Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Don't Buy Toys, Borrow Them! Toy Borrowing Options In Vancouver

If you are like most people in the city of Vancouver, you probably live in an apartment.  City living is awesome, and apartments can be pretty rad, but there isn't a lot of space for all the toys your kids may like to have.  Even if you are lucky enough to live in a huge apartment, or even a house, you may not want to have stacks and stacks of toys around.  Maybe your kids get bored easily, or you want to try toys before committing to buy them, or you want to save some money.  If this sounds like you, you may want to consider toy lending/borrowing instead of buying, or to complement the toys you have purchased. 

Here are a few places in the city of Vancouver for you to check out if you want to give toy lending/borrowing a try.  Please let me know if you know of any others and I'll add them. 

The West Coast Child Care Resource Center Lending Library
Where is it:  The West Coast Child Care Resource Center, 2772 East Broadway, Vancouver 
How much does it cost: $5 a year

The logistics:  Anyone from Vancouver can borrow from this library.  The hours of the library are:

SUN, MON, TUES: closed
WED: 12 - 8pm
THURS, FRI: 10am - 5pm
SAT: 10am - 3pm

You must pick up what you borrow and you must drop off.  The number of  materials you can borrow at a given time depends on the type of material and this information is listed on their website.

The scoop:  This is a huge and amazing resource.  There are children's toys, books, games, curriculum sets, etc.  You can check out their catalogue here:

The Robert Lee YMCA Toy Lending Library
Where is it:  The Robert Lee YMCA, 955 Burrard Street

How much does it cost: $13 a month; however, your child also gets a children's membership to the YMCA with this fee, which also includes 10 guest passes that adults can use, etc.

The logistics: Your child must be a member of the YMCA to borrow from this library.  The hours of the library are:

Monday and Tuesday, 9:30am-1pm and 5pm-8pm
Wednesday - Friday, 9:30am-1pm

You must pick up what you borrow and you must drop off. 

The scoop: This library is a bit small, but the quality of the materials are excellent.  You can view their catalogue of materials here:

Aboo Toy Rentals
Where is it: Aboo Toy rentals is located in the West End but the library is accessed online here:

How much does it cost: The packages vary and are based on how long you wish to borrow the toys and how many toys you wish to borrow at a time

The logistics:  You can order online 24 hours a day.  The toys are delivered to you at your home at no additional charge. They will also pick the toys up at the end of your borrowing period.  Aboo services most of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, including Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Delta, Port Moody, Surrey, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby.

The scoop: Aboo is a local family run business that offers hundreds of toys in their selection.  Right now there is a 14 day risk free trial being offered, so go check it out while you can... I'm going to be trying it out in July and will be writing a review!  You can check out their catalogue here:

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finally, A Felt Craft You'll Be Sure to Finish!

Crafting is tons of fun. Before I had a child, I had fewer craft ideas and more time. Now that I have Aias, I have more craft ideas and less time. Sound familiar? Because of this, I have a small bin full of elaborate craft ideas in various stages of completion.  I swear, I'm going to finish them... when I have the time!

I sat down yesterday morning to start yet another craft that would likely have gone incomplete, when Aias sat next to me, stuck his hand into a bin of felt scraps, and asked me to make him a train. Ok, I thought, I can do that.  Very quickly I cut out a train shape, added a few wheels, and TADA-  I was done.  Aias had a felt train in his hand in about 5 minutes and he could not have been happier.  I mean it, too, he was absolutely gleeful about this train. So of course, he asked for another, and another, and another. Before long, he had all of these:


I know, you won't find these posted on Pinterest. No one will be racing to buy them on Etsy. The circles aren't round and the edges aren't straight.  But you know what? Aias LOVES them.  And that's totally what matters. 

I was spending a lot of time creating crafts for Aias that I hope will turn out perfect, and in the end, I generally don't finish them.  These were like the fast food equivalent of crafts and yet strangely just as satisfying. 

After he was done with trains, he asked for these too:

He loves playing with them on a table and having them talk to each other and dance/swim/drive around.  He even took a square felt scrap and used it as a blanket to "tuck in" the heart and the robot.  Very cute.  The best part was watching him learn that these felt scraps can become something he likes if mommy (or him!) decide to make it so.  It was a really nice activity for both of us, whereas my crafting usually takes place when he's sleeping or otherwise occupied so that he doesn't "mess any of it up."

These are really easy to make, here's what you need:

-  Felt pieces or felt scraps (for felt stories I suggest soft felt, but for this project I used stiffened felt)

- Felt glue or felt pieces that have adhesive

- Scissors

- Optional: googly eyes, puff paint, glitter, etc

The pieces I used (pictured below) were $1 for a 1/4 lb bag of scraps.  90% of the pieces are stiffened felt and about 50% have adhesive on the back.  This made it incredibly easy.

Normally the felt pieces I make are more intricate and are made for felt stories, which are actually a teaching tool, NOT a toy for the kids to handle very much.  These ones are so simple and are good to give them so they can sit at the table and play around with them.  Even if they break them, they are easy to fix and because they took so little time and effort, it's not really a huge deal.

Have fun!


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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Invasion of the Food Evangelists

I don't really talk about religion on this blog because it isn't a huge part of my life, but those who know me pretty well are aware that I identify as agnostic/atheist (depends on the mood I'm in when you ask!).  Those who know me very well, however, can remember when I was a teenager and in what I can only assume was a subconscious rebellion against my open-minded and liberal family, attended a Baptist church and identified as Christian.

My favorite part of being Christian was evangelism; I LOVED witnessing.  I loved handing out tracts, apologetics, all of it.   I especially loved when atheists or people from other religious backgrounds argued with me so I could show off my sweet Christian knowledge.  You see, at this time I was full of enthusiasm about having found Jesus, but I completely lacked any restraint or any concept of how annoying I was probably being when I witnessed.  Now this is not to say that all witnessing or religious evangelism is annoying, but I promise you, I lacked two very important things: tact and restraint.  There was nothing subtle about my strategy.  This was not a good thing.

This post isn't about religion, though, not really.

Strangely enough, this post is about food.

All the passion I felt inside about Jesus and Christianity at that time is similar to the passion I now feel about living a healthy and chemical-free life.  However, I'm older now so I like to think that I'm at least a little better at achieving a level of tact and restraint when I talk about it.  You see, it's not that I attempt to evangelize people with regard to matters of health, but the truth is, sometimes I accidentally find myself doing it.

I didn't realize this was happening until several months ago.  I was meeting up with an acquaintance to discuss a matter of business, and we were walking along the street in my neighborhood seeking out a place to grab some hot drinks and discuss.  We live near a Kingdom Hall where Jehovah's Witnesses meet to worship, so at various times of the day the sidewalks are full of Jevhovah's Witnesses handing out copies of their Watchtower publication.  The first time I was confronted with this, they caught me off guard and I politely accepted the publication.  I took the bus and read a bit of it; it was mostly about step parenting, endangered species, and then there were some religious bits in there as well (trying to keep it subtle, I suppose).  The second time they offered it to me, I kept my hands at my side, politely declined, and continued walking.  On this day, the acquaintance happened to be walking on the side of the Jehovah's Witness and when they attempted to give her a publication, she absolutely exploded.  I can't remember exactly what she said, but it was something along the line of HOW DARE YOU OFFER ME YOUR UNSOLICITED RELIGIOUS PROPAGANDA, I HAVE MY OWN BELIEFS, I DID NOT ASK YOU WHAT YOUR OPINIONS WERE ON THEM, F*** OFF!

To be honest, I was a little shocked and disappointed.  I mean, these are still people, right?  And the reality is, they truly believe in what they believe and all they want to do is "help" those around them to do the right thing.

We kept walking.

When we finally agreed on a coffee shop, we ordered some drinks, and grabbed seats.  I happened to be drinking a regular coffee that day with cream and sugar.

"You know..." she said, as she looked across the table at me. "You really shouldn't drink coffee.  There's lots of caffeine in it and it can de-regulate your hormones."

"Yeah I know I shouldn't drink it, but I'm totally tired right now, so I'm going to just try and enjoy it."  I responded.

"What's worse..." she continued "is the sugar and cream.  Do you know how bad sugar is for you?  I read a book on it..... [blah blah blah]"

"Yes, I know.  Like I said, I know I shouldn't really drink it."

"Even the milk, you know, they say that the milk in Canada doesn't have hormones in it, but the reality is, so much of it is actually from the states and then they package it here so it says it's from Canada.... [blah blah blah]"

"Yeah totally. So about that work we're here to do..."


Are those Bibles or tiny cookbooks?

Ok, I didn't really want to tell her off, but at that moment it all totally clicked in my head: no one wants to be criticized about their lifestyle, habits, beliefs, whatever.  Whether it's religion or it's nutrition, there's a way of approaching these things and there's a way of NOT approaching them.  Not 10 minutes prior to this conversation my friend was up in someone's face for imposing beliefs on her, but when it came to witnessing to me about her anti-coffee/sugar/cream beliefs, she gave it no second thought.  The difference? Values.  We all value different things, and we give significant weight to the things we personally value, and we don't place any weight on the things we don't value.  To my acquaintance, health and nutrition were so important to her that she wanted very badly to share her knowledge with me... no different from a Jehovah's Witness trying to do the same.  Because she doesn't believe in what the Jevohovah's Witnesses had to say, she assumed they were wasting her time by trying to get their message across to her.  At the end of the day, she'd probably bet her life her beliefs were correct and totally worth sharing with those around her, and the Jehovah's Witnesses very likely feel the same about their beliefs. 

I hate to admit it, but I sometimes find myself doing the same sort of thing.  If someone offers my kid something I don't allow him to eat, instead of just declining, I find myself going on and on about why we don't eat it.  When I do that, I'm not really helping anyone, I'm just sort of making the person who is offering feel badly about foods they eat and making them feel vulnerable.  Not cool, Monika, not cool.  Or if we are out with friends eating, and someone says they love something, I find myself saying "oh we don't eat that because we read blah blah blah blah." Again, not cool.  Instead of it actually transferring information I deem valuable to this person, it just makes them feel like crap.  Maybe every so often they Google it, and maybe they sometimes even do their own research and come to the same conclusion as me, but it doesn't feel good in the moment. 

So we all have all these beliefs, and we want so badly to share them with the ones we love, but how do we do this in a way that's not alienating? I'm not entirely sure.  All I know is, we need to be tactful but even more so, we need to value not only our beliefs, but we need to value the people we love.   Sure, I love it when someone I care about asks me about my opinion on a health matter, but from now on, I'm going to try and wait for them to ask me for it instead of offering it up at awkward opportunities.  After all, you don't want to be the kind of person people try to avoid. More importantly, the Christians I admired (and still admire) are not the ones who are constantly spouting their beliefs at every opportunity, but rather, they are the people who live them.  So instead of just taking about good decisions, just make them.  I promise people will notice.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why, Yes, I AM Still Breastfeeding My 2.5 Year Old-- Here's Why!

In May of last year I wrote an entry entitled "Why, Yes, I AM Still Breastfeeding My 18 Month Old-- Here's Why!" and here I am today writing a sister entry of a similar nature.  This time, I'm not going to go into the virtues of breastfeeding like I did in the last, mostly because, I know you don't need me to.  If you want to know the virtues of breastfeeding, just Google for a few minutes and you'll be able to find them all (or hell, just read that last entry I wrote!).  What I want to talk about in this entry is something a little more personal.  You see, this entry is pretty well timed given the drama that exploded last week over the most recent TIME magazine cover, featuring a young, thin, model-esque mom nursing her large almost-four-year-old.  Don't know what I mean? Here you go:

Evidently people have toddler nursing on the brain, whether they think it's total awesomesauce or they think it's the most disgusting and perverse thing they've ever seen.  It seems like a good time for me to share some of my own feelings about my own personal experience with toddler nursing.

Let me start by saying, in a lot of ways I'm a "boob nazi" and in a lot of ways I'm not.  For myself, I'm a boob nazi and always was.  I knew before Aias was born that I would nurse him, and I was certain I would go to any length to see to it that he was nursed.  Fortunately, this goal required next to no effort on my part.  My milk came in when it was supposed to, there was enough of it, Aias latched just fine and has always loved nursing, and that was that.  I pumped a bunch of milk because I was afraid of not having a supply on hand in case of whatever happening, but most of it was given away or tossed when Aias refused to drink out of a bottle.  We never had formula samples in the house or supplemented with anything, because we didn't want to. I took blessed thistle and fenugreek and made lactation cookies and all that jazz because I was hyperparanoid of not having enough of a milk supply, but within 3 months I didn't even bother with any of that, and life just went on, Aias nursing all the while.  If I'd have had supply issues or whathaveyou, who knows how this story would have changed, but this was simply my very fortunate reality.  It is for these reasons that I consider myself completely unallowed to judge anyone for their breastfeeding decisions, because I had it way too easy... I'm sure all people would breastfeed if they'd have had it as easy as I've had it.  That being said, beyond myself, the boob nazi disappears.  If someone wants to feed their kid formula, it really makes no difference to me.  If they want some information I offer it if asked, otherwise, I don't have any interest in ruining a relationship with someone I care about over what they feed their child for a few short years of the child's life.  I still boycott Nestle though, because some things are just not cool.

Now, back to toddler nursing.  Like I said, Aias started nursing right away and kept on nursing and kept on nursing... and kept on nursing.  You see, that's how toddler nursing happens: days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years, and the nursing just... doesn't stop.  It's really THAT SIMPLE.  The nursing just doesn't stop.  I think when people see a picture like the cover of that TIME magazine, it's jarring to them because they don't know that woman and they don't know her kid, all they know is BAM right before their eyes is this complete stranger looking like a model on the cover of a magazine except she just happens to have a gigantic child hanging off her boob. When you or someone you know is nursing a toddler, it's not like that AT ALL. Instead, it's subtle, it creeps up on you, and it's hard to think of it as anything but the status quo. All of a sudden the tiny baby grows and isn't so tiny anymore.  I realize if this is beyond your frame of reference and something you've not personally experienced, it probably seems really awkward, but when I see comments like "that's child abuse!" or "that kid is going to need therapy," I sort of just roll my eyes a bit.  At what point did it become child abuse, and at what point was there suddenly a pressing need to schedule future therapy sessions ? Was it completely fine on March 1st, and then March 2nd rolled around and it was suddenly not so fine anymore?  I digress.  My point here is, it's not like a parent ever has a three year old child they've never met before walk up to them and they start breast feeding them out of nowhere... this sort of thing builds gradually!

A truer symbol has never existed...

My own experience nursing a toddler has been... well, it's been a lot of things. Primarily it's been uneventful, as I've nursed him since he was born and I've never parented him (or anyone) that I wasn't nursing.  Most of the time I barely notice that it's part of my day/life.  At times it's been stressful or annoying; not wanting someone's arm down my shirt, not wanting to be touched AT ALL for a few minutes, or being aggravated and somewhat embarrassed at having someone grab at me screaming milk (particularly in public).  Many, many times it's been a life saver, for example, if he has a tantrum or gets hurt, usually nursing will calm him down. 

You know what else it has been? AWKWARD.  Yes, you heard me, it's been awkward! Let me explain.  In the area I live in, lots of people breastfeed.  I don't know if it's the norm or what, but I feel like it's not abnormal here at all.  Up until Aias turned about 18 months old, most of the people I knew were nursing their babies, even people I didn't know but saw on a regular basis (at tot gyms, the playground, etc).  Aias turned 2 in November, and even then, I knew tons of people who were still nursing their toddlers.  Then suddenly, over Christmas break, Santa appeared to have come down the chimney and brought every parent I know the gift of WEANING.  We returned from the holidays and I'm not even exaggerating, a half dozen or so of the people I see on a regular basis greeted me with "Guess what-- [insert name here] WEANED over the holidays!!!"

How did I receive this news? With SHOCK (and perhaps a TINY bit of envy).  Of course, Aias isn't ready yet, and I'm too lazy to bother forcefully weaning him (that would require way more effort than I care to bother with, not to mention the benefit of it would be minimal at this point), so he still nurses.  The thing is, he nurses ALL THE TIME! I'm serious, he nurses probably a dozen times a day still, not to mention at least 2-3 times at night.  So here I have all these people with children that are weaning, and I am still out in public with my 2 and a half year old not only nursing all the time, but showing absolutely ZERO interest in ever stopping.  So the logical part of me constantly reassures myself this is completely normal. Not only is it normal, it's healthyThis is totally ok, it's awesome, good job! Of course, the not-so-logical part of me is in the background saying get your arm out of my shirt for the love of GOD! I just want to wear a turtle neck or something!

The most awkward part of all is that now that I'm nursing a toddler, the mothers around me that aren't nursing their toddlers, or who stopped nursing their babies at a very young age, or who never nursed at all, automatically seem to assume that I'm judging them for it, even when there's no way I could possibly even KNOW their situation without them telling it to me.  I feel like every time I'm nursing Aias at a group or in a public place, someone seems to have the urge to approach me, let me know they aren't totally grossed out by what I'm doing (!) and then proceed to tell me their reasons behind not still nursing their own child, or why they stopped nursing "so early," or how breast feeding was impossible for them for reasons X,Y,Z.  It's like to them, the sight of someone nursing a toddler is like an opportunity to confess their breastfeeding "sins."  Evidently I look like a confessional box, I'm not sure.  These people seem to assume that I must be a La Leche League leader or something if I'm still nursing a toddler, and that I must be thinking horrible things about all of them. Maybe they think I'm the breastfeeding police, I don't know!  The worst part? I'm not thinking these things AT ALL.  NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT!  If someone were to tell me they gave their child all root beer after 12 months, I really wouldn't bat an eye.  Quite frankly, it's NONE of my business!  My point here is, I'm just a REGULAR parent... I'm not trying to be a super parent, or "mom enough" or whatever.  Time just passed, and he's just... never stopped nursing!  There's nothing mystical, bragworthy, or superhuman about it. 

I could go on forever, probably in a million different directions both positive and negative, but all in all, I'm ok with Aias still nursing. He's a picky eater and at least I know he's getting some nutrients in him at the end of the day from nursing and that gives me some piece of mind, and he seems to really enjoy it, so I have no desire to take it away from him against his will.  That being said, if he decided tomorrow that he wanted to wean, I'd be about 20% sad (because it would be such a huge milestone and it would mean he's such a big boy), 40% ambivalent and 40% thrilled (can you be thrilled and ambivalent at the same time??). But honestly mostly I'd probably just die of shock. 

We'll see if I'm writing a similar post to this next year.  To be continued, I suppose...


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Friday, May 11, 2012

Parents: Check out Fresh and Desired (FAD) At EPIC

If you are a parent and you are attending EPIC this weekend, you are going to love every single exceptions to this rule, I swear!  While it can be hard to spend all the time you want at each exhibit, I think you should pay extra special attention to one exhibitor in particular: Fresh and Desired (FAD)*.

FAD is a marketing and branding company who is representing a number of Canadian brands at EPIC, they'll also be offering the following prizes and giveaways at their booth and with EPIC:

Enter to win at booth 1618 the following prizes:

- Forsman Tea basket from Dream Tea Boutique $50 retail value
- Stainless steel water bottles (4) for the family from Fill Your Own $84 retail value
- Silk fleece blanket from Silkberry Baby $40 retail value
- Bath & beauty products from Pearl & Daisy Natural Soap Company $50
- Skincare products for baby & mommy from Belly Button Babies $40

FAD has also donated prizes for EPIC's Mother's Day event draw (value of $250+):

- Stainless steel water bottles (4) for the family from Fill Your Own $84 retail value
- Stainless steel containers (4) for the family from Fill Your Own $72 retail value
- Set of 5 reusable folding shopping bags from Fill Your Own $40 retail value
- Soap box gift set from Pearl & Daisy Natural Soap Company $25 retail value
- Selection of organic & healthy teas from Dream Tea Boutique $32.40 retail value


EPIC is also doing a number of Twitter and Facebook giveaways and FAD has also donated a number of items for these:

- Bamboo onesies skirt from Silkberry Baby
- Mother's Day tea basket from Dream Tea Boutique
- Stainless steel water bottles (4) for the family from Fill Your Own $84 retail value
- Set of 5 reusable folding shopping bags from Fill Your Own $40 retail value each, 5 sets total

You can (and should!) follow Fresh and Desired (FAD) on Twitter and Facebook!     @freshanddesired

As if all that isn't enough, every customer who purchases more than $80 at their booth (that's any combination of the products they offer) will receive a free reusable shopping bag made from rPET (recycled water bottles) that folds so small it fits in your pocket or purse.  (Limit of one per customer. A product of Fill Your Own)

You can contact Fresh and Desired at or on their website at

*I've not been sponsored or given any compensation for writing this post, I'm just blown away by their generosity and the quality of their products exceeds my expectation of green, sustainable, and healthy products for kids and babies!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Unofficial Guide to Maximizing Your EPIC Experience

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, EPIC* is a trade show that takes place each year in Vancouver and focuses on Ethical Progressive Intelligent Consumers. This is a trade show that is fully accessible to the public.  Now, when I say "trade show" you may get an image in your mind of boring men dressed up in suits standing next to tables with tri-fold presentation boards on them... I promise you, EPIC is nothing like this.  Sure, EPIC takes place in the Vancouver Convention Centre, and yeah, there are a few suits and tables kicking around, but EPIC gives off more of a festival feel than that of a boring old trade show.  At times you may even think you are attending a party!

I've been attending EPIC since it began 6 years ago and one of the most amazing things about it is that it literally improves every year.  Normally there is a great amount of variation in quality between trade shows and festivals from year to year, but EPIC has consistently outdone itself.  Each year I show up thinking "wow last year was great, this year can't possibly be as good" and I'm always wrong; it always ends up BETTER than the previous year.  Not a single detail is missed at EPIC, from volunteers standing by the recycling stations to make sure you don't make excess waste to making sure the exhibitors are using biodegradable cutlery for their samples.  EPIC is entirely true to itself and its goal to help make the world a more sustainable place to live. 

Now that I've sold you on the idea, I want to make sure you not only attend, but that you maximize your attendance.   I've outlined some steps below that you can follow to ensure that your EPIC experience is truly epic.

Plan For It
Make sure you know your dates and times, and set aside some time to truly experience EPIC. This year EPIC is happening:

Friday, May 11                              1pm - 8pm      
Saturday, May 12                          11am - 7pm
Sunday, May 13 (Mother's Day)    11am - 5pm

I suggest making sure you have at least 4 hours to get there, take your time, and really take it all in.  If you are having a hard time deciding which day to attend, check out the schedule of events to see if there are any demonstrations you simply can't miss.  If you are having trouble nailing down a single day to attend, buy a weekend pass so you don't miss any of it.

Buy Your Tickets In Advance
If you buy your tickets online, you get $3 off the price you'd pay at the door.  That's $3 in your pocket, or $3 more you can spend on awesome stuff at the show! 

Prep Your Social Media
The Exhibitors at EPIC are the cream of the crop and they really have their stuff together.  You'll find that nearly every single exhibitor has some kind of raffle or promotion happening.  I suggest checking the exhibitors out before you even get there, by taking a peek at the Exhibitor List If you really want to prepare, do what I'm doing, and check out all the profiles of companies that interest you and follow them on Twitter and Facebook in advance, to get as much information about them and the promotions they may be offering as possible.

Prep Your Contact Info
Like I said above, nearly every exhibitor has a raffle or promotion.  Your hand is going to get tired from filling out all those forms, so if you want to be super prepared take along a stamp with your information on it or pre-printed sticky labels with your information on it so you can just slap them quickly on to any raffle slips (I question how green this is, but perhaps your labels are recycled!).  I'd make the labels as small as possible, and on them you should include:
  • Your first and last name
  • Your email address
  • Your phone number
  • Your blog or website address
On that note, you should consider the possibility of creating an "event only" email address if you are concerned about spam (I don't think EPIC exhibitors would ever spam you, they are a classier bunch than that, but in case you are paranoid or want to keep all your EPIC mail in one spot).

Don't forget business cards if you have a blog or business!

Plan Your Budget
It's virtually impossible to walk out of EPIC having not purchased a thing, because the quality and deals are amazing.  Set out an amount you'd be able to spend, and stop at the ATM before you get there (to avoid lines/fees).  While some vendors will accept credit/debit, most vendors only accept cash.  It's also a lot easier to just bring cash so that you don't overspend, in my experience. There is also food and drink that you may wish to purchase at the show.

Contemplate Your Personal Sustainability Goals
Prior to attending, think about what aspects of your life you want to make more green.  Are you looking for more sustainable cleaning products? Are you looking to try healthier foods? Are you planning to make your wedding more green?  Spend some time contemplating the types of products you may be in the market for.  

Pack Your Bag Wisely
Even if you are the most frugal person ever and don't plan on buying a thing, you are going to need to bring a cloth bag or backpack because EPIC exhibitors give away awesome samples and freebies.  You aren't going to want to hold all those things in your hands, so don't forget a bag or two!  You may also want to bring your reusable water bottle (or you could always just buy one while you are there!).

Don't Eat Too Much Before You Arrive
There is delicious food at EPIC that you can purchase, but there are also loads of samples.  If you go with a full stomach, you will regret it.  Eat a light meal before hand but prepare to try many delicious things while you are there!

My EPIC Experience Style
There are a few things I try to do each year to make sure I maximize my experience, and here they are:

1.  Give yourself more than enough time to experience it all (seriously, 3-4 hours minimum).

2.  Don't go with someone who is unenthusiastic or clingy... they may hold you back from seeing everything you want!  My favorite thing to do is just go alone, so I can take it all in, or to find an independent and non-clingy friend to join me. (I literally banned my ex from attending with me).

3.  Start at one end of the room, and work your way around.  Check EVERYTHING out, even if it doesn't seem interesting to you upon the first impression.  You never know, right?

4.  Don't buy anything your first time around... think about it all.  Take a card, make a mental note.  Once you've seen everything, figure out what you want to get.  You are probably going to want to buy everything, but that's sort of unrealistic and possibly not that green an idea.  Have a look and then grab what you want on your second trip around the room.

5.  Chat with the vendors; many of them are the actual owners of the companies they are representing and many are local.  Introduce yourself, let them tell you about their products.  It's inspiring to see how proud the exhibitors are of their products!

6.  Have fun, meet new people, network!  EPIC is a lot of fun.

If you want to check out my review of last year's event, check out this entry. 

EPIC Promotional Code for 2012
If you've come here for the EPIC Promotional Coupon Code for $5 off, it's EPIC2012, but there's a limited quantity so hurry and get your ticket!

*I've not been sponsored by EPIC or compensated any way to do this entry, or last year's review. I just genuinely love the event and want to make sure as many people attend as possible because I feel the message is inherently good and will benefit everyone.


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Monday, May 7, 2012

West End Residents: Get A Community Project Grant for Up to $500 !

Do you have an idea for a community project?

The Gordon Neighborhood House  and the Vancouver Foundation are giving West End Residents up to *$500 through the Neighborhood Small Grants Project 2012 to make their community projects happen! In 2011 they funded great projects that included:

  • Community Art
  • The West End Clean Up
  • Music
  • Community potluck & BBQ's
  • Traffic Circles
  • Organic Food Co-Ops
  • Salsa Classes
  • Theatre Groups
  • Drumming Circles
  • Community Volley Ball
  • Styro-Free Restaurants
  • More!!!
*Individuals, families, groups of friends living within the boundary map are eligible to receive grants of $50-$500.  Registered organizations are NOT eligible for funding.  The area of the map includes space between Georgia street, Burrard Street, English Bay and Stanley Park (see website for map).

Things to know:
  • Maximum Grant amount is $500.
  • Projects must abide by City By Laws -
  • Projects must be socially acceptable to the majority of the neighbourhood.
  • Projects must be completed by December 31st, 2012.
  • Retroactive funding for projects that have already occurred is not available.
  • Applicants cannot profit financially from the projects.
  • Applicants give Gordon Neighbourhood House permission to take and use photographs of projects for promotional purposes.
  • Applicant contact information (email/telephone) will be shared with other applicants.
The application deadline is May 25th, 2012.

You can apply online at:



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Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Few Ways to Use "Memory Cards" with Younger Toddlers

Some two-year-olds may have no problem playing the classic game of Memory but Aias isn't quite there yet.  Even so, he loves the box of memory cards he picked out at the store and we've come up with a few different ways of using them.

Classic Play:
The classic way you play with memory cards is to turn all the cards upside down, spread out in front of you.  You then choose two cards at a time, turning them right side up.  If the cards match, you remove them from the rest and stack them together beside you.  If the cards don't match, you flip them both back upside down and continue until you find a match.  If you are playing alone, you win when all the matches have been found. If you are playing with another player, the person with the most matches at the end of the game wins.

Modified Play Version 1 (one player):
We turn all the cards upside down in front of us as we would if we were playing the classic way.  We turn one card over at a time, leaving the cards facing up until we find a match.  When we find a match, we remove the cards from the rest and stack them together beside us until all the matches have been found.

Modified Play Version 2 (two player):
I divide the cards up so that I have one full set of images and Aias has the other full set.  I hold my cards in a stack like flashcards and don't show them to Aias.  Aias has all his cards laid out in front of him facing up.  I choose one card to show him and he looks down at his cards and finds the match.  When he finds it, I hand him my card, he stacks it next to him until the game is over and he's found all the matches.

Modified Play Version 3 (one player):
We place all the cards down in front of Aias face up and he tries to find the matches as quickly as possible.  He stacks the matches next to him until the game is over and he's found all the matches. 

Modified Play Version 4 (two player):
We place all the cards down in front of Aias face up and I ask him to find a specific image.  For example, "where is the house?"  He finds both houses and gives them to me.  We stack the matches next to him until the game is over and he's found all the matches.

Modified Play Version 5 (two player):
We place all the cards down in front of Aias face up and I ask him to find two images.  For example, "where are the house and the duck?"  He finds me a house and he finds me a duck and gives them to me.  We stack the pairs next to him until the game is over and he's found all the pieces I've asked for.

You can make your own cards, download some images from the internet, or pick up a set at a store.  The ones we use were $1.25 at the dollar store and they are lovely.

If you use memory cards with your toddler in other ways, let me know! Please remember not to be pushy about games like this with a young toddler; if they don't find it enjoyable, don't insist.  Kids this young don't need drills or academic types of activities to learn.  Aias really loves playing with these cards so we persist and when he loses interest it's no big deal.


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Friday, May 4, 2012

Art as a Method of Calming a Toddler

Aias gets excited very easily, whether it's "happy excited" or "tantrum excited" and once he hits either of those points, it's fairly hard to calm him down.  Transitions are difficult for him at times, particularly when it comes to winding him down from a very physical activity (running around outside) or if it's just the end of a particularly busy day.  Strangely enough, activities that people have suggested I use to calm Aias down, actually have the opposite effect on him. For example, lots of people bathe their kids at night because having a bath is soothing or relaxing for the child.  Baths actually wake Aias up and get him more excited (he loves the water), so we have him take baths in the morning to help make him more alert.

In the last few months I've found an interesting way of helping Aias wind down: art.  Since he's only 2 years old, I don't mean anything elaborate.  We use crayons, markers, paints, etc, but his absolute favorite things to do are to either glue small bits onto a piece of paper or play with stickers.  His favorite stickers are the foam ones that have the pieces of paper on the back that you peel off before you stick them down.  I discovered this entirely by accident, and quite frankly, I was shocked he had the attention span to sit down and do such an activity because normally he's so quick paced and busy.  For some reason, activities where he "creates" (Lego, the train tracks, art) are really soothing and centering for him.

There are a few reasons, I believe, that this form of creating is so rewarding to him.  First, I think he loves the act of focusing on the little stickers and putting the effort into peeling the backs off.  He's not the most verbal of 2 year olds, but all he lacks in talking ability he makes up for in fine motor skills.  Second, I can tell he likes spacing the pieces and deciding where to stick them on the paper.  Third, he loves to announce what each sticker is out loud (an elephant! a fishy! etc).  Finally, he loves to show us the completed product and every once in a while he likes for us to put his art up on the wall.

Our strategy is that when he seems worked up we say "would you like to make a picture?" and normally he responds "yes!" and we follow with "Go sit in your seat at your table and I'll get the stuff." He immediately goes to his tiny kid-sized table and waits.  I bring the supplies to him; he selects his paper color and I place some stickers in a tiny bowl and voila!

I've taken some pictures of some of the projects he's done, mostly to show his family that reads the blog and because I'm sure someday they'll be filed away somewhere and I'll want to remember what they look like.

Various foam stickers on construction paper

Various foam stickers on construction paper

Tempera paint on old school dot matrix printer paper

Pen on old school dot matrix printer paper; this one is called "plane and helicopter"

Finger paints on printer paper

Various foam stickers on construction paper

Crayons on old school dot matrix printer paper; this one is called "robots and planes"

Various little bits glued onto construction paper

Various little bits glued onto construction paper

Pompoms and feathers glued onto a flat brown lunch bag

Insect themed foam stickers on a foam sheet

Princess themed foam stickers on construction paper

Sports themed foam stickers on construction paper

Retro themed foam stickers on construction paper

Under the sea themed foam stickers (a few insects got in there too) on a foam sheet. These are the ones you sent him for Christmas, mom!


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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gardening with Two-Year-Olds: Awesome!

We live in downtown Vancouver and up until this past September, we've never had an apartment with even an inch of outdoor space.  Our new place has a balcony with about 5x5 feet of space so I've been pretty excited about container gardening.  Even though Aias won't be able to get the full experience of hanging out in a huge garden and planting tons of things, I wanted him to get an idea of how it feels to grow something from a seed.  Due to our limited amount of space and the fact that we face North, our options for gardening are somewhat limited, but Aias and I decided to grow peas.  Peas are pretty easy to grow as they are intensely forgiving.

We planted our first batch of seeds a couple months ago.  We set a plastic table cloth out on our living room floor, lined a plastic box with jiffy cups, and Aias scooped potting soil from a bag into the little jiffy cups with a metal spoon.  I showed him how to make a little hole, pop a seed (or 3) in and then to cover the seeds up.  He was in love with the process and it really held his attention.  We didn't really follow the instructions on the seed packet very closely because, well, he's 2.  You are definitely not supposed to put like 4 seeds per jiffy cup, but whatever.  I was shocked that the entire process held his attention and he saw the project through until the very end.  Within a few days the seeds had sprouted and now the plants are about a foot tall.  We kept them in our bedroom for a while and moved them outside at the start of April.
This past weekend Aias was asking to plant seeds again, so I figured we may as well.  We'll likely end up giving the plants away when they start to sprout but that's fine.  Planting them is a lot of fun and Aias is very proud that he "did it!"

After lining up the cups he filled them with soil.  I'm not sure why he looks so serious in these pictures, evidently he means business.

Adding the seeds, sometimes more than one per cup.

Nearly done!

The first round of seeds, all grown up.

They are pretty tall. Those are skewers for making shish kabobs, but we just added much longer metal stakes

The little vines are my absolute favorite, they are so delicate looking but they do so much work

I love these close ups, look at the little knots the vines have made!

Another pretty one


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