Mardi Gras is an exciting celebration, known around the world for its colourful parade floats and beads thrown into the crowd. This exciting event is a great time to experience the personality and culture of vibrant New Orleans, held every February. The colourful masques, costumes and parade floats are only one of the reasons to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras. It’s a once in a lifetime trip, and to make it happen for 2017, you need to start planning now!
A family games night always thrills my kids, and after a busy start to the school year, I decided to surprise the boys with just that.
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.
I’ve had the experience of traveling to the French leeward island of St. Barth, located 35 miles south of St. Martin in the Carribean. I’ve never been the same since. The white sand on 22 beaches with shallow reefs coupled with the 2,500 acres of marine reserve make this a pretty special place. For a family vacation, we’d advise looking into a villa. At 2-4 bedrooms, sharing with extended family or a group of friends is a fabulous way to experience ‘les Anses’.
Sibarth represents the best villas on St. Barth and has created a collection of villas that are perfect for a family vacation. Despite its jetset reputation, St. Barth is a perfect family destination with calm beaches, casual beach-side restaurants, and water sports such as snorkeling and paddle boarding. But the jetset reputation also doesn’t hurt. Nor do the Parisian influences. Bon Voyage!
February is my least-favourite month. And not just because the only time I was ever dumped was on Valentine’s Day. Daft cow. Anyway, holiday bills are still flowing in and the Canadian and US governments are all talking about budgets and fiscal responsibility. Ugh. But where finances and family budgeting used to be considered ‘I wish I were an ostrich’ words, Sandra Hanna, co-founder and CEO of Smart Cookies has turned me around. In sharing her top 10 tips for saving money, she suggests throwing out the term ‘budget’ (too much pressure) and finding hidden ways to save money – making it into a game. She had so many tips I couldn’t write them fast enough. I was so inspired and challenged to take charge of my finances.
A Smart Cookie’s Tips on How to Save Money
1. Sell things you don’t need. Along the ‘game’ lines, we’ve had a blast taking photos of items and being creative with descriptions. Taking interesting photos and using terms like “Pottery barn-style dresser” and “shabby chic” can get an item sold quickly.
2. Instead of heading to the store constantly, save time and money by using food you already have. Supercook.com and Myfridgefood.com will give you recipes with items that you have on hand (and may be craving…) The recipes they suggest may also get you out of a rut and help your kids to expand their culinary horizons.
3. Cardswap.ca is a gift card swap so that you can mail in a card you’ll never use and replace it with either cash or a card you need. While Aunt Betty was kind in giving you a giftcard for a movie, the extra dinner and childcare costs make it not so budget-friendly. Swap it for something like a new slowcooker – and save even more on comfort food.
4. Search for the hidden money in your household. This can be a fun one for children too. Turning off lights, using Tide Coldwater to save on hot water bills and making a fire instead of turning up the heat can be fun as well as rewarding. PGeveryday.ca is a great resource for coupons on products you use all the time and the PG Brand Sampler allows you to be sent free products to try.
5. Hair schools provide a great inexpensive alternative to pricy salons.
6. Rent, don’t buy expensive clothes. If you live in the US, Rent the Runway. Enter your zip code, size and event date up to 6 months in advance and our calendar will help find available dresses and accessories. You can book rentals for a 4 or 8 day period. In Canada? Rent Frock Repeat. They send you 2 sizes to ensure a good fit.
7. Choose your apps wisely. Purchasing apps can be fun – .99 cents here, $2.99 there. It can add up. Buy when they are free or on sale – with Freeappaday.com and Appminer.com and make sure you try the free versions first to ensure you will actually use them.
8. Apps like www.groceryzen.com allow you to eliminate impulse grocery buys by organizing your grocery list aisle by aisle. (And you won’t forget the milk).
9. Control your own Entertainment: Vimeo lets you live stream your apple TV and curate your own content.
10. Save your time (and money) by never waiting on hold with Gethuman.com
One of the key changes I have made is registering for Mint.com, an app and website that tracks my bank accounts, credit cards and budgets. (Why, exactly did I think $50/month was adequate for clothes? Funny joke..) It takes a bit of investigation to realize that your information and passwords are secure, but once you make the leap, you will never be in the dark about your spending patterns.
Sandra’s other inspiration? Respect moms. Whether you work outside the home or focus on saving money inside the home (or both), Moms are a very powerful bunch in the financial and budgeting world.
Jill Amery was given the opportunity to interview Sandra Hanna as part of the #PGMom program through Proctor and Gamble. As always, her opinions are her own.
Breast Cancer. The unthinkable has happened. You want to scream, cry and prey that the doctor was wrong. But before the shock, sadness and anger has even a chance to register, your mind has already gone somewhere else: what are you going to tell your children?
Let’s face it, we don’t want to hurt or upset our loved ones. Breaking the news about a breast cancer diagnosis may be more difficult than actually hearing the news from your doctor. You may feel concerned about upsetting your family and friends and worried about how they will react. Even worse, you may be afraid that you won’t be able to answer their questions.
Before approaching the topic with your family, it’s important to remember that you are in control of the conversation. This means that you can decide how much information you may wish to share. The content and the tone of the conversation are entirely up to you and may be shaped depending on whether you are talking to a younger or older child or both at the same time.
Talking to A Young Child
As the parent (or grandparent) of a young child (ages 3 to 9) you might feel that the best thing is to shield the child from the facts. Truthfully? You may be causing more harm than protecting your little person. Even very young children can sense when family members seem stressed or anxious, or when usual routines are disrupted. They will notice changes in your appearance and your energy level, and they will know that you are spending time at the hospital. In two words: THEY KNOW that something is wrong. If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to know what’s going on? Wouldn’t you want the person (or persons) you trust the most to explain the changes that may occur in your life?
Although young children do not need detailed information, they do need honesty and reassurance from you as well as from their other caregivers. Without any direct explanation from you, children may imagine a situation that is actually much worse than what will really occur. Being honest with your child builds a sense of trust that will be helpful in facing not only this situation, but also other challenges that life inevitably brings.
- Plan out the conversation in advance. Decide what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. This will give you a framework for the conversation. Involve your partner or another adult the children trust if you think their presence will be helpful.
- Use direct, simple language to define what cancer is, where it is in your body, and how it will be treated. Experts agree that naming the illness is important — “cancer” should not be a forbidden word. Even very young children can grasp simple explanations of what cells are and how they sometimes don’t “follow the rules” and grow as they should. You might also explain that the doctor has to remove all or part of your breast where the cancer is, and then use special strong medicines make sure the cancer is all gone from your body. A doll or stuffed animal could be a useful visual aid.
- Make sure children know that the cancer isn’t their fault and they cannot “catch” it. Young children may worry that the situation is their fault or that they did something to cause the cancer. Also, children tend to associate sickness with catching colds or sharing germs. Be sure to explain that no one can catch cancer from someone else.
- Tell children how treatment for cancer will affect you. Prepare them for the physical side effects of treatment, such as losing a breast, hair loss due to chemotherapy, or feeling sick or tired at times. You might explain that the medicines for cancer are powerful, and that side effects show that the medicines are hard at work inside your body. Tell children that you might feel sad, angry, or tired, but that these feelings are not their fault and are normal. Always alert them when you will need to be away from home: in the hospital or at the doctor’s office.
- Reassure children that their needs will be met. Experts agree that young children need reassurance and consistent routines in times of crisis. Let your children know that you may not always be available to take them to school and special activities, play with them, or prepare their meals. Hugging, lifting, and bathing them may be off-limits for a while, too. Tell them about the trusted friends, relatives, or other care providers who will be helping out until you feel strong again.
- Keep usual limits in place. When there is an air of uncertainty around the house, it can be tempting to let children have more treats, watch more TV, play more computer games, or buy more toys. However, maintaining the same sense of structure you always have is likely to reassure your children more than giving them special privileges or treats. Keep their usual routines as consistent as possible.
- Invite children to ask questions and learn more. Let children know that you will answer any questions they may have. If your children are old enough, you might consider bringing them to one of your doctor’s appointments or allowing a visit during treatment. This can help to take away some of the mystery surrounding cancer and its treatment.
- Let children know you will still make time for them. Carve out a special time in the day just for them. Simple activities like reading a book or watching a movie can help them know that you are still there for them, even when you’re tired or not feeling well.
- Set a positive, optimistic tone without making promises. Even if you are sad or frightened, try to project a positive tone during your conversations with young children. Children may feel overwhelmed if you seem overly anxious or emotional. Make sure they know that your doctors and nurses are doing all they can for you and that most people with breast cancer do get better. Reassure them without making definite promises about the future.
- Let teachers, school counselors, coaches, and other caregivers know what is going on. Other trusted adults who spend time with your child need to know about the diagnosis. Changes at home often cause changes in children’s behavior in other settings. These adults can help you know how your child is doing, and they can become a source of additional care and support.
Talking To An Older Child
Older children can be just as vulnerable and scared as smaller children but they may not show it. In fact, their reaction may be more intense because older children are likely to be more aware of the seriousness of the disease than younger children. While much of the advice for talking to young children also applies to children in middle school and high school (ages 10 to 18), older children actually have additional needs. Most importantly, be sure to talk with your older child and not at her. She needs to feel that she is part of the conversation.
- Be truthful about your diagnosis and course of treatment. Shielding children from the hard facts can harm their sense of trust in you. Even though you do not want to worry them, you need to let them know what is happening to you.
- Schedule regular family meetings or other discussion times. Older children can be involved in talks about how family activities and responsibilities might change while you are undergoing treatment. You may need to ask them to handle more household tasks than they normally do. A family meeting gives everyone a chance to have a voice in the changes that are taking place.
- Anticipate children’s questions about the future. Older children are likely to have heard that people can die of cancer. It is natural for them to be afraid that you could die and to wonder what will happen to them. Make sure your children know that most people with breast cancer do get better and live long, healthy lives. Reassure them that, no matter what happens, their needs will be met by the adults in their lives.
- Anticipate children’s questions about their own health. Your children may fear that, since you have cancer, they may get it too. This is an especially common fear among teenaged daughters of mothers with breast cancer. Even if breast cancer does not seem to run in your family, breast cancer still happens to 1 in 8 women in the United States during the course of their lifetimes. Therefore, it’s a good idea to bring up the issue at your daughter’s next doctor’s appointment. Talk to the doctor together about some steps your daughter can take now — such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking or using alcohol — to help lower the risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
- Give children permission to keep up with school and social activities. Even though older children and teens can take on more responsibility at home, they are still children. Let them know that they should continue focusing on their schoolwork, other activities, and time with friends. Children need to maintain that sense of normalcy, but they might only do so if you let them know it’s what you want.
- Realize that older children may express feelings that seem inappropriate, such as embarrassment or anger. Preteens and teens may express emotions that seem unkind or even completely out of line. They may be embarrassed by changes in your appearance, such as hair loss or weight loss and avoid going out with you or bringing friends home. They may be angry about the ways that your illness limits them and their activities. Although their reactions may upset you, remember that teens are at a time in their lives when they value appearances and their growing sense of independence. If you’re able to show acceptance of your own appearance, you can set a healthy example for your child.
- Connect them with books and other resources. Talking about cancer can be hard, even in families where communication is strong. You may want to look for books or other publications written especially for young people who have parents with cancer. Your child also may find it helpful to confide in an adult outside the immediate family, such as another relative, close friend, or even a professional counselor. Reach out to relatives and friends and ask them if they can be available.
Great books about how to discuss cancer with your children
Thank goodness I have friends with older girls. If not I wouldn’t have known about One Direction. And when I met Emma, a resident of the Ronald McDonald House Vancouver, I wouldn’t have been able to connect nearly as well. I always end up at RMH around the Christmas season. Last year the boys and I delivered new unwrapped toys and my kids refused to leave for 2 hours after having an extraordinary time playing with the other children.
This year, I was drawing on mugs to wrap for the house so that families would have something handcrafted, homey and festive for the holidays. And wow. Totally appropriate! These parents devour coffee. Of course they do. Many don’t sleep much between their childrens’ treatments, and with going to the hospital and giving attention and education to siblings also living in the house, there’s not much free time. I, too, am a coffee addict (with apparently no good excuse) and jumped at the chance to try the new McCafe take-home coffee at this event. Little did I know I’d be transformed by positive, loving children at the same time.
A new arrival from Powell River was among the most polite boys I have ever met. “Please”, “thank you”, smiles and an artistic talent that made me stare. He was wearing a Ronald McDonald House shirt and decided to draw the logo on his mug. (I drew a bunch of sunshines and happy stuff as it was the only way my heart wouldn’t break – especially when I made eye contact with the other moms there.) If I could have purchased his mug, I would have. He was so proud. With shining eyes and meticulous wrapping, he joined me by the Christmas tree for a photo. One little girl took her place snuggled under the tree. Yes – she was definitely a gift. Cute as a button I think the expression goes.
I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to teach a dance class. Cook a meal for the families. Lead the kids in a theatre sports game. The experience just solidified my affinity with the charity and I know I will be back shortly. There is so much good that we can all do and when I visited the house in London, Ontario I realized what families with severely ill children might need. You can always drop the following to your local RMH. (There are 317 houses in 31 countries throughout the world and in 2011 , there were 513 families served worldwide.).
– Tupperware to transport leftovers to the hospital so parents don’t have to leave the bedside of their children
– Toys for Christmas and the holidays – often parents cannot get away to shop – even for siblings staying at the houses.
– A hot meal for the house (you can book a date, buy groceries and cook)
– Volunteer to teach a yoga class, fitness training, do a craft or share one of your talents.
– Drop off some treats or baked goods for families to enjoy between hospital visits (label the ingredients).
– And then there’s coffee… but now that McDonald’s has launched it’s McCafe Premium Roast take home coffee, the need will be much less great.
I was so happy to learn that McDonald’s supplies so much (besides the beds and positive atmosphere for families in need) to the houses. Even suppliers and staff run frequent dinner-cooking nights. Pretty cool. And seriously? After meeting the happy kids and being with the parents? No better place on earth. Unless you’re not a visitor. As volunteers at the houses say “It’s the best place ever that you hope you never have to stay in.”
Feeding a family can get pretty expensive. If you’re not a great menu planner, here are a few ideas of healthful dinners that won’t break the bank. If you have other cheap dinner ideas to add, please give us suggestions in the comments!
1. A Baked Potato Bar if a great interactive family affair. Each person can choose toppings, including sour cream, chives, bacon, cheese, chili, and baked beans.
2. Pancit is a traditional Filipino dish that helps extend meat portions with the use of noodles and vegetables.
3. Homemade Pizza is fun to make as a team and if you don’t want to make the dough, there are loads of ready-made pizza shells on the market. Spread pizza sauce on the shells and let your little chefs become ‘pizza doctors’.
4. Fish tacos using grilled frozen basa filets are healthy and economical. Much like the baked potto bar, each family member can choose how to assemble their taco. Tomatoes, salsa, cheese, greens and sauces all add spice and depth of flavor (as well as extending the more expensive fish part of the meal)
5. Puff pastry filled with bean/lentil salad is nutritious and great for the family budget.
6. French onion soup isn’t difficult to make. We cook the onions for over an hour in olive oil with a piece of waxed paper covering them at the bottom of the saucepan. Add beef stock, some stale French bread round s and grated cheese. Voila.
7. Crepes filled with hotdogs and tomato sauce for the kids and something a little more interesting for you are great to have on hand.
8. Turkey a la king is simple and extends your holiday dinner leftovers. Served with egg noodles it is a budget-friendly option.
9. Spaghetti bolognaise (make the sauce in bulk when ground beef is on sale and freeze in portions.)
10. Pulled pork sliders – do it in the crock pot for an easy and tasty meal.