Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Ultimate Adventure....Back to Work

Again, I haven't posted in ages.  There is a really good reason this time, though.  As of the beginning of August, Isla is in daycare and I'm back at work.

The transition into daycare went wonderfully. We chose to go with a daycare downtown, close to our work.  Dave took Isla for 3 days the first week (while I ran around like a mad woman getting things ready for her first birthday party) and she did fantastic.  She's a pretty easy going kid so she was happy to go off without fuss and play with the new toys.  I was suprisingly okay with the transition as well.  I told myself that she would have lots of structured activities (I'm terrible at thinking up new games to play) and new friends so this was a good thing for her and myself.

Going back to work wasn't even that bad either.  I won't lie, the first few evenings were really busy and I was very frustrated that it felt like all we did was get home, eat supper, and have a bath before Isla had to go to bed.  When I was lamenting to a friend about my lack of quality time with Isla, she suggested taking at least 15 minutes out of every evening to do something that didn't involve a task so that, no matter how busy things were, at least we had 15 minutes of quality time together each night.  That suggestion has helped me a lot and now we make sure to spend those 15 minutes playing with a new toy, practicing walking, reading books, snuggling, and it makes my time with Isla feel a little less rushed.  Work has been a nice challenge and I'm enjoying being back.  The adult coffee runs are something I missed over the last year.

Our main challenge the last few weeks has been with illness.  A week after her first daycare visit, Isla managed to catch a cold.  Dave then caught the same cold a few days later.  The first cold then led into a second cold for both of them (I have managed to stay healthy) and the second cold led to pink eye and an ear infection for Isla.  We think Isla had a reaction to the antibiotics for the ear infection (which meant spending an evening at the Children's Hospital) but fortunately she seemed to recover and hasn't had another reaction since.  Just when Isla finally seemed to be doing better and we thought we might be entering a healthy phase, Dave then developed bacterial laryingitis putting him on antibiotics and a nasty cough.  Isla also has a runny nose again so I'm hoping it isn't a sign of another cold. Sigh. I'm so done with illness.  I was ready for the odd cold here and there but this has been a seriously rough go at things. 

So, I think that this has been a successful adventure overall.  I'm happy to be back and happy that Isla is doing well in daycare.  Now we just have to work at getting everyone healthy and things will be right on track.

Location: Kids and Co. Daycare, Eau Claire
Cost: Waaay too much money, but that's what you pay when you have a kid in a good daycare downtown.
Gear: Diapers, wipes, hat, sunscreen, 2 changes of clothes, sippy cup, and a lovey to nap with.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stampede....take two

I have a friend who had a baby a week after I did who I meet up with once a week.  Its been the perfect arrangement since we pushed ourselves to get out with newborns, worked through teething and sleep issues together, tried out new places with the kids, etc.  This week, we definitely pushed ourselves and decided to make our weekly outing a trip to the Stampede.

The day started beautifully with lots of sun.  We met early in the morning and even got some awesome reasonably priced parking close to the entrance.  Unfortunately, the reason why we got such amazing parking was that we got there at 9:30 and then found out as we got in line that the grounds don't open until 11:00 on days that aren't Family Day.  Whoops!  Anyway, after standing in line in the sun for a bit, we finally made it into the grounds and started the day.

We did a ton of things and my feet were aching by the end of the day.  We saw all the livestock and went to the animal discovery centre where the kids loved the baby chicks.  Afterwards we ate lunch and other tasty treats and the kids got their picture taken in Stampede gear for free.  Near the lunch area there was a kids play area with face painting, games, a clown show, and bouncy castles which was all free.  The kids were a bit young for those things but it was nice to see that there were things to do for small kids for future trips.  Since we were about an hour ahead of the crowd due to our early start, the place was nearly empty so we tried putting the kids in the bouncy castle.  They didn't bounce at all and just held on tight and looked around but I think from the huge smiles on their faces that they had a good time.

We didn't try any of the shows this year even though I'm a die hard Superdogs fan.  We would have had to leave the strollers in a parking area that didn't look all that secure and the crowds were insane to get in.  We weren't sure that the kids would sit through a show that long anyway so decided to save it for another time.

The only real hassles from the day were the heat, the crowds (it's been raining all week and this is the first nice day so people were out in full force), and the lack of changing areas for the babies.  I ended up changing Isla in the stroller because of the lines for the bathrooms.  We did end up finding some more change areas in the art display area later on in the day but by then we didn't need them.  In the end, we were tired and hot but the day was a success and I'm sure we'll be going back again next year.

Location: Calgary Stampede Grounds
Cost:  $14 admission (you can save $3 with 4 Dentyne Ice packages, which we did), kids under 7 are free
Gear for Isla: Stroller (we have our Bumbleride Indie which was awesome), Carrier (we have a BabyHawk) for naps, Hat, Sunscreen, Water in a sippy cup, stuff for lunch, a bottle of water for me, lots of Cheerios, a blanket to put over the stroller to block the sun a bit, and a camera to capture those first moments.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pancakes and must be Stampede

Every year in July, Calgary is overwhelmed with cowboys and cowgirls (some a little less authentic than others) for 10 days of rodeo, exibitions, rides, fireworks, and pancake breakfasts.  Most years I try to get out to at least some of the festivities even though I'm not a huge fan of crowds.  The breakfasts are the best place to go since you get free pancakes and sausage.

This year my in-laws were volunteering at a big breakfast in their neighborhood and they invited us to come down and check it out.  There were bands, pony rides for the kids, a lassoo station, a petting zoo, and (of course) the prerequisite pancakes and sausage.  Isla enjoyed her first taste of pancakes, which she loved and we all had a really fun morning.  She was a little young for all the kids activities but liked to look at the horses.  Maybe next year she'll be on there riding.

Location: Signal Hill pancake breakfast
Cost: Free other than a donation of your choice to the Calgary Food Bank
Gear for Isla: We didn't have any Stampede gear so I settled for a "country" looking dress.  Grandpa provided the Cowboy hat. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Cake Adventure....

....also known in our house as "what was I thinking?". 

I'm going to start off by saying that this adventure was a total failure and I will not be repeating it any time soon.

 It all started with the fact that I'm cheap like borscht (actually with the price of farmers market veggies lately, borscht isn't all that cheap anymore but whatever, you get the point).  I'm obsessed with getting deals and clipping coupons, to the point where I will lament for hours if I find something at a cheaper price than I bought it or I forgot to use my coupon.  I think it would drive any spouse up the bend but fortunately Dave is as cheap as I am so we both live happily in our frugal empire.

Since I'm so cheap (and partly due to sentimental reasons), I decided that I wanted to make Isla's birthday cake this year for her first birthday.  I figured I've watched enough cake shows on the Food Network that I could easily do something simple myself. We're planning on having a low key BBQ for our family and some close friends so I figured that even if I was a bit of an amateur in the cake decorating business (I'm a good baker but I never bother to decorate), they would be fairly forgiving of any small flaws.  The theme of the party is garden party so I looked on-line and found a lovely picture of a rectangle cake with flowers on it made out of candies.  It sounded perfect for me since I'm a total newbie to any kind of icing (we just don't eat icing in our house) and the less icing the better.

Dave, in his ultimate wisdom, convinced me to try baking and decorating a cake in advance to make sure that we wouldn't have any last minute disasters; so this past Friday, while Isla was asleep for her afternoon nap, I pulled out my new rectangle cake pan and set to work. 

I think we will be buying a cake for Isla's birthday.  :o)  The cake part turned out fine and both the icing and the cake taste delicious but that's all I can really say that's postive about my efforts.  Apparently icing a cake is much harder than I thought and my efforts look pathetic.  I then decided to get creative with my never used icing applicator (that I've had for at least 5 years) and do some decorating.  Despite my initial faith in my artistic abilities (my dad is a wonderful artist and I figured there had to be some genetic material passed on to me), I can't even write in a straight line. 

Fortunately for us, I made this attempt several weeks before the actual date of the party so I have plenty of time to order something from the professionals.  Dave and I also have a lovely huge cake to enjoy this weekend along with our farmer's market goodies so I'm not complaining about that either. Now, without any further introduction, here is a photo of my lovely effort:

Location: My kitchen
Cost: $5 for a new rectangular cake pan, $2 for food colouring, about $10 for all the ingredients for the cake and icing.
Gear for Isla: Forunately she was sleeping for this effort so she was spared my colourful language as I decorated the cake and I didn't need any gear for her.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Canada Day

Two years ago, Dave and I went on a tour of Eastern Canada.  We started in Quebec City for their 200 year celebration, then went to Montreal for the Jazz Festival, after that we took the train to Ottawa for Canada Day.  Later we flew to Halifax where we spent several days touring Nova Scotia and PEI by car.  It was an amazing trip.

Out of all the fun things we did, though, both Dave and I agreed that Ottawa was our favourite city. I had been there for Canada Day once before but Dave was a newbie to the city and we had a great time discovering (and rediscovering for me) all the city had to offer.  The Canada Day celebration was the icing on the cake.  We saw concerts, did tours of places, ate tons of delicious food, marveled at the hundreds of thousands of people that were out in the streets, and then finally capped off the day with a fantastic fireworks show. 

This year was a little less exotic but not any less fun.  We met up with friends that have a son the same age as Isla and headed to Prince's Island Park downtown.  There were a bunch of concerts, several kids activities (which our babies were a little young for but they should be able to do in future years), lots of multicultural demonstrations, and some tasty food.  We didn't go too crazy with trying to do everything but instead just enjoyed some time with the kids on the grass by one of the stages.  Afterward we walked around a bit and then played in the splash park in Eau Claire.  There were no fireworks for us this year since we figured that it would be too much for Isla.  Since I'm a huge fan of fireworks, I'm looking forward to the days when she thinks they're great too.

Location: Prince's Island Park, Calgary
Cost: The events were all free.
Gear for Isla: I didn't have a Canada t-shirt for Isla so we settled on her Montreal Canadiens shirt instead.  We also had a hat, sunscreen, stroller, lots of cheerios, and a camera.  The free paper Canada flags were also a huge hit as a chew toy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Father's Day

Dave and I are pretty low key with most "holidays".  We go all out for Christmas and birthdays but for the rest of the occasions we keep it to a card, sometimes a small gift like a book, and doing something special to mark the occasion.  I appreciate that approach simply because I'm not spending the majority of my time thinking up gifts to buy for my family and it allows us to enjoy the day without all the pressure of making it this enormous occasion.

Father's Day wasn't any different in our house.  Dave got to sleep in while I took care of Isla.  After he got up, we enjoyed an awesome breakfast of bacon,  hashbrowns and cinnamon toast (Dave isn't a fan of eggs so they were conveniently left out for him :o)).  After breakfast, we went to our local Farmer's Market and picked up a turtle pie for dessert later that night and then went over to Bowness Park for a walk with the baby and the dog.

Bowness was insane and I really wouldn't recommend it if you have any plans more firm than "I hope we find a spot to park and, if we do, then lets go for a walk".  Fortunately for us, we were at the right place at the right time and managed to parking lot stalk someone to their spot so we did get our walk in.  The weather was perfect and we even went along a quiet little path that few people know about so it was super peaceful in that area. 

Overall it was the perfect way to spend the day with family and just enjoy each other.

Location: Bearspaw Farmer's Market and Bowness Park
Cost: $7 for the pie at the market
Gear for Isla: Sunscreen and a hat since it was a warm day.  We also had our Bumbleride Indie all terrain stroller with us which allowed us to go off the beaten path a bit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Animal Crackers

I don’t think my maternity leave would be complete without taking Isla to the zoo. I’m sure at this point in the game, a trip to the zoo is more exciting for me than for the baby but it’s still something fun to do to get out of the house and meet up with other friends.

There are lots of inside displays as well as outside so the zoo is a year round activity now. The fees for entrance plus the cost of parking can get up there for each visit but with a year pass, it can be quite reasonable and it gives you a good excuse to go every week.

The cafeteria is nice and big and they have microwaves and change areas easily accessible so it’s easy to feed the baby. They also serve Starbucks coffee so I get to enjoy a latte while Isla has her lunch. As you walk around, there are tons of little learning sessions where a zoo expert talks about a specific animal. I’ve learned a ton of quirky things that I didn’t know before like the fact that Hippos can’t swim so they walk on the bottom of the river or lake.
Location: Calgary Zoo
Cost: It’s about $20 for an individual admission plus the $5 charge for parking. A year pass is $65.
Gear for Isla: Stroller, hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses (we have BabyBanz). I bring Isla’s food along with me so I don’t have to worry about buying something for her.