metrotown and later that evening, we watched Robots. We haven't watched a DVD with Tristan for nearly a month. During the movie, I dozed off since I was super exhausted. I was also feeling a bit under the weather.

On Sunday, we met up with my sister and her family and went to the playground and water park in Stevenston village. The kids played, Tristan got to bike around in the village and we lunched at Pajo's. We checked out the fisherman's market, had coffee at Rocanini, and went home to whip up a small BBQ. Another long weekend, another barbecue right? :)

On Monday, we let Tristan choose what to do. We gave him the option of watching boats at Horseshoe Bay or riding the miniature train at Confederation Park. He chose the train. We also played at the park and had bubble tea at Pearl Drop, a new place we haven't tried before. Before we left, we picked half a bucket of blackberries across the street from where we parked at the park. When we got home, Tristan had fallen asleep so we decided to head out for a run. He woke up just before we put him in the jogging stroller and he didn't sleep more after that. Doh! Not that he had enough of the park, we took him to the park again after the run before heading back home to prep for dinner.

Weekends this summer have pretty much all been like this. Just jam packed with activities to do with Tristan. In fact, I can't really remember what we did before he came along. I think we spend our days indoors working and maybe a bit of hiking. When Tristan doesn't tantrum, it's actually fun hanging out with him :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Land of wild blackberries

One of the things I love about being in Vancouver and British Columbia is the berry picking. Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are so easy to grow. When I was still living in Paris, I remember reading about berry picking back in Vancouver and felt nostalgic and homesick. Unless you ventured way out into the countryside in Paris, you would not find any berry fields. Well there were grapes because of the wine and lavender fields but they were all private. There definitely weren't any u-pick! It was only when we went hiking in the mountains of the French Alps did we pick wild strawberries. I remember being so excited :)

Here in Vancouver, blackberries grow wild! They grow like bamboo and are out of control. Where ever there is a bush, there are likely blackberries. You step out of the skytrain and the bushes are right there for you to pick and eat. Every block you walk, you see a blackberry bush and if you don't, there is one across the street. We live in this kind of neighborhood. There are berries for everyone and the rest the birds will happily eat. We used to plant raspberry in our patio. A year later, it became a raspberry and blackberry bush! The blackberry from outside our fence somehow crawled into our patio. I didn't even know there was blackberry out there.

Last night, we took our buckets and went blackberry picking. We had a destination in mind but ended up filling part of our buckets along the way there because like I said, blackberries are just everywhere! Last year we went picking a bit late and most of them were either already picked or had ripen too much and fallen down. This year we headed out at a good time. Although next week might be an even better time. It also depends on where you are in the Vancouver area. I remember seeing ripe blackberries in Stevenston Village a couple of months ago.

Tristan had a great time picking blackberries. He did better than I had thought. I did most of the picking and thought Jean-Louis could help watch him pick for fun. Tristan did so well that Jean-Louis ended up picking on his own for awhile while Tristan picked and skipped around nearby. It turns out Tristan is a tough toddler. He got lots of scratches and pricks on his leg and we didn't even know because he didn't cry. My bad:( Next time I will send him out in long pants instead of shorts.

Happy picker :)
Tristan's blackberry picking wounds
We picked for less than an hour but got a whole bucket full. That's probably over 5 pounds of blackberries! I ate so much last night, my stomach hurt. Now, we only have a few handfuls left because I made a blackberry tart today. With lavender pastry cream:( Honestly, it is so very hard NOT to bake this summer! Sigh.

Food meltdown update: Since the last post, Tristan has been eating a lot better. He finally finished the leftover corn bake the other day and is listening more at the table. He only got a small slice of blackberry tart tonight after he ate ALL of his dinner of rice, corn, salmon, bitter melon and pork. Phew! :)

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