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Three Great Problem-solving iPad Games for kids

Three Great Problem-solving iPad Games for kids

One of my son’s favourite type of iPad game is the well-designed problem solver. It’s not something he gets jump-up-and-down excited about, but they are the ones with staying power.

Our favourites right now:

Monument Valley

Walk a small girl through an Escher-like landscape, twisting and turning pieces of the structures to reveal new pathways. It really challenges ideas about up and down, directions and perspective. There’s a beautiful soundtrack that draws you in, as well as a flock of mysterious birds that appear throughout the level. Gorgeous game that’s won many awards for good reason. My son has played this one through countless times. Monument Valley game by ustwo


Odd Bot Out

How Martin Magni, the indie developer behind Odd Bot Out, managed to imbue a single block with an eyeball and legs with a personality, I don’t know. But my son loves this one. You walk your block bot around obstacles using switches, cables, other bots, and magnetic blocks to finish each level. The difficulty doesn’t ramp up too quickly, which is a failure of so many of the other problem-solving games we’ve tried, so my 5 year old has been playing this one for weeks. Odd Bot Out by Martin Magni



This one appealed to my five year old right away, in that the whole premise is sneaking around obstacles and distracting monsters by sneezing snot they chase after and eat. That sounds unbelievably disgusting, but somehow the cute animation style makes it hilarious and not all that gross (really). The tinkly, tweepop soundtrack makes a nice change from your average game music too. Where does the problem solving come in? It’s all about bouncing snot off walls at certain angles, planning your route, and patience. Gesundheit! game by Matt Hammill


Rhubarb soda with mint

Rhubarb soda with mint

rhubarb soda

The rhubarb always surprises me. It seems to go from tiny little green shoots to full-fledged leafy green monster overnight. In our communal rooftop garden, luckily I seem to be one of a few who harvests those ruby stalks, but you should be able to find it at your local farmers market or good grocery stores.

Rhubarb syrup is simple to make – minimal chopping and little cooking. It’s an incredible pink colour, and looks amazing on ice cream, swirled in yoghurt – instant pink joy!

Rhubarb syrup
makes approximately 2 cups

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 cups rhubarb stems, chopped into rough 3-cm chunks

  1. Put sugar and water on to boil over high heat in a large pot (the rhubarb will foam, so you need room).
  2. Once boiling, add your chopped rhubarb and boil for 2 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool completely.
  3. Decant into a clean jar, store in the fridge.


Rhubarb soda with mint
makes one

Soda water
Rhubarb syrup
Fresh mint leaves, washed

  1. Add ice to a highball glass. Tear several mint leaves into small pieces and sprinkle over ice.
  2. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the rhubarb syrup, and top up glass with soda water, adjust sweetness to taste by adding more syrup.
  3. Slice strawberry in half and tuck down in the glass just below surface of the liquid. Sprinkle a few more pieces of mint, or a few whole leaves. Enjoy!

What to do in Vancouver with kids

What to do in Vancouver with kids

earnest e

I write for and the new app Jelly Been about places to visit in Vancouver with kids. Recently I’ve been doing these fun lists of my favourite places grouped by theme. Here are a few of my favourites…

Brain Freeze Ice cream, gelato, popsicles – cold things that make my son grab the sides of his head and wail for a minute. And then demand we go back the next day.

Toasted Grilled cheese sandwiches are a child-pleaser. My own son somehow missed that gene, but I’m happy to make up for his disinterest.

SLUUUURP Best soup places to visit with kids. Pho, ramen, hand-cut Chinese noodles… I’m not going to pick a winner here.

Climbing the Walls It’s raining and your living room is being slowly destroyed by bored children. Take them to one of our city’s many climbing gyms to burn off some energy.



Things I love: Shoes of Prey

Things I love: Shoes of Prey
shoes of prey
My new soft grey leather oxfords, problem solved!


Last spring, I finally realized that the pair of soft grey oxfords I had bought four years ago had fallen apart. Properly, completely fallen apart. I searched everywhere for a replacement, but nothing quite worked for me.

Then, I found Shoes of Prey.

This is one of those make your own shoes online sites. What drew me to this one, besides the truly awesome name, is their reasonable prices and 365 day return or remake.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 11.29.50 AM

Things I love: great selection of heel heights, massive selection of colours, up-to-date shapes.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 11.31.10 AM

I threw together this d’orsay flat in a cool floral snake imprint leather that I’m pretty keen on, $129 Canadian. I have another pair of much-loved gently pointed black flats that has ended its natural life, and I was bemoaning finding another until I remember I could MAKE SOME. This is perfect for those who struggle finding the shoes they love in the heel height they are comfortable in. If you don’t know where to start, browsing the gallery will give you some ideas, and the Style Advice section is a good resource of curated ideas using the newest shapes and materials.

At the end of all that, your shoes arrive in a gorgeous box with a cloth bag, wrapped with a piece of real ribbon. It’s lovely. And I’m off to go design my new black flats right now…


Making low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin

Making low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin

strawberry jam

Last year, I meant to preserve things. I had such good intentions. I even bought jars… but they disappeared into the cupboard to make up for the glassware I break all the time, into the fridge, into the lunchbox drawer. What can I say, mason jars are amazing.

This year, it’s all different. I’ve started already!

My previous experience of canning and making jam had been marathon sessions in a boiling hot kitchen, working quickly to process kilos and kilos of strawberries we had brought home from the U-pick farm which were literally turning overripe as we worked. It’s tiring at the best of times, but after hunching in the sun picking berries, driving 90 minutes each way, no one is in the mood to then can the jam for four hours. The first time my husband accompanied me on one of these crazy outings was also the last time. He told me in no uncertain terms he was not doing it again!

So I had been reluctant to take on that project on my own, but a chance discovery at a fish canning class offered through my incredible local community-supported fishery gave me the confidence to get back into it.

The instructor mentioned making high fruit, low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin. I was intrigued, because the other thing keeping me from making jam was the truly insane amounts of sugar involved. Pomona’s Pectin is activated by calcium (supplied in the box), not by sugar, so you’re free to keep the sugar levels low – and in fact use all sorts of other sweeteners like honey, sucanat, stevia, or fruit juice concentrate.

For instance, I took advantage of some great sales on organic strawberries lately and made a batch last night of regular strawberry jam. With the Pomona’s Pectin recipe, I used 1 cup of sugar for 2 1/4 lbs of fruit. For slightly more fruit, the Bernardin’s website suggest 7 CUPS of sugar. Strawberries are gloriously sweet already, the idea of adding that much extra on top makes my teeth ache just thinking about it.

I’ve also harnessed the rhubarb abundance and made a very zippy rhubarb jam with ginger and vanilla. It’s a bit tart for toast, but I suspect around January it will be very welcome. Smeared on the edge of a piece of crumbly, aged cheddar though, oh, it is amazing.

I highly recommend checking out the imaginative Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin book, which contains the rhubarb jam recipe, as well as lovely sounding things like peach champagne jelly and strawberry balsamic conserve. Though the instructions inside the box are very comprehensive if you’d like to just start with a basic single-fruit jam.