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.
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.
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…
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!
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!
I took a short trip to MacGregor, Manitoba last month with McCain Foods to meet with potato grower, Stan Weibe from Beaver Creek Farms. Stan was kind enough to take some time to answer our questions and also showed us around the farm so we could see how the potato farming process works. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the amount of knowledge I was about to take in but I’ve done my best to summarize the trip for you because this farm has a great story.
The first thing that jumped out at me from listening to Stan speak was the importance of family and the role it played on the farm. Stan has been working full time at Beaver Creek, previously owned by his father, since the summer of 1975 when he joined the family business after high school. His father got their first potato contract in 1968 and they have been McCain growers since 1978, so when I talk about family, I’m not just talking about blood relatives. Stan mentioned that he didn’t take to farming at first but feels blessed that he stuck with it because there’s a special feeling knowing that he gets to feed families around the world.
Stan’s passion for potatoes was topped only by the way he spoke of his family. He starts his day early but still finds time to go home for coffee with his wife in the morning and again for lunch and dinner. He told us of her musical talents, passion for life, their ongoing battle of crib, and their deep love of both of their children.
The family story didn’t end there, however, as it became clear that Stan regards all his farm’s employees as extended members of his family. He mentioned that they have never had to post a job because most people stay once they’ve started working at Beaver Creek, with most employees having been there 10-15 years. On top of that, Stan runs the farm with his brother, Don, who has 4 kids, one of which works on the farm.
As you can see, the potatoes are secondary to the real story, which is that it takes a strong family environment to make a business as large as a farm successful. That said, we did talk a lot about potatoes and it was fascinating learning how McCain potatoes go from farm to fork. Seeing as I could write another 3,000 words discussing what I learned, I’m going to give you some quick hits of my favourite parts of the tour. Ready?
Technology on the Farm
By far, the most interesting part of the farm tour, for me, was listening to Stan describe the importance of technology in the running of the farm. They bought into technology early on, buying their first computer in 1989. Today, every single tractor, combine and sprayer is guided by satellite and GPS coordinates, which means hands off the steering wheel for the drivers, leaving them to focus on making sure the job is done right.
When I remarked how cool this was, Stan mentioned how it was way beyond the cool factor because of the economic value technology brings to the farm. The fertilizer and seed are now planted so efficiently that it’s no longer required to double-up to ensure they achieve strong amounts of growth. He can also log into the mainframe from his smartphone to check and adjust the temperature, humidity and other factors in all of the potato storages.
I still say it was extremely cool and sitting inside one of the tractors was like being on the deck of the USS Enterprise with all the screens and gadgets.
Potato & Seed Storages
The technology side of farming was cool, but seeing the inside of the potato storages was absolutely mesmerizing. We had heard of the wall-to-wall potato storage facilities on our immersion trip in Toronto but to actually see it was incredible. I must have stared at the massive pile of harvested potatoes for too long because I have almost no notes from our time inside the storage but rather about 1,000 photos of the potato wall.
I should note that the safety and sanitation measures taken on site were impeccable. As Stan put it, each potato is a living organism that will be going into someone’s mouth, and very little changes from the time it leaves the farm to the moment it hits a plate. They require greater care than other crops and they take that responsibility very seriously. As a consumer, this was very reassuring.
The seed storage was a much smaller pile because they were already about halfway done their planting for the season. That said, we had a chance to check out the seed cutting machine, which generally cuts each russet potato 6 ways to produce 8-10 plants per seed piece. Stan also brought up the fact that while potatoes have great potential for income, they are also the poorest reproducers as it takes approximately 16 bags of potatoes to produce 340 bags. When you factor in challenges such as poor weather and potential soil issues, you have to make sure you are all on the same page.
Other Odds & Ends
* Something else I found interesting was our discussion about the way crops are planted. As a non-farmer I didn’t realize that you can’t just plant potatoes in the same field year in and year out because a solid rotation of crops is extremely important for the oral health of the farm and the soil. In fact, Beaver Creek has a 4 year rotation between potato crops, as one field will see wheat, corn, canola and potatoes in consecutive years.
* Consumer acceptance generally drives the potato market. Even though a potato such as the Innovator may taste the same while being a more cost effective option to harvest, North Americans are having a hard time with the yellow colour and often pass on it for the well known Russet Burbank variety. In Europe, however, the Innovator is thriving.
* There was a running joke throughout the weekend that I had purchased new work boots for the trip but due to the weather I had been unable to dirty them up. I’m happy to report that they did not come home clean.
By the time the day was over my mind was bursting with knowledge and I hope I was able to impart some of that wisdom with you. The true story of this trip, for me, was how the strong family bond on this farm helped to make it the success that it has been for over 50 years. We were already a McCain household but after this trip my confidence in McCain Foods grew even larger.
Thank you to Stan Weibe and the crew at Beaver Creek Farms Ltd for their hospitality, the tour and all the incredible information.
Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in the Farm to Fork program, however the passion of the farmers and everyone involved in the McCain family is incredibly infectious.
This post was sponsored by CLIF Bar & Company after they noticed how active our lives were and that our kids were big fans of their CLIF Kid ZBar.
It would be a grave understatement to say that we are a family on-the-go. There were many times this summer where I had no idea what day it was but knew that we had to get from activity A to activity B and on some occasions from there to activity C, and all this before lunch. Did we bring this on ourselves? Definitely, but we want to encourage our kids to be active and think it’s especially important to start doing so at a young age.
I’m going to assume that we aren’t the only busy parents out there who have trouble finding time for breakfast, lunch & dinner while shuttling their kids around from sport to sport. As I’ve written about a number of times on the blog, our kids have developed some pretty strong picky eating habits and we have struggled to find foods for them to eat on the go, often falling back on fast food, which I think we can all agree is not the best way to get the most out of your young athletes… As you can see from the picture below, our kids seem to have caught the athlete bug. Not picture here are ice hockey, ballet and karate.
One of the bright spots throughout all of this has been our discovery of the CLIF Kid Organic ZBar. I was already a big fan of CLIF bars (chocolate chip, if you wanted to get me some), but had no idea that they had a bar for busy kids. Luckily for us I am a stubborn dad and still force my kids to try new foods even though I assume they won’t enjoy them. Imagine my surprise when both my kids loved the CLIF Kid ZBar and begged me to buy more! The best part is that on top of the fact that they are made with organic oats from Canada, the ZBar also provides the following:
* Source of fibre
* 8-10 grams whole grains
* No trans-fat, partially-hydrogenated oils or synthetic preservatives
* No high fructose corn syrup
* No artificial flavours
* CLIF Kid offers lower levels of fat and sugar than many kids’ snacks available today
We certainly don’t use these bars as meal replacements but they are an excellent source of energy for between and before events. Plus, I feel better knowing that my kids are putting something good into their bodies instead of more junk or in a lot of previous cases, nothing at all. You can check out all the products that the CLIF Bar Company has available by visiting their website at ClifBar.ca.
Listen, here’s the thing. I am bad at making lunches for myself. I have been this way ever since I was old enough to work and I’m not expecting that to change any time soon. As bad as it sounds, this news doesn’t mean that I am not eating and it also doesn’t mean that I am filling up my body with junk five days a week.
As a matter of fact, with a SUBWAY® restaurant just down the street from me I am not only staying fed but also doing so in a health conscious manner and at an affordable price. My SUBWAY Sandwish of choice is a 6 inch SUBWAY Club on Italian Herb & Cheese bread, topped with lettuce, cucumber, salt, pepper, hot peppers and mayo. Oh baby, just writing that down has me pumped for my next visit, which will actually be in 49 minutes from now!
You may have noticed that I’ve been saying Sandwish instead of sandwich and that’s because SUBWAY has made it their mission to grant Canadians’ Sandwishes by offering a quick and customizable meal from top to bottom for everyone’s individual lifestyle and dietary needs. In case you needed more reasons to stop in to your local SUBWAY today, here are a few more things to consider:
– Adding all the veggie options to your 6-inch sandwich provides two daily servings of vegetables.
– Since 2008, SUBWAY® restaurants has reduced sodium by 30% across lunch & dinner subs.
– Their 9 grain wheat & honey oat bread contain 24 grams of whole grains and five grams of fibre.
– SUBWAY is working to remove all artificial flavours, colours & preservatives from its menu by 2017.
– SUBWAY is proud to offer proteins sourced from Canada as much as possible, including Ham, Turkey & Cold Cut Combo in their restaurants.
– SUBWAY also works with local farmers across Canada to supply seasonal produce during harvest season.
Western Canada can enjoy BC-grown cucumbers from April to October and Ontario will be able to enjoy locally-grown cucumbers, onions, peppers and tomatoes in early fall! Just the fact that they are trying to incorporate home grown ingredients would be enough for me but knowing that my lunch is freshly prepared really puts SUBWAY over the top!
$100 Subway Gift Card Giveaway!
Throughout the coming months I will be working with SUBWAY to help make your Sandwishes come true and this is the first such opportunity! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below letting us know what your #SUBWAYSandwish is and we will be making those wishes come true! Oh, don’t forget to check out this hilarious video SUBWAY created when they placed a Zoltar machine out in the street to grant Sandwishes for passers-by! Giveaway is open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec.
Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program.
So when I ask if you’ve had The Talk with your family, I’m talking about the uncomfortable conversation around heart health. A new survey conducted by Vision Critical and commissioned by Bayer Inc. found that 34% of Canadians aged 18-54 agree that they find it difficult to discuss their parent(s) and/or loved one’s health and well-being with them, while 59% of Canadians aged 35-54 worry about the health of a parent or loved one regularly, with 51% of that group agreeing that they are more concerned about their parent or a loved one’s health than their own.
We all have different relationships with our parents, making it easier or tougher to have this conversation with them, but the best way to approach it is while you are doing something you enjoy doing together. Whether that be cooking together, having coffee or in my case, going out for breakfast, the important thing is that you talk about it. Not sure how to start the conversation? How about bringing up the fact that calling 911, then chewing or crushing 2 ASPIRIN® 81mg if you experience the symptoms of a heart attack may help save your life? I guarantee that’ll at least spark a conversation about health while giving your loved one some valuable information.
A recent survey by Vision Critical found that while 75 per cent of Canadians feel they know the signs of a heart attack, only 10 per cent of those were able to correctly identify the correct symptoms.
Common signs of a heart attack include:
* Chest discomfort
* upper body discomfort (including discomfort in the arms, jaw, neck and back)
* shortness of breath
* sweating and nausea
Approved in Canada for emergency use, I would also think your parent(s) would be happy to know that having some ASPIRIN® 81mg on hand may help save your life in the event of a heart attack. Even if they won’t admit it, I’ll bet they run out and grab some just in case. In fact, 64% of Canadians 55+ said they would buy ASPIRIN® 81mg if it may help save their life. You know, it also never hurt to accidentally leave some on their kitchen counter on your next visit.
The fact is, while a lot of us are afraid of having these uncomfortable conversations, they are often the ones that we need to have the most. If all you do right now is remind your parent(s) that in the event of a heart attack, to call 911, then crush or chew two ASPIRIN® 81mg tablets, then you are off to a great start!
Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program.
It’s cold and flu season, Hooray!!!! Nobody likes to be sick and no one likes to miss out on everything the holidays have to bring, so I have put together a quick list of things that you can do to avoid getting the flu this year. You’re welcome!
1. Follow Your Children Around With Disinfectant Wipes
That’s right, as long as you never let your child get dirty or touch anything, they can’t possibly get sick! The key is to follow them around with a package of disinfectant wipes (available at Shoppers Drug Mart) and clean their hands and face at every turn. It’s important to use the wipes even if they haven’t touched anything as there are still particles in the air that could cling to their hands and face!
2. Cover Your Mouth When You Sneeze
This lesson is one of the hardest for kids to wrap their heads around. In their minds, the proper way to sneeze is the exact moment when mom or dad are sitting next to them and least expecting it. In rare cases the sneeze will happen while you are playing airplane with their nose directly above your open mouth. When this happens, the best way to proceed is to gently land the plane and immediately hop in the shower for 3 hours.
3. Don’t Reuse Tissues!!!
I still have nightmares about watching my grandmother pull that dirty old tissue out of her pocket to use on my face and nose. Seriously though, how expensive is facial tissue that we even consider reusing it multiple times, let alone licking it first?! Think of the germs that are being spread with each use!! You know what? The thought of this is so gross that I actually need a moment to collect myself before moving on to the next item…
4. Wear a Medical Mask At All Times
This one is obvious and should be followed by everyone. With so many germs floating around out there, this is the only surefire way to keep from accidentally ingesting them. Worried about looking silly? Don’t! All you have to do is either find masks with cool images, like mine, or decorate them yourselves and voila! Welcome to Coolville!
5. Visit Shoppers Drug Mart And Get Your Flu Shot!
The easiest way to avoid getting the flu and ensuring that you don’t miss out this holiday season is to visit your local Shoppers Drug Mart and getting the flu shot. I mean, c’mon, who wants to walk around with a Mickey Mouse medical mask on all the time, am I right? What are you still reading this for? Scoop up your family, head to your local Shoppers Drug Mart and protect yourself against this year’s flu. Actually, wait and enter my giveaway first, THEN go get your flu shot!
Cold & Flu Prize Pack Giveaway!
Because you are all so amazing, I am going to be giving away a Cold & Flu Prize Pack which includes a $100 gift card from Shoppers Drug Mart! This should get you through any sniffles you may come across during flu season and prevent you from having to reuse tissues… This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec.
Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in the #SDMFluFighters program but truly am haunted by the image of my grandmother reusing tissues.
We’ve all heard the jokes about buying a minivan. Having never actually been inside one I was led to believe that they were simply a boring box on wheels and that I should never ever consider owning one for fear of being voted off the cool people island. When we went car shopping recently we didn’t have a minivan on our short list, but now that the dust has settled I can confirm that there is definitely one sitting in my driveway right now.
Shameless plug here but it was my work on the Schick “Drive Free” campaign that got me thinking about how much money we were pumping into our current vehicle because it was older and needed a constant stream of maintenance. We figured we’d at least check out some new vehicles that would have warranty plans we could rely on. After looking at a couple different option the salesman cautiously asked us if we had ever considered a minivan. We both kind of laughed it off but next thing we knew we were sitting in the back seats checking out all the cool features it offered.
After some hard negotiations… Wait, let me try that again. After cowering under the sales table we finally agreed to purchase a brand new, fully loaded, Dodge Grand Caravan and I have to say that this is the happiest I’ve been with a new car purchase. It has given us the freedom to allow each of our children to choose a friend to take places with us and that has really taken summer to a new level! We’ve done museums, beaches, parks and pool parties all with a van full of kids and room to spare. Seriously, minivans are the exact opposite of everything I’ve heard about them. Up next is our minivan’s first camping trip and I can’t wait to see how much stuff we can cram into it!
In closing, you should definitely buy a minivan so you can be cool like me. On top of that if you think gas, maintenance and insurance are all too expensive, you still have a lot of time left to enter the Schick “Drive Free For A Year” contest! All you need to do to enter is click on the previously mentioned link, follow the easy steps and Schick could be paying your gas, insurance and depreciation for a whole year! You can also visit the @FreeYourSkinCA Twitter handle for more specials and details about the contest. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program, however I did actually buy a minivan and I really do love it! I also actually feel cool while driving around in it. It’s like punching an achievement on my dad card!
I have a lot of great memories of camping with my family when I was young. We used to go camping at least twice year but often times more. Heck, my parents even drove us all the way to Walt Disney World and we camped instead of staying at one of the resorts. It occurred to me this summer that my young family had yet to embark on our first family camping trip, until now!
We decided to book at the 1000 Islands/Ivy Lea KOA for a number of reasons. First, it’s just over an hour from our house in case things went horribly wrong. Second, they rent cabins with bunk beds for the kids and we thought that sounded fun (and it was). I actually wrestled with the idea of tenting because staying in a cabin felt like we were breaking the rules of camping. That, and the fact that the price difference between tenting and cabin certainly isn’t negligible. In the end I have no regrets as this was one of our best family trips yet!
Due to my superior planning skills and attention to detail, I did little to no research on the Ivy Lea KOA prior to us arriving on site. You can imagine my surprise and excitement as the first thing we saw as we pulled into the park was a gigantic jumping pillow! While I understand that the jumping pillow was put there for the children, I also noticed there was no rules posted against the older campers taking part in the fun…
Here are a few other things I didn’t know about the Ivy Lea KOA. They have heated pools with a water slide. There is an adults only jacuzzi, which I frequented often. There is an arcade. The bathrooms are in immaculate condition, which was important because our cabin didn’t have a bathroom in it. Most importantly, they have a full time activities director whose job it is to keep your children busy and having fun. Every morning we would walk up to the main office and check out all the cool activities planned for that day. As you can see for yourself, there was never a shortage of things for the kids to do.
I think my favourite activity was the wet ‘n wild wagon ride in which all the kids grab water gun and load onto a tractor pulled wagon. The tractor then weaves through the campground as an epic water battle takes place between the young riders and the campers who choose to take part. It was so much fun trying to sneak up on the kids and it was great to see how many people took part in the fun.
This was such an amazing family getaway that we actually booked another KOA adventure before the end of summer! I should also note that the staff at the 1000 Islands/Ivy Lea were absolutely incredible and really go out of their way to make sure that everyone has an incredible experience. If you are looking to go camping with your family but don’t feel ready for tent life, I can’t recommend the cabin experience enough as it was a great intro to the outdoors.
Finally I’d love to give a shout out to GMC Canada for allowing us to test the GMC Acadia on our KOA adventure! It was great timing, too, as I’m not sure how we would have done it without all that extra space. We packed that thing to the max and it still drove like it was on the clouds. My kids were actually quite upset when I told them we had to take it back because they loved the 7 seats and the fact that I didn’t have to pack stuff on top of them like the rest of our road trips… I kind of miss it, too.
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of our KOA experience and strongly encourage you to check one out for yourself.
Let me tell you about my week. I had to work overnight on Monday, then my daughter had dance rehearsal on Tuesday, followed by my son’s ball hockey on Wednesday, two more dance rehearsals on Thursday and Friday, and finally, a hockey tournament and dance recitals on the weekend. Please understand that this is not a regular week for us but it is at least half representative of our busy lives.
When I think about not only what but how we are going to fit dinner into that schedule I kind of want to curl up into a ball and sob. It is especially important to me that we eat at the dinner table as a family as much as possible. Obviously this week was going to be tough but we still managed to squeeze in two family dinners, which made me happy. As far back as I can remember, my family ate dinner together at our kitchen table and our family was closer because of it. It wasn’t a huge table but it fit us and the food, which is all you really need, right?
The reason I enjoy having dinner together so much is because when you really think about all the activities and distractions life has to offer, this is the one time in the day where everyone can just sit down, relax and talk. For us, we have a framed list of 20 questions that hangs on the wall next to the dinner table and the kids get to pick 3 numbers to answer each night. This exercise is quick and painless and also opens the door to some great dinnertime conversation.
One other thing to note is that we do not allow electronics of any kind at the table. That means no tweeting for daddy, no clash of clans for my son and no Facebook for mommy. A recent study by pasta company, Barilla® Canada, revealed that while 74% of families have dinner together 1-4 times a week, 43% of those families do so with either the TV on or an electronic device at the table.
This all leads me to my question, how often do you eat together as a family and do you do so without electronics?
#ShareTheTable And Win A Trip To Italy With Barilla®!
Barilla® created the Share The Table® initiative to help inspire, empower and support all families to enjoy more meaningful meals. They believe that while mealtime may not be a panacea for building strong children and families, it is still one of the most important things we can do to instill a sense of courage, confidence, and character in our children today, so that they, in turn, can make the world a better place.
That said, Barilla® wants to know what dinner time looks like with your family. Share your family experience by uploading a picture or a written description, and you’ll be entered to win 1 of 3 trips to Italy. You can ENTER HERE!
Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in the Share The Table campaign but we really do eat dinner together 🙂