Monday, 31 December 2012

Humbled and in awe! The most popular Velo Family posts of 2012

When I started this blog in late June, 2012, I thought it would be a fun way to record our family adventures on two wheels. It quickly grew to more than that. Not only was I sharing our life on two wheels, but I have also shared some of my strong opinions about how to make biking more accessible and fun for everyone, regardless of gender, age, ability, etc. I have been humbled with the response, and have made some new friends along the way. I want to thank everyone that has followed our journey so far, whether you agree with what I have to say or not, and hope to continue to entertain in 2013 and years to come! Here is a recap of the 10 most popular posts of 2012. 

#10 - Free for the weekend July 8, 2012

Not only do I want this blog to be an inspiration for other families to try a life on two wheels, but I always want to be a resource for other parents in finding fun things to do with their children. This post provided a list of activities that cost little to no money and were a fun way to keep our young children entertained. The good thing is, these activities will be around for 2013, so it's not too late to take advantage!

#9 - One small idea, very big reward December 6, 2012

This recent post discussed my frustration with the lack of safe infrastructure for pedestrians and bicycles in some areas of Vancouver. While I have heard from my guy at the City, who gave me some ideas of what to do next, it's going to take a lot of work to make the changes I wish to see. Looks like 2013 is going to be a busy year!

#8 - The Month Before Christmas - A Velo Family Holiday Story December 4, 2012

This fun post started out as our annual Christmas e-card to friends and family. At my husband's insistence, I shared it with my followers, and have received lots of love for my creativity. Thanks to everyone!

#7 - Get the Lady a Bike! October 1, 2012

With women making up 85% of the household purchasing power, marketing to their sensibilities is a sure fire way to increase sales. So why don't most bicycle companies take advantage of make riding a bike look like a fun, easy and safe option for people instead of an intense sport for the only the bravest of our citizens? Things are changing, though. Keep an eye out in Vancouver for some creative new ideas on how to sell bikes to the masses in 2013!

#6 - Year End Countdown #1 - Top Ten Family Bike Destinations December 11, 2012

This year the Velo Family got to many places around Vancouver, creating memories at each stop. This is a list of some of my favourite places to ride my bike around town!

#5 - An Inspirational Weekend - Part One November 5, 2012

We were lucky enough to be one of the first families to use the Vancouver Inspiration Pass. Not being ones to back down from a challenge, we tried to fit as many activities into our weekend as possible, and I think we succeeded! 

#4 - Fall Velo Family Ride October 1, 2012

Fall can be very rainy here in Vancouver. Loving both fall riding and gathering a group of people to do it, I held what happened to become the last Velo Family Rides of 2012. In an unseasonably warm Fall air, we took a ride with new friends and old, and enjoyed one of the few beautiful days before the rain starts.

#3 - Disoriented, Disrespected and Disappointed July 24, 2012

It's always surprising how quickly a ride can turn from fun to a flop. On a simple trip to Science World with my son, I experienced some of the worst attitudes and infrastructure a bike rider can face. I'm happy to say, though, that the construction has cleared in that area, making way for an awesome separated lane that I now love using!

#2 - Straight Girls Like Bikes, Too! November 23, 2012

This turned out to be a piece that ruffled some feathers, but was meant to point out that there are all types of bike riders, including girls in skirts, and that creating a more human image of cycling is the best way to grow the numbers on two wheels. Wishing all riders happy cycling!

#1 - Why Separation is a Good Thing July 12, 2012

One of my earliest posts, this turned out to be the most popular by far! As a mom, a wife and a person who rides a bike, I continue to think the best way forward for cycling infrastructure is to provide them with separated lanes. Motorists may see it as a loss of a driving lane, but the benefit to them is just a great. Creating a barrier between bicycles and motorists reduces the incidents of collisions, creates a safe environment for cyclists, thus increasing the numbers, and believe it or not, actually increases traffic at the retail spaces that exist along these routes. I just hope the momentum keeps up in my city and others throughout North America, so that everyone can benefit from safer, more complete streets.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Final year end countdown: Favourite Velo Family Moments of 2012

What an adventure we've had this year! The Velo Family has shared some fantastic moments together and with our friends. Some memories stand out, and I wanted to share them with you as the year comes to an end.

#6 - Weekend Without Mommy

Ok, so not all the Velo Family was a part of this adventure, but my husband looks back on his solo weekend with the kids with fond memories. Getting to explore with our kids the best way he knows how gave them a chance to bond. Working full-time, he misses out on many of my trips with the kids, so I'm glad they were able to take the time to have some fun together!

#5 - My Cargo Bike Adventure and the Beginning of Velo Family Diaries

The very first Velo Family post gave me a chance to begin sharing my family story. As an added bonus, it featured our first trip in a Cargo Bike! Travelling through my city with my two kids in front seeing everything in a new perspective was such a great experience, and has left my husband and I longing for our own cargo bike if it weren't for the hefty price tag.

#4 - Inspiration Pass Explorations Part 1 and Part 2

The Inspiration Pass released by the City of Vancouver is such an amazing program, and we count ourselves very lucky to be one of the first families to use it. We were able to explore so many places in this city that we otherwise miss out on because of budget, time, or just busy lives in general. I think the second weekend was definitely my favourite because we got to do all those things the best way we know how, on our bikes!

#3 - Coralie's Birthday Ride Home

Every one of my kid's birthdays are celebrations and memorable, but this past year, my daughter did something exceptional, conquering a large hill on her own on her bike. It seems such a small thing, but to me, it is still a proud moment, knowing how strong and determined my little girl is becoming. It's all about taking pleasure in even the smallest moments.

#2 - A Winter Wonderland Adventure

This recent adventure didn't involve any bike rides, but was exactly what I needed after a long, rainy December. Spending the day travelling up to Whistler and wandering around in the snow was the perfect way to reconnect as a family, and watching the kids taking pleasure in all the snowy activities I took for granted as a child growing up in Ottawa, ON put a huge smile on my face.

#1 - Portland Vacation on Two Wheels

By far my absolute favourite Velo Family Diary entry was about our trip to Portland this summer. Travelling by train and then spending 5 days on our bikes exploring that funky little city made for some great family fun, and has left us excited for our next bike adventure. And getting to watch the Whitecaps with some fellow fans as a family for the first time was just icing on the cake!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Christmas Eve Winter Adventure

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrated yesterday. We at the Velo Family had a great, low key family day, which was much in order after the day we had Christmas Eve! Having spent the first 27 years of my life in a more snowy area of Canada, I tend to get a bit nostalgic for the snow this time of year. So, as a way to do something a bit different AND get to be in a Winter Wonderland, we hopped in a Zipcar and headed North to Whistler for a day in the snow. It was the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve, driving through the Coastal Mountains, with a stop in Brackendale to view the Bald Eagles currently nesting in the area. Here's a photo diary of our day, and what may just become a new family tradition!

Heading North on the Sea-to-Sky Highway at the crack of dawn,
snow capped mountains ahead

The sun just starting touch the mountain tops to the West

Quick walk in Brackendale. We saw two eagles...
the rest must have been sleeping

Snow covered branches lined the highway North of Squamish

Blue skies ahead, it was going to be a great day

Arrived safe and sound to this gorgeous backdrop

The kids got a nice sleigh ride care of Daddy

Gorgeous morning sun behind snow-covered trees

Snow angel time for the kids...they've been waiting so long for this!

The sun was encircled by several rainbows

Skating outdoors in the Olympic Plaza in Whistler Village

Exhausted, the kids had a nice nap on the ride home,
all ready for Santa's arrival the nest day

Friday, 21 December 2012

Foodie Fridays #19 (BONUS) - Chewy Ginger Cookies

Surprise! I love this recipe so much I had to share it before Christmas as a bonus. My kids are the strange ones at the bakery, opting for the ginger molasses cookies instead of the chocolate chip cookies like most other children (and their mother), so I had to come up with a good recipe to make for them. This recipe is the right combination of sweet and chewy, and I have had many compliments from people who receive them as gifts. Enjoy and I wish you happy baking this holiday season!


2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cups butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Mix dry ingredients except brown sugar in a bowl, cutting in butter until it resembles brown sugar. Add brown sugar and mix until well combined. Blend in egg and molasses. Roll dough into balls and roll balls in white sugar to coat. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Foodie Friday #18 - Peppermint Patties

For the third instalment of my holiday treats Foodie Friday, I am sharing one of my all-time favourite food combinations, chocolate and mint! About five years ago, I decided to be a bit adventurous and try my hand at making candy. That's when I found this great recipe for homemade peppermint patties. It's a messy one, but well worth the end product!


1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 softened margarine
1 tsp peppermint extract
4 3/4 cups icing sugar
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate squares


With an electric mixer whip corn syrup, margarine and peppermint extract. Add icing sugar 1 cup at a time, blending after each addition. Shape the candy mixture into 1" balls and place on a sheet of waxed paper. Gently flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass and let stand for 1-2 hours or until dry. Melt chocolate, stirring until smooth. Let cool about 10 minutes. Drop patties into chocolate, coating, and place back on the waxed paper. Allow them to sit another 1-2 hours, then place them in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Year End Countdown #2 - Bands to ride to

My next year end countdown is less of a countdown and more of a list of some of my favourite artists to listen to while out on my bike. This year, for my husband's birthday I purchased him a portable iPod speaker, so now when we head out for a ride, he hooks up the speaker and we get to listen to some great music while we cruise around as a family. Here some of are my favourites, and if you've not heard of them, please check them out. They're definitely worth a listen!

Best Coast - The Only Place

Hailing from Los Angeles, Best Coast is known for their surf pop, low fidelity sound. Their 2012 release, The Only Place, was stumbled upon by my ever music-savvy husband, and quickly became my favourite album of the summer. Whenever I was missing life back East, or feeling a bit down, I would hop on my bike with this album and be reminded why I love living on the West Coast. The band may be referring to California, but with these lyrics, it's hard not to feel really great about where I live!

Why would you live anywhere else?
We've got the ocean, got the babes
Got the sun, we've got the waves
                                                     This is the only place for me

Discovering new bands is always great, but finding out that your new friends are the people behind the music is very exciting! The guys from City of Glass are a great pair, and their music was on my iPod for most of my Spring and early summer rides. From Vancouver BC, City of Glass has a unique sound from most Canadian bands, and have had a lot of success in Europe. Their 2011 EP, The Diving Bell, is melodic and beautifully sung, and remains in my playlist to date. I'm looking forward to their debut LP, due out in 2013, and keep an eye out for a young member of the Velo Family in a future video!

This album one day appeared on my playlist thanks again to my husband, and being ever curious, I had a listen. I was instantly hooked to the vibrant guitar, songwriting and sound. Riding around sometimes requires an upbeat sound, and Fun Times (2012) does not disappoint. The eighth track, Polly, is a favourite, and I'm sure I was caught by many stranger singing along while out for a ride!

Every summer has the perfect album, and for the Velo Family, Part & Parcel, the 2012 release for The Skints, was that album. The Punk Reggae band from East London, UK created an album that is an upbeat, very much danceable album, just ask my son. The Reggae sound made it the perfect album for our seawall rides, and now makes us reminisce about a great summer on our bikes!

Regina Spektor - What We Saw From the Cheap Seats

I'll admit I'm kind of late to catch on to Regina Spektor, but her 2012 album What we saw... has become my fall album, even though it came out in May. I always have a soft spot in my heart and musical ear for female singer-songwriters, and this beautiful album with contrasts of light and dark has been on repeat during some dark, evening rides and on the cloudy days of Fall.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Foodie Fridays #17 - "Just Like Mom's" Shortbread Cookies

This recipe was not originated by my Mom, but growing up, every year my mom would make THE MOST delicious shortbread cookies. They were a treat to help make, getting your hands dirty as you rolled the dough into small balls and then got to fork them down in the criss cross pattern. But the best part was of course, eating them. They melt in your mouth, making it difficult to speak, but why would you if there's still cookie to eat? When I moved away, I tried a few recipes, never with the same success, until I did the simplest thing. I called my Mom, and just like all good moms, she shared the recipe with me! Now, I carry on the tradition, and every year I share these tasty treats with my family, just like Mom!


1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 cups butter


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F

In a bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until completely mixed and moist. Roll dough into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Use a fork to press them down. Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 24 cookies.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Year End Countdown #1 - Top Ten family bike ride destinations

Well, it's nearly the end of 2012, and while I look forward to even more Velo Family Adventures to come, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite family bike ride destinations throughout the year and what makes them so special. If you're from Vancouver, and haven't ridden to these places yet, maybe next year will be a good chance to try it out. To those that don't live here, be sure to check them out if you ever get over for a visit!

#10 - Kitsilano Beach

Kits Beach is somewhere we tend to forget most of the year, being it's a fair distance from our home in East Vancouver, but every time we go, I always have such a nice time. The kids love to play in the fantastic playground they have, which, believe me, has kept them busy for hours running from station to station. The beach area itself has an almost Californian quality, which in the summer is the perfect atmosphere, with the boardwalk right at the edge of the beach hosting numerous people walking or riding, and wherever you sit on the beach, you get a perfect view westward, where the mountains end and the water opens to the straight. At sunset, it's a beautiful place to sit and be reminded why it is we chose Vancouver to be our home.

#9 - Crab Park

This funny little waterfront park is tucked away from the city, a place literally on the other side of the tracks. From False Creek you head North towards Gastown, riding along the Carrall Street separated lane, then along Water St until you reach the end on Main Street. You then head up and over a ramp, past the lions, and on the downwards slope you see it, a small gem of a park with a perfect view of the Burrard inlet and the North Shore Mountains. Whenever we visit the park, I feel like I'm in a secret place that only a select few have heard of. It's almost always quiet, and so whenever I visit I feel like just sitting and taking in the ocean air and beautiful views.

#8 - Central Valley Greenway East

We live very close to where the 10th Avenue Bikeway intersects with the Central Valley Greenway, and while most trips take us West, I really do enjoy our trips along the CVG. Usually we ride it to do errands, like groceries, or those special occasions when I get to go to the art store, but there's something about this pathway that I love. Maybe it's the fact that for most of the ride you're separated from cars, or that you get to follow along with the Skytrain a VIA Rail tracks, meaning every once and a while you get a glimpse of a passenger car heading in or out of town. Or maybe it's because it's one of the quieter bikeways, meaning when we ride as a family, we almost always get to ride side-by-side. Whatever it is, it's holds a special place for me and that's why it's on this list.

#7 - Hillcrest Park and Pool

We made many treks out to Hillcrest this year, many to visit the pool, which is always a great treat after a hot summer bike ride. But there's something else great about this destination, and that's Nat Bailey Stadium. Each summer we try to catch at least one Vancouver Canadians game. We're not huge baseball fans, but there's something about watching it live, getting to participate in the seventh inning stretch, and the deliciously bad for you ball park food. During the season, they also host firework evenings, so for the price of a ticket, which averages about $15-20, you get to watch a successful ball team (winners of the Northwest Division two years in a row), but you get a fantastic fireworks display to round out a great evening. Of course, one of the added bonuses of riding to Hillcrest is that since you've reached one of the higher point in Vancouver, the whole ride home is downhill! Can't argue with that when it's late and you're hauling two sleeping children in a trailer.

#6 - Adanac Bikeway/Union Market

The Adanac Bikeway holds a special place for my family and I. For my husband and I, we love riding through the old Strathcona neighbourhood. The area has a lot of character, and there's a real sense of community whenever we're in the area. In the summer, the kids love to play at MacLean Park, which has a great play area, as well as a splash pad for cooling down. We also like to treat ourselves after a long ride with a stop at Union Market. This cute little shop is situated right along the bikeway, and is a destination for many residents in the area for a coffee and a chat with a friend. Our kids like to stop and get "candy pop", better known as cream soda. As I've said before, life's about the simple pleasures!

#5 - Stanley Park Seawall/English Bay

This pick is sort of a no brainer. Everyone who lives in Vancouver or has visited knows there's something pretty amazing about walking or riding along the expansive seawall around 404 hectares of West Coast Rainforest right in the heart of the city. Some of our rides have included seeing bald eagles, one of the many herons who nest there every year, and even seals. Almost always, we tend to end our rides at English Bay. The kids get to play at the beach, and we almost always get a treat from one of the shops along Denman Street. It's just a great place to be any time of the year, even on a cool damp winter's day.

#4 - 10th Avenue Bikeway

If you've been following this blog for a while, you've probably caught on that I spend a lot of time on the 10th Avenue Bikeway. It's the city's East/West connector, going all the way out to UBC if you follow it long enough, but I've never ventured further than Alma by bike, being less than eager to climb to get to the campus. There is a stretch of road, from Cambie, heading East to Clark, where the trees create a beautiful canopy over the street, and I love to ride through as the seasons change. In the Spring, the Cherry Blossoms create the look of cotton candy overhead, giving way to summer and the shade from the immense Chestnut trees, followed by the sometimes harrowing experience of falling chestnuts and leaves in the fall. Riding along this bikeway is one of those experiences that makes me so happy to be able to ride my bike in this beautiful city!

#3 - Olympic Village

Without intending it, Olympic Village ended up becoming THE start and destination for many of our rides this year. It's such a convenient place to meet up with a group of people, and you're left with many options of where to head from there being directly on the seawall. For the Velo Family, we stopped during so many rides here for a rest. While the children ran through the plaza, my husband and I would get to enjoy a coffee from the nearby cafe, reminiscing about our ride that day, or just taking a moment to reflect on where life has taken us so far. It is also where we spent our wedding anniversary this year, enjoying a glass of wine and a view of the city lights across False Creek.

#2 - Granville Island

Granville Island is by far one of my favourite places to go in the summer with the kids. With the fantastic new playground, the splash pad and the water slide, it's hours of summer fun for absolutely no money. And the seawall ride to get there is nothing to complain about. About once a week I would head over with the kids this past summer, complete with a packed picnic lunch for when my husband would walk down from his office just a few blocks away on South Granville. I have so many great memories from our trips here over the summer, including sliding down the water slide with my son in what will surely be his last year needing a parent with him. I'm actually a bit sad that we haven't gone as much now that the weather's become so wet and cold, but I have to remind myself that warmer days are on their way again...eventually!

#1 - Sunset Beach

Topping off my list of destinations is Sunset Beach. Conveniently located along the North side of the False Creek Seawall, this beach holds a special place for me. It was one of the first places I took the kids on our bikes when we started this blogging adventure back in July, and it is the spot my husband and I have shared many a romantic evenings over a picnic dinner and bottle of wine. Being one of the quieter beaches in Vancouver, I tend to feel calmer, enjoying the warm sand, the views North to the mountains and West to Kitsilano. It's one of those places where words won't do it the justice I mean to give it, but trust me when I say, every trip there has been worth it!

Where will my wheels take me next year?

Monday, 10 December 2012

A very Christmas-y kind of weekend

This weekend the Velo Family got right into the spirit. As you can imagine, with two young children, gearing up to Christmas can be an exercise in extreme patience for everyone. Every day, our six year old asks us how many more days until Christmas (15 if you're counting), and our four year old asks about three times a day when Santa will bring his presents. With kids this excited, it's near impossible to not start feeling pretty excited for Christmas day, but we helped it along with the start of some holiday activities all weekend long!

The busy Christmas Market
Friday evening we headed downtown to the Vancouver Christmas Market at the plaza at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Since November 24th, the plaza has been set up as a Bavarian Village, filled with vendors selling all sorts of Christmas crafts, as well as lots and lots of food! The highlight for the kids was a French Canadian treat of maple syrup candy, just like I used to have when I was a kid living in Ottawa, ON. Coralie and I also had the pleasure of riding the Carousel, while Etienne watched, claiming it was too fast. With a winter chill in the air and a clear night, the market was a perfect way to start a busy weekend of Christmas fun!

Coralie and I and our trusty, colourful, steeds

Etienne watching as we round and round

A beautiful, dry morning, complete with snow-capped mountains
Saturday we woke up to a dry, sunny day. The kids had their last swimming lessons of the season at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, and with no chance of rain, we hopped on our bikes and rode along the seawall. It was a little chilly, but after a few minutes of pedalling, we were all warmed up and enjoying a quite ride along the water there and back. Once we go home, I got into full baking/crafting mode to prepare for the Christmas Crafting party we were hosting for the kids and some of their friends the next day. With the kids' help, the kitchen was warm and welcoming all day as we baked our Candy Cane Cupcakes, made warm apple cider, and baked some salt dough decorations for painting the next day! 

Our Christmas cupcake creation!

Before the chaos. No action shots of the kids;
as you can imagine, it didn't stay this neat for long
Sunday proved to be a busy, Christmas-y day indeed. We woke up, got dressed up, and headed to Trout Lake Community Centre for the Annual Breakfast with Santa. Not only did we get to enjoy a pancake breakfast, complete with whipped cream, while Santa came round to say hello, but the kids also got to take part in some crafts, face painting, and the most exciting, a bouncy castle! Needless to say, it took great effort to get the kids to leave all the fun and excitement. Then it was time to set up for our crafting party. With the table stretched out as far as it would go, I got all the stations ready for our friends. The party was a lot of fun for everyone involved, and the kids (11 of them aged 3-6) got to make some fun and glittery decorations to take home to their trees. I may be tracking glitter around my house for the next few weeks, but it was worth it to share in their energy and excitement for the holidays!

Coralie's crafts from the day
Much fun, and glitter, was had!
Now, Monday morning, I sit recovering with a warm cup of coffee, still reeling from everything we got up to, and looking forward to yet another busy week of parties, visiting, and trying to teach the kids the value of patience as we wait for the big day. While it will be tiring, it's definitely a nice way to spend a time of year where we get a bit homesick for our family and friends back East. Christmas and the whole holiday season is a time when we cherish the new friends we've made on the West Coast, who are like our extended family, and when my husband, our children and I create new traditions that keep us busy well into the New Year!