Nothing like the First Snow!

Tt likes to be inside. For the most part we prefer to be inside LOOKING at the first snow from our warm couch. Perhaps with a hot cup of cocoa… Ahhh… Boo, on the other hand, loves the great outdoors. But, a good dose of white powder can ALMOST get even me outside, and Saturday evening we got just that. (And, no, I didn’t go out…) (I said ALMOST…).

dsc_8214

It was quite a role reversal for the boys when Tt happily smacked on his boots and ski pants and went out to play after a good night of solid snowing.

dsc_8278

Boo preferred to remain on the edges… That white stuff is scary, man! WHY is the ground fluffy and white?!

dsc_8301

dsc_8303

He stood here for quite some time.

But, Tt and Hubby looked like they were having sooo much fun…

dsc_8304

He finally (and hesitantly) ventured out – good boy!

dsc_8324

10 things I LOVE – 08.12.15

1. Cooking (and of course eating) French Food. I do it so much, you’d think I know a thing or two by now, but alas… I roughly (and in great panic) follow instructions and try not to screw it up. I don’t think I do ANY French Chefs proud, but it’s still my favorite food cook – and to serve at dinners. This is my latest book purchase – the author/restauranteur was the advisor for “Ratatouille”, my favorite Disney/Pixar cartoon ;-). I made a number of recipes (or ATTEMPTED to make…) for B’s 17th bday family dinner coming up.

61p8fx3n2gl_ss500_

2. Puerto Vallarta. I’m so crazy missing Mexico right now! Warm night air, taquitos, Corona’s, hot sunshine, swimming with zee fishes… Ahhhhh. My last visit was out-in-nowhere Mayan Riviera in an all-inclusive – not, in the end, my cup of tea. I miss the (touristy) Mexican CITY life of Puerto Vallarta. I still remember this one restaurant recommended during my second visit by locals (and safe for tourists) : Pipis – guacamole made to order right at your table. YUM.

3. Wrapping Presents! I love wrapping the treasures I’ve found and stacking all them up under the tree! I never want to wait to hand them out, which is probably why we start opening gifts around the 20th… I’m always just a little bit sad coming home at the end of Christmas day to that poor, lonely, cold (and long dead) tree.

dsc_7817

4. My beautiful two-toned kitchen. When we were ready to FINALLY install a real live kitchen after 4 years of reno’s, I was so excited. But the photo I’d remembered loving of a two-tone kitchen was long lost. I took a chance and ordered it as I still saw it in my head, and voila! A beautiful kitchen. I love that the dark lower cabinets and floors feel grounding, while the white uppers and ceiling feel light and airy. I love that I installed 30″ deep cabinets rather than 24″. I love the (indestructible) white countertops. I love it. Love it. Which is good, because I’m sure I spend more time here than my own bed.

dsc_8000(this is a really bad photo on a dark, cloudy day… I esp love the dark floors/lower cabinets at night – so calming, while the white uppers bounce around a little of the lighting.)

5. Bags. No, not the ones under my eyes – the bright, shiny or funky models on my arm meant to DISTRACT you from the ones under my eyes… Until there is ONE bag to go with EVERY outfit, day or night, there can never be too many bags in my closet! I took a pic of some of my faves. I bet you can’t guess which cost $4.99 and which cost, well, significantly more! I’m saving to hit next years Black Friday at Nordstroms for some new models. (Yes, some of my goals in life are that simple).

dsc_8006

6. Jesus. He rocks. It’s almost His birthday. (Luke 2:10, 11 – I am bringing you some good news… Today your Savior was born”).

7. A’s sparkly eyes. Her whole entire body lights up when she smiles, right through her eyes. (see blog)

n516490519_1366989_9554

8. Bellevue Mall (in Washington) – a LEGO store, W&S and FOUR kinds of Pottery Barn!! What is not to love?? I ventured down for Black Friday (and here and here) just for that Lego Store alone…

9. Pioneer Woman – visual and emotional feast! My mom got me hooked onto her blog, and I always venture over when I’m tired of writing and am in need of a sit’n’read break – it’s really the only one I read. I’ve faithfully kept up to reading her “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” love story and have made a few of her recipes already. Check her out: The Pioneer Woman

10. Laptops – I’m on my… third Toshiba in 6+ years. I guess that maybe doesn’t sell it well ;-), but so far they’ve been pretty good taking all the crap I pile on ’em. I especially love my big screen and extra number pad on this one! HOW did people LIVE before laptops!? Being able to carry my computer anywhere, means I can plug in, work, google, write ANYWHERE (I often pack up and go work from a nearby Starbucks). It also means I leave a messy trail of work, papers, crap EVERYWHERE. ahhh, well, can’t have it all.

dsc_7998(another iffy camera moment… notice all the smudgy fingerprints on my screen?? and Boo in the background sneaking a play w/ Tt’s Lego’s! Ai-ya!)

Dinners around the World – France edition

Every year the girls have birthdays, and although they always have a party with their friends, we naturally we want to celebrate with our immediate family as well in some way. When they were younger and everyone was far less busy, we had cousins of all ages come for big “kids” parties. But as the girls got older, and people got busier, it evolved into a new tradition with our immediate family – Dinners around the World.

dsc_8037

We started one summer with A and have continued ever since! It’s been nice to have both sides of the in-town (or near-town) family over to sit and enjoy a festive meal. At each girls’ birthday, she picks a country to “visit” and I (we) make all the food from that area. We often also try to set up decorations – one year B made a zillion origami cranes for A’s visit to Japan and hung them all over the house! It was crazy!

dsc_8075

So far the girls have visited Italy, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, India – and now France. My personal favorite, because I so often cook French food, but the girls weren’t going to choose it for their “visit” because I make it all the time.

dsc_8109

This will be B’s last “visit” dinner before she’s all off being College-y (*sniff*) and we’ll take the opportunity to evolve our tradition further, so I made a bit of an extra special effort. Pates, cheeses, baguettes. Wine, sparkling waters and lemonade. Goat cheese puffs and Escargot. Delicious salad with herbs and pomme frites. (Oh, my mouth is watering just typing this!!!) (How it is possible we’re not all 300lbs is beyond me). Sole Normand and Chicken Tarragon. Cauliflower gratin and Asparagus.¬† Fresh fruit terrine with raspberry coulis and macaroons. Whew!

dsc_8105

Three days of planning and cooking everything from scratch (I even had to MAKE my own almond flour), 1 hour to gobble it all up.

dsc_8097

Younger daughter A still has about 3 Dinners around the World to go, then I’ll wait a few years before starting a new tradition with the boys. I’m sure there will be a way to tie it into their homeschooling too ;-). And I leave myself wondering what I’d cook from Russia. Or Africa. Or … OHH! The possibilities are endless!

dsc_8100

Happy #17, my dear B!

dsc_8123

Homeschool #007 – Field Trips?

One of the great things I’m anticipating about homeschooling is GREAT FIELDTRIPS. You just can’t beat learning something first hand, right there, at your touch. So I’m anticipating anyhow…

dsc_7941

One of the homeschool groups we’ve become a part of this year as we “try things out” has monthly field trips to all kinds of locales all over Vancouver. We’ve tried to attend two of them.

dsc_7942

Tried. And really pretty much failed. At some point, on both trips, Boo has had the urge to wander far, far away and Tt feeling left behind has ended up in tears. Although I’m sure Tt still got SOMETHING out of each trip, I’ve found it too stressful to go with Boo in hand.

dsc_7949

Even when we have gone to Museums, Art Galleries etc. on our own, it’s just useless to expect to spend some real deep one-on-one time with Tt, learning alongside him, with Boo on hand.

dsc_7953

We’ll try leaving him with Nana more when we’re out with groups, and see if we can keep trekking out on our own. Maybe I just need more practice ;-).

dsc_7951

This year we tackled:
– Vancouver Aquarium (membership)
– Science World (membership)
– Monterey Aquarium (holiday)
– San Fransisco Aquarium (holiday)
– Burnaby Wildlife Rescue
– Burnaby Heritage Museum
– Royal BC Museum
– Museums, sights in Italy

Travelling with Kids – Italy

“Are you CRAZY???”

As I’ve said, I really hear that a lot, therefore it must be true. This past summer we decided, since it was potentially B’s “last” chance to travel with us for awhile, to take a big, BIG trip to ITALY as a family. With backpacks. With a 4 1/2 yr old, and a 14 month old. We visited 4 cities in 14 or 15 days and came home exhausted, but happy. We borrowed just about every penny and it’ll take us about 3 years to pay it off, but it was absolutely worth it. And, yes, we learned a bit more about travelling with Kids.

dsc_1514

1. Travel EARLY! It would have been far easier to travel with Boo BEFORE he was able to walk, as we had with Tt to Paris. BUT, c’est la vie – we weren’t going to NOT travel just because we had little ones. We bought and packed 2 umbrella strollers (the super cheap ones). Even though they both COULD walk, didn’t mean they WOULD for 8+ hours a day.

dsc_1513

2. Again (and again?), something for everyone. It was kind of hard to find things for Tt throughout Rome, Florence, Venice and London, but somehow we managed even if it was to find the ONE toy shop in town. He’ll never forget the Colliseum (of course – there was fighting there once!), the girls got to do some afternoon shopping every day in every city, Husband got to see some art galleries and we ALL loved the beaches in Lido (Venice). While I would have enjoyed an hour long afternoon latte each day, I’ll just have to catch that when I return ;-).

dsc_3144

3. Mix it up. Like our roadtrip to San Diego, and another trip I had taken to Paris 10 years ago, it seems to work great to mix it up – and in this order – big, stinky city first, smaller shopping town second and gorgeous beaches last. Ahhhhhh. We “accidentally” found Lido in Venice (via Expedia) and it was definately THE highlight of our holiday.

dsc_2464

4. Work your flights. We started out with flights around $9,200 for all 6 of us (yes, they charge something for under 2 yrs). They were on hold, but then I did more research and found flights for $8,800 or so if we left from Seattle. I figured it was a free nights hotel stay, so why not save a bit. When I told the travel agent about the flights, she did more research and came up with separate flights (return Vancouver-London Transat, return London-Rome BA) for $7,000 total. Next time I’ll really work the internet, then take whatever I find to my travel agent to make sure the flight is “good”. She just comes up with the cheapest things she sees, but once she knew I was working it, she worked a bit harder too. Our flight times/days changed off and on, but we were flexible within a day or two.

img_8910

5. Beware the European Hotel in your budgeting… I had a pretty well-researched budget going into this trip, and Husband had given me a specific overall “allowance” (then I added about $2,000…). That said, I didn’t realize that travelling with more than TWO people adds to every single hotel cost. (We weren’t staying in any one city long enough for apartments, etc). We ended up having to get 2 rooms in almost every city, PLUS pay an “extra person” fee in one room (Boo didn’t count in the other). It sure adds up when you’re not expecting it, but fortunately the savings in airfare covered most of the extra hotel costs.

dsc_2376(this was the one hotel all 6 of us fit in one room – we paid dearly for it (Lido, Venice), but it was a nice change and big and roomy for the boys to run about)

6. AND BRIBES¬† still WORK! Tt again was allowed one new toy (again, around $5) every day. He found little Gladiators in Rome, Knights and a mini-soccer ball in Florence, double-decker bus and one of those guards with the funny hat in London – mostly little plastic figures that he collected and played with every day. It kept him entertained throughout the trip, and the only other “toys” we had to pack going was his blankie, a stuffed shark and a pad of paper.

dsc_1914(‘scuze the fuzzy pic…)

7. Plan on being in the hotel. With really small kids, sometimes the hotel room IS the holiday. To Tt nothing else really mattered but having time to run around and play in the hotel, as opposed to being told to “behave properly” amongst traffic, art galleries and unfamiliar places. And Husband always appreciated a nap – good thing we always had two rooms, one “quiet” and one “play”!. We spent at least 2 hours every afternoon before dinner just relaxing.

dscn2793

8. Two words – RED EYE. We took a red eye that left Vancouver at 9pm on the way there and it was smooth sailing. Boo fell asleep before takeoff, and Tt, B + A slept on each other in another row almost the entire way. Bliss. The way back was not a red eye, and it was miserable for Boo. (Note – airplane creamers in a bottle cannot be substituted for a bottle of “real” milk. Lesson learned. Lap thrown up on. Noted.)

ya, I have no photos for that one.

9. Cameras for everybody! They might not be big photographers, but sometimes that one or two shots they catch are great and memorable. Plus, it means even the “trip photographer” gets to be in a few pictures! Tt took up a camera a few times and it was hilarious. Some trips I even buy a few waterproof disposables to hand around.

dscn2798(even a 4-yr old can catch some real memorable moments!)

10. Save a gem for your last night. Every time a holiday is about to end, we really just want to get HOME, NOW. A few times now we’ve treated ourselves to a really nice hotel on our last night, and it sure makes the wait to get home soooooo much more bearable. Nothing like a nice hot shower in a gorgeous, comforting bathroom and a fluffy fluffy clean bed to end a trip on a high note. Our last night was in London and we sure enjoyed the airport hotel – Sofitel – at Gatwick.

img_9515

Gingerbread – and icing…

Tt got a great little gingerbread kit from Nana so we sat on our “Jammies” day and put it together.

dsc_7961

Oooohhh, yum – icing.

dsc_7963

And candy! Mom never lets us eat candy!

dsc_7977

And voila! (With just a little help from Momma on the icing. You didn’t think Tt did all those beautiful swoops, did ya?).

dsc_7988(Nice bedhead, Boo)

Next year I think I’ll just buy them a vat of icing for them to stick candies in ;-).