Category Archives: Travel

Astrid: Month Three

Moose Family
Astrid is another month older. She now consistently smiles when she’s happy, makes distinct vocal noises when she’s bored or excited, and has more head control. It’s been awesome watching her grow.

Ponderosa View

We spent the first half of the month travelling and visiting relatives in Manitoba and Ontario. She did really well with the new environments and faces. We had no problems on the three flights and one train ride we took. WestJet, Air Canada, and Via Rail all gave us priority boarding and didn’t charge us for the baby or the extra baby luggage (her car seat and stroller). WestJet was a slightly better experience than Air Canada, mostly because of the little touches – friendlier staff making sure we had everything we needed and they had our stroller waiting, all setup, when we got off our flights.

Airport Amusement

Astrid was quiet for all of our long distance rides. On our first flight from Vancouver to Winnipeg we were seated right in the middle of the BC Boys Lacrosse team. I felt really bad for the poor kid stuck in the window seat next to us, but Emily fed Astrid on takeoff and landing and she slept for most of the flight without making a peep.

Toys

Now that Astrid is more aware of the world around her, she requires a lot more stimulus when she’s awake. On the plus side, this means that she loves walking under trees, going shopping, attending baby activities, and discovering new toys. However, it’s also requiring a lot creativity and plenty of repetition from her parents. We sing the same five songs a lot, we have dance parties, we read and listen to stories, and we work on sitting, standing, and rolling over.

Crib Mobile

Skwish

The most challenging parenting moment in the past month was when Astrid got something stuck in her eye while we were in London.We noticed her rubbing her eye in the morning, but didn’t realize something was wrong until she slept for 3 hours and refused to open her eyes, even after feeding. She resisted any attempts to pry her eyelid open, so we couldn’t see what was wrong.

Irritated Eye

We tried flushing it out with water in the sink but it only upset her. Doctor Google gave us some good tips (flush water toward the nose and hold her on her stomach so the eyelids move away from the eyeball). We were tempted to give up and take her to a doctor, but after a second water flush and some time being held face down (it was the first time we realized she really enjoys playing airplane and has enough neck strength for it) she managed to blink out whatever was bothering her.

1st Full Night Sleep

Our biggest surprise of the month was when Astrid slept through the night. On September 4, while we were at the Ponderosa, she slept for 9 hours (from 9:30 pm to 6:30 am). Sadly, we didn’t weren’t able to take advantage of a full night’s sleep. After 3 am, we were waking up every hour to check on her and make sure she was still alive. We keep praying to the sleep fairies, but she hasn’t repeated that magic night since. In fact, the past 2 weeks she’s regressed in her sleeping habits, waking up every 3 hours to feed. It’s only a small change from her old habits, but the extra nighttime wake-up has been a noticeable drain on our energy levels.

Dream Time

The good news is she’s napping better during the day. Before, she would only nap in her swing or stroller. But while we were travelling we were forced to improvise. We were amazed to discover that if we wrapped her in a warm blanket when she was tired and gave her a soother, within a few minutes she would contentedly fall asleep.

1st Doctor's Visit

Astrid had her first doctor’s visit last week. There is some concern about her eczema, but we seem to have it under control. I was happy the doctor wasn’t eager to prescribe a steroid cream. Astrid’s weight gain and size are excellent for her age (around the 60th percentile) and she’s on track for her mental development.

Astrid also get her first vaccinations. I wasn’t vaccinated as a child, but have come to the conclusion that vaccines are safe and an important health measure.

Oral Vaccination

So, we took Astrid to the the local health clinic to get her 2 month vaccinations last week. The oral vaccine she got (for rotavirus) was no problem but the three shots she had (covering Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Meningitis) gave her a fierce crying fit. She calmed down after five minutes and let Emily nurse her. After the shots, we monitored her at home for a fever. Not because she ever showed any signs of one, but I wanted to try our fancy, contact-less, digital thermometer – the Thermo. In 5 seconds it takes the baby’s temperature without any upsetting probing. It’s awesome.

Cuddles

10 Days in Ontario

Cow at the end of the Rainbow
After our week in Manitoba, we flew to London (Ontario) for Leanne and Andrew’s wedding, and then took the train to Toronto to visit family and friends there. Astrid travelled really well and had no problem sleeping in different beds. She didn’t like the heat when we arrived in London (over 30 C) but other than that she did really well with all the change.

Wedding Party Leanne and Andrew had a lovely wedding surrounded by towering trees. Emily was a bridesmaid, so I was a single parent for long stretches. It gave me new respect for all the hard work Emily does while I’m at work. Keeping her fed, entertained, and clean with only two hands can be a challenge.

Bridesmaids and Bride

Wedding babies

The trip represented a lot of firsts for Astrid – the first train ride, first meal at a restaurant (we were nervous, and she had a freak out at the end, but she did well enough that we took her to another 5 sit down restaurants), first night sleeping in a crib, and her first shower. We didn’t know how she would nap without her swing or be entertained without her toys, but we improvised and learned a few new tricks along the way.

Train Ride
1st Train
1st Brewpub
1st Brewpub
1st Mobile Time
1st Crib
1st Fancy Dinner
1st Fancy Dinner
Wedding Dress
1st Party Dress

Continue reading 10 Days in Ontario

A Week at the Ponderosa

Family Photo

It was great spending a week with my parents at their off-the-grid home in Manitoba (read their homesteading blog). It was the first visit for Astrid and Emily’s first time being there in the summer (I think she prefers the mosquitoes to the -40 C and snow). The house is still under construction, but is looking great. Since Christmas, they’ve added gorgeous wood railings that my dad made (you can imagine how much work it is to sand and install all those spindles) and cork flooring on the main floor.

Railings
Handmade wood railings
Blocks
Now there is lots of room for kids to play.
Sardines
And still plenty of hiding spots for a game of sardines.

Continue reading A Week at the Ponderosa

Sparkling Surprise in the Okanagan

Relaxation Room with a View

Last week my lovely wife surprised me with a Okanagan birthday adventure. We spent the day hiking in Kelowna and then retired to the luxurious Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon.

I knew it was going to be a good day when a rainbow lit up the mountainside as we drove through Abbotsford. I was a bit slow snapping a picture, but it was perfectly formed on both sides.

Birthday Rainbow

In Kelowna, we hiked along the Myra Canyon trail, formerly part of the Kettle Valley Railway. Half of the trail was still covered in snow, but it was still an easy hike with some epic scenery. The trail has some huge trestle bridges, most of them rebuilt after the devastating forest fire in 2003.

Myra Canyon

Myra Canyon Trestles

After our hike, we checked in at the luxurious Sparkling Hill Resort. I never knew this place existed before, but it’s damn fancy. Designed by the Swarovski family, the resort is packed with crystals everywhere, including the washroom signs.

What!?

Lobby

The spa was the highlight, with so many little touches elevating it above the usual. The outdoor pool had fabulous views of the mountains and Okanagan Lake. The indoor pool played classical music underwater. There was a walking path with knee deep water that alternated between hot and cold to help improve circulation (it felt like torture). The steam/sauna area had a number of unique rooms, including the experience showers that simulated thunderstorms and tropical downpours, a rose scented steam room, a sauna with a bucket of rocks that were repeatedly heated and then dunked into cold water, and the igloo with ice to rub on your body. There were also some quiet areas to relax and enjoy the view.

Tea Time

Pool with a View

It was a decadent birthday experience and a step beyond anywhere we’ve stayed before.

Wet Weekend in San Francisco

Castro

We spent the first weekend of March visiting San Francisco. We didn’t have much planned, except reconnecting with friends and eating good vegan food. It’s probably our last chance at child-free travel for a long time.

Old School Cable Car

We didn’t do anything overly touristy, just explored some of the funkier neighbourhoods (like Castro and Mission), walked around Golden Gate Park, and hung out.

Friends

It was one of San Francisco’s rainiest weekends in the past few years, which was unfortunate for us but good for the drought-stricken state.

Rainstorm
Rain Francisco

When the sun did come out, it was glorious. Perfect weather for running around the park.

Running Trail

Or hiking in Berkeley.

View from Berkeley

We got a tour of Google’s San Francisco office, which is a nerd fantasyland. I left with a serious case of office envy.

Pinball Time

All-in-all, a very good weekend.

Eating Vegan in San Francisco

Before we even booked our flights to San Francisco we were planning where to eat. Our vegetarian friends have raved about the deliciousness the city has to offer. By the time we arrived we had 4 reservations booked for our 4 days in San Francisco. Three of the restaurants were totally vegan and one was vegetarian.

Here are our favourites:

Millennium Oakland – 5/5
Millenium Oakland
We were really impressed by the inventive vegan food in this nice, cozy restaurant. It was easy to get to on the BART with an interesting looking neighbourhood around it (which we didn’t have time to explore). Everything was good, although the main courses outshone the appetizer and desserts.
Millennium Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Greens – 5/5
Greens San Francisco
The first thing you notice about Greens is the beautiful dining room with giant wood sculptures and a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge. But the food alone makes it worth the visit. Everything has so many elements to it and yet somehow it was simple and delicious. We had to trudge through the rain and dark to get there. I’d recommend trying to go when it’s lighter out and you can see the bridge better.
Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Citizen Fox – 4.5/5
Citizen Fox Brunch
Currently only in a temporary location in the Mission with limited hours, it seemed like a fully-formed restaurant with great food, nice decor, and professional staff. We went for brunch and got to enjoy many breakfast classics that vegans usually don’t get to eat like eggs benedict, a reuben sandwich, and waffles with fried ‘chicken’. They even had a live band playing quietly in the corner.
Citizen Fox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vik’s Chaat Corner – 4/5

This one wasn’t planned. Our Berkeley friend brought us here knowing we were nostalgic for our time in India. It was the most authentic Indian chaat house we’ve been to since being back. There was a simple menu with all the classic Indian snack options (like cholle bhature, bhel puri, and dosas) cooked up at different stations where you picked up your food. It’s located off-the-beaten path in an industrial part of Berkeley, but worth the visit at lunch if you’re nearby.
Viks Chaat Corner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gracias Madre – 3.5/5
Gracias Madre
We cook a lot of vegan Mexican food at home, so we were excited to try somewhere that actually served up cashew cream and vegan tamales. The food was good, but none of the flavours or dishes really stood out. It was the only place we went where none of us finished our meals (because of the quantity not the quality).
Gracias Madre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vegan Weekend in Portland

Boke Bowl
Emily and I spent the Labour Day weekend in Portland soaking up the vegan delights and the hipster vibe. We’ve been to Portland a few times now, but I’m still amazed by the quantity of funky facial hair, tattoos, ironic fashion, and (most importantly) the selection of vegan food.

Here were the best restaurants we ate at this time:
Harvest at the Bindery – 5/5
Vegan Brunch
This is one of Portland’s newest vegan restaurants, and an instant favourite of ours. They served the best vegan brunch I’ve ever had. The BBQ pulled trumpet sandwich was bursting with flavour – highly recommended. The miso grit cake and biscuits were also delicious.
Harvest at the Bindery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Portobello Vegan Trattoria – 4.5/5
Vegan Dinner
Excellent vegan Italian dishes with perfect flavour and texture. It was great being able to eat pizza, ravioli, and an ice cream sundae for dessert, all without dairy or soy.
Portobello Vegan Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vtopian Artisan Cheeses – 4/5
Vegan Cheese Platter
This is the future of vegan food. No one will miss dairy cheese if they can eat these creamy, rich, flavourful, cultured vegan cheeses. We couldn’t decide what to eat, so we had a cheese tasting platter with 5 different vegan cheeses. Our favourites were the chive & dill and the smoked gouda.

Boke Bowl – 4/5
Eggplant Bun
Not a vegetarian restaurant, but they have plenty of vegetarian/vegan options. The caramelized fennel ramen bowl and the grilled eggplant steamed bun (which is basically an Asian taco) were really good.
Boke Bowl West Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Natural Selection – 4/5
Natural Selection Entree
Nice place for an upscale vegetarian dinner. We enjoyed our fancy 4-course vegan meal, but none of the dishes wowed us, even though the price was twice as much as everywhere else we ate.
Natural Selection Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Petunia’s Pies & Pastries – 3.5/5
Vegan Biscuit
Petunia’s is a cute, gluten-free and vegan bakery, only a few blocks from Pioneer Square. Our biscuits weren’t as good as the ones at Harvest (the lack of gluten was noticeable). We wanted to order waffles, but they only make them on weekends and a holiday Monday didn’t count.
Petunia's Pies & Pastries Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bonus: Ground Kontrol – 4/5
Ms Pac Man
One of the cooler places we went in Portland. A funky bar/arcade with a mix of classic and new games, beers on tap, and a food menu surprisingly full of vegan options. It wasn’t gourmet, but our vegan frito pie was really tasty.
Ground Kontrol Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Portland Weird

The rest of our time in Portland was spent wandering around the funky neighbourhoods, checking out Art in the Pearl, watching a prize winning movie at the film festival (For Love and Broken Bones), and shopping at thrift stores – Emily and I both picked up shiny new shoes.
New Shoes

More pictures from our trip and the train ride on Flickr.

Portland Streetcar

Amtrak Cascades View

Amtrak Sunset