Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Leap Day is important to us

February 29th, which comes around every four years is not only cool but will also always be a special day with important meaning for us now. Why? As some of you may have guessed, it was conception day for us. We are 99% sure Tristan was conceived that day. I some times call Tristan our miracle baby. One of the reasons I do is because of his interesting conception day. That, and the fact that it really isn't that easy to make babies. A lot of stars have to be aligned for it to happen, if you get my drift ;)

Okay, now that the truth is out, all my readers can giggle over this post :) I mean who else would ever talk about conception? Well, we have a child so conception had to happen at some point. You also got to admit this is a pretty cool date. I think it's special and super cool that we know our conception date too. It's not easy to determine that some times. Wow. I don't think I have ever written the word conception so many times!

I know what you are all thinking now and I'm totally with you. We have to celebrate Leap Day!!! I totally agree. Every four years on February 29th, we should celebrate :) And we can only celebrate it one way and that's with a cake or cupcakes! But I don't have any :( As I am writing this post, it is already too late to bake. Tomorrow, I promise I will bake something. I actually got the idea to celebrate late today and was just way too busy with work. Tomorrow then. Come back and there will be a cake or cupcake photo :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Daiso: my favorite $2 store

This past weekend we took a skytrain field trip down to Richmond. We had no purpose going down there aside from the fact that we wanted to ride the Canada line with Tristan. The Canada line was built for the Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver and I think Jean-Louis and I have only rode it once. The skytrain on this line is what you would call your typical subway train. It's longer and wider than your typical skytrain. It's funny because every time we come back from France, the skytrain feels a bit like a toy when we're sitting inside. It's so small and narrow compared to the big trains in France. It's awesome to have skytrains in Vancouver though and Tristan LOVES riding them:)

During our long ride into Vancouver and then to Richmond, I decided that we check out an Asian-type dollar store to find some replacement kitchen slippers. Yes, I was very particular in my search! :) I figured we could find something similar to what we could get at the night market during the summer. When I googled for dollar store in Richmond, I was surprised at so many results pointing to Daiso. The more I read about it, the more excited I got :)

Those who know me, know that I love to bargain shop. I am a big sucker for good deals! From the outside, Daiso didn't really look like your typical dollar store. For starters, it was HUGE! Within about one minute of stepping in, I fell in love. It was the dollar store of dreams! :) There were so many cool things I have never seen before at a dollar store or normal store for that matter. All for a dollar or more? Really? I started in the kids and toys area, carefully browsed and took mental notes on what the inventory was like. I could see Jean-Louis laughing at me already:) Then after careful consideration, I got yet another puzzle for Tristan. Where the toys area ended was where the gift bagging area started. Oh boy! There were so many cool things. I kind of went crazy and loaded my basket with tons of cute packing paper. I'm not sure when I would use them but I'll worry about that later. Seriously, I shopped like it was my last day in Richmond or something! And the place is only a 20 minute drive away from home. I'm CRAZY.

Like with every first visit to a new store, I slowly browsed and tried to look at everything. Jean-Louis actually took Tristan out and walked around the mall since Tristan lost interest in the store pretty quickly. I think Tristan was hungry for lunch though. I figured I had plenty of time to shop. According to Jean-Louis, I was in the store for over one hour! The store was so massive, I actually started to feel a bit ill near the end. Again, I can hear Jean-Louis teasing and laughing at me. I also had to pee a lot. Ha, there's the laughter again! To conclude, I didn't get to see everything and ended up just paying for what I had so far and promised myself I would come back another day. Who's terrible idea was it to slowly browse and shop in there anyway? Right. It was me :( Now I find out that they have over 50000 types of products in the Richmond Daiso store. 50000!!
We got slippers plus much, much more!


I shopped for an hour but I did good. I got all this cool stuff but it ended up being a lot more than I had originally thought. When things were not marked with a price, it would automatically ring in as $2. Not $1. That pretty much doubled what I thought I spent. Oops. However, most of the stuff I got cannot be purchased elsewhere so it was still a big win for me :) Dollarama in Station Square at Metrotown is still my favorite dollar store but Daiso is now my favorite $2 store!

Insulated water bottle bag for $2!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I've hit the gym!

I went to the gym twice this week. Monday was my first time in probably 10 years. Ever since running a lot outside, I have had no need or interest in the gym at all. The main reason I am going now is that I have a groupon to use up for a gym in my neighborhood. However, I can only go use the machines there since they barely have any fitness classes that fit in my schedule. I hope to try one of their balance classes one day. It's a small club of just 200 members. So far, I have only used their stair master and treadmill. The added bonus to my trip to the gym is that I get to catch up on all my podcasts now. I have actually enjoyed listening to a lot of them and have learned a thing or two along the way :)

I'm also running outside still. Just twice a week. No, I'm not on boot camp. I probably should be though. The exercising has increased but the eating has not changed. I pretty much still eat chocolate or some kind of sweet baked food every day. I keep saying that the diet will start once the junk food is gone. The problem is we have A LOT of junk food at home. Good grief. We still have Halloween treats for crying out loud!

On top of my new gym routine this week, I have also been preoccupied with an idea lately. One minute I was thinking about starting a food blog and the next minute, I found myself brainstorming names and then buying a domain name for it. Shortly after that, I photoshopped a header for the homepage. It's a bit of an obsession really and I haven't even blogged yet! When the first post rolls out, I'll be sure to announce it here.

Work has been a bit busier this week as well and that always makes me happy. Every time I work, I feel so grateful afterwards knowing that I can work part time on such a flexible schedule. I don't work many hours but it's nice to receive even a small pay cheque every month :) Plus, I like what I do and with more success, I'll be able to contribute more hours. I'm counting on doing this long term when Tristan goes to school too. It would be great not to have to rely on before and after school care. I love spending a lot of time with him.

In ending this post, I leave you with a silly picture of Tristan pretending to walk on the moon. The living room is the moon and the cushion on the floor is the moon rock. Jean-Louis and I were preparing dinner last weekend when this happened. For your information, it was all Tristan's idea! :)

Pretend walking on the moon. Like his spacesuit?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Guess where I am?

Waiting for Mommy while she shops at Gymboree...ahem.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's feast and goodies (in pictures)

Valentine loot bag from daycare
The largest prawns I have ever seen!
Still super large after cooking.

Dinner: butter chicken, giant prawns in black soy, spinach/cabbage stirfry
Nutella cake with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and ganache
A chocolate lover's dream! Oh soooo good:)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Spiderman heart cookies for Valentines

When you have kids, Valentines feels a little like Christmas. Or is it just me?

This year Tristan is in the bigger kid room at daycare and there are twice as many kids in there compared to the toddler room last year. There are also more staff members. Just like last year, I decided to bake sugar cookies again. Who doesn't like a sugar cookie, right?

I had a few fun heart designs sketched out but when I went to fill out the names on the Valentines cards, I had a great idea! Tristan is into Spiderman these days so everyone in his class will be getting Spiderman Valentine cards. I kept looking at Spiderman on the cards thinking how he was so red and that he could very well be on a cookie for Valentines. I remembered coming across a strawberry design which used heart cookie cutters on Pinterest and thought it was a cool idea. I could do the same thing with Spiderman! And wouldn't it be totally cool to match the Valentine cookie with the Valentine card?? Oh yeah :) Then I googled and found out that everyone has already done it. Duh.
Ingredient list was included in each of the cookies
I'm happy with the results, even though it took me awhile to get at it. I ran into problems when I ran out of ingredients and I didn't have enough icing. I cheated by diluting the icing and flooding my cookies only to get really bad grainy results when it dried. Don't even think about diluting your icing man!!! It was disastrous and it turned pink instead of red. Then I bought more ingredients and made more icing and mixed more red and finally got it right. I had to mix red three times so all the cookies actually have three different shades of red. Oh well. If you look close, there are imperfections everywhere! I don't think the 3-5 year olds at daycare will judge me too much though, right? Lesson learned.

 

The kids are all getting the chocolate sugar cookies with the Spiderman heart design but the staff will each get a red velvet cupcake. I had to do a batch for Jean-Louis to take to work tomorrow for his potluck anyway so it worked out well. This is the second time I have made these cupcakes. I added more cocoa to them this time and got a deeper red as a result as well. I love cocoa! I substituted about half of the white sugar for yellow cane sugar. I also used my favorite whipped cream cheese frosting instead of the one in the recipe and it worked much better for piping since it uses granulated sugar instead of icing sugar. Icing sugar tends to turn liquid when in contact with cream cheese and a runny icing isn't very pretty. By the way, if anyone is wondering, cupcakes are so much easier to make than sugar cookies! Decorating cookies is what kills you, especially if you run into problems.

Happy Valentines Day!


See those sprinkles? Homemade using dried up royal icing:)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

First movie theater experience

Today, we took Tristan to his very first movie in the theater! He is 3 years and 2 months old.

We watched The Adventures of Tintin, a popular comic story brought to animation. It's one of the comics Jean-Louis grew up to in France. It's less popular in North America but I imagine it will become popular soon here due to the movie :)

Tristan liked the movie and kept mostly quiet throughout. At home he usually asks questions after every scene so before we went to the movies, we talked to him about what it would be like and that he should be as quiet as possible. We tried to prepare him for the big movie experience by letting him know we were going days in advance. We planned on bringing my earmuffs so that it would be too loud for him but we were in a rush to leave that it was left at home:( We had to improvise with kleenex, hat, and scarf and it more or less did the trick :) We made sure he went to the bathroom before the show as well so that that was out of the way.

Yes, we are very protective of him.
We actually thought Tintin would be too complex of a story for him to follow. We watched one of the old episodes of the TV show Tintin Friday night so that he would get to know the characters before going to see the movie. I watched it for the first time myself too! Up until now, Tristan is only used to watching things like Curious George, Thomas the Train, and Winnie the Pooh. Tintin is also a long movie compared to what he is used to. We arrived early too so that meant he had to sit even longer! He did great though and he seemed to enjoy being in the company of others watching :)

For those of you thinking of bringing your little ones to watch Tintin, it's a great little adventure animation and it's directed by Steven Spielberg so you can't go wrong there! The fast action scene through the market was insane. I couldn't help but think it must have taken forever to create. I couldn't even follow it all but it was sure exciting. For someone who never read a thing about Tintin before, I thought it was a good movie but Jean-Louis thought it was super good :) He hopes all the other Tintin stories makes it to the big screen as well. He says it was very well done. He's a Tintin fan so if he says it's great, it must be!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Finally interested in stuffed animals at 3 years

We've had stuffed animals since before Tristan was born. Over the years we have accumulated more through gifts from friends and family. Tristan was never interested in them so we never bought him any. A couple of times in the past, he brought a stuffed animal to bed with him but then he would give it up before falling asleep or it would just be a one night attachment. He would then forget all about it. When it came to playing, he never played with his stuffed animals at all during the day either. We kind of thought it was weird, especially because we saw little kids his age or younger always carry stuffed animals in their strollers. Many of the daycare kids have stuffed animals in their cubbies or on their sleeping mats. Again, Tristan was never interested.

Just a couple of months ago, he decided to bring one of his stuffed dogs to sleep with him. That was cool. This was repeated again and again. He may have forgotten a day or two and then he would remember and bring his stuffed dog to bed again. Again! It happened so many times that he has now developed an attachment to his stuffed dog when he goes off to bed. I mean he can still go to sleep without his stuffed dog but it's routine now to look for it and bring it to bed. Occasionally, he would want it taken away and we would just place it on his bedside table. It's amazing to see all this now because it just happened all of a sudden. I wondered what triggered it.

Tristan's stuffed dog even has a name. He named it Bean. Then one day, he gave it a full name: Black Bean. We weren't sure if it was because we had been eating so many beans from cooking Jean-Louis' vegan food or what. When we asked Tristan, he gave us a very logically explanation. The stuffed dog's nose looks like a black bean. So does the dog's eyes. Fair enough :)

Now Tristan likes to play with his stuffed dog, as well as more of his other stuffed animals. He likes to cuddle with them and role play. He sometimes sits and read with them or watch dvds with them next to him. I guess this all really started when he was playing with all his toys more. He has all these stories in his head of what is going on and then he acts them out with his toys and stuffed animals. I suppose you can say he is bringing life to all of his toys. A couple of weeks ago, he declared it was Black Bean's birthday. His dog was turning 3. When I made cookies that day, we declared them birthday cookies and sang Happy Birthday to Black Bean, who was not present by the way. Tristan said that Black Bean could not blow candles or eat cookies anyway because he has no mouth. Very true. Yup. Being parents is sometimes wacky :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Funny infographic I must share with you

What You Can Get Done in 30 Minutes WITHOUT Your Kids, Compared to With Your Kids

Source: Nickmom posted by ADRIENNE HEDGER & SHANNON SEIP

Monday, February 6, 2012

Discovering new coffee and tea stops in Vancouver

During the winter months, Jean-Louis takes the bus to work instead of his bike. As an added bonus to owning a monthly bus pass, every Sunday we can use it as a family pass. Since the weekend is zoneless and you can use any zone pass to travel anywhere, we sometimes head downtown just for the skytrain ride and walk around. It only takes 23 minutes to get down there on the skytrain and Tristan loves riding it.

A few weeks ago, we skytrained downtown and tried Bonchaz. We love trying new coffee shops, especially when they are in trendy neighborhoods. Bonchaz is a bakery cafe that serves bread and caters for lunches. They have menu items for vegans and vegetarians and serve organic coffee. The prices are very good as well. Their bonchaz look like danishes but are very similar in taste to brioches. We ordered a vegan sandwich, mushroom soup, and coffees when we visited and were quite pleased. I also grabbed a bag of ciabatta bread to make paninis at home. If I were working downtown, this would be the kind of place I would love to have lunch at. 

 

This past weekend, we tried a tea house tucked away in gastown called Apr├Ęs-midi Premium Teahouse. The place was a lot fancier than I had imagined but I loved the atmosphere of it. It had nice seating areas on the ground floor where you could look out of big windows. The place and location had a very European feel to it. They had cool stools made out of logs and interesting painting on the wall. The eating area was quite separate from the counter and tea purchasing area, which was quite nice. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly. I spent a long time just sniffing all their lovely teas in their tea tower. After being rushed many times by Tristan, I ended up buying 50 grams of a white tea called "One Night in Paris" and 50 grams of a black tea called "Candied Almond" based on their smells alone. To drink, I ordered masala chai tea latte with almond milk and a lavender eary grey latte, all sweetened with agave syrup. They were both very good, especially the chai latte. We also had a pain au chocolate and that tasted great also:) I was not disappointed at all about this place!

Jean-Louis and I love going for coffee and tea. We are fond of Starbucks but are very open to try other places as well. Discovering great coffee and tea shops makes me happy:) The best part is that we got to try all these places out because of group coupon sites such as Groupon and Living Social. We would have never known about them otherwise.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Another year, another birthday. January and February are quite the busy months for us. There was my birthday, Chinese New Year, then Jean-Louis' birthday and Valentines is coming up. Each one of these involve celebrating and me cooking and baking lots.

It's not that usual for Jean-Louis' birthday to be on a day off but when I saw that it was going to be on a Saturday, I just had to invite some people over and have a bigger than usual dinner. And by people, I mean inviting over my sister and her family:) Jean-Louis really didn't want a "party."

This morning I made us some Star War pancakes. I thought it was fitting since Jean-Louis is such a big Star Wars fan! I meant to make kefir pancakes but when I saw that my kefir did not set yet, I opted for a vegan recipe. Why not and it was Jean-Louis' birthday after all. For those who haven't followed, Jean-Louis has this desire to become vegan but we can't seem to agree on what we can and cannot eat since I don't want to go vegan. We had to compromise and part of it was that I would be willing to cook and eat more vegetarian and vegan food. We are basically cutting down on meat across the board, especially red meat like beef and pork. If we do eat meat, it will mainly be chicken or seafood.


Jicama, watercress, avocado salad
According to Jean-Louis, all the food served for dinner was a hit. Hooray! For appetizers, I made tzatziki and spinach and artichoke dip. This was served with assorted veggies, multigrain tortilla chips and multigrain pita. My sister brought a specialty goat cheese and some baked pita chips. The appetizers alone were filling!

For the main course, I finally got around to making pasta with vodka sauce. I decided to add some chicken breasts to it. It was very simple but quite tasty. I also made a new vegan salad. Omg. The preparation took longer than I expected. I used a grater and pretty much everything had to be grated or sliced thinly with a knife. The watercress was wet after washing and had to be spun. The peanuts came from whole nuts. Jean-Louis and Tristan helped crack and crush them. The orange and lemon juice for the dressing had to be squeezed from fresh fruit etc. so you get the picture. It was a pretty loaded salad! Luckily, the hard work paid off:)

Dessert was a lemon meringue cake. I've been meaning to make this one for awhile too and I know that Jean-Louis loves lemony desserts. It was basically a chiffon cake with three layers of lemon syrup, caramel, and lemon cream topped with meringue. If you don't like lemon, you probably won't like this sort of cake! We liked it.

We ended the day by renting Rise of the Planet of the Apes on iTunes. It was pretty good but it didn't really seem to have an ending. I guess we will have to wait for a Part II. We normally don't make a big deal out of birthdays, except when it is for Tristan, but today actually felt like a birthday celebration. I even gave Jean-Louis a small gift and Tristan made him a card. We had birthday candle on the cake and we all sang happy birthday. What else is missing? That's probably as good as it gets for the older folks:)
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