Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grateful for Jean-Louis and daycare

Tonight I read an article featured on CNN on Why we get mad at our husbands. It starts off as though it was me writing the article. Jean-Louis and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this past August too! Then I read on and in between the laughter here and there, I came to realize how Jean-Louis could be viewed as a super-dad to the average person. To me, he is just a good dad. We have always shared chores and responsibilities so I did not expect anything less when we had a child. After reading the article I feel even luckier to have him.

There was a followup article titled Mad At Dad Part Two: How to Get Past the Anger and it mentioned that "there is a message that fathers who pitch in are somehow special." The article talks about how to get fathers to pitch in more at home and encourages a fifty-fifty partnership. At home, I do more but Jean-Louis does way more on the day-job front. It all sort of balances out. We are happy about how things are working out. We both work, contribute to chores, and we both get to spend a lot of time with Tristan too. When we can, we both try to pick Tristan up from daycare together. I know it doesn't take both of us to go but we want to. He is only going to be this young once. Jean-Louis and I pretty much do everything together. It has always been like that.

I don't get angry much thanks to Jean-Louis and daycare. I am extremely grateful for these resources. I have a lot of me time and it's great. Many of the women out there who are angry have too much on their plate and they don't have the resources to help them. It's understandable. I would probably be on anxiety pills if I were them. I have Jean-Louis who pitches in at home a lot. Jean-Louis cleans the bathrooms, vacuums, plays with Tristan a lot, gives Tristan a bath five times a week, does the dishes every night, puts Tristan to sleep every night, and let's me sleep in on the weekends. We all go to the mall together to grocery shop and he usually watches Tristan in the store while I walk around and shop. When it's a party day, I do all the cooking but Jean-Louis will tiny up the living room and sweep the floors without being asked. Honestly, I think this is all normal and every husband and father should be contributing where they can. All the fathers I know are hands-on, maybe not as hands-on as Jean-Louis but they do a lot too. The fact that society views this as "special" is sort of sad.

I also have a great daycare nearby. It allows me plenty of time to get work done, run chores and do whatever I want for me time. If anything, I feel like I need to do more. I'm working more these days so that feels great. When Tristan was in daycare and I wasn't working much, I felt a lot of guilt since we were "losing" income and I was available to take care of him. Thank goodness we're no longer in that situation. I love this flexible schedule! I know one day I will return to working full time so right now I'm enjoying being a part time stay-at-home mom and part time work-at-home mom. Yes, I still get angry from time to time but nothing like the examples in those articles above that I read. Reading something like that really makes you appreciate what you have. Thanks to Jean-Louis and daycare, I feel pretty lucky! :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Monkey cake and cupcakes for a monkey themed party

I did it. I made my first party cake for my toddler's 3rd birthday. Now that I have started, I won't be buying anymore cakes for future birthdays :) Hooray for being able to DIY (do it yourself)!

The party was all about monkeys. Monkey anything for little boys is adorable. The younger they are, the cuter. Our boy Tristan has tons of clothes with monkeys on it in some form or another. He was dressed as a monkey for two Halloweens straight! Throwing a monkey-themed party was something I just had to do :)

I searched and I searched and found my monkey designs for the cake and cupcakes through the Martha Stewart site and Pinterest. I love Pinterest! If you are a foodie or craft person, you should get on Pinterest stat. No seriously, sign up now! :)

I had leftover marshmallow fondant I made not too long ago that I wanted to use so instead of following exactly what was described, I just used fondant wherever possible. This is the second time I have played with fondant and my first cupcake using it. The only thing I have ever created using fondant were ruffle flowers for the cake I made for my mom's birthday. This time, I really got to play with it. I had both brown and ivory color paste but I discovered that brown and yellow makes sort of a tan or dark ivory color. Neat! The fondant was a bit tricky to work with when it dried up and it kept sticking to the table. I had to clean the table a few times from the build up of fondant. I used a mix of mostly icing sugar and a bit of cornstarch to prevent from sticking too much and I had to work fast before the fondant got dry and hard.

I didn't want to make the cake that was used on the Martha Stewart site since I wanted something just chocolatey. The thing with monkey-themed parties is that people want to incorporate so much banana into everything. Bananas are good but chocolate is way better, don't you agree? :) The only banana thing we had were real bananas. Well, I made banana looking sugar cookies too but they were lemon-vanilla flavored. So the cake I did was chocolate but the design I used was pretty much an exact copy from the Martha Stewart site. I made my favorite icing but this time I made it chocolate. It's actually the swiss meringue buttercream recipe off of Martha Stewart as well. What can I say, Martha has good stuff on her site :)

The cupcakes I chose to do were nutella. I made them once before but I kind of messed up so I wanted to try them again. This time they turned out great. Some were slightly overcooked. I guess I didn't rotate them in time. The fondant design I used was from The Frosted Cake 'n Cookie site. They have a great tutorial with lots of pictures on that site. It really was easy. I used the chocolate buttercream on the cake and cupcakes. The nutella cupcakes were for the more daring guests. In case any of the kids had an allergy to nuts, I wanted a chocolate cake alternative. Both cake and cupcakes turned out delicious. They weren't too sweet since I cut down on the sugar and the buttercream went super well with the marshmallow fondant. I was a bit afraid the fondant would be stiff and hard but the buttercream icing totally softened it up. It was a perfect marriage!
The monkey cake had more success at the party. I think because it looked totally cool. Jean-Louis preferred the taste of the chocolate cake more since he said the nutella cupcakes were not as moist. I thought they were moist enough. The consistency was more like a moist brownie than cake though. If you like nutty fudge stuff, you'll love nutella cupcakes! I personally loved them but I also loved the cake too.

Finally what is a monkey party without monkey and banana sugar cookies? I made these lemon-vanilla flavored ones for party favors. Jean-Louis thought they should have been banana flavored but the idea of that didn't appeal to me. So there you have it! There are tons of monkey designs out there for desserts and they are so much fun to do :) Now, go throw yourself a monkey party! Oo-oo-ee-ee!
Tristan & I decorated together! This is his creation :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

3 years developmental update

Wow, I still can't believe Tristan is 3 years old now! Bye bye under 3 freebies. We all knew the time would come. But really, time goes by quickly and kids grow so fast! I'm so happy to be able to spend so much time with him while he is still young. I feel like we have celebrated every milestone and everything we do together will leave behind great memories for the future. With another birthday behind us, here is the latest in growth and development for Tristan.


He really is getting so big! Physically he is a bit bigger than he was a year ago. He isn't growing at the rate he used to when he was a baby so we're able to let him wear his clothes for longer periods. He still wears some of his 24 month clothes even. Most of them are pants though. Last year's 3 year old winter clothes will get worn again, which I'm thankful for. Tristan has nice clothes and some of them are really expensive French clothes so if he can wear them for more than one season, then I'm happy! Some of the pants we let him wear last year no longer need to be folded at the bottom. He wore the same Halloween costume as last year! It was slightly big last year and this year it may have been a bit snug. Jean-Louis weighed Tristan a week or so ago and he's 32 pounds. When compared to the other kids at daycare, Tristan appears to be a bit on the small side.


Tristan may be a bit small for his age (or maybe he's average) but I know he eats well and I'm not worried at all. Jean-Louis and I are both petite so I don't expect Tristan to be very big or tall one day. For the past week, Tristan has been eating well. He some times nibbles at lunch but then when dinner comes along, he eats all the food we give him. He'll have a bowl of vegetable and chicken soup, then yogurt, then fruit and maybe a cookie. Overall though, we still don't enjoy mealtimes very much. Whether or not Tristan eats all his food or not, we still have to nag at him or coach him along quite a bit. Sometimes we even have to soup feed him a bit to hurry him along. Jean-Louis really really hates doing that! Lately, it has been pretty good though and Tristan has been eating by myself.

Things are pretty much back to normal now. When we came back from vacation, Tristan became a bit more difficult at the dining table. Thank goodness we are back to our routine. We're allowing Tristan to eat more things now, including junk food like processed candies. He had his first lollipop just a few days ago. At first he really liked it but then after about 10 licks, he didn't want anymore. He has also tried pop, black licorice, M&M candies, and chips. When he does eat junk food, it's more like a sampling. The idea is just for him to try it and let him know that he can't have too much because it's not healthy. I think it's important for him to try all sorts of foods so that he at least knows what they are and will be able to follow when people talk about them. We also don't want to deprive him to the point where he would engorge in tons of junk when he's at a party because he can't have any at home. I heard that is a problem with some kids. Of course we are very strict with him as well or else he would be a very picky eater and not listen at the dining table.


Tristan is going strong with his potty training. He is fully trained when he is awake and 50% of the time when he is asleep. It could be more because he has been increasingly waking up with dry pull-ups now. I can't remember the last time we had a potty accident. When we were in Hawaii, Tristan didn't have any accidents, even when we were on the tour bus all day. We were very lucky because it turned out that we had totally forgotten to bring along a change of underwear and clothes for him if he had an accident. So lucky! I don't bother asking Tristan if he has to pee anymore. He tells us and some times he will even hold it a long time, while I finish something up in the kitchen. We used to run up the stairs every time he told us but now we just calmly walk up. It's so nice to be potty trained :)


Tristan sleeps a bit less now since he has pretty much given up his naps. He stopped napping at home for a few weeks now. Sometimes when we are out, he may fall asleep and then we just let him. If he can sleep, I'm all for the naps :) We just don't bother putting him down anymore. He seems totally energetic and happy about it too. His bedtime hasn't changed. He sleeps around 9PM and wakes up around 7:30AM.

Tristan still sleeps in his crib. He slept in a twin and double bed when we were on vacation and only fell off it once. We thought we would have to transfer him over to a bigger bed or extend his crib when we got back. It turned out he liked sleeping in his crib. It's not a big deal to us since we would prefer to keep him in the crib as long as possible. He doesn't jump out and this way he is contained. I used to hear my friend talk about how her kids would run to her room at 6AM and wake her up. I'm trying to delay this from happening to me as long as possible. I know I'm lucky Tristan listens a lot. He wakes up in the morning and he calls out from his crib "Mommy? Are you awake? I'm not tired anymore." I would look at the clock and respond "Not yet Tristan. Go back to sleep. Mommy needs 20 more minutes." That usually does it :)


Tristan is piecing together new sentences like you wouldn't believe it. He'll hear something once and then try to use it in a new sentence. I'm not sure how and when this all happened but we're noticing it right now. He is also speaking with better tense. He'll say things in the present and past and is figuring out which one to use and when. He asks "why" to everything. I think the "why" stage started when we went to Whistler back in May. He's funny to have conversations with because he has answers for most things even though they don't make sense. Let's say he has a reply to most things :)

Jean-Louis says that Tristan has no theory of mind. What he means is that he doesn't know that there are some things he will know that we won't know. For instance when we pick him up at daycare and ask him what he did at daycare, he says I don't know. Then he turns to me and asks me "do you know mommy?" The same thing happens when I ask him about the kids at daycare. This makes it extra hard to learn about who he plays with and who his friends are. It wasn't easy knowing who to invite to his birthday party.

Tristan speaks English but has a full understanding of French. He says a few things in French and only French. He can say a few things and understand even more things in Chinese. One thing I'm proud of is that Tristan doesn't swear or say things like "damnit." I don't swear and Jean-Louis is controlling himself from saying things like "damnit" and "Jesus Christ." So far it's working because whenever Tristan is in shock, he says "oh my goodness." However, he does know dirty words and he'll say it to be naughty. For instance he says "caca" here and there to be funny. "Caca" is poo in French. Luckily, not many people know what he is saying and probably thinks he is just making funny noises.


Some times we lose our patience at Tristan and then we yell and become aggressive. Tristan is learning from us and some times he protests and misbehaves for attention. A couple of times, he tried to hit or kick us when he was really mad. Every time, we pulled him aside, lectured him and got him to apologize. He's pretty good at saying sorry and he understands why we are sad when he is behaving badly. He is also polite and says thank-you and excuse me.

Tristan is rough when he plays so we're teaching him to be more gentle when pretending to play things like "kung-fu." We pretend fight him but he fights us for real and some times we really get hurt! I am definitely going to enroll him in some kind of martial arts class. He's going to kick butt!

He's goofy. He likes to make funny and weird faces all the time. I think he gets that from me. At his birthday party this past weekend, he had a hard time standing still with a straight face when everyone was singing happy birthday to him. He keep making faces and sticking his tongue out. I notice but Jean-Louis didn't. Some times he just does that.

Tantrums? What tantrums? Yeah, he still tantrums from time to time. They don't bother us much anymore since they hardly happen and when they do, they last maybe a few minutes at most. We're so glad the terrible-twos are behind us. From what I hear, threes are awesome :) It's already pretty awesome I think. Tristan really is a great little kid.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy 3rd Birthday Tristan!

Today was the big day. We had a party for him with family and a few of his daycare friends. It was a monkey-themed party and it was a success :) Success because the food all turned out and nobody cried at the party.

We gave out invitations a week and a half ago but I think next year I will give them out sooner. It's nicer to know in advance and to book people before they have plans :) Two weeks in advance would probably be better. For this year's party, we got a little more formal. I hand wrote invitations out of construction paper cut out as bananas for some of his friends who I didn't have emails for at daycare. Here was the message I used on the invitations:
Monkey see, monkey do, 
Tristan is turning 3!!!

Monkeys love to jump and run,
Come join us for some monkey fun!
We’ll go bananas if you can come!

We decided to play games this year! The idea seemed alright and the games we picked were easy. At least we thought they were. For Tristan and a couple of others though, it just didn't work out. On a good day, Tristan would have been fine but today, he didn't want to obey. We played one game, then ate, then played the other two games.

  1. Draw the best monkey: All the kids had to draw a monkey. The best monkey drawing won a prize. All the kids were between 3 and 4. Apparently, the drawing ability between 3 and 4 is huge. My 7 year old niece was the judge. One of the kids was not in the mood to draw a monkey so he drew a roller coaster. Somehow that got into Tristan's head and he started drawing a roller coaster too. Therefore two kids didn't even draw a monkey:(
  2. Best monkey imitation: Each child had to show us their best monkey impersonation to compete for a prize. I initially pictured kids making monkey noises and jumping around with their arms like monkeys. In reality, most of the kids were shy or wasn't interested in playing. Then there was Tristan who decided to impersonate a tiger instead. When we told him "no, not a tiger, a monkey," he almost cried. Yeah, I would call that game a fail too. Don't know what it is but lately for the past month or so, Tristan has been pretending to be a tiger for fun. A better party for him would have been a tiger. Or an astronaut. At least for the next little while until he is interested in something else.
  3. Throwing safari animals: I initially got this idea from a similar one where kids throw banana bean bags through a monkey hoop painted out of cardboard. We couldn't put that off so we settled for a jungle drawing with a hole on the ground and bought a bag of safari animals. Each person throws all the animals in the hole. The person with the most animals inside the hole wins a prize. It ended up being harder than I thought but this game worked out a bit better.
Nutella cupcakes & chocolate cake
 Now, what is a party without talking about the food? In previous years, I have always made at least most of my food and then I would buy a nice cake. This year, I decided to make everything from scratch, including the cake. People that know me know me for my cooking. Only in the past year have a started to bake more and feel more comfortable with my decorating skills. At my mom's birthday a month ago, I made her a cake and felt pretty good about it. Now that Tristan's cake is done, I'm glad I decided to do it this year :) It really was a lot of fun. I'll try to write a post on it later for those who may be interested.
Like the banana food labels we made? :)


  • Foie gras & fig jam on mini dry toast
  • Cheese & meat plate, crackers
  • Chips
Main dish:
  • Pesto chicken vegetable pasta
  • Three cheese tomato tart
  • Tuna sandwiches (cut out with monkey cookie cutter)
  • Banana, oranges, persimmons
Pop, pineapple juice boxes

  • Monkey cake
  • Monkey cupcakes
  • Lemon vanilla sugar cookies

I tried to incorporate monkey-themed food here and there but I mostly just had good food. We had real bananas cut up and around for decorations. We had a pineapple for decoration and served pineapple juice boxes. I made tuna sandwiches, which I cut out using my monkey cookie cutter. We served lots of oranges too because I heard that monkey love both oranges and bananas. The dessert was all monkey-themed, as you can see :)

Some times when I am in such a rush to cook, I just don't taste test. Today I made the mistake of not taste testing the pesto pasta and it turned out it was missing salt. No wonder there was so much left! People were probably too polite to ask for salt. Lol. I was also running a bit late so I skipped a few things. I wanted to present the cut up fresh fruit in rows with the pineapple top on one end but I ended up just cutting fruit on plates. No one noticed and probably wouldn't have cared but me anyway.
The party was from 11-2PM. Jean-Louis and I were so busy getting ready still that we were at least 30 minutes late setting up all the food. That was a bit embarrassing. Next time, we need to do more preparation the night before. However, once all the food was laid out, I got to sit down and relax a bit:) See? I told you I would try to relax during the party!

Monkey-themed parties are totally cute! I knew that if I ever wanted to do one, it would have to be now while Tristan was still young. I think it's just cuter when they are young :) The other reason is that when they get older, they tend to want to choose their own party themes. That's what I hear anyway.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tristan can draw faces now :)

Isn't it awesome?!? Reminds me of Charlie Brown :)
This is suppose to be Jean-Louis (aka daddy).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One of my favorite activities is to plan parties

This is Tristan's last week being a 2-year old boy. Our baby is about to turn 3. OMG :( But that also means I get to plan and host a birthday party. Hooray! Kid birthday parties are the most fun to work with :)

I am an event planner. An amateur event planner. I always have been. I love it and it's one more activity that allows me to use my creativity. I also love to cook. And for a year now, I also love to bake. Before Tristan came along, there weren't many events or parties to plan. Our birthdays and anniversaries were private and we didn't know enough people to throw parties. Whenever there was an opportunity to throw a party or plan an event though, I happily worked away. I did a few events back in Paris for fundraising. I had a blast each time.

One of my favorite things about being a mom is planning and throwing birthday parties for Tristan. Since becoming a blogger here and hanging out on Twitter and Pinterest, I have come across a gazillion party posts, dessert tables, and totally cool cakes and cookies. I have so much inspiration and ideas to work with! Since most of this is new to me, I am overwhelmed with all the great resources. There are only so many birthdays and parties one can have. We only have Tristan too so that means one birthday party a year:( I even considered throwing a half-birthday party just to get another birthday party in there! If I did that, I'm sure I would be looked upon as a party freak, which I'm not really :) Actually since last year, I've been making a slightly bigger deal out of Jean-Louis' birthday and my birthday. We didn't have decorations but we had people over for "high tea" (sort of) and served fancy tea, dessert, and bite sized food. It was nice.

Party planning for Tristan's upcoming birthday this weekend is in full gear! I'm WAY more excited than he is. On the day of, he will probably be more excited :) I even have some of the decorations up already! We were bored this past weekend so we decided to put the birthday banner up. It's going to be a small party with family and friends and I'm hoping to do a bit more this year since he's turning 3. Jean-Louis wants to do a drawing game but I'm still not sure 3-year-olds are capable of much when it comes to drawing. Based on what I have seen Tristan draw lately, I'd say he has no chance! Sorry kiddo:( I just want everything to be perfect but this year, I'm going to try to not spend all my time hosting and tiring myself out. I hear it's not much fun for anyone when that happens. People probably feel sorry for me. I don't know. I haven't figured out how I am going to relax during the party but I'm aware of it and will try! Maybe some Beaujolais wine may help :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Halloween comparison: 2010 & 2011

Left side is 2010, right side is 2011 (but you can tell, right? ;) Also, same monkey costume was worn!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tristan's drawing capability

Tristan is no artist. Yet :)

A couple of years ago, I was over at a friend's house around Thanksgiving and she showed me a picture of a stick man that was drawn by her then 3 year old son. It had a face on it and a stick body but the neck was disconnected from the head. She beamed with pride while holding it up for me to see. When I just smiled, she explained that he was only 3 and that a lot of kids can't draw that yet. Oh.

Now that Tristan is almost 3, I can't help but think back to that incident and laugh. I was clueless in what a 3 year old was capable of and I obviously wasn't impressed by the funny looking stick figure that was drawn. Now that I have Tristan to compare with, I am totally impressed! Tristan can draw a circle and something in it. Maybe a nose or one eye or two crooked eyes but that's about it. He can almost draw a face. ALMOST! I got him to try a few times and he came fairly close one time. It looked more like a panda head than a human head though :) Are you more impressed? The problem is I didn't ask for a panda head. I'm not even sure he knows what a panda is. Sigh. Either my friend's boy was artistically gifted beyond his years or Tristan sucks at drawing. Or maybe both.

Besides coming close to being able to draw a face, Tristan can also write the letter T very well. He recognizes it as the first letter of his name. He actually sees the initial as his name. Whenever he sees the first letter T in any word, he points and says it's his name. Then we say "oh yeah, that word starts with a T just like your name!" I'm trying to show him that there are more letters to "Tristan" than just the "T" but he's not quite ready for it. The only other letter he can copy in his name is the "i." No rush. We'll try again when he is interested.

Tristan's accidental ladybug
Tristan accidentally drew a ladybug one time. I think he was randomly drawing and then when it started to look like something he recognized, he pointed at it and said "look, ladybug!" We were quite impressed, even though we knew it was a complete accident :) So yeah. Tristan can draw circles, short lines, dots, and sometimes he can connect these things together. All the pieces are there really. It's just a matter of time before he draws a simple stick man :)

Tristan is getting better at coloring too. He understands that he should color and stay inside a defined area. He doesn't have the coordination or patience to do it yet but he gets the idea. He used to color in scribbles over a drawing. He is much better at identifying colors now too. I know I'm his mom and I'm biased but overall I do feel like he has potential. Remember the nice canvas art he did for me for Mother's Day? It was nice, no? :) Also, I remembered a daycare staff lady describing how Tristan was working to put together an art piece. There were all these pieces of tin and sparkles on the table and the kids were assembling them on sticky paper. Apparently, Tristan took his time and carefully placed each little piece of tin onto the paper. He didn't miss any. Hearing that made me proud :)

Spider? Fly? Suppose to be something.
I know Tristan is still young but a part of me really wants him to be artistic. I would love to do things like draw, paint, carve pumpkins, and a whole lot of other crafts with him. I'm dreaming of the day he will be able to help me decorate sugar cookies :) Ha. Too much to ask for? I probably have high hopes and expectations but if he is anything like me, he probably will enjoy some of that stuff. It would be so cool to sit by a lake together and paint a canvas or something. Jean-Louis can tweet and take pictures while we do this :) Lol. Jean-Louis isn't into creating art or crafts. If you were to ask him, he would just tell you that he sucks at it. We both tried to draw portraits and carve pumpkins together in the past but he would just get discouraged and quit. That's totally fine. When I carve pumpkins now, he just helps by scooping out the seeds and flesh for me :) I hope Tristan is artistic but if it turns out that he is not, we'll know which side he took his genes from. No offense Jean-Louis :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Saving big bucks on a Hawaiian vacation

Yes, I'm frugal. Since not working full time and having Tristan in daycare, I have become even more frugal. Hard to imagine some times. I am a bit of a coupon junkie now and I have the talent of smelling a good deal :)

We went to Hawaii for eight days: five in Oahu and three in Kauai. We did a lot of things and we had a blast! The accommodations were a bit disappointing but we didn't have a budget to stay at the Sheraton! Overall, we are pleased with how things went and would totally do it all over again.

The following are some of the ways we saved BIG bucks on our Hawaiian vacation.

Cheap flight:
We decided to go to Hawaii when I spotted a great deal on WestJet. Yes, I monitor a few sites every now and then for deals :P $139 one way directly from Vancouver to Honolulu for October dates. Even though this was Tristan's first paid flight, we only paid around $1000 for all three of us to fly there and back :)

Island hop savings:
If you book a flight from Vancouver to Kauai, you will most likely go through Honolulu and you would pay big bucks for it. There are few direct flights and they only operate seasonal. You may also have to change planes on the way there. $1000 round trip per person would not be unrealistic. We flew to Oahu and then booked a separate flight directly through Hawaiian Airlines to go to Kauai. If you book through Expedia or another third party, it will also cost you more. I booked our tickets 3-4 months in advance, which was also cheaper. It turned out that the airline raised their check-in luggage fee in August 2011 from $10 for the first piece to $17. Since we purchased our tickets before August, we were able to pay just the $10 fee. Lucky! I booked the flight and car together as a package on Hawaiian Airlines and that was cheaper than purchasing them separately. I also made it so that we had the car rental for exactly three days and that we would be at the airport in time for our flight out of Honolulu back to Vancouver so we wouldn't have to go back into town. Just like WestJet, we had all these costs taken care of before our vacation so we didn't have to worry about paying for everything at once :)

Groupon Honolulu:
Knowing that were were heading to Hawaii, I monitored the Groupon site for deals every now and then and were able to snatch four Groupons. One of them was for our hotel stay. Even though the hotel was a bit disappointing, it wasn't such a big deal since we already saved around 49% on our stay. We paid $399 for 5 nights in Waikiki, which included breakfast, Internet, and parking. You have to be a bit careful with Groupon. When I looked on our hotel website, they were also offering a deal so you really only save maybe 25%. Two other Groupons we had saved us $40 on food. The last Groupon we couldn't redeem since the business closed down but Groupon refunded us for that :)

Entertainment coupon book:
Entertainment coupon books are good until November 1st. We traveled in the middle of October. In July, all entertainment books for all cities were just $5, plus $1 for shipping. You can buy Entertainment books for places you are going to visit! We bought the one for Hawaii. 80% of the book were coupons for Oahu. We used the coupon for all our activities on Oahu, which were basically buy 1 get 1 free. We also used a ice cream coupon at the Dole Plantation and one for Senor Frog. We saved at least $247!!! Even if we bought the Hawaii Entertainment book at its regular price of $35, we would have still saved big.

Coupons from free tourist pamphlets and guides:
We checked these out for maps and activities to do. We managed to use a few of them and saved a few bucks. Every little bit counts, right?

Choosing the right activities for under 3 year old:
Besides the flight and car seat rental, we did not pay anything extra for Tristan to come along with us. We bought more food but he didn't eat much anyway. We only considered activities that were free for under 3 year old :)

Knowing where to shop and eat:
We are not new to Hawaii so we sort of knew where to shop. I also did a bit of research and I had a better idea of what was out there. For souvenirs and food, nothing beats Walmart. For instance, at the General Whalers Store, water is $1.49 for 2 liters. The same water is $0.79 at Walmart. A&B Stores are okay, if there is no Walmart near you. Costco may be better but we have no Costco card. Chinatown has the best prices for produce but it was kind of far to walk to.

We love Quicksilver and Roxy but they are sort of expensive. We shopped at Macy's and looked at the clearance sections for these brands and were able to snatch a few things that we liked :) We also shopped at Ross.

For eating out, I did research beforehand and found a bunch of local places that were good and cheap to eat at. One of those places was Rainbow Drive In. Jean-Louis found a place on Flickr called Wailana Coffee House. We bought a kid's lunch with drink included for Tristan for just $2.25. OMG. They were all great finds!

Book from home and buy your activities online:
I called and booked many of our activities from home before we flew. As a result, we didn't have to use the hotel phone at all and we saved a few bucks. For the luau on Kauai, I booked online to save $20. Again, every bit helps!

If you have saving tips for traveling to Hawaii, feel free to enter them in the comments section ;)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Highlights from our trip to Kauai

Kauai is one of my favorite islands. The first time we visited it 13 years ago, it was magical. I couldn't believe how such a small island could be so beautiful and have so many attractions. We love Kauai but it actually wasn't our first choice. We wanted to go to the Big Island. We decided to go to Kauai instead because of Tristan. There would be too much driving required on the Big Island and Tristan would not enjoy it as much.
We spent three days in Kauai. I was able to rent us a private cottage in Kapa'a by the coconut coast. Coming from Waikiki in Oahu, this was a big change. It turns out that Kauai is a bit too country for me. Lol. The cottage we stayed at had occasional ants, cockroaches, and we had wild chickens and geese living under and just outside our cottage. The vegetation around us was like living in a rainforest. There were tons of banana trees, orange trees, papaya and avocados trees, passion fruit trees, aloe vera, and other tropical plants I couldn't identify. I finally saw a green gecko when I opened our front gate. Geckos are very common in Hawaii but in Oahu we never saw any. We arrived at sunset and then it got dark fast. It got super dark! The only thing you could see in the dark were the stars. That part I liked, except when I had to go pee in the middle of the night.

Here are the highlights from our trip in Kauai:
  • You have not truly stargazed into the night until you do it on a pitch dark island.
  • Places are hard to find due to lack of streets signs. We kept missing the turn to our cottage and it took us three attempts before we got it right. Jean-Louis remembered it was the post with the reflective stickers. I was looking for the short banana trees. We also got lost on a hike (read below) and we couldn't find a restaurant.
  • 13 years ago, we stood an inch away from the Spouting Horn. Now, we have to view it from a fenced in ledge 10 meters away and 10 feet above.
  • You know the chicken population is out of control when they are blocking traffic in the Walmart parking lot. Also, did you know that chickens can jump and climb trees?!?!
  • Big Save and Walmart were our most visited stores. For the best deals, go to those!
  • The Smith's Garden Luau was everything I had hoped for. The Garden was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the show was educational and entertaining. We were told to eat until we were tired and not stop when we were full :) That's what I did!
  • Tristan really enjoyed the train ride at the Kilohana Plantation. It doesn't matter where we are as long as there is a train:) I saw rambutan trees for the first time and we got to feed the boars.
  • There are so many scenic drives in Kauai. Waimea canyon was amazing to see again. When Tristan gets older, we would love to hike inside of it. I hear some of the hikes are difficult.
  • We tried one hike with Tristan but we made a wrong turn and then ran out of time on our hike so we had to turn back. We were looking for the Berry Flat Trail in Kokee State Park but it was not connected to the road.
  • Polihale Beach Park was one of my favorite beaches but we had to turn back since we didn't have a 4-wheel drive and it was also pouring rain:( We drove less than three minutes away and we were back in sunshine and dry ground. Yup. Then we saw a double rainbow. Welcome to Hawaii!
  • The only beach we went to was Poipu. Last time we were there, there was a sea lion on the beach. This time, there was a sea turtle. It had a playground and is a good place for swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers. We made it in time to catch the sunset.
  • There was one more beach I wanted to check out that was recommended for small children. Lydgate Beach Park was only a three minute drive from our cottage but since Tristan did not finish his breakfast, we could not go:( Sometimes it sucks to be the parent.
  • We had a blast biking along the coconut coast in Kapa'a. I can now join all the other parents with small children by highly recommending this as an activity to do in Kauai. The path is as flat as a pancake along the coast and it's just beautiful! Rent your bikes from Coconut Coasters.
  • A new Shrimp Station opened up in Kapa'a so we tried the garlic shrimp and coconut shrimp. It was yum! Not sure I would call them shrimp since they were more like huge prawns! I was a bit bummed that we didn't get to try the shrimp from the shrimp trucks near the shrimp farms on the North shore of Oahu but this experience made up for it :)

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