Our Tiny Home Christmas Tree


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Wall Tree

It’s Astrid’s first Christmas and we’re spending it in Vancouver this year, so we thought it would be appropriate to get a tree. However, 1) our building doesn’t allow real Christmas trees; and 2) we really don’t have space to set up a full-sized artificial Christmas tree (or store it the rest of the year). So, we needed to get creative.

In 2013, we used a small potted spruce as our Christmas tree. Sadly he died last winter.

This year, after searching for creative Christmas tree ideas, we decided to make a wall-mounted Christmas tree from garland (inspired by this blog post).


  • 9 feet of NOMA Aspen C9 LED Garland (with lights)
  • Two 3M Clear Medium Command Hooks
  • A bunch of zip ties and wire

Step 1: Arrange the garland on the ground and bend it into a tree shape

Wall Tree

Step 2: Hold it up to the wall to make sure the spacing and size looks good

Step 3: Back on the floor, zip tie the elbows together so it holds its shape. The bottom piece was too far away for us to use a zip tie so we used wire.

Step 4: Fluff out the garland branches to fill any gaps.

Condo-sized Christmas Tree

Step 5: Attach a hook to the wall where you want the loop at the top of the garland to go. The garland we used was pretty heavy so we placed a second hook about a third of the way up from the bottom.

Step 6: Decorate and enjoy!

The final result:
Wall Tree

Astrid: Month Five


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Tummy Time
Our little girl is now five months old and not so little anymore. She continues to grow and mature at a rapid pace, and is still in the 75th percentile for weight and height.

Standing Up Assisted
Astrid’s biggest development leap in the past month has been learning to stand with some assistance. She still doesn’t roll over or sit up on her own, but she loves standing, especially when she can look out the window. She’s jumped a few milestones but I’m sure she’ll figure out rolling and sitting soon.


Our sleep training last month has paid off and she now regularly sleeps through the night, often in 10-12 hour stretches. We have a nice bedtime routine with lullaby music, a feeding, a fresh diaper, changing her into a nightgown, and reading a story. Then the lights go off and the white noise is turned on. Some nights she falls asleep on her own and sometimes she needs some help with a soother and some bouncing.

More Interested in the Cat
There are lots of little changes in her personality and perception of the world. She’s taken an interest in our cat for the first time, reaching out to grab his tail. Luckily he doesn’t seem to mind. She also gets distracted during feedings for the first time, with any new noise pulling her attention away from eating. She has much better coordination and is able to pick things up, use both hands to hold things, and bring toys to her mouth.

Chewing on her spoon

She’s teething madly and loves to chomp on anything nearby. At dinnertime we give her frozen washcloths and a rubber spoon to chew on. I’ve tried giving her solid food a few times (avocado and pear), but she’s not interested yet.
Eating Avocado

She had a very infrequent month for poops, a few times going 8 days without a bowel movement. Luckily that pattern seems to have changed in the past few days, although it does mean more messy work for us.

More pictures …
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Getting to Legendary in Hearthstone


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Hearthstone is a curious game. It’s an online card game that has attracted a huge following of casual and competitive players. There are over 40 million world-wide players and the World Championships this weekend had a $1 million prize pool. The game is kind of like poker and chess combined, with a lot of strategy around trading pieces and a bit of luck with card draws and other random effects. I like it because the games only lasts 5-15 minutes and there is a lot of strategy and thinking involved. Most online games require fast reaction times, but Hearthstone is turn-based and you get 75 seconds each turn to plot your moves.

There are a few game modes, but the most popular is the ranked ladder. You start the game at Rank 25 and play against other players with the same rank. As you win games, your rank improves, lose games and your rank gets worse. The ultimate goal is to progress beyond Rank 1 to Legendary status. Every month the ranks reset. I’ve never gotten beyond Rank 5 and I had to play a lot of games to get that high.

Getting to Legend status is about consistently playing well (above 50% win rate) and grinding out a lot of games. How many? That depends on the deck win rate. I wrote a script (below) to simulate how many games it would take to reach Legendary depending on your win rate.

If you’re only winning  50% of your games you play, you can make it to Legendary but be prepared to play around 1440 games. With a 55% win rate, a pretty good result in competitive Hearthstone, it would take on average 483 games to reach Legendary status (at least 15 games a day). Even if you could consistently win 60% of the games you played, an impressive feat, it would take 287 games a month to reach Legendary. I thought I played a lot of Hearthstone, but I don’t have that kind of time.



Astrid: Month Four


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Too Big for the Bassinet Astrid’s fourth month was all about sleep, and what happens when she doesn’t get enough. It’s been a slow transition, but we’ve gone from being easy going parents who let their child sleep whenever she wants (with lots of rocking, bouncing, and stroller walks) to obsessing about naps and bedtimes. Sleep training hasn’t been easy, but I think it’s been worth it.

Astrid started the month with poor sleeping habits and it only got worse for the first few weeks. After reading too many sleep books and blogs, we realized she had built up a sleep debt and we needed to be more vigilant about ensuring she got enough sleep.
Too Many Baby Sleep Books

Before we could make any changes, everyone got sick. First Emily and Astrid got colds. A congested baby doesn’t not sleep well. Then a week later, I got a nasty flu that sidelined me for a week (luckily I managed to keep it to myself).

The sleep problems have been compounded by Astrid’s early teething. I think we’re still a few months away from her first teeth, but she loves gnawing on things and sucking on frozen washcloths and soothers now.

Teething with a Frozen Washcloth

On October 7, after a few weeks of frequent night wakeups and a grumpy baby during the day, we let Astrid sleep in the swing overnight (following some of the recommendations from Precious Little Sleep). It seemed unnatural to have her in a moving swing all night, but we were ready to try anything to get a good night’s sleep. Even though she was buckled in, we didn’t entirely trust the swing and worried she would somehow fall out of it, so one of us spent the night with her just in case (at least for the first few nights).

The first night she slept in the swing felt like a miracle. She slept for 6 hours and then another 4. The next few nights weren’t quite as miraculous but over the course of the month we’ve slowly increased the amount of sleep she gets every night and how long she goes between feedings (at least at night). She’s even sleeping in to anywhere from 8 to 9:30 in the morning. Some other things that have helped:

  • Moved bedtime earlier – from 9:00 pm to 7:30 pm.
  • We’ve been conscious about putting her down drowsy but not completely asleep, so she can learn how to fall asleep on her own. This is definitely still a work in progress.
  • Use the soother to calm her but try to remove it before she falls asleep.
  • We’re slowly transitioning off the swing. We don’t run it all night anymore. After she falls into a deep sleep we turn it off but leave her in the swing. Next step is to get her sleeping in the crib.
  • We’ve managed to cut out the midnight feeding (huge triumph in the past week). Sometimes she still wakes up but we can usually sooth her back to sleep. So now she’s sleeping from 7:30 pm until her 2:00 am feeding. And then sleeping until a 6:00 am feeding.

Although the past week has been a good sleep week (which is giving an overly cheery tone to this blog post), we’ve also learned that we can’t expect consistency. I don’t think we’ve had two consecutive days with the same sleep schedule. When we put her down to sleep, we never know how long she’ll sleep for. She definitely keeps us on our toes.

Cat in the Crib

During the day, we’ve been more strict about naps. We used to play with her until she started getting really vocal and upset. Then she would refuse to nap, screaming at any attempt to help her fall asleep, even though she was visibly tired. After reading more about napping, we realized we were overstimulating her.

Now, we watch how much awake time she has between naps and try to get her to sleep if she’s been awake for 1.5-2 hours. At the first sign of tiredness (a yawn or a face rub), it’s nap time. Sometimes she naps in the crib, sometimes in the swing.

So that’s been our foray into sleep training. Obviously still a lot of work to do, especially transitioning her out of the swing and into her crib, but we’re in a way better position than we were a few weeks ago.

Happy Thanksgiving

Other than our obsession about sleeping, we’ve still had a lot of fun times with Astrid. Baba and Dido visited from Manitoba for a long weekend.

Baba and Dido Tim

And we’ve had a few visits from the grandmas.


For the most part, Astrid is very healthy and continues growing along the 75th percentile and is hitting her development goals. She reaches out for things and is grabbing toys.  She enjoys tummy time a lot more and has come close to rolling over on her own, but she hasn’t quite figured it out yet. She really likes the new songs that Emily has learned, like Peek-A-Boo and Roly-Poly.


The biggest worry is she hasn’t pooped in 8 days. We’re not panicking yet because she only drinks breast milk (which doesn’t generate a lot of waste) and she still seems happy and is not experiencing any pain. We’ve been letting her play without a diaper, daring her to poop, but so far no messes to clean up. If this lasts any longer we’ll be calling the public health nurses for advice.

Kale Bouquet

Maybe she needs more greens in her diet


Sitting in the Bumbo

Stuffed Animal Line

Conga Line

Ordering Sushi

Ordering sushi


Monkey Business


Astridnaut in training

Toy Time

Toy time

Public Education in BC


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I’ve started paying more attention to the province’s education system since our daughter was born. And it does not look good. Public education in British Columbia is a mess. The BC Liberal government has been systematically dismantling the system since it was first elected in 2001.

Looking at the data from Statistics Canada is depressing. From 2001 to 2011, BC and Newfoundland were the only provinces to see cuts to the total number of teachers – but Newfoundland’s population was decreasing during that decade whereas BC added an extra 500,000 people. BC now has the worst student-teacher ratio in Canada, and it is getting worse.


BC spends less per student than any province except PEI.


Between 2001 and 2006, BC lost 5.9% of its teachers.


From 2006 and 2011, the number of teachers in BC fell by another 3.2%.


BC now has the worst student-teacher ratio in Canada.


It’s the only province where the student-teacher ratio is getting worse.


The BC Liberals and Premier Christy Clark are downright hostile toward the public education system. They’ve torn up teachers contracts (then got in trouble in the Supreme Court), starved local school boards for money and forced school closures, and recently fired the elected school trustees in Vancouver. Not surprisingly, the Premier sends her own son to a private school (which receives generous tax support from the government), so she doesn’t even feel the pain she causes parents and their children.

We’re still 5 years away from sending our daughter to school, so there is time for the next government to fix things. I’ll do what I can to ensure the BC Liberals lose the next election. BC desperately needs a change.

Update to add a better chart from Nic Waller:


Whole Life Fitness Manifesto


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Going to the gym hasn’t been part of my life since I was in university, which depressingly is over a decade ago now. I’ve managed to stay in shape with regular running and cycling to work (not buying a car was the best health decision I’ve ever made). This has kept me from getting fat (the plant-based diet helps too) and given me a strong cardiovascular system, but I know I would benefit from a more well rounded fitness routine.

Having a baby has definitely made working out harder (I have less time and energy now) but it’s also exposed my weaknesses. It only took a few days of bouncing a newborn baby to get a sore back and wish I had a stronger upper body. And she’s only gotten heavier since then.

The solution – the Whole Life Fitness Manifesto Challenge. A co-worker invited me to join a few months ago and I’ve now gone through two of the 28-day fitness challenges. It’s definitely helped me get stronger and I’ve been really happy with the results.

How it works:

  • Sign up at www.JoinWLFM.com (it’s free and the next 28-day phase starts on Monday, October 17th)
  • Receive daily emails from Coach Moose
  • Everyday there’s a 15-minute workout, plus 10 minutes of personal development and 5 minutes of meditation
  • The workouts don’t require a gym or any equipment
  • A typical workout: for 15 minutes do as many reps as you can of:
    • 5 push-ups
    • 10 sit-ups
    • 15 squats
  • There’s also a lot of lunges, plank, and burpees
  • After each workout, you’re encouraged to post in the Facebook group for extra accountability and motivation
  • There’s also tips on healthy eating (drinking a lot of water and eating more greens)

The program is very similar to crossfit. The intensity of the workouts is whatever you make it. If you’re feeling good, you can really push yourself. If you’re having a low energy day because the baby didn’t sleep last night, you can take it easy.

Looking back over my tracking sheets for the past 2 phases, I did 75% of the daily workouts (I missed a bunch while travelling) but rarely did meditation and focussed personal development. I think over the next phase, I’m going to intentionally skip some of the workouts and do some longer, harder runs instead.


Astrid: Month Three


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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.


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


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.


New Parent Adventures: Baby Eczema


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Astrid was born with sensitive skin. Something she unfortunately inherited from her parents. We both have to deal with eczema. Mine was particularly bad as a child, when my parents would slather my legs in creams, wrap them with rags (mummy style), and put socks over my hands before I went to bed top stop me from scratching my legs until they bled. As an adult, my skin is very dry but it’s manageable with moisturizers and by avoiding eczema triggers.


While we were travelling, Astrid’s eczema really exploded. The heat in Ontario and a bunch of other environmental triggers caused the small patches of eczema on her legs to get much worse and spread to her stomach and chest.She never really complained or itched, but that might because she doesn’t have the motor skills to scratch yet.

Our number one priority when we got back to Vancouver was to get her eczema under control. Here’s what we did:

  • washed all her clothes with scent-free laundry detergent
  • started moisturizing her skin twice a day with homemade lotion (made from shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and olive oil) and Aveeno Baby Eczema Care
  • Emily avoided eating soy, eggs, and dairy (which irritate my skin)
  • gave Astrid oatmeal baths twice a week

After two weeks, her skin isn’t perfect but the eczema is now under control.

Better Skin

10 Days in Ontario


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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

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