Candy- Free Christmas Advent Calendar

    

Advent calendars are a fun holiday tradition, and even though we usually think of them as being filled with chocolate and sweet treats, I wanted to create one that combined the fun of receiving gifts with the joy of giving them. 

Instead of chocolates and other sugary treats (because we all know there’s going to be enough of those in the coming weeks!) I wanted to do something that the whole family would enjoy, including little gifts, and activities that we could enjoy doing together leading up to Christmas. I didn’t want it to become too expensive or over- the- top, but something I’d have fun putting together and we’d all look forward to each morning. 

While there are a few gifts mixed in, the main idea behind this advent calendar is to bring the family together, get into the holiday spirit, and teach our kids about kindness and giving- not just at this time of year, but all year. If you’re looking for fun ideas for the family going into the holiday season, I hope this candy- free advent calendar gives you some ideas! ADDED BONUS: Enter to win a prize package including tickets to some Vancouver Christmas events and a few other items to enjoy as a family. Scroll to the end of this post to enter to win! 

For mine I’m using a wooden box I picked up at a thrift store, and used a picture frame for the numbers; nothing too complicated but something that the kids can open- like a traditional candy advent calendar- and that will be big enough to fit small items in. The fun thing about advent calendars is that there are so many styles and ways to put them together, the hardest part is deciding what to put in them.

For ours I’ve rounded up a few little gifts to open throughout the month, items/ materials for activities (ie sprinkles for cookie decorating), and good deeds to do leading up to Christmas, along with 12 random acts of kindness to perform each month throughout the year ahead. For some days there will a note or envelope with an activity or good deed written on it, for others there will be little gifts the kids can open. While I love the advent calendars with candy, I liked the idea of trying out this style and may include some sweet treats in future years (plus we all know there will be plenty of candy and chocolate over the holiday season!). This is my first year doing this (Will did something similar last year and I give him credit for giving me this idea) and I hope it becomes a tradition we continue.

If you like this idea and want to try it with your own family, here are some ideas to get you started with your own advent calendar:

Activities

  • decorating cookies (Dainty Sprinkle Co has some cute ones for the holidays!)
  • making salt dough ornaments
  • kid- friendly crafts (we’re going to be trying out this Fantastic Spinner from Kaboodles)
  • holiday baking day
  • festive family events (check out this giveaway to enter to win tickets to Bright Nights in Stanley Park!)

Little Gifts

  • small gifts for each member of the family
  • books 
  • puzzles
  • games
  • Christmas pjs
  • socks
  • hot chocolate station items
  • snowman kit (carrot, scarf, hat, etc)

Good Deeds

  • picking out a toy and donating to a local charity/ toy drive* 
  • putting together a care package for a family in need
  • shoveling snow from a neighbor’s driveway
  • baking banana bread for a local homeless shelter
  • making dog biscuits/ donating food to a local animal shelter
  • walking a neighbor’s dog
  • 12 random acts of kindness- 1 to perform each month of the year

*Purchase a gift for the Kaboodles Annual Toy Drive and receive 10% off the price + they’ll deliver it for you. All toys donated to the Kaboodles Toy Drive go to the Vancouver Christmas Bureau.

Advent calendar gift ideas- decorating cookies Advent Calendar gift ideasAdvent Calendar gift ideas- art day

NOW ABOUT THAT GIVEAWAY!

Here’s what’s up for grabs:

Family four- pack of tickets to FlyOver Canada 

Two tickets to the Vancouver Aquarium

(Visit Scuba Clause + check out their holiday feature from November 24- January 7! Memberships make a great gift option!)

Fantastic Spinner art toy from Kaboodles Toy Store

12 Sleighs of Christmas + Santa’s Magic Key from Raincoast Books

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms + Conditions

Please note the following:

Open to residents of the Lower Mainland/ Greater Vancouver Area

Vancouver Aquarium tickets valid until January 7, 2018

FlyOver Canada tickets valid until April 30, 2018

Prize from Kaboodles must be picked up at one of the 4 store locations

Get more info about the giveaway partners on their websites + find them on social media:

FlyOver CanadaFacebook | Instagram

Vancouver Aquarium | Facebook | Instagram

Raincoast Books | Facebook | Instagram

Kaboodles Toy Store | Facebook | Instagram

Like it? Pin it!

Candy Free Christmas Advent Calendar

 

Bright Nights In Stanley Park {Giveaway}

Bright Nights In Stanley Park

What are your favourite Christmas traditions? When I was a kid, my Mum and Dad would take us to Bright Nights in Stanley Park and we have some special memories of those visits. I remember always looking forward to the train, the lights, and the food- the smell of popcorn, roasted chestnuts… it marked the beginning of the Christmas season for us. This year Bright Nights is celebrating 20 years and I’m excited to be teaming up with them to give away a family pack of four tickets to celebrate.

This year’s theme is Nostalgic Christmas, bringing together Bright Nights memories, family traditions, classic holiday movies, vintage toys, and more. What better way to celebrate a milestone than looking back at everything that has made this annual event so special? Whether this is a favourite tradition in your family or you’ll be going this year for the first time, one lucky family will win their tickets! See below for more information about Bright Nights and how to enter.

Bright Nights Info

Take a ride on the Bright Nights Train and enjoy light installations, festive displays, and live performers along the train route, or take in the beautifully decorated Stanley Park Train Plaza (or both!). With more than 3 million lights, the display and train ride are a fun Christmas tradition for all ages. A portion of train ride ticket sales in addition to donations made by light display visitors are contributed to the BC Professional Firefighter’s Burn Fun, with more than $1.4 million being raised to help burn survivors and their families since 1998.

Visit the City of Vancouver’s website for more information.

Dates: November 30- January 6, 2018

Location: Stanley Park Train (click here for location map)

Train tickets: $8- 12 (there’s also an Old Spaghetti Factory add-on option)

Matinee rides only available Friday- Sunday 10:00am- 2:30pm; no live performances during matinee rides

Train Plaza light displays: by donation to the BC Professional Firefighter’s Burn Fund

For ticket information, click here.

ENTER BELOW FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A FAMILY 4 PACK OF TICKETS

(valid November 30- December 7, 2017)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 Day Trips You Can Take From Vancouver

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

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

Family Life: Staying Organized with Picniic

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.