Merry Christmas!

Feel free to print this off for your fridge if we don't get one of these out to you in the next few days!

Feel free to print this off for your fridge if we don’t get one of these out to you in the next few days!

Well the first Christmas at our house has been a success so far despite the very cold temperatures.  The presents are opened, the turkey is in the oven and we’re all enjoying our gifts, napping, watching movies and building puzzles for the afternoon.  In proper form we’ll fill our bellies with turkey, stuffing and desserts later on and then enjoy the evening sipping wine, playing games and eating dainties…. theoretically at least, if the turkey turns out… we’re trying out a new method, a vegetable trivet bed with a herb rub for the bird and roasted mixed veggies instead of traditional mashed potatoes and steamed peas.  Sounds tasty at least!  However it turns out we’re certainly fortunate to be able to enjoy our family and all these gifts in a warm, safe house.

All the best to everyone out there, we hope you have a great Christmas day and a fun and safe holiday season and New Year!

Isaac trying out his new chair from mom and dad!

Isaac trying out his new chair from mom and dad!

Isaac looking a bit dazed with his new push bike from Granny, Papa, Dan and Erin.

Isaac looking a bit dazed with his new push bike from Granny, Papa, Dan and Erin.

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Some times you just need a giant electric wheelbarrow…

Well Jena is back at work and has been doing this remarkable imitation of a hard core full time cycle commuter, every day rain or shine (it helps that to take the slower bus would require getting up 15 minutes earlier) and with me at home being a dad our vehicles are not getting a lot of use; I like it!

Isaac in the leaves

So I kind of had an Ah Ha! moment after filling our garbage can with leaves for the fourth time, and I thought hey, I do have a truck after all, it’s not just for show.  The leaves don’t weigh much, maybe a hundred kgs but that’s a lot of mower bags full!  We use the electric mower to pick them up with the bag as it speeds things up and mulches the leaves a bit.  It also really helps that I can drive the truck right into the back yard to dump them on the garden.  There was enough to cover the whole garden with about 10cm which when tilled in should add some nutrients.  Of course being a beautiful fall evening we couldn’t resist some pictures.

Enjoy!  Happy raking!

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Lake O’Hara

Hard to beat that view

Here are some of the pictures from our recent camping trip to Lake O’Hara.  This is one of the most stunning places I’ve been to anywhere and it was an amazing trip.  We had a great time with all our friends and I hope to be back.

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Mini truck update

It’s finally in, the battery management system.  This is exciting stuff, it means we can charge the truck without watching it and manually monitoring the cell voltages!   Of course until the novelty wears off I’ll still be watching it as it actively balances our cells.  There’s a fancy LCD display now with flashing lights and I can really geek out and hook up a laptop to monitor all the individual cell voltages!  An upcoming software update will even allow data logging!

Under the bed. Clockwise from the top left; Curtis motor controler, 12V system battery and relays, throttle potentiometer, BMS cell boards, BMS control board, DC circuit breaker and BMS current sensor, 1.5kw charger, main contactor, current shunt, DC-DC converter.

Aside from the geek appeal this automatically balances our battery pack while it’s charging and shuts everything down safely when its done.  It also provides active monitoring while we’re driving to tell us when the first cell is empty.  If one cell happens to have a slightly lower capacity than the other 23 the truck will still keep driving but that cell will be damaged so this is good insurance to prevent just such an occasion.  I’ve added some more information and pictures as well as a couple links on the mini truck page if you want more details.

Ah, and so far we’ve driven 850km under EV power, about a $75 of gas saved for a total electricity cost of about $11.  And this is comparing the mini truck to my Toyota Matrix.  How much would it have saved you?

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Tips and tricks for traveling with a toddler…

Ah summer….

Well it’s been a while since we got home and I haven’t posted any sort of conclusion to our big trip, but hey it’s been summer in Edmonton, which is by far the best time to be here and we’re doing our best not to miss it.  But here I have a moment and a good picture to go with it so why not.

So what have we learned?

– Don’t be discouraged just because somebody says “Oh my goodness, you’re traveling oversees with a baby!”  They’re just jealous they can’t come.  People have babies overseas as well, they even have things like diapers, running water and jarred baby food.

– Travel in the off season; for Australia this was interesting because the busy season varies for what part of the country you visit.  We traveled in May/June which is their fall and overall were able to drive into most towns and have our pick of vacant accommodations and jump onto tours last minute.

– Branch out from hotels; YHA youth hostels and some others have no problems with kids and overall were great places to stay.  There are some that have no one under 18 policies so call ahead, but in the off season if the place is empty it can’t hurt to ask.  Cooking for yourself can save a bundle as well.

– Accept a slower pace and enjoy it.  We had the best time when we were able to stay at least two nights at any one spot.  Babies (and parents) need some relaxing time where they can just crawl around and not be tied in a car seat, stroller or carrier.

– Bring a harmonica or other small musical instrument.  Isaac loved it when we played, even though at the start of the trip I could only play “When The Saints Go Marching In”.  It was guaranteed to calm him down and occupy him for as long as I would play it and was great for getting him to go to sleep.  Singing can work as well, don’t be shy.

– Don’t bother bringing baby toys, the three we brought were the last things Isaac would play with.  A spoon and a plastic bowl are much more entertaining and  can also be used for eating cereal!  Who knew.

Remember your life doesn’t have to end when you have kids, so go out and have lots of adventures.  They’re an essential part of growing up, and your kids will like them too.



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Beach Bums in Byron Bay and Sunny days in Sydney

Well, our time in Australia is up, I wrote most of this post with Jena’s help on our 14 hour flight to Vancouver. Sorry its long but its the last one! There was too much to see and do over the last week to spend that valuable time on the computer. Part of me wishes we had more time, there is certainly a lot of Australia to explore yet, but… like it always is after a big trip, it will be good to get back home. We had an amazing trip, saw and experienced lots of great things but we’re definitely looking forward to being home and seeing Ellie, Spook and our family and friends.

So, since the last update….. After we got to Byron Bay we checked into a great hotel, got some groceries and then chilled out for the evening. On Wednesday, June 13th we had an excellent day exploring Byron Bay. The weather was mostly cooperative and in the morning we hiked along the coast to Cape Byron lighthouse, stopping off at the most easterly point in mainland Australia. The surf was very high with huge wages crashing on the beaches and headlands. That afternoon we explored the shops in town and then found a spot on the beach and watched the sun set over the surfers playing in the waves.

On June 14 we left Byron Bay and headed inland for a night. We stopped off at Bellingen for a picnic lunch along the Bellingen River before continuing up the narrow, winding road to Dorrigo. We did a short hike through the semi-tropical rainforest and took in the Skywalk viewpoint in Dorrigo National Park which provided us a treetop view of the surrounding rainforest. We stayed in a small countryside B&B for the night .

We woke up on June 15 to sunshine – a nice change but disappointing that we had to spend it driving. Before leaving Dorrigo we took a short hike to Dangar Falls and then hit the road south toward Gosford. We stopped in Port Macquerie for lunch along the beach and took the scenic Lakes Drive along the way to make the 7 hour trip a bit more enjoyable. A cheap hotel in Gosford gave us a place lay to our heads for the night before dropping off the car in Sydney the next day.

We arrived in Sydney in the rain on the morning of Saturday, June 16. I was glad we had left driving in busy Sydney traffic till the end of the trip after I had already racked up approximately 5700km of driving on the left side of the road. The GPS did a wonderful job getting us right into the heart of downtown where I dropped Jena, Isaac and our large pile of stuff off at our apartment style hotel before returning our car to the rental depot a short walk away. We were lucky enough to find a small serviced apartment, right in Potts Point which is walking distance to nearly all the major sights in Sydney. As an added bonus our 9th floor window had an awesome view over Sydney harbour including the opera house and the Sydney harbour bridge! After settling in we took a walk through the rain to check out the Art Gallery of NSW, not super high on our list but close, free and out of the rain.

The weather finally cooperated for us with sunshine for the next three days in. We did lots of exploring around probably walking ~10km each day. On Sunday we took the ferry to Manley, looked around some shops and the beach and then took a long and sometimes confusing, but scenic hike along the shore and over the headlands to north heads which is a view point over the entrance to Sydney harbour. The view was great but I think most people drive! We took the ferry back to Sydney and relaxed for the evening.

On Monday we left our apartment early and walked around the botanical gardens to the opera house and Circular Quay. The Rocks historical area is here as well so we explored the museums, historic sights and shops there, then walked out onto Sydney harbour bridge for a view of the harbour. After lunch we headed into downtown Sydney to look for a candy store for some Australian licorice which I’d heard was quite tasty. There are some great shopping areas, lots of historical buildings and excellent candy and chocolate stores in the centre of Sydney! After buying about a kilo and a half of licorice (6 different flavours) we headed back to our apartment for the evening.

On Tuesday we took Sydney transit to Bondi Beach, walked along the Bondi to Coogee beach clifftop coastal walk for some great scenery and whale watching (Jena saw one breech!) and then made our way back to downtown Sydney. We looked around the shops in the Queen Victoria Building, had lunch and then walked to Darling harbour to visit the National Maritime museum. It had been a busy last few days so we left by mid afternoon and walked back to Potts point and our apartment for an early evening. We had some serious packing to do to get all our stuff condensed to a point where we could carry it all on our backs again!

This morning we were up early to check out and catch the shuttle to the airport. We lucked out and managed to get a middle seat for Isaac again despite a nearly full flight. He was very well behaved again and the flight to Vancouver was uneventful.  Customs and the short flight to Edmonton went smoothly and my dad was there to pick us up from the airport, Thanks!  Now we’re home, starting to unpack and even though the weeds in the garden and the grass in the backyard are reminding me of the Australian rainforest I’m looking forward to getting out there.  Spook is also very happy to see us!  Enjoy the pictures.

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Lots of family fun but no sun on the sunshine coast…

Feeding the kangaroos with Isaac

Its been a while since the last post… what can I say, I guess I’d rather visit with family and see the sights than write blog posts.

On Tuesday June 5th we left 1770 and headed south on the road again. After a lunch stop in Bundaberg we arrived at Koos and Marina’s (my Aunt and Uncle) on the Sunshine Coast in time for a great supper. My cousin Cassie with husband Adrian and new baby boy Lincoln and my cousin Nik with his girlfriend Katie all live in the same area and came over as well. We got to meet Adrian and Katie for the first time and were also lucky enough to meet 3 month old baby Lincoln.

The next week was full of some great sightseeing but a lot of cool rainy weather. Still, it was great to hang out with my Australian family and get to know everyone a bit better. Both Cassie and Adrian were off for the time we were there and they accompanied us on many of our excursions, showing us the sights and keeping us company. Thanks guys!

Here’s how the week went by;

Wednesday – checked out the Eumundi markets (like a giant farmers market) and Noosa National park with Cassie, Adrian and Lincoln

Thursday – Explored Mooloolaba and Underwater World with Cassie, Adrian and Lincoln, highlights included the otter show and seal kisses for Jena and Cassie! The whole family then met for an awesome supper at Koos’s Mexican restaurant

Friday – We borrowed Koos’s 4×4 and drove up Cooloola and Rainbow beach in Great Sandy national park along with Cassie, Adrian and Lincoln. Highlights included driving on the beach beside crashing surf and having a dolphin swimming around me while I went for a swim.

Saturday – Cassie and Adrian took a day off while we took a driving tour around the Glass house mountains and Blackall range. We climbed Mt. Ngungan for some great views and explored the towns and viewpoints around the Blackall range.

Sunday – Rained all day so we had a relaxing inside day, Cassie, Adrian, Lincoln, Nik and Katie all came over for the day and Jena and I made supper, sharing some of our favourites from Canada.

Monday – We all went to the Australia Zoo to see some crocs (Crikey!) and all sorts of other native and non native animals and then met at Koos and Marina’s for calamari and prawns.

Tuesday – We left my family’s place on the sunshine coast after an awesome week and started driving south again. Huge thanks to everyone for hosting us for the week! Isaac got to meet his Australian family and practice his crawling skills and Jena and I got to relax not having to worry about finding hotels and places to eat. Despite the weather this has been a definite highlight. It was awesome to see everyone!

We’ve got 4 days to make it to Sydney before we need to drop off the car there so we’ll explore on our way down. We’re in Byron Bay for the next couple nights and we’ll see where we end up after that. Probably one more post before we fly out and then we’ll be home. Until next time!

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