Friday, 30 November 2012

Foodie Friday #15 - Winter Warm Up Lentil Soup

This hearty soup was a life saver this week when the cold weather and rain was getting us down. The lentils provide us with much needed protein, while the vegetables provide the stick to the bones food needed to keep us feeling warm and toasty. This recipe is easily experimented with; use less broth to create more of a thick, stew-like soup, or be creative with your vegetable choices and add some yams or other seasonal root vegetables. Healthy and hearty, the key to any good fall or winter dish!


4-6 cups of vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried lentils (any colour)
1 large potato diced
1 small onion finely chopped
1-2 carrots diced
Spices to taste


In a large saucepan, come broth, lentils, vegetable and desired spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer until vegetables are tender. If you opted for less broth, be sure to keep checking that the soup is not sticking to the pot. Serve with bread for dipping.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Look Carefully...

Recently, my husband has taken to going out of his way on his bike to take photos of the random street art that keeps popping up around Vancouver. The thing that makes many of them special is that they are generally off the beaten track, and would likely go unnoticed were it not for the fact that he, and many other people, are walking or biking past these images at a leisurely pace, taking in his surroundings.

To me, this is one of just a plethora of benefits of riding a bike as a means of transportation. Riding around the city allows my family and I the opportunity to really take in the world around us, and allows us to be fortunate enough to experience our city more intimately. Whether it's the nature around us, images we see along the way, or just the sheer joy my youngest expresses as we coast down a hill, I am forever grateful for the path we've chosen.

Here's a sampling of some of the photos my husband has taken. If you live in Vancouver, try to get out and see them before they are washed away.
10th Ave bikeway and Main St @ Exhibit Menswear 
Under the Cambie Bridge along the Seawall -
sadly it has been washed away, but I will still smile because I saw it
Along Main St @ Helen's Grill
Main St @ Shaktea
Downtown @ Bangtown Hair
Main St @ The Whip
Seawall @ Science World 
South Fraser @ Pita House Restaurant
Main St @ Pho Hoang Restaurant
Main St @ Slickety Jim's

Photos by: Chris Bruntlett (twitter & instagram - cbruntlett)

Friday, 23 November 2012

Straight girls like bikes, too!

Ok, so the title of this blog seems a bit silly. Lots of people like bikes, regardless of their sexual preference, but let me explain where this phrase came from. We are happy to be hosting our friend, Brenna, again while she is in transition between the West Coast and Central Canada (see: A Girl, a bike and a dream... and Beeyond A Bike). Whenever we get together with Brenna, inevitably we talk a lot about bikes, and yesterday, while discussing Brenna's plans to volunteer with a community bike shop, it came up that because she's a woman, her opportunities are seemingly endless. I then recalled having been to many a bike shops, and noticing that my gender is incredibly under-represented, and I have even been made to feel like I was under-educated about bikes. So I blurted out in our conversation, "What's up with that? Straight girls like bikes, too!"

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I am more than capable when it comes to servicing my bicycle. I can clean and oil my chain and cassette, as well as patch up or change a flat tire, and can make small adjustments to my brakes and rear derailer. In fact, some Spring, I'm usually the family bike mechanic, and I'm proud to do it, because I love being handy. However, earlier this year I applied to a bike shop for a sales position, hoping to use the opportunity to learn even more about bikes, and was told that I didn't have enough knowledge about bikes, particular road and racing bikes. I'm not sure if my gender and presumed ignorance about bikes played a role, but I can say that there were no women on site when I went for that interview, and showing up in heels and professional attire likely didn't help.

On those rare occasions that I do see women in bike shops, many times they fit a certain stereotype: t-shirt, baggy pants, short hair cut, tomboyish appearance. I am by no means saying that these women aren't good at what they do, and the certainly deserve respect for being a small minority in the bike shop/maintenance world. Still, why can't you dress in pretty clothes, like to ride bikes AND fix them up, too?

This brings me to a bigger point. There are lots of women on bikes, but there could be more, and I think one of the ways of doing this is making bike look more accessible and appealing for the ladies. Safe infrastructure is definitely an asset for that, but I've already spoken to that a few times, so I won't go on about separated lanes being awesome. I think that goes without saying! It also takes getting the word out, and celebrating women on bikes. I like to think I play a part in that by showing my family and I doing every day things by bike, dressed in our every clothing. Here's a few other groups that try to empower women to get out on their bikes, straight or otherwise, and celebrate our beauty:

Vancouver Cycle Chic (And the worldwide Cycle Chic community)
Let's Go Ride A Bike
Vancouver Velo Vixens
Bicycle Babes

From group rides, charitable events, and general tips on staying fashionable on two wheels,  these groups, and many others, celebrate beautiful people enjoying bicycles and the beautiful act of riding them. Without intending to, they humanize riding a bike, taking it away from the notion that it's an extreme sport, not for the faint of heart. That all you need is a bike and a desire to use it, and an acceptance that you CAN use it without changing the way you look and act. 
The next generation of beautiful ladies on bikes...and I'm proud
to be her mom

So back to the title of this post. Clearly, lots of "straight" girls like bikes. We know which type of bike suits us best, how to fix them, and love riding them in our regular clothes. It's time that the bike community catches up a bit, and there are bike shops who are starting to accept it. Shops like Vancouver's Whoa Nellie don't reinforce the road warrior stereotype, catering more to the average city cyclist who is simply using a bike as a means of mobility. As a woman, I don't walk in shops like these and feel out of place, instead I feel welcome and respected. The North American cycling community is changing, albeit slowly, but I'm happy to be an active part of its renaissance.

Foodie Friday #14 - Homemade Focaccia

I found this recipe online and have been using it almost weekly ever since. Whether it's for a dinner we're attending, fresh tomato and bocconcini sandwiches, or as pizza dough, this focaccia recipe is so handy and delicious. It takes time, and effort, but is well worth the reward!


3 cups flour
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
rosemary (optional)
oregano (optional)
italian seasoning (optional)
grated parmesan cheese (optional)


In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and sprinkle in sugar and yeast. Carefully pour warm water into the well and let stand for 5 minutes, or until yeast/water is foamy. Pour in olive oil as well as desired spices/cheese, and mix by hand until dough is worked together. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. pour 1/2 tsp of oil into a clean bowl, coat bowl in oil and then place dough in bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise  until doubled, about 45 minutes. remove dough and place on a lightly floured surface, and punch down until air is removed. Press dough down to about 1/2", and using end of a wooden spoon to dimple dough. I usually just use my knuckles for this. Sprinkle a baking sheet with corn meal, and gently place dough on baking sheet. Sprinkle with additional oil, cheese and spices if desired. Place dough in a cold over with a pan of boiled water at centre of bottom shelf. Let dough rise till doubled, about 25 minutes. Remove dough from oven and heat oven to 375 degrees F. Once oven is ready, bake dough for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

NOTE: For pizza, apply toppings after dough has risen in the cold oven. This recipe generally makes two medium sized, regular thickness, pizza doughs.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Coping with Bike Withdrawal

It has been just one week since out escapades throughout Vancouver to use the Inspiration Pass, and I am already missing my bike. We have been making the most of the nice weather, trying to get out on two wheels whenever we can, but I must admit, I'm going through a bit of withdrawal! So today, inspired to do a bit of Christmas shopping, I took my bike out, in the drizzle, and headed off to the nearest art store to buy my kids some creative gifts. Here's a couple shots of my trip...

Puddles in the gutter and no socks. I can just hear my
 mother telling me I'll catch a death of cold

My handy-dandy seat cover. I think it's about time
we have an "I bike YVR" one.

All loaded up with presents for my artistic kids

Purple hat, purple coat and purple shoes, toasty warm!

My one self-indulgent purchase, the perfect place
for all my Velo Family photos!

Friday, 16 November 2012

"Life's a great balancing act" - Dr Seuss

As a mom, life is hectic, not sometimes, pretty much all the time. Today, I had a little reminder that sometimes it's important to stop and take a moment to step back and look at my life and everything that is going on, after I showed up an hour late for my son's hour long art class, a highlight of his week. Now, sitting here writing this post, I realize I have reached maximum capacity, and it's time to start recognizing my limits. After all, one can only wear so many hats!

I have written before about being heavily involved with the Parent Advisory Council at my daughter's school, as well as just recently beginning work with a Fashion Sales Rep, which took me to Edmonton in September, and has kept me busy working from home since. I haven't, however, listed off all the extracurricular activities my kids take part in almost each day of the week. Nor should I, because my life is not dissimilar to most parents I know; it seems there are never enough hours in the day.

The greatest test is being sure everything is balanced, and that as a parent, you take time for you, too. Recognizing you're overwhelmed is hard, and usually doesn't happen until after the fact. When it does, though, taking time for simple pleasures like a warm bath or a cup of coffee, or even going for a solo bike ride, are small things that cost little to no money. It's also very important for couples to take time away from being parents together. Setting aside the time and money for a night off with childcare can sometimes seem like more trouble than it's worth, but believe me, that time is worth more than you can ever imagine. Not only do you get to reconnect with your partner without having to keep one eye on your kids, but you appreciate the nice times you have with your children, making the arguments, misbehaviour and stress seem to fade away.

Being a parent is hard work, just ask any of your childless friends who listen as you list off all of your many daily and weekly tasks. They see the stress in our faces, and many of my friends marvel at how I find the energy to get up in the morning sometimes. It's all about balance, and after being reminded today that I was about to lose my balance, I'm off to rest, recoup, and enjoy a warm cup of coffee!

"So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you'll move mountains." Oh, Dr Seuss, such a wise man!

Quotation from Dr Seuss' "Oh The Places You'll Go"

Foodie Friday #13 - Mexican Tostadas

This recipe is so basic, but is surprisingly a big crowd pleaser in our house. It's also cheap! Enjoy this tasty, easy and affordable recipe, great for the days when you just don't want to go through all the effort.


1 can refried beans
Corn tostadas
Shredded cheese
sour cream


Warm up beans on stove or in microwave. Spoon beans onto tostadas, spreading it around to cover almost entire tostada. Top with cheese, salsa and sour cream and serve! See I told you it was easy!

Monday, 12 November 2012

An Inspirational Weekend - Part Two

This weekend brought with the rest second part of our whirlwind with the Inspiration Pass. With the extra long weekend, we had lots of time to get as much done as possible, and we did just that. As an extra bonus, the weather was gorgeous Friday and Saturday, so we got to ride all over the city, which was long overdue. We did so much this weekend, and are pretty pooped today, but it was well worth it!

Bundled up and ready to ride on a sunny Fall day!
Such beautifully fascinating creatures 
On Friday, the day started all about the kids, as we head off to the Vancouver Aquarium. We rode along the seawall, enjoying the sunshine, arriving at the Aquarium for lunchtime. The kids had a blast running through each area, especially marvelling at the jellyfish. I was quite grateful for this visit, because the Aquarium is one of those great attractions that is just out of the budget for a family of four. Getting to take in all the shows as well, was just so much fun for the kids, and it's always nice to cater a day to them! On the way home, we made a quick stop at the Vancouver Police Museum, which was interesting, however creepy when you enter the morgue and autopsy area. Coralie was not impressed, and wanted out of that space quickly when she found out what happens there.

Coralie swimming with the fish
The kids locked up at the police museum...
seems fitting
Saturday, we stuck mainly to the central area of Vancouver. We biked over to Van Dusen Gardens, and wandered around the gardens. The highlight was the maze, which the kids took pleasure in leading us through. It was a nice quiet way to start the day, even if the kids spent a lot of time squealing as they chased each other through the park. From there, we headed off to the Bloedel Conservatory, which has been on our to do list since moving to Vancouver in 2007. It was pretty neat to walk through and see all the birds and butterflies, and to warm up in the tropical climate.
The maze at Van Dusen, conquered by the Velo Family children

All bright and sunny inside the
Bloedel Conservatory
While getting into all the gardens and museums is such a privilege, I think it is so fantastic that the pass also includes admission to the pools, skating rink and fitness centres. While going to these places isn't exactly unaffordable, being given the incentive to do some physical activity is great for a family of four who have been stuck inside with the weather turning wet. After Bloedel, being so close to Hillcrest Community Centre, we took the kids to the pool for some much needed playtime. We then headed home to rest up for one more day of play!

The photo hardly does justice to the sheer size of
this mammal
On Sunday, we woke up to drizzle, so we took that as our opportunity to give our bikes, and our legs, a rest, and headed out to UBC by bus. First stop was the Beatty Biodiversity Museum, and getting to see the giant blue whale skeleton. It was pretty fascinating, although after a few aisles, Coralie made it clear she did not want to see anymore dead birds. Etienne, alas, was not interested at all, which made us very grateful knowing we hadn't paid full price to get in. We then head off for a quick tour of the Museum of Anthropology, before heading home, exhausted but gracious for the opportunity.

Bill Reid "The Raven and The First Men"
sculpture at the MOA
So, after two weekends of museums, parks, galleries and whatever else we could fit in, I have to say that the Vancouver Inspiration Pass is such a fantastic program, and I am so thankful I have a husband who is quick on the draw and got us in line for this pass right away. Having two younger children, we likely wouldn't have went to most of these places until our children were much older, because they just don't have the attention span or the interest in much of what we did. We also now have a better idea of places we would like to return, either when the children are older, or on our own. For anyone lucky enough to get this pass, they will be able to experience so much. Two weeks is a short time to do all that the pass offers, but I encourage everyone to try to get to as much as possible. It is an amazing opportunity, and I am so thankful that we, as a family, were able to do this together!

A happy, well travelled family!

Monday, 5 November 2012

An inspirational weekend - Part One

This past weekend the Velo Family had the pleasure to use the Vancouver Inspiration Pass to visit some of the attractions we've been meaning to do since moving to Vancouver in 2007. For those who aren't aware, the Inspiration Pass is available to anyone with a Vancouver Public Library Card, and give the bearer admission for a family of up to six people into numerous museums, galleries, parks and other attractions throughout the City of Vancouver over a two week period. Sadly, the program is so incredibly popular that although my husband managed to get one of the first passes, when I signed up this weekend, I was so far down the list that I won't get a pass until at least a year and a half from now. So, if you're not one of the lucky people to get on the list early, I hope my posts this weekend and next inspire you to visit some of these attractions anyway!

Coralie suited up at the Space Centre
This weekend, our sights were set on staying indoors since the rain wasn't going anywhere. After our kids finished their swimming lessons on Saturday, we crossed the Burrard Bridge from the Vancouver Aquatic Centre and headed to the HR MacMillan Space Centre. It's been on the list of things to do for years, and then this year, while watching some shows with our youngest all about the birth of the universe and the planets in our solar system, we knew it was time. The Museum itself is small, but the shows are worth it. For the first time, I got to have the planetarium experience, watching the a show all about the origins of the universe. Under a canopy of stars, stardust and solar systems I, and my family, were dazzled by the all the wonders of space.

Inside the planetarium
Etienne is all set for Deep Sea Exploration

After the space centre, we took a tour through the Museum of Vancouver, conveniently located in the same building. There, we got to see some amazing installation art by Tobias Wong, along with the some pretty cool, although disturbingly eerie sounding, old neon signs. We also walked through the history rooms, and the kids marvelled at the old clothes and toys. Etienne took a particular liking to the old 1950's car, which I suppose is because it is a bit of a novelty for him, having no memories of travelling in our family car almost three years ago. After the MOV, we took a quick jaunt to the Maritime Museum, before hopping on a bus and heading home six hours after we left the house in the morning. Three museums in one day, and overall a very successful day trip!

Self Portrait of Tobias Wong comprised of 13,138 dice
The room of neon
Cars are a novelty for the car-free family
A unique experience...we stumbled upon
the Orpheum sign being replaced

Sunday, our destination was downtown. We took the kids to the Vancouver Art Gallery, where they were showing an exhibit for Ian Wallace, which was an interesting combination of photography and painting. I don't think the children fully appreciated the experience, but you have to start a love of art somehow! After the gallery, we headed to the Orpheum. Believe it or not, this Inspiration Pass includes tickets for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Knowing full well our youngest would not sit quietly through a show, we left him in the capable hands of some good friends and the comforts of the Central Library while we took our daughter to the orchestra. It was a wonderful experience, and the music was absolutely beautiful!

The view of the orchestra before the show
So, with the help of the Inspiration Pass, we managed to pack a lot into one weekend. I truly hope this is something the VPL carries on for some time. It is an excellent way to see so much of our city when you're on a tight budget. It is especially beneficial for families, with admission to most of the attractions totalling anywhere between $50-100 for a family of four. Everything we did over the weekend were things we would have done sooner, had budget not been an issue. It leaves me excited for what we will get up to next weekend! To be continued...

Friday, 2 November 2012

Foodie Fridays #12 - Vegetarian Cornish Pasty

Sorry for missing last week's post, but I'm making up for it today with a two part recipe. Last week I made this recipe, complete with the dough, and it was a HUGE success! So here you go, homemade, flaky pie crust and delicious, nutritious Cornish Pasty's!


Pie dough
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 tsp brown sugar
1 pound of butter
1 egg
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 cup water

2 oz butter
1 onion finely chopped
1 rutabaga peeled and diced
1 large potato peeled and diced
1 large carrot peeled and diced
1/2 tsp margarine
1/4 cup hot water
pinch of Herbe du Provence
fresh thyme
1/2 cup peas
4 oz ground round
1/2 tsp yeast extract
beaten egg
1 shake soy sauce
salt and pepper


Preheat oven 400 degrees F

Pie dough: 
Beat egg in a measuring cup, add vinegar and enough cold water to make 1 cup. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Cut butter into small cubes, and then cut butter into dry mixture. Add the liquid ingredients and mix with a knife. If needed, add additional water or flour to make a soft ball of dough. Refrigerate for 1/2 an hour before rolling. Makes about 4 shells which can be frozen for later.

Melt butter in a skillet. Add onions and rutabaga and cook for 5 minutes. Add potato and cook another 5 minutes. Add carrots and cook a few minutes more. Dissolve yeast in the hot water and add to veggies with margarine. Add herbs and cover, cooking for 8-10 minutes or until the veggies are almost done. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes. Add ground round and soy sauce and season. Cook for a couple minutes then remove from heat and set aside. Roll out dough into 6" circles, 1/8-1/4" thick. Spoon 2-3 spoonfuls of mixture into the centre and crimp dough over using a little water. Place on a baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned.

In it for the money...or not. Life as a volunteer

Like many other moms, and dads, out there, I have decided to predominantly be a stay at home parent while my children are still young. It has been partly motivated by the cost of childcare, but also because we find that, as a family, we live a healthier lifestyle when both my husband and I aren't rushing off to the office then home again too close to dinner. The other advantage of being home most of the time is that I can freely volunteer with my daughter's school, and over the course of the last year and a bit, I have grown to find the experience so rewarding and am very grateful for my experiences.

Makeshift Pumpkin Patch for our parent run
event for all the kids in the school
I had decided well before Coralie started kindergarten last year that I wanted to be able to volunteer for various activities at her school. At the start of the school year, I stepped up to be the Secretary for out Parent Advisory Council (PAC). When the Movie Night event was in jeopardy of not happening, I took over as the event leader, ensuring we would have another year of fun evenings for the whole family without paying movie theatre prices.

This year, it took a leap. With the previous Co-Chairs stepping down, I, along with another parent, took over the roles. Now that I'm two months in, I have already learnt so much! Being the point person for most questions regarding school events, ideas and fundraising, I have become good at delegating and have been learning the technique of being diplomatic in the way I communicate. After all, like me, each parent is a volunteer, and I never want to discourage anyone who may be curious and eager like I was just a year ago.

Me running a bike maintenance session for last year's
Earth Day Celebrations - also completely run by
parent volunteers
The biggest benefit has been getting to know so many people in the school community. I recognize teachers around the school, and have built great relationships with the administration, who also make my youngest feel welcome at what will be his school one day, too. Then there's the parents, so many of whom are just like me. Trying to be an active part in their child's school. I can't describe the feeling of community I experience walking onto the school yard and being greeted by smiling and gracious faces. We're all there to support each other and our kids, and there's something so fantastic about that.

I may not be getting paid for my efforts, but the value of the experience more than makes up for it. Each parents volunteer brings something different to the table, and we all learn from each other. Becoming a volunteer has been very rewarding for me, but I see how my actions have effected my children. I have a daughter that's proud to have me at the school, and has been known to brag to her friends about me. I guess that's the biggest advantage...I'm still a cool mom, and I'll gladly wear that title for as long as I can!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Earth Easy Guest Post - Easy as Riding a Bike

A couple months back, I was appraoched by to write a guest post about cycling. I chose to focus on my family's journey, and how easy it can be to start riding a bike daily. Click below to see what I wrote; hope you enjoy it!

As Easy as Riding a Bike