Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jet-lagged in Sweden

A couple of days ago I arrived with my kids in Sweden for our summer-visit. It's been wonderful as always, even though we are battling jet-lag: my daughter was up at in the middle of the night on the first night, and slightly later in the middle of the night on our second night. Still, we're not complaining and are trying to take the edge off the jet-lag beast with some naps: it seems to be working, and hopefully we will be "sleeping in" until 5 or 6 am in no time!

Coming over on the plane I had my first ever "blogger-fame" moment: I sat next to a lovely couple on the Reykjavik - Stockholm flight who recognized me from the website, and had been taking notes here for the trip with their 6 month old (a very charming little guy, I have to say!). Huge thanks to the lovely Swedish/Canadian couple (you know who you are!) for giving me the thrill of being recognized and appreciated! Also big thanks to my kids for behaving on that flight....

Here are some very early morning pics from our location in northern Sweden:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's that time of year again - strawberry U-picking with my kids

Strawberry season came early this year to our part of the world (that would be just outside Vancouver on Canada's west coast). It's been a dry and sunny spring, so the berries were ready for picking a few weeks early.

Going to the U-pick for strawberries has become a family tradition. The kids love it: both the picking AND the eating, and it's a great activity to do with them. As an added bonus, we end up with a whole lot of fresh strawberries, freezer jam, and frozen berries.

Picking our berries a couple of years ago.

We usually don't pick for longer than an hour, and this year we ended up with about 8 kilos of berries: that's about half our usual haul, partly because the berries were smaller than usual (because of the lack of rainfall, though they were also very sweet because of all the sunshine), and partly because the fields were busy and it was probably a bit early in the season. Still, we brought it all home and enjoyed every berry!

As usual, we headed to Ladner's Westham Island, though we couldn't pick at our usual place (Bissett Farms) since they had been picked out the day before we got there. Still, we found a great place to pick at Ellis Farms, part of the Westham Island Herb Farm.

Strawberry fields forever.

U-picks and farmer's markets are a great way to get outside with your kids, and get some tasty fruit, berries and veggies at the same time. You also do save some money compared to buying the produce already picked, but the main attraction is just the joy of doing something together.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Our year with a dog - hikes, happiness & a lot of hair (and some off-leash park tips)

In April last year we got a puppy. A mixed breed black dog with white markings: some labrador, some golden retriever, some border collie (probably), and who knows what else.

His first day in his new home.
He's been a wonderful addition to our family (even when he put holes in every shirt my daughter owned with his puppy teeth!), and I wanted to celebrate his contributions to our happiness and health.

Taking the puppy for a walk.
Yes, I do believe he keeps us healthy as well as keeping us happy. We have always been a walking, hiking family, but now we are even more so: every day the kids come along for at least one dog-walk. Sometimes it's just to the local dog park, sometimes it's stroll around the neighbourhood, and sometimes it's a longer hike in the woods on Vancouver's North Shore. The kids also play with him in the backyard, giving both him and themselves a workout!

Spot the dog.
He's been good for my health too: I take him for a walk most weekday mornings before I sit down to work, and I'm sure the increased activity for me is making me healthier than I was before he came along. Of course, the increased vacuuming has also increased my activity level, though I don't appreciate that quite as much as the walks in the woods!

Dog selfie. Sort of.
Since he's a big dog and loves to run and play and frolic, we like to take him to places where he is allowed to roam around off-leash. Here are three of our favourite off-leash places to go for walks and hikes around Vancouver:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

12 items that will make your beach-time better

Summer time is coming closer every day in my part of the world, and for my family, summer usually means a lot of time at the beach. Here are 12 items that can help time spent at the beach, a little better and more comfortable.

1. Rashguard shirts and sun-safe baby suits
While wearing sunscreen is important, clothing protects your child even better. A good rashguard shirt makes your life a lot easier at the beach, and you won't have to worry so much about sunburned shoulders and arms when your kids are playing at the beach. A one-piece sun suit for your baby is also a great idea.

2. A pair of beach shoes
A pair of thin, flexible shoes that can be worn in the water are also a great idea for the beach. They protect feet and toes from sharp rocks and hot sand.

3. A water-proof phone case
Sand and water, sunscreen and messy snacks... there are a lot of things that can make a mess of your cellphone at the beach. A water proof case or pouch is a great idea to help protect your phone or other electronic device.

4. A sand-free bag for toys
Carrying your children's supply of buckets, shovels, and other beach-toys can get pretty sandy and messy, but a mesh bag makes the chore a little easier. Leaving the sand at the beach is just a lot better than bringing it all into your car!

5. Beach towel stakes
Towel stakes can help keep your blanket or towel in place at the beach. If you've tried in vain to pin a towel down with rocks, shoes, and assorted other objects, you'll appreciate this item!

6. A dry-bag for wet stuff
Keeping your wet gear separate from your dry clothes can be a challenge when you're packing all your stuff up at the beach. A regular plastic bag can come in handy, but a reusable dry-bag is also a great option.

7. Some handy snack cups
Snack cups are great for bringing snacks along, and for kids to eat from with less chance of a spill or mess. A good lid, and grip-friendly container can make your life a lot easier at the beach and elsewhere.

8. A good water bottle or two
Staying hydrated is important in the sun and heat, and a good water bottle makes it easier to bring water along. It also helps avoid buying bottled water: the less we do that, the better, in my opinion!

9. A sun-smart tent
Babies and toddlers can get too hot, and too sun-exposed rather quickly. A small tent or cabana can help give them some shade, and keep them cooler on a hot, sunny day. They also provide a safe spot for babies and young kids to nap.

10. A beach blanket
A sturdy blanket that is easy to bring along is a must if you're headed to the beach, or out for a picnic. The ones that roll up and come with a carrying strap or bag are especially practical.
mini umbrella

11. Sunscreen
You can't go to the beach without sun screen! Pick a kind that your kids are OK with: my kids are both rather sensitive to both the smell and texture of sunscreen. Waterproof, fragrance free, and something that isn't too thick and difficult to apply evenly is a must. For the beach, a non-sticky sunscreen that won't make all the sand stick to your skin, might be a good idea.

12. A waterproof wallet or pouch
When you're at the beach, it really helps to have a small waterproof wallet or pouch to keep important stuff like your driver's license, money, credit cards, etc. safe from sand and water.
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