{FAMILY} The Nutcracker: A Reignited Passion For Dance

Last year, after 4 years of taking weekly ballet classes, my daughter decided to take a break from the classical dance genre to try something new.

At first, my heart sank. I had grown up with a passion for the arts, and watching my little girl sauté and pirouette on stage each year had made me so proud. But I soon realized that instead of dancing vicariously through my daughter, it was time for me to return to the barre myself, and I’m still taking adult ballet classes today.

When I treated her to a mother-daughter date to see The Nutcracker last year, her passion for ballet was reignited and she decided to give it another try. This year her class will be performing their own rendition of the holiday classic and my little girl is thrilled to be dancing in the Arabian scene – one of our all-time favourite Nutcracker pieces.

Nutcracker

The Arabian dance performed by Alberta Ballet

I’m looking forward to watching my tiny dancer perform on stage once again this year, and I’m excited to share with her our annual holiday tradition of watching professional ballerinas perform in The Nutcracker in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Theatre again this holiday season.

This year will be my 34th consecutive year of watching the production, and each year I look forward to seeing how each choreographer and dance ensemble put their own twist on the famous Christmas ballet.

Nutcracker

Choreographed by Edmund Stripe, and decorated with more than a million dollars worth of dazzling sets and costumes designed by Emmy Award-winning designer Zack Brown, this year’s production promises to be an unforgettable event. Ballet BC’s artistic director, Emily Molnar explains the decision to bring Alberta Ballet back to Vancouver:

“Vancouver audiences were delighted with Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker when it was first presented here in 2011. We’re pleased to bring back this magical version of the famous Christmas ballet with its live music performed by the VSO, extravagant sets and costumes and the talented dancers of Alberta Ballet. The Nutcracker is unforgettable family entertainment that is sure to enrich your holiday season.”

Nutcracker

Each year, I like to share the gift of dance with my readers through a giveaway, and this year I’m so excited to be giving away not two, but four tickets to the performance (a $280 value)! Enter to win below, and stay tuned for my review of this year’s show.

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Nutcracker

THE NUTCRACKER

Choreography: Edmund Stripe
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

QUEEN ELIZABETH THEATRE

December 29, 2015 7:30pm
December 30, 2015 2:00pm
December 30, 2015 7:30pm
December 31, 2015 2:00pm

 

{FAMILY} Wish List: Holiday Outfits For Kids

Each year I create a photo book to gift to my parents and in-laws for Christmas. The photo books highlight memorable moments from from of our year – lost teeth, birthdays, dance recitals, vacations – and each book is always finished off with a photo of my children sitting on Santa’s knee. With my oldest child in her eighth year, we’ve created quite a collection of these books and holiday Santa photos – they have become valuable keepsakes for both our family and the grandparents who receive the books as gifts.

The outfits that my children wear for their photo with Santa and for our family Christmas dinners over the holidays are an important part of the holidays for me. Christmas is one of the few times that I get to dress up my children and snap formal photos of them together to include in those special keepsakes of their grandparents. If it weren’t for the promise of holiday cheer, it would be nearly impossible for me to capture my little munchkins in such happy spirits together.

This year I’d love to dress them in similar outfits – and these three brands have exactly what I’m looking for – but I can’t decide which way to go – fancifully formal? Playfully casual? Or Modernly monochromatic? Here are some of my favourites, maybe you can help me to decide:

Fancifully Formal – Redfish Kids

Kids Holiday Outfits

I was recently invited to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the popular, high-end children’s clothing brand Redfish Kids, and I couldn’t stop drooling over their holiday collection. Assertively stylish and made of high-quality fabrics such as velvet and taffeta, their formal frocks and handsome velvet pieces were simply adorable! My picks: the Simon says vest for my boy, and the Dolce dress for my girls.

Playfully Casual Yet Chic – Peekaboo BeansKids Holiday Outfits

What I love most about the Peekaboo Beans holiday collection is the promising longevity of their products. Their holiday outfits are dressy enough for Christmas dinner, yet comfy/casual enough for my kids to wear to school and for playtime after the holidays have passed. My picks: The Rockslide Leggings and Dazzl’n Dress for my girls, and the cute yet casual Ranger Pants and Looking Good Pullover for my boy.

Modernly Monochromatic – VonBon

VonBon

I just can’t resist a clean, black and white look for the holidays, and Von Bon‘s latest line hits the mark when it comes to fresh, fashion-forward kids wear. The swoon-worthy outfits pictured above would pair perfectly with the red accents of the holidays (and our Dalmatian too!), and the modern pattern screams chic! Not to mention, these adorable styles could be recycled throughout the year.

Which looks do you like best? 

{FOOD} 3 Family-Friendly North Shore Spots Fit For A Foodie

I have always loved dining out. In fact, if I could relinquish my cooking responsibilities entirely in favour of a personal chef, or meals carefully prepared and elegantly served in a comfortable dining environment, I would shut down my kitchen in a heartbeat. I love to eat – but I don’t love to cook. And now that I have 3 children (2 of which are in school), making lunches has become the bane of my existence.

But while I love going out for dinner, I’m getting rather tired of the regular family-friendly dining destinations (I love you White Spot, but a girl can only have so many Triple-O burgers). So for those of you who are looking for locally-owned alternatives to the typical big chain restaurants and coffee shops that are frequented by child-toting families, check out these 3 picks for family-friendly food spots fit for a foodie:

foodieWell Fed Studio

Many of my Fridays have been made better thanks to Well Fed Studio. Not only do they provide cooking classes and high quality, all-natural meals to go, but their magic lunch box program is a fantastic addition to my children’s hot lunch days at school. Unlike the hot dog days, and McDonald’s days we had at my school when I was growing up, Well Fed Studio looks for ways to add nutrient-rich ingredients and essential lean proteins to their carefully-prepared lunches – providing kids with the staying power to learn effectively. Thanks to Well Fed studio, my kids are well fed on hot lunch days, and I don’t have to lift a finger. Win-win.

If you pop into their studio, check out this fabulous special offer.

foodie


 

foodieInGrain Pastificio foodie

If you’re looking for a family-friendly spot for lunch or dinner on the North Shore, InGrainPastificio is a must-visit dining destination. Owned and operated by brother-in-law duo, Alistair Knox and Erick Kauko (infamous for their Deep Cove hot spot Arms Reach Bistro), InGrain Pastificio produces their own pasta in-house using all-Canadian, locally-sourced high-quality grains. Their easily-accessible restaurant offers high-end Italian-inspired dishes in a comfortable, laid-back environment – perfect for noodle-crazy picky eaters like mine.

Want to learn more about how InGrain Pastificio came to be? Check out their fascinating story in The North Shore Foodie book – written by yours truly.


 

foodieTemper Pastryfoodie

Our family loves to go for strolls along Ambleside beach in West Vancouver, and on chilly days, stopping for a treat and some warm bevies afterwards is the perfect way to complete our day. And while we love the usual big-chain coffee shops, a chocolate or mini dessert at Temper Pastry hits the spot for my little sweet-tooth boasting kidlets.


 

www.bradhillimaging.com

For more on these and the many other fantastic, independently-owned North Shore food & drink destinations, check out The North Shore Foodie book – available online and in-stores on November 16, 2015.

The book features the stories behind 37 leading independent North Shore restaurants, bars, cafés, bakeries, breweries, butchers and chocolatiers, and over 100 delicious recipes that come directly from North Shore chefs. Ranging from simple everyday family meals to challenging cuisine that will push you to the boundaries of your culinary repertoire, the decadent, hearty, and nutritious range of featured recipes offers something for every palate and skill level.

Wouldn’t this make an awesome holiday gift?

foodie

Want to win the ultimate North Shore foodie prize? Join us for the Instagram Loop Giveaway, running now until November 19th. Follow along here: Instagram Loop Giveaway

{FAMILY} 4 Reasons To Love Peekaboo Beans

DID YOU KNOW?

Many of you have already heard of this fabulous clothing brand for kids, but do you know where Peekaboo Beans got their name?

The name stemmed from a game the Founder used to play with her kids – she would squeeze edamame beans out of their pods in a fun and playful way while shouting “Peekaboo Beans!” as a way to encourage her children to eat their vegetables. Who knew a silly name from a mealtime game would plant the seeds for a play revolution!

I’m so excited to have been selected as an Ambassador for Peekaboo Beans, and thought I would start by sharing the top 4 reasons why I love this brand.

#1: Founder and Queen Bean – Traci Costa.

Local mom and passionate advocate for play, Traci Costa started Peekaboo Beans on a mission to provide parents with well-made, no-fuss, comfortable play wear for children. Traci gives back to the community by creating jobs both locally and overseas, and improves the lives of children living in war-torn countries through charitable partnerships.

#2: Ethically-made high quality clothing for kids.

Peekaboo Beans doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to manufacturing their products. With a focus on quality not quantity, the play wear is created following a very strict manufacturing code of ethics, ensuring high quality production in a safe and ethical work environment.

Peekaboo Beans

#3: Employment opportunities for moms.

Eager to maintain control of her brand and to make an impact on the world, Traci developed a business model designed to create local jobs, with a focus on providing opportunities for moms to generate additional income while promoting the brand they have grown to love.

“Work without missing the moments that matter.”

Play Stylists enjoy being part of a supportive community, with flexible work schedules, great compensation, and product rewards plans.

#4: The PLAY Revolution.

Through various play-focused initiatives, Peekaboo Beans connects parents and their children with various opportunities to get outdoors, connect with like-minded families, and enjoy the power of everyday active play. Initiatives include:

Pop-Up Playdates – organized, unstructured meet ups to encourage parents and their children to play at various playgrounds and outdoor locations.

Play-Ducation – a series of workshops with industry leaders focused on childhood development tools.

Playground Builders – a grassroots organization that builds playgrounds in war-torn countries.

To learn more about this loveable local brand, check out this video:

Stay tuned for reviews and giveaways throughout the year as I embark on this new journey as an ambassador for this fantastic brand.

{FAMILY} Back-To-School Finds: Butler Overboots

We’ve had months of beautiful Summer weather in Vancouver, but with the return of the rain comes the return of routine for many families like ours, as we prepare our children for back to school. And while I’m looking forward to the excitement of a new school year, this time of year is always especially chaotic as I prepare my children for school with one-on-one shopping trips for school supplies, outfits and gear for their Fall extracurriculars. So much to buy, so little time! My son is starting Kindergarten this Fall so I’m making an extra effort to start him off on the right foot for the school year. We’ve purchased a new backpack and lunch bag, and he has hand picked a brand new outfit to wear on his first day! And one necessity that I’m happy to have already included in our collection of outdoor wear is sure to come in handy this Fall – the Butler overboot – a great solution to the shoe-changing challenges of the children of our rainy city. Rain boots Unlike any other boot I’ve seen, this overboot makes it quick and easy for kids to transition from indoor to outdoor footwear on rainy days. The boots are designed to comfortably slip over slippers or running shoes, so children can seamlessly transition from inside play to outdoor fun. I wish I had discovered these when my children were in daycare – it would have been much easier for their teachers to get the kids ready to play outside! Rain boots I was introduced to the Butler overboot by a great little online shop called Amelie & Max, whose mission is to “curate a selection of Canadian and international brands for discerning modern parents who are looking for ethical, durable, high quality, multifunctional innovative apparel, shoes, accessories and lifestyle products for the entire family.” A Canadian mom-run business with a great purpose for parents. They have my support. We’ve been trying out these adorably colourful and easy-to-wear boots by our river, and so far my kids love them! They’ll be great to keep in their cubbies at school for rainy day wear. Thanks to my friends at Amelie & Max, one of my lucky readers can WIN a pair too! Enter below, and good luck.Rain boots a Rafflecopter giveaway

{FAMILY} You Can’t Handle The Tooth!

Fact: teething bites (pun very much intended).

I’m on my third tooth-bearing child, and let me tell you, it doesn’t get any easier. No matter how much practice you get, those baby chiclets will sneak up on you, and hit you like a slap in the face. One minute your baby is sleeping well and melting your heart with sweet little smiles and giggles, and the next, the pterodactyl from within unleashes its unruly wails as those tiny little white nuggets push their way through to the surface of your poor baby’s gums.

Sleepless nights, soaked-through tops, and the biting (oh the biting!). Unfortunately, teething is inevitable. We have to let nature take its course – it’s just not optional. What is optional though, is how we deal with the disastrous childhood milestone.

As parents we have two choices: we can grin and bear it – suffer through the raw pain of parenting a teething toddler for the months (sometimes years!) of agony – or, we can numb the pain for our poor little biters by providing them with the right supplies they need to dull the distress.

Cue: Lou Lou Lollipop Teething Necklaces. Unlike many teething necklaces I’ve seen on the market, these cute little silicon-based gems come in a wide range of modern, wearable, hip designs that can be worn without looking “like a mom” when out and about with your little drooler.

teething necklace

I thought so many of their designs were cute and totally wearable (I love the black one above, it looks like it’s made of wood!), but I wanted something unique that would fit with my brand/personality, so the lovely ladies of LouLou Lollipop Finery made me this beautiful custom set for my little teether and I:

teething necklace2

I love the colours, and my oldest daughter likes to wear the larger necklace sometimes too so she can “twin” with her baby sister.

My littlest loves to prance around with her necklace in hand and take a little nibble as she plays. It’s adorable, and it keeps her drooly gums preoccupied which is of course a big win for me.

Not only did I get my own custom set, but I’m giving away one of these lovely necklaces to one of my readers!

teething

Enter now for a chance to WIN your very own LouLou Lollipop teething necklace – in the design of your choice ($30 value)! Check out their site to see more styles, and enter below for your chance to win.
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About LouLou Lollipop Finery:

Lou Lou Lollipop Finery is a premium brand of modern, hip silicone accessories designed and handmade locally in Vancouver by two sisters, Eleanor and Angel.

Product features include:
* FDA approved high quality food grade silicone
* Made with non-toxic materials (no- BPA, PVC, phthalate, latex, lead, cadmium, or heavy metals)
* Features breakaway safety clasp as an added safety measure
* Silicone is anti-microbial; does not harbour bacteria or mold

Note: LouLou Lollipop teething jewelry is intended to be worn by adults. It is NOT a toy. It should not be worn by babies/children or left with any child unattended. Adult supervision is always required.


 

{TRAVEL} Springs RV Resort (Harrison Hot Springs)

Our family loves to explore local travel destinations, and Harrison Hot Springs has always been at the top of our list of family favourite getaways. And while we’ve always vacationed at the same resort in years past, this year we were invited to try something a little different – a weekend stay at Springs RV Resort.

I had never stayed in an RV, and had preconceived notions of what an RV park would have to offer as a travel destination, but I kept an open mind and was excited to explore my favourite BC spot from a new perspective.

When we arrived at the resort, I was in awe. As we drove into the gates, I realized that this wasn’t your average trailer park, this was a luxury retreat – complete with a plethora of kid-friendly amenities and family activities.

Harrison Hot Springs

When we pulled up to our site, I was impressed by the cleanliness of the grounds – each site was well cared for and carefully landscaped, and each featured its own unique, custom-built deck made of rough-cut timber, and cedar shake roofed gazebos with outdoor kitchens. Each site also featured a shabin (a shed-cabin!) with built-in bunk beds for the kids. The shabin was definitely a highlight for my little ones who spent hours playing in their own little fortress.

RV stay

While we had originally planned on spending most of our weekend enjoying the Sasquatch Festival in the lakeside village of Harrison Hot Springs, we found that there was just so much to do in our own little RV community, so we opted for outdoor activities that were a bit closer to home base.

Steps from our door were some lovely forested trails, perfect for a family stroll on a hot Summer’s day.

Harrison Hot Springs

With record-high temperatures, we also loved splashing in the beautiful pools.

Harrison Hot Springs

And after dinner, our kids loved playing on the treed playground, featuring an antique carousel (originally from The Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, a true heritage piece).

Harrison Hot Springs

We quickly learned that there was so much more to do at Springs RV Resort than just glamping in an RV – it’s no wonder they’ve received recognition as one of the top RV resorts in North America!

Harrison Hot Springs

There were so many great things to love about this resort, including:

  • Brand new three-storey clubhouse
  • New adult pool and over-sized hot tub
  • Large heated family pool with hot tub
  • Spa-like bathrooms with heated tile floors
  • 5 outdoor community fireplaces
  • Two big screen TV areas
  • Library with fireplace
  • Games room – darts, pool, ping pong, foosball
  • Stone and cedar social pavilion for BBQ’s and dances
  • Laundry Room
  • Large treed playground
  • 1930’s Antique Carousel
  • Walking trails & dog walk
  • Free Wi-Fi & Shaw Hotspots

But what I loved most of all was the sense of community that I felt while living amongst the people who call this unique and special place their Summer home. People waved as we passed them by, and there were many family-friendly events and activities designed to unite the people of Springs RV Resort, including outdoor movies, community BBQs, and kids’ crafts.

Interested in checking it out for yourself?

The Springs RV Resort offers overnight rental, seasonal leases and sites for purchase, making the resort dream within reach. Ownership provides a home base in a resort community of friends and family. Yet, an RV’er is still free to go travel and explore where their time and interests carry them. 

Come by anytime for a tour and see why the Springs RV Resort was rated one of the top RV Resorts in North America. Phase two is now completed and there are 62 new RV lots available with 50 amp service. 

Learn More

We are so thankful to the owners for allowing us to enjoy this unique experience, and hope to return for another visit again soon.

{FAMILY} Why I Quit Using Cloth Diapers

I successfully used cloth diapers for baby #3, and I’m so proud of myself for sticking with it for as long as I did (almost a year). I saved a lot of money (especially since the cloth diapers I was using had a great ROI – I was able to sell them for a great profit), and I felt good about my small contribution to the well-being of our planet. But all good things must come to an end. My baby grew out of the stock of cloth diapers that I had, and I had to make a decision: reinvest in the next size up, or transition back to disposable diapers.

Cloth Diapers

12 months in cloth diapers

With my little one now on solid foods and soiling her diapers much less frequently, and a busy schedule of rushing around with my two older children, convenience won and I decided to transition away from cloth diapering. While I enjoyed the experience, it was time to move on.

While I was happy with my decision, I felt tinges of guilt as I tossed the disposables into the trash. I was aware of the environmental impacts of my decision and feeling guilty for turning my back on my goal to be a more environmentally-friendly household.

When I received a package in the mail filled with cleaning products and diaper supplies from an earth-friendly brand called Seventh Generation (a brand that I had worked with a few years ago), I was excited to try out their diapers again! I felt like I had found a nice balance between both diapering worlds – a disposable diaper that would offer the convenience factor that I sought, but that was also gentle on my baby’s skin and the environment, made of only all-natural ingredients.

Seventh generation

We love what we see on the labels

I’ve tried other “green” diaper brands in the past, and found the side tabs to be quite fragile, and the absorbency to be too weak for overnights. The Seventh Generation diapers have thick and secure tabs, and stretchy waistbands making it easy for my little crawler/walker to get around comfortably. They haven’t leaked through lengthy wears, and fit nicely.

But I’m a big believer in trying before I buy – and luckily for you, you can try out these great products too! Enter below for a chance to WIN a Seventh Generation package of goodies ($50 VALUE)*, including:

  • A package of Seventh Generation Free & Clear diapers
  • A package of  Seventh Generation Free & Clear baby wipes
  • A package of Seventh Generation 100% recycled bathroom tissue
  • A package of Seventh Generation botanical disinfecting wipes
  • A bottle of Seventh Generation biodegradable dish soap 
  • A box of 100% Recycled Facial Tissue

*Sorry friends, this contest is only available to CANADIAN RESIDENTS.

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{FAMILY} BABYBJÖRN Bouncer Mini

BABYBJÖRN has always been a trusted brand in my house. All three of my children spent their earliest months cradled in the comfort of a BABYBJÖRN carrier, and I felt comfortable knowing that they were safe and secure, snuggled up against my body.

BABYBJÖRN Mini Bouncer

Last month I was invited to a BABYBJÖRN product launch, and I couldn’t wait to see what they were bringing exclusively to Canada. When the lovely team from BABYBJÖRN revealed the new Bouncer Mini, I was immediately impressed. The sleek and compact design was stylish and functional, and the unique features made it a baby product win in my books.

BABYBJÖRN Bouncer Mini

Bouncer Mini - Light pink, Cotton (3)

Product Highlights:

  • Powered by babies. While most baby bouncers are battery operated, this bouncer provides a natural way for babies to learn to soothe themselves, strengthening their motor skills and providing them with the comfort they seek.
  • Designed for newborns. Many baby bouncers are designed for babies up to the early toddler months, catering to the needs of more developed babies. The Bouncer Mini was designed specifically to meet the needs of newborns who haven’t fully developed their muscles – offering comfortable support for fragile head and back muscles.
  • Cradles your baby for you. As much as we’d all love to hold our babies 24/7, there are other things that we need to do, hands-free. The Bouncer Mini is light and mobile, easy to move to any room, and the safety features provide a reassuringly easy place to lay your baby so you can get other jobs done.

The BABYBJÖRN Bouncer Mini is not yet available in stores, and will only be sold exclusively in Canada, however I have one to give away to one lucky reader! Enter below for a chance to win – the perfect gift for expectant friends, or for your new baby boy or girl. ($159.95 value)

BabyBjorn Bouncer Mini

Available in grey or light pink. To learn more about this product, visit BABYBJÖRN Bouncer Mini 
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{RECIPE} Our Favourite Meatloaf

I’m not sure why I don’t make meatloaf more often. It’s so simple to make, and my kids love it! It’s like a giant meatball packed with veggies and protein, topped with sweet tomato sauce – perfect for picky palates.

This was quite possibly the easiest dinner I have ever made for my family. You just toss the ingredients into the bowl, mix them up, place the mixture in a loaf pan, cook it, and serve it up! I chose to serve this version of meatloaf with roasted potatoes and baby carrots, and a delicious pear and gorgonzola salad, but this meal would also work well with rice and broccoli, or just about any combination of carb and veggie.

Meatloaf

Ingredients:

Meatloaf

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Combine beef, 1/2 can of soup, onion, breadcrumbs, parmesan, eggs, black pepper, and garlic.
  •  Transfer to a nonstick 9×5 inch (2 L) loaf pan. Spread remaining soup over top. Bake for 60 minutes or until instant read thermometer registers 165°F (74°C) when inserted into the center of the meatloaf.
  • Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Meatloaf

Bee’s Take:

  • Try adding diced carrots and celery to sneak in some added veggies.
  • I found the sauce slid off the top once the meatloaf had fully cooked, try saving 1/4 of the sauce and adding it for the last few minutes of cooking time.
  • Use extra lean ground beef to cut down on fat.

Meatloaf

Want to discover more easy, family-friendly recipes that your whole family will enjoy? Check out the new Cook With Campbell’s Mobile App! Now you can peruse their meal ideas while you stroll through the grocery store, and your list of ingredients will be accessible in the palm of your hand. I can’t wait to try this for last minute meal ideas.

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Disclosure: I am part of the Campbell Company of Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.