How You Know When to Upgrade From Crib to Bed

The Great Escape from Iain K. MacLeod on Vimeo.

I got Kenna to recreate her two crib escapes of the day. Note: I was prepared to drop the camera if she needed help.

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#bigdaydowntown Part 2 – Try Something New: Electric Boogaloo

$100 Downtown Halifax RBC Visa #bigdaydowntown

It seems like yesterday I was running through Downtown Halifax with my daughter Rowan in hand (read about or watch our initial #bigdaydowntown adventure), flashing the $100 Visa to anyone who would swipe it. We had a great time blowing our budget in a 4-year-old approved fashion and were honoured to be asked back to participate.

This year the rules had changed. Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s Big Day Downtown 2 focused on getting people to try out new things. Since Rowan just started school and I just started a parental leave with Kenna, the newest addition to our family, I knew what had to be done.

Massive “Wired” Iced Mocha & Blueberry Oatmeal $8.65

The main goal was to spoil Kenna, but I’m not completely selfless. After an early morning wake-up and a lesisurely walk downtown from the Hydrostone, I needed a caffeinated boost to get me through the rest of the day. I decided to start our adventure at The Wired Monk (5147 Morris St) after reading many great comments about the place on twitter (I’m looking at you @bitdepth and @yelphalifax). I never realized it was a franchise coffee shop but it definitely doesn’t have a “chainy” feel. I quickly glanced at the menu and ordered a massive Iced Mocha along with a Blueberry Oatmeal muffin (pictured above). With tip and taxes, that came to $8.65 (pretty standard mark-up around these parts for a large specality drink and baked good). I should note that if you can’t find a seat, make sure you walk around to the back stairs and check out the lower level.

After powering-up, our first child-friendly purchase was a couple of finger puppets from Feroz Design Handcrafted Jewellery and Accessories (5112 Prince St). I went with the witch and ladybug, although I had nothing against the other critters available in the basket. Total cost: $9.18.

A Halifax A•B•C $14.40 with member discount #bigdaydowntown

We have been members of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for several years now (It’s worth joining just to access the Family Sundays and check out the annual Sobey Art Award nominees) but I never exit through the gift shop. The gift shop had several interesting things that jumped out at us, including a stuffed Pablo Picasso doll that was on clearance and tons of Maud Lewis paraphalia, but I went with the local board book A Halifax A•B•C (pictured above). It came to $14.40 with our 10% member discount.

I had another membership card that entitled me to a never-before-used discount, so we went up the road to The Discovery Centre and checked out the puzzles and science-related products in the shop. I picked up the Heart Warming™ Mini Microbe Box, a bizarre collection made up of a tiny stuffed Sperm Cell, Egg Cell, Kissing Disease, Penicillin, and an Amoeba (apparantly, a limited edition item). I didn’t see the Heart Burned™ Mini Microbe Box (featuring Herpes, Pox, HPV, Chlamydia and Penicillin) there, so I would assume that would be a special order. I also tossed in a ubiquitous Earth/Globe Stress Ball (sans logo) that I remember having when I was a kid. It came to $27.48 after our 15% member discount.

Rubber Duck $11.50 #bigdaydowntown

Biscuit General Store (1661 Argyle St) is a cutting edge and respected clothing store on Argyle Street. Extensive female fashions, stylish men’s clothing, Urban Outfitter-esque like oddities and a relatively new and carefully curated children’s section. I passed right by the full-sized rubber chicken and went with a pint-sized, Original Rubber Duck from Rich Frog (pictured above). It came to $11.50 and squeaks.

DeSerres (1546 Barrington St), formerly Loomis & Toles, is known as an art and craft supply store (and whatever need a Star Wars™ Moleskine® might fill), but there is also a creative toy section. I decided on the Melissa and Doug Fill and Spill Stuffed Toolbox instead of bringing home the Fill and Spill Pretty Purse to counter-balance all things Barbie and Disney Princess that make their way into our home. It was $17.19 (on sale) and compliments my girlfriend’s own tool belt.

Our final purchase was at Inkwell Modern Handmade Boutique & Letterpress Studio (1658 Market St), a showcase of printed paper goods, jewellery and other handmade art pieces from all around the world. I short-listed some prints involving small animals and kid-friendly typography, but decided on the locally screen printed image of a LEGO® person. It came to $21.28 and we ended up going $9.68 over our $100 budget.

#bigdaydowntown Finale

On the walk home, I got myself a completely tuckered-out toddler (pictured above). Value: Priceless.

Addendum: Big Browse Downtown

  • I had high hopes for Maritime Hobbies & Crafts (1521 Grafton St) but we weren’t in a train, rocket, model or kyte-flying mood. I was almost tempted by a copy of The Settlers of Catan, though.
  • I popped into The Dancing Beaver Gallery, but it was a little too folk-arty/touristy for our taste.
  • We breezed through Bishop’s Landing, Historic Properties and Scotia Square but didn’t end up finding much of anything new or noteworthy.
  • We looked around at Sugah! (1479 Lower Water St) and they have some great treats for those with a sweet tooth and also some neat shirts that combine sea creatures with candy.
  • We browsed the used bookstore Jade W (5233 Prince St), but I was a little overwhelmed and felt like I was an extra in an episode of Hoarders. They have a lot to choose from (second floor, left of the stairs), but you have to be in the mood to scavenge.
  • United Bookstore is a spot I regularly check for great, random finds. I ended up getting the Art and Making of Monster House for about $12 for Rowan. Of course, I shopped there previously so I would have to use the excuse that Kenna hadn’t shopped there before if we did buy anything.

Gift Card - My Prepaid Visa Card -

Uncle Chippy’s Memories

My friends and I went on a road trip to New York City to ring in 2010. I won tickets to see Chuck Berry play in an overpriced blues restaurant, but the 83-year-old had trouble remembering how to play his songs. After he played “Maybelline” for the third time, we left and found a tiny karaoke bar where we sang all night with a rowdy crew of guys from Philadelphia. —Stephan MacLeod

From My most memorable New Year’s Eve: Coast readers share their NYE stories | The Coast

#bigdaydowntown

Our family regularly travels back and forth from the Isleville region to downtown Halifax. All you need is a booklet of bus tickets, a handy transfer and access to Google maps to make the journey as smooth as possible.

1801 Hollis

When I was offered the opportunity to take part in Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s Big Day Downtown initiative, I immediately enlisted the help of my daughter. We thought of many places we could shop1 but decided to focus on the emotional, experiential side of town. The guidelines were simple; we had to spend $100 downtown and, according to the RBC Royal Bank Prepaid Card Agreement, “not use your Card or your Card number for any illegal, improper or unlawful purpose.” Fair enough. I wouldn’t even know which criminal element, outside of banks and illegal card swipers, accepted major credit cards.

Harbour Hopper

The Harbour Hopper ($25.99 adult + $8.99 child = $34.98 + tax = $40.232) was filled to capacity and we ended up sitting next to a couple from Montreal. We were on the back bench that gives you a high, unobstructed view (probably less so if the roof was up) and bonus bouncy-ness. The entire tour takes about an hour and is filled with various Haligonian factoids and product placements for restaurants and bars. The vehicle, a decommissioned and refitted Lark V from the Vietnam War, starts off on land and travels up over Citadel Hill and down Spring Garden Road, finishing it’s last leg as it dips into the harbour near the casino for a short cruise. This was a natural first choice for Rowan, who screeches with excitement whenever the Harbour Hopper drives by. She was a little fidgity by the end but was thrilled to be on board as it drove into the harbour.

Buzz

The Discovery Centre ($8.50 adult + $6.00 child = $14.50 + tax = $16.68) was next. Our previous visit was cut short when Rowan stepped directly into a vat of soapy bubbles and we were without spare shoes. There is also a fund-raising “wishing well” that Rowan really loves. The first she saw it I handed her some change and she walked up to it and tossed it directly into the middle of the drain, without even having a spin.

Even More Mirrors

The main floor features a gift shop filled with interesting education toys, puzzles and gadgets while the main exhibit is a seasonal look at a theme or topic. This time, it was diamonds and, personally, was a bit of a snooze fest unless this sounds interesting to you:

“This dazzling exhibit is suitable for all ages. Dig into how a diamond is cut, why Canadian diamonds are among the most valued in the world and how diamonds are formed and mined out of the ground. Visitors can size diamonds, evaluate colour and determine cut while marvelling at replicas of some of the world’s most famous diamonds.”

LOOK INTO THE EYE

There are many different exhibits spread out over the two floors, dealing with the human body, parabolic reflectors, bikes that power radios and fans, building blocks and suspension bridges and much more. Rowan was immediately drawn into the various mirrors (the fun-house style ones are near registration) and spent quite some time practicing Bernoulli’s principle with some ping pong balls.

We ended up catching a live science demo in the theatre and I even learned that balloon animals can be squished into a small jar of liquid nitrogen and then retrieved unharmed and fully inflated. Overall, the Discovery centre continues to appear a bit dated in an age of touch screens and 3D-everything. I’m not saying they are promoting a flat earth but I was expecting Julius Sumner Miller to step out from behind a blackboard covered in dust. I want a place like this to whisk us away by the great possibilities of science and give us a rough glimpse into our future.

Theodore II

We headed back to waterfront to take a spin on Theodore Tugboat ($19.99 adult + 8.99 child = 28.98 + tax = $33.33). This was a lot more child-friendly, compared to the Harbour Hopper. There is room to move around the tug boat itself and the children are given a clipboard to colour along with.

Cap'n

The tour was geared towards the pre-school and early elementary school set and there was ample amounts of goofiness and interactivity. Probably not the best place to be if you are tripping or bothered by anthropomorphism (Benjamin Bridge, Northumberland the sub, Philip and Filmore the ferry boats, etc.).

Certificate

One nit-picky thing that did stand out was when were told that George’s Island was not inhabited by people but had the most “snakes per capita”. Division by zero FAIL.

Visitor Information

We still had some time (and money) left, so we decided to go to The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic ($8.75 adult + free for children = totally free if the front desk decides to cash out early). We had been to a pirate party there before but never fully explored the museum. We also spent time at the “boat” playground, the wave and had a tour of the nearby CSS Acadia. There is a live parrot, paintings, various sized boats (both actual and models) and lots of rope3.

Grave Details

There is also a Titanic exhibit and Rowan insisted on watching some of the slow-paced documentary playing inside a small room. The moral of this museum, according to Rowan, was that “people dying in the water is a bad thing.”

Freak Lunchbox

With a little bit of money left, the only sensible conclusion was to visit Freak Lunchbox (like several other bloggers and kids at heart). I rarely get out of the store without dropping at least $20 and, sure enough, I had to toss in some extra money to cover Rowan’s Candy Buttons, Sweethearts, SweetTarts, Pixi Stix and (American) Smarties habit.

Lunch

In the end, there were some freebies4 (a slice of Dr. Oetker pizza) and out-of-pocket expenses that could not have been processed by Visa: A $6 pulled pork sandwich from the mobile Boneheads BBQ unit, a $5 ice cap from a mini barn, a $1.25 strawberry gourmet sucker, a $3 bottled water and two visits to Glow Parties’ bouncy castles ($5).

Disney Bouncy Castle

The castles were part of the Busker’s Festival and one had a Disney theme while the other was some sort of a Coliseum battle dome. She wanted to spend time at both and we were able to squeeze in visits between the boat rides.

Old Fashioned Candy Buttons

If you were to ask Rowan now what her favourite part of this big day was, she would undoubtedly tell you all about the bouncy castles5.

Operation #bigdaydowntown a success. Full report to follow.

For more photos, check out my entire photo album on Facebook or a few selections from Flickr.


  1. I could have easily turned this into a shopping spree involving any of these fine retail stores (examples of previous purchases in brackets): Attica Kids (apron), Biscuit General Store (necklace), Black Market (rainbow windsock), Carbonstok, DeSerres Art Store (canvas), Historic Properties, The Jade W, Mountain Equipment Coop (backpack), Maps & More, Maritime Hobbies and Crafts, Random Play (The Incredibles DVD), Rock Candy Boutique (Tigger patch), Strange Adventures Comic Bookshop, Taz Records and Urban Cottage Antiques (ballerina Barbie).
  2. Note: You can save a couple bucks if you have an Atlantic Baby & Child Family Card
  3. What Halifax really needs is an honest-to-goodness aquarium. I want to learn about cod fish outside of their newspaper habitat.
  4. Other free/cheap ideas when you are downtown are a ferry ride to Dartmouth, Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market, scavenger hunt on Citadel Hill, Murphy’s touch tank, the Bishop’s landing water fountain and just checking out the boats.
  5. One of our regular activities, that we weren’t able to squeeze in, is a trip to The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia ($12.00 adult + free = $12.00 or look into their family memberships). It is worth checking out the gallery during one of their Sunday family days because they establish a theme related to a current exhibition and have a workshop area filled all sorts of art supplies and great instructors to help the children make their own art pieces.