Not Living Small in Tofino (for a weekend)

 Theo on the deck at the Cloudbreaker House

Theo on the deck at the Cloudbreaker House

I've always shared that while we live small intentionally, we are taking it year by year and sometimes even month by month ensuring that everyone is comfortable and getting what they need. When Trevor and I decided to stay another year in our small space it was with the intention of keeping expenses low to afford more travel even with my new part-time freelance work. Our first family trip of the year on the first weekend of March feels like we are on track for our goal of getting away often in 2018. While Tofino is not a new trip for us, this beautiful west coast town keeps us coming back every year for it's beautiful beaches, open ocean and amazing food. Our Westfalia doesn't have heat and we aren't brave enough to winter camp so we were lucky to stay at a newly built modern home in town, the Cloudbreaker House by Dwell Tofino. We've actually stayed in one of their other properties previously and loved their aesthetic, friendly service and attention to detail. The Cloudbreaker House exceeded expectations and was such a treat for our small living family. 
 

One of the reasons we visit the island so often is my Mom lives there so we get to visit her (I swear our kids would prefer to live with her than us!) and benefit from her and her husband's generous helping hands!  Below are some of our favourite stops in Tofino and a bit more about where we stayed and how we got there with a 4.5 and 1.5 year old.

 Mae and Trevor. Maybe it's just me but this picture just gets to me with it's sweetness.

Mae and Trevor. Maybe it's just me but this picture just gets to me with it's sweetness.

DO:

Beaches: We gear up in layers, Simply Merino, knits, Rain Gear and hit the beach for as long as the kids can stand it. We went to a different beach each day. Chesterman's, Cox Bay and Tonquin Bay (just a short trail walk from our house). We bring nothing and the kid's just wander and climb and throw rocks. 

Bike: Theo just learned to ride a pedal bike so we brought it and Trevor ran beside him on the flat bike path long the main hwy. They also went for a trail bike ride near our house that made Theo completely exhausted which NEVER happens.

Park: We visited the local elementary school playground one evening to run the kids out and local families were all hanging out and were super friendly.

Steam: We didn't make it but Christie of Dwell Tofino recommended a steam at the Wickinnish Inn (kid-less) so we are adding that to our list for our next visit. 

Caravan: I like to pop into this sweet shop when I'm in town. Great for gifts or a reminder of Tofino at home. Sometimes she hosts vintage clothing pop-ups. I found Theo a perfect pair of denim shorts here last summer.

EAT:

Wildside Grill: after the 6 hour trip on Friday my mom had Wildside take-away waiting for us at the house (thanks mom!). We love their gumbo and fish tacos and well, everything.

Kuma: Trevor and I got to sneak away for a dinner at Kuma which was wonderful. It's also kid friendly with crayons and friendly staff. I can't wait to go back and try more items. My incredibly talented friend Layla helps with the wine and sake list and I trust her with all my drinks so want to work our way through that list as well!

Tofitian: best coffee in town in my humble opinion

Tofino Brewing Co: We usually end up here after the beach. Loved their new larger location with more natural light. And love that we can bring the kids. 

 The windows and the landscape I was talking about. at the house. And Mae in her  Petits Vilains .

The windows and the landscape I was talking about. at the house. And Mae in her Petits Vilains.

TRAVEL:

Logistically, Tofino is about a 6 hour trip (each way) from our home in Vancouver when you factor in Ferry travel. While ferries are great for letting kids run around, they add quite a bit of time to the journey. The winding road from Port Alberni to Tofino is just something you have to get through with kids. We bring snacks they can easily eat in their carseat and a loaded ipad and hope for naps. Sometimes they cry and sometimes they sleep but we always find the journey is worth it. We also often tell the kids what great travellers they are. We thank them for being so patient and brave and reward them for this. In our home, being a flexible traveller is high praise. We acknowledge that its boring or tiring but are quick to turn it around and talk about how that makes them such good travellers. Also while we are usually strict with buying new toys we often will let Theo choose a small toy ($3 or so) on the ferry. This small toy is a great incentive (re: bribe) and keeps him entertained after for at least half a day. Mae is too young to know if a toy is new or old so we just give her a small toy of Theo's so she feels included. Oh and we didn't bring a stroller (good idea) and forgot the ergo baby carrier (bad idea).

 Stairs = playgym for these kids

Stairs = playgym for these kids

STAY:

We had the most wonderful stay at the Cloudbreaker House. The size alone (3 bedrooms) was a luxury but there were many details in place to make our stay wonderful. The radiant heated floors, stocked kitchen with every utensil you could imagine including vintage glassware, growlers and fresh, local coffee beans. Modern details like poured concrete counter-tops and floors, warm wood finishes and white walls were the perfect backdrop to our weekend. It truly looks like it should be in a magazine for modern west coast homes but at the same time nothing felt too precious or fragile that I was worried we would break it. The stairs were also a huge hit, ha, a novelty for our apartment dwellers. The kids found a suitcase of duplo that kept them entertained for the weekend which was great and also ironic as the duplo in our home has never been touched. While not on the beach, it is nestled into a rock face in a quiet corner of town. The oversized windows show off the natural landscape that I could stare at all day (why are the ferns so much more beautiful in Tofino?). At  one of the highest points in town there is a view of the nearby mountains and the always changing clouds. Couldn't believe how we lucked out on the weather with sun in March! We even hung out on the deck for a bit. 

Thank you to Christie at Dwell Tofino for hosting us at CloudBreaker House. She has kindly offered 25% off in the off season and 15% in the shoulder season to anyone that mentions 600sqftandababy. If you are looking to book her house in high season send her an email and mention this post and she will try and accommodate you! We loved staying here and I would highly recommend it. Link to Dwell Tofino's website for info and booking here.

 The magical suitcase of duplo. Theo in his  Simply Merino  PJ's.

The magical suitcase of duplo. Theo in his Simply Merino PJ's.

How to survive a plane with a 2.5 year old

We are about to embark on a 5.5 hour flight with a very busy boy. We are lucky we found a direct flight within our budget but the only direct flight leaves at 9am. Ideally an overnight flight would be best for us as there would be hope of sleep. Trapping an energetic 2.5 year old in a seat for this long brings waves of panic. So we need to be prepared. 

Most importantly we are armed with a new computer for him that is a treat for him to use especially for long periods of time. We are hoping this will keep him busy for a couple hours. Back up plans include trains, colouring books, water wow and lots of snacks. Wishfully I have packed a blanket in the hope he will nap. Wish us luck and I’ll report back on how we fare. 

 Any last minute tips or tricks are welcome

And in case you were curious here’s most of the clothes I packed for a week in Tulum!

Get Outside This Winter

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For many reasons including our small space, this beautiful city and an energetic toddler, we tend to get outside a lot.  But recently with lots of travel due to work and limited time together, we’ve gotten a bit off track with our outdoor adventures.  I can honestly say we’ve all been feeling the effects of not enough fresh air.  This post on Cup of Jo (link to article here) reminded me that no matter how tired we are or how rainy it is, we need to get outside everyday.

We accept the challenge to get outside everyday, even in the rain and the snow.  I’ll have to double check our gear and make sure we are ready for whatever the Vancouver winter has in store for us. Even if it is a few blocks walk, a quick run on the bike or just stomping in puddles we will do our best to get outside this winter everyday.  See you out there?

The Happy Show

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This weekend instead of getting out of town in our Westfalia we decided to stay local and take it slow.  One of the reasons was to get to The Happy Show Exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver before it’s close.

The Happy Show by Stefan Sagmeister, and one of Trevor’s favourite TED talk presenters (Link Here).  

“Sagmeister, who has documented his struggles with alcohol and drugs, weight gain, and depression, first conceptualized The Happy Show in an attempt to define and control his own happiness during a client-free sabbatical—a year-long break he takes every seven years to creatively recharge. The final display is the result of 10 years of research into his own personal happiness.” - MOV

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The exhibit was thought provoking and inspiring.  On top of that it was entertaining for a two year old which is rare for a museum!  Many of the displays were interactive, colourful and held his attention.  The bicycle that powered a neon light display was his favourite and a low table with toys allowed me to browse and actually read the captions.

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Most importantly the question of happiness is something that has been on my mind very much lately.  While the exhibit didn’t touch on happiness as it relates to space and material things directly, it did focus on the fact that happiness can be learned or trained.  Admittedly, I am not one of the 50% that is genetically naturally happy (more details here), I am a worrier by nature and like to run through worst case scenarios first and foremost.  So the idea that I can train myself to be happier is very appealing. I also found the exhibit validated my love of a project and setting goals as a means to happiness.  So while I am here, let me say thank you for reading along with one of my projects and goals (this 600sqft.com space) that provides me with immense happiness.

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Vanlife: Our First Weekend

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We jumped in with both feet and bought an ‘82 Westfalia this weekend!!  We started dreaming about a Westfalia a while ago and confirmed our suspicions that we would love it when we rented one from westfaliacampers.ca in June (read about it here).  We have been keeping our eye out for one in good shape that’s been well cared for.  We stumbled upon one on Vancouver Island.  Our van was so well loved by it’s previous family that when we came to pick it up, they were taking pictures with the van and tearing up.

For this first weekend with our new van, we dropped off Theo at my mom’s (thanks Mom!) and drove 3 hours through a crazy wind storm where the highway was shut down right behind us!  We arrived at our destination with two new chips on the windshield but no major harm.  Luckily, we made it in time to have the best time at our friends’ beautiful winery wedding and danced late into the night (after the power came back on, luckily!).  Then we camped in the Westfalia and drove back the next day to pick up our boy.  Back in the ferry line-up Theo played in the back and practiced “driving”. He’s as excited about the van as we are.  The weekend was completely exhausting and wonderful all at once.

I am feeling very lucky and a bit overwhelmed by this decision to add a second getaway vehicle to our life. We hope it brings many adventures with our family and friends and moreover I hope it helps us slow down.  I think there will be lots of lessons to come, whether it’s on an adventure or fixing it up.  And I hope that our gut feeling is right about this van.  I have the same nervous/excited butterflies I had when we first bought our Wall Bed.  I can only hope this works out the same.

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Evening Walks

This summer has been so beautiful in Vancouver. We’ve almost forgotten what rain feels like. So we’ve been taking advantage of the warm nights and have been getting outside a lot. After dinner we head to the nearest park or sometimes we just walk or “run bike” the neighbourhood. It’s unplanned, we just go. Lately Theo has taken to bringing his harmonica along and serenading the streets. It’s completely wonderful and hilarious all at once.

 And yes we get outside in the evenings because our place is small and sometimes we all need a little air and more space to run free. But surprisingly, stopping to pick every dandelion puff, swing on every bike rack and delight over every rock has been teaching me about slowing down. I feel like this little guy is unknowingly teaching me things I have been failing to learn my whole life. Slow down, be present and get outside with no destination. All things I would never have done before becoming a mom to this boy.

Bike Life

I have said it before but I’ll say it again, we love to bike around town with Theo. It is tough getting through a to-do list with a toddler in tow but we have found that some sort of activity before the chore makes it less likely for bad behaviour to happen. Biking to our chores is the best way to get what we need to get done while convincing Theo we are on an adventure.

I am so happy we can hop on our bikes and ride along tree lined bike routes to get almost anywhere we need to go. This past weekend it was to the Apple Store for a new computer battery.

It took me a couple of rides to get comfortable at stop signs and I have managed to raise my seat up a bit higher now that I am used to the extra weight at the front of the bike. Being up a bit higher helps on the hills. I also traded my cute 1970’s Raleigh with 3 gears for a more practical hybrid bike with many gears to make the ride more enjoyable.  

Now it’s just about getting Theo to stop ringing the bell!

I am still liking the ibert seat ( link here) but I wish it wasn’t fluorescent green (first world problems). I have my eye on the yepp maxi in black when Theo is too big for the iBert. For now I am loving him tucked in between my handle bars so I can sing and chat with my little guy and sneak cheek kisses at stop lights.

Camping Shout Out

Reminiscing about our camping trip down the coast, I realized I forgot to thank a very important work horse that we almost didn’t take with us; our good old Pack and Play!  This bad boy has been with us to Mexico, Tofino, San Francisco and beyond.  In retrospect I wish we had invested in a lighter travel crib like the Phil & Ted’s Traveller (here) particularly for air travel, but we were gifted this pack and play from my mom and we have definitely got great use out of it.

For our camping trip, we threw it in at the last moment and I’m not sure we would have enjoyed ourselves as much without it.  It JUST fit in the Westfalia between our bed and the front seats.  This allowed us to put Theo safely to bed, even when he thought he should be staying up much later and we didn’t have to worry about him crawling out of bed and hurting himself or pulling apart the van.

He did manage to grab a bag of red grapes one night and mush them all into his bedding before kindly knocking on the van door to let us know he had made a big mess (such a considerate monkey).

So thank YOU Pack and Play for fireside grown up time while camping with a toddler!!

Toddler Camping Survival Kit

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Camping with a toddler is hilarious and tiring or at least it is with our busy guy. So on the last day I took stock of what we brought that was so valuable on a week long road trip living in a van.

1) Kiddie Laptop (source here) - This is our secret weapon.  We save it for meals out or long drives so it is a prized toy in our home.  This lap top plays music, the alphabet and animal games.  It kept him entertained for at least 3 hours of our 7+ hour drive. I owe it my sanity.

2) Lollacup - our favourite cup (here) made sure Theo was always hydrated

3) Ball - entertainment at the campsite and the beach, we couldn’t have survived without this ball. 

4) Run Bike - the family friendly campground we stayed at had lots of safe roads for run biking and the more rustic campsite made for great off-roading adventures (bike here).

5) Bubbles - enough said

6) Small Toys - We brought a couple of cars that kept him occupied and bought a rubbery dinosaur on the road that was a big hit mostly because it was new.  I would definitely recommend buying a small new toy on the road or saving one for half way through that they haven’t seen before.

7) Stickers  - Lifesavers! Seriously, we brought some stickers and ran out on the first trip down so we picked up this Melissa and Doug (here) pack of reusable stickers that got us through the rest of our trip.