Monthly Archives: October 2012

SweetSalt Baked Goods & Playscapes

Though we had a particularly dry summer / early fall, the rain has officially made its way to Vancouver and it looks like it’s here to stay.  It’s the time of year when park visits, beach days, and walks around the neighbourhood beg to be broken up by time spent in the warm, cozy indoors, and preferably not always in your own home.  With the amount of rain we get here on the coast, coming up with new, fun ways to spend your days with little ones isn’t always easy.  And though we’ve found many favourite indoor spots around our big lovely city (the aquarium, Coquitlam’s Kinder Cafe, The Outpost Cafe, the many indoor pools, the airport’s public viewing area, play gyms, the Bloedel Conservatory, Science World, the local libraries and story times…) it’s always nice to add another spot to the rainy day list.

I originally learned about SweetSalt Baked Goods and Playscapes on and couldn’t have been more excited to visit.  Authentic German baked goods {all made with local organic flour}, hot drinks, a play area for munchkins all in a stroller-friendly shop? Yes please.  So this afternoon, with the rain doing what it does best, we made our way down Fraser Street to check it out.

IMG 1096Located on the corner of Fraser and 19th (not far from our other munckin-friendly cafe, The Outpost), SweetSalt is super bright and inviting, even on the gloomiest of days.  We ordered some hot drinks, a couple of baked treats, and settled in.  

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IMG 1102The coffee was strong, the pretzels were exactly as they should be, and Brad’s hot chocolate was ridiculously large and serve in a beautiful bowl (we also ordered a cinnamon bun, but it disappeared so quickly that I didn’t manage to get a bite… I take it it was delicious).

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IMG 1110The cafe, though beautifully decorated, maintains a very laid-back vibe, making parents visiting with children feel completely at ease.  Gracen (along with two other little ones at the cafe at the time), played freely in the kids’  corner, made her way back to our table for a bite of pretzel now and then, and then back again for more fun and at no point did we feel like she was in the way or bothering other patrons.  The play area was fully stocked with a mini kitchen, cooking tools, a chalkboard-topped table, colouring pages and crayons, wooden building blocks, nesting cups, and toy trucks, which was perfect for keeping our little lady happily busy for our entire visit. And though we didn’t bring ours in, there was plenty of aisle space for strollers, not to mention a big bathroom, complete with stroller space, a change table, a step stool for hand washing, and possibly the most adorable alphabet cards turned wall art I’ve ever seen.

IMG 1114On the way out, the super sweet owner, who is also a local mom, sent us on our way with a loaf of pumpkin seed bread and this adorable little dragon-shaped chocolate chip pastry (we visited just before closing on a Saturday) and both were absolutely delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that we may have to make a weekly trip just for the bread alone.

SweetSalt is located at 3497 Fraser Street and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Take a look at their amazing space & baked goods by joining them on Facebook here.

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Howl-O-Ween Play Gym

This morning my little brown fox and I headed out to our first official Halloween event – ‘Howl-O-Ween Play Gym’ at our local community centre.  Gracen was super excited and happily announced different costumes as she saw them.  Her favourite? An ridiculously cute broccoli costume worn by the baby brother of two little girls in her Ballet with Billie class.

Here’s our morning in photos…

IMG 1054Gracen the fox.

IMG 1049Making music.

IMG 1059Jack-o-lantern (quite possibly the trickiest craft ever for wee ones 4 and under!)

IMG 1066Foxes teeter totter too.

IMG 1071IMG 1076IMG 1077Decorating a cookie for Papa.

IMG 1081So spooky.

IMG 1087Costume model.


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Gracen the Fox

Weeks and weeks ago, I asked Gracen what she wanted to be for Halloween.  Without hesitation, she exclaimed, “Fox! A BROWWWN fox!”  Her response kind of surprised me because we haven’t really spent much time talking or reading or learning about foxes.  And at the time, I wasn’t convinced she’d have the same answer a week down the road.  But was I ever wrong.  Although she wavered a tiny bit between a being a brown fox and an orange fox, never once did she change her mind about the fox part itself.  So, Gracen the fox it was.  

I knew I wanted to make her little costume (making her Halloween costumes is just one of those things, like making her birthday cakes, that I want to do until she’ll no longer let me), but I had no clue how I’d do it.  So while I’d been collecting materials, I hadn’t actually started putting anything together until last night when I realized that our Howl-o-ween Play Gym had crept up on me and was the very next morning.  Oops.  So I kept it super simple (I highly recommend starting costumes with a hoodie) and just added ears, a tail, and tummy fur to a little brown hoodie, and made a mask to go along with it.  Here’s Gracen the fox…

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IMG 1092I’m still hoping to make little clawed mittens and clawed black boot covers before Halloween night, but we’ll see what happens…  All that matters right now is that Grae absolutely adores the costume and is already asking about when she can wear it next.  Soon, Baby Girl, soon.

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Water Pouring Station

Water Pouring Station

After our most recent tea party with a pot filled with “tea”, I realized that I haven’t really given Gracen many opportunities to practice her pouring skills (with the exception of cooking and sensory bin/bath tub play, I guess).  So tonight, just before I began making dinner, I set up a little water pouring station for her.  All it took was a towel on the floor, a plastic serving tray, some measuring cups/jars/pitchers, and some coloured water. Gracen was thrilled, of course.

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IMG 1039IMG 1040IMG 1043IMG 1046IMG 1048She transferred water from one container to another, watching the colours change and muddle for the better part of an hour, which was the perfect amount of time for me to prep dinner, clean the kitchen and wash a big load of dishes. Doesn’t get much better than that. Afterwards, clean up was a breeze.  The towel went into the wash, the dishes got rinsed, and that was that… Another ‘Mama needs to make dinner’ activity to add to my {mental} list. ☺

If you don’t feel comfortable letting your little one handle glass jars and measuring cups, you could always replace them with plastic ones instead.  Switching out the water for dry goods like lentils, beans, and popping corn would be fun too!

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Felt Board Jack-O-Lanterns

Felt Board JackolanternsHere’s a new {Halloween-themed} felt board activity I whipped up for Miss G this afternoon while she napped.  It was a super quick project and couldn’t have been more simple to put together.

IMG 0994All you need is some felt (I just use the cheap craft store stuff for felt board activities), a really good pair of scissors, and maybe some fabric glue if you want make your pumpkin stems green like I did.

IMG 0995I often cut out my shapes freehand, but since I wanted 3 distinctly different pumpkin shapes, today I quickly sketched them out first.  

IMG 0997Next, I cut out my pumpkin shapes, as well as some green stems for the tops.

IMG 0998Using Aleene’s OK To Wash-It fabric glue, I attached the stems to the pumpkins and set them aside to dry.  Of course, you could stitch them on or use regular craft glue for this job instead.  Or, another thought…you could not attach them at all and let adding stems to the pumpkins be part of the designing process.

IMG 1000While the glue dried, I worked on cutting out some jack-o-lantern eyes, noses, and mouths.  I did this freehand, making up the shapes as I went along.  Folding the felt in half in order to make symmetrical noses and mouths / two eyes at once made the job a lot faster and easier.

IMG 1007When Grae woke up, she was super excited to find a new activity waiting for her and got to playing right away.

IMG 1016She designed and redesigned the jack-o-lanterns again and again, sometimes very cautiously and sometimes more abstractly.  She even ended up using eyes as eyebrows and upside-down mouths as moustaches (two things I wouldn’t have thought of!)

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For an easy and inexpensive felt board DIY, click here.

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Frozen Banana Bites

Frozen Banana BitesOnly I would try to amp up the nutritional value of bananas… Haha! I kid. (Kinda.)  The truth is, Miss G has been on a two ingredient ice cream kick lately.  After asking for it for the third afternoon in a row, I decided it was time to switch things up a little bit.  Though we’ve made frozen banana pops before (which Grae loved), I wanted to try something smaller and easier to snack on this time around.  So along came the frozen banana bite.  With only 3 ingredients, they’re a breeze to make, plus, dare I say they taste like banana cream pie? I do.

IMG 0941Here’s the ingredient lineup… Bananas (ripe, but not overripe), roasted ground flax seed, and cinnamon.  

IMG 0943Start off by peeling the bananas and making sure all of the white stringy things are removed.

IMG 0946Chop them into coins (maybe about a half inch thick?) and set them aside.

IMG 0947Next, pour some roasted ground flax seed into a container with a lid (or a zip close bag).

IMG 0949Enthusiastically dump some cinnamon in too.

IMG 0950Put the lid on the container and give it a little shake.

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Next, place the banana coins on top of the cinnamon/flax mixture.

IMG 0960Place the lid on the container again and shake until all of the banana coins are well coated.

IMG 0961Next, place the coated banana pieces onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

IMG 0962Place the tray in the freezer for at least an hour.

IMG 0966Serve them frozen to your excited toddler and watch them disappear. (Without a word of a lie, Gracen gobbled up our entire batch – and that was after a full meal!)


Frozen Banana Bites (that taste like banana cream pie)

  • 2-3 large ripe (but not over ripe) bananas
  • 3 tablespoons of roasted ground flax seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Peel the bananas and slice them into coins about a half inch thick, then set aside.

Put flax seed and cinnamon into a container with a lid or zip close bag and shake.  Add the banana coins to the flax mixture and shake again.  Place the coated banana pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the freezer.

After about an hour in the freezer, the banana bites will be frozen, but still a tiny bit soft, making them perfect for serving.  If you aren’t serving them right away, transfer the bites into a airtight container.  When you’re ready to eat them, you can serve them completely frozen, or let them sit on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes beforehand (my preference).


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Tea Time With Gracen

Looking back on my childhood, some of my favourite times were the ones when we got to play with “the real thing”.  Using Dad’s real tools, playing with Mom’s real make-up, creating a store using real pantry items and real money… Those times were the extra special ones.

So today, Gracen and I set up a little tea party using some real things… Real snacks for one, and while I’m not quite ready to let her drink real tea, real water was a substitute she was perfectly happy with.

IMG 0910IMG 0914IMG 0915IMG 0919IMG 0940IMG 0936IMG 0928IMG 0926IMG 0930IMG 0937Sure, her tea pouring skills haven’t yet been perfected and most of our blanket and snacks were covered in little “tea” puddles as a result, but at the end of the day, blankets can be washed and puddles can be wiped up.  What matters is that our little lady spent a special afternoon tea-ing with Mama and Sophie and got to practice all kinds of everyday skills by playing with ‘the real thing’.

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Handprint Spiders & Golf Ball Painted Webs

Today Gracen and I did one of our favourite things… We had a little mama and babe crafternoon.  A Halloween crafternoon to be exact!

Handprint Spider  Golf Ball Painted WebThis is by no means a new idea, and it’s nothing fancy, but it is something I’ve always enjoyed doing with my kindergarten students.  It’s fun, messy, and personalized with wee little handprints.  Perfect for Halloween cards for grandparents, teachers, or a special friend. Here’s a quick run down of how Gracen created this little masterpiece.

IMG 0856First, start off by drawing a large asterisk on a piece of black construction paper or card stock (we use a hand over hand technique for jobs like this).

IMG 0857Next, connect the tips of the asterisk with concave lines in order to create a web shape.

IMG 0858Then, cut out the web. (This is tricky for little hands.  Gracen tried, but our poster board is was so thick that it was next to impossible for her… This may be more of an adult helper sort of job.)

IMG 0861Place a small roll of tape in the centre of your web.

IMG 0863Tape the web down in the centre of a box lid, baking pan, or plastic  paper tray.

IMG 0865Next, put some white paint in a small bowl or container and plop a {very scuffed} golf ball, bouncy ball, or large marble inside. (While I find golf balls work best because they’re big and heavy, marbles and bouncy balls make a more solid, web-like lines.)

IMG 0866Shake and swirl the container so that the golf ball is well coated with paint.

IMG 0868Next, gently tip your golf ball out of the container and onto the web.

IMG 0871Swirl and roll the paint-coated ball over the black paper web by tipping the tray back and forth.

IMG 0875When it’s sufficiently spider web-y, remove the paper from the tray and set it aside to dry.

IMG 0876Now for the spider…  Gather up some brightly coloured paper, black paint, and a foam brush.

IMG 0877Using a foam brush, paint a good, thick layer of black paint on your little one’s palm and fingers (not the thumb).

IMG 0880Help your little one press their hand on the paper a couple of times to create two spider bodies and half of the needed legs.  Allow the prints to dry for a couple of minutes while you wash hands.

IMG 0881Next, rotate the page so that the fingers are pointed downwards.

IMG 0882This time around, paint just the four fingers of your little one’s hand. (I like to use the opposite hand for this part so that the fingers are angled the same way, but that’s just the crazy in me. ☺)

IMG 0884Stamp them on the other side of the palm print in order to complete the spider’s body.

IMG 0886IMG 0890When the paint is dry, attach some googly eyes to the spider’s body using white craft glue.
IMG 0895Then, cut the spiders out, leaving a small border of coloured paper around the edges.
IMG 0901Attach the spider to the web with glue or tape, or if you want the spider to have a little wiggle to it, glue a small pompom in between the web and spider.  And voila… All done!
And if handprints are still too tricky for your little one, here’s what we did last year using a footprint instead:
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The Great Big Boo!

IMG 0813Though still early, our Halloween festivities began this afternoon when our little family of three headed down to the PNE Forum to take in The Great Big Boo!, a family-friendly, non-scary musical.  Audience members were asked to dress-up for the show, and since I haven’t yet made this year’s round of costumes, we pulled out last year’s owl costumes and gave them a little bit of extra play time. (FYI: Brad and I were two of a total of FOUR parents dressed up at the show. Yes, we looked a little bit silly.) Gracen was more than happy to sport her little blue owl costume again, and I was even happier that the costume still fit. 

IMG 0825We arrived to the Forum, selected aisle seats four rows from the front (score!), settled in, and waited for the show to begin.  

The story followed two children, Justin and Zoe, as well as wacky inhabitants of ‘Boo Alley’, on an adventure to save Halloween from Wendella the Witch, who has cast a spell on the street.  As soon as the show started, Gracen was captivated.  The glowing set, the funny characters, the catchy music, and the fantastic dance numbers made for a combination just perfect for keeping the attention of little ones.  Gracen was sold.  

IMG 0840IMG 0819Despite the fact that the show is intended to be non-scary and suitable for children of all ages, I’d be fibbing if I said Grae wasn’t a little bit frightened by a few of the characters (mainly Wendela the witch, but also Cranium the Mad Scientist and Vinne the Vampire).  It was enough for her to ask to go for an unneeded  bathroom break, as well as for her to tell us that she was sleepy and wanted to go home, but then again this is our ultra-sensitive little girl we’re talking about… The one who has been known to burst into big alligator tears during ‘Five Little Ducks’ because she feels so sad for the mama duck who’s lost her ducklings.

IMG 0836IMG 0830Luckily the “scary” parts were broken up by fun, upbeat dances and didn’t last very long.  Before we knew it, Priscilla the {very cheerful and not at all scary} Princess was on stage and Gracen was happy to continue watching the show while eating her dinner.

IMG 0843Of course, with the help of her friends, Wendella the Witch eventually discovers the true spirit of Halloween (because we attended the very last show of five, I don’t feel badly about sharing how it ended), and all is right in Boo Alley once again.  The cast celebrates with a giant high-energy dance number and at the end, kids are invited to get up and dance alongside the characters.

IMG 0850The show was just over an hour long with a 15 minute intermission included, which was perfect for Gracen. Afterwards, children were invited to visit the cast of characters in a separate area of the arena to trick-or-treat.  Grae happily collected a couple of little goodies and then we were on our way.

IMG 0850Overall, I’d highly recommend this show to those thinking about attending next year.  The show length was perfect, the intermission was great for bathroom breaks, the aisles were nice and wide so kids could get up and move, and the show itself was fun and engaging.

While you’re waiting for the show to come back next Halloween, check out The Magic of Santa, a theatrical holiday celebration being put on by the same production company in December.
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