car seats

A momentous weekend we had, infant car seat to big boy car seat.  The straps didn't do up in the infant car seat over Castle's puffy winter coat.  We must have done weeks of research picking out the infant car seat.  As a new parent it takes a while to sieve through all the choices and look past the marketing.  
For those who are interested, we chose the Chicco Key Fit infant car seat due to it being lightweight, easy to install, good value, and compatible with the stroller we picked out.  One other discovery after the purchase was that it rocks.  Both figuratively and physically, it has a curved bottom so we can rock our baby in it.  The only short fall is that the straps are not very long, hence moving onto the big boy car seat.
For the big boy car seat, we chose Sunshine Kids Radian XT, based on that it's the narrowest one out there in width, so it doesn't take up two seats in the back, and we can fold it up and take it on an airplane.  

snow

Snow doesn't linger too often in downtown Vancouver.  It's a good thing because when it snows here, it's just a mess.  2cm accumulation is a snow day.  The streets don't get cleared but the bike path along the seawall does.  Only in Vancouver.  People don't know how to drive in snow and cars get stuck.  Coming from Ontario, where driving in snow is second nature, I find it quite humorous.

Portable Bed

This is the Pogy, Castle's travel bed.  It's lightweight, folds flat and comes with it's own thin foam mattress.  We like to think that this is a good product because it's very handy.  Yet he may be out growing it already, if he starts to roll, he could just flip the whole thing and roll around the floor in the middle of the night.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Getting Ready

Notice the new banner with the airplane?  
Between making baby food, birthday parties, and sopping up Castle bath water off the bathroom counter we managed to get our visas to China in our passports this week.  What an ordeal that was.  We've learned our lesson, next time we are hiring some to do the lining up for us.  
And thank goodness we had extra copies of Castle's passport photo, because getting another one would have been a whole other ordeal.  Imagine trying to get an infant who can't sit to sit up and look straight into the camera head on without smiling or making some other face... yeah.  Castle was just a little skinny pup fresh out of the hospital when we got this photo.

We are very excited about our trip - trekking Yellow Mountain with a baby!  Sounds crazy right?  Especially when this baby is just starting to eat solids and weights over 18 lbs.  I guess we won't really know how crazy this will be until we are experiencing it.
  We have gone through many scenarios of how we are going to lug our little bundle up a mountain.  We tried out this Deuter Kid Comfort III pack in the picture above.  It's a super good pack but still a significant amount of weight not to mention we need to bring this on the plane.  It would have been great if we were trekking in the mountains around here, but a trip to China is not the place for bulky gear so in the end we returned it and are settling with carrying him on our backs in the Ergo Baby Carrier.

A $5000 Wedding

It's been over a year since our wedding day and I just realized that I've neglected to share how our wedding turned out - Fantastic!  First off, we want to thank our friend Richard for all of these beautiful photos.  He really made our day.
Andrew and I decided early on that we did not want a large extravagant wedding, it just wasn't us.  To make sure that we (I) didn't get caught up in the whole thing we made a list of must haves and stuck with it.  We decided to only do the things that were important to us and that was what came together.  Since I love to craft, I wanted to have a handmade theme.
  It wasn't our intent to save money by making pretty much everything ourselves, but in the end all the DIYs became our biggest budget slasher. 
I hand sketched our invitations and printed them on mylar.  We folded envelopes using pages of a map book that we found at a library book sale.

I made crepe paper flowers for bouquets and boutonnieres, signs for our sign girls, and folded large origami flowers for the rest of the decor.  I actually had a large crepe paper corsage instead of a bouquet, it was so much easier to lug around since it was already attached to my wrist.  We did not care for a matching bridal party, so everyone just wore what they want.  Ironically they all matched anyway with every shade of purple and lavender.

My dress was found at a liquidation store for a fraction of the price.  My shoes were an accidental find while shopping with my Mom in an Asian clothing store.  Andrew's outfit costed more than mine, which was probably a first for any wedding in history.  I made my headpiece and veil by glueing feathers to a headband.
Our guest book were personalized post cards with our photos on them.  We read a post card every week for the first year of our marriage to remind us of our wedding day.  We got married at the church that we attend.  The ceremony, at 6pm on a Friday, was short and sweet.  Immediately afterwards we had an intimate dinner with 30 family and friends at the Shangri-La Hotel next door.
I made my own wedding cake.  Out of everything, this I would not do again.  In the end it all added up to $6000 because we had two weddings.  You can read about our second one here.

Exersaucer

Next to the baby swing, the Exersaucer is the other non-essential 'essential' baby item that I can't imagine my life without.  Castle has outgrown his swing, so the exersaucer is where he likes to be.
Or should I say LOVES to be.
He has grown so much in the past month that we've already had to raise the height on his seat.  He gets super excited about bouncing around, and looks at us for approval when he pushes a button that makes a noise.  He loves touching all the toys, especially spinning those monkeys.  

Fine Weekend

Lounging in our house coats on Saturday morning was splendid.  On top of that sunshine?  I don't mind at all, the more the better.  Vancouver needs more days like this.
I'm going to miss our view when we eventually move out of this place.  
Here's hoping that day is far far away.

Hot Pot

Hot pot is Chinese fondue, cooking ingredients in broth.  Hot pot is also just plain good fun.  We introduced hot pot to Grandma and Grandpa recently.  We all had a great time stuffing our bellies full.  I haven't met anyone who doesn't like hot pot.  It's so much more than a meal, it's a social experience.  What good is yummy food without good company?

Baby Bath Tub

In the beginning, Castle was bathed in a small plastic basin in NICU, it was the size of a salad bowl.
As he grew bigger, we learned to bathe him in a simple white regular tub at the hospital.  He had plenty of room to splash around and he loved it.  Before we brought him home, we purchased the Puj Tub, thinking that it would be perfect for a little guy before moving onto the big tub.  
Looks cool right?  Well it wasn't perfect, it barely held any water, he kept on slipping down anyway and he cried during every bath.  We returned it.  Next up we tried one of those fancy tubs with a slanted seat.  He couldn't kick around in it either and I simply couldn't bathe him effectively.  So back to the regular white tub we went.
Yippie yay he loves it!  Because splashing around is fun.  Sure he gets water everywhere but what's bath time without lots of water and bubbles?  No gimmicks, just a large white tub that's flat on the bottom.  It sits on our bathroom counter so we don't have to bend over.  Sometimes simple is best.

Dining with infant

It's a delicate art form, dining with your infant.  We went out as much as we can before Castle hit 3 months, he just ate and slept wherever we were, easy peasy.  Now that he has a schedule, and doesn't nap well (and shouldn't) anywhere other than in a dark room on a motionless flat surface, we are more respectful of his needs.  On occasion we like to break the rules, we need to live too.
Is having brunch too much to ask?  Well, does he ever know how to express - it's all about me!  Brunch at Italian Kitchen after church coincided with nap time, which resulted in cranky-city, from beginning to end.  He finally fell asleep in the stroller on the way home.  As for Italian Kitchen, I still don't buy into it.
Sleep!  Such bliss.  Especially when it's your baby.  My baby.
I love how he can only reach to the top of his head and no further.  So lovely and strange how big his head is compared to the rest of his body.

Valentine

I'm not a fan of pink.  Nor am I a fan of Valentines Day.  Not meaning to bring you down or anything but there, I've said it.  Not a fan.  I could go on and on about why it's such a scam of a non-holiday but I won't.  What I will tell you is how much we appreciate our treats, Valentines Day or not.
The signs that the times a changing, 'Tweet Me' on Sweethearts?  Did you know that the actual brand name for these candies are called Sweethearts?  I didn't until 2 minutes ago.  We had a raucous round of Yahtzee this weekend.  I don't want to brag but I kicked Andrew's butt.  5 Yahtzees!  I'm actually quite shocked that one can roll a Yahtzee, then again I guess that's why they came up with the game.
We didn't actually have the game, but we have 5 dice that came from a Christmas cracker, (Christmas, now that's a holiday!) and a little digging on the internet resulted in a very 'similar' score card.  Thanks internet, we needed you so we could spend quality time away from you.
P.s. Happy Valentines Day!  If you are into that sorta thing.

Dining Out: Medina

This was supposed to be a restaurant post about some very fantastic brunch, but I felt taking photos of my food was a little inappropriate even though I was sitting right next to a window with the perfect mid morning light.  I felt inappropriate reasons being that, A) I was with a friend and not my husband, I really didn't want to put her through my craziness, and B) How does one take pictures of one's food without feeling like a silly dork when Owen Wilson is sitting next to you?
Yes, literally inches away sat Owen Wilson.  There are a couple of things I don't like at Medina, one is their rule about not seating you until everyone in your party has arrived, and two, all the tables are so darn close together.  (Apart from that everything is GREAT!)  So as my friend and I were in the middle of our yummy brunch deep in conversation, in comes Owen Wilson sliding his butt around our table to get into his seat.  I really wanted to eavesdrop on him but he was dining alone, so for the rest of the morning he was eavesdropping on us due to our proximity to each other.  We kept to ourselves in partial wonderment.  If only it had been Matthew McConaughey... ... things would have turned out very different.  Anyway without talking about the food etc. this should be interesting enough to entice you to go to Medina.  Patrons beware though, line ups are lengthy especially on the weekend if you are not there before 10am.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Yellow and Blue

I got to feed my weirdly odd Swedish obsession again.
It was a coincidence, really.  But what are the chances?
It's the one year anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and there are events all over town.
I was walking home from brunch and this caught my eye - Swedish Folk Dancing.
I walked right into Swedish Hour!  Nice!
I watched for a few minutes and picked up a copy of Swedish Press, featuring articles on Henrik Sedin - one half of the hockey playing twins, and Marcus Samuelsson - renowned chef whom I love, he has an amazing story.  How perfect. 

Books

We love going to the library, there are many books and it's free - two things that makes us happy.  Where Willy Went... was one of those gems of a find.  The big story of a little sperm!  Such a hilarious book about where babies come from!
And since Castle has started eating solids, First Book of Sushi was naturally a good read.  We would like to think that this will help diversify his palate.  

Purple and Orange

A couple of busy days were all we needed to knock Castle's schedule off course.  Thank goodness he is still sleeping through the night even if he only takes half hour naps in the day.  He is supposed to be napping as I type, yet I hear oddly loud smacking noises coming from the direction of his room, sounds like he is wide awake and sucking on his hands.  He's taken to sucking his whole hand, all fingers in, then smearing it on everything.  
There's hardly anything around here that doesn't have his drool on it.  Well I shouldn't exaggerate, I don't think there's any Castle drool in these beautiful carrots.  The purple one is my favorite, purple on the outside and orange on the inside.  I'm so glad I decided not to peel them, because if I had, all the purple bits would have gone into the garbage.  Not cool.  They tasted just as good as they looked.

p.s. we found a Bumbo

Finally, we have a yellow Bumbo, and for a fair and reasonable price thank you very much kind lady in North Vancouver.  You have no idea how hard it was to get this.  We responded to 5 different Craigslist posts over two weeks and this is the only one that gave us any response.  Are they really that high in demand?  Weird since an average of 3 new Bumbo ads come up everyday.  Either that or people who want to sell their Bumbos are just plain rude. (a.k.a. too busy with their babies to get back to you)  Okay, enough of that, we are simply happy to finally have one for Castle.  Now I don't have to hold him with one arm while trying to feed him with the other.  And note to self, next time I'm out, I should purchase one of those plastic bibs that come with sleeves.

Tasting Chocolate

I thought it would be fun to conduct a taste test on dark chocolate a la Cooks Illustrated since a) I really love dark chocolate, b) I wanted to eat dark chocolate, c) I had all of these dark chocolate bars lying around the house, and d) they were all opened.  *ahem* yes, all of these chocolate bars were already opened... ...what can I say?  I love dark chocolate.  Okay, here we go.

 Highly Recommended 
Elysia Noir, 85% cocoa, from Germany
Cinamon, smoky, and rich, does not taste as dark as 85% cocoa should, smooth and complex.
Denman Island Chocolate Simply Dark (Organic), 60% cocoa, from BC (yay!)
Very smooth, creamy, well balanced, strong cocoa flavour.  A plus that it's certified organic in BC.

 Recommended 
Callebut Dark Chocolate, from Belgium
Rich, roasty, well balanced, good chocolate flavour without being too bitter.  I was going to bake with it but I've just been eating it up as a snack.
Cote D'Or Noir 86% Cacao, from Belgium
Smoky, nutty, rich, bitter, knock your socks off deep chocolate flavour, not sweet at all, for hard core dark chocolate fans only.

 Recommended with Reservations 
Bjornsted Feine Bitter (organic), 71% cocoa, from Germany
Wine and fruit flavour, bitter towards the end, subtle cocoa flavour.  This is a good chocolate, unfortunate for Bjornsted I'm not a fan of wine flavour in my chocolate, which is common in may dark chocolates.

 Not recommended 
President's Choice Dark Chocolate, 85% Cocoa, from France
Bitter and deep, powdery one dimentional flavour, hints of vanilla and hard boiled egg.  (I'm not mistaken, it tastes like hard boiled egg in the background.)
President's Choice Organics European Dark Chocolate, 70% cocoa, from Italy
Tangy fruity flavours, a bit like sour wine and tastes somewhat like plastic.  Certified organic by Quality Assurance International, a company authorized by the USDA.  (I've heard that some of the QAI certified organic products have turned out not to be organic in testing.  But that's a whole other topic right there which I will not go into.)

There you have it.  Now I have to go wipe off all the chocolate smears off my keyboard.

business deal

What do ya mean you want $45 for that Bumbo?!   It's used!
(Dear People Selling Stuff on Craigslist:  It's Craigslist!  Stop your gouging and swindling.)

Laundry and Glutinous Rice Balls

Between all the baby clothes and cloth diapers, I think we have increased our laundry 3 fold since Castle has come along.  Our small capacity washer is getting quite the work out these days.
Castle's first chore to master should be folding.
This weekend was filled with birthday parties, yet we still managed to lazily lounge in our PJs, nap, and eat Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls to celebrate Chinese New Year.
I slaved away to make these, can't you tell?
Would ya look at that, came out just like the picture on the package.  Although these are eaten through out the year, they are a must-have on the Chinese New Year family menu because the name of it in Chinese sounds like 'togetherness', symbolizing family reunion and harmony.  It brought Andrew and I harmoniously together to the dining table for sure, we love these things.

swimming

Castle went swimming for the first time today.  We dressed him in his cloth diaper sans lining, which doubles as a swim diaper.  Daddy was more than a little mistaken when he thought Castle would automatically hold his breath under water via reflex, just like that Nirvana baby.  Not true, only newborns do that.  
As a result there was some crying and a lot of pouting.
But after that minor face under water incident it was smooth sailing.

Balloon Pom Pom Bubble Tulle Skirt

I was inspired by this Pom Pom Tulle Skirt, a bubble skirt made of tulle filled with pom poms.  It's so cool!  Thank you Jessica for sharing your idea.  I would have loved a pom pom skirt when I was 5 years old.
What if the pom pom skirt was filled with balloons, I thought?  
And what if you can take them out whenever you want or add other thingamajigs in?  
That would be SOOOO cool!  So I made one for a little girl who was turing 6.
I used the tutorial as a guide.  I had a meter of tulle so that's what I worked with, without cutting of any of it.  I folded it in half to create the 'pocket' and it was the right length of a skirt for a 6 year old.  I would recommended using 1.5 to 2 meters of tulle so it gathers more and becomes super puffy.

 To facilitate the adding of other thingamajigs into the skirt, I installed a bright neon pink zipper.  I sewed the length sides of the tulle together to half way, and the zipper went into the other half of the seam.
Made this blue so you can see it better (somewhat?), the tulle is just folded over once and stitched in place.  This is the inside of the skirt, raw edge of the tulle facing in.  Great thing about this is that I didn't have to be perfect.  Puffy tulle skirts are VERY forgiving.
I used a 14" zipper because that's what I had.  But I wanted to make the skirt longer than 14" so I used a piece of scrap cotton to finish off the seam above the zipper.

After the zipper seam is done, take the tube of tulle and bring the two raw edges together, doubling up to create the pocket.  To make the waist, take the open end and fold and pin both layers of tulle down a couple of inches.  Stitch it close all the way around, leaving a little opening to insert the elastic.  Elastic length to match the waist measurement of your girl, measured stretched just a little.
Thread the elastic all the way around, and sew ends together an inch in.
And now you can fill it with all kinds of stuff.
 And keep filling it whenever you want.
The Legos were a bit weighty.
Balloons worked wonderfully.
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