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5 Day Trips You Can Take From Vancouver

Posted in At Home, Family, travel by

Map flat lay- day trips to take from Vancouver, BC

Disclosure: This shop was compensated by Collective Bias, Inc., and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CanadianTire #QuakerState #CollectiveBias

It’s that time of year when we all get back into our Fall routines, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to squeeze in some fun family time around school and activities. Road trips and travelling are a popular activity for families any time of year, but if you’re looking for some shorter trip ideas, I’m sharing a few day trips you can take leaving from Vancouver. Whether you live in the city or one of the surrounding cities, you’ll be able to reach any of these places without spending the whole day on the road/ travelling.

The best part about these day trips is they don’t require as much planning/ packing, making them easy to organize and prepare for. Some simple prep before you go is all you need: pack up a cooler, get the kids outfits and bags ready the night before, make sure your car is gassed up and good to go (have you checked the fluids/ given it an oil change recently?), and maybe pack some driving snacks for everyone to keep them happy. And even though Summer is winding down, these day trips from Vancouver are fun year- round.

DIY oil change with Quaker State available at Canadian Tire

1. Whistler

This place doesn’t need much of an intro. With it’s year- round activities, there’s always plenty to do. Whether you prefer hiking, biking, skiing/ snowboarding, or want to relax and enjoy good food, it’s all here (for good eats check out El Furniture Warehouse where all meals are $4.95). The drive along the Sea to Sky Highway is beautiful with plenty of places to stop along the way (Shannon Falls is my favourite pit stop), but there’s also the mining museum, Hells Gate, and plenty of other scenic stops/ attractions along the way.

Approx. 1.5- 2 hours drive from Vancouver.

2. Cultus Lake/ Chilliwack

Growing up I loved visiting Cultus Lake or the water slides across from the lake in the Summer. Rent a boat and go wakeboarding or slow things down and go fishing- the lake is a popular Summer spot, but beautiful all year (it doesn’t have to be hot and sunny to enjoy a picnic lakeside!). Chilliwack is a favourite day trip spot for families living in Vancouver and surrounding areas who want to get away and enjoy the country without having to go too far from home, and it’s gaining more and more attention for it’s growing local scene. Family- friendly events are held throughout the year, including markets, BBQs, craft beer festivals, and a corn maze (just to name a few) so even if it isn’t the middle of Summer there’s still plenty to enjoy.

Approx. 1 hour 15 min drive from Vancouver

3. Fort Langley

If you don’t want to go as far east as Chilliwack, Fort Langley is another scenic locale, within an hour’s drive of the City. Visit the Fort and soak up some local history, enjoy a variety of shopping and eating options (Trading Post Brewing’s Eatery and Ritual Ice Cream are two of my favourites, also check out Little White House, a converted heritage house featuring a boutique and cafe); or go for a walk in/ around this scenic town. The Fort- to- Fort Trail is a great option if you enjoy biking/ hiking, and you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes if you want to spend some time on the water. This historic town is full of character and has plenty to offer visitors who want to get away from the city within a short drive.

Approx. 45 min drive from Vancouver

4. Bowen Island

Being a city on the coast, Vancouver isn’t far from countless islands accessible by ferry and Bowen Island is just a quick 20 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver. This is the perfect place to slow down and enjoy ‘island time’. When you’re here it’s easy to forget how close to Vancouver you are. When you arrive off the ferry any number of choices await in Snug Cove, including restaurants and shops; you can also rent paddleboards and kayaks right by the marina/ ferry dock. If you enjoy handcrafted, artisanal work, Artisan Square is home to shops and galleries featuring locals artists/ artisans and just a quick drive up the hill from Snug Cove. Drive further into the island for scenic hikes and other activities (if you’re a yoga lover, Nectar Yoga B&B is worth a visit, even if you’re only there for the day).

Approx. travel time: 20 min ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver

5. Vancouver Island

Hop on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay or Tsawassen and head to the Island for a day. Visit the province’s capital and hit up a museum or go shopping in downtown Victoria or check out any number of other cities/ attractions on the Island. Tofino is worth the extra drive once you get off the ferry, or stop in Ucluelet for a closer option; both offer up beautiful beaches and during storm season the waves are an attraction in themselves. Cathedral Grove on the way is a natural wonder that you’ll want to stop at (perfect for a picnic lunch and stretching your legs, and be prepared to take lots of nature photos among these old- growth trees) and Coombs is a quirky little town that’s fun to visit. For a ferry ride and drive, you’ve got plenty to choose from, you just have to decide how to spend your time.

Getting Ready

Prepping a day or two in advance can save time and make getting on the road go much smoother morning- of, especially if you’ve got kids along for the ride. Stock up on food and drinks (fill a few extra water bottles for good measure) and any clothing/ gear you’ll need for your activities of choice. It’s easy to forget, but making sure your vehicle is ready to hit the road- whether for a long or short drive- is important. Since your vehicle is going to get you to and from your destination it’s a good idea to make sure it’s in good working order and this is a good time to check the oil and do a DIY oil change if needed. You can get everything you need at your local Canadian Tire (they’re made for life in Canada after all 😉 ), including oil change supplies plus other essentials for road trips (coolers, camping chairs, etc).

DIY oil change with Quaker State available at Canadian Tire

Tips for Performing an Oil Change

  • check your car’s owner’s manual before you start to ensure you pick up the right oil for your car
  • make sure you have all the supplies you need including funnel, drip tray, wrench, jack and jack stands or ramps, latex gloves, oil, oil filter, and any other items specific to your vehicle (like a drain plug washer)
  • take the safety precautions necessary to perform a DIY oil change safely, such as using blocks behind the wheels of the vehicle so it doesn’t roll if on a ramp

DIY oil change with Quaker State available at Canadian Tire

What Oil + Where to Buy

If you’re looking for a quality oil, Quaker State® Ultimate Durability™ Full Synthetic Motor Oil is a great choice and you can stock up for a great price at Canadian Tire. Their oils have been tested in severe driving conditions to ensure they help your car perform to the standard your family needs and protects your engine through it’s use- and then some. It’s not the first few kilometers after an oil change that you’ll appreciate the difference, it’s the thousands you drive after- think stop- and- go traffic, idling, and extreme temperature changes (hello Canadian weather!), that test the quality of the oil you use.

Quaker State puts quality first and tests their products (they tested their oils in taxi fleets throughout North America, with the results proving their oils provide twice the protection of the industry standard throughout its life) to ensure they provide the performance and durability you need:

  • Durability- oil remains fresh thanks to the fuel- saving additive
  • Engine life- heat- activated viscosity improvers and anti- wear additives kick in as the engine temperature increases to maintain oil thickness/ help extend your engine life
  • Performance- superior lubrication flow and pumpability in below- freezing temperatures

If you have never done a DIY oil change before, ask a staff member at Canadian Tire to help you find everything you need, including the right oil for your car. Quaker State is a great option, and whether you plan a long or a short road trip it will help your car get your family everywhere you need to go. I hope this post has given you some ideas for places around Vancouver to visit (and a friendly reminder to keep your vehicle maintenance up to date)!

DIY oil change with Quaker State available at Canadian Tire

Now I want to know: What are some of your favourite day trips to take with your family?

5 Day Trips to Take from Vancouver

September 8, 2017
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PNE Food: 5 Foods to Try From Classics to Food Dares

It’s that time of year again! The PNE is a Summer tradition here in BC and along with the rides, the animals, the dog races, and outdoor concerts (I know I’m missing some things, there’s just too much to list!), the food is one of the highlights for many visitors. There’s a novelty about the food at The Fair- maybe it’s the atmosphere, maybe it’s the people serving it, maybe it’s the food itself (or all of the above) but it’s definitely on another level than your everyday meals. Add in that some of the items are only available once a year at the PNE and it’s the perfect excuse to try something new (food dares have definitely become an annual tradition for a many, but more on that later) alongside classic favourites like the infamous mini donuts and elephant ears.

Whether you want to go with some classics or go a little crazy (or maybe a try a little bit of everything) you’ll get a sample of of what’s available this year at the PNE to indulge your cravings in this post. There are so many options to choose from it’s hard to narrow down the choices, but I’d definitely suggest trying something new alongside something classic/ familiar. I’ve got a total sweet tooth so I couldn’t resist including 2 sweet options on this list (one’s a classic and one’s new this year), alongside 3 savoury options + I’ve also included some extras at the end that I didn’t want to leave out.

What food are you wanting to try at the PNE this year?

PNE food #thewaffletaco waffle ice cream cone

Waffle Ice Cream Cone aka #TheWaffleTaco- Steve O’s Public House 

Picture a taco made out of a waffle cone filled with ice cream, whipped cream, and finished with your favourite toppings. Need I say more? This is a twist on the classic waffle cone that deserves a place on your PNE food list: the waffle taco is dipped in chocolate, filled with rolled ice cream that’s mixed with your favourite toppings (here’s just a few of the options you can choose from: Oreos, Skor, and strawberries) and topped with whipped cream. Choose up to two toppings to customize your waffle cone and indulge your inner sweet tooth. If you love ice cream don’t miss #thewaffletaco this year!

PNE food Dim Sum Express dumplings 

Dumplings- Dim Sum Express

Want to try something different than typical fair food? If you’re looking for something outside of burgers and hot dogs, dim sum is a refreshing option. Added bonus: you can eat it on the go as you walk around the fair. 

PNE food Beaver Tails

BeaverTails

A PNE classic. What’s a BeaverTail exactly? It’s thinly- rolled dough that’s deep fried and topped with cinnamon and sugar (the classic version) or choose from other topping combos like bananas and peanut butter. If you really want to indulge try the Triple Trip: chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter and Reece’s Pieces (shown). Oh em gee so good!

PNE food Jamaican fish and chips

Jamaican Style Fish & Chips- Double Decker Diner

Two reasons not to miss this: 1) Fusion cuisine always produces some amazing combinations and these fish and chips are no different and 2) Everything is cooked and served in a converted double decker bus! This British classic gets an update with Jamaican flavour served alongside hand- cut fries (these aren’t the frozen, out of the bag variety!). If there’s room, eat your meal on the open air patio atop the second level of the bus and enjoy great views while you eat. Come for the food, stay for the bus!

Cricket Burgers & Fries- Gourmet Burgers

Maybe you’re wanting a burger while you’re at the PNE. But maybe you want to take it to a whole new level…? Enter the cricket burger new to the fair this year. Add this to your food dare list but be prepared to enjoy it more than you might think (if you’re willing to give it a try!). Crickets are a great source of protein and while they aren’t a standard burger topping, don’t be afraid of them adding a weird flavour (they don’t). This makes for a great foodie bucket list item to check off and some entertaining photos. Definitely one of the more adventurous items available this year at the PNE and worth a try!

Other foods to check out:

  • Double Bacon Mac N’ Cheese Super Footlong Hotdogs- Super Footlong 
  • Funnel Cake Poutine- Funnel Cakes
  • FOOD DARE: Chicken Feet- Chicky’s Chicken (definitely one of the crazier foods available this year!)    

What’s on your PNE food list this year?

For full details about The Fair at the PNE, check out their website and find them on social media:

Facebook: PNE/ Playland

Instagram: @pne_playland

Twitter: @PNE_playland

#TheFair

August 25, 2017
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Family Life: Staying Organized with Picniic

Posted in Family, Reviews by

Picniic App Review 1

Hands up who needs all the help they can get staying organized/ remembering all the things? Most days there’s a to- do list a mile long that’s never ending and usually something gets forgotten. Sound familiar? My survival skill is to make lists. And sometimes lists of lists. Usually that way I can at least keep track of everything even if it doesn’t all get done (and let’s face it, it pretty much never does 😉 ). 

There’s always lots to remember and keep track of and with school around the corner there’s about to be more to remember. With Ari starting preschool in the Fall I’ll take all the help I can get when it comes to getting more organized and keep track of the to- dos. For the past few weeks I’ve been trying out Picniic, a family organizer app that helps you keep track of things like activities, meal planning/ groceries, and items on your to- do list, with notifications popping up on your phone as things come up. All members of the family can download the app and link to the same account so everyone can stay updated and see the same info, add to the calendar and grocery list, and keep track of upcoming special dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. 

Picniic App Review 2

  Picniic App Review 3

Picniic App Review 4

Picniic App Review 5

August is a busy month- it feels busier than usual this year- and staying organized/ keeping track of what’s coming up helps me keep calm when I look at what needs to get done each day. Especially on days that feel overwhelmingly busy, reminding myself to prioritize, focus on one thing at a time, and check things off as I go makes the day go smoother. Even if I don’t get through everything on the list by the end of the day, knowing I worked my way through and checked off the most important things first means that I stress less about what didn’t get done.

With kids it can be tough to get through everything that needs to get done in a day- and even to remember everything you’re trying to get done- and Picniic helps not only you, but everyone in the family stay organized. There have been days where I make a mental note of something and remember later that I needed to remember something, but can’t remember what it is that I needed to remember! With Picniic I can quickly make a note in my phone so I can come back to it later and remind myself; I can then make a note in the app’s calendar or create a new list/ add an item to an existing one to help me keep track. 

Picniic App To- Do Screenshot Picniic App To- Do Screenshot 2 Picniic App Calendar Screenshot

Hands down my favourite/ most- used features of the app are the lists and calendar, but I’m looking forward to using the meal planning tool more as well. Picniic is quick to set up/ simple to use,  and everything is in one place and easily accessible which I appreciate.

For families with young kids it’s a great tool to help us parents stay on the same page (even if your hubby doesn’t add to it, he can see what’s coming up on the calendar, etc) and with older kids I can see how this app would be a useful tool for everyone in the family: older kids can enter their own info/ see what’s on the family calendar, as well as add notes for upcoming activities, events, and due dates for school work. Picniic can be used on a phone, tablet, and computer, making it an accessible organization tool wherever you and members of the family are.

Here’s how the app appears on a phone & computer:

Picniic App Screenshot

Picniic App We Screenshot

The app is also launching a new feature, Pia, today to help personalize the app for your family and make recommendations based on usage so families can get the most out of the app and it’s features (learn more about Pia below). If you’re trying to find simple ways to stay organized, definitely check out Picniic to help keep your family on top of everything. 

Picniic Features

  • Calendar- day/ week/ month options to keep track of upcoming events and important dates
  • To- Do & Lists- create to- do lists and lists by title/ category to stay organized
  • Shopping List- add recipe ingredients and items as you’re running low
  • Info Locker- include info for key contacts like doctors, medical info such as insurance provider, and household info like wifi network and password
  • Special Events- store important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries
  • Meal Planner- organize meals for the week ahead, including ingredients and recipes
  • Recipes- search online or add your own custom recipes
  • Family Locator- see where members of the family are near or far

About

Picniic is an app designed to help families be more organized. It acts as a personal assistant for use by the entire family on mobile, web, and tablet. Picniic has features including family member location tracking, assigned to- dos and chores, meal planners, information lockers for all your important records, and more. It’s easy for families to not be on the same page with information spread through multiple family members and locations, and slipping through the cracks. Picniic family assistant bridges this gap, and helps everyone stay connected. 

Launching on August 8th, Picniic is introducing it’s latest feature, PIA, an intelligent persona similar to Siri. PIA will help families connect with Picniic further and making recommendations based on how they use the app. PIA will help families be proactive by reaching out with suggestions to keep them organized and prepared.

Learn more about Picniic and download it here. Find the app on Instagram: @picniic

In this post:

Photo credit: Will Petrunia

Dress: Tobi

Disclosure: I was provided compensation for this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

 

 

August 8, 2017
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A Beautiful Mess: My Side of the Story

A few months ago, Will, my husband, opened up about his life living with health challenges. Chronic illness if you want to put a label on it. And since then I’ve had it suggested to me that I should share my half of the story as the spouse, partner, in the situation. What I go through, feel, struggle with, because my side of the story deserves to be heard as well, I was told. I’d always backed away from the idea, mostly because I felt it was Will’s story to tell, his struggles, and that having me share about my own struggles with these challenges he didn’t ask for would only add stress and anxiety and questions and hurt and pain to an already sensitive part of our lives.

But later this month I’ll be sharing about some of my own personal struggles on the #makeitREIGN Campaign blog, and I thought before I put the cart before the horse and share about the outcome of what I went through last year (after reaching emotional burnout) and the growth I- we- have experienced, I should first share about some of the struggles I live with as the emotional caretaker to a man who is fighting a battle he didn’t ask for. Not because I am looking for sympathy or anything like that. But because I want to be open and honest about something very real in our lives that we live with every day. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t fair, and it has forced Will and I to face things as individuals and as a couple that can either break or strengthen you. Somedays both.

My hope is that by sharing what is written below that others in my position won’t feel guilty- as I have- or struggle with their emotions as much on the tough days when the person they love most in the world is also the biggest source of stress as well. It’s a cruel parallel to draw, but it’s a real one and for anyone else out there loves someone who lives with these challenges, you know that you carry them too, but in a different way, as someone both on the outside and inside of the situation- sort of a cruel limbo. By adding my story to the conversation I know I am sharing a very real, raw part of myself; I could face scrutiny and judgement, but if one person or couple can relate and feel a connection with what I have to say, if it helps another couple stay strong knowing they are not alone, then it will all be worth it. And as one last thing before I begin, I had Will read this before I shared it. Out of respect to him and all that he goes through I would never share this if he wasn’t all right with it, and he encouraged me to do so: ‘Kat, this is you on paper’. Those who struggle with health challenges- any challenges- deserve to be heard, but those who love them and live with them do as well, because we’re walking right alongside them. We take on a lot of their struggles while adding our own unique ones to the mix, often with a muddy combination of emotions to accompany an already delicate life situation: affection, sympathy, helplessness, frustration, anger, exhaustion- and more. If you prefer to not to read what is a very uncensored and honest account of what this can look like, feel like, now is the time to stop reading. But I hope you won’t. Here goes…

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to say, where to start. And the more I sit here and think about what it is I want to say, the more I realize I should just try to talk about how it feels.

How what feels? I guess that could be a good place to start. The what I’m referring to is the life of a family that lives with chronic illness in it’s midst. Like an uninvited guest at dinner who welcomes themselves in or a third party in a relationship meant for two people, illness- or insert what applies to you and your life situation- is another character in the script of life. A character that I want to erase, tear out the pages with them on- burn them even. But doing so is impossible. At least it is for me, because it would mean removing something much bigger, much greater, something- someone– I love from this existence. And that I think is a great place to start when it comes to talking about how this life feels. The life of someone who lives in the presence of chronic illness, who loves someone who lives with it themselves, a fate they didn’t choose but are faced with.

Our family has shared about this aspect of our life openly, not because it was easy and comfortable, but because there is a collective voice getting louder on topics previously labelled as ‘taboo’ and stigmatized and we want to help raise that volume from a whisper to a scream. To help destigmatize and break down the real- life barriers of challenges that more people struggle with than we previously realized. The topics we used to shy away from, deny because of our fears, of how we may be treated or viewed- and yes I say ‘we’ to include those who love, support, and live with someone who deals with chronic issues because it affects them too- we are shying away from the tough conversations less and less. But within these efforts are the voices of the people propelling them forward, and the daily challenges they live with are very real, and that is where I wanted to add my voice to the conversation.

I have previously shied away from telling my half of the story. My husband is the one living with the chronic health issues and he is the one who deserves to be heard, understood, respected. He is the one who faces each day with a strength and grace that elevates him above his challenges that go beyond the scope of what any person should ever have to cope with. The moment he wakes in the morning he is forced to face these demons, to fight against them to participate in ‘normal’ life- to work and support the family he loves, the family he would do anything for. He silently fights every. Single. Day. With an invisible foe that I have come to hate. An element within him- indeed a part of him- the man I love, that I want to strike from the record. Remove from my life, walk away from. But I can’t because to do so would be to lose him. To walk away from him. Yes, the pain, the other health issues. The frustrations and patience- draining moments that I would expel from our marriage in a heartbeat if given the chance. But not him. A life without him, without these uninvited challenges, infuriating ‘why us’ situations, could be a lot simpler. And some might even argue happier. But it would be a fraction of the life that I live now. Of the other side of the coin: the joys, memories, hopes for the future of a life we hope to continue to build together. That too, would also be gone. Erased with the bad would also be all the good. That is the emotional battle I face. And the man I met, fell in love with, married, created life with- he is good.

And let me say how underwhelming a word like ‘good’ is to describe him. Oh yes, he drives me crazy, we fight, we hurt each other’s feelings. We make a great big mess out of things plenty of the time. But it’s our mess. A mess I love above all else, a mess I fight for. And it is good because of him, because of us.

Now if I haven’t convinced you enough that I am whole- heartedly in love with this man and the challenges he didn’t ask for, I’m not sure how else I could prove it here. But I hope I’ve made enough of an argument to demonstrate my love for this man that the next few sentences won’t seem so heartless. Because I know that reading them, without any sense of my person, my voice, and connotation will also remove much of the humanity behind them. So forgive me, they may appear much colder on a screen, removed from the person who has felt them, lived them. But I am sharing them in the hopes that others in my position, those who love someone who struggles, faces challenges, and fights daily through a personal battle, also feel heard and recognized. Because we are not the heroes, but we fight the same battles alongside the person we love, often suffering with our own struggles and challenges, but putting them aside to draw out the greater good for our partner. To fight alongside them and celebrate their victories. Some may see it, acknowledge it, but it’s the little gestures, acts of love, and selflessness, where we give of ourselves when we have nothing left- this is where we choose to partake in the battle- a battle we could simply get up and walk away from. But don’t.

There are days I feel heavy. Exhausted. Utterly burdened with the ‘for better or worse’ vows I took on our wedding day. I just want to walk away, quit and say f*ck it all. F*ck you and your problems. They’re yours, not mine and I can walk away. Buy a one- way ticket and step over those miserable uninvited challenges as I walk out and slam the door behind me. Aaaaaah how cleansing and satisfying it would be to shed that weight from my life. On the life that we built. In these moments the darkest thoughts and emotions are drawn out from me and I want to re- write this life script- or better yet toss the whole damn thing out the window- and start over. A clean start would feel so refreshing wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it? But would it? And then the guilt sets in. That horrible, stomach- in- your- throat feeling of ‘I’m such an awful person for thinking that’. He didn’t ask for this either but the difference is he can’t walk away from it. And just like that I spiral down into this bottomless pit of emotional ping pong: ‘you’re such a bitch’ followed by ‘but I’m so tired and don’t know if I can do this anymore’ followed by ‘he doesn’t deserve this’ followed by ‘but neither do I’… and it goes on and on until I’ve mentally tortured myself to the point of exhaustion and hating both of us: him for having these challenges and me for hating him for something he has no control over and having these cruel- beyond- words feelings.

That is the best way I can describe what living in the presence of chronic health challenges can be like. It can suck the joy and energy out of life in a slow- leak- you- can- never- find kind of way. It can feel like utter torture. Day- to- day things that others take for granted or don’t even think about can feel like momentous achievements. But there it is. There it is: you also learn to celebrate the little things. To find joy in the little things. And in a way- in a weird, contorted way of reaching optimism- isn’t that a gift of life: to enjoy it and appreciate it? When I say it can feel like a convoluted emotional roller coaster, you can see what I mean, right? How in the same breath we can be at breaking point and also then twist it around to try and find the positive?

I’d say that describes how we go about life: facing these challenges everyday but ultimately trying to look at the positive. We joke about making lemonade (you know the phrase when life hands you lemons…) and adding vodka on the hard days. We’ve learned to laugh and take turns bolstering the other- a growth in our relationship I’m really proud of. And our communication too; we’ve worked hard, fought hard, for what we have. I am by no means the collective voice for the partners who have loved ones living with chronic illness, health challenges, etc. But I am one more voice trying to share an honest and candid account in the hopes that others will feel less afraid to address how they feel, to open up and talk about it, to know they are not alone, and that their own struggles are real and valid, and ok. If one more person can feel less alone, if one more relationship can sustain these challenges because I opened myself up here honestly, then I regret no part of what I’ve written here. This took me a long time to work up the courage and emotional strength to write, not because I don’t think I should be allowed to feel frustrated, or challenged, or exhausted, or any other myriad of emotions, but because above all else, my heart hurts for the man I love and beyond fear of judgement or scrutiny, I don’t want him to hurt because I have shared what I have here.

So to him and to those reading this, know this: above all else, he is my world. I wish I could take his challenges away, to see him released of these burdens, to live how he deserves to. But I can’t. And that feeling is the cruelest, most frustrating emotion I battle with, why I ultimately lash out and make a mess of things, hurt him, crumble some days. The hardest pain we face is watching those we love suffer and that is my part of the battle. We fight it together, two imperfect people who just want to live a life they love and have built together. And that right there is the sentiment I want to end this with. The feeling I hope translates from the screen to you as you read this raw diary entry by a woman who loves with her whole heart a man she cannot help the way she wishes she could. But there is love. SO much love: unconditional, messy, imperfect love.

Photo credit: Ally Fotografy

To learn more about how you can help end stigmas around tough- to- talk- about topics and be a part of the positive change visit The Free Reign Life  and #makeitREIGNcampaign on Instagram. 

July 7, 2017
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Natural Sunscreens for the Whole Family

Every Spring as the weather is getting warmer I start to get everything organized for the heat of the Summer- water shoes and sandals, hats, beach essentials, swim suits… and sunscreen. And each year I try to find a natural option that isn’t loaded with chemicals while keeping my family from turning into lobsters (no olive skin/ 5 minutes to bronzed over here, we fair- skinned folks have to build up a tan over a looooong time). There seem to be some general things to look out for, some questionable, and some that you want for sun protection. As I did the research for this post I tried to simplify the information and make recommendations based on what I found* (I’ve also included the sources that I referred to at the end of the post so you can do some research for yourself if you wish). It’s sometimes hard to find quality options in grocery stores, so all of the options below are ones that you can easily find online (you can also find them in natural/ health food stores). See some of the good and bad things to look for in sunscreens and a few suggestions to try this Summer below- just add sun!

 

 

Top to bottom, left to right

Goddess Gardens Organics Baby Sunscreen 

thinksport Kids Sunscreen

Badger Kids Active Sunscreen

Goddess Gardens Organics Natural Sunscreen Spray

Badger Baby Sunscreen

Goddess Gardens Organics Kids Sunscreen

California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen

thinksport Baby Sunscreen 

For more natural sunscreen options available online check out Well.ca and Amazon– if you’re unsure about some of the products you find, Google search them by name and you should be able to find their ingredients listed along with information about how they really measure up (that’s how I discovered one of my old go- tos wasn’t as good as I thought).

One other thing I learned while researching the sunscreens to include in this post: if you like sunscreens in spray form (ie in an aerosol/ pressurized can), look closely at the ingredients, as they may not be cause for concern when applied to the skin, but inhaling them has it’s own set of concerns (this article was informative on this topic). This opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, so I didn’t include any aerosol suggestions, just a cream that you can spray on without it becoming a mist). 

* Please note that these recommendations are based on research and information I found online. I am not making medical or scientific recommendations, and as with any skincare product if in doubt, apply a small amount to a test area prior to use. 

Sources:

EWG.org: Here and here.

SafeMama.org

WomensHealthMag.com

DavidSuzuki.org

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

 

May 31, 2017
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Day Out with Thomas, The Friendship Tour {Giveaway}

Who has a Thomas fan at home? My two- especially Ari- love the blue engine and his friends and it’s always one of the top TV requests in our home. I remember watching Thomas as a kid and I love that he’s still around and as popular as ever. Our house has become littered with wooden train sets and countless trains, and Ari has even requested a Thomas themed birthday party this year. She doesn’t know it yet, but we’re taking her to meet Thomas later this month in Squamish and I’ve got the chance for your family to win a 4- pack of tickets so your little Thomas fan can too!

Thomas makes annual appearances at West Coast Railway Heritage Park every year and he’ll be back again from May 20- 22. Not only do you get to meet the blue engine himself, your family can also enjoy a variety of activities.

Activities include

  • 20 minute train ride with Thomas the Tank Engine
  • Photos with Thomas at the station
  • Meet Sir Topham Hatt
  • Bouncy castle
  • Magician and musician performances
  • Play on Thomas train tables
  • Thomas theme mini-golf
  • Sand Castle Building
  • Thomas craft tables
  • Model Railway Display
  • Tattoo station

Scroll to the end of the post for more info, to purchase tickets, and to enter to win a family 4 pack of tickets!

  

Learn more on the WCRHP website and follow on Facebook & Twitter

Need directions? Click here.

Buy tickets here.

Contest Details

Prize: Family 4- pack of tickets to Day Out with Thomas, The Friendship Tour 2017 (more than $165 value!)

Winner will select a date from May 20- 22 and ride time- choose: 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm or 4 pm.

Enter below for your chance to win a family pack of tickets! 

(4 tickets) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photo & image credit: West Coast Railway Heritage Park

 

May 9, 2017
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To the Person Reading This, You Are Not Alone: Will’s Story

We share beautiful moments online captured in photos- the highlight reel as many call it- but much less often share the tough moments, the hard days. This blog is my outlet, so I like it to be a fun place, but I also want it to be real and honest. On some days when I post a light- hearted photo on social media, it’s because I need that outlet, that distraction. It’s not to be fake or to make things seem better than they are, it’s me trying to stay positive, lighten the day.

It’s not very often I sit down to write a post and struggle to find words, I’m a pretty open book and they usually come easy. But this post is different. It’s different from anything I have posted before because it’s not coming from me, it’s coming from Will. I’ve opened up about some of the personal struggles I faced in the past year (you can see those posts here and here), but I didn’t share the whole story- some of the things that happen behind the scenes with our family as a whole- because it wasn’t mine to tell. It was Will’s. And I respected his privacy because that’s what he wanted and deserved. But after the amazing experience and response I had after sharing about my own challenges, I thought it may have the same positive impact for Will and those who read his words, and I asked if he might be interested in sharing part of himself here.

At first he was hesitant, unsure if it was something he was comfortable with, and understandably so. But after talking things through, he ultimately decided that he’d give it a try; to open up and talk about some things aren’t easy to address. And to his credit, I think this is challenging for guys more than for women, they tend not to talk as openly about things they deal with, so I admire, respect, and appreciate his willingness to put this out into the world, in the hopes that others may read it- men and women- and be able to relate, and maybe even find comfort in it.

For him, I hope he knows the impact that sharing can have, that every conversation we start is another voice added to the collective mix, and that it might be as helpful to him- cleansing even- as it hopefully will be to those who read this and struggle with similar things. This is about being honest and real online and in life, about trying to advocate that no matter what you face, no matter how overwhelming it can feel, you are not alone. This is Will’s story to share, and I cannot thank him enough for letting me help put it out into the world. Life is messy, it’s far from perfect, but it’s not without it’s beauty; sometimes you just have to fight a little harder for those beautiful moments or make them happen for yourself.  I’m proud to call this man my husband, and you’ll see why. Behind his cheeky smile is a man who loves his family unconditionally, puts himself last, and has a strength found from navigating some interesting challenges. We wrote this post together and I think it’s about as honest it gets. So here we go…

You can’t tell by looking at me, but I struggle daily with some health- related challenges that have affected me for more than a decade. I’m going to be 31 this year and have dealt with many of these things for half of my life. This isn’t about wanting attention, or wanting a pity party. As a guy, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to these things and open up about them, but I also know the overwhelming feeling of isolation all too well- that feeling that no- one else understands- and facing that alone is not healthy. 

I have lived with depression and anxiety since my mid teens, and have in recent years lived with chronic pain including myofacial disorder (this causes the body to feel pain unrelated from anything affecting it at the time- also known as referred pain- when you can experience pain for no apparent reason).  It can feel like a vicious circle sometimes: the pain can trigger the anxiety and bring on depression and vice versa, my body responds before I have time to stop it. Going through life with these things isn’t easy. It’s changed every aspect of me. It’s changed my outlook on life- it tends to now be more dark and pessimistic; it makes me feel angry for what I’ve been faced with- and I have to work against this to stay positive. But as much as it can be challenging, I’ve also a learnt a lot from what I’ve experienced.

I don’t talk a lot about it with people because I feel judged, like it’s used against me. As hard as some people try to understand, there’s no way for them to. And I think as a guy you get treated differently because we’re expected to be tough and strong- to ‘man up’ and not talk about it. Women tend to talk more, and get sympathy and compassion. Let’s be honest, guys don’t usually talk much anyways, especially when it comes to problems. And obviously you’re not going to get support if you don’t talk about it, and that’s where it can be challenging as a man living in pain. But that’s why it’s important to talk about it. 

Sometimes I feel like these issues have robbed me of who I should be. I feel like the real me is locked away and the key has been tossed. I’m not able to do as much as I want; I’m limited. Time is limited. Energy is limited. It’s hard to feel understood; getting love, support, and understanding is difficult because it’s something you can’t see. These things have made me more reclusive and anti social simply because it’s hard for people to understand. People often can’t tell I’m having a bad day; somedays it’s obvious by the look on my face, or maybe with how I carry myself. But on many days I hide it well- because I want to be strong for my family, and I hate thinking of this as my identity. But that doesn’t mean on those days I’m not suffering or in pain; it can make you feel isolated and alone. Like a prisoner trapped in your own body. I feel like I’ve lost sense of who I am, I don’t know who Will is anymore.

I live with these things everyday, which can get exhausting. It’s the same fight everyday just to keep my head above water and it can make it difficult to enjoy life the way I want to; many of the things I used to enjoy I can’t because of the pain.  This can make you become very reclusive. People don’t understand; it’s difficult to explain and people often can jump to conclusions. I feel like I’m constantly judged for things that go on behind the scenes, for things that people can’t see. And I think that’s why it’s important we talk about these things, so others facing their own challenges know they’re not alone. It’s always comforting to speak with others who do understand and are going through the same or similar- and it’s a source of comfort speaking to them and knowing they feel the same way, face the same challenges.

Through everything, I’ve really learnt the importance of having a positive attitude, but will also be the first to admit it’s damn hard some days. You definitely have the days when things get the better of you and you throw yourself a pity party. But on the good days when you have a positive attitude it definitely helps, and you can remind yourself of why you do the things you do, why it’s all worth it. The pain’s always going to be there, but I can choose to be miserable and stay in bed all day or choose to be positive, to get up and live life. Mind over matter really does make a difference.

If I could give any advice to others struggling with similar things, it’s this: Don’t let the pain stop you from living life. Going out and living it will actually make it better. And sometimes you really aren’t doing it for yourself; you’ll do it for a loved one, push yourself for a loved one, and afterwards you’re glad you did.

A lot of times it’s easier to do things for other people because it’s easy to say no to yourself, avoid things for yourself. I find it’s harder for me to let others down than to let myself down; I want to make my loved ones happy and that pushes me even on the tough days. If my wife and kids weren’t in my life, I wouldn’t be working as much as I am; family is a good motivator (even if they can make life crazy and wild sometimes) they’re the motivator and reason to keep going, to keep trying.

To those who don’t suffer but are trying to understand for a loved one: things that help are love, patience and understanding. I don’t choose to suffer the way that I do and I have no control over it. I do what I can to make things better where and when I can, to stay positive, but it’s rarely that simple. It can be frustrating for loved ones and I know they can lose their patience, but it helps when we feel loved and supported, even if they can’t understand what we’re going through.

To those who are suffering from chronic pain- or have another challenge they’re facing: Focus on the positive and you’ll find the positive. It helps. It can turn a shitty day into a good day. If you focus on the negative, all you’re going to find is the negative and I know that first hand. Know that you’re not alone and make an effort to connect with others who do understand, if only to help you keep your sanity intact.

For our family, we are working on finding things that work for us: improving communication within our marriage, speaking with counsellors, and setting realistic, flexible goals as things to look forward to and get us through the tough days have helped. Eating healthier and exercise have also made a difference. There is no formula, you have to find outlets that work for you, but they do exist. 

We hope sharing about this contributes to the conversation of tough topics in a positive way, to help break down the stigmas surrounding mental health and other challenges people face. Whether you are the person struggling with something or you know someone who is, we hope sharing about our journey helps in some way. Like the saying goes ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’- you never know by looking at someone what they may be facing in life, and sometimes something as simple as a smile or a hug can be the thing that turns someone’s day around. Life isn’t always happy and positive, sometimes you have to find your happy place, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. You just might have to work a little harder, but you’ll appreciate it that much more once you get there.

Photo credit: Ally Fotografy

Special thanks to The Free Reign Life and Ally Fotografy for helping us share our story. To learn more about how you can help end stigmas around tough- to- talk- about topics and be a part of the positive change visit The Free Reign Life  and #makeitREIGNcampaign on Instagram. 

 

 

March 16, 2017
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#PlayTestShare: Spring Break Ideas for Kids + Giveaway

Posted in Family, Kids by

Spring Break starts for a lot of schools next week and it never hurts to have some ideas lined up to keep the kids entertained. Colouring, books, and games are a few crowd- pleasing options that are good for a variety of ages and I’ve teamed up with Raincoast Books to bring you a few activity and game ideas to help keep the kids happy (and your sanity intact 😉 ). I’m sharing about 2 activities from their Spring Break #PlayTestShare collection along with a giveaway for your choice of any one of the games/ activities from the collection to help you have fun with the kids this Spring Break.

We’ve enjoyed several of the books and games from Raincoast books over the last year or so and I love the variety offered for kids of all ages in their #PlayTestShare collections (scroll to the end of this post for a list of other books, games, and activities that have been featured on the blog). Old MacDonald Had a Truck Bingo and Towering Tree Puzzle  are just two of the options from this recent collection that I’ve been enjoying with Ari since we’ve been spending more time than usual inside (I think our weather has forgotten this is the Westcoast & we’ve had an unusual amount of snow making for some cozy inside days). She has enjoyed puzzles from a young age and I thought it would be fun to teach her how to play Bingo (she’s become a pro!), so I picked options suited for her, but there are plenty more ideas if you’d like more reading material or another activity (you can see all of the activities/ games/ books from the Spring Break #PlayTestShare collection here).

The Towering Tree Puzzle features illustrations by Teagan White on 17 large double- sided pieces with Spring & Summer on one side and Fall & Winter on the other. Each piece shows woodland creatures who call the forest home and is about 3 feet long when finished. This is perfect for kids who enjoy puzzles and is a sweet way to teach your kids about nature and the four seasons- Ari kept mentioning how cute she thought they all were. The large pieces make it a fun floor activity and we had fun putting it together- we just had to keep Liam from taking apart our hard work!

   

This is the Spring & Summer side of the puzzle…

 

…And this is the Fall & Winter side

  

Bingo is such a classic game and can make for hours of fun (and yes I mean hours, Ari has asked to play this game a few times a day, every day since we got it). Once I explained the game to her and showed her how to look at the letter and picture she understood how to play within a few minutes. I hadn’t thought of this until we started playing, but it’s also a fun way to teach younger kids letter recognition. This is something we’ve been working on and it was a nice little bonus to go with the fun. This version comes with 6 double- sided boards and features artwork based on the book Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz (there are also counting cards available if you’re a fan of the book and looking for other activity ideas). If you’re a fan of family game night this is a fun option for younger kids- and let’s face it, who doesn’t love Bingo??? 

Old MacDonald Had a Truck Bingo features barnyard animals and construction vehicles and helps little players learn object recognition, vocabulary, and concentration skills. Good for up to 6 players.

     

More About the Activities Featured:

Old MacDonald Had a Truck Bingo A classic family-friendly game gets revved up with a winning combination of construction vehicles and farm animals, featuring artwork from the picture book Old MacDonald Had a Truck . With six illustrated, double-sided game boards plus a set of colourful bingo calling cards and chips, this easy-to-learn game is sure to be a hit at any playdate or family game night.

Towering Tree Puzzle Join adorable critters as they navigate the seasons and make new friends in their towering tree. Imaginative play and puzzle logic intersect as each interlocking branch of this innovative puzzle tells a new story, providing hours of entertainment. Adventure is just a branch away!

 

Visit the Raincoast Blog for more details and a full list of available titles from the Spring Break #PlayTestShare collection.

Other posts with Raincoast Books:

#PlayTestShare Fun & Games with Raincoast Books– featuring ZaZa Zoom (game) and Punch + Play Game Book

#PlayTestShare with Raincoast Books– featuring ABC Word Play Puzzle Book and To The Moon colouring book

The Little Prince Review + Giveaway– featuring The Little Prince Family Storybook and The Little Prince Read Aloud Storybook

Herve Tullet Book Review + Giveaway– featuring books:  Mix It Up, Press Here, and Let’s Play

Enter to win any one of the items from the Spring Break #PlayTestShare collection from Raincoast books below!

Must be 18+ to enter. Open to Canadian residents only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 8, 2017
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Meet Will: Blog Hubby

Posted in Family by

One of things I was excited about when I decided to rebrand the blog was to have the man behind the scenes- my husband Will- make an appearance from time to time. He’s the voice in the background cheering me on, the one I bounce ideas around with, and occasional Instagram photographer. In short, he’s the guy who’s helped make my blogging career what it is. Going back to the beginning when the words ‘I want to start a blog…’ left my mouth, Will was the one who encouraged me to go for it, knowing I craved a creative outlet.

You will rarely find him in front of the camera here on the blog or in squares on Instagram, but he’s often the one taking the photos, rolling his eyes and smiling at my constant requests to take photos at random times. He keeps my obsession to take photos in check, reminds me to unplug from time to time, and also keeps me thinking positive on the days I’m doubting my efforts. We’ll both admit that marriage is a lot of work, it’s a crazy ride, and that there are days you drive each other crazy. But we’ll also tell you that we laugh together, share inside jokes and tears, and cheer each other on when the other needs it. We’re far from perfect, our marriage is a dynamic labour of love, growth, and evolution, but above all we’re a team and we’re just trying our best like everyone else.

Since you’ll be seeing a bit more of him here I thought it would be fun to ask him a few questions about what he really thinks of this blogging thing I do and share a little about what it’s like to be a blog husband. But first here a few things about this blondie I get to call my hubby:

  • he loves hot wings- the more they burn the better
  • he’s had the same hair cut forever until about a year ago when he decided to go for broke and switch things up- that’s why you now find him rocking a man bun/ ponytail as he grows it out to the style he wants (and seriously, he’s got better hair than me- it’s so thick and luscious and I know he’s proud of it)
  • you can see where my kids get the blonde hair/ blue eye thing from 😉
  • he’s totally a comfort over style kind of guy and jeans or cargo shorts with a tee are his go- to OOTD
  • …on that note he wore cargo shorts when we hiked a glacier in Alaska on vacation a few years ago (and yes he was the only one in shorts!)
  • he takes pride in that beard of his. I wasn’t a big fan of facial hair for the longest time but he can rock pretty much anything and I’ve come to like it
  • we have some epic inside jokes together and Monty Python, Search for the Holy Grail is quoted in our house way more often than I can even keep track of
  • if you know me, you know I’m a chatterbox; he’s the silent & deadly one, but when he talks, you know he means what he says and it comes from the heart

When I asked him what he thought about my blogging adventures this is what he had to say:

What’s funny/ annoying about a wife who has a blog? 

Taking photos of everything can be pretty annoying

She’s always on her computer or on her phone- always taking photos

She’ll take photos of her food and then complain it’s cold

She’ll take photos of literally almost anything

Hashtags. Nothing to add

What are the positives?

She seems to have tapped into a positive community. The Internet is usually so full of hate so it’s nice to see something positive online.

The blog and what she does is her in her element. It’s a passion more than a job for her and it’s kind of cool to see people enjoying what they do. It’s awesome to see people enjoying what they do and enjoying doing it together; it’s a healthy work lifestyle.

I like that she’s pursuing her dreams and passions, I want her to be happy in what she does and with the blog she is.

… you can see why I think he’s kind of awesome. He really gets what I’m trying to do here, even when he may find some of my antics (and constant photo taking) a little annoying. I’m excited for him to be more a part of the blog this year and we’ve got some big things coming your way. Hugs to this man for loving me and for going along on this crazy adventure with me.

Photo credit: Ally Fotography

 

 

 

 

January 27, 2017
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