Saturday, 25 October 2014

Replication of results

Annual memberships are the be-all-and-end-all of my parenting technique.  Instead of paying an extortionate fee to visit a tourist trap you can pay even more, but come back as many times are you want!  Living in a city like Vancouver means we're surrounded by such opportunities, which nicely fills up my weekly timetable.  "I'm at the aquarium, so it must be a Tuesday," Pete thinks, so he's also learning about the days of the week and Nietzsche's concept of eternal recurrence.

It's true that going to the aquarium 52 times this year has become a little repetitive, as several fish now greet us by name, but a new weapon in my arsenal has been provided by Science World, where we took out membership having been with the Hammonds.  It's so fabulous that we went there yesterday, and again today!  This is because Hannah's never been and also due to a brand new exhibition about light that was too crowded to go around.  We arrived as soon as they opened this morning, to avoid the masses and also because they only allow two theologians in per day, to try to keep the average scientific IQ a bit higher.

Pete is now a veteran, running around pressing all the buttons and pulling all the levers.  This pleased Hannah, as she thought it made it look like he immediately figured out how everything worked, rather than truth: that he's a product of parental neglect and Pavlovian conditioning.  Still, the new light stuff was great, and I got to see a purple laser, which doesn't happen every day.

As Pete descended into manic flitting, the classic sign that our time there was coming to an end, Hannah and I stared into the hypnotic depths of a cloud chamber, watching feathery trails left by something hitting something, or whatever.  "The trouble is," she mused, "I don't even understand what the explanation on the wall is trying to tell me about this."  If only Science World could aim its signs at our level rather than, you know, a one-year-old's.

Science says all colours are made up of green, blue and red light.  So how do you make yellow?  Exactly.

Tripping the light fantastic, with Halo by Alex Beim.  You control what it does, and it's amazing.

"Look into my eyes," says Hannah, "and repeat: oil is good...oil is good..."

A water lens, that does strange things to whatever you're looking at.

AaaARrRRGGghh!!!  This is why science should be banned.  How am I going to sleep tonight/ever again?

Suddenly, everything can be seen in three dimensions.

DNA is actually made from red liquorice laces, cocktail sticks and mini marshmallows, so that's something that I've learned today.

"Come on, Mummy, I'll show you how it works."

They say science needs independent thinkers who don't conform to the expectations of those around them or offer straightforward answers.  Well...

Dress rehearsal

Hallowe'en is a few more e'ens away but we won't be here on the day itself so we took the opportunity to dress Pete up today.  Not that we need a reason to dress our baby in a ridiculous outfit and photograph him, but it makes us feel better.

This year we've descended the evolutionary ladder somewhat, from monkey down to skunk.  The costume is actually a loan from Evie in California, who's still too small to wear it and, knowing her mother, will be in something far more custom and grand.  We're thankful for that because, up here in Canada, dressing in warm animal skins is de rigueur, whether it's Halloween or not.

"Mother, I'm resigned to the indignity.  Just get it over with quickly."

"I cannot wait until I'm 18 and in control of my own destiny/outfits."

Off to rustle up some sweeties from around the building.

I really should contact building management about our rodent problem.

Back, filled with refined sugar, happy.

Saturday, 18 October 2014


What better way to celebrate being back in Vancouver than doing one of the hop-on-hop-off bus tours?  Several of our visitors have greatly enjoyed them, and when Hannah spotted a half price voucher it seemed like the perfect way to nourish our inner tourist.  Pete is also going through the transport-obsessed toddler stage.  "Would you like to go on a bus?" we asked.  "Bus!  Bus!  Bus!" he replied.

Except that there are two bus tour companies in Vancouver, and only one needs to offer half-price tickets to attract customers.

To be fair, the first part of the trip was rather nice.  The bus had a recorded commentary, complete with sound effects and passable British accents for the historical sailors and soldiers who decided that this was a good place for a city.  The driver added his own comments, mostly about shops and the best hospital to go to, and we hopped-off for a coffee and a wander at Granville Island.

"Bus!  Bus!  Bus!" said Pete throughout.

The second bus, an hour later, was not quite as successful.  The driver forgot/didn't know how to work the recorded commentary, and it was replaced with luminary facts like "that's the oldest hotel in Vancouver" and "that's a nice fish restaurant", as well as a fair amount about his marriage.  The bus was vaguely open-topped, in that there was a plastic covering over half, but unfortunately it was also open-backed which meant that much of the exhaust fumes blew inside, lulling passengers into a soporific petrochemical haze.  I think it ran on biodiesel - there was the vague smell of chip fat.

"Bus!  Bus!  Bus!" said Pete, then fell asleep.

He didn't miss much, and we hopped-off where we'd first hopped-on, and would have been hopping-mad had we paid full price.  Back to Shanks's pony for us, although that might be harder for Pete to say.

Hopping-on at the Westin.

Popular at this time of year.

A PSL (pumpkin spice latte) at Agro Cafe on Granville Island.

Trade picked up once we'd reboarded.

Asphyxiation, or a judgement on the commentary?  Luckily, the latter.

Monday, 13 October 2014

By the Bay

Having served as Chief Executive and Chairman of Davies Tours International (NorCal Division) for many years, I often showed extremely satisfied customers the delights of the Bay area.  Yet I've never enjoyed one of these high-quality custom-designed itineraries myself!  It was time to put that right.

We managed to fit quite a lot into our few days: a trip into the city, a jaunt down to the South Bay, a visit to Oakland's premier nursery-rhyme-based theme park, shopping and a bit more shopping, and cheering on Maya at her PSV Union 10-yr-old girls' football match (humbling to realise that 10-yr-olds play better than I ever have or ever will...)

We returned to Vancouver - raining, of course - full of sunny memories and thanks for all our lovely Californian friends, especially Nate, Lauren and Genevieve for putting us up/putting up with us for a week.  It really is the people that make that place special to us.  And the ice cream.

Pete and Edward, playing near each other.

Fairyland, where all your dreams come true!  As long as they're not particularly ambitious dreams.

On the train.

Fascinated by a donkey. miniature church.

How to annoy people in the Ferry Building in SF?  Park a pushchair right in the middle.

I'm sure I read something about caffeine and children...oh well, enjoy!

Ebola broke out in the states while we were there.  Pete took precautions.

It's Agam!  He used to be small.

Arbel used to be small too, but is now huge, bilingual, and trying to become Canadian.

No visit to Shauli and Anat is complete without a heated game of Catan.  Who won?  Me, of course.

Elise, still wondering whether to have baby #4.

It was time to stock up at Trader Joe's, and someone somewhere decided that making tiny trolleys for children was a good idea.  Still, Pete picked out some nice wine.

A final shot of the ever-beautiful Evie.

How many bags will you be checking today?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Gourmet tour

California, home of fine cuisine!  We've certainly been taking advantage, and expect to be detained by Canadian immigration for being too portly to reenter.  But what can you do when Walnut Creek boasts Lottie's ice cream parlour?  Pete and I went there for a couple of scoops in the afternoon...and then went back in the evening for another.

We're staying in the town of Pete's birth with Lauren and Nate and baby Gen, who were kind enough to invite the Schwimmers over for dinner tonight.  My baby Logan is now terrifyingly six-years-old but still loves it when I pick him up and rock him while cooing.  I think.  We had our food delivered by another great gastronomic Californian establishment - In'n'Out Burger.  The ladies were kind enough to pick up our order on the way home from work, and animal-style burgers and Neopolitan shakes were enjoyed by all.

Now, as I sit and wash everything down with a Trader Joe's cabernet sauvignon (while eating peanut butter cups for dessert) I wonder: what's the duty free allowance travelling back to Canada?

Nate, with daughter and future son-in-law.

New baby Declan, who was inside last time we saw him.

I used to be that small?  You're funny!

It's hot out.

So time for some ice cream!  Including olive oil flavour, which was unsurprisingly delicious.

And then we went back again.

Evie is enjoying Pete's company.

Especially his magic tricks.

We even managed to slip in a little thrift store shopping.

Ready to take your order.

Animal-style, the only style to have.

Satisfied customers.

Three in a tub.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

NorCal nuptials

It could only be a NorCal wedding when you're enjoying a ceremony on a beach at a sustainable wilderness retreat with great wi-fi.  And it was beautiful.  The groom arrived by row boat, naturally, and wore flip-flops.  The bride was resplendent in a beautiful dress that I'm sure I could say more about if I knew anything about wedding dresses.  Mermaid?

The whole thing was rather breathtaking, with the lake backdrop and a sun that obliged by falling through the quaking aspens at just the right angle to illuminate the bride and groom as they said their self-penned vows.  The constant small splashes of Pete throwing stones into the water only added to the ambiance (I like to think).

Then it was time for Champagne on the beach, then gin and tonics at the lodge, then food, then dancing.  We'd been warned that the effects of alcohol would be magnified due to being 6000ft+ above sea level and, after my third G&T, this did seem to be true.

Hannah and I had planned to tag-team it with the babysitting throughout the evening but unfortunately I fell asleep on my first shift so Hannah danced the night away.  The whole day was quite spectacular and the ceremony the high point of the weekend so far.  At least until the all-you-can-eat buffet brunch tomorrow.

The rather pristine Fallen Leaf Lake.

The morning was free for water activities, and what could be more relaxing than taking out a pedalo with a 1-yr-old?

Others went for a motorised option.

Rounding a buoy, just like in the America's Cup.

We followed that with a little hike to see the all-important wedding beach before things kicked off.

I took the plunge...

...and quickly lost all feeling below my ankles in the glacial waters.

Abandoned at the altar.

Guests of honour.

This is more like it!

Here comes the groom.

And the bride.

This is NorCal.

Exchanging vows.

Mr & Mrs.

Pete toasts the happy couple.

Mummy and Daddy toast a second night of drinking and partying!

Tea total.

The cake - Mary Berry would approve.

Taking a short breather from the revelry.