Friday, December 19, 2014

Frugal Friday {Five Affordable Date Ideas}

Our date night budget is about $50.00 a month.  This is not a lot of money, especially after paying for a babysitter!  One of the biggest ways that we save money for these date nights is by swapping babysitting.  My sister Maria and I take an evening each month to babysit for each other.  The general rule is that the littlest kids need to be in bed already and then we get some fun bonding time with the older kids.  Another bonus?  It's a babysitter that drives :)

What are some affordable date ideas?

1.  Go for a hike or bike ride.  For some reason, when we ride bikes I feel young again.  When we hike, I feel old ;)

2.  Pack a picnic.  Our very first date was a picnic on the beach that Gary planned!  He made some yummy sandwiches and we enjoyed it while sitting and watching the waves at Deception Pass.

{Garibaldi Lake.  I don't have a picture of us having a picnic at Deception Pass.}

3.  Movie & wine.  Beer & Netflix. At home.  Kids in bed. Phones on the kitchen counter.

 {Gary doesn't drink which makes it even cheaper.  I do get him to try the good ones.}

4.  Check when restaurants have their `special nights' or if they have a 2 for 1 coupon.  If someone asks you what you'd like as a gift, you can ask for a restaurant gift card.

(Lelam Cafe in Fort Langley for lunch. Yum!}

5.  Donate blood.  Go to Canadian Blood Services for a mobile clinic near you.  Not only are you giving a gift from the heart but you can bond over free cookies and juice afterwards.  I also like it because I can check in on Gary's blood pressure and I get feedback on my iron levels.  Does anyone remember when Dylan took Brenda to donate blood on Valentine's day on the show 90210?

I would love to hear if you do any of these and/or if you have other affordable date ideas!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thankful Thursday

The stomach flu hit our home this week.  So far, just Kai and I got it.  It's been a rough couple of days so far.

This week I am thankful for:

1. Kids making me laugh.  In this picture, Nya was saying `I'm a ballerina!'.  She was doing it over and over this week spinning and saying `I'm a ballerina!  Clap for me everybody!'.

2.  A fun family day.  I really needed it after a not-so-great day on Saturday.

3.  Cheap gas!!!  It's down to 108.9/L here which is down from about 140/L this summer.  This is such a savings for us and our minivan!

4. Gary, Nya and Koen avoiding this stomach flu.  It's bad.  I really hope that no one else gets it.  Kai will miss his Christmas concert at school today and for the first time, I will also miss seeing it.  I've asked Gary to video tape it for me.  It will be Koen's first one.

5.  Gary having a safe winter camp with his students.  His loves that outdoor leadership class and I'm glad that he gets to have fun experiences like that.

I"m going to have to stop there and head back to bed.  We have a fun little getaway planned for a few days from now and I'm  nervous we won't be healthy enough to go.  I would really appreciate a little prayer for our health.  Thanks, friends.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Timberline's Country Christmas

I've always heard of Timberline Ranch so I was really excited to finally have a chance to go and check it out.  Timberline is a Christian based camp and retreat centre in Maple Ridge that focuses on outdoor education.  They provide various camps throughout the year and I noticed that they even had a Rocks & Ropes one that Kai would probably love.  Right now they have their Country Christmas on from December 12-21st.  If I could use three words to describe it, I would say: relaxing, intimate, and country.

We live in Surrey and it only took us about 20 minutes to get to Timberline Ranch.  There's something very nice about few traffic lights and FREE parking.

You need to register ahead of time and our family was set to start at 6 pm.  They send about 20 people through every 20 minutes so that you can move through the stations without it being too busy.  As a person who gets overwhelmed with my kids in crowds, I definitely liked this part.

We were 10 minutes early so we went to the waiting room which was filled with air hockey, ping pong and a foosball table.  Kai said this was actually the highlight of the night for him.  I recommend putting your kids (and self!) in layers.  You are in about 6 different locations, inside and outside.  You're always undercover but the temperature varies greatly in each place.

Then it was our turn to start and we went to the Bakery in the Town Hall first.  Each person is given a cookie to decorate.  Fortunately the kids had their own icing bowls because Nya basically spooned the icing straight into her mouth.

There are friendly staff and volunteers EVERYWHERE.  Super helpful.  Very appreciative of that.

Then we left the Town Hall and went to the Lodge.  We started off with `Snowville' which is like a snowball toss.  The boys LOVED this.   They actually skipped `Storytime' to try to shoot some more snowballs (white plastic balls) into the holes.

Nya and Kai made snowmen ornaments.  They are actually really cute and again, there were so many volunteers to help out.  

For some reason Koen didn't want to make one but I think it's because he's sad we left the Snowville station.

The steps are all written on the wall with pictures which was super helpful because I had no idea what to do.

Then we went to the `Origins' section where there is trivia about traditions at Christmas.  Kai liked this part and it's probably because he could read it all.

Then we went next door to Storytime.  The boys skipped this part and went back to the snowballs.  Nya and I tried this part but she wasn't really into it so we left a bit early.  I think it may have been more interesting to them if it was a picture storybook for kids.

Then we hopped on the Wagon Ride to get to the barn where the Petting Zoo and Pony Rides were.  Nya LOVED this part.  Everything runs on a schedule so the wagon left every 20 minutes.

A pony ride is $5 per kid and it was worth it for our kids.  They were sooooo excited as it was their first time on a horse.

Gary walked alongside Nya to make sure she was okay.  I think it may have been the highlight of her life :)

There is a very small petting zoo there with sheep, goats and ducks.  We were able to pet the goats and the boys tried to feed them some hay.

In the barn, the boys played horseshoes, too.  We were at the barn for 20 minutes until the next Wagon Ride came to pick us up and bring us back to the Lodge.

We went back to the Lodge and picked up our dried ornaments and went home.  All together, the circuit takes about 1.5-2 hours.

The cost is always something that matters to me.  We were given passes to review it but it would've cost our family $56 plus tax  (including the pony rides).  It's definitely a kid based event so I wouldn't recommend it for a date night.  

Kai gave it a 9/10 and Koen said 7/10, therefore, I recommend it as a family activity!  Our kids are aged 2-8 which seems like the ideal age for it.   And if you go, and your kids have never had a pony ride, definitely do that.  

It's only open for one more week and the hours are:
 Mon/Tues/Thurs/Fri 4:00-8:00 pm
 Saturdays 9:00 am - 8:00 pm
 Sundays 1:00 - 8:00 pm
Make sure you register ahead of time.

If you have any questions, ask away.  Thankful for a relaxing Country Christmas evening with my family!  Thank you, Timberline.


*Disclaimer: We were given tickets to facilitate this review.  All opinions are our own.*

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thankful Thursday

This week I am thankful for:

1.  Compliments from my daughter.  I came downstairs in a dress and the boys didn't say a thing.  Nya? `MOMMY!!  YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL! I LOVE YOUR DRESS!'. 

2. My `helper'.  Okay, to be honest I do not like cooking dinner with anyone in the kitchen.  Our kitchen is small.  I don't love cooking.  I'm thankful when she is satisfied that she is helping by tasting the shredded cheese.

3.  Koen's Uniqueness.   Of course when you get a sticker from the doctor you put it on your head.   The kids all got their flu vaccine yesterday.  Not sure how effective it will be but better safe than sorry.  Thankful they got the nasal spray version.

4.  Finally realizing the importance of Gary's Sunday afternoon football watching/nap time.   I guess he deserves it after a very long week!  I often feel like `Come on! Let's do fun family things!' so I need to remember that we will have at least 2-3 hours of rest time in the afternoon and then I won't be disappointed.

5.  Family walks.  We do still bring a stroller for Nya so she can hop in if she gets tired.  Her asthma is pretty bad these days so often we put her in there to catch her breath once she starts coughing. I LOVE FRESH AIR. PS I know her jacket is huge but it was just $5 with a removable fleece jacket inside.  She can wear it for 2 years :)

6.  Nerdy family fun.  Hide and Go Seek In the Dark.  The kids love this so much.  Only the person that is `it' gets the flashlight and everyone gets to be `it' once.  Nya has been asking to play each night so we'll have to do it again in the next couple of weeks.  

7.  Living in a big city.  We are close to so many things (Costco!  Shopping Malls!  Home Depot! Restaurants!) and I love that there is a great hospital nearby if we need it.  This was when our little Nya Bear was born and this was my first look at my little peanut.

8. Playdough `worms'.  Yes, now all the colours are mixed together but at least it kept them busy.

9.  Funny kids.  
Me: Koen, we've turned the fireplace back on so don't touch it.
Koen: Did I touch it when I was little.
Me: Yes.
Koen: Did I die?


Three days ago:
Gary: Did you put the butter somewhere?
Me: No, I haven't touched it.

Me: Koen, why is there a block of  butter wrapped up under your Christmas tree?

10. Purple lids.  Nya is obsessed with purple.  At Costco, the 1% milk has a green lid.  She insisted rather loudly that we had to get one with a purple lid.  It was the same price so I did.  Pick your battles, people.  She loves her `purple milk'. 

All right, friends!  I hope that you have a great rest of the week.  Don't forget to think of a few things that you are thankful for today :)


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Oreo Candy Cane Chocolate Bark

I want to share this super easy and delicious recipe with you.   I love for the kids to choose a gift to give to those in need each year.  This year, we are choosing to buy a bicycle through Compassion so that a child can go to school in India.  The boys love school and friends of ours are moving to India in the new year.  This provides a great connection for them.

In order to make $45, they need to sell about 30 bags of Oreo Candy Cane Chocolate Bark.  It costs about $1.50 to make each bag and they sell for $3.00.  It's really easy for the kids to get involved in the process, so here we go...

1.  Crush candy canes with a mortar and pestle.  You can choose other toppings instead like nuts, pretzels or craisins.  I tend to stay away from nuts just because of potential allergies.  Martha Stewart has a few ideas too.

2.  Break up a bunch of Oreo cookies.

3.  Chop up large chunks of baking chocolate and place on a double broiler (bowl above boiling water).  I buy Callebaut baking chocolate from Superstore in the bulk section.  You can use white, milk or dark chocolate, I personally love dark chocolate.

4.  Stir continuously.

5.  Once completely melted, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pour the chocolate onto the baking sheet.  Cover with the toppings of your choice.  Sometimes people mix the toppings in the chocolate but I really like to see it on top of the chocolate.

6.  Put the bark into the fridge for one hour.

7.  Remove it from the fridge and break it into pieces.

8.  Bag it up and you're good to go!  A little tip is to put the tallest piece of chocolate in the back of the bag, this allows the person to see that there is ample chocolate in there.

Have a wonderful day, friends!  We're planning on selling this first batch tonight on our family walk.