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What to do with kids in Vancouver when it rains

What to do with kids in Vancouver when it rains

Ah Vancouver, you are a beautiful city to live in, but so. much. rain. If you’re heading to my old hometown for a visit, it’s quite likely it will rain for at least one of your days. That’s not a reason not to go, however. Most locals will tell you to bring your rain gear and wellies and head into the forest. Somehow the rain seems just right out there with the giant Douglas Fir trees. However, if you’re not feeling like communing with nature, here’s eight ways to hide out from the rain like a Vancouverite:

Vancouver Museum of Anthropology, photo courtesy of the MOA
Vancouver Museum of Anthropology, photo courtesy of the MOA

Museum of Anthropology

I really recommend making this museum part of your visit, even if it isn’t raining. The building itself is beautiful, and a lovely place to experience the forest from behind glass. The collections will give you an overview of the impressive art created by the First Nations peoples from this area and further afield.
6393 N.W. Marine Drive, Vancouver

Granville Island Kids Market

This is locals favourite, so if it is raining on a weekend, be prepared for lots of kids! There’s a great multi-level soft play centre inside, which is great for confident kids five and up. I say confident because it’s a multi-level structure that’s very hard to crawl around inside if you’re an adult, and the staff don’t let you go in with them unless your kids are upset. You can see them, but it requires some running up and down stairs if you need to have eyes on them all the time. There are lots of little shops, a very basic cafe, and a duck pond just outside if there’s a break in the rain. For food, I’d head to the Public Market by the water, the cafe in the Kids Market is not that great.
1496 Cartwright St, Vancouver

It’s not raining? Melissa from The Family Voyage shares her favourite family-friendly Vancouver activities
Watching the rain roll in from the beach in English Bay.
Watching the rain roll in from the beach in English Bay.

Vancouver Maritime Museum

Personally, I would suggest giving the planetarium in the same area a miss, and stick with just the Maritime Museum. The building was actually built around the boat inside, which you can clamber all around. This isn’t a model, but the actual ship the St Roch, which was the first to sail the Northwest Passage from west to east. Don’t skip the rest of the museum, it’s very kid friendly and often completely empty.
1905 Ogden Ave, Vancouver

Mini ferry tour

Going out on the water in the rain sounds like a bonkers idea, but the little ferries that run the routes around False Creek are covered. They are tiny, I used to call them the ‘bathtub ferries’ when I was a kid and I think their maximum load is 10 people. You can either hop on at the Maritime Museum or Science World and just ride to the other end (with stops in Yaletown, Granville Island and more), or ask about their tours. There are two companies, False Creek Ferries (blue boats) and the Aquabus (rainbow boats) – if you buy a return ticket make sure you catch the same one as the tickets are not transferrable, and double check the map because they don’t stop at the same places. You buy your tickets on board, cash only.

Science World

This science centre is on everyone’s rainy day list, so if you’re looking for something to do on a school holiday or weekend day, be warned it can be a zoo. There’s a good reason everyone goes of course, with several hands-on galleries and an IMAX theatre, as well as a picturesque spot on False Creek. There’s even a White Spot restaurant, a British Columbia burger institution. A new hands-on gallery has opened as of spring 2017 too.
1455 Quebec St, Vancouver

Inside the covered foyer of the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch
Inside the covered foyer of the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch

Vancouver Public Library central branch

Head downstairs to the huge children’s section and rest your feet. There are puzzles, toys, a little soft play area, and many story times (just check the event listings for times). There are also several little cafes, including Flying Wedge, a Vancouver pizza institution, in the rotunda area outside (but still under cover). It’s worth checking out the little library shop for some neat souvenirs that support the library system.

Blodel Conservatory

If you come from a place with a giant botanical gardens, this may not be very exciting. However, locals do love the 1960s special that is the Bloedel Conservatory. Filled with tropical plants and flowers, colourful birds and insects, you can wander around in the dry biodome for awhile. The stretch of Queen Elizabeth Gardens right outside is a favourite for wedding photographers, and the views over the city are beautiful.
33rd Ave, between Cambie St and Main St, Vancouver

Ride the Skytrain to the River Market

You might not have noticed but the Skytrain does not have drivers on the trains. They are all controlled centrally, so you can claim the front seat for yourself (and a small person of course), and pretend you’re driving! This is a favourite activity for local kids too, as you can imagine. The ride from downtown out to New Westminster is quite pleasant, with the benefit of ending in the River Market, a newly renovated public market on the river boardwalk. New Westminster was the capital city of British Columbia from 1858 to 1866, and it has gone through a bit of a renaissance of late. There are lots of great restaurants in the market and nearby, and the boardwalk itself is home to several new playgrounds and the Fraser River Discovery Centre.

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Five essentials for my bike commute

Five essentials for my bike commute

Bike to Work week is coming up soon here in Vancouver, and this year I actually do ride my bike to work. Albeit a few days a week, and it’s only a 8-10 minute ride. However, thanks to some serious research and great gear, it feels easy. I am not a CYCLIST. I don’t change when I get to work, I don’t go super fast, I wear heels. My bike is a lovely Raleigh step-through with a basket. As with many exercise-related endeavours, it pays to get some bits that you love, that will also make doing the exercise easier. Here are mine:

Cleverhood rain cape. This being Raincouver, if I decided not to bike every time it rained, I would never bike. I have yet to find a raincoat that doesn’t make me feel like I’m slowly stewing in my own juices, so the open bottom of this rain poncho is ideal. Not only that, it allows me to wear all normal clothes underneath, including whatever layers I need for the cold. The houndstooth is woven with reflective fibres, so shows up clearly in dark rainy weather, but looks normal and cool in daylight. The hood fits under my helmet, and the thumb loops help me keep the cape on while cycling. I’ve had endless compliments on it whenever I show up somewhere, which is better than ‘whoa, it’s really raining out, isn’t it?’ the subtext being ‘you look like you waded through the ocean to get here’. The clincher for me: made in the US by decently paid workers. Cleverhood rain cape.

straw pannier, image credit: Le Vélo Victoria

image credit: Le Vélo Victoria

Bobbin Bicycles straw pannier. I love my pannier dearly, and it took months of research to find. I am not a sporty cyclist, as mentioned above. So, I didn’t want a pannier that was all rubberized and reflective-y. I saw photos of this straw pannier around Pinterest, but for the life of me couldn’t find a stockist anywhere. It seemed to be discontinued. I tracked it to Holland, but then got lost in a maze of Dutch bicycle sites. Finally, I found the wonderful Le Vélo in Victoria, BC, and they carry it. I was so obsessed, they emailed me as soon as the pre-order was available. I fit my laptop, a bento box, a small mason jar with snacks, a notebook, and my little Cambridge Satchel Company bag in here, with my rain cape folded on top. It’s treated, so a little rain is no problem. Super secure on my rear rack and it stands up well on its own, so loading and unloading it is simple. Bobbin Bicycles straw pannier, Le Vélo in Canada, Eleanor’s in the US.

jockies

Jockey skimmies. As I mentioned, I cycle in regular clothes. In the summer months, that means a lot of dresses. These little shorts are thin and light, and come in a variety of non-underwear colours, so when you accidentally flash someone, it looks like bike shorts and not, well, underwear. They are super comfortable to wear, and if you get any thigh rub, this solves that whole problem too. They come in longer and shorter lengths, and loads of sizes. Jockey skimmies slip shorts. Hudson’s Bay in Canadain the US.

Barista coffee cup holder. I often make my coffee before I leave, and then when I pull up to a light, I sit back and have a sip. People point at me from cars, they are so impressed with my set-up. I’ve had many people watch me walk up to my bike at the rack, plunk my half-finished coffee in my holder and get on with leaving, make that ‘ahhhhh – now that’s a good idea’ noise. I know, right? Why rush your coffee drinking if you don’t have to? Portland Design Works Barista coffee cup holder, from MEC in Canada, from PDW in the US.

CharlestonGoldS

Bandbox bike helmet with cover(s). There are opinions about helmets, and that’s fine. I wear one. This helmet is the one thing on the list I don’t actually own yet, right now I wear this super cute one. I am in love with these helmets though. You buy the base helmet, and then can choose hat-like covers for it. Straw hats! Wool felt cloches! I am obsessed with this, and I think I want about three of them. Love. It. Bandbox helmet and covers. image credit: Bandbox

Finally, if anyone has any leads on a decent skirt guard, let me know. Enjoy your commute!

PS – Panniers that look cool. Really.

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Lovely things: short wellies

Lovely things: short wellies

short-wellies

 

Ah, autumn. In Vancouver, that means days and days (and days) of drizzle. While big Hunter boots are everywhere, and I do love my Ilse Jacobsen wellies for epic downpour days, they feel like overkill when it’s just a regular rainy day.

Ankle-height wellies that look more like regular boots are what I’m looking for this autumn, and I found some interesting ones. Clockwise from top…

1 // ASOS Gamble wellies

2 // däv Glasgow boot

3 // Joe Fresh Moto Rain Boots

4 // Mel by Melissa Big Plum in navy

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Win tickets to the Vancouver Modern Home Tour

Win tickets to the Vancouver Modern Home Tour

dusk_cover_low_res_copy

I love walking around my neighbourhood in the early twilight, when people have turned their lights on but not yet closed their blinds. It’s the small glimpse into their homes that makes me happy – what do they have on their walls, how big is that front room – that kind of thing. I don’t quite have the gall to show up at open houses and gawk when I have no intention of buying, however house tours give me license to wander and stare all I like.

The heritage house tours are fascinating and I love the laneway house tours for ingenious ideas in (very) small spaces, but it’s hard to beat modern house tours for sheer drama.

10054intdining

This year, the Vancouver Modern Home Tour has been curated by Western Living magazine editor-in-chief Anicka Quin, and there are some beauties on the list. I’ve already earmarked two I’ve seen from the street that I’ve always been curious about (like the house in the photo at the top of the post), so I’m quite excited to see how all those corners work from the inside. There are newly built structures as well as incredible projects that started as older houses, smaller spaces and sprawling mansions.

Garden.

This is a self-guided tour, so you will need transportation between the homes, a few of which are in West Vancouver. You have from 11am-5pm on Saturday 20 September to visit the homes. Tickets are $30 in advance, and $40 on the day, kids under 12 are free.

I’m a bit of a house tour nerd, so let me share what I’ve learned:

– Wear comfortable slip-on shoes of some sort, as you have to remove them at every house, and bring a bag to carry them in as you’ll be ferrying them around
– Leave the big backpack behind, a small cross-body bag is best – you don’t want to knock anything over in the tight spaces
– Don’t bring a big camera, these are peoples’ homes and photography is usually not allowed
– Plan your route ahead of time, including a lunch and/or coffee stop
– Agree with your touring partner if there are one or two homes you’re okay to miss and plan the route accordingly, often time gets tight at the end of the day, so it’s good to see the ones you’re really keen on first

The nice people at Modern Home Tours have have given me sets of two passes for my readers. Go forth and enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Review

All photos courtesy Modern Home Tours

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Lamb balti burgers

Lamb balti burgers

balti lamb burger

Our first flat in London was in Spitalfields, a short walk from Brick Lane.

Ten years ago, Brick Lane was the land of arty hipsters, a few of the last fabric scrap merchants, endless Boxfresh sample sale pop-ups, old train bridges, smelly shops under the train bridges,  authentic bagels and salt beef, and many, many Indian restaurants.

Each restaurant would send a man or two outside to convince you the best curry in London was to be had inside this particular place (or the cheapest pint of Cobra, depending on how much of a drunkard you looked I suppose). Multiply this by 20 restaurants in a three-block stretch, and you can see why some people found this overwhelming. Personally, after spending time in Jamaica, I just found it kind of sweet. I mean, no one is locking your luggage in the trunk of their car, what’s there to complain about?

So once we settled into our flat, my husband and I decided to just say yes to the first tout who approached us and see how the food was. Lo and behold, a nice young man in a purple dress shirt came up to us about a block away from Brick Lane. Twenty seconds into his schpiel we said sure, and he looked like he wasn’t sure what to do next. I’m not sure how many people actually agreed to come along. And as he led us past Brick Lane, I admit I had a moment of doubt – did we just agree to be stripped of all our belongings in the narrow streets back here?

But no, he led us to the door of Cafe Raj, which would be our curry place of choice for the next four years, and where we headed every Friday after work. We became such regulars that the staff started inviting us to weddings, discussing immigration paperwork, and offering up sublets of various flats around East London.

So, when I made these lamb burgers a few years later, then living in West London, I had a moment of missing my bonkers Spitalfields neighbourhood. And if you happen to be in London, I wouldn’t bother checking out our old local, as it were, as it’s changed hands now – but for an incredible curry head to Tayyabs, also in East London, down in Whitechapel.

I’ve suggested here to use a curry sauce from delicious magazine, and it’s well worth having in your freezer. It will have much less sodium than any jarred version, and taste much fresher. One batch will make several meals.

Balti lamb burgers with quick cucumber raita

Makes about 5 burgers

For the burgers

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 quantity basic curry sauce, defrosted

1 tsp garam masala (a balti one if you can find it)

500g good quality lamb mince

Canola or groundnut oil

For the cucumber raita

(These quantities are approximate, taste as you go)

plain Greek yoghurt

cumin seeds

cucumber

Pita breads and halved cherry tomatoes to serve

1. Add the onions, garlic, curry sauce and garam masala balti into a bowl and mix it with your hands until it’s well combined. Form into 5 burgers and leave on a plate to settle down. Put a grill pan on high heat, or alternatively heat up the barbecue.

2. Chop the cucumber into small chunks and add to the plain yoghurt in another bowl. Dry fry the cumin seeds until they smell fragrant, tossing them often. Add cumin seeds to the yoghurt and cucumber.

3. Pour some groundnut oil into your palm and massage the burgers gently. Brush them if you’re squeamish about this kind of thing. Put them on the grill pan and leave them alone for a good 4 minutes. Flip once, leave them for another 3-4 minutes. Cooking time depends on the thickness of your burgers, so adjust as necessary.

4. Take the burgers off the heat and let them rest for a couple minutes, and use the flaming hot grill pan to heat up the pitta breads, push them down on the pan.

Serve with a pita per burger, with cherry tomatoes and the cucumber raita alongside.

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