Thursday, 31 December 2015

De Code Adventures and The Keg

As part of our Christmas present this year we decided to take everyone to an Escape Room. An escape room is an interactive puzzle, where you are locked in a room for a set amount of time and you have to solve different clues in order to get a code that will let you out of the room. We did one of these in Melbourne about a year ago and loved it. We found a place in Mississauga about 10 minutes from my parent's house called De Code Adventures which offers six different rooms/scenarios to choose from, all varying in difficulty. Five of them are for groups of four to six people, but if you have a larger group there is one room that you play in two teams against each other, which is pretty cool. We had a group of six: Andy, my brother Mike and his girlfriend Ashley, our friend Nikki, my dad and me. 

The room we chose to complete was called De Scientific Code and the scenario was this:

The evil scientist. Professor D. invented a destructive element that threatens humanity. The government selected your team to break into the lab to gather research on this element. However, the lab is armed with a high tech security system that scans for intruders every 45 minutes. Will you be able to stop this threat?

There are three levels you can play at: Guiding, where your group can be given unlimited hints to help you solve the puzzle; Challenge, where you get just one clue at any point you choose; and Insane, where you get no help at all. We chose to play at Challenge level. Once we were briefed we entered the room and our 45 minutes began. The beginning of an escape room is always a bit overwhelming, as you have absolutely no idea what you are looking for. There are things in the room that you might eventually need for a clue, but other things that are decoys and will be no help whatsoever. It took us about 15 minutes before we cracked the first code, which my dad ultimately got, but we got stuck while trying to get the second so asked for our one hint at that point. It was reassuring to know we were on the right track and once we solved the second clue we were on a role. In the end we escaped from the room with seven minutes to spare. It was really fun and a good level of difficulty for us, and everyone was able to help out at different points. 

After completing the Escape Room at De Code Adventures
There is also a Board Game Cafe that you can visit at De Code Adventures, but we didn't have time for this as we had dinner reservations to keep. Actually the cafe looked pretty lame and lacking atmosphere which was disappointing as I feel like a board game cafe sounds like the funnest thing ever. I love going to a cafe that also has games for you to play! This place was less a cafe and more just a huge room with tables set up to play at, with some refreshments for sale. They did have an amazing selection of games to choose from though, including like ten different variations of Settlers of Catan. 

After leaving De Code Adventures we met up with my mom, Ella, Nikki's mom Carol and our friend Maria at The Keg for dinner. The Keg is like my favourite restaurant to go to when we visit Canada. It's a steakhouse restaurant with consistently good food and cocktails. I always order the fillet mignon and this time had a variation with a blue cheese and garlic crust, OMG it was SO good. We had a great dinner and Ella was brilliant, falling asleep just before the mains arrived and slept, the entire time we were eating so we were all able to enjoy our meals while they were hot. I did feel pretty stuffed when we left though, I think I ate too much bread before our meals were served... I am definitely going to have to clean up my eating once our holiday is over!

At The Keg
This morning we took advantage of the blue skies and relatively warm weather (anything above 0 degrees at this time of year is considered warm) and took Ella for a walk in her new pram. My brother got us a very generous and thoughtful gift this Christmas: a jogging pram! So now Andy and I can go on runs again together with Ella which is very exciting. I really want to enter a running event in the next few months with it. It means that we won't have the debacle we had last month when we both wanted to do the City to Sea run in Melbourne

Ella in her new jogging pram
I can't believe tomorrow is New Year's Eve and 2015 is almost over! It's been a life changing year for us and we have so much to be thankful for. We will be ringing in the new year at my parent's house with a few close friends... hopefully Ella will sleep through her first New Year's Eve!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

We've been in Canada the past two weeks, celebrating the holidays with my family in Mississauga (a suburb of Toronto). It's been difficult to update the blog since arriving. As usual, the holiday season is packed and goes by so quickly. I had expected our first week here to be fairly quiet, as we arrived pretty early in December. But a few days after getting here Ella had her first ever bout of illness, a stomach virus, which was contagious and struck down my mom, Andy and myself a few days later. Although it was sad to see Ella sick and throwing up, we were lucky that she didn't have a fever and recovered within a day. And I was very glad to have my own mom around to ensure that as first time parents we didn't totally freak out! 

In between illnesses we managed to get out and visit the Toronto Christmas Market with my parents, putting everyone in the Christmas spirit. We had an enjoyable time browsing the different shops and stalls, stopping first for some chocolate fondue and then for a cup of mulled wine. Ella was all bundled up in her snowsuit which was super cute and we got a lovely family photo in front of the giant Christmas tree. 


We also had to get all of our Christmas shopping done, so we braved the shopping mall crowds to get this done... once again cursing myself for not getting my shopping done sooner, and in Melbourne. One of these years I will take a page from my mom's book and start next year's Christmas shopping on Boxing Day. We did manage to get Ella's picture with Santa done as well, although weirdly I don't think the picture really looks like her - her colouring is much darker than it looks here:

We spent Christmas Eve as we usually do, with our close family friends Carol and Nikki. It was so lovely to catch up with them after three years, and it is always nice to have friends that no matter how long it has been since you last saw them, when you do meet again it feels like nothing has changed. 

My mom outdid herself again this year and we had a perfect Christmas morning as a family. Ella was in a great mood all day and we had a leisurley morning, going from drinking coffee and Bailey's to champagne and orange juice and opening presents. My mom also makes this thing called "The Land of Nod" which is sort of like a cinnamon bread, but that description does not do it justice. It is served hot out of the oven and is like a little peice of heaven in your mouth!  Ella was spoiled by Santa for her first Christmas, but like all babies, she was much more amused by the wrapping paper and ribbons. We had a traditional turkey dinner and then a game of Settlers of Catan - which I won! Being the reigning house champion of Settlers of Catan gives you huge bragging rights in my house.

On Boxing Day we visited my dad's family (including my FAVOURITE cousin Joanne, who should definitely come out and visit us in Australia), as per usual. We had to squeeze all the visiting into the morning as my brother's girlfriend, Ashley, arrived from California in the afternoon. But we got to introduce Ella to a lot of her Canadian family which was nice. When Ashley arrived we went for a pretty mediocre dinner at the chain restaurant Montana's (I miss Melbourne food!) and then played the very un-PC but hilarious game Cards Against Humanity. You know you are a grown up when you can play this game with your husband, brother, AND your parents without blushing too much! We also watched the first game of the World Junior Hockey Championships, Canada vs. the USA. Unfortunately we lost which always hurts more when its against the Americans, but it is early on in the tournament so hopefully our boys will learn from this game and improve. 

Ella  and Rudolph
We are having a pretty chilled out week this week, catching up with a few friends, playing games at home and just enjoying spending time with family. I am so grateful that we got to take this trip with Ella to spend time with everyone, and I am already dreading saying good-bye when we leave next week. 

Christmas Morning

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Kindred Movement Yoga

A few months ago a new yoga studio opened up in Abbotsford called Kindred Movement. It is conveniently located about a five minute walk from my house, just off Gipps Street and across from one of our favourite brunch spots, Kitchen. Previous to Kindred Movement opening there was a lack of yoga studios within walking distance of our house - we must live in the only place in Melbourne where that is true. There are classes at Abbotsford Convent, but the timetable is really limited or you have to commit to eight week courses. One of my mother's group friends, Trudie, told me about Kindred Movement opening when we got back from London in October, and that night I excitedly went to my first Yin Yoga class with her. 

I was initially underwhelmed with the studio, but probably for all the wrong reasons. I was used to Kaya Health Studios, where I used to go before we moved to Abbotsford. Kaya is a much larger club, with various group fitness rooms, a small gym and a full shower and changing room. I loved Kaya and would have continued my membership there if we hadn't moved. Kindred Movement is a much simpler space, just one room to do yoga and Pilates with a class maximum of 16 students.

I started by doing their intro offer of $25 for 10 days and managed to fit in three classes. Upon finishing the 10 days there is a follow-up offer of one month unlimited for $90. I signed up for this as well, and ended up going consistently three times a week. I've since completely fallen in love with the studio! It is just such a welcoming space and as soon as I arrive I feel completely relaxed, even (or especially) after a particularly challenging day with Ella. Because it is so new and small it feels like a community you belong to instead of just a huge club where you don't know anyone and no one knows you. I've decided to become a member, which is $30 per week for unlimited classes. My aim is three classes a week, but even if I only do two I figure $15 per yoga class is still cheaper than a drop-in session anywhere (they tend to be about $20 per class).

Kindred Movement Yoga Studio, Abbotsford

There are three styles of Yoga offered: Power Flow, Slow Flow and Yin. The flow classes are both Vinyasa style and pretty similar, except that the flows tend to be faster paced in the power class, and the room temperature is much warmer at around 27-30 degrees. Yin is the total opposite, where poses are held passively for 3-5 minutes, giving a really deep stretch. This class is challenging in a different way to the flow classes, as you have to be really mindful and try not to let your mind wander while you are holding the poses, so there is a truly meditative aspect to the class. It can also be pretty excruciating to hold a pose for that long, and sometimes getting out of them I feel like a creaky old woman! Yin is a really good complement to the flow classes (which are a Yang style) and can really help to increase flexibility. I have been going to one of each class every week for the past two months and am really starting to see the difference. I feel stronger and more flexible than when I started, and the back pain I had due to breastfeeding is almost non-existent. Kindred Movement also offer Pilates which I haven't tried out yet, but my friend Trudie has and said its very challenging! The timetable is pretty limited at the moment, but they are very new and so will be adding classes as demand increases. A lot of the classes are still pretty small, which is so great as you get a lot of individual attention from the teachers and they are able to correct your posture in poses which I desperately need!

All of the teachers I have had are excellent, very unique in their styles, and they always give me something to think about each class, an intention or a theme to focus on. The owner, Mandy, teaches the Yin class I go to on a Tuesday night, and she always has a delicious pot of lemongrass and ginger tea for us brewing before class. Last week Mandy started the class by reminding us that our lives are a series of moments, and all you really have to do is attend to the moment that you are in. I've thought about that a lot this week, as it is so easy to worry about "what might happen" in the future, or "what has happened" in the past, instead of just focusing on what is happening now. Since her class I've been trying to bring myself back to the present by telling myself to "attend to the moment", whether it is while I am walking somewhere, or trying to get Ella to sleep, or talking to Andy or a friend. It's so easy to just let my mind wander to where I am going, or what I am going to get done when Ella falls asleep, or how I am going to respond to whoever I am talking to... I'm so busy thinking about what happens next that I forget to enjoy what is happening now. When you focus on the now everything becomes much simpler and easier to deal with, and I think it has really helped me to be more calm, especially when dealing with a fussy baby!

Since having Ella "me time" has become much more scarce, and so I really appreciate the hour I have to myself when I am at yoga. I feel a lot more committed to my practice than I did pre-baby, and I now even do about 20-30 minutes of yoga at home on my own each morning. It is basically a priority for me during Ella's first morning nap. As soon as she is asleep I roll out my mat and put on a video via YouTube. I have told myself I am not allowed to do ANYTHING prior to yoga... No checking my phone, Facebook, replying to text messages, etc. (OK, I do allow myself to go to the bathroom, but I think that's a valid exception!) I've found two yoga channels that I really like: Bad Yogi, and Yoga with Adriene. Both have 30 Day Challenges which give you a different class every day for 30 days, so its not like you are watching the same video over and over again, which would get pretty boring! I've already completed the Bad Yogi challenge and am on Day 7 of the one on Yoga with Adrien. 

On Friday we leave to go to Canada for Christmas which I am so, SO excited about, and I am determined to keep up my daily yoga practice while we are there. I will really miss practicing at Kindred Movement and have to put my membership on hold for the next six weeks as we will be travelling for most of that time. But it does give me something to look forward to at the end of the summer, and I am eager to see what additions to the timetable there will be in the new year.