Spring is almost here and I’m excited not just because winter is coming to an end. I’m ready to put away my Christmas wreath and pull out the ceramic bunnies that will decorate my living room for the next month. Yes, Easter is coming soon! My shopping list ready for Easter-themed craft for the kids (paints, wax, eggs, yes, I’m that mom!), and on top of that list are as many chocolate eggs and bunnies as I can get away with without setting a bad example. In fact a few years ago when we lived in a condo building in downtown Calgary I found the kids were missing out on back yard fun but I still managed to organize an indoor Easter egg hunt. Not as fun or challenging as one outdoors would have been but it was the tradition that mattered.
Situated on the coolest corner in Gastown, Vancouver’s Chill Winston is a gem. With a menu full of shareables, veggies from the restaurant’s own farm plot in Tsawwassen, alternative proteins & wild meats that are organic, free run, antibiotic and hormone free, and ocean fare that is exclusively line caught and from sustainable stock, the only guilt you will have is from ordering more.
The first thing my kids do when checking into a new hotel (after saying hello to everyone in the lobby, fighting over who presses the inside button in the elevator and insisting on opening the door themselves) is jump on the beds. We not only do we have lift-off, but we have 150% approval for Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos, British Columbia.
Amenities range from fully equipped gourmet kitchens (the grocery and liquor stores are right next door) and washer and dryer in the suites, to poolside grilling stations for easy dinners (if you can pass up the restaurant.)
This Okanagan lakefront resort offers huge tapas plates in the Watermark Restaurant, wine tastings in the lobby, a waterslide in the outdoor pool, two hot tubs, yoga and pilates classes and the Illumination Spa and Salon.
If the kids tire of the waterslide (funny joke), the lake is adjacent to the property and features a three-sided dock to keep little ones safe yet allows the older ones to practice their cannonball form in deeper water. The Osoyoos Yacht Club is a short walk down the beach and we were able to hitch a catamaran ride and then test our salmon fishing skills, which were excellent incidentally. (Even though it was a banner year for salmon and the government actually increased the limits…).
When the boys and I were by the pool, we ordered to-die-for grilled cheese and homemade mac and cheese for lunch. I actually managed to tear them away from the waterslide for 6 minutes in order to eat!
For dinner, the family went to Watermark’s tapas-style restaurant run by terroir-inspired Chef Adair Scott. It also boasts it’s own wine label and to-die-for views.
They have made the small kitchen into an advantage by creating grilled dishes such as arctic char, chicken confit, local steaks and tapas-style fare (spicy prawns, tenderloin carpaccio or quinoa cauliflower salad, anyone?) presented artfully and cooked skillfully.
It really shouldn’t be called tapas. The dishes are huge – and you will want to finish it all. Much of the organic produce comes from Covert Farms, and the herbs are all grown a few feet away in the resort’s garden.
My son was transfixed one day watching a wedding underneath our balcony and it was all I could do not to ‘shhh’ loudly when he asked questions about the ceremony. There are learning opportunities even while on a beach vacation!
While in Osoyoos we made many a kid-friendly excursion, including the Miniature Train Museum and Rattlesnake Canyon Amusement Park – you can see our Osoyoos Top 10 list HERE). But one of the best ‘excursions’? Home Hardware. Just up the street from Watermark is an amusement park in itself. You will want to set aside about an hour. We picked up swim goggles, a cooler for the 75 pounds of salmon we were bringing home and garden décor.
From now on, Osoyoos will be on my summer hitlist – not only for the fresh salmon and organic fruit, but as an excuse to make memories with my family at Watermark Beach Resort.
Disclosure: Watermark Beach Resort has been awarded the Tripadvisor Hall of Fame for the past five years. We were hosted for a weekend and loved it so much we stayed an extra night. All opinions are my own.
We arrived and my son was crying. Hard. His precious toy camera had been left on the beach the day before and we just discovered it had been swept away by the tide. I was torn between trying to teach a lesson in responsibility and wanting to comfort him. Colin the bellman saw the tears and took over with ease. Grateful, I was so distracted with the trauma of the tears as well as the transferring of the luggage that I hardly remembered to apologize to the valet about the broken lego and stale Cheerios strewn about the car. Colin was phenomenal. He took a loonie (a tip from a previous guest) and gave it to my son. He engaged the 2 boys with a visual magic trick using the coin. He gave them each a coin to keep, which each boy still keeps in a special place. Wow. I wish I could nab Colin away from the hotel to calm the kids all the time!
Our next adventure on the ‘Kids in the City’ program was the kitchen tour. Both of the boys love to set up tea parties and make elaborate dishes for the stuffed animals.
We met Executive Chef Craig Dryhurst, who went over some culinary principles and helped the kids dip organic strawberries in chocolate and adorn them with even better accoutrements – like candied pineapple, white chocolate and berries. My Jr. Chefs were given ‘power cookies’ from chef Ned Bell, an avid cyclist with a keen interest in sustainability. I’m sure he was the force behind the huge urban cultivator in the kitchen that provides fresh microgreens like kale and watercress to patrons of Yew restaurant.
The room made me laugh in a great way. One son is used to my hotel shenanigans, filming and photographing before anyone is allowed to touch a thing. When I ‘released the hounds’ they both made for the soft beds, and jumped, exclaiming ‘This is first class Mom!!’
The Playzone was a favourite of the kids, and not only did we play together as a family, but I gently encouraged the boys to ask the concierge desk for various controllers by themselves. Typically shy, they overcame the emotion and practiced their manners. We played fussball, guitar hero, ping pong, air hockey, wii and genesis. There was a movie area suitable for toddlers to teens, as well as books and a nap nook.
Dinner at Yew is always an experience, but never so much as when your kids don suits and ties. Megan, our server, paid close attention to the needs of the boys, and the food was spectacular. The Moscow Mule (discovered via the iPad menu on the table) has become our signature drink at the Four Seasons Vancouver, and I am still attempting to replicate the salmon crab fishcake served with mango salsa that we devoured to begin. A fruit and bunny-shaped cheese plate delighted the boys. At every stage of the meal, they were treated as special guests. The kids had buttermilk fried chicken, fish and chips (translated into gourmet terms as Cloud 9 gluten-free crispy halibut, kennebec fries, lime caper and scallion dip). My dish was perhaps the most interesting and special. No vegan dish has ever tasted so good. The gemelli pasta was mixed with sambal roasted cashews, chili, herbs, and woodland mushrooms to produce a creamy, earthy treasure of a meal. We finished with a block of neapolitan homemade ice cream, a twist on 1960’s ice cream parlor culture.
Full and happy, we ignored the special critters left in room for story time and headed to the pool area. Part of ‘Kids in the City’, the patio area looked like a high-end carnival. White towels and bottled water sat on lounge chairs with red cushions and traditional red and white-striped popcorn was served to each guest while we watched ‘Despicable Me’ with popcorn in hand. The boys wore their ‘tiny robes’ with the hotel’s signature tree logo, feeling very special.
Lauren runs the childrens’ programs and mentioned that the pool and spa area design are advantageous to parents, who can work out while watching kids in pool.
She was running kids activities the next morning, assisting little ones in playing with water balloons, painting Canadian flags on smooth rocks and instructing kids at shuffleboard. We were leaving the area on completion of the crafts, and all of a sudden my son ran back. He had forgotten his rock like he had done with the camera just one day before.
Perhaps precious family bonding time, along with a few magic tricks and learning how to politely ask for contollers or dessert had taught a much better lesson than any scolding I could have done. The city can teach many lessons, especially with the Four Seasons at the helm.
‘Kids in the City’ runs each summer and during the winter holidays at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver.
Disclosure: We were hosted for a night at the hotel in order to complete our story and experience the magic.
Are you a mom? On the go? Ha! (Trick question!) Code Vitesse is a Canadian designer with the goal of giving women the freedom to do as they please while remaining comfortable, yet stylish in their clothing. It’s awfully hard to find stylish and flattering back to work fashion. These versatile pieces are easy to pair up or down, and can help a busy mother easily transition from a work function to her kid’s play date.
Wrinkle free, cling-resistant and flowy, the Code Vitesse pieces allow moms to look polished in seconds. Just don’t forget the lipgloss as you run out the door!
How important is water? Very. A lemonade stand to raise funds for water wells is fabulous, but there are still 1800 kids who die EVERY DAY due to the lack of clean water in their communities. A billion people around the world don’t have access to safe water. Even with access to medications, people often take their pills with toxic water – it’s the only option.
A lack of education means that some wells are dug only feet away from the spots where latrines are situated, causing even more harmful bacteria.
UrbanMommies had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Jason Priestley – actor, director and activist who travelled to the Dominican Republic and is working to promote the Children’s Safe Drinking Water program (CSDW). Since the program launched, it has succeeded in donating over 20 million days of clean drinking water to those in need, and we hope to reach our goal of 25 million days of clean drinking water by March 31, 2015.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference. Just 10 cents provides one P&G water purification packet that creates 10 liters of clean water. The packets are stirred into 10 litres of water and after ten minutes, the water can be strained through cloth (even a t-shirt works) and is safe to drink.
Just $1 gives a child clean water for 50 days.
$7.50 gives a child clean water for a year.
$30 gives a family clean water for a year.
Procter & Gamble and Walmart have partnered in a simple program to provide water to people in need. Every P&G product sold at Walmart Canada will provide 1 day of clean drinking water for a family. And these are the products you are buying anyway like Tide, Gillette, Bounce, Pantene and Tampax.
Here’s our exclusive interview with talented and kind Dad, Jason Priestley.
JP: I am a dad. 1600 children die every day. Its shocking to us who live in Canada where there in such an abundance of drinking water. This is a simple program that makes huge difference in people’s lives.
UM: I read your piece on your trip to the Dominican. When I travelled to Liberia with Right to Play I saw the need for clean water and also health education. How does Children’s Safe Drinking Water choose where to help? What about education?
JP: Kids can’t go to school half the time because they’re sick. There’s not enough education. We need to do something to break that cycle – water is one of the basic building blocks of society. Clean water makes people healthy and strong so they can get to school.
UM: You have 2 children – how to you teach them to be socially conscious?
JP: That’s one of the big challenges we all face. It’s difficult but I try to look at everything as a potential teachable moment. Scarcity and the importance of water is all around us – in California too. Water is a precious commodity. We talk a lot about the importance of helping others, not just giving people money but the tools they need to improve their lives. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Water is a tool. It restores people’s health and also their dignity, improving their lives and the strength of the community.
UM: How can Canadians help?
JP: This is such a simple program. Go to a Walmart store or walmart.ca and buy the household products you use every day. P & G takes care of donating. It’s a 1 for 1 swap. 1 product = 1 day of drinking water for a family.
So far they’ve given 21 Million days of safe drinking water to families in developing countries.
UM: How do they determine where to distribute the water purification packets?
JP: They work with not for profit agencies across the globe to determine need. Unsafe drinking water kills more kids every year than HIV, aids and malaria combined.
UM: I know I went through many life changes after visiting Liberia. What was your big take-away, as a dad, after travelling to the Dominican?
JP: I loved the children. Children are the same everywhere you go: happy, joyous, playful and beautiful. There kids playing in the dirt with a ball and stick are no different than my children. I felt the need to help them. They are innocent, joyous and pure and they deserve better. We can see what the future hold for these kids even when they can’t.
A billion people don’t have access to safe water. 1600 kids die every day.
You can learn more at Walmart.ca/cleanwater
Disclosure: I am a P&G Mom and was give then chance to interview Jason Priestley. I was not compensated for this article and all opinions are my own.
Leaving my airport hotel this morning, there was a sign that left me breathless. ‘It’s not only about the destination, but about the journey.’ As I approach a milestone year, this message hit me as a powerful explanation of the first 40 years of my life. Recently the family and I travelled to Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna, British Columbia. Their typical champagne powder is such a given that it is often taken for granted. I have a secret suspicion that in fact, the staff have so little worry about snow conditions that management have been able to use their extra time and passion to focus entirely on customer experience. Our room at Trapper’s Crossing included a loft with bunks for the kids and a private hot tub on the deck. The kitchens make a huge difference for families and the grocery store across the street is much better stocked than most resort stores. The moose stencilled on each wall and requisite wooden skis and snowshoes as part of the décor made the kids squeal in anticipation for our Big White weekend. Something miraculous and unexpected happened over the next few days. Ready to hit the hill with the new automatic RFID lift cards in hand, we started getting apologies from people… But it was a bluebird sun-filled day with a perfect temperature and a fabulous buzz in the Village Common Mall (VCM for hipsters). The VCM is like the Great Hall in a Harry Potter film – the nerve-centre of the resort where ski instructors grab their morning latte, phones get power from Telus charging stations and rental assistants never make you wait for equipment. With this vibe – why the apologies, I wondered. I soon found out that just before we arrived, a crazy mild spell hit the region. It was accompanied by torrential rain which washed away some of the fluffy powder. For the first time in decades, the slogan ‘It’s the Snow’ wasn’t fitting. Being somewhat familiar with the resort, I knew there were always hidden caches of great skiing but I was also interested to thoroughly explore the many other activities provided by the resort. After all – not everyone in the family always skis, and Big White offers so much more for the family than their snow. I should note that ‘family’ also includes four-footed ones, and they also offer the ‘Pet Pass‘ in exchange for a donation to the SPCA. My tiny novice snowboarders were not deterred in the slightest by the conditions. They whooped and hollered as my husband made a mental note to give their instructor an extra big tip after he had to pick up the 6 year-old over 200 times. We followed the kids on the hill, spying on them and trying to show off our style a bit too… We all met in the village for lunch and The Woods offers some of the best food and ambiance on the hill. A talented artist on staff has even hand-drawn a depiction of the restaurant and it’s on the back of the kids’ menu as a colouring page. In mid-afternoon, when the sun shines and guests are ready for après ski, huge drums with skis attached are slid onto a snowy patio out front and natural wood fires burn ‘til dusk as a DJ spins tunes that made me feel only half of my 40 years. In past trips to the resort, we have been challenged with climbing the 60 ft tall ice tower. (For me, ‘challenge’ is an understatement). What I hadn’t yet tried was the tube park. A tow rope drags you and the tube to the top and you are spit out of the trail like a ping pong ball. After instructing the attendants if you want spins or no spins (the boys always asked for 2,000 percent spin power), we whizzed down the icy tube run to be slowed by bunches of hay. My face could have cracked with the grins. Then the true magic happened. We would form a duo with one of the kids, holding hands as we laughed and squealed down the icy track. Memories for a lifetime. Near the tube park in Happy Valley is a bunny hill for beginners, snowmobiling (including two tiny ones for kids), horse and sleigh rides and of course, the huge outdoor skating rink complete with nets, sticks and pucks. After the activities we all hit the Loose Moose, where resort staff were holding a ‘Games Night’, teaching families how to play checkers and connect four, and being uber-generous with prizes. I have always believed that good parenting requires great balance, and the ad
ults of our family decided to experience the resort’s more mature offerings. Having no trouble finding an excellent babysitter, my husband went to Showshoe Sam’s to hone his pool skills while I hopped over to 6 Degrees Bistro for a tasting of wines and small plates. Owner John Mooney and his accomplished chef had prepared foie gras and local lamb to serve with an exceptional local pinot noir. I laughed happily when I realized Covert Farms was a supplier. Not only was the preparation and presentation at 6 Degrees more fitting of a New York City starred-establishment than a ski hill, but I found a kindred spirit in Mooney’s daughter, who has been volunteering with kids in Liberia. Though it has been two years since I travelled to Monrovia with Right to Play, we exchanged stories and smiles. After deciding that pool really wasn’t our game, my husband and I wandered into the VCM to check on the boys. It was carnival night, and rumour had it that Big White’s mascot, the Loose Moose, was to get a female partner in crime. The building was packed with bouncy castles, carnival games and cotton candy. Trying to high-five the boys, they were too busy throwing bean bags and getting prizes to pay much attention to mama. We headed around the corner to check out the newest watering hole and dining establishment called Sessions Taphouse. After a near $1MM renovation, this former ‘dive bar’ (they said it – I didn’t!) had been transformed into a restaurant and après ski paradise by day, and nightclub by night. What I entirely didn’t expect was the cuisine. On our next visit for lunch a day later, the cheesy bacon balls were devoured by the boys a la Homer Simpson, and every single dish we tried during the three visits during the trip were perfection. Early Monday morning my husband rose early for the shuttle to Kelowna airport so as not to miss his day at work, and the boys and I were feeling the stale negativity that comes when leaving a beloved place. Given that it was the final week of school before the holidays, I didn’t think they would miss much if we extended the stay. Central Reservations was brilliant and helped us so much. While I was chatting with the desk, the two boys were playing in a festive section of the room, donning elf hats and playing with a stuffed Rudolph. On a table there was a microphone – a toy that apparently ‘called an operator’ in the north pole. The eight year old, doubting the existence of Santa, pressed the button. An operator connected him to Mrs. Claus. His eyes wide, she asked him what she and Santa should do for a special date night. My son answered that they should snowboard like he was doing at Big White Resort. Mrs. Claus got very excited by the idea, commenting that she would tell Santa that he had suggested it. My son was in a dream-like state. He has never believed in goodness and magic so strongly. So as we still received numerous apologies about the snow, we left Big White with life lessons, felt closer as a family and had tried new challenges. Though the champagne powder is the typical feather in Big White’s cap, it’s not nearly the only reason to pick this resort destination. Our journey experiencing the plethora of activities offered for everyone in the family reminded me never to focus on the end game. It’s cherishing every second of the journey that’s important. And now I’m 40 so that’s true wisdom talking. Addendum: After our family left the resort had 45 cm of fresh snow. The base is now at 183 cm with a cumulative snowfall of 360cm.
Disclosure: UrbanMommies was provided with accommodation and passes for the purposes of crafting this story.
Leave the rainy, cold, damp weather behind! We’ve been told that Emirates is offering more than ever for families travelling with youngsters. They actually carried over two million children last year.
Though you should always bring a few things to keep the kids occupied on an airplane, Emirates offers extra special treats for the mini-fliers. Even before departure, complimentary baby strollers and changing tables are available within Emirates’ dedicated Terminal 3 in Toronto and there are play areas equipped toys within Emirates’ exclusive lounges. Priority boarding is provided to families with young children.
But it’s on board when the real fun starts. The dedicated children’s channels on the popular ice entertainment system brings an array of cartoons, interactive games, podcasts and CDs.
There are currently more than 60 children’s movies on ice, including the entire Harry Potter series, a whole section dedicated to Disney Classics, plus over 20 dedicated children’s television channels including CBeebies, Disney Junior, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. The young ones can also immerse themselves in hours of the very best music, such as One Direction, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.
On board, young ones can meet AirBoe and Oggie, amongst the new cuddly monsters and explore activity-filled backpacks, all provided on a complimentary basis. Aircraft also carry kids’ favourite meals, as well as vegetarian options.
“We go to great lengths to entertain and occupy children with products and services that are constantly being updated and enhanced,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, Centre. “ We know keeping the young ones happy is a key part of ensuring a smooth and enjoyable travelling experience for the whole family so investment in this area is very important.”
Emirates recognizes that loyalty is essential amongst its younger customers too so children even have their own frequent flyer program called Skysurfers. Miles can be exchanged for free flights, toys, books and entry to attractions in Dubai.
Children can also watch the Airshow channel to see a pilot’s view of take-off and landing.
Emirates Holidays, meanwhile, is well equipped to deal with families with specially-tailored packages. Many of the hotels available through Emirates Holidays offer kids’ and teens’ clubs.
Perks for kids travelling with Emirates:
- Meals for children (two to 12 years) and babies are available
- Exclusive children’s magazine called Fly With Me Monster – My Monster Magazine
- Brightly coloured children’s headsets
- Wide range of children’s movies, TV and interactive games on ice
- Quiksilver wallets, travel journals, backpacks, cooler bags, storybooks and eye masks
- Priority boarding and a complimentary stroller service at Dubai International airport
- Children’s facilities in the airport lounges
- Skysurfers membership with Emirates Skywards
*As per ticketing rules on emirates.com a child is defined as a passenger between 2-11 years of age.
The weather becomes crisp and you’ve finally finished filling out mounds of paperwork for kids’ activities and school. Photos are done, pumpkins composted and you sit down for a steaming cup of orange pekoe when it hits – you need a holiday. But with the bustle of December looming, a holiday will have to wait. Panic rises from somewhere in your belly that you haven’t exercised in a while and deep breaths don’t seem to impact a racing mind that is compiling to-do lists faster than a room full of monkeys can type.
Calm yourself. This year it will be different. You’ve got a secret weapon that constantly reminds you of travel to come. This holiday season my family is using our five tips for maximizing your AIR MILES so that we can get away together in 2015.
This year I plan to do my usual over-the-top holiday décor – three themed spruce trees, a minimum of 5 holiday squares and cookies at the ready and way too many vegetables at Christmas dinner. The light at the end of the tunnel for me is always travel, and the collection of AIR MILES for my family helps facilitate our trips – either by using our reward miles for flights, or helping the budget by getting cash redemptions at AIR MILES Cash Sponsors.
My mantra? More travel = more educational opportunities. More savings = less stress!
1. Check the fliers at your local grocery store that issues AIR MILES on purchases. Better yet? Get on their email list so that you always know when you can earn bonus miles on the items you have to buy.
2. Ensure your spouse and any other family member who wants to help the cause have a duplicate AIR MILES card in their wallet. Sponsors always ask if you are a Collector, so you won’t miss any chance to accumulate miles! Our whole family uses the same account for flexibility and ease.
3. Use an American Express AIR MILES Credit Card alongside your AIR MILES Collector Card at Sponsors to earn double the miles. Earning twice is always much more nice.
4. Use that same credit card to earn rewards miles on all of your everyday purchases. I use the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Card to earn one mile for every $10 I spend at AIR MILES Sponsors but I also earn one mile for every $10 spent at other eligible stand-alone grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada and one mile for every $15 spent everywhere else.
5. The AIR MILES website is full of special offers and promotions. When you need to rent a car, do the things that keep every family afloat on a weekly basis, be sure to check the bonus offers, as you can accumulate hundreds of bonus AIR MILES by being a savvy shopper.
American Express is currently hosting their #MoreAIRMILES contest to let AIR MILES members answer the question, “What would you do with more AIR MILES?”. Once answered, you’re entered into a draw for a weekly prize. Invite a friend and each one who participates in the contest lands you an additional entry.
Remember: AIR MILES + Amex = MoreAirMiles and You + Daily Entries + Your Friends = More chances to win! Check out the contest here.
Are you ready to dream? To save? To eliminate holiday stress? I’d love to hear about the holiday that your family is working toward throughout this holiday season! Bon voyage!
This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.
Gene Covert is a pretty cool guy. But he has to be. His mother is still a pilot, and the 1952 Mercury truck that she decided to learn how to rebuild is still the touring vehicle for the farm. Not only does the farm started by his father specialize in organic growing, but they grow grapes for Peller Estates wines, house a summer freestyle ski training jump for the Apex Mountain freestyle team, produce organic wine and have the biggest puffy trampoline thingy and plastic rolling apparatus for kids I’ve ever seen. Oh, and his wife homeschools. So I pretty much can’t even begin to feel worthy.
With a grumpy 6 year old who was instantly charmed by Gene, we began our tour of Covert Farms, nestled beside McIntryre Bluff which separates the north and south Okanagan. It took us all a while to get over the beauty of the truck and I admit that I took more photos of it than I did the farm for quite some time. Seeing grape varietals, feeding organic corn to cows and having a ‘snack break’ at an organic fruit mecca was incredible. But discussing vinticulture, sustainability and permaculture with Gene? Priceless. I spoke of my experiences as a McDonald’s All- Access Mom while touring cattle and potato farms. We talked at length about canning and preserves (yes. I did buy 90 pounds of organic tomatoes which have now been transformed into tomato sauce). The harvest season is the perfect time to go organic at Covert Farms, Osoyoos BC.
Feeling entirely comfortable, the kids asked questions and made observations. We were all sad when we had to get out of the truck. But it was then that the kids noticed the huge bubble-trampoline, and the adults sampled wines with local cheese and charcuterie. At which point we may have purchased a case of wine.
Not only will the Covert family be added to my Christmas list, but an end-of-summer visit is in the cards for our family for many years to come.
Disclosure: Our family was given a tour of the farm and a wine tasting for the purposes of this story.