Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gingerbread House Decorating at Coal Harbour Community Centre

We're eager to get into the Christmas Spirit so we signed up for the gingerbread house decorating at the Coal Harbour Community Centre.

Last year we made gingerbread domes instead of gingerbread houses, and we did everything from scratch.  I'm not sure how they would have pulled off the logistics of making them from scratch here, and certainly not in 2 hours, but I was surprised to see this when we arrived:

Kind of funny, right? Oh well, it was still really awesome.  As far as kits go, this one was the cream of the crop, too :)

We had a seriously good time decorating our house, and I was shocked at how excited and involved Aias was this year!

Gingerbread approved
Taking it very seriously
Partway through
I was SHOCKED he didn't try and eat any of these candies 
Back at home, we let him do what he wanted with the tree.  Shockingly it has lasted (so far!)
This was fun and we will do it again next year for sure.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Fun Little Giveaway from Milk Unleashed Canada

So, I got an email from Milk Unleashed Canada today telling me about this new app and giving me a chance to get a gift pack for myself and my blog readers. I've been sort of eyeing up the Baboo product, so I thought I'd participate in this and share it with you guys.

Basically, you need to check out the app in this post and then you can enter to win in the rafflecopter entry below.  The winner gets a gift pack, and so do I!  The gift pack will include:
a) One liter of Shelf Safe Milk (Grand Pre or Baboo)
b) Three single serving shelf safe milks (white and chocolate) from: Chokeo Chocolate Milk, Grand Pre or Baboo
c) A calendar and brochure with information about Shelf Safe Milk
d) Cool stickers and Tattoos
e) Plus, one bonus prize

Sounds good to me; may as well try it out, who knows if it will become an awesome new product that will make a regular appearance on your grocery list?  We mostly use milk products for baking and for the very occasional hot cocoa, so we do like shelf stable varieties.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Great Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals From Lovable Labels!

Remember the giveaway we did on Lovable Labels?  Well, they are having an awesome Black Friday sale.  You can take 20% off your entire order, or 30% off any order of $100 or more.

These labels will save you money and grief in the long run...  Just last week, I sent Aias to preschool with a gorgeous (and slightly pricey) stainless steel snack cup.  When I went to pick him up, it was gone... turns out it had ended up in another kid's backpack by mistake.  I wasn't very concerned because I had put a lovable labels slimline label on both the lid and the container itself.  As I expected, today when I picked Aias up from school, the missing cup was in his backpack. 

Lovable Labels saved the day!  Needless to say, the second he got his new coat from The North Face, I put some cloth labels inside it. 

Lovable Labels, Disclaimer, Facebook Page, Twitter, Contact, Label Me Crazy, Pinterest, You Tube Lovable Labels Disclaimer Facebook Page Twitter Contact Label  Me Crazy Pinterest YouTube
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Ice Skating with Toddlers?

Evidently a lot of kids Aias's age have started learning to ice skate. I have to admit, I was pretty surprised to hear this! I decided to take Aias and his friend, Elliot, ice skating at the local rink just to give it a try.

I was shocked that Aias would even consider putting the skates on, but he did! Evidently lots of local rinks have "toddler time" at some point during the week, where the kids wear their skates and can then push little toy grocery carts around or go around on toy cars. Awesome, right?

I wouldn't say the boys really "ice skated," but they put on the skates, got on the ice, and had a pretty happy time!

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Fall Day in Stanley Park

Had a blast with the kids the other day in Stanley Park. Stanley Park is totally gorgeous in the fall, and I'm always shocked to see how empty it is, even on a bright and sunny day.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

LEGO DUPLO Train Station

Aias plays with LEGO DUPLO trains every single day without exception.  Right now we are collecting the retired Thomas & Friends line.  At any rate, here's a train station we made with him:

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hosting a Successful Mini Kid Stuff Swap and Potluck

When I was pregnant with Aias, I was the only one I knew (locally) who had a baby, so we bought just about everything new and got what we could from the few consignment stores in the area.   The costs weren't outrageous, but they did add up.

As Aias grew, so did my circle of friends with children.  Consequently, we started getting hand-me downs... it was AMAZING. At this point there's barely anything he wears that didn't once belong to And Mommy Makes 3; we joke that we are excited for when her kids are in middle school so Morgan can get their hand me downs ;) 

The reality is, there are TONS of used baby, kid, and mama items floating around out there in your community.  The items are exactly what you need and can't avoid obtaining and using, but they don't often last super long before they don't fit or aren't relevant anymore.  Suddenly, that item you couldn't imagine living without that you dropped $50 on is suddenly unusable to you; what to do with it then?  You could consign, unless you are like me and you ALWAYS miss the date.  You could sell it on Craigslist.  You could give it away on Freecycle.  You could donate it to a thrift shop.

Or... you could turn it into a party.

This weekend a friend and I hosted our first Baby and Kid Stuff Swap in our building, and I want to share the experience with you so that you can do the same in your community.  

About 6 weeks prior to the event, we sent out an invitation on (or you can use, also free).  Here's what our invitation said:

Fall Kids Stuff Swap and Potluck

Babies and kids outgrow their clothes and toys very quickly.  If you live in an apartment, you know this can get a little overwhelming.   We want to get together, enjoy some food, and do some swapping.  It will be a great chance to pass on books, toys, baby, and kid clothes that we no longer need, but that have plenty of life in them to bring joy to another family!

What to bring?
1. A side dish, snack, or dessert.


2. Stuff to swap!
- Toys
- Games
- Books
- Baby and kid clothing, shoes, outdoor gear, etc
- Pregnancy and nursing related items

How will it work?
This is our first one, so we are open to suggestions!  If only a few people show, we can just be casual and let it all happen organically.  How it typically works with a large crowd will be that you will get one "token" for every item you donate.  Once exchanged for tokens, the items are no longer yours.  People will browse the items for a bit and then once the swap opens you can claim one item per "token."  If two or more of you want the same item, we will flip a coin, draw, or rock/paper/scissors for the winner.

At the end of the evening, all unclaimed items will be brought by Monika and Danielle to be donated to the Gordon Neighborhood House Thrift Shop. 

*Using ideas from this site:

Rules- No "selling" please; this is about sharing and trading, not about cash exchange.
- Please only bring items that are in clean, usable condition.  No stained or torn items or items missing pieces.

Should we bring the kids?You certainly can, if you want to.  However, you may be able to focus more on the swapping if you leave them behind :)  This is entirely up to you!

If you have a "wish list" of items you need, please feel free to post them on the invitation!  We will send an email out a week or so before to give people an idea of what others are looking for while they go through their kids's things.
Monika and Danielle

 On the day of the event, we went up to the common room space about 45 minutes early.  We set up tables around the perimeter of the room, and printed signs that said:

- newborn
- 0-3 months
- 3-6 months
- 6 to 9 months
- 9 to 12 months
- 12 to 18 months
- 18 to 24 months
- 2T
- 3T
- 4T
- 5T+
- Toys, books, games
- Mama stuff
- Shoes and socks
 - Cloth diapering
-  Baby wearing
-  Nursing supplies

We hung the signs up above the tables.  We also set up an area where people could place their food and drink to share.

As each guest arrived, it was their job to "stock" the tables.  People went around and neatly placed their items on the tables according to the signs.  Most people brought boxes and bags... absolutely tons of stuff.  Because of this, we didn't assign tokens or anything like that.  If people had all shown up with a few items we could probably have gone ahead with tokens.  It was surreal to see our common room turned into a kid's consignment store in about 15 minutes!

Once everyone arrived and set out their items, we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves.  We said our names, how we knew the hosts, how old our children were, and what items we were looking out for.  We also decided that we thought it would be ok if people just shopped around at the same time, informally, and that if there was a debate over an item we'd flip a coin.  We also established where we'd be putting the items we were taking, whether we were putting it in a certain spot in the room or in a certain bag, so that no one would accidentally take the items we'd put aside to take home.

This went off without a hitch; I think we had to do the coin flipping thing only twice the entire time. 

In the end, we were left with a lot of stuff, and all that stuff was picked up by a local women's shelter that we agreed on as a group.  It was amazing!!!  We will definitely be hosting another one in the spring.


-  Target your invites... your best friends are people who have an older child AND a younger child.  They will bring large things to the swap, but also need small things. Trust me, this makes things very nice.

-  Don't invite too many people; this was 7 people participating and it was almost a full room.

-  Establish the pattern and rules from the beginning so there are no conflicts.

- Send your invites out far in advance, so people will hold onto their items in anticipation of the event.

- In our invitation we said people could bring kids if they had to; when we do it again, I'll say NOT to bring kids (young babies are ok).  There were no kids at this event, just a baby or two.  I think with toddlers or older kids it would have been a gong show. 

Some of the toys

A mama checking out some of the toys

Tons of awesome stuff

Lots of stuff for new mamas

Some of the teeny tiny clothes

Don't worry, this little cutie wasn't being swapped, though I would have snatched him up if he was up for grabs :)

Another happy shopping mama

So many things!

Everything in this picture (and some more) was picked up by a local shelter

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

LEGO Trains: The Best Birthday Present EVER!!!

For his third birthday, Aias got the LEGO Passenger Train from us and the LEGO Cargo Train from Oma and Opa.  He's wanted these for a very long 6 months.  We would see them at the store and he would stare at and hug the boxes.  He just about fainted when he opened them and made Morgan get right to work building.

I can't say enough awesome about the Cargo Train. The Passenger Train is pretty rad, but the Cargo Train is an insanely good value. It comes with many vehicles and also... a crane!  A huge deal to a small child.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

How to Make Rainbow Cupcakes in Ice Cream Cone Cups

People have been asking me for the recipe for these rainbow cupcakes in ice cream cone cups, so I figured I may as well blog it.  These cupcakes are very easy to make, but they are a bit time consuming.

This recipe makes 36 servings.

You'll need:

- 1800mL of white cake batter
- 6 medium plastic ziploc bags
- 6 food dyes, any colours
- 36 regular sized flat bottom ice cream cones
- 1 tub of white frosting of your choice
- sprinkles, candy, decorations of your choice
- 1 or 2 baking sheets

A few notes on these things:

* It doesn't matter what kind of cake batter you use; it can be gluten free, boxed, homemade, etc.  All that matters is that it's white so the food dye looks good.
* The type of food dye you use and the colours don't matter at all.  If you don't want to do "rainbow" you can do fewer colours. You can do more colours if you want, too.

 How To:

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 and prepare the cake batter.

2.  Divide the cake batter in to the 6 plastic bags.  If you prepared 1800mL of cake batter, it should be 300mL of batter in each bag.

3.  For each bag, add several drops of food dye.  Pour the drops right into the bag.  Seal the bag with as little air inside as possible and massage the batter and dye until it is blended completely into the batter.  Do this for each bag. You'll have something like this:

4.  Line the ice cream cups up on the cookie sheets. This part is a little tricky, as they need to be balanced.  Some ice cream cones have imperfections on the bottom; you'll need to scrape those ones flat, but be careful not to make any holes in the bottom of the cones or the batter will seep out.

5.  Start with the colour you want on the bottom.  Seal the bag tightly and cut a tiny bit of the corner off on one side.  Make the cut very small; you'll be pouring the batter out of this hole. Squeeze a tiny bit of batter out into each ice cream cup.***

***Don't go overboard with the batter.... you really only need a TINY bit. Your ultimate goal is to fill the ice cream half way, but remember.... you have 6 colours to go!***

6.  Repeat with all colours until the ice cream cones are all 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full.

7.  VERY carefully put the batter filled ice cream cones into the oven. Don't worry, they won't light on fire, I swear. They don't even turn golden or change colours. It's almost creepy...

8.  Cook the cupcakes for about 25-30 minutes.  If you are tempted and want to peek, every time you open the oven, add another minute to the final cook time (we did this 5x because we were scared the ice cream cones were going to light on fire, haha).

9.  When they are done, stick chopstick or skewer all the way to the bottom. If it comes out dry, they are done!  If you are really concerned, you can cut one in half to double check that it's all cooked through.

10.  Cool them, frost them, decorate them!  We decided to add dye to the frosting as well.


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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Lifetime Supply of Shoes

Here's one way of dealing with a kid who will only wear ONE very specific pair of shoes:

Yep.  Lego Crocs for the next 3 years or so.  *sigh*
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Monday, November 5, 2012

What Happened With My Mobilicity Phone...

 Lots of people of been asking about this, so I figured I'd blog about it instead of telling the story over and over again.  Here it goes...

In January 2011 I switched from Rogers Wireless to Mobilicity. I was with Rogers from September 2003 until then... a long time!  I really liked my Blackberry with Rogers but I'd simply had enough with the stressful overages.  For over 7 years I had been paying nearly $115 a month, often far more (if I went over in minutes) and this didn't even include data.  I was hesitant to go with Mobilicity but I live right downtown and couldn't resist the price.

My Mobilicity phone plan includes everything;

- Unlimited data
- Unlimited texting
- Unlimited calling in the US and Canada 24/7

It's literally impossible to be charged more.  In the event that you roam, you pay into a "wallet" and the money comes out of there. When the money you add to the wallet is gone, you can't go over.

At the end of each month, I pay $44.10 (after all fees).  This has been a considerable financial improvement over Rogers Wireless.

When I started with Mobilicity I had to get a new phone, because you cannot use a Rogers Wireless phone on the Mobilicity network (they operate under a different frequency).  I chose the Blackberry Curve.  It wasn't the cheapest Blackberry, but also not the most expensive.

***From this point forward, I'm going to have to "guesstimate" dates until I can confirm with my Mobilicity Account the dates/exact time spans, etc.  ***

The Blackberry worked for a bit.  Then one day, a notification popped up on my phone and said that in order to use the phone it needed to be updated.  So of course, I updated it.  After the update had finished installing, my phone had a white screen. For hours the white screen stayed on the phone, and into the next day.  I took the phone to Mobilicity and told them what had happened.  They said the phone had a warranty and I could send the phone away, I'd be given a loaner phone, and then they'd get my phone fixed.  I said ok.  I was given a loaner phone (which by the way, was the cheapest of all phones) for ***2-3 weeks while my phone was fixed.  All the while, of course, I was paying for the Unlimited Blackberry plan even though for the duration of this month I did not have a phone capable of the features I was paying for.

When I got my phone back, I was really happy.  A few days passed.  Suddenly, a button stopped working on my phone.  Nothing happened to the phone, it didn't drop, it didn't get wet... I was cranky about this, but once again, I took the phone to Mobilicity.  They gave me a loaner phone, ***2-3 weeks passed, and I got my phone back.

Some time passed, I'm not sure how long.  Once again, the phone started breaking.  This time it wasn't getting calls, it was freezing, it was just screwing up left and right.  I did NOT want to deal with a loaner phone again, so I contacted Mobilicity and made this request:

I wanted to take the broken phone into Mobilicity and to be given a new phone on the spot, and they could send away my phone and do whatever with it. Fix it, refurbish it, throw it away, I didn't care. I emphasized that I did NOT want a used or refurbished phone because of all the trouble I had been having and they assured me that I would get a NEW phone.

It was like pulling teeth to see this through, but finally the manager of the Vancouver Corporate Store made it happen.  I was pleased.

A few weeks passed and the phone started doing some strange things... freezing, etc.  I would just take the battery out and things would go back to normal.  I had already been through so much with the thing that I didn't want to bother trading it in again even though it was under the warranty.  At least it was mostly functional right? And this was, after all, a NEW phone, right?  I chalked it up to Blackberries being awful and decided that with this NEW phone kicked the bucket I would just get a different brand.

Then, things started getting really strange...

Around 10 months ago or so, people started telling me that they would call me, call MY number, and they'd get a guy named "Larry."  Larry would tell them that he lived in Ontario and had his number for more than a decade.  He would say he had no idea who Monika was.  My mother-in-law was the first to tell me this, and then my RESP guy, my bank, other friends, etc.  I thought for sure that it had something to do with them calling the wrong number, using the wrong area code, or had something to do with where they were calling from (Vancouver Island, etc).    I tried dialing my number from my own phone, but I just got my voicemail.  I couldn't reach this Larry person on purpose.

One day on Vancouver Island, I decided to try calling my phone. My phone was off. Guess who I got? Larry.  Larry wouldn't talk to me, he was just irate that someone else had been calling for Monika, and he hung up.  I called my number back, and just got myself.

Sometime in early spring of 2012, I called Mobilicity about this.    The first time I called, they told me this was:

- The first time this had EVER happened in the history of Mobilicity
- That this was IMPOSSIBLE

They said it was going to be sent to escalations and that someone would be calling me within 10 days.

Several weeks passed (a month? 2 months?) and I had let it go.  Then, again, more people started telling me they were reaching Larry.  I called Mobilicity again.  My complaints were met with the same sentiment:

- This is impossible
- This is unheard of
- We are sorry but we have no idea why this would happen

I was starting to get annoyed... after all, I wasn't making this up.  Also, it's a pretty big deal that people are calling my number and NOT reaching me, but being told they are reaching a wrong number.  I started to get concerned because we had been applying to housing co-ops for a while and goodness knows how many of them had contacted us for interviews only to be greeted by this Larry guy and told they had the wrong number.

I called Mobilicity a third time.  Each of these times, I should mention, they did a "network reset."  I'm not really sure what it means, but supposedly it should have fixed this problem.  Of course, it didn't.

Over the past few most recent months, my phone has continued to act completely crazy with the freezing.  Sometimes I would look at the phone and see the time was a few hours earlier, having been frozen for the bulk of an afternoon, not getting texts or phone calls to me.  I'd then take the battery out and all of a sudden I'd be inundated with texts and voicemails.

The worst was that I'd be getting texts at all hours of the day, because there started to be a 12-24 hour delay.  The nature of my work (family child care) means that I communicate with parents via text during the day so they can check in on their kids or tell me they are coming early, etc.  One night I got a text from a client at 11pm.  The text read "we are on our way!"  This would have been a normal next around that time... on a night where I actually had their kid!!! This text was actually from the night before.  I had a minor panic that they thought I had their child but it turned out it was just an old text. Things like this started to happen pretty regularly and it started to get annoying.

This weekend I noticed 24 hours went by where my phone didn't ring, and I received no texts.  My updates seemed to be working fine (using FB and Twitter) but nothing was being sent to me.  I called Mobilicity in the afternoon and once again, they had no information to offer me. At this point... well, you see the above? I got to explain ALLLLL of that to ALLLLL of them EVERY TIME I CALLED.  Nice, right?  Exhausting is more like it.  Anyhow, they said it sounded like my phone needed a "master reset" and that I should call back from another phone later in the day to do this.

I was somewhat beside myself about it at this point... was this a problem with my phone? Was this a problem with Mobilicity? Why couldn't anyone tell me what was happening? 

This evening, I called Mobilicity from Morgan's WIND Mobile phone and I was patched through to Technical Assistance to do the master reset.  I talked to a guy named Collin.  Collin asked me if my phone had ever been set up to do "call forwarding."  Call forwarding is a feature that directs a call to another phone line in the event that your phone is busy or off the network.  In the case of Mobilicity, this would happen when I'm dialing, when I'm in the Skytrain, or a parking garage, or certain stores (Winners, London Drugs, etc), or roaming without money in my "wallet."  I told him again, no.  I also mentioned this was a NEW phone.

He had me go into the "Options" menu on my phone and go into "Call Management" and "Call Forwarding."  It said it was "querying call forwarding parameters from the network" and had me wait.   When the menu loaded, it said:

Forward Calls: Conditional
If Busy: X.XXX.XXX.XXXX  (a number I had never heard of)
If No Reply: X.XXX.XXX.XXXX (the same number I had never heard of)
If Not Reachable: X.XXX.XXX.XXXX  (Yep, the same number I had never heard of)

Seriously?  My first thought was that this must be the Mobilicity voicemail number.  But nope, it wasn't.  Whose number was it?

You guessed it... LARRY.

I looked the number up on Google and sure enough, it's an Ontario number. Mobilicity confirmed this wasn't a Mobilicity number, so guess what?
Remember the new phone I was given way back when to make up for all my troubles? It wasn't new after all.  The tech guy said it sounds like it was left over from the person who had the phone before me. OOOOPS Mobilicity!

So all these months, all these missed calls/texts/etc that have all been going to a random dude named Larry, that it took months to figure out but less than 10 minutes for Collin in Tech Support, could have been avoided if Mobilicity had just made good on their word and been honest with me and given me a NEW phone as promised.

I'm not really mad at Mobilicity itself, but I am furious with the employee (a representative and agent of Mobilicity) who dishonestly gave me the used trouble phone.

I was thrilled to get to the bottom of this, because FINALLY it was confirmed that I wasn't completely insane and imagining this, and neither were my friends and family (I had suggested more than once that they were probably just dialing the wrong number).  I was also thrilled to know it wasn't just a case of a crummy Blackberry.

The second I got off the phone with tech support, I called Customer Service.  It was after 7pm so I figured I wouldn't get a manager, but surely this is enough of an issue that they'd do something to compensate me, right?

They offered me a $10 credit.

No there are no zeroes missing... that's TEN DOLLARS.  To be fair, these are the night shifts and the management and supervisors with the cushy 9-5 hours were gone, and was 10pm in Ontario when I was calling.  At any rate, I declined this $10 and said I would call back tomorrow and talk to a supervisor, which I will.

I will also be calling Larry, to let him know about this.  Poor grumpy Larry, who has been called at 10pm, 11pm, midnight... all because I was in the skytrain or something and someone was trying to reach my phone.

I'm hoping I can be compensated for this trouble (and the dishonesty) somehow, and I'm hoping to get money refunded for this phone, which I will put toward a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which I think will have more reliable support than this cursed Blackberry.  My main gripes are:

-  The guy at the Vancouver Corporate store outright lied to me about giving me a new phone
- For months people acted like I was lying/insane/imagining things when I complained about this happening and no one could be bothered to follow up with me about it
- I had spent hours on hold and had to talk for long periods of time with 5+ people only to accomplish nothing, and then this Collin guy managed to figure the problem out in less than 10 minutes

I suspect it will be an uphill battle to get this, because it's been nothing but an uphill battle until this point, but I've come this far, right?

So that's why you haven't been able to get a hold of me sometimes.  Sorry about that!

Now, dozens of times in the past 2 years, I've recommended Mobilicity (based on price) and on service because I thought it was just that Blackberry was awful.  When people complain about their cell phone bulls I chime in "you should get Mobilicity, it's great!' and when people ask me about it, I tell them it's awesome.  From this point forward, how I answer that question will depend on how Mobilicity decides to correct this ridiculous situation. 

So that's what happened with my phone.


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