Stanley’s Christmas Village in Ottawa

There’s a new Christmas attraction in Ottawa this year and my family were lucky enough to be invited to the inaugural run. It’s called the Stanley’s Christmas Village and is held at Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm.

The Stanley Family has decided to open up a Christmas Village this year, in hopes of bringing a little more Christmas Joy to families across the city. There’s a twist to this village that makes it different from a few of the others out there. Owner, Earl Stanley, told me that it was his vision to focus more on the behind the scenes work of the Elves.

That’s why Stanley’s Christmas Village takes you, by magical horse drawn ride through the forest to an enchanted Elf Outpost. The whole tour is run by Elves, who sang songs, played games & were happy to pose for pictures with the kids (and the grown ups too)!

The night was very fun for our kids, as the Elf Village was decked out with Christmas lights and Elf Houses. They had The Wrapping Warehouse, Herme’s Dental Office, Candy Cane Daycare, The Reindeer Stables, Curby the Post Truck and my kids’ favourite, The C.E.O Station, which is in charge of gathering all of the local mail for Santa and transporting it, using the latest RIM (Reindeer In Motion) Technology to the North Pole Head Office.

Our family had a great time and the kids especially had fun. The best part is that the Stanley’s are collecting used toys to donate to the Salvation Army, so when you stop by, be sure to bring some along. It’s the first year for the Christmas Village, so there are some kinks to be expected, but overall I would recommend taking the trip out to Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm so your kids can enjoy the Elf Outpost.

Visits are by reservation only, so be sure to Visit The Stanley’s Website to book your time! Just watch out for that pesky Grinch!

Cheers!

Holiday Gifts For Dad

There are so many lists out there about, “What to get Dad for Christmas”, that were not written by Dad’s, that I thought it would be fun to put together my own list. I polled all the Dad’s I knew and added my own input, to come up with a can’t miss list of things that Dads are looking for this Christmas!

Instead of posting the list here, where it would be seen by a mix of Moms and Dads, I was asked by Candace over at Life In Pleasantville if I would share the list with her readers, and I couldn’t have been more excited to!

Without further ado, here is my list of the Top Ten Christmas Gifts for Dad, this holiday season! And yes, Call of Duty made the list, haha!

Cheers!

I’m Gonna Wreck It! @WreckItRalph #Disney

My son and I were fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at the new Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. I have to admit, as excited as my son was after seeing his beloved, Bowser, in the trailers; his Daddy was even more excited to see all his favourite childhood characters!

From Sonic, Ken, Ryu and Zangief to Pac-Man and the Root Beer Tapper, Wreck-It Ralph took me on a wild ride through my video gaming years. I had really pumped myself up for this movie, so a little disappointment was definitely anticipated. I’m happy to report that this movie was so well made, I had a hard time picking out any flaws.

The story follows Wreck-It Ralph (John C Reilly), a video game bad guy who is tired of getting no recognition for his role in the game, Fix-It Felix JR. He sets out to win a good guy medal, by jumping into a couple of different games to try his hand at being good. The movie really gets fun when he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who is an obnoxious little girl from the game Sugar Rush.

This movie has a little bit of something for everybody and I highly recommend it for the whole family. If you have ever played a video game, you will recognize at least one character in this movie and relive the glory days of when you could finish one level without asking your kid for help.

The only thing I will mention, is that there are a couple scary parts involving some radioactive bugs. Both 4 year old’s we went with mentioned that they were a little freaked out at those parts, but for the most part, the rest of the movie is fun and light.

The creativity that went into this movie is second to none and everything is very well explained. I always appreciate when I’m not left scratching my head at the end of a kids movie and this one delivered, big time! If I had to rank it among my recent favourites, I’d put it somewhere between Toy Story/Cars and Brave/Tangled.

Thanks so much to Disney for allowing us to experience this movie! For more information on Wreck-It Ralph, please visit the Official Movie Site; or you can visit the Disney Facebook Page!

Our First Family Photo Shoot! With The Talented Erin Petruska

After 4 years of raising kids and snapping 1000’s of iPhone pictures, my wife and I decided to finally get some profession family pictures done. We were lucky enough to meet our photographer, Erin Petruska, while at a local charity event and she impressed us right away! We got to talking and very quickly set up our appointment.

Unfortunately for Erin, we had to reschedule about 13 times because of various kid illnesses and weather, but we finally got together for our big day and it certainly did not disappoint. I was a little worried about how Erin would view us after having to cancel so many times but she couldn’t have been more awesome, especially with the kids. When she started off the session by spending some time getting the kids to be comfortable with her and her camera, I knew we had chosen the right person for the job.

One of the reasons I hadn’t wanted to get family photos done, is that I had a preconceived notion that we would have to do all the work in scouting and planning poses for them. It’s not that I’m lazy; I’m just terrible at that part of it. Okay, and a little lazy… To my pleasant surprise, we told Erin where we wanted to have the shots done and when we arrived, she had a complete plan in place for the whole area, along with all the different poses she was looking for.

That’s not to say she wasn’t open to input because she asked us at each location if we wanted other shots and I appreciated that greatly! It’s tough to balance being friendly and professional at the same time but she did it seamlessly and we were completely comfortable the entire shoot.

I’m not even sure what else to say. She was exactly what we were looking for in a photographer. Kind, Professional, Great with kids and she emailed some photos immediately to us and delivered our CD very quickly after the shoot. If you are looking for all of those things (of course you are) than I very, very highly recommend Erin Petruska for your next family shoot.

For more information about Erin Petruska Photography, you can visit Erin’s Website Here! Also, if you feel like connecting with her online, you can reach her on Twitter and also on Facebook. Honestly, this was an amazing experience for our family and we are very grateful to have met Erin in our travels. Thank You, Erin, for all your great work!

Now on to some of my favourite shots!

**Photo shoot was provided in exchange for a review of services. All opinions are my own. I truly enjoyed this experience and hope you will give Erin a shot. Just look at those photos!**

I Saw A Million Faces; Well, You Know The Rest! #BlissDomCA

Where do you even start in formulating a proper recap of the weekend that was Blissdom Canada? I could write about all the great people I met, but listing only a few would be unfair and listing them all would be way too much! I want to write about the experience but speaking about the experience would pay it far more justice. That way, you could see my smile and my arms flailing wildly as I describe each session, interaction and excursion.

That still brings me back to my original question, “How do I accurately describe my time at Blissdom Canada?”

I guess I’ll start from the top. Being of the male persuasion, the thought of heading to a 500 person conference, where the ratio of women to men is 490:10, was a little overwhelming. Nightmarish thoughts of walking into the room and everyone glaring at me with disapproving eyes, filled my head in the days leading up to the event.

Once I arrived on site, it took about 30 seconds for those fears to disappear. That’s because 30 seconds is all it took for me to get my first warm welcome. The next one came at 45 seconds; and then at 60 seconds, it happened again. In fact, every single interaction I had the entire weekend was positive and welcoming.

Not one time did I feel out of place, as a blogger or as a man. I got nervous; and anxious; and overwhelmed at times, but that wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own. It’s a lot easier to say you’re going to go up to someone you idolize, than it is to actually do it. I was lucky to have some people watching out for me and making sure that I felt included in the fun and for that I am eternally grateful.

I went to Blissdom Canada to learn how to become a better blogger but I left with so much more than that. I left with a sense of belonging. I left with great connections. I left with a new found confidence in my abilities as a writer. Most importantly, I left with new friends. Not “friends” in the Facebook sense either, but real friends who are willing to help you when you have questions and who genuinely want to see you do well, as I do for them.

I could write a book about how fulfilling this conference was. I won’t, but I could! I sang, I learned, I laughed, I cried (Let’s not get into that, I am a man after all and I was watching a family video), I gangnam styled, I interpretive danced (see above), I connected, At Blissdom Canada, I saw a million faces…

And I rocked them all!

Thank you so much to the organizers, community leaders, sponsors and attendees. You made this experience one I will never forget and I am going to make it my goal to let the other male bloggers know that this is a conference that will accept them for who they are and not judge them based on their gender.

I’d also like to say a special Thank You to my wife, who was nothing but supportive of my time away and never made me feel like I was doing something wrong by being there. She is a great woman and my family is incredibly lucky to have her!

Cheers!

Oh yeah, I also got to spend an afternoon with Canadian Family Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief, Jennifer Reynolds. It was incredibly rewarding!

What Can The @PTPA Seal of Approval Do For Your Brand?

I learned of the Parent Tested Parent Approved “Seal of Approval” long before I began my blogging journey. In fact, the first time I saw it was on a PlaSmart toy I purchased for the kids, that they loved!

Ever since that day, I have purchased a number of other products from PTPA Winners. From companies like Norton and Indigo to PlaSmart and Vtech, I always check for the seal when I’m out shopping for my family.

The reason I do this, is because I know that the products with the PTPA Seal have all been tested and approved by the people that matter most, the consumers. That’s right; every PTPA winner goes through a number of tests from Moms, Dads and Kids, before they submit a final review.

As a brand owner, there is no better feeling than knowing that your customers not only approve of your product, but that you can proudly show that Seal of Approval right on your packaging. Here are some of the other benefits of submitting your product or service to the PTPA for Approval:

• Brands receive objective reviews from volunteer parent testers

• PTPA’s mission is to be a liaison for the Brands and the parents – providing each access and a voice to share and engage with one     another

• PTPA provides access to all of the completed evaluations providing invaluable market research

• PTPA has 60,000 volunteer parent testers across North America

• PTPA is the only Seal that awarded based 100% on the parents evaluations

• Earning the Seal of Approval gives Brands credibility and a voice to communicate with their target market

• The PTPA Seal of Approval is one of the most publicized and recognized seal in the family consumer market

• Award winners receive direct access to their target market through a variety of innovative marketing initiatives

• No risk guarantee – companies who do not earn the Seal of Approval do not receive any negative attention and are refunded for their submission

• Founder and CEO Sharon Vinderine has been featured on over 55 morning shows including The Rachael Ray show

If you’re not convinced yet, please take a trip over to the PTPA’s website and poke around at all they have to offer and you’ll also find an impressive list of some of their clients. You can even register your product for award testing on that site.

Also, feel free to stop into one of the many social media channels the PTPA has to offer. Their Facebook page is filled with great information, testing opportunities and contests. Furthermore, you can follow them on Twitter @PTPA and watch how committed they are to promoting your brand through all of their amazing Tweet Chat’s (Don’t worry; I can explain those if you haven’t heard of them).

Finally, there is the Blogaholics’ Page, where you’ll find me and many other amazing bloggers, who are there to talk about the things that matter most to them; their families, lives and the products they love to use.

If I were a business owner, the decision would be easy. I would want my product to go through the rigorous testing process provided by the PTPA and their group of over 60,000 volunteer parent testers.

So, what’s it going to be? Go get the PTPA Seal and watch your business shine in the eyes of parents everywhere!

Attention Poolies! “The League” is Back For Season 4!

This is another one of those moments where I reveal a part of myself that most of you don’t know about. It’s a darker side of me that tends to take over my life for months at a time and makes me do things I am usually not proud of.

I am a poolie. That’s right. I am a hardcore, multi-sport fantasy sports fanatic and there is nothing I can do about it. In fact, even if there was something I could do about it, I probably wouldn’t. I just love the thrill of being the fake owner of an all-star sports franchise!

Never had my obsession been more over the top than the minute I discovered the TV show, The League. This show is about a group of friends who are all in a fantasy football league together and quickly became my favourite show on television; sorry Big Brother.

The best part about my new found obsession was that I found the show at the end of season 2, which meant I got to watch 2 full seasons in a 3 day marathon. Anyone who has had this joyous experience will agree with me that it is the best way to watch a show!

Anyway, back to the show! Season 4 begins Thursday, October 11th at 10:30 on FX and I am so excited that I most likely won’t sleep tonight. Sad, I know, but very true! The best part about this show is that you don’t have to be a fan of fantasy sports to be a fan of this show. If you like funny, this show brings it hardcore!

Check out one of the trailers below and also an interview with cast member Nick Kroll, who plays Ruxin on the show.

The really funny stuff is blocked from embedding for some reason but I promise you, if you watch this show you will laugh your ass off. Honestly, I just want more people to talk to about it because I don’t know a lot of people who are watching this and that makes me sad.

I’m pretty sure the first two seasons are on Netflix and after watching season 3 on Blu-Ray, I can say that the extra content/gag reels are almost funnier than the actual show. These guys have no filters and that’s what I appreciate most about it.

I’m not going to beg you to watch this or to buy the DVD/Blu-Ray’s but just check it out and then come to thank me here or on twitter, because you will! After you buy the DVD’s you will thank me even harder and will then owe me gifts and cash!

If you already watch this show, what is your favourite episode? I think mine is the very first episode, only because I wasn’t expecting anything and got blown away by how funny it was.

Cheers!

A Dad’s Take On Baby Showers For @MunchkinCanada

I know what you’re thinking, “What does a Dad know about Baby Showers?” You’re probably right, I don’t know much about planning or attending any type of shower, other than the one I visit every morning before work.

You caught me, I am not Super Dad. For all the whining I do about wanting equality for Dads in the media and on Television, I am not a fan of showery gatherings. That’s not to say I don’t like receiving presents, because I do. I just don’t enjoy the “signing up” and “planning” part of the process.

I do appreciate that the stores we register at have made it a little more fun for Dads by providing us with a laser gun to tag our items with. Unfortunately, we are usually still not allowed to run around shooting everything we see and apparently it is frowned upon to pretend we are setting our phaser’s to stun and pointing them at random shoppers.

All that said, I am smart enough to realize that as a first time parent, you rely on a lot of the things you receive at a baby shower and sometimes the silliest things are the most useful. If it’s alright with you guys, I’d like to mention a few products that were life savers for my wife and I.

Probably the single greatest thing we received and still use to this day, would be our Nursery Sound Projector. Yes, it wakes you up in the middle of the night but it also lets you hear all of the amazing sounds your children make. The cooing, tooting and even some of their first words, these are things that you will not soon forget. Here’s some info on Munchkin Canada’s Nursery Projector & Sound System:

 

A voice-activated system with soothing sounds, dreamy images and a comforting nightlight that helps provide an ideal sleep environment – because getting baby to sleep quickly is the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s the little things®.

Product Features

* 10 soothing sounds, including Mozart, lullabies, and white noise
* 3 image discs
* Rotating projector head allows for projection onto the ceiling or wall
* Voice activation feature allows baby to self-soothe
* Optional nightlight and 3 timer settings let Mom customize for baby

 

Next up for me would be child safety and with a day care now running out of my home, we are dependent on our Baby Gates. We actually have 3 gates in our place and I don’t know where we’d be without them! Munchkin Canada offers a variety of baby gates but this one is my favourite, mostly for the cool colours!

 

Product Features

* Gate locks shut with just a simple push
* Use EveryPlace™ in the home – top of stairs, bottom of stairs, between rooms
* Double-locking system on handle is easy for adults to use, but difficult for a child
* Optional third lock at base of gate offers added safety
* Steel U-shaped power frame keeps gate securely in place
* Extra-wide 21.5” walkthrough allows for easy in and out access
* Extends up to 54” with additional extensions (sold separately)
* Door swings open in both directions

 

Last but not least, especially with multiple young children in your house, something has to be done about the smell! Diapers are everywhere and anyone who has ever used a garbage can to dispose of a pile of them will tell you that it was not a smart idea. That’s why it’s ultra important that the first thing you put on your shower registry when you find out you are pregnant, is a Diaper Pail! Not baby books or bedding or even clothes, go with the Diaper Pail, it will save your house from those very unsavory odours!

In fact, we love the Munchkin Canada Diaper Pail so much that we bought a second one for our basement. I love the fact that it releases a blast of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda with each open and close of the unit. Here’s some more info on the Pail:

 

 

   Product Features:

* Powered by odour-eliminating baking soda
* Patented self-sealing system seals the bag as the lid closes
* Easy from start to finish – one handed use
* Just Snap, Seal and Toss bags to dispose
* Comes fully assembled and with 3 bag refills

 

 

 

Don’t believe the photos, just check out this Diaper Pail Demo for smell reducing awesomeness!

As you can see, while baby showers are a ton of work, the end results can provide you with hours of un-smelly enjoyment. In the meantime, for my male readers, you go right ahead and continue setting those phasers to stun because your important time will come sooner than you think!

Before I go, I also have a quick question for you all. What is your must have item as a parent?

I want to thank Munchkin Canada for letting me be a part of their first blog campaign and I look forward to what they have in store for us down the road. If you get a second, I encourage you to check in with them on their Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also go right to their website at www.munchkinbaby.ca for product information and more!

**********************************************************************

This just in! Munchkin Canada is going to be unleashing an amazing giveaway very shortly. It is such a huge secret that they wouldn’t even tell me what it is and would only share that you should be watching their Facebook page for more details!

A Great Giveaway From @TagAlongToys in #Ottawa!

If you have kids and live in the Ottawa area, you have no doubt heard of Tag Along Toys. If you haven’t, I encourage you to finish reading this post and then proceed immediately to 499 Terry Fox Dr in Kanata so you can experience the joy that is toy shopping there!

Store owner, Patti, is one of those people that draw you in with her kindness. The first time I brought my kids in there, she welcomed them and treated them as if they were one of her own. My son then played with her son for about 30 minutes while we chatted. It was an experience that makes you want to come back in to the store everyday.

Patti has agreed to allow me to give away a couple great toys to my Ottawa readers and I couldn’t be happier. Even more happy about it were my children, who got to pick out one toy each to review for the store.

We landed on a Make Your Own Paper Airplane Set for him and a Make Your Own Sock Puppet set for her. Oddly enough, both sets were from the brand Creativity for kids and I couldn’t have been more happy with their choices. They were so excited that we did both of the when we got home that day!

My son was up first and we had a blast making paper airplanes all together. Here’s the proof!

Next up was the puppeteer! I could post a million pictures of how that went down but I find that videos always work best! Enjoy the amazing JubeJubes!

And there you have it! The kids loved both toys and now I have a chance to award one of my Ottawa readers with both of these great and creative items! All you have to do is leave me a comment below with your child’s “Must Have” toy for this year.

Simple as that! Contest closes Monday, October 8th at noon and is open to residents of the Ottawa Valley and you must be willing to go to the Tag Along Toys store to pick them up. In the meantime, I encourage you to stop in to the store anyway or you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook. I promise, you won’t be disappointed with their social media presence because it’s where I became a huge fan!

Good Luck! Cheers!!

NBC’s Guys With Kids: Swing And A Miss

I tried to like it, I really did. I stayed up late. I made my wife miss our nightly Young & The Restless tradition. I even taped it so I could watch it again just in case the kids woke up in between.

Unfortunately for me, NBC’s new show, “Guys With Kids”, was completely and utterly disappointing. I have to admit that I had a preconceived notion about what this show was going to be. My worry was that the Dads in show were going to continue the tradition of portraying fathers as bumbling doofuses who can’t do anything right.

THE ASSESSMENT

As it turns out, I was only half accurate in my premature assessment. I really wanted to laugh at this show and had even convinced myself that I could overlook a little bit of the “dumb dad” stigma in exchange for the serious amount of funny I figured Executive Producer Jimmy Fallon was going to bring to the table.

The only problem with that: It wasn’t funny! Not even a little bit.

I waited and waited for the big time jokes but all I got were recycled clichés and mediocre moments of funny, which were immediately ruined by the over the top laugh track. Seriously, I don’t like laugh tracks in general but this one was completely ridiculous, chiming in at awkward moments with uproarious laughter.

The other problem I had is that my earlier worry about the Dad’s being portrayed as imbeciles turned out to be completely true. The show opens with the three Dads hanging out in a bar with their babies strapped to the chests…This is not what Dads do and in fact, I’d be surprised if this has ever happened outside of the taping of this show.

    THE CHARACTERS

Chris (Jesse Bradford) – Chris is the divorced Dad, who seems normal enough until you find out that he is completely whipped by his ex-wife and mother of their child. He states that he loses every argument about the child to his ex because she ends them all with the line, “He Grew Inside Me”, as she rubs her belly. Not only is this unfunny and clichés but it once again paints the Dad in a weak light.

Gary (Anthony Anderson) – I thought for sure the Stay at Home Dad offered the show a chance at some great Dad moments, but they were lost in the fact that all he does is complain about how awful and time consuming it is to have 4 boys. To be fair in this assessment, his wife, played by Tempestt Bledsoe, seems to have the same attitude towards the children.

Nick (Zach Cregger) – I really have no idea what this character is all about and that is part of the problem. All I could gather is that he’s kind of dumb and will most likely be the “crazy do whatever you want with no regard for wives or kids” guy. Third Strike in the “Guys” Department.

The Kids – Almost non-existent. That’s how I would describe the role of the children in this show. This show could have simply been called, Guys, and it would have been able to keep the same premise. If the show continues, I hope there is a little more interaction between the fathers and the children.

The Wives – As mentioned earlier, Tempestt Bledsoe (Vanessa Huxtable) plays a mother of 4 kids and has some funny moments. Jamie-Lynn Sigler plays Nick’s wife and didn’t really play a major factor in the episode but there is room for funny between her and clueless Nick. Finally we have Erinn Hayes, who plays Chris’ ex-wife. I don’t know if it’s the writing, the acting or the fact that she is humiliating Bradford’s character the whole episode, but she is my least favourite character by far.

Finally, I will second the motion put forward by one of my Dad Blogging buddies in The Rock Father, when he described the random appearance of NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, saying “his appearance would’ve been far more relevant if it was 1980 and AIRPLANE! had just come out”. I agree sir, and I’ll add that having him fake “Dunking The Baby” was equally as tired.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

I just read this whole thing back before signing off and while it may seem unreasonably harsh, I really did have high hopes for Guys With Kids and was left completely baffled and disappointed with how unsatisfying it was. I also understand the people who say, “Calm down Dad and learn how to take a joke”, I really do, but that would imply the jokes actually making me laugh, which they did not. When you add that to the fact that the Dads are also portrayed in the same bumbling way we always are, it raises my Dad-O-Meter to a high level of alert.

I really like Jimmy Fallon and think he is a comedic genius, which is the main reason why I was so upset with the finished product. It just missed the mark on too many levels for me, so I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board with this one. On second thought, let’s just sweep it under the mat instead and pretend it never happened… Sorry Jimmy, still friends?

Cheers!

**Photo is from Blogo Wogo**