Playing with the Polar Bears

Last weekend the weather was nice, really nice, and we wanted to do something outdoors - so we headed to the assiniboine park zoo. We have passes, and went pretty regularly in the summer, but in all my visits I've never seen the polar bears swimming. It was amazing!!! I was literally smiling from ear to ear as the polar bears - four in total! - frolicked in the water. Two of them are cubs, and they were just having the best time. Being able to watch them swim all around you is really something special. I overheard an older couple remark to each other 'this is the best thing that's happened in Winnipeg'. While I think there are lots of great things about this city... they weren't far off. Tyler mentioned as we left the exhibit that the bears actually seemed happy, compared to the feeling that you sometimes get watching animals in zoos - that they would be happier in the wild.

After we got our fill watching the bears swimming, we had to visit the polar bear playground. Poppy's face in that one photo just kills me... she is something. No fear, that one! She whizzes down slides that are ten times her height, races away without looking back, and climbs on everything and anything. As soon as she sets her mind to something there is no turning back. Re-focusing her attention on something else does not work... unless perhaps it involves food. That's pretty much our only hope.


A three year olds favourite day

There are plenty of things that Soren does not like... vegetables of any kind, new clothes, picking up his toys, or going to the bathroom by himself (not sure on this one... he is perfectly capable, but always insists that one of us help him). But give the kid some snow to eat and he is a happy camper!

On the weekend we took advantage of some decent weather (still cold, but not frigid), and went for a walk on the frozen red river. The warming huts are just coming out, so we'll have to plan another trip soon to check them all out. Soren loved running up and down the ice, eating as much snow as he could get his hands on. I kept telling him to stop, that his face was going to get too cold. Finally, my husband pointed out that he is THREE, and to just leave him alone.

It was right in the middle of Poppy's morning nap, so I had envisioned her falling asleep on the walk. That didn't happen, as she was much too entertained by Kya and her brother to sleep. Often, I try too hard to think of activities to entertain the kids with, especially during the winter. But really, they just love being outdoors! There was room to run around, interesting things to see, and snowballs available at every step. Granted, we could not do this sort of activity in minus forty temperatures. Luckily last year's polar vortex seems to be a thing of the past, and we can venture outdoors more often than not.

If we had really wanted to make this Soren's favourite day ever, it would have been easy. Throw in some pancakes, a pez dispenser, and some Chip and Dale cartoons and this kid is set. Friends of ours brought him a headlamp when they came over for dinner friday, and he searched all over the house 'checking for monsters'. It's so fun to see his imagination come to life, and hear all of the stories that he creates in his head. The transition to full-time daycare has been hard on him, but all change seems to take him for a loop. He's the type that needs a lot of advance warning on things, as well as set routines and schedules. Seeing him with a permanent grin on his face makes me think we are doing ok.


Sunday mornings - brunch on a cold day

Weekends are all the more important now that I am back to work, and one of the things I miss from my stay-at-home-mom days are playdates. Usually playdates happen during the week, and typically during the day. I miss seeing my friends and their kids, and it's always fun to watch Soren and Poppy interact with other little ones.

Last sunday was a brisk cold day but we woke up to glorious sunshine. We managed to pull Soren away from one of his 'shows' (he loves to watch a show in his pyjamas on the weekends!), and we headed to the forks. The cheese croissants at the tall grass bakery are amazing... definitely worth braving a cold morning for. We met up with some friends who have girls very close in age to ours, and I am always envious of their gorgeous long curls:) Poppy's hair is "interesting" these days. She's starting to rock an 80's-ish mullet, which I don't think is much of an improvement from her fuzzy chic look.

Hairstyles aside, the forks is a nice spot to hang out on the weekends. There is lots of room for the kids to run around, the baked goods are delicious, and there are several coffee shops. We didn't bring our skates, but the kids ran out onto the ice and reminded us that we should plan to go skating soon.


The best granola bars

One of my favourite christmas presents this year was the Oh She Glows cookbook. I have been reading her blog for a couple years now, and the cookbook does not disappoint! Soren, Poppy, and I like to eat granola bars. Tyler doesn't, as he has a nut allergy and traditionally most granola bars contain nuts. The problem with the store bought variety is that they are full of sugar. And some other crap too, much like any packaged 'baked' good. I never buy cookies, muffins, or loaves from the grocery store, but somehow packaged granola bars are often hiding in the back of our cupboard. For awhile I always had a couple in my bag 'just in case', but Soren caught on and the second we left the house he would claim he was starving and ask if I had anything in my bag. I would never give him daily chocolate bars, and the granola bars I was dishing out were not much better, so I stopped buying them altogether.

So here we are, back to granola bars! I followed the oh she glows recipe for the classic 'glo bar', but made a few changes. I've made them about five times so far, and this is my favourite adaptation to date. I love that I can experiment with different flavours and options, depending on who it's for and what I have in the cupboard.

The best granola bars

1) line a 9x9 glass cake pan with two sheets of parchment paper (to make a little sling)
2) mix together the following ingredients in a large bowl:
    - 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats (gluten free if you want)
    - 1 1/2 cups rice crisp cereal
    - 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
    - 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
    - 1/4 cup flax seeds
    - 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
    - 2 tablespoons chia seeds
    - dash of salt
    - dash of cinnamon
3) in a small pan, melt together 1/4 cup peanut butter or sunbutter, with 1/2 cup of honey. When the mixture is hot and thoroughly combined, remove from heat and stir in a teaspoon of vanilla.
4) pour the peanut butter mix over the dry ingredients, and mix to combine. Stir in a few chocolate chips. pour everything into the cake pan, and using your hands pat down the mixture. Use the parchment paper to press down over the granola bars more - trying to get everything really stuck together.
5) place in freezer for 15 min. remove and slice into bars, or squares. wrap each piece individually.

* I've tried these with sunbutter and peanut butter, and I prefer the taste of peanut butter. I also found the granola bars held together slightly better. However, for preschools and many kids activities, peanut butter is forbidden. The sunbutter is almost as good, and I like that the jar contains 'nut-free' stickers that I use to re-assure Soren's preschool that I am following the rules.


Winter adventures - The children museum

When the temperatures plummet to minus thirty and beyond, it's hard to figure out what to do with two little kids. Anything outside is out of the question, and days at home mean a lot of restlessness, and a lot of mess to clean up.

Over the christmas holidays we were plagued with a miserable cold, but we did manage to make it to the Children's Museum one morning. It was great to run around, play, explore, and escape from the chilly outdoors. Soren's favourite activity was this crazy ball thing... I really don't think I can explain it better than that! We also all enjoyed looking at the Eaton's holiday vignettes, which remind me so much of my childhood visits to santa claus. Anytime Poppy spies a piano she just has to play, even if she can't quite see the keyboard yet:) And Tyler was, as usual, our photographer for the day. He got a new camera for christmas which he has been enjoying, and we are almost always the test subjects.