STIHL Neighbour Kids

Tips On How To Be A Good Neighbour!

Having lived in the same house for almost a decade now, I have managed to develop a pretty good relationship with my neighbours. I know that we live in a different world than our parents did, when all neighbours talked and hung out all the time, so I wanted to share some tips on how you can achieve neighbourly success!

In no particular order, here are my Top 5 tips for being a great neighbour:

1. Watch Their Pool For Them While They Are Away

STIHL Pool Swim

Look, being a good neighbour is a tough job and sometimes you have to bite the bullet and agree to take care of your neighbour’s pool for a few days in the summer while they are away. It not a fun job but it is your duty as a good neighbour to get in that pool and make sure it is staying at a reasonable temperature. How would you feel if you came home from vacation to a cold pool???

2. Help With Yard Maintenance

STIHL Neighbour Helper

Living in Canada, there are many factors that go into helping out with property maintenance. For instance, I share a lawn with a neighbour who works multiple jobs to support his family, so I generally take care of the front yard work for the both of us. In the winter, however, I will often find my walkway cleared of snow very early in the morning.

Everyone plays a role or has a “toy” that they use to help others. One of my neighbours bought a snow blower and helps clear the piles of snow at the bottom of the driveway after the plow comes. I have been enjoying being the neighbour that owns the STIHL Lithium-Ion Cordless Chainsaw because it feels good to know you’re contributing something to the area. Just the other day, I noticed a neighbour using a handsaw while trying to dig up some roots from a plant they were moving. It would have taken them hours to get it done, but because my STIHL Chainsaw is both cordless and lightweight, it got the job done in minutes. Needless to say, we spent a good hour admiring our work afterward but that’s because we were so impressed with how quickly the STIHL chainsaw got the job done! Bonus feature that helps in being a good neighbour: the STIHL Lithium-Ion MSA 120 Chainsaw is over 17 decibels quieter than the gas powered MS 170 chainsaw, making it as quiet as an electric drill. This feature significantly reduces neighborhood noise levels and will create much less of a disturbance for your neighbours when pulling out your chainsaw for required yard work.

3. Driveway Rental Service (With Optional Sangria!)

STIHL Driveway Friends

No good neighbourhood would be complete without a musical chairs of driveway parties! It really is the best way to get to know your neighbours, after-all. Everyone brings a couple food items, the kids get some water play in and the grown-ups settle in for some relaxation after a busy work week. Ours happen to include sangria but you make yours work in your own way!

4. Take Turns Watching Each Other’s Kids

STIHL Neighbour Kids

Look, it takes a village to raise kids, right? Well, in this case, sometimes it takes a minivan, 1 hour of trampoline time and a dinner at Lonestar, while you and your significant other spend uninterrupted time doing what you both love to do. That’s right, I’m talking about napping.

5. Provide Pet Sitting Services

STIHL Pet Sitting

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a strict “no pets” rule at the moment. With kids in competitive sports and our work schedules being different, I feel it would be irresponsible of us to subject a dog to that much alone time. That said, I don’t mind borrowing pets from time to time and we have had guests such as hamsters, gerbils, fish and even a dog a couple times. It definitely goes a long way to keeping the “Pro Pet” folks in our house happy, which is basically everyone but me…

These are just a few of the things that have worked for us and hopefully they work for you, too! My suggestion is to go grab some hamburgers and maybe even one of STIHL’s Lithium-Ion Chainsaws, so you can start on your way to winning at neighbouring!

Disclosure: I was provided a STIHL Lithium-Ion Cordless Chainsaw to facilitate this post.

Viamede Resort Family Getaway

Viamede Resort Is The Perfect Family Getaway!

We had the privilege of being invited to spend the past weekend at the wonderful Viamede Resort on Stoney Lake in Woodview, Ontario. While you may have seen some of my posts on social media, I wanted to write out a bit more about the trip so you can understand why we can’t wait to visit again!

The main thing that sets Viamede apart from other resorts we’ve stayed at is that from the moment you check in, you feel as though you are part of a small community. The staff were all very welcoming and especially amazing with the kids. The other guests felt like neighbours by the end of the weekend and we were free to do as many or as few of the activities as we wanted, any time we felt like doing them. Need more proof? One of the unlisted activities was the ability to take the owner’s golden retriever for a walk if you wanted to get some extra exercise. How cool is that?

Viamede Resort View

As small as the resort felt, there was actually so much to do that a weekend wasn’t enough time to get to it all. On my list for our next visit are a game of Disc Golf with my son, a fancy dinner at Mount Julian with my wife, fishing and an afternoon in the activity field, playing soccer with my daughter. That said, we did get a lot of fun in during our stay, so here are a few highlights!

Turtle Catching!

Viamede Resort Turtles

During dinner on our first night, Viamede owner, Ben Samann came into the restaurant with a baby snapping turtle and brought it around the tables so the kids could hold it. When he mentioned that there could be more baby turtles making the treacherous trip across the parking lot in the coming days, I knew it meant that my animal loving daughter would be out there for the rest of the trip.

Considering they are the size of a small rock, I was skeptical that we would find any more turtles but my daughter is persistent and wouldn’t you know it, she found not one, but TWO more baby turtles the next day! Seeing the excitement in her face as she brought them to the front desk is something I won’t soon forget. They got them some water and kept them at the front desk for everyone to visit throughout the day and my daughter beamed with pride as they pointed her out as the rescuer. This was the highlight of the trip for me and I was even more proud when she turned down the reward of 25 cents per turtle because she was just happy they were going to make it safely to the lake.

The Food!

I mentioned earlier that we didn’t get a chance to visit the Mount Julien restaurant but we did have multiple meals at The Boathouse and they were all equally excellent, especially the french fries! I don’t want to say I am a picky eater but once I find something I like at a restaurant, I generally stick with it. I decided to go with a new meal all three times we visited The Boathouse and I may have to start broadening my horizons at other restaurants as well! The meal plan also comes with a dessert and I want to give a special shout-out to the Apple Fritters & Ice Cream I had with every meal. I’m still dreaming of you and can’t wait until we meet again.

The Water

Viamede Resort Lake Pool Kayak

While the pool is always a highlight of any family vacation, Viamede Resort outdoes all of that by providing 3 different options for water fun! First and foremost, there is the beach on Stoney Lake. What I really loved about Viamede is that they had canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and life jackets just sitting down by the water. No need to sign in and out, you just take what you want to use and enjoy yourself! As you can see from the picture above, I decided to try something new and it may or may not have worked out for me… Oh, they also has a sweet water trampoline out on the lake, which my kids had some epic battles on!

Viamede Resort Pool

On top of the fun at the lake, there are also 2 pools! One outdoor pool for the hot days and an amazing indoor pool that ensures you can still have fun in the water in case a storm rolls through. I will say that we spent quite a bit of time in the indoor pool because it was mostly empty and they had this really cool waterway that went from indoors to outdoors. The kids thought that was hilarious and had a blast in the water!

Endless List of Activities!

Viamede Resort Activities

I mentioned earlier that there was so much to do at Viamede that we couldn’t fit it all in, but we did get quite a bit accomplished during our short stay. To be honest, we probably could have done more but turtle catching fever really took over. That said, Viamede has a cool little farm on site that you can check out at your leisure. There were baby pigs and turkeys, as well as some very loud and awesome roosters. On top of that, we spent many hours playing ping pong, foosball, darts, basketball, yoga, tennis and many more activities that are freely accessible throughout the stay.

Viamede Resort Farm Piglets

All in all we had a blast at Viamede Resort and will absolutely be back again! It was the perfect balance between relaxation and excitement, with some amazing food thrown in! I’m happy to answer any questions you all may have about the resort in case you decide to check it out for yourself.

Viamede Resort Boathouse Pub

Disclosure: We were invited to stay at Viamede Resort as their guests for the weekend. That said, it was amazing and we can’t wait to return next summer!

What Is On YOUR Great Canadian Bucket List?

This post has been sponsored by Intercontinental Hotels Group.

While 6 in 10 Canadians have admitted to creating one, a Bucket List is something we write out as something we aspire to achieve, even though at least 91% of us are fairly confident that our dreams won’t become reality. A recent survey conducted by Intercontinental Hotels Group shows that, naturally, cost is the overwhelming reason why most people feel like they won’t be able to cross items off their bucket lists.

Blue Jays Game Toronto

Catch a Major League Baseball Game With The Blue Jays in Toronto!

Now, before you nod your head in disappointed agreement and lock your lists in a drawer, IHG and bucket list expert Robin Esrock have a few tips on how you can make your bucket list items a reality! After reading their tips, you should also check out IHG’s Great Canadian Bucket List to grab some ideas to add to your own list!

o Don’t let the list weigh you down – you are more likely to do things when you write them down, but don’t let your list get so long that it weighs on you. Focusing on too many goals can be distracting, so if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, you’re probably being overly ambitious. Start with a shortlist of 10 aspirational bucket list goals, and grow it slowly over time.

o Start small and local – don’t feel you need to take weeks off work to travel to the ends of the earth to have bucket list experiences. Begin with a place or activity you’ve always wanted to experience in your town, city or province, and then slowly branch out from there.

o You don’t need to spend a fortune – Think outside the box when it comes to cost-efficient solutions to making your bucket list goals a reality. For example, if your bucket list experience requires you to travel, turn it into an epic road trip too by opting to drive instead of fly. Or, look for budget-friendly hotels to stay in, like Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express. Start collecting points – like IHG Rewards Club – that you can use to redeem for hotel stays.

o Dream big, but be realistic – Bucket lists should be personal, fun and inspiring, and realistic too. Break your list down into short- and long-term goals. Include goals that are easier to achieve than others. If they are all difficult to accomplish, you may get discouraged because you’re not making progress as quickly as you like. Also, think of experiences you actually do, as opposed to chance encounters with a celebrity, for example.

My favourite advice here was to start small and local. When you start with an achievable goal, it helps make the loftier goals seem attainable! After reading IHG’s Great Canadian Bucket List, I decide to make a Canadian Bucket List of my own! Did I steal a couple of IHG’s items? You bet I did! Are a couple of these patently absurd? Absolutely! That’s why they call it a bucket list though, right?! Here you go!

1. Canada Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Parliament Hill Ottawa

This one has nothing to do with cost as it is actually in my hometown. My issue is that I find the size of the crowd daunting. That said, I watch on TV every year and find myself wishing I was there with my family. Maybe next year we’ll treat ourselves and book a room at the Crowne Plaza Gatineau-Ottawa so we can make a weekend out of it!

2. Hit the Water at West Edmonton Mall

Edmonton Water Park, Edmonton, AB - Courtesy of Edmonton Mall

My whole life I have been hearing about how amazing the West Edmonton Mall is. I’m not huge on the shopping but that waterpark is something to behold! I will put this list item under the “very possible” category of attainability. The Holiday Inn Express® & Suites West Edmonton-Mall Area is the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to the action!

3. Dog Sledding in the Northwest Territories

Dog Sledding

Dog sledding seems like one of those exhilarating experiences that you would never forget. There are many places that you can find dog sledding tours but being it is such an important part of NWT’s culture, this would be my first choice of destination.

4. Watch the Polar Bears at Assiniboine Park

Assiniboine Park - Winnipeg, MB - Courtesy of EWM

I didn’t even know this was a thing until I read IHG’s Great Canadian Bucket List but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. There’s something fascinating about having the opportunity to see polar bears doing their thing under the water. PS – If you bring your kids, the swimming area at the Holiday Inn Winnipeg – Airport West is amazing!!

5. Throw Out 1st Pitch at Blue Jays Game

Toronto Blue Jays 1st Pitch

Yes, I understand how ridiculous this sounds. Throwing out the 1st pitch is generally reserved for someone who has actually accomplished something huge in their life. That said, I still have time to accomplish great things, or, you know, maybe win a contest to throw out the first pitch… In the meantime, I’ll be at the Intercontinental Hotels Toronto Centre because it’s right in the heart of Toronto’s Family Fun district!

6. Whale Watching in Cape Breton Highlands, NS

Whale Watching

Known as one of the best places to whale watch in Canada, I can’t help but think this would be a once in a lifetime experience. On top of that, Cape Breton sounds amazing all by itself!

That’s it for the short version of my bucket list, but I’m curious to hear what would be on your Great Canadian Bucket List! Feel free to use mine and IHG’s lists as a reference and leave your answers in the comments section below! Remember, there’s no dream too big to at least write down! And don’t forget that with 177 hotels across Canada, you should definitely visit IHG.com to start planning your bucket list experiences today!

Medieval Times Toronto Knights

Why Medieval Times Is A Must-Visit Attraction!

I love a good sporting event as much as the next person and with professional sports teams in all 5 major sports, Toronto is definitely not lacking in the “things to do” department. Other than soccer, I have attended events for each of the other 4 sports on multiple occasions, but there’s one Toronto attraction missing from the list that might be my favourite of them all.

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Medieval Times was kind enough to host my family this past weekend for an evening of fun, fighting and amazing food! It was at least my 5th time attending the Toronto Castle and every visit has been more fun than the last. Honestly, which other sporting event can you attend where they actually encourage you to be rowdy and taunt the other opponents?? Sure, you COULD do that at a baseball game but you will definitely end up as the center of attention as people turn away from you, embarrassed.

If you’ve never been to Medieval Times before, the premise is that there are 6 knights who battle it out in a last man standing competition. Each spectator is assigned a knight to cheer for and are also told which knight is their arch nemesis so you can boo them mercilessly! We drew the yellow knight this time around and while there are no pictures of me during the show, I can assure you that our arch nemesis, the blue knight and his fans, knew who I was by the end of the show!

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Besides the amazing show, there are many other reasons to love the Medieval Times experience. One such reason is that every time your knight succeeds in an event, he gets a flower to hand out to one lucky fan in his section. For the 2nd year in a row, guess who got the first flower?? Now, you might think to yourself, “who cares, it’s just the top of a carnation?”, but I can assure you that the excitement on her face was enough to melt this dad’s heart.

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Finally, it would be ridiculous to talk about how great Medieval Times is without discussing the meal. I will admit as a parent to picky eaters, my kids didn’t eat too much of the meal but that simply meant more chicken and potatoes for dad! Seriously, though, the food at Medieval Times is absolutely amazing! I’m always fascinated when a meal that is being made for over a hundred people still tastes like I would expect from a restaurant.

Medieval Times Toronto Meal

And yes, we couldn’t resist the spoils from the gift shop… If you haven’t visited the Medieval Times Toronto Castle, or any other castle, that is, I highly recommend giving it a shot the next time your family is nearby. My only advice to you is that you go into it ready to be loud and to have fun!

Medieval Times Toronto

Disclosure: Medieval Times hosted my family for our most recent visit to the Toronto Castle, however I have loved the show since the first time I went.

Tales From A Chelsea Hotel Toronto First Timer

After hearing everyone rave about how great the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto is for families, we finally had the chance to stay there this past weekend and it definitely did not disappoint! Here is a brief recap of our stay at the Chelsea and why we will absolutely stay with them again in the future.

Right off the bat, I was excited that they had their own underground parking. I know that is a classic dad thing to be excited about but we were there for 3 days and I had no interest in driving anywhere during that span and was glad I could park the van and forget about it while we enjoyed Toronto.

The fun for the kids started right at the Check-In desk as the Chelsea Hotel has a separate check-in area for kids, where they get to sound the gong and choose a prize out of the toy chest. My daughter scored the pink fidget spinner, which made her very happy to start off the vacation! Here’s a taste of what it looked like. The dancing portion is optional…

There was a nice little surprise waiting for us when we got to our room, courtesy of the Chelsea Hotel. Luckily for dad, my son isn’t into desserts that much so I had to eat the cookie to make sure we didn’t waste it. Seriously though, it was a nice touch and the fruit platter was perfect after living on beef jerky and Gatorade on the drive in from Ottawa.

Chelsea Toronto Surprise

Now, while there is no proof of it ever happening, we did have an amazing breakfast at T Bar, where they even modified their menu a bit to make sure the kids both had something they would love. After that, we spent the day doing what we did for the majority of our stay, swimming!! The pool at the Chelsea Hotel is amazing! A lot of hotels we’ve stayed at have a water slide but the slide hours are usually limited. Not at the Chelsea! The water slide here was open no matter what time we decided to head down and on top of that, it was fast and amazing! My attempts at getting a good “kids going down the water slide” picture failed miserably but I did manage to snag this one towards the end.

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On the way out of the pool, you will also find the Teen Lounge, with a pool table and different video games, including Xbox systems! We managed to drag the kids out of there and across the hallway to the Kid Centre, where they had a chance to interact with the Chelsea’s furry rabbit friends. This was a highlight for my daughter, whose career choices currently fluctuate between professional gymnast and veterinarian…

Chelsea Toronto Kids Zone

All in all, we absolutely loved our stay at the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto and can’t wait to visit again! I also really appreciated that it was basically a 10 minute ride from anywhere we wanted to go in Toronto throughout our stay. It made the decision to keep the van in the underground parking that much easier and more convenient. Thank you so much to the Chelsea Hotel for keeping the kids occupied while mom and dad took some much needed relax time after some busy days in Toronto!

Chelsea Toronto Pool

Disclosure: The Chelsea Hotel invited for a 1 night stay, although we stretched it out to a couple nights because we had so much fun!

Dyson Canada Love

My Torrid Love Affair Revealed!

I’m going to start this post by addressing the news of my love affair. The rumours are all true. Ever since the Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute cord-free vacuum cleaner has entered my life, I’m actually enjoying cleaning. I know what you’re thinking, “but, we are supposed to despise cleaning!”. I used to think that, too, but then I found myself watching the clock at work so I could excitedly get home to vacuum the stairs!

My wife allowed this to continue for a few weeks without saying anything, until we had family over for dinner and I wouldn’t stop showing them all the cool features on my new Dyson V10. We had a good talk that night and although I had to make some concessions, such as not bringing the Dyson Cyclone out during dinner parties, my wife is still going to let me do all the vacuuming for the foreseeable future!

I know you’re probably wondering what makes the Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute better than every other vacuum cleaner on the market. Well, even if you’re not wondering that, I’m going to tell you anyway! Here are a few of my favourite features:

Dyson Canada Familyyson

It’s Cordless! – That’s right, no more tripping over cords or accidentally pulling it out of the socket and bending the ends. The Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute holds a fade-free charge for up to 60 minutes, so you can get the whole house done in one session. Oh, that also means that you can clean your car with ease, which makes life so much easier. (Of note: James Dyson has announced that he will stop investing in the development of new corded vacuums, so you’d be in on the ground floor! Pun intended…)

It Converts To a Handheld – Yeah, I said it! Remember all those times you tried to balance your bulky vacuum on the stairs like a Jenga piece, only to have it crash down the steps? You don’t have to worry about that anymore because now you can simply walk up your stairs, vacuum in hand, and get the job done with ease! Also, see above note about cleaning your car. The handheld option is amazing for that!

Dyson V10 Handheld

Multiple Cleaner Heads – The Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute comes with multiple cleaning head options. There is a crevice tool for tight spaces, which is great for the stairs or the car. There are also 2 larger cleaning heads. One is a new torque-drive cleaner head that removes 25% more dust from carpets and digs deep to remove ground-in dirt and pet hair. The other is a soft-roller cleaner head designed for hard floors to pick up large debris and fine dust simultaneously.

There is so much more to love about the Cyclone V10 and the more I dig in to its capabilities, the more I will share with you, so keep an eye on my social channels!! In the meantime, if you’re looking for more info on this vacuum or any other Dyson products, you should definitely visit the DysonCanada.ca!

Disclosure: I was provided a Dyson Cyclone V10 to test in advance of this blog post.

The Mobile Shop 1

Reasons Why Dad Needs A Mobile Device For Father’s Day

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Mobile Shop . All opinions are 100% mine.

I can’t be the only person who frequently visits The Mobile Shop while doing groceries, to play with all the display phones and dream of getting that next beautiful upgrade, right?? Next to my house and car, my mobile device is the next most important item I own, especially as a content creator. The Mobile Shop has asked me to share some of the ways that I use my device on a daily basis to help capture my experience as a father. Without further ado, here are just a few reasons why dad needs a new mobile device for Father’s Day this year!

Video/Facetime Chats – While talking to your family on the phone is more than adequate when you are out of town or working late, there is nothing quite like the excitement on your kids faces when they get to see you while they talk to you. The funny faces and laughs that we have are also a nice boost for this dad when I start to get a little home sick.

General Everyday Use – I realize this sounds a little vague but there are so many little things that my mobile device can do to help me throughout the day. I have used it to quickly find answers to life’s important questions, such as “What can I do about the smell in my child’s soccer cleats?”. I use my mobile device almost daily for the Maps feature and often bring it outside to reference recipes while BBQing. My favourite use, however, is the ability to immediately and stealthily purchase an item when my wife casually mentions that she sees something she would like while we are shopping. No more forgetting what that thing was when it comes to time to shop for her 3 months later!

Capturing Memories – While it is true that I print only about 1% of all the photos I take with my mobile devices, the photos and videos we have stored online get looked at often and I am a firm believer that we are living in an amazing time to be able to capture so much of our children’s lives without having to worry about getting that perfect shot or running out of film. We will often sit down as a family and watch hours of funny video from when the kids were younger and mom and dad had hilarious hairdos/glasses/clothing!

Dad’s Hideaway… – Look, it’s no secret what dad is up to when he disappears for an hour. Well, maybe it is, but here you go anyway. Hiding in the bathroom and playing video games on a mobile device is a staple of fatherhood and may be the #1 reason why dad needs a new high performance mobile device from The Mobile Shop this Father’s Day. Hey, we all unwind in different ways and this just happens to be one of our go to places, okay?

Prices and promotions shown in photo may no longer be valid.

I had the chance to speak with Tammy at The Mobile Shop in my hometown Real Canadian Superstore this week and was blown away by her knowledge of each product and accessory. When I told her that I was a blogger who needed solid video, photography and audio capabilities, she immediately had a short list of devices that would suit my needs and explained why each would be a great fit. The Mobile Shop also allows you to choose from numerous wireless providers, so you have a ton of options, and you may also earn hundreds of PC Optimum points on each purchase!

With Father’s Day right around the corner, I highly recommend stopping in to The Mobile Shop nearest you and talking to one of their representatives about how you can make this the best Father’s Day ever!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Mobile Shop . All opinions are 100% mine.

Dad Daughter Superhero

What It Means To Be A Superhero Dad

I was asked by my friends at Mark’s Canada, who are running an amazing Father’s Day contest that we’ll get into later, to talk about what it means to be a superhero dad to my kids. Now, for the record, I have never considered myself to be a superhero dad. I do what needs to be done for my kids to the best of my abilities and hope that they end up with as good an upbringing as I had. That said, for the purposes of this exercise I decided to ask my kids what they thought were my best traits and have compiled them for you here. Soooo, let’s do this!

1. Making Lunches – It’s funny to think something as simple as lunch making can be remembered by your kids, especially considering how mindless it becomes by the end of the school year. When I pressed the kids further on the answer, they said it was because I ask them what they want and also have them try new things before putting it in their lunches. Kids can be very easy to please at times!

2. Coaching Sports – This is something that is in my blood. My dad coached all my sports teams and a lot of my extended family have also coached different sports. The truth is, I love the idea that I get to help mold these young kids into what they will become later in life. We talk a lot of about respect and hard work, which will no doubt pay off down the road.

Father Son Baseball

3. Playing With Us – A lot of hardcore parenting “experts” will say that you shouldn’t be your child’s friend because your job is solely to discipline them. I completely disagree with this sentiment and believe there can be a balance between the two. That said, I love playing games with my kids. Anytime they want to shoot hoops or jump on the trampoline, I am almost always game. It’s also a great way for me to make sure I step away from work every now then to get some much needed exercise!

4. Driving To Gymnastics and Sleeping Less So We Can Sleep In – This one was from my daughter. She is a competitive gymnast and I am a shift worker, so there are plenty of times that I come home from my shift and stay awake a few extra hours so the kids don’t have to wake up at 5:30am to go to daycare. It’s a small sacrifice on my part to make sure that the kids can be alert at school and their after school activities but it’s nice that they noticed it.

5. Being Funny With Them – This one casts a wide net as I often feel like I haven’t quite shaken my inner child, so I am often volunteering to put myself in embarrassing situations. Take, for instance, last year’s Gymnastics Christmas Showcase, where my daughter and I performed an unforgettable (for me) gymnastics routine. I love doing things that will make my children smile, and it seems pretty obvious that I will occasionally crave some spotlight.

While I was hesitant to write about myself as being a superhero, it actually ended up being a pretty fun exercise to hear it from my kids. The truth is, superheroes come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, and if you out there doing your best to be an involved parent, you are the exact superhero that your child needs!

If you’re looking for something fun to do, I highly recommend trying this exercise with your kids, and Mark’s wants to reward you for doing so! Simply ask your kids to draw a picture of their dad as a superhero and share it on social media, tagging Mark’s and including the hashtag #superheroDad and you could win some amazing prizes, including a trip to this year’s Grey Cup! You can visit the Mark’s Contest Page for more details. Have fun and Happy Father’s Day!!

Superhero Dad Marks

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this campaign.

Chris Read STIHL 3

Get Your Yard Ready For Summer With A Little Help From STIHL!

It’s no secret that winter can be rough on Canadian properties. From ruined lawns to downed tree branches, there is a lot of work to do once spring finally rolls around. This year’s spring clean was a lot easier for me as I teamed up with STIHL to put one of their Lithium-Ion Chainsaws to the test against the mess of flailing branches around my property.

Chris Read STIHL 5

Before we get to STIHL’s chainsaw’s performance, there were plenty of other tasks that needed to be completed to get the house ready for summer. I don’t know about you guys but once that nice weather hits, I get a sudden boost of energy and dare I say, I actually enjoy doing the clean up! Here are a few spring cleaning tips that will help your house shine this summer!

1. Clean Your Windows – We’ve all cleaned windows before, right? Wax on, wax off, simple! I’m talking about DEEP cleaning those windows, though. You can start by removing your screens and gently washing them with soap and a garden hose. Then wash the windows from the outside in and you’ll be ready to catch that cool breeze on the hottest of summer days.

2. Declutter The Garage – There’s something funny that happens when you have kids. Stuff begins to simply pile up in places all throughout the house. For us, the majority of that stuff ends up in the garage. What was once a beautiful, open space with so much potential, has become a wasteland of toys and random items that we have never been used before. I’m not sure anything makes me feel as good during spring cleaning than emptying the garage and only putting half of the stuff back into it. Fun tip, go into it with an open mind and the will to say that you don’t need 7 different types of broken lawn chair, and you’ll feel great by the end of it!

3. Lawn Maintenance – Full disclosure, this is the area that I have the most learning to do. For the first couple years in our new house, I was out there picking all the weeds and really trying to make the lawn work. After a few unsuccessful years, however, I slowly stopped trying and eventually gave up. This is going to be the year that things turn around though! We already have the frame for a really nice garden and I think with a little elbow grease, we can make it beautiful again! Quick Tip: Mow at least once per week. This will help with healthy growth for a lusher, more dense lawn. STIHL’s Lithium-Ion mowers are not only powerful, they’re also lighter than the average mower so that you can breeze through the task.

4. Clean Up Your Trees – This is where STIHL comes in! I have never owned a chainsaw before, instead opting for the hand saw route in previous years. The truth is, I was never very handy growing up and the thought of using a chainsaw frightened me a bit. Well, I’m happy to report that my fear was unfounded and after using the STIHL Lithium-Ion Cordless Chainsaw to clean up all the stray branches around my property, I started offering to help other folks with their yards because I loved it so much.

Chris Read STIHL 6

The cuts were so smooth and powerful that I easily finished in a quarter of the time it usually takes to do it by hand. The chainsaw is also very lightweight, so I was able to move it easily from branch to branch without having to constantly shift while on the ladder. The other thing that struck was how quiet the chainsaw is. I expected this big, lumbering noise but you could barely hear it doing its thing.

5. Bath Time! – People are the only ones who need a bath from time to time. When you think about everything the outside of your house goes through in a year, I’m sure it would appreciate a good washing from time to time as well. You can borrow a pressure washer, or you know, visit your local STIHL dealer and pick up one of their models, and get to work cleaning all the dirt and grime off your house. It’s a good time to spray off and stain your deck while you’re out there, too!

6. Party On, Wayne! – I can’t think better way to celebrate all your hard work then by inviting a few friends over, firing up the BBQ and showing off your new STIHL Chainsaw!

Canadian Dad STIHL 2

I hope your spring cleaning adventure is as smooth as mine was and please feel free to share your spring cleaning tips in the comments below! And, if you are looking to make things a little smoother this spring, I highly recommend checking out STIHL’s line of Lithium-Ion Chainsaws. They have made my job easier and way more fun!

Disclosure: I was provided a STIHL chainsaw to facilitate this blog post.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship

My Completely Biased, Non-Objective Review Of Our Disney Cruise

Yep, you read the title correctly. As I sat here and framed out this blog post, I realized that I didn’t have a single bad thing to say about our recent trip aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship. We were there as part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration conference but my opinion of the cruise has nothing to do with that either. It was just a really, really fun experience and is something we are absolutely going to do again!

Let me walk through it from start to finish as best I can remember it all. I’ll try to throw in some tips along the way but seeing as how it was my first Disney cruise, what the heck do I know about tips and tricks? That said, tip #1 is to try to get an early boarding time if possible. Boarding was quick and easy, with the added touch of having your family announced on the loud speakers as you walk onto the ship as the staff are all lined up clapping for you. It felt like we were walking the red carpet! I say to try to board early because we walked by the main lobby a couple hours later and people were still being announced! All I could think of was how sore the staff members’ hands would be from all the clapping.

Disney Dream Sail Away Party

Tip #2, which probably should have been tip #1, is to download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app. You will get an itinerary left in your room each day but the app was a far better resource in finding out what was happening on the ship at any given time. It’s also handy for its chat feature in case you get split up on the ship. We mostly used it to find out when the character meetings would be so we could get there early to avoid lines.

Disney Dream Cinderella

Speaking of Disney characters, they were everywhere! There was definitely no shortage of character meetings and we never saw a line that was excessively long. On the last night of the cruise, you are treated to a long list of characters and it was amazing to see both children and adults alike, myself included, smiling for pictures with Mickey, Minnie and the gang. You can’t help but relive a bit of your childhood while surrounded by so much joy.

Disney Dream Mickey and Dad

Oh, Tip #3, which should actually be tip #1, then bumping the last tip that should have been #1 to #2… Anyway, you should definitely pre-plan your vacation in advance by reading reviews of the ship and even joining a Disney cruise group or two on Facebook. They are incredibly helpful and will have you feeling like a cruise veteran from the minute you get on the ship. Knowing about things like door magnets, fish extenders, pirate night and where the best seats are for the shows can really enhance your experience.

Speaking of the shows, every single one of them was amazing! I’m not just talking about the shows in the beautiful Walt Disney Theatre either. The sail away party, fireworks display and pirate party were all really fun for the kids as well. Tip #4, we grabbed the same spot on the upper deck, right next to the stage for each show and it was a great view for the kids. There isn’t tiered viewing from the main deck so it made it seem like if you weren’t in the front row, you wouldn’t get the best view of the fun. Also, we spent the extra money on pirate makeovers at the Pirates League in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and the kids ended up looking amazing and loving their new pirate looks. I have to admit I was skeptical about spending the money, as it wasn’t cheap, but it was totally worth it.

Disney Dream Pirate Night

I forgot to mention the big production shows! Not being a big theatre guy, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the shows on board the Disney Dream but they absolutely blew my mind! The first night we were treated to the Golden Mickeys, which was an award show with some amazing performances. Tip #5, maybe, if your kids like to be a part of the shows, you’ll want to sit in the front row for this one as Snow White needs a few extra dwarves and that’s where we saw them pick the kids from. The next night we were treated to a Beauty and the Beast show that easily could have been on Broadway, not that I’ve ever been to Broadway, but in my mind it was Broadway-worthy! Finally, the show I was least interested in attending prior to attending was called Disney’s Believe. As it turns out, it ended up being my favourite of the trip and not just because it was the story of a workaholic father and a daughter who wants him to find his imagination again. So what if I cried during the show, it’s totally acceptable in today’s society!

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Where was I? Ah yes, the shows were great and the popcorn was even better, which brings us to Tip #6. Not everything is covered on the trip. Popcorn is one of those things but you can cut the cost considerably by purchasing the refillable container on your first day aboard the Disney Dream. Refills are only about $1 after that so you and your kids can enjoy as much as you want without breaking the bank!

Since I mentioned food, we might as well talk about it. This might be the single greatest reason why I would choose a Disney Cruise over almost any other vacation from now on. Every meal I ate became the greatest meal I have ever had and while that sounds like an exaggeration, I promise you I was melting into my seat with each bite. I’m a terrible food photographer but I am excellent at eating food, so I mostly stuck to that skill.

Disney Dream Family Dinner

We had a couple meals at the Enchanted Palace, including (tip #7) lunch immediately after boarding the ship, which I highly recommend doing as it is not very busy at this time. We also ate dinner at the Royal Palace and Animator’s Palate, both of which were excellent. Animator’s Palate was neat because there were video screens on the walls and characters were pop up from time to time and talk to them. I’d also love to give a shout-out to our dinner crew, Ravindra and I Made, who made our dining experience a magical one. From making Mickey Mouse out of ketchup blobs to performing magic tricks for the kids throughout our stay, they were the best duo we could have asked for. Side note and tip #8, there are 2 dinner service times, so make sure you sign up for the one you want way before your trip. Our kids are better suited for the 8pm time slot, so it worked out that I screwed up and didn’t pick one in time. You have no excuse now!

Hands down, the coolest feature on the Disney Dream cruise ship has to be the Kids Club. What is Kids Club, you ask? Well, Kids Club is a magical section of the ship where you simply drop your kids off and then go up to your room for a nap, errr, I mean, you go off and explore all the fun places on the ship that kids aren’t allowed to go, such as the adults only swimming area, packed with a pool, hot tub, lounge chairs and bar service.

Disney Dream Games Room Kids Club

Back to Kids Club, it is a place for kids to hang out any time throughout the day or night to not only give parents some time alone but also for the kids to have a blast and meet other kids. We were allowed to tour the club during the open house on the first day but it was no parents allowed from that point on. Kids Club has a video game room, a movie room, a craft room and a ton of activities planned throughout the cruise such as baking and slime making. There is also an amazing mock-up of the Millennium Falcon that you can sit in and control. Yes, I was jealous. The security is extremely tight when picking the kids up and you get to create a secret password that you have to tell the counsellor before taking your kids out of the club. Tip #9, don’t pick a stupid password like I did because you will be forced to continue saying it throughout the weekend and it never starts to sound less dumb.

Disney Dream Milennium Falcon Kids Club

Also, of note, you know how you go out for dinner and your kids finish their meals before you’ve even taken your first bite of food and then they pepper you with questions and hang off your arms talking about how bored they are for the rest of the meal? Yeah, not on the Disney Dream! One hour after you have been seated, counsellors from the Kids Club come into the restaurant and take your kids to the club with them so you and your significant other can enjoy the rest of your meal, and possibly a fancy drink, and possibly dessert, and maybe a 2nd dessert…

I talked about the adult’s only pool area but there were also a bunch of bars/clubs on the ship for the after-hours crowd. While I’m not much of an after-hours person these days, I did spend a couple nights in the very fancy, Pink, bar. While it is technically a champagne bar, our server, Pen, was more than happy to grab us our favourite IPAs from the bar next door. Tip #10, the next time you cruise on the Disney Dream, please go in and say hi to Pen for me. She was a great host and loves entertaining people!

Disney Dream Kids Ship

Look, even I’m tired of writing at this point but this stuff is important, so stay with me here another couple minutes, okay? I only have a couple more things and then I’ll finish with a flurry of extra short form notes.

The Disney Dream 3-night cruise docks at Nassau, Bahamas and again at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, which is pronounced Castaway “Key” for some reason I never bothered to ask about. When I found out that there was a Castaway 5K run, that also came with a fancy medal, I decided to register myself and the kids. It was a lot tougher than I expected and the kids embarrassed me by lapping me and laughing while they did it… Still, I finished, got the medal and then ate some delicious BBQ on the beach!

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Castaway Cay was definitely one of the bigger highlights of the trip for us. Even with her cast on, my daughter had an amazing time in the water, which, by the way, was ice cold, as I pulled her around in an inner tube. We shared fancy, age appropriate drinks, ate amazing BBQ food and lounged like we never have before. There are plenty of excursions you can book for your day on the island but we choose to make it as relaxing a day as possible, which was absolutely the right call for us.

Disney Dream Castaway Cay

Okay, I promised to end with a flurry, so here are a few other notes from our time on the Disney Dream!

1. I was very impressed with the emphasis put on cleanliness aboard the Disney Dream. Not that I expected it to be gross but the ship was immaculate. Every restaurant, event and especially the Kids Club required you to either wash your hands or use a sanitizing wipe before entering and it was great to see how seriously they treated those pesky germs!

2. Our cruise director, Mike, was amazing. We met him on day 1 and he told my daughter he’d have to sign her cast later in the trip. Well, true to his word, we found him on our last night and he not only signed her cast but spent some time asking her about herself. What a great guy!

3. We found out that you can order milk & cookies before bed through room service. Consider this Tip #11.

4. Finally, a huge shout out to Shilpa in Guest Services, who definitely had the biggest positive impact on the trip for us. I can’t really get into it because I’m not sure if she was supposed to do what she did for the kids, but rest assured, they will never forget her kindness, and neither will we. Disney has a great one in her and if you happen to be aboard the Disney Dream, you should definitely go down and give her a high five for us!

Disney Dream Family

I’m sure there are a million things I forgot to talk about but this should cover all your basic needs when it comes to climbing aboard a Disney cruise for the first time! It quite literally was a dream come true to sail aboard the Disney Dream and we will absolutely return for a future cruise! That said, if you do have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or shoot me an email chris@canadiandad.com! Cheers!