Sunday, 29 March 2015

Happy returns

Ellen and Megan are back!  After spending Christmas in the warmer climes of the Spanish islands they've returned to us for Easter.  With them came torrential rainfall and a three-hour delay out of Heathrow, but they made it safe and sound.

I always like it when Megan comes - I get to satisfy my more girly desires, like tap-dancing, synchronized swimming, and Lego Friends, things that Pete, despite my best efforts, still isn't too enthused by.  Ellen also brought me a bottle of duty-free Baileys, purely for medicinal purposes, you understand.

Meg and Pete are sharing a room this time, but he was asleep when she arrived.  "Do you think he'll be alright?" a worried Hannah asked.  "He can be a bit shy, and he's going to wake up and just find her there..."  Her concerns were proved unfounded when, at 5am, I was woken by much giggling and loud conversations about the taxis outside the window.  I sternly ordered them both into bed until sunrise, and took a wee dram of Baileys to help me back to sleep.
Back in Vancouver, back on the coffee and cinnamon buns.
Lego, early in the morning.
Everybody's entertained, so all good.

I decided to see what you can really achieve with Lego Friends.  Spaceship!  With horse attachment.

Friday, 20 March 2015


How can you improve a coffee roastery?  Add beer!  How can you improve a brewery?  Add a coffee shop!  Being the fine city that Vancouver is, someone already realised this and created 33 Acres, a coffee shop attached to a brewery (or vice versa, depending on your vice of choice).  Best of all they allow kids, so Pete and I met Andrew and Jacob there for our recurrent Friday adventure.

The lady who opened up at 9am did seem a little surprised to find two adults with toddlers waiting outside the brewery door.  'The first step to addressing a problem is admitting you have one,' her eyes seemed to be saying, but we were allowed in.

The coffee shop is fabulous and exceedingly childproof, being mostly made of concrete.  There's a bit too much white wood around so crayons were left in their nappy bags, but the boys didn't mind as there was plenty of space to run around, a large window to blow raspberries on, and a car garage across the street where people walked under cars that were in the air!  Amazing.  Also, as this isn't Vegas, we were the only people in the bar at 9am and could disturb no one.

All in all, a marvelous outing.  I sat back and reflected on how easy childcare is as I ordered my third cappuccino, pint of Belgium Tripel, and tequila chaser.
That's what it's all about.
And this too.
So which one would you like?
Pete samples from their non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated range.  You're such a killjoy, dad.
The food was pretty good too - you need something to soak up the alcohol.
Beer, coffee, & snacks.  And babies.  Perfect!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Chocolate covered

At Amy's party of a few weeks back I got to meet many of the other parents of Pete's daycare friends.  "What do you do?" is an inevitable question, to which my current favoured reply is "I work within the home."  Perhaps "I'm a theologian" would lead to more interesting conversations...but perhaps not.

When I was the one asking the question I received the usual responses of lawyer, doctor, etc.  Until I chatted to Steve (a.k.a. Charlie's dad) who said "I was Gordon Ramsay's pastry chef in London for three years."  After I pulled Hannah off him - "I've never touched anyone who's touched Gordon!" she screamed in protest - he went on to tell us that he now runs a cafe in West Vancouver.  So on Friday we popped in to say hello.

"Cafe" is an understatement of the highest order.  The place is a chocolate factory where things are enrobed and molded, carved, painted, sprayed on, and many other things that Mr Cadbury could only dream of.  It's amazing!  It helped that Steve slipped me a free almond croissant and a few chocs while giving Hannah a tour of the kitchens.  And their coffee is almost as good as mine!  We sat and munched through a mango and caramel dessert, to make sure we'd sampled everything.

So I'm very happy to have found a rather fine cafe in which to sit as I put the finishing touches to the great Canadian novel.  Alternatively, I could ask for a job as a waiter.  A British accent, with a bit of Ramsay-style vocabulary, could give the establishment that little extra touch of class it deserves.

Only a hot chocolate.  When he can make me a cappuccino he can drink one.

Mango and caramel, in arty black and white, because I pressed the wrong button on my camera.

Back in colour (it's like The Wizard of Oz, this) to show off the chocs.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Beating a hasty retreat

noun: retreat; plural noun: retreats
    a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax.
    "their mountain retreat in New Hampshire"
    synonyms: refuge, haven, sanctuary; 

    a period of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation.
    "the bishop is away on her annual retreat"
    synonyms: seclusion, withdrawal, retirement, solitude, isolation, sanctuary

When Vancouver Cathedral advertised a "family retreat", images of quiet solitude filled my mind, where perhaps a friendly novice nun, accompanied by her guitar, might entertain the kids while we adults sipped cocktails in the hot tub, discussing the bible or whatever.

It seems that the people who run the idyllic Rivendell Retreat Centre may have had similar ideas, judging by the talk on the first night about how we should quietly open and close the doors, and remember that some people were spending the weekend in silent solitude.  I didn't hear it all - I was too busy chasing cackling two-year-olds up and down the corridors.

The retreat centre is at the top of a hill on Bowen Island.  Unfortunately we missed the ferry from Horseshoe Bay, but during the hour wait for the next one we ate fish and chips.  We finally arrived to join the 30 other people from the cathedral, and made ourselves at home amongst the pines, shining stars, lapping water, screaming kids, etc.  There's a magic number at which children become self-governing, like in a nuclear explosion, and adult responsibility can diminish.  I decided we reached it.

The weekend disappeared far too quickly in an endless stream of drinking and eating and talking.  Some of it was even quite spiritual.  Pete's regular partner-in-crime Jacob came too, so there was no end of mischief.  It being St David's Day on Sunday I did wear my rugby top, and Hannah baked Welsh cakes for breakfast and they were all eaten.  I also found out that St David was baptised by St Elvis!  No joke!  My life is complete.

On the way back a pod of killer whales swam past the ferry (whales/Wales - some kind of divine intervention, surely).  Having started with fish and chips we decided to finish with ice cream on our way home, which capped the perfect weekend getaway.  And now, even with Pete here, things seem rather quiet...

Taking a ferry into the Canadian night.

Ha ha. Yeah.

How do you entertain yourself on a retreat when the kids have gone to bed?  Outburst: Bible Edition, that's how.

Sunrise.  Nice.

Andrew is left in charge of breakfast on Saturday.

It's time for a pilgrimage... the coffee shop at the bottom of the hill.

Who would have thought a retreat centre would contain disruptive spirits?

Our children's worker Rosie leads some Godly Play.

Hey guys - if we use this thing we can make even more noise!

Time to get out.

I took it upon myself to spread the gospel of cricket, using of course our recent set from NZ.

Sea monsters.

Not even the fish in the rock pools got any peace.

Second night after the children had gone to bed - Bible Outburst was deemed too cerebral.  So we did this instead.

"Have you got any Welsh in you?" was the first thing I asked Hannah when we met.

Marnie, rather happy with the communion port she managed to score on tiny Bowen Island.

Such an idyllic, quiet spot.

Back on the ferry to go home. holidays in France...

Killer whales!  Honest.

It may not be California weather, but we can still eat ice cream.