Sunday, 28 October 2012

It's Fall and the Sun's Out...Let's go For a Ride!

It has been a wet week here in Vancouver, culminating with a heavy downpour most of the day Saturday. So when we woke up Sunday morning to find the sun shining, there wasn't a doubt in our minds that we were heading out for a bike ride. With Coralie on her own bike and Etienne on his trail-a-bike for the first time since Chris bought his new bike in September, we set out for a seawall ride. It's a familiar route, and one we've done more times than we can count. What made it special, aside from getting outdoors after all the rain, was all the little surprises we had along the way. Here's a snapshot of our sunny, fall ride in Vancouver! Photos by Chris Bruntlett (twitter and instagram: @cbruntlett)

Waiting for the light at Union and Gore

Heading into downtown over the Dunsmuir Viaduct

Image of the wraparound text at the
Fairmont Pacific Rim by Brit Liam Gillick
Beautiful Fall colours along the seawall in Coal Harbour
A family of raccoons were exploring near the  Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park.
This one stuck around for a picture.
Making our way East from Stanley Park
Riding past English Bay and the surprisingly calm waters
Etienne and I along the Yaletown Seawall
Hidden street art under the Cambie Bridge,
with a special message we should remember
The perfect way to end a ride - warm focaccia and a
Vanilla Latte in Olympic Village

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Life is about the simple pleasures

With fall well under way, and the gloomy, grey days coming fast and furious, I'll admit my inspiration has run a bit dry for post topics. I have been pondering on it all week, while riding out to an appointment, enjoying some time with my husband, and spending some time at Coralie's school. And then it dawned on me. When the dark days of Fall and Winter arrive, it's important to enjoy the simple pleasures in life! Instead of focusing on what we can't do when it's cold and wet or snowy, making time for small things that make you happy might just be the key to making it to Spring and sunny skies! So today's post is a reflection of some of the simple pleasures I take for granted from time to time...enjoy!

Coffee time with my guys - With Coralie in dance classes twice a week, I spend a lot of time rushing from school, home and then to class. Some days, though, my lovely husband will meet me at the dance studio, and he and I, along with my son, will head to one of our favourite local cafes and enjoy some tasty coffee and a chance to catch up. Not every time is peaceful, but when it is it's a nice treat, and a bit of an escape from the everyday.

Riding without purpose - Every once and a while I get to take a ride on my bike without having to worry about getting to one of my kid's classes, to school, work or the grocery store. Most recently, after dropping our daughter off at Cross Country practice an hour before school, I joined my husband on his ride to work. I had no where to be, no plans to attend to, so I could ride without purpose along the bikeways in Vancouver and enjoy a chat with my husband along the way. It really nice to take advantage of the drier days and just enjoy the simple act of sitting on my bike and going for a ride.

Time with the girls - I find that when the weather turns, it's actually an excellent time to reconnect with my friends. Summer is such a busy time, and when I've been out and about with the kids all day in the sunshine, all I want to do is relax, which means I don't get out too often with the ladies in my life. But since daily obligations start falling into a routine, and life seemingly calms down a bit, it's a great time to set a monthly date to catch up with a friend. We all need a bit of time away from the every day, and what better day than a chat with a good friend.

Child rearing milestones - Completely unrelated to the change in weather, milestones in the child-rearing years can be a BIG ray of sunshine amongst all the stress and worry of being a parent. Recently something big dawned on me. I am now the parent of two completely toilet trained children. Many big decisions got us to this point, like switching to training pants, getting rid of the potty and forcing the kids to go on the toilet. However, I realized just last week that without making any sort of big deal, our son will go to the washroom of his own volition, and will tell us when we're out. I no longer have to worry about carrying an extra change of clothes, or making sure a washroom is within very close proximity to where I am going. It feels really good, too! Sure, I miss when my kids were younger, but being able to go to the local consignment shop today and hand off our old training pants because I will never need them again was pretty fantastic!

A warm bath and some music - This is one thing I will never get enough of. On a cold day, I will pop on one of my son's favourite films and draw myself a hot bubble bath, grab my iPod and just relax in the warmth.

So, when the cold, wet or snowy weather starts to get you down, make time for the little things that make you happy. It'll keep you a little more sane while we wait for the sunshine to return, and you may just kindle some connections in the meantime!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Foodie Friday #11 - Kid-free time Strawberry Mojitos!

This weekend I had the pleasure of celebrating a friend's birthday by partaking in the forgotten art of a girl's sleepover, complete with the chatting into the wee hours once the lights went out. It was some much needed kid free time, and as my treat to her, I experimented with making some Strawberry Mojitos for the first time. Although I had to substitute limes with RealLime due to my own forgetfulness when picking up the ingredients, it was a huge success, so I'm sharing it with my readers. It may be fall now, but it's never too late for a taste of summer!


80 mint leaves
4 limes cut into eighths
8 large strawberries
1 cup white sugar
8 cups of ice cubes
1 1/2 cups white rum (375 ml bottle)
4 cups club soda


Place mint leaves, 1 lime (in wedges) and 4 strawberries sliced into a pitcher and use a muddler (or a wooden spoon) to crush ingredients to release lime and strawberry juices. and 2 more limes, the rest of the strawberries and the sugar and muddle again. Fill the pitcher almost to the top, pour rum over the ice, them fill with club soda. Stir and add more sugar for taste if needed. Serve with remaining lime wedges.

Makes 1 large pitcher (8 servings)

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Riding your bike to school is cool

For the month of October, my daughter's school is participating the a competition with another school in Vancouver as well as schools in London and Shanghai to see who can get the most students walking to school. The competition is called Beat The Street, an initiative started by Dr. William Bird from the UK, and is aimed at getting more children walking or riding bikes to school. The idea is that if more kids get to school by means other than a car, they are getting some much needed physical activity, which can, in turn, help battle the childhood obesity numbers we are seeing these days. I think it's a fantastic program, and am amazed and proud at how many of the students at the school are so excited to participate, many of them going out of their way to collect points. At the midway point, Coralie's school is in the lead, with 58% of the student body walking or cycling to school. Read more about the program here:

The success of the program inspired me to write a post about how riding a bike with your kids to school can be such a good thing! Two summers ago, my husband and I made it our mission to encourage our eldest to learn to ride on her own so that she could ride to school when she started kindergarten. It was a slow process, and I will admit that the first couple weeks of school, we didn't ride every day. But one year later, it's almost like we feel guilty when we don't ride to school! We are very lucky in that we live 0.5 kms away from Coralie's school, but even a kid living 5 kms from school can get on a bike and ride to and from school every day.

One of the two full bike racks at Laura Secord
Elementary, not to mention the ones locked up
The biggest thing is make riding to school fun, instead of a chore. Encouragement is key here. We frequently tell Coralie how great she's doing when we go on our long bike rides. Of course, there are time when she doesn't want to hear it and wishes she could get in our bike trailer with her brother, but the fact that she doesn't have a choice means that she has to push on. One of Coralie's friends started riding without training wheels just a couple of weeks ago, and I can see a similar slow but steady start to her riding as my own daughter had. What amazes me, though, is that I can hear things we said to Coralie to encourage her when she was just starting coming out of my daughter's mouth to encourage her friend. I have a feeling in the not so distant future those girls will be racing each other to get to school on their bikes!

Something I would love to start here in my neighbourhood that has been done in place like Portland is a Bike Train, which is a bike to school program where parents ride around neighbourhood picking up kids along the way. Check out the 2 minute mark: This creates a safe group atmosphere and encourages kids to join the group. We constantly teach our kids to not follow the crowd, or do something just because their friends are, but let's be honest, if your kid saw all their friends riding their bikes to school, I'm sure they'd be asking you to do it, too. I think that's a trend worth following.

The Velo Children riding home from school this fall

We, as parents, have a responsibility to lead by example. We all know that exercise is good for our bodies and our minds, and whether it's walking or biking to work, daycare, school or any other activity, we should do our best to try and get out of our cars and using our legs to get us from point A to point B more often. Things will get tough as the rain continues here in Vancouver, and weather turns cooler elsewhere in the world, but I will keep trying to ride to school with Coralie, even after the competition is over. Good habits start early, and this is one habit I want my kids to have for a lifetime!

More Reading about the competition:
The Epoch:
The Vancouver Sun:

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Diet of a Velo Family

If you've been following my Foodie Friday posts, you already know that the Velo Family is vegetarian one. My husband and I decided seven years ago to make the switch from omnivore to lacto-ovo vegetarianism, and haven't looked back. The reason I'm dedicating a post to this topic is because over these past seven years, I have endured many of the same comments and questions about what we eat, how we get the right amount of nutrients, and why we choose not to eat meat. So on behalf of vegetarians everywhere, here are some answers to your questions!

A very veggie Thanksgiving:

First off, after 25 years of eating meat, why did we choose to make the switch to a veggie-centric diet? Personally, the reason I decided to become a vegetarian initially was because I plain old didn't enjoy meat. But after some educational reading on how to stay healthy, and the benefits of a vegetarian diet, I realized I was making the best choice for my body. Following a vegetarian diet has been shown to lower cholesterol, which, in today's society where heart disease is so prevalent, seems like a no brainer. Factory farming is also a huge problem, and I have a big issue with animals being kept in small pens all for the sake of a cheap burger. But I'm not going to spend this post talking about the ethics or morality. Becoming a vegetarian is a personal choice, which brings me to another comment I hear all the time.

Falafel...a family favourite:

Whenever people find out we're vegetarians, most often proceed to tell us that they don't even eat meat all that often, and are basically vegetarians, they just can't give up bacon, steak, or whatever their favourite meat happens to be. I hate to be a stickler on this point, but if you eat meat, even once a week, you are not a vegetarian, almost, basically or otherwise. But you know what? That's okay! I didn't choose to be a vegetarian so I could convert the masses. I did it for me, and I don't expect anyone else to change their dietary habits because of my choice. If you want to eat meat, do it. My main advice is to just be mindful about where your meat comes from, and that you're eating a balanced diet, including lots of fresh fruits and veggies.

Hearty stews are a winter staple:

So, how does a vegetarian family maintain a healthy diet if we don't eat meat? Where does our protein come from? Well, it's really quite simple. Most of our meals include some form of legume or nut, which are chock full of protein! From nuts in our granola, to lentil soup, to almost every Mexican inspired dish we eat, there is almost always a vegetarian source of protein to be found. And low and behold, they're also high in fibre, which is great for our digestive systems. As I said, we are lacto-ovo vegetarians, which means we eat dairy and eggs. So, essentially, our meals are what most omnivore families would eat, just without the meat portion, which we usually replace with some kind of bean variation. 

It's easy to forget that fruit is vegetarian:

So, the next question I get a lot is whether or not we are raising our kids as vegetarians. Quick answer, yes. Long answer, of course! I do the cooking, and I'm a vegetarian, as is my husband, so our kids are vegetarians, too. Quite proud ones as well, which is pretty awesome, I think. So here's the follow up question. What if my children decide they want to eat meat? Well, when they're old enough to cook for themselves and buy their own food, it is their right to choose. Until then, I will do my best to educate the about where that meat comes from, and help them make healthy decisions.

Mexican meals are easy as a vegetarian:

Sure, when we decided to stop eating meat, it was tough, and a huge learning curve to make sure we stayed healthy physically and mentally. But over time, we've adapted. It's really not as hard as we initially thought, and we're healthier for it. It was our choice, and we're very happy with our decision. But we don't judge anyone for being different. Your choices are your own, and I hope that my choices can be respected. Eat well and be happy!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Foodie Fridays #10 - Savoury Lentil Loaf

Last weekend I tested out a new recipe for our Thanksgiving dinner, and I am happy to say it was a huge success. Everyone enjoyed this tasty loaf, and so I'm passing it on to you. It's packed with protein, and depending on how fussy your kids are, you can hide any additional veggies in it to make sure their getting everything they need. Vegetarian or not, it's a delicious alternative to traditional meatloaf.

Velo Family's Thanksgiving dinner,
complete with "stuffing"

1 1/2 cups dried lentils
3 1/2 cups broth
2 onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup shredded carrots
3 tbsp olive oil
bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 egg


Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F

In a large pot, simmer lentils in broth until cooked, about 30 minutes. Drain and half mash. Saute onions and garlic until soft, then combine with the lentils, along with carrots and oil. Add egg, bread crumbs, salt, spices and ketchup and combine until well mixed. Gently press into a lightly greased pan and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with gravy and other fixings.

Monday, 8 October 2012

You never know until you try!

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers! I hope you are all enjoying the long weekend, especially those fellow Vancouverites enjoying this gorgeous sunny weather we are being spoilt with! We here in the Velo Family have been having a great little weekend together, with the highlight so far being our adventure on Saturday. Having done so much in the city throughout the summer on our bikes, my husband and I decided to use this and the Remembrance Day long weekends to try and do things we have been meaning to do outside the city but have been hesitant to do due to distance or just lack of time. So Saturday morning we set off from East Vancouver to Burnaby Mountain to go for a family hike.
Coralie and Etienne all ready for a hike,
complete with "crazy legs"
Cruising along in yoga pants and runners,
dressed for the destination!

After a hearty breakfast, we packed up a lunch, hitched up the bike trailer to Chris' bike, and set off for the 16 km journey along the Central Valley Greenway towards Burnaby Mountain. Heading East on the CVG is something we don't do very often, except as far Rupert and the grocery store there. As a family, we have never gone as far as Burnaby Lake, and I was surprised to realize how easy it is to get there. It is essentially a flat ride all the way, most of which is along cycling/pedestrian dedicated pathways, well away from exhaust fumes and cars racing to get to family gatherings for the long weekend. It was a beautiful ride, especially with the trees now changing colours, and my only complaint is that cycling on gravel is not the most smooth of rides. We also managed to go the wrong way just a handful of times, but as a result, I now know how close we are to the Burnaby Lake Sports Fields, which should come in handy for when my son starts playing soccer!

Crossing over Winston Road and heading East
The colours of Autumn
Pained bike lanes in Burnaby 
Riding alongside a freight train...pretty cool!
Once we reached the trail head for the hike up Burnaby Mountain, it was about time to refuel. We sat on the rocks and enjoyed some lunch, which, coincidentally, managed to lighten the backpack Chris carried along the back, so win-win for him! Once fueled up and ready to go, we set off on the 2 km hike from North Road up to SFU. It's been some time since we went for a proper hike that involved some challenging terrain, so while the kids had a bit of trouble from time to time on the more immediate sections, it was a great achievement to finally reach the top. While the kids didn't ride their bikes to the trail, I am pretty darned proud of my active kids, willing to come along with Mom and Dad on their silly little adventures. For Chris and I, the hike was a revelation that our kids may not be quite ready for a hike as intense as the Grouse Grind, but because we tried, we know they can handle some pretty gritty trails.
Hiking up the "Grinding Gears" trail...
it's a Black Diamond for those on Mountain Bikes!

Looking down to the city and the Island
Mountain in the background
We took a quick walk around the SFU campus, being sure to stop for a Popsicle treat, before heading back down the way we came. Going dawn, while slightly faster, was actually much trickier. Because it has been so long since we've seen rain here on the West Coast, and because the trails are shared with Mountain Cyclists, the terrain was quite dusty and soft, meaning that slipping and falling on your behind is very probably. In fact, only one of us made it to the bottom without slipping, and that was my husband, the member of our family wearing a pair of heavily worn shoes with little treads left. Despite that though, both kids enjoyed themselves thoroughly, Coralie leading us on the way up and Etienne leading the whole way down, running so far ahead that Coralie and I found ourselves frequently some distance behind Etienne and Chris who did his best to stay with him the whole way down. In Etienne's own words as he raced down, "This is SO FUN!"

Three dirty bums!
Needless to say, once we reached the bottom of the trail again and reunited with our bikes, the kids got back into the trailer and we headed home. By this point, we were obviously all pretty tired, so we opted to hop onto the Skytrain at Production Way station and caught the train West and home. We got home just before dinner, everyone ready to relax, and the kids were in bed by 7:30, which in our house on a weekend is quite early. I'd like to say that Chris and I were shortly behind them for getting to sleep, but being gluttons for punishment, we then went out to celebrate our friend's 30th birthday, including dancing away to music from from the 90's and reliving our teen years. Overall, it was a day filled with adventures and trying something new, and I'm so glad we conquered yet another item on our to do list. Next hike...the Stawamus Chief?
We made it, and are still smiling!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Foodie Friday #9: Homemade Granola

As we get closer and closer to the holidays, it's time to start saving up for "Santa". This means coming up with thrifty ways to save money on our weekly grocery bill. One way is to do away with our cereal purchase, and make some tasty homemade granola! This recipe is great with some plain or vanilla yoghurt, or even just milk, and is packed with protein to keep the whole family going in the colder months. Enjoy!


4 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup flax seed meal (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup water


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F

In a large bowl, mix oats, wheat germ, flax, brown sugar, seeds, nuts, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, honey, vanilla and water. Pour wet ingredient over dry mix and stir until well blended. Spread granola mix evenly over a 9x13" or 11x17" baking pan. Bake for 1-1.5 hours, stirring every 20 minutes, or until toasted. I like to bake a bit longer because my family likes crispy granola. Remove from oven and let cool. Place in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Get the Lady a Bike!

No fashionistas here. Just a mom and her little girl,
riding their bikes, making it looks simple and easy.
Last week, my husband wrote a piece for Hush Magazine titled: Towards a Slower, Simpler, More Civilized Bicycle Culture. In it, he discusses the Cycle Chic movement and the concept of dressing for the destination, which I have written about before. Unfortunately, I think the message was lost for a few people, referring to this style of cycling as shallow, or limited to fashionistas, among other comments. I then read a post from Momentum Magazine; How to Sell the Cycling Lifestyle to American Women. In this article, they talk a lot about how current marketing, merchandising and visuals of the cycling culture in North America is focused on men, speeding along, sometimes in highly dangerous situations, and I can't help but think these two articles compliment each other in challenging our pre-existing concept of what "normal" cycling is.

You may have heard it before, that if you want to sell something to the masses, you first have to sell it to women. An article about selling to women, available here, notes that women are responsible for at least 85% of consumer purchases in their household. So it seemingly goes without saying that if you want to increase the modal share in North American cities, like Vancouver, you need to make riding a bike look accessible, affordable and, most of all, safe to women.

Women are visual creatures, much more so then men, so when we're out and about in the city, we're taking everything in, and that includes people on bikes. Just yesterday, while out on our group ride, I recall myself noticing nearly every person we passed on a bike, and you want to know which ones stood out for me? The ones dressed in their everyday clothes, smiling and enjoying a ride along the seawall. Ok, so maybe I'm a bit biased, because I'm noticing people that look like me. But isn't that just the point? 

When I'm out riding my bike, or doing anything for that matter, I don't want to feel like the only one at the party. As a woman riding a bike in my everyday clothes, I see every strange look I get from passersby dressed in cycling specific clothing. I know that a lot of what my family and I do makes us part of a smaller group. From the food we eat, to the way we commute and much more, so it makes me very happy to see people like me on a bike. 

So, back to the point made that Cycle Chic promotes a shallow ideal. What's important is to look past the initial image and understand the idea behind it. No one, not even members of the Cycle Chic worldwide community, wants to stop people that already ride bikes from doing it. What the intention is is to show the average person who maybe only rides occasionally along a waterfront, or has never thought of a bicycle as a viable means of transportation, that all they need is a bike that doesn't have to cost a fortune, and the clothes in their closet. 

Further to that, women, who currently make up a dismal 24% of all cyclists in the US (couldn't find Canadian stats), need some positive imagery to make them consider cycling as a safe, accessible and viable option for commuting. In my opinion, I feel that showing men, women, children and families riding bikes in their everyday attire is one of the best ways to achieve that. There is a huge lack of that in marketing materials, but it is growing, slowly but surely. Until bike and bike accessory companies catch on, though, the best form of advertising is seeing people in your city doing it; people just like you. 

Which was the point my husband was trying to make. We're not telling people to do away with their gear if they don't want to, or to ride slower. Ride however you want in whatever you want. BUT, if you do want to make a quick jaunt to the corner store, maybe leave the bright yellow coat at home. Or, if a female (or male) friend is considering trying out riding a bike to work, try not to intimidate them by telling them they have to buy a sporty, lightweight hybrid or a drop hundreds of dollars on gear at bike shops to do it. It is just as acceptable for them to go buy a used or vintage bike for less, and ride in what they would wear to walk, take transit or drive.

In the end, we all want more people on bikes, no matter what we wear or ride; for health, the environment, or just for the sheer pleasure of doing it. If you want to wear all the specialized gear, buy a lightweight bike, and ride fast, then by all means, do it. Just understand what we're trying to do, too. It's not shallow, and we're not all fashionistas. We're just a family that would rather ride our bikes, and want to encourage more people, especially a cautiously curious lady, to do it, too!

Fall Velo Family Ride

Our group for this Velo family Ride
This Sunday we got to share a beautiful Fall sunny day with a few fellow bicycle riding families! We had a repeat ride with our friends Lisa, Oliver and Sprout from The Sprog, as well as some of our fellow friends from Coralie's school! It was a great day to get out, with just a little bit of a cool breeze but lots of sunshine. I'm so glad we got to share the time with our friends before the cold, wet weather hits.

Lisa, from The Sprog, and I, chatting about
commuting on two wheels

We set off from one of our favourite spots, the Square at Olympic Village, and rode the seawall towards Kitsilano Beach. Coralie decided she wanted to lead, so her and her friend, Nora, took the front of the pack for most of the journey. Now that the younger ones are so confident riding on their own, us adults got a chance to catch up and get to know each other better while we rode. I found out that a fellow parent at school who I've been chatting with for the past year and a half has quite a bit in common with me and my family. We swapped restaurant tips, as they are also a vegetarian family, and talked about commuting throughout the city on our bikes. It was just a great example of how nice Conversational Cycling can be, just cruising at a slower speed, enjoying a ride along the water and learning new things about each other!

Coralie's friend, Nora, and her mom posing for
Coralie during a rest stop

The kids watching intently as the racers sped by
When we reached Vanier Park, and just before reaching our final destination, we took a quick stop, noticing there seemed to be a track roped off throughout the park. We quickly realized there was a Cycle Cross race going on, and took in the speed of the bikes riding up and down and around the track. I think we may have some future Cycle Cross racers on our hands, both young and old!

Chris cooking up some grub
We finally reached Kitsilano Beach and the kids all dispersed into the play ground or the sand while Chris and I set up our little BBQ for a mini picnic. The BBQ fits nice and snug in our trailer, and this is now it's 2nd trip of many more to come. Once again, the kids got to play while the adults talked about life, the universe, and everything in between. As things started to get cooler, we all started to disperse our separate ways, whether it was to grab a coffee and warm up before the trip back, to go visit some friends on the West side of Vancouver, or, in our case, take the return trip home. Chris and I enjoyed the quiet as Coralie rode at her own pace and Etienne slept in the trailer. I even took some time to have a bit of fun on my bike, posing for a photo. 

Overall, it was another successful journey. Hopefully the weather continues to cooperate and we can get at least a couple more rides in before the end of the year! daughter!
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