Vancouver’s New Vegan Quarter

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Umaluma Vegan Gelato
Chinatown is home to Vancouver’s newest cluster of vegan restaurants. Located just a 10-minute walk from where we live, it’s made for a tasty summer. Within a block of Main and Keefer there are 4 new plant-based shops that have opened in the past year. Vegan pizza, gelato, and everything else you might want is now conveniently located in the heart of the city.

Kim Jack Il

Virtuous Pie lead the way when it opened its doors last September. Their pizza is amazing, with inventive combinations of toppings. My favourites are Kim-Jack (with kimchi and jackfruit), Stranger Wings (spicy cauliflower wings), and Curry Mile (butter chickpea curry).

The success of Virtuous Pie has lead to a number of other plant-based shops taking root in the neighbourhood this summer.

Vegan Supply Store

The Vegan Supply Store, an established online retailer, opened their first physical location on Pender in July. Their little grocery store is full of all the staples and treats to help anyone on a plant-based diet. Our favourite products so far are the Earth Island VeganEggs (I was skeptical, but they make a tasty scrambled egg alternative) and the huge selection of nut cheeses.


Umaluma Vegan Gelato

Umaluma is just across the street from the Vegan Supply Store, and Vancouver’s first dairy-free gelato shop (although I’m not sure how it differs from plant-based ice cream). They have over 15 flavours! Hazelnet, mojito, drunken cherry, macadamia chocholate – we’ve only tried a few but they’re all excellent.

Kokomo
And finally, Kokomo on Gore. This relaxed little cafe serves up salad bowls (including a tasty kale caesar) and soft-serve Cocowhip. The food was excellent. The Cocowhip was good, but it can’t compete with the gelato a block away.

Astrid: Walking Wrecking Ball

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Our little girl is now walking. She’s a terror on two legs, chasing after cats and smashing into walls. She was a mischief maker before, and now she’s getting into all kinds of trouble. As a proud dad, it’s a joy to watch.

Blankie

She loves running around the house with little treasures in her hands (often tubes of toothpaste). She’s getting steadier every day, but she still falls a lot. Her crashes often look epic, but they never seem to discourage her. She just bounces back up and keeps running around.

Soon after Astrid started walking, we were in a small Indian chaat restaurant, eating bhel puri and samosas. Astrid was happy sampling all the dishes (making us proud parents) and running around the restaurant. Luckily we were the only ones there.

I was walking around with Astrid when she started running toward Emily, who was eating golgappa puri (the small puff balls that you pour tamarind sauce into) off of a cafeteria tray. Before Emily could move the food out of the way Astrid grabbed the edge of the tray, causing it to flip. The tamarind sauce made this perfect arch into the air and landed directly on Emily’s forehead. It was tragic but perfect comedy.

As Emily towelled up the puddles on her chest and lap, Astrid sat giggling. Our little mischief maker.

Little Cyclist

10 days before she started walking, she went for her first bike ride. When she’s older, she’ll be able to proudly proclaim she could bike before she could walk, even if it might be a stretch. She had a giant smile on her face the whole time, so we can’t wait to get her a balance bike.

Who Loves Folk Fest?

July was a good month. With our first camping trip, a day at Folk Fest, picnics in the park, and lots of popsicles to beat the heat.

Apples

Drum is Calling

Hose

Swinging

Flowers

More July pictures.

Golden Ears – Astrid’s First Camping Trip

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Alouette Lake Selfie

Astrid’s first camping trip was a mild success. We came close to making a midnight getaway with the tent strapped to the car roof, but we were glad we stuck it out.

We went camping on the July long weekend in Golden Ears Provincial Park. We only stayed for one night because because reservations were hard to come by when we booked 2 months ago, but that ended up being a blessing in disguise.

Tent

Astrid had fun during the day, but had a hard time sleeping in the tent. She wouldn’t nap (thank god for Ergo naps), struggled to fall asleep at night, woke up at 11:30 pm, and cried on-and-off for 2 hours. We were close to bailing, but once she finally settled down, she slept until 8 am the next morning. It was cold overnight, but Astrid was bundled up and warm in the tent.

Getting Ready to Camp

Camping with a 1-year old is a lot different than the camping trips we are used to. We needed a bigger tent, a car accessible spot, and a lot more stuff (like diapers, toys, and a cooler). We spent more time in and around our campsite than we normally would and our big tarp came in handy as a play surface for Astrid.

Food time

Golden Ears was a good spot for a first camping trip – close to Vancouver (only a 1-hour drive), with some nice hiking trails, a beautiful lake, and a family friendly campground that was pretty quiet (when Astrid wasn’t crying). The only downside is the beach has no sand – only rocks and goose poop.

Creek Hiking

It was nice to spend so much time outside in nature. We split our time between the beach/picnic area, doing small hikes in the forest (often while Astrid napped in the carrier), and hanging out at our campsite. We even had an adventurous, off-trail “shortcut” down a stream that involved a lot of fallen trees and bushwacking.

Adorable

Astrid had a rough night, but enjoyed the rest of the trip enough that we are looking forward to going again next summer. By then Astrid will be walking and able to explore more. Maybe we’ll try 2 nights for her 2nd birthday.

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Astrid: Month 12

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Astrid in a Field Astrid continues to impress us with her strength, determination, and joy.  She’s mastering standing on her own without support, napping at daycare (on most days), and her molars are coming in. Otherwise she’s the same exuberant munchkin she’s been for the past few months. She hasn’t checked off any new milestones, but she’s noticeably more opinionated and vocal, she’s more dextrous and enjoys climbing everything, and she’s understanding basic instructions.

Slider

As soon as Emily went back to work Astrid started napping better at daycare. She still has her bad days, but she’s generally happy to be at daycare with her friend Lara and provider Mary. They’ve been going out to the library, play gym, and on neighbourhood walks. Astrid is happy to be dropped off in the morning and happy to be picked up in the evening. Grandma picks her up early once a week so they can spend some quality time together in the park (with Grammy too).

Hat

With the nice weather and new modes of transportation, we’ve been going on a lot more outings. Astrid is pretty good at restaurants and happy when we find playgrounds or other climbing structures around the city. We visited the New Westminster Quay with Shannon and Simon this month. We were impressed by the boardwalk and the vegan food crawl at River Market.

Waterfront Park

Baba and Gido visited for a weekend. Astrid enjoyed their visit so much that she insisted on visiting them at the Ponderosa two weeks later. It was our first solo trip without Emily.

Upside Down

We flew to Manitoba for my Aunt Weiner‘s memorial service. Astrid was a great traveller. She slept on the flights (with only minor screaming on landing in Vancouver when her ears wouldn’t pop). I was nervous before our trip about feeding her, putting her to sleep, and separating her from Mom for 4 days, but she bottle fed in the morning and night, ate well during the day, and slept through the nights. She really enjoyed playing with her cousins and grandparents and exploring the Ponderosa.

Wild Ride

Cousins Baba and Astrid Enjoy the Ponderosa

Tractor Ride

Astrid went to her first theatre show on Granville Island. She sat engrossed with the adventures of Sun and Moon in Good Day and Good Night.

Astrid in New York

For Father’s Day, Emily made me vegan french toast for breakfast, we won a free lunch at Chau Veggie, and we spent the afternoon at Car Free Main Street. It was a perfect day. First Carfree

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Astrid: Month 11

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Mother's Day
Emily is now back at work and Astrid has started daycare. It’s been a hard transition, but luckily we had a full month to ease into it with mostly half days at daycare. Astrid no longer cries when she’s dropped and (fingers crossed) has started napping there. We’re lucky to have a patient caregiver to look after Astrid during the day, although I’m sure it’s been hard on her listening to Astrid wail when she refuses to nap.

For me, the hardest part has been giving up our data collection. With Astrid at daycare, we decided it was no longer worth collecting sleep, feeding, and diaper statistics. Asking our caregiver to use cloth diapers and feed Astrid a vegan diet was enough of a stretch without also asking her to track the timing of her poops and naps. So after 10 months of beautiful data, that project has come to an end.

I'll have 1 broccoli please
Astrid’s new love is climbing and standing. She’s so determined to master standing. She repeatedly climbs up something, lets go, and topples onto her bottom. It looks jarring even with her padded diaper, but she does it over and over. I admire her tenacity, but I was less impressed when she refused to sit in the bathtub, in her crib, and on the potty (aerial bombardments). Luckily that phase only lasted 2 weeks and she’s less fidgety now.


In the past week, she’s learned how to walk with a walker. She’s growing up so fast.

Ramp
She’s a lot of fun to play with right now. She can spend longer playing independently and she’s more interactive when you play with her. Our favourite game is hide and go seek. I’ll go hide around a corner or behind the couch and say “where’s daddy?” and Astrid crawls around and lets out a big giggle when she finds me.

Broccoli
Her other favourite game involves opening drawers and cupboards and emptying their contents. Classic.

Seeing the World Through a New Lense
It’s fun to rediscover the world through a child’s eyes. You can see her processing new experiences all the time, like how the tupperware lid makes everything look purple or the sound the pot lid makes when it hits the ground.

Exploring the Grass
Now that it’s truly summer in Vancouver, we’ve been enjoying more time outside. Astrid loves playing in the garden and eating dirt. We’ve taken her on a few bike rides and hikes. Nothing too adventurous yet, just some local hikes and a few a seawall bike rides.

Whyte Lake Hike

We picked up a used bike carrier and after some repair work to ensure the wheels don’t fall off, we’re ready for more bike adventures.

Biking on the seawall

Astrid is making a lot of noises and babbling. Her vocabulary includes “baba”, “booo”, “mama”, “lala”, and “pbwbbbb”. No “dada” yet and we’re not sure if “mama” means anything other than “feed me”.

Future Artist

We’re grateful Astrid has been healthy. Her skin has been better, with hardly any eczema on her arms or legs and only a small patch on her cheek that comes and goes.

Walrus

More photos.

Astrid: Month 10

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Climbing

We’ve got a climber. Astrid’s bucket of skills and tricks continues to grow at a rapid pace. I was lucky to be home for 2 weeks this month to witness her transformation personally. She quickly learned to crawl, climb over obstacles, pull herself up into a standing up, and open drawers. Every day she seems to move with more confidence and coordination, and get into more mischief.

A lot of her growth seems to have come after our Easter weekend in Kamloops. Hanging out with her cousin Jacob has inspired her. It was adorable watching the two of them interact. It was also reassuring to to my sister Kelsey who is pregnant with her second, and Emily and I, as we transition Astrid into daycare.

Play Time

Zoom Zoom

Yes, daycare. That’s our big accomplishment of the month. Although Emily deserves all the credit for doing the frustrating work of calling over 50 daycares and reading through hundreds of Facebook and Craiglist posts. She found Astrid a spot starting next week at a small in-home (or rather in-condo) operation with 1 other kid that’s only a 20 minute walk away. It was the only spot we found, so we didn’t have a lot of choice, but we like the lady who runs it and her references were glowing – and she’s agreed to feed Astrid a vegan diet and change her clothe diapers (we’ll see how long that lasts).

Daycare in Vancouver is ridiculous. It’s expensive ($1300 – $1800 per month per child) and even at those prices there are hardly any openings. We’re still on the waitlists for the bigger facilities, but even though we applied as soon as Astrid was born we don’t expect to hear back from any of them. The YWCA let us know we were #120 on their list. It’s crazy. We’re in the midst of a provincial election right now and the NDP have promised daycare improvements if elected. Hopefully we’ll see some progress soon (please VOTE!).

Using the Potty

The other big news this month is Astrid has started using the potty. She’s far from potty-trained, but every time we change her diaper we sit her on the potty, and she’s intuitively known what to do from the start. Although I almost screwed it up. The first time I put her on she peed, but I didn’t notice and failed to give her any positive feedback. The second time I sat her down, I wasn’t holding her and she face-planted on the ground. Luckily, no lasting potty aversions, and she usually poops and pees in the potty once or twice a day.

Picnic in the Park

Picnic in Queen Elizabeth Park

It’s been hard going back to work. I enjoyed being a stay-at-home parent for two weeks. I took Astrid to the play gym, music class, and story time at the library. We went to the park as a family and enjoyed the swings and had picnics. It was luxurious, but now it’s time to earn some money so we can pay for that daycare spot.

Tea Time with the Hirtles

Tea time with the Hirtles

Standing

Standing for the laptop, of course

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MEC Election – Vote Steve Jones

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If you’re an MEC member, I highly recommend you go and vote for Steve Jones.

I worked with Steve for 7 years at Pulse Energy. He’s a super smart guy and would be a huge asset to the Mountain Equipment Co-op board. He’s also really passionate about the outdoors. He spends most of his weekends adventuring in the mountains (check out some of his photos here) and the rest of his free time advocating for better parks.

He’s also really passionate about co-ops and has been a huge advocate for more member involvement in MEC. He’s both a champion for MEC when they get things right and an honest critic when they goof up – he’s been very critical of the logo change and excessive compensation packages for board members and the CEO.

The existing MEC Board doesn’t want Steve to win. For years they wouldn’t let him run and found reasons to deny his candidacy. He might be openly critical at times, but Steve is one of the most passionate and hard working people I know, and MEC would be well served to have him on the Board.

Vote Steve Jones for MEC Board of Directors.

Astrid: Month 9

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Only 9 months but it feels like a lifetime already. It’s amazing how fast Astrid is changing. She’s almost crawling, using a worm-like shuffle to move forward. It’s a fun age. She’s giggly, mobile, and adventurous.

Pillow Fort

In previous months, it felt like she had to be constantly entertained. Now she’s able to move around more and amuse herself. She still likes it when you play with her, but it feels more interactive now. She likes to echo the noises we make, laughs when she’s tickled, and plays with her toys. She still likes putting everything in her mouth, but she also spends more time examining her toys and moving them around.

Good Morning

Astrid is sleeping well at night and has transitioned to 2 naps a day. A few short weeks ago she was barely staying up for 2 hours in between naps. Now she’s going 3-4 hours, which has opened up more opportunities to journey further from home.

Pouch Food

Astrid’s skin is still in rough shape (getting roseola while we were in Whistler didn’t help). We stopped baby-led weaning and took her to see a naturopath, who recommended a more restrictive diet mixed with expensive vitamins and lotions. No more peanut butter, apples, bananas, or avocado. It has been hard cutting back what she eats because she loves food so much and she has 7 teeth she likes to use. We’re going to continue to follow the naturopath’s advice for now, but we’re seeing mixed results. Her hands are better (with only small eczema patches), however she has new rashes on the back of knees and neck.

Triumphs

  • One night at dinner, I was spoon feeding Astrid peaches but she was getting frustrated that she wasn’t in control. She was moping and whining, so I scrunched up my face and mocked her by making the same whining noise back. She burst out laughing, which put everyone in a better mood for the rest of the meal.
  • We spent our anniversary in Whistler and Emily was determined that it wouldn’t have the same sleep problems as Victoria. Before our trip, she got Astrid comfortable sleeping in a pack ‘n play at home, and during our trip she slept like a champ.

Nature's Little Squeeze
Fails

  • We bought reusable food pouches to let Astrid feed herself while protecting her skin. The pouches work well but after a few days she refused to eat from them.
  • You would think that less baby-led weaning would mean less food mess, but she’s managed to stain all of her bibs, clothing, our walls, and ceiling with blueberry smoothy spots.
  • Roomba riding
Gridlock

Driving is overrated

Mischief

Mischief maker

9 Months Old

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Quitting My Job

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Engineering Area

So to celebrate my 34th birthday, I quit my job. After 8 years it was finally time to move on. I survived 2 rounds of layoffs and 2 acquisitions at Pulse Energy / EnerNOC / Yardi and am currently the longest serving employee in the Vancouver office. But I only have 2 weeks left of work.

In April, I get to take everything I’ve learnt at Pulse (storing time-series data, modelling energy, setting up monitoring tools, deploying to AWS, plus so much more) and do it all again at a new startup called Clir Renewables. The company is very young and doesn’t have a public website yet, but they’re building software to optimize wind farms. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I will miss my co-workers at Yardi. The Vancouver office is full of talented and interesting people. But the organization as a whole does the excite me. There isn’t a push for innovation and I had stopped learning new things. My job was largely maintaining the services I had built over the past 8 years and cleaning up junk utility data. It was easy work and the pay was ok, but it didn’t motivate me to go to work everyday.

Clir Renewables is going to be a big change. As an early stage startup, they’re trying to make good infrastructure decisions and build a solid platform but are also trying to crank out features to get early sales. I’ve only seen some of the code but they definitely accrued tech debt already. I’m looking forward to getting in there and helping clean things up.

I was only casualy looking for a new job when the Clir opportunity appeared, but I was really surprised by how hot the Vancouver software job market it right now. It seems like everyone is hiring and the big names (Amazon, SAP, Salesforce, Visier) are having bidding wars to attract talent. The salaries being offered are way higher than I expected and even the startup companies are coming close to matching them. I think the low Canadian dollar is finally factoring into local salaries and US based companies are willing to pay more. It’s a good time to be a software developer.

(And I leave you with some music from Shred Kelly. Emily took me to see them on my birthday. They put on a good show.)