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Sponsored Post – Disney On Ice Vancouver

With my journey to research sustainable  products I sometimes struggle with Disney. It was harder when the kids were younger and I was left to wonder what types of plastic many of their toys are made from. But there are some things that you can’t argue about Disney and it’s an emotion and feeling wrapped up in a whole lotta magic. We are an old school Disney family as our kids loved the Disney classics: Snow White, 101 Dalmatians, Lion King, Peter Pan. And when your children believe in a place filled with dogs that communicate via The Twilight Bark, a Princess that enchants forest animals, and my favorite; a land where there are lost boys, pirates, mermaids, and a captain with a hook, it’s priceless and I wouldn’t take away any Disney memories from my kids. My kids entire childhood is filled with these Disney visions and we’ve never been to Disneyland. But we have read stories, watched movies, and had attended 2 Disney On Ice Performances. When the boys were very young we attended Nemo On Ice and it was amazing. The boys are now ages 7 and 9 and squealed with joy when I told them we’re attending Toy Story 3 Disney On Ice this week. That is the magic of Disney – you can be any age and truly just feel joy when you see the characters stepping onto the ice. I can’t wait to see the reaction from my twin daughters that haven’t been to a show yet!

Check out the Vancouver show featuring moments from different Toy Story movies and taking place at the Pacific Coliseum. Mention the code LOTSO by phone or enter it online and pay only $15 per ticket for children!   This deal is available for these shows so hurry to book as tickets won’t last:

  • THURSDAY Nov 24th @ 7:30 PM AND SATURDAY Nov 26th @ 12:00 PM

Vancouver is hosting eight shows from November 23 – 27, 2011. Tickets for Disney on Ice presents Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story 3 in Vancouver are available online at or by calling 1-855-985-5000.  You can check out video clips of all Disney On Ice shows by visiting the official Disney On Ice site.




Westcoasters Love The Grind

Simply known as ‘The Grind’…anyone from the West coast knows what you’re talking about.  The Grouse Grind is a challenging hike that is 1.8 miles up the side of Grouse Mountain with over 2,830 stairs and *cough* me and my boys completed it yesterday. It was truly a summer highlight and since my boys are ages 7 and 9 – I’m more than a little proud. And if we’re including me in the celebrating, I’m a little proud of me too. I had some great advice from friends on how to approach the mountain with two children and the best advice – which can really pertain to any summer hiking – was the following:

Water – lots of it. I packed up three stainless steel bottles with tons of ice and at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 marks of finishing the Grind, we would finish a bottle. It was glorious because it meant we were resting, but also my backpack got so much lighter!

Heat – don’t hike with children in the heat. The trail is probably most popular when it opens early in the morning, because hiking in mid-day heat would be tough. The weather was overcast and slightly cold which made for perfect hiking conditions.

Proper footwear – Sandals or Crocs are not a good idea for mountain trails. We wore just average running shoes with socks and didn’t have any twisted ankles or problems with the rough terrain of the mountain.

Don’t look up – it was funny advice when I read it on the Grind For Kids website, but what great advice!  On very steep terrain…don’t look up. Much better to look to the left, right, and down at your feet. Enjoy the surroundings and keep a close eye on the rocks, stairs, and tree roots!

Keep it fun & light!  During our 1:45 hr hike up the Grind, my boys and I had plenty of time to comment on the experience and our surroundings. My boys noticed people that were trying to make it up the mountain and maximize their workout with amazing speed and we all know everyone loves bragging about their ‘time’ on the Grind.  But we agreed at the beginning of the hike that it was about the journey…nothing more. At every stop we drank our water, commented on how beautiful the mountain is, and chatted with other people as there’s a very cool vibe among all 1st timers of the Grind. Experienced hikers were also very supportive and had sweet words of encouragement for my sons – it was just a lovely experience. I know why so many people complete this hike on a regular basis. You pretty much make the hike what you want to. I remember doing The Grind 15 years ago in my 20s.  I got a really good time since I was in great shape, but when I got to the top feeling sore all over I hadn’t maximized my enjoyment.  I had the opposite reaction with my sons. I remember getting to the 3/4 marker and feeling sad it was almost over – I wonder why nobody tells you how much more you’ll enjoy everything once you have children!

Thank you Grind For Kids for the helpful tips and next summer my kids will participate in this great program. The Grind For Kids program is you ask friends to pledge $1 for each time you complete the Grind between June and September. When you sign-up for this program, you pay $20, receive a timer card that you swipe at the bottom and top of the mountain (records your hiking time & info) and guest services will take your bag up the mountain for you so you can do the Grind without anything weighing you down.

And of course once you’re up the mountain, you will spend one of the best days of your summer. During the summer months, Grouse Mountain offers the hilarious Lumberjack Show, peak chair, Birds in Motion, and the majestic Grizzly Bears that were rescued as orphans and brought up to live on 2 acres on the Mountain – Coola and Grinder. We visit Grouse Mountain every summer and it never disappoints. Really quality family entertainment once you’re up the mountain…my kids have deep belly laughs during the Lumberjack show and it’s awesome to teach them that the wind turbine that you can see at the top of Peak is now powering 25% of the resort’s operational electricity annually.

I hope the hiking tips help any family new to hiking. It is a family activity that I’m enjoying more and more; absolute quality family time to bond with nature without computers, phones, and interruptions to get in the way. Thanks to Grouse Mountain and Grind For Kids for the tips & summer highlight for me and my boys.  Enjoy these pictures of our day!

At the top!



Geocaching – Eco Activity For Entire Family

Have you ever heard of geocaching? Most people have heard of it but haven’t tried it. My first exposure to geocaching was reading a course description on my city’s parks board months ago. From that moment I was hooked.  If you are looking for ways to keep children entertained wouldn’t the following description be enticing? “A worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure using technology.” Treasure hunting at any age ~ what’s not to like?

Unable to register my boys for the course – the wonderful geocaching duo behind Geocaching101 were introduced to me and spoiled myself and my boys to a personal introduction to Geocaching this afternoon. I wanted to share the experience immediately because it was so beneficial and rewarding. Literally, I’ve done nothing else but look up caches in my area since coming home from the outing. I can understand why there’s a warning on most geocaching sites about possible addictions. =)  I think I’ve caught the bug and it’s great this new activity will be relatively inexpensive and so healthy for my children and family. For anyone struggling with keeping older kids entertained and away from TV, computers, and video games this summer – learning how to geocache may just be your ticket to enjoying the next few months outdoors.

Before I start on my rant about boys and electronics I’ll remember I’ve already written about this. It’s a daily battle with all my kids to keep them focused on nature and activities rather than jumping onto the computer or firing up the Wii. With geocaching it’s two wonderful worlds colliding for children – electronic GPS system (or iphone app) and treasure hunting in nature. Really, what isn’t to like?  Only…in a child’s mind it gets better….they are hunting treasures. And this isn’t the point of geocaching and shouldn’t be an important part of your geocaching experience, but let’s just think like children for a moment ~ and once they are told they’ll be discovering treasure – they are very exited! Once you have loaded the coordinates into your GPS or iphone and located the cache – usually there is a log book so they can sign their name and swap trinkets. Yes, the trinkets are normally plastic because they need to be permeable to wet weather, but the children are simply thrilled by this aspect of geocaching. The thrill for many children and adults is the adrenaline rush of the ‘find’.  Getting close to the cache, resisting the need to check the clue, then searching around for that perfectly hidden cache is the true thrill of geocaching. And it’s so exciting to find the cache…but knowing there are treasures inside was exciting for my boys today and we even found a cache located at a park 2 blocks from our house after we got home…without the asssitance of a GPS. Just putting our postal code into the ‘hide and seek’ section of the site we found a cache very easily and will try this route because we don’t have a GPS system or iphone. My boys left hockey cards and even my girls were excited by the treasures.

If this information feels overwhelming, just post a comment to this article and we’ll help you out. I slightly begged Anthony and Gwen to further develop private geocaching tours because I’d love to take my boys and their buddies (and parents) on a geocaching expedition. If you ask around your friend base, hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to find someone that can show you the geocaching ropes. Once you discover the magic – it’s hard to go back to being a Muggle. Umm yes, the activity of geocaching even has reference to ‘Muggles’ which as we know from Harry Potter refers to people that are non-wizards or in this case, non-geocachers. In the log notes that are left after discovering a cache, nearby people that aren’t aware of geocaching, are referred to as Muggles and in our house right now, there isn’t a more cool topic that anything referencing Harry Potter and wizards.

I will be writing more over the next few months on geocaching. I strongly urge any mom looking for an activity for children to register for free at the geocaching site: First you create a free account, then you click on the ‘hide & seek a cache’ tab and submit your postal code.  You’ll be surprised how close a cache may be to your home. Check it out by downloading to a GPS or using the iphone application or just try finding it on your own using Google Maps or the directions located within the cache. Here are some pictures and highlights of the fun we experienced this afternoon!

Locating our first cache. We were so lucky it was an official, large cache box – it had awesome clues and coordinates and funny enough – it was hidden near a spot my boys have played next to for years!

Another cache we found was hidden in the bottom of a 10 foot high tree stump and covered with a piece of bark. This type of coverage is referred to as geocaching bark – I’ll never look at carefully placed bark again without assuming there are treasures beneath it.

When I first read about geocaching I really assumed it was for older children. But after spending the day with Anthony & Gwen Floyd and @seanfunk’s family – I know that like anything…really fun activies that are discovered with an entire family are the best. We had toddlers on our geocaching tour today and they were incredibly well-behaved and excited by this activity. Read more about geocaching with toddlers here. The below picture is of Anthony with his little guy in the backpack  – both were happy as could be!

Our 2nd to last cache found was a magnet stuck under a park bench. The two muggles that were sitting on the bench as over 10 people excitedly approached was pretty funny. They had no idea what we were doing – but Angelo was super excited to find a very small cache stuck underneath the bench.

I feel so lucky to be introduced to so many fun activities in a quest to keep my kids engaged in nature. Thank you to Gwen, Anthony, and @seanfunk – it was a great day and launching pad for discovering caches with my kids.

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Ultimate Eco Activity For Your Family



Grotto Spa and Treetop Tapas ~ Best Destination Spa

We’ve been back at home for a full week and I’m still enjoying the relaxation my spirit and body desperately needed and received from our Parksville vacation.  We kept very busy with the kids for the first half of our trip, but thanks to the family friendly amenities offered from the Tigh-Na-Mara resort, we spent most of the second half of our trip relaxing and spending time with our kids. 

Saving the best for last, Ray and I enjoyed an evening of pampering from the Grotto Spato celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary on July 17th. Thanks to the babysitting services offered from the Tigh-Na-Mara, we skipped away to enjoy 4 hours of heavenly relaxation at the Grotto Spa and Treetop Tapas & Grill. We were supplied with 2 babysitters that our children were already comfortable with because of getting to know them earlier in the week during activities like “kids club” & “dinner and a movie”.  It was just so lovely to leave our bungalow without any kids upset because they were already engaged by Kelly and Leah. As a mom – getting to enjoy my massage and time alone with Ray, knowing our kids were happy, content and well taken care of was wonderful. I was so incredibly relaxed after my massage, I couldn’t even remember I was a mother of 4 <grin>.  We had no idea Grotto Spa was one of the top spa facilities in Western Canada when we booked our vacation.  It was an absolutely wonderful and magical discovery once we walked through the doors.

We were delighted with the 5 star level of pampering we received at Grotto Spaand like the rest of the Tigh-Na-Mara resort, the customer service was simply amazing.  My hour long massage flew by because I was chatting with my Spa angel who was an Island local. It was so good to chat with someone who has lived their whole life on Vancouver Island. The business model of sourcing and supporting everything local is well demonstrated throughout the Tigh-Na-Mara and Spa. The Grotto Spa features an amazing organic seaweed skin line made by an Island local.  The Tigh-Na-Mara gift shop is also loaded with local artisans, soaps and bath balms made by a local Sydney company, and candles from Granville Island. Even the art work on display throughout the Spa is locally crafted wood burl art and it’s a special detail that I noticed right away.

Back to our spa escape…. I enjoyed my 60 minute massage, then met Ray in the mineral pool where we spent the next 45 minutes de-toxing in the 2,500 square foot mineral pool, having fun moving between the ‘cool splash cascading waterfall’  and whirlpool in between mineral pool treatments. From there, still in our bath robes, we took the elevator up to the 3rd floor and enjoyed a bottle of wine and endless tapas at the Treetop Tapas & Grill. Our server Richard, was extremely friendly, efficient and knowledgeable about the 20+ different plates of tapas that were brought to our table (our favorites being the cod with shitakee mushroom and the prawn and scallop dish).  We managed to work our way through the entire menu…plus some, finished our bottle of wine, toasted our 10 years together, and mused about the old days as we held hands across the table. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate our anniversary, just the two of us…thank you “Grotto Spa”…we’ll be back.

When we got back to the bungalow, we were greeted with hugs and kisses and heard about the great time our kids had thanks to Leah and Kelly. The kids couldn’t wait to tell us about their evening. They ate pizza, read books, went on a nature walk and had fun at the playground…sounds like they had almost as much fun as we did. What a way to spend our final day in paradise. It couldn’t have gone better.

I also wanted to mention how Eco-minded the resort is. I can’t help but notice this aspect of a company and the Tigh-Na-Mara is leading the way in all regards. I’ve mentioned their local footprint, but they also offer guests recycling amenities, have greened up their off-site events ~ when dishes cannot be used they use earth-friendly tableware, they don’t use paper towels in the Spa or restaurant bathrooms (cloth towels are washed and reused) and green cleaning supplies for each cabin are on-route to the resort. There are also ‘protected’ arbutus trees that bend and reach into the beautiful Island skies ~ the resort is very respectful of even pruning these beautiful protected trees. End-to-end this resort has it all with family, child, and earth friendly services and attention to details that brought on the WOW factor to guests looking for a resort dedicated to keeping their guests happy and returning year after year.

Ray and I would like to thank all the great staff at the Tigh-Na-Mara resort for making our stay an extremely memorable and enjoyable one. We would especially like to thank Kelly, the marketing coordinator for all her special attention and commitment to ensuring that our stay was top notch. Mission accomplished Kelly.  We can’t wait to return next year – all 4 kids are already asking when are we going back!

Family rating – Parksville and Tigh-Na-Mara get a unanimous 12 thumbs up. 




Vacation Paradise ~ Tigh-Na-Mara

This article is starting the old fashioned way (pen to paper) – while I look across miles of sandy beach and crystal clear waters.  As I sit in a beach chair on a beautiful sunny day and write this article I am watching my children exploring tidal pools teaming with an abundance of magical sea life, running from one tidal pool to another, splashing and having the time of their lives.  I can’t help but think how lucky we are to be here.  Where are we, you ask? No we’re not in Mexico or Hawaii…we are in beautiful Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, such a magical place and just a short drive and ferry ride from our home.  In this day and age, with the economy and the environment being what it is, vacationing locally just makes sense.  Especially since we live near one of the most beautiful islands on the globe.

Recently voted 10th on a list of top 10 Islands in the world (wow!!) by Travel and Leisure, its’ easy to see why… Vancouver Island is spectacular. A great local, easy get-away for West Coasters and Pacific Northwesters and well worth the travel for families further away.   As for accommodations, we couldn’t have picked a better place for our family.  The Parksville resort Tigh-Na-Mara nestled between the forest and the ocean front in Parksville has elevated what will become an annual vacation for our family.   I’m proud to support a local vacation destination and love the pampering we’ve received.  How awesome to get the entire experience of a sea-side vacation and not have to worry about passports or boarding a plane.  The combination of the Tigh-Na-Mara’s family friendly activities, rustic cabins and award winning dining and spa services seems to have every aspect covered for families that want the combination of family time and adult pampering.

Since arriving here on Saturday, we have gone to a local farm where our children got to ride ponies, milked and then bottle fed that milk to baby goats. We have played mini-golf and gotten soaked on bumper boats equipped with water guns.   We spent an afternoon at the unique Coombs market and had a great lunch on an outdoor patio while goats walk around on the roof eating grass right above us.  The best part is that all this was within 15 minutes of the hotel!

While at the resort, parents are able to relax and watch kids play unscripted in nature with shovels, buckets and imagination in-hand. The perfect environment for families of all ages, but for our family, wonderful because of how safe you feel with young children.  Tigh-Na-Mara is located right at Rathtrevor Beach, where you can walk out into the ocean for a kilometer and still only be ankle deep, which makes it the perfect beach for families with young children.   When the tide goes out it leaves hundreds of tidal pools perfect for toddlers to splash in and big kids to boogie board.

I’ve always thought the concept of ‘kid’s clubs’ and babysitting services were only available on cruise lines or all inclusive resorts, but that is not the case.  Tigh-Na-Mara offers a wide variety of family and kid friendly activities during the summer including, swimming and tennis lessons, build your own bear workshops, Campfire stories, cave tours, dinner and movie for kids, qualified baby sitting services and the very impressive “Tigh-Na-Mara Kids Club” which offers a variety of games, arts and crafts and activities such as treasure hunts and beach tours.  The kids club is safe and supervised by several of the resort’s knowledgable and friendly staff who ensure that all the kids have a great time.  It runs all day and parents can drop off and pick up thier kids at thier convenience.  And did I mention that it is complimentary for hotel guests. Wow…that blew me away.

While the Tigh-Na-Mara keeps your children happy and engaged, high end adult amenities are on-site like the Cedar Dining Room, Copper Lounge, and Grotto Spa.  We have a spa package booked including the Grotto Mineral Pool, infused with natural minerals and elements to detoxify our weary bones <grin>.   Funny, the last time we treated ourselves to this sort of luxury was on our honeymoon in Antigua 10 years ago.  It’s been a busy couple of years creating our wonderful large family…so we are so looking forwards to the spa.  It’s so great to know that childcare is readily available so we can enjoy this time together.

When on vacation, the whole idea is family bonding, spending time concentrating on each other without outside distractions and we have definitely been able to do that. However, it is also important to give the kids some independence and make new friendships while taking some time to enjoy some time alone as a couple.   Ray and I will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary during our stay here and have already booked our spa time followed by a scrumptious meal at the “Treetop Tapas and Grill” which is exclusive to spa guests and where we will be dining in our bath robes.  Needless to say, we don’t do that type of stuff everyday.  The options offered at the Tigh-Na-Mara are truly the best of both worlds. 

We are just half way through our vacation and have three glorious days left.  I may just have to write another post when we get back home.

A sneak peek of the spa.  .  .  I’ve been in love since I saw this picture on the Tigh-Na-Mara’s web site.  This is the kind of natural beauty everyone needs to pamper themselves with occasionally. 


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