Black Friday aka American Thanksgiving

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to all the Americans, or as the rest of the world is now starting to know it as – Black Thursday/Friday/Saturday. If you need a new TV or big electronic device then I don’t blame you for waiting in the lines at absurd hours (We did it 3 years ago and our 40″ Emerson Walmart TVs are still going strong – NO REGRETS).

My husband, daughter & I ended up at the mall around 9 am on Friday just to look and really there weren’t any fantastic deals. We mostly went to see Santa – which didn’t end too well, my 16 month old apparently hates him. Anytime I saw something I would want to buy as a gift, I looked at the line and made a mental note to buy it online when we got home. I think the majority of people are beginning to think this way and I really hope American retailers STOP making people work on such an important national holiday. I was shocked to learn that stores would be getting fined if they were NOT open (and not just on Thursday but ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT) . How crazy is that?! I love me some Banana Republic but not at 2 A.M. Huge props to Nordstroms for staying closed.

I come from a community where when it’s a holiday – EVERYTHING is closed. Fines are given to stores that open, and you know what? since the big retailers know that the other big retailers aren’t opening at crazy hours – they stay CLOSED. I love it. It forces you to spend quality time with those around you. No running errands , no buying things you don’t need and no milling around the mall. Plus , if you really need to shop .. the internet is always open.

Amazon had great lightening deals and it’s awesome you can see when the deal is coming up. As I’ve said before I’m a huge fan of Amazon. Also most of the retailers offered the same deals online as they did in-store. If you’re buying gifts – you would be guessing at sizes anyway so it’s much better to stay home on these days! That’s what gift receipts are for!

I hope the states starts reversing this trend of staying up all night and opening on Thanksgiving day. I think all of those who cut their holiday short to go to Wal-Mart would be extraordinarily thankful.

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Calgary, Banff & Vancouver: Basic hikes with a toddler in tow

I’m really trying to write regularly – holy man it’s hard! Time seems to be flying by. I cannot believe my daughter is nearly 16 months. I hate that I’m the type of person who is always shocked when it’s the first of the month. Being 30 years old I am already looking forward to retiring. Since that is a LONG ways away, I look forward to vacation, where time & dates don’t matter.

So now that I’ve shared how to GET somewhere with less stress when traveling with a toddler I hope to share some tips on specific places we’ve been.

I’ll start with our trip out to Western Canada this summer, more specifically – Calgary, Banff & Vancouver. AND before I forget – One Tiny Suitcase (http://onetinysuitcase.ca/ – based out of Calgary was AMAZING for renting a carseat & pack n’ play for our trip. Everything was in pristine condition and I didn’t have to worry about renting a carseat from a car rental agency (so many online horror stories).

I searched for ‘toddler-friendly’ Banff hikes and did not really get that much information. I was mainly looking for if any hikes were particularly stroller-friendly – here’s a hint – none really are. If you’re looking to do a 2 km stroll along Lake Louise then a stroller is perfect. If you’re looking for hikes that go into the 4 km+ range then you will want a baby backpack.

In Calgary – the Bowness Park has tons of paved trails that are great for families (and strollers). It’s absolutely gorgeous walking along the Bow River and the parks are nice and open. Bring a lunch and make a day out of it. If you have older children (or NO children) then canoeing & paddling down the Bow looked like a great way to spend the day. The food festival was on the day we were there so we were able to get a ton of tastes from different restaurants around Calgary!

IMG_2588Before you head over to Banff National Park, be sure to stop at M.E.C. in Calgary to get your hiking gear. We ended up purchasing the MEC Happy Trails Child Carrier ($139). If you have looked at child carriers already, you will know how pricey they can be. This worked fantastic and of course we loved the price.

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Now I would love to say we used this carrier for our first hike –Johnston Canyon & the Ink Pots – but I had read online that this path would be stroller friendly. The Johnston Canyon portion of the hike is 2.7 km to the upper falls (1.1 km to the lower falls – this portion is somewhat stroller friendly, but the paths are narrow). We ended up doing the trail up to the Ink Pots (another 3 km past the upper falls). There were loads of hills but the path was wider. We had our Baby Jogger Summit X3 and this stroller proved its worth as we trekked up to the ink pots. Even with it’s big tires and 4 adults to take turns with the stroller it was ROUGH. My legs definitely got a work out that day. So I highly recommend strapping your child on your back to get through the entire portion of this trail. Unless you are only doing the lower falls 1.1 km walk and do not want to invest in a carrier.

I almost had tears for the parents we saw at the Ink Pots with their umbrella stroller. I was surprised it was still in one piece. If you’re someone who plans on running or hiking or doing any off-roading with a stroller I can’t speak highly enough of our Baby Jogger Summit. It proved to be worth it’s weight in gold when we blindly took it onto the Ink Pots hike.

Lake Louise Hikes

On a previous visit here (BK) we had done the Six Plain Glacier Teahouse hike (5.5 km one way). This is definitely not for beginners and in my opinion I would not take my toddler there. However I know there are parents who have graduated to the level above ours in hiking with children, so it would be possible. It’s definitely NOT STROLLER FRIENDLY.

This summer we did the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike (3.5 km – one way) with the MEC child carrier. It is a tough climb but definitely doable. Especially if you have someone to trade off the backpack with. My husband and I switched about every 1.5 km. As with the Six Plain Glacier teahouse – it is NOT stroller friendly.

Both of the teahouse hikes are great because at the top there is (obviously) a teahouse where you can enjoy tea, soup and a select few other items. Cash only, since you are way up in the middle of nowhere.

If you are not a fan of hiking with a child strapped to you then just follow the path along Lake Louise. The views are stunning and the trail is flat and easy to walk. If you walk to the end of the Lake it is just under 2 km from the Chateau Lake Louise.

Another great hike with a backpack would be Tunnel Mountain (2.7 km return). The trailhead is located right in Banff so it’s easy to get to.

We also took the the gondola’s in Banff and enjoyed the scenery and views (with the MEC backpack).

Canmore – Fantastic downtown. Lots of little shops and things to see. Check out Rocky Mountain Soap Company for earth-friendly, paraben free, delicious smelling soaps, shampoos & creams. Grizzly Paw Brewing Company is a great place to eat with children – however they do NOT allow strollers inside. So I suggest leaving the stroller in the car if you plan on eating there. Otherwise you’ll have an anxiety attack thinking someone has walked away with your precious stroller while you’re eating inside.

Also, if you’re a hot yoga fanatic you must go to Canmore Hot Yoga for a class. Excellent owner/instructor. I can only dream my small northern ontario town will get something like this some day.

Vancouver

Vancouver is a big city and as such is pretty easy to get around with a baby. We were here in August for my half marathon. It is a little rough in some parts of town (what city isn’t?!) but there is a ton of things to do with kids.

The ferries that run along the coast and to Granville Island are fun just in and of themselves.

Granville Island – lots of neat things to see & do. I suggest getting a sandwich at Terra Breads. Delicious food, bread and baked goods (you must try the scones, and the foccacia breads). They also have a few other locations in the Vancouver area.

The aquarium is always a great place to bring kids (and adults!)

We did the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It was a neat place to visit but way too tourist-y for myself. Lots of people – suspended above the air –> not my cup of tea. We took the city bus to the bridge and from the Ferry Terminal you can walk to a little restaurant called Burgoo. If you’re extra lucky you will get there as happy hour is starting with $3/glass wines. The food is phenomenal and kid-friendly.

Stanley Park & the Seawall

Another amazing place for a chill afternoon and nice walk. My half-marathon took us around the Seawall so we didn’t spend much time there afterwards. Definitely completely stroller friendly.

I hope this helps any parents planning on bringing young kids to Calgary/Banff/Vancouver area. Happy Travels!

Flying …. with Children (insert that 80’s show theme song here)

We are fortunate enough to be able to fly away from our cold, small northern town to enjoy warmer climates a few times a year. As such my 15 month old has flown on 11 different flights in her short sweet life. It was a steep learning curve but we figured out what worked, what didn’t, and what REALLY didn’t as far as flying with an infant and a toddler. Here are the best tips I can offer:

1) Please remember what flying was like BK (before kids)

I remember the first time we flew with my daughter (who was only 6 months old at the time). We were THOSE people at the airport, you know the ones you secretly hoped you weren’t sitting anywhere NEAR on the plane. We had a 3 hour flight to Florida and I was praying to any and all Gods that my baby girl would be angelic and people wouldn’t even know she was there. I had a bottle packed just in case and had incredibly accessible clothing for breastfeeding on take off and landing. Well, luck was on our side… she slept 85% of the flight. The majority of the people sitting around us didn’t even know I had an infant in my lap.

Here’s the thing that I hope I never forget – most people do not fly with children. Most people are somewhat tolerant of a little crying/fussiness on a plane. Most people are able to drown out said crying/screaming/fussiness. Try to maintain enough composure and be prepared enough to for that 1% of the population that cannot stand to be around a fussy child in cramped quarters, basically assume that everyone in the pre-boarding area is praying that they aren’t sitting near you or your devil child.

2) Pack LIGHTLY

Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. On our first trip to Florida I had packed an entire suitcase for our 6 month old breast-fed infant. Bottles, diapers, formula … it was as if I was going to a country that did not have any baby supplies and we may have been stranded for days (I even packed bottled water for the formula in case I needed it).

Since our first flight, we gate check the stroller and I have a bag that sits in front of me with toys/milk/iPad/1 diaper & a small container of wipes – things that may be needed ON the flight – and my husband carries a second bag with the camera and other non essentials that we MAY need if we are stranded in an airport for an unforeseen amount of time.

The less in your hands the easier and less stressful your travels will be. I have also just started to take a back pack to check at the airport for my clothes & for my daughters clothes.

Have I made my point clear? You will want at least TWO hands free for when you’re traveling with an infant or toddler.

3) Travel MUST – HAVES (the buying part)

This is short , but sweet.

Dr. Brown’s reuseable microwavable sterilizer bags. These are good for 20 uses and awesome for sterilizing bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups.. pretty much anything that you will need to sterilize after traveling . (http://www.amazon.com/Dr-Browns-Microwave-Steam-Sterilizer/dp/B0035LQNNE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415925514&sr=8-1&keywords=dr.+brown+sterilizer+bag)

An easy folding stroller to gate check. I am a huge fan of Baby Jogger strollers. We have flown with both our Summit (huge wheels) and our City Mini. All gate attendees are basically amazed at how easy these fold down. It’s like magic. (http://www.babyjogger.com/product/summit-x3/)

Small holder for wipes – this is so you have an easily accessible, space saving device that you can reach for in a hurry. I had a few of these from bulk wipes we had purchased plus my diaper bag came with one as well. Kind of like this one from Oxo: http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Tot-Wipes-Dispenser-Green/dp/B00DQL6CIE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415925777&sr=8-1&keywords=wipes+case

A large purse: I have found that my extra large purse does well on a flight. I can fit my wallet, a couple diapers, a wipes dispenser, a bib, the iPad and a sippy cup or bottle just fine. This goes with my first rule that less is more. So either a large tote bag or an extra large purse. If you need an excuse to buy that big Kate Spade purse… Here it is! (but wait for their surprise sales… seriously great deals). Mine is along the lines of this one – http://www.katespade.com/sedgewick-lane-phoebe/PXRU4909,en_US,pd.html?dwvar_PXRU4909_color=001&cgid=ks-handbags#start=79&cgid=ks-handbags

I hope this helps any of you brave souls out there who are traveling… with children!

Does anyone else have some short but sweet traveling tips? Share them below!

Food: Chicken Piccata

Many of the recipes you will see here will be ones that you can start cooking at 5:15 and have dinner on the table by 6:00 . This is my reality: get home, kisses for everyone and start cooking.

Making fresh, healthy & delicious food for my family is ALWAYS one of my top priorities. The trend of having everything pre-cut, pre-cooked and processed is the worst thing society has done to itself & to future generations.

I want my daughter to grow up knowing how fantastic fresh, home cooked food tastes and how EASY it is to prepare.

I’m a huge fan of Giada de Laurentiis’ recipes from Food Network. Many of them are chicken & extremely easy. The chicken piccata recipe credit goes to her :

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/chicken-piccata-recipe2.html

Ingredients
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

One adjustment I make WHENEVER I cook chicken breast is to cut it cutlet thin – meaning 3 cuts from a regular size breast or 4 if you have a chicken breast that’s on steroids. For our family of 2.5, I use 4 chicken breasts (enough for dinner and lunches the next day) and increase the lemon juice & chicken stock to get as much of the delicious citrus-y juice as possible. You also need a bit more butter for cooking the chicken. You can also use all olive oil as well.

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This makes it 1) cook faster 2) look like there’s more food

Capers are the greatest things ever. I try to use them whenever I can. I don’t care for the parsley so I never use it. In the end what happens is I buy a bunch, use a handful and the rest ends up rotten & in the trash.

Steam some broccoli and then toss in a pan with some olive oil, lemon & garlic… BAM… somewhat palatable broccoli for my 15 month old and I simply cannot get enough of the stuff!

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You may think this is a ‘cheat’ way of posting a recipe or advice. But I’m a busy, working mother – my goal is to provide you with easy recipes that may or may not be to my credit and provide tips on making them easy to make after work!

Also, we love leftovers here so most of the recipes I post will have enough for lunches the next day

Baby: 6 Things you need to register for

Oh the excitement of making a baby registry. So many things this new little person will need. Or so you think, at least until they get here and you realize all they need is you, diapers and milk. Many sites cover registering for the basics. I’m not going to bother making a long list. Instead, here are the 5, SIX things I absolutely loved having when my daughter was born, and more importantly, I still use them even though she is 14 months.

1) Aden & Anais swaddling blankets. 

There is a reason these things are probably on most lists – they are fantastic, they stretch, they breathe & they get softer with every wash. They are honestly worth the extra price tag. You will only need 2 or 3 of these babies for all your light blanket/swaddling needs. For a pack of 3 blankets look to spend around $30-$40

http://www.amazon.com/Muslin-Swaddle-Blanket-Safari-Friends/dp/B002USE0Q0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414964324&sr=8-1&keywords=aden+and+anais+swaddling

2) Aden & Anais changing pad cover

As mentioned above, this brand is worth the money ($25-$30). I have loved our change table cover since we got it. I have yet to switch it out or buy a new one and it washes extremely well. Its much thicker than other change pad covers and oh so soft. Seriously, spend the money.

http://www.amazon.com/Aden-Anais-Changing-Pad-Cover/dp/B009F0L01Y/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1414964287&sr=8-11&keywords=aden+and+anais+change+pad+cover

3) Carter’s Keep Me Dry Changing Pads

Now that you have your fancy new Aden & Anais changing pad cover use these to PROTECT it from messy diapers. They come in packs of three for $10. Not only can you use them at home but they are great to travel with for changing in public restrooms. They wash really well. Ours are still like new, 14 months later.

http://www.amazon.com/Carters-Keep-Flannel-Count-Animal/dp/B002UD65ZE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1414964246&sr=8-2&keywords=carters+keep+me+dry

4) Dresser & Change Top

I put these two things together. When we were shopping for our nursery I came across many change tables. A lot of them were tiny and I really couldn’t see any long term use for them. What we ended up doing is an Ikea Malm dresser ($150) with the change top from Land of Nod ($115). The money we saved on the dresser was spent on the change table. Both of these pieces are still holding up well and look fantastic in our nursery. Bonus, the dresser will be useable even after she is out of diapers!

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http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/80053933/#/50214555

http://www.landofnod.com/white-changing-tray/s506225

4.5)Loveable Creations Felt Animals

After posting the picture of my changing top & dresser, I realized I forgot about these critters! I attached them to the wall using those handy velcro sticky things by 3M so once my daughter became antsy during changings, she could not only grab these but rip them off the wall without me cringing! I bought these from our local store. They can be found here:

http://www.loveablecreations.com/gallery.htm?albumID=5504153221789998913

5) An incredibly soft floor blanket

This is my go to gift for any new mom. I loved putting my daughter down on it when she was first born. It is incredibly soft AND cute. Once again, a little pricey ($59) but I have yet to find anything that even compares to the one you can find at Pottery Barn

http://www.potterybarnkids.com/products/bunny-plush-play-mat/?pkey=e%7Cplush%2Bmat%7C7%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C7&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules

6) A Large Stuffed Animal

This is an idea I found from a friend. They had received a very large teddy bear as a gift for their first born. Pictures were taken at 1 day, 1 week and every month after with the bear. It’s an awesome way to show how your baby is growing! We did this with our daughter and on her first birthday I strung all the pictures on a ribbon on the wall with clothespins (which I just realized I never took a picture of!) My husband and I bought her bear while we were in NYC from FAO Schwarz.

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http://www.fao.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4354353

I used Amazon lists (http://www.amazon.ca/gp/registry/wishlist) when I was creating a registry and also for Christmas & Birthday gift ideas for my family. I am a huge fan of Amazon. We buy a lot from the site just because its easy, fast & most often the best price. I also live in a small town where the selection is less than ideal for pretty much everything.

Happy Registering!!