Thursday, July 22, 2010

A visit to the Asian Superstore

I had been wanting to visit the T & T Supermarket ever since I had heard it opened.  I had read a few other blog articles from moms in the area who thought it was a cool adventure to take their kids on.  I had to go to that end of town to pick up the cheque for my Taurus stationwagon that was written off, so it seemed like an opportune time.  According to their website: T & T Supermarket's goal is to enrich the lifestyle of Asian families in Canada by offering them choice food and household items in a comfortable shopping environment. We also hope to introduce the colourful Asian food culture to the Canadian multicultural society.  I figured that since they are hoping to introduce families who are unfamiliar with their products that they would not mind me pointing out all sorts of interesting things to my kids and taking pictures to show you, too!  Upon entering the supermarket the belwo picture is what we saw.  Not so different from your ordinary grocery store, except that most of the packages are written on in Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese...), sometimes with NO English translation.  It must be very frustrating for them to shop here when they arrive, as we don't have Asian translations on any of our products.  The kids and I roamed around the aisles, each kid with a little red basket on wheels. (You had to pay a loonie to get a real cart and of course, I had no change).

Next, you will see many pictures of foods that we found interesting.  We talked about what kind of words to use to describe things we saw or tasted, because saying it was weird, gross or yechy, wasn't very polite.  We tried to say, "that is different" or "I've never seen anything like that before, cool!", etc.  They had many different types of chicken feet: marinated and ready to cook, raw, frozen and they had duck feet as well.  I just can't get over in the picture below that they have little toenails - that does make me shutter a bit.  We also saw for the first time, Gooey ducks.  Deanna, is this what is underneath those green circular things at the beach?  Jasmine seemed to think she had seen these, at least the very tops of them.  They were quite the site to see.  They also had Silkie chickens that had blue flesh. Then there were pigs feet, again something you saw in a few spots, marinated, raw or frozen. Then there was the cow tongue and we couldn't get over just how big it was - huge, really!  Unfortunately, I could not bring myself to buy any of these items.  After looking some of them up online (check out the link to the gooey ducks, very interesting video), I might be tempted to try a chicken foot at an Asian restaurant, just to try it, but I couldn't see preparing them at home quite yet. 

Although we didn't buy any of the above items, we did manage to spend $78.00 on: pork and lamb for a hot pot (we'll use them in fondue, they are sliced really thin and rolled up), vegetable dumplings, steamed pork dumplings, chocolate steamed buns, passion fruit, mango roll with bean curd, mung bean bread with custard, Jasmine honey tea (like iced tea), mini-sponge cake, Asian popsicles, mini jellies and more.  Tonight we taste tested all the drinks and dessert items.  Jasmine loved the sponge cake, Pam and I loved the Mung bean bread (I thought Devin picked the coconut bread, but this was still good).  Most of the desserts were cool to try, but necessarily to eat again... if you know what I mean.

Below you will see us on our way out of the store, we stopped for some bubble juice.  If you haven't heard of this before, it is a Taiwanese drink that is becoming more popular in America.  The bubbles are actually tapioca balls and taste sort of like gummy candies.  I think all of these drinks have a bit of a tea base, so they sort of had an after taste we did not love, but the cherry slush one was very good and the mint chocolate one was not too bad, we did not really drink the pudding one though.  It was a fun way to end the shopping trip and ensure we were hydrated and full before the 30 minute drive back home. 

All in all this was a fun way to spend the afternoon.  The kids said they would like to go again and I would go a few times a year to buy items for a sushi meal or a night when you wanted to experiment with something new.  
Check out the Tapioca ball in the straw.  You drink and chew at the same time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vancouver Island, B.C.

First stop, Nanaimo B.C.  After waiting 2 1/2 hours for our flight in Vancouver, it was a pretty crazy notion to find out that our flight to Nanaimo was only 8 minutes long.  You honestly wait longer on the ground to get on and off the plane than you are in the air.  We arrived in Nanaimo to beautiful weather at about 6:30 B.C. time, which is 9:30 p.m. Ottawa time.  By the time we hailed a cab, checked in to the hotel, it was waaaay past bedtime for the kids.  We stayed at the Buccanner Inn and  upon check-in the innkeeper gave the kids a freezie, so we decided that it was fate and we were supposed to check out the surroundings while they finished them off.  The below picture is from our little walk across the street from the inn.  We also followed a flock of waddling, pooping geese into the water.  The kids were off to bed and we were delighted to have a separate living area to watch TV as they fell asleep.  The next morning we were lucky to be picked up by my Brother-in-Law, Trevor and chauffeured to Qualicum Beach. 

The above waterfall and "fairy garden" is part of the beautiful yard at the B & B we stayed at in Qualicum Beach, The Tea Cozy.  Hans and Tannis were our hosts and just happen to be the next door neighbours and good friends of my grandparents.  Hans is a Swiss trained chef, so needless to say we ate very well in the mornings, but Tannis always made sure we had home-baked treats and fruit to come home to in the afternoon as well.  They were very kind to let all the cousins take over the yard to hunt for fairies or play bocce ball.  We rented both of their rooms and were very happy with that arrangement, as the kids could go to bed and we could watch a movie in the next room or read until we were ready for bed, too.
After the big anniversary party was over, we had a day to have some beach fun.  My Uncle Dan has a couple of "yaks" as he calls them and brought them down to Parksville so we could each take a spin.  I was a little too nervous to want to go far in the ocean water, but it was fun to get in and out and have the experience.  Jasmine took a turn again this year, but  Devin opted not to and he had fun scouring the beaches for crabs with the Japanese exchange student Akane.  Parksville has a great playstructure and water park.  I tried to use the panoramic view to show you, but it doesn't do it justice.

The above picture is the marina in Ucluelet.  We stopped here for lunch our way to Tofino and ate lunch on a parked ship called the Canadian Princess.  The road to Tofino was windy and Devin did throw up, unfortunate for Les and Trevor, as Jay and I were driving up with mom and dad.  Good thing we were caravaning, so they walkie talkied us and we pulled over to get Devin some new clothes.  He was fine and barely even noticed - what a kid!  Below is our first beach visit to the farside of the island at MacKenzie Beach.  We walked there from our B & B condo that we were ALL staying at.  It was a cool experience, crazy windy, freezing water, but soft sand and cool rock outcroppings off to the side to climb and explore.  You can see the panoramic photo below where we were trying to explore (our family had taken our shoes off further down the beach, so it was tough for us, but quite a cool view)
In the above pictures you can see snow on the mountains in the background.  We weren't at a major beach here, actually we were at the botanical gardens and one of the paths had led us to this beaut of a spot. The next two are at Long Beach.  I can only tell because of all the logs washed up in the background.  Long beach, was well long - wouldn't really matter how many people were there, I don't think it would ever be too crowded.  Below are some pictures from Chesterman Beach, which was our favorite.  Going during low tide, you could walk right out to Frank's island and explore.  We found loads of mussels and barnacles stuck to rocks and with a close eye you could see starfish, too.  We did peel a few off the rocks for kids (and Jay) to touch and have fun with.  Our kids loved jumping waves and I took some great video clips of that in action, too.

We ended our trip with a crabfest, which I also have some cool video of, and a campfire, including sparklers and colored flames.  Your choice was crab or hot dog?  Hmmm?  Not tough for most people, but I love a cheap hot dog.  My brother-in-law, Jamie and my dad dealt with the crabs the most, but they did give me the chance to put one to death :(  Why is that fun?  Who knows, but it kind of is!  I'm trying to remember if the kids tried any, but for some reason I think they did. 
After all of that, and many things I haven't even had a chance to mention, like homemade ice cream treats and the guys on their scooters, it was time to head back to Qualicum.  We spent one more day with all the Gramma's and Grampa's, mostly treasure hunting for geo-cache's, which unfortunately we could not really find.  But everyone was such a good trooper, including great-gramma and grampa.  The only real problem is, it was soooo hot!  Especially for there, as no one had air conditioning to cool down in afterwards.  Great-gramma hiked all through these woods (and the picture below was the clear path, most were full of roots and stumps).  
On our very last day, we headed to Parksville once again and had a final play with cousins Sam and Hayden.  We collected baby crabs and Auntie Nanny made this crab hotel for them.  We treated ourselves to Dairy Queen and then went for our best swim yet, low tide at Parksville.  It had been so hot that day, the sand was warm and the water was like a bath.  You could walk out a block and not even be up to your waist.  The sand was soft, the water was calm and the kids had a blast.  My dad drove us back to the Buccaneer Inn and the next morning we were off on our flight home.  What a trip to remember!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My wish for the cousins!

Growing up we had few visits with our cousins.  Really all of my cousins lived far away from us, so there wasn't much to be done about that.  I do however have very fond memories of my cousins, especially Cara and Jen, as that is who we saw most often.  I hated reading, yet my cousins loved to read and my Uncle Glen managed a book store, so he had many, many books laying about the house.  My cousins read for fun, do you believe it... sure not something I did as a kid.  But at their house, I read Archie comic after Archie comic.  I also remember playing operation on each other when we were supposed to be falling asleep.  Jen would pretend to cut my arm open, fix a bone and re-stitch me up.  Or sometimes we would write words on each others backs and see if we could figure out the message... funny what you remember.  I also remember that my cousin Jen could take the sleep out of her eye in one long strip - weird!  Why do I remember these things?  I'm sure we did many more exciting things together, like motor boat or katamran at their cottage for example, why don't those memories stand out more? 

I hope that my kids will have fond memories of their cousins.  We don't see each other very often either and we are very far away from each other.  We do what we can to keep the specialness to their relationship by sending videos, making phone calls and passing on hand me downs (seems silly, but little kids love getting stuff from their older cousins, Devin will wear it if it came from Tyson). We try to put family first when we can and this summer is no exception with a trip out to BC to celebrate great-gramma and grampa's 60th anniversary.  It was great to see them on their special day, but it was really special because we got to spend that day with all the cousins and aunties and uncles and great-gramma and grampa got to see how all their great-grandkids interact and it was really cool!
Below we have Devin and Samantha buried in the sand at Tofino.  These two are only a month apart in birthday, but just because of the nature of girls and boys, typically you will find Sam playing with Jasmine and Devin with her younger brother, Hayden.  I love this picture because of the great smiles, they were loving this moment!

Below we have a couple group snaps with all the Shadbolt cousins, I say that, but unfortunately for grampa none of their last names are actually Shadbolt :( 

Below we have the boy cousins and the girl cousins.  The boys are especially funny and well rounded, but I think they all have a sweet, sensitive side to them... they really are Shadbolt's!  Then you have the girls... very powerful and driven, they know what they want and they know how to get it, not necessarily a good thing at their age.

Crazy cousins posing at the beach.  Jasmine thinks Tyson is smelling his armpit here, ha, ha!  Devin is doing a karate chop!
Hayden is the most huggable, kissable, kooky kid you ever did meet and he is incredibly lovable.  Here the boys hugs and almost choke each other to death, seriously, we had to break it up, too funny!
Jasmine especially loves her cousin Allison.  I'm glad long distance plans have changed, or we would owe a fortune to the phone company in a few years.  Jasmine is just starting to figure out that she can phone her cousins and talk (for what seems like hours).  Allison is a great role model for Jasmine and helps her write notes to the fairies, gives her drawing lessons and more. 
My sisters and I were each blessed with 1 boy and 1 girl, pretty strange odds, considering we came from a family of 3 girls.  It's wonderful to get together, whether it is with only one set of cousins having special quality time or whether we are all together having a chaotic adventure - the cousins are a blast!  I only hope that years from now the cousins will remain close.  My cousins and I have drifted apart and besides the odd email Christmas letter (or now blog from my cousin Jen), we don't keep in touch as much as I would like.

One little cousin isn't mentioned above and that is Olivier, from Jay's side of the family.  We are blessed to have him so close by and living in Ottawa.  As Olivier gets older, he asks more and more to come and play with his older cousins and he seems to have a real fondness for Devin.  He is a talkative little guy with a great spirit and ravishing appetite. Oli and the kids get along so well, that it is easy to have him over to just hang out and he fits right into our day.  Oli will soon have a baby brother, Alexandre Justin and we can't wait to add another cousin into our family!  Olivier lives so close, that we often don't think to go on a crazy adventures with him.  Hopefully we will start making playdates to do fun and adventurous things and he will get old enough to come for sleepovers - can't wait for that. 

One last thought on cousins... cousins last a lifetime.  At the anniversary my dad got to see many of his cousins, and we even got to play with his cousins, kid's kids, so like 5th cousins.  It's amazing how long the line up can go, especially on Jay's side with his mom's 16 siblings.  Cousins are like good friends, you can hook up years later just where you left off when you were a kid, they don't judge you, they just hope you are doing well and I love that, even if you only get a Christmas letter (or more likely, your mom gets a Christmas letter from their mom and fills you in)... whatever, it's all good!  Below is Sam with 5th cousins Bridget and Sidney.  I remember selling lemonade with their mom, Christine, who is my 3rd cousin when I was a kid.   

Thursday, July 15, 2010


These two lovebirds are my Gramma and Grampa Shadbolt, my dad's parents!  We recently returned from their 60th anniversary party and it was awesome.  I have to say, you gain a whole new appreciation for your grandparents when you are older.  Now that I have my own kids, you see that most of their relationship is really all fun and games.  Most of the time the grandparents are taking kids on adventures, playing a game, reading a book or just listening to the kids tell a long-winded non-sensical story.  As you get older, you realize that your grandparents are "real" people who have had real experiences and listening to my Gramps tell stories about his mom helping others and how you just have to help young people who are struggling, was well, simply heart warming!  It showed me a whole new side of him and one that I think is remarkable.  Here he is below with Devin - two peas in a pod, those blockheads are.

Gramma has always been a great inspiration to me.  I'm not sure how old I was exactly, but it was over 30 years ago now when she had her stroke.  Her entire right hand side was, still is, paralyzed.  Imagining what possibly could have happened after such a health crisis, you can't help but be impressed with this women.  When she visited Ottawa about 10 years ago, she not only conquered the downtown area, including parliament buildings and the market, but also our 3 flights of stairs as we had no elevator.  What a trooper!  And it's not just my Gramma that is inspiring, because you have to realize how much having a stroke changed all the life plans and dreams of not only my Gramma, but also my Grampa.  To see them together over 30 years later and still smooching and grabbing each other's butts, well it was wonderful!    Here she is below with Jasmine in her beautiful yard that she maintains so well.

Happy Anniversary you two!  We loved seeing you, we love that you held a celebration to catch up with all your friends and family and we love that you are so inspirational to other around you, including us!  Thanks for being great grandparents!