Jul
26
2012

Enjoy Some Watermelon Margaritas (Dirty Dancing Optional)

Clevelands House Family Retreat...With A Twist

Enjoy Some Watermelon Margaritas (Dirty Dancing Optional)

Want to have the time of your life? I can’t promise a buff hottie to lift you over his head in the shallows, but I CAN promise there will be plenty of Watermelon Margaritas to go around. In fact, I’ll be hosting a bartending tutorial for thirsty YMC mummies who’d like to unleash their inner Cocktailista. We’ll muddle, mix and sip our way through Bartending 101 and depending on how many cocktails we sample, there may be some Dirty Dancing involved...

Clevelands House, situated in the heart of Muskoka on the shores of beautiful Lake Rosseau, is the setting for YMC’s Family Weekend (Aug 23-26).

Twelve years ago my husband and I were married on Lake Rosseau and celebrated our engagement over Caesars at sunset on the deck at Clevelands House. My husband has fond memories of summering at The Cleves as a child. His mom and her bestie took the boys up every summer. The ladies played tennis while their sons ran amok and had a blast.

One summer there was a costume party for the kids down by the lake. My husband insisted that he be a tiger. My mother-in-law scrambled to put together the cutest tiger getup. In his costume, headed for the lake he announced, “Me no want to be a tigah no more.” Sigh. Kids. Ironically, he’s quite the tiger now. Wink wink.

My husband, his little bro and BFF have such great memories of time spent and friendships made at The Cleves. This will be my family’s first trip there together and I am excited to make lasting memories with them.

I also look forward to ditching the kids and strapping on some waterskiis. What? If ever there was an acceptable time to put “baby in the corner” this is it.  And by corner, I’m referring of course to the renowned Cleve’s Kids Day Camp and Playworld. With over 35 qualified children's counselors to care for and entertain newborn children to teens, a one-acre Play World, two large "Kiddie Pools," movies, arts and crafts, entertainers, sport camps and more, it’s unlikely I’ll see much of my children until dinner time.

For the adults, Clevelands House Resort offers quality dining and nightly entertainment, 16 tennis courts, a 9-hole on-site golf course, priority access to the new Nick Faldo designed 18 hole championship golf course "The Rock" ...my husband has his Tiger (Woods) costume packed...four swimming pools and hot tubs, sauna and fitness facilities. Boat Rentals, cruises, and waterskiing are also available.

Sarah Gunn (YMC & Cityline) and fam will be there offering a crafting how-to. Sharon DeVellis, the hilarious voice of YMC and her family will be there too. Sharon and Ali Martell (YMC's fab editor) are hosting a book club. No, the book is not 50 Shades of Grey. Resident YMC Foodie Gav Martell is going to lead a course into grilling to perfection. And of course, head Yummy Mummy Erica Ehm will be there to show us the ropes. She and her family have been vacationing at Clevelands House for the past eight years. They're total Clevers.

Clevelands House is Where Great Family Vacations Come True. Hope to see you there! (I promise I won’t make you carry any watermelons).

Join us at the YMC Family Weekend at Clevelands House!

Register ASAP by calling 1-866-645-1902 or via email at reservations@clevelandshouse.com.

YMC Members get 20% Off—Make sure you mention YMC when you call to get your discount.

 

Jul
21
2012

Ultimate Dinosaurs are the Ultimate Family Fun!

Take Your Family to experience the Giants from Gondwana at the ROM

Ultimate Dinosaurs are the Ultimate Family Fun!

My son and his dad have been collecting dino replicas from the time our boy was a toddler. His bedroom has since been transformed from a 'dino den' to a 'space station' (with a special spot reserved for his beloved collection). After all these years, his fascination with these giant reptiles hasn’t waned.

When we were offered the chance to visit the ROM’s world premiere exhibit Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana, I nearly turned it down because we were getting set to leave for a family vacation. The look of disappointment on my boys’ faces (the little boy AND the big boy/man) was too much to bear, so we pushed our summer vacation back by a day. The outlet mall and poolside pina coladas would have to wait.

Yes, this is the level of dino mania that exists in my house.

I’m talking about my nine-year-old (who asked me to PLEASE stop chanting, “Dinohs for nine-ooooohs” on the drive to museum) and my older child (aka my dino loving husband).

Upon entering the ROM's main entrance, we were greeted by the largest dinosaur ever mounted in Canada (mounted as in erected, not saddled up and ridden. Though, what a ride THAT would be). The Futalognkosauras, a giant long-necked sauropod and one of the biggest animals to have ever walked the Earth, stretched 110 ft. long and would have weighed as much as ten elephants, was too big to fit in the exhibition hall! This blurry shot (sorry) is the Thornbury family posing in the shadow of this impressive beast.

As a former elementary school teacher I know the ROM like the back of my hand. Bi-yearly field trips with my students stand out as some of my favourite teacher moments (minus the bus ride... ask any teacher, they're a migraine in the making).

I thought I'd seen it all, but this new exhibit exceeded my expectations. Specifically, the cutting edge technology and hands-on activities. Even the whirling dervish five year old was entertained.

My uber tactile daughter enjoyed the hands-on activities like the touchable bronze casts and dino lab with real fossils and the self-contained discovery area within the exhibition geared for kids ages two-to-eight with plenty of touchable objects.

The exhibition is presented in five sections, starting with the Triassic section and ending with what are perhaps the largest land predators to have ever lived—Gigantosauras and Tyrannosaurus rex.

Ever the elementary school teacher, I had certain goals for this outing.

For my daughter? Basically, not to lose her and for her not to knock anything over.

For my son, for him to simply explore and enjoy. Armed with an iPhone, he took photos at will and used the notepad to take notes to later refer to for his blog. HIS idea. What can I say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the pedagogical tree...

As we wandered through the various periods, my son imparted facts and knowledge upon us that—frankly—I couldn’t believe he knew by heart. I could barely remember where we’d parked the car.

His favourite feature was the interactive learning pods. There are iPad stations set up around the exhibit that use cutting-edge Augmented Reality technology (AR) to bring dinosaurs to life, layering virtual experiences over the real environment.

The whole family enjoyed the reactive walls. These giant displays use body-scanning technology to show dinosaurs as they react to visitor’s movement as they approach. I couldn’t help but think these HUGE screens would be perfect for a private screening of Magic Mike...

If you get a chance to visit the exhibit, be sure to download the free ROM Ultimate Dinosaurs app from the App store and point at the specified dino images to bring them to life. It's VERY cool.

You may be wondering where my daughter is in this shot. Poor girl was eaten by a t-rex. I kid! She was scarfing down a hot dog around the corner.

My son LOVED this experience and told me to add, "You'll learn a lot!"

Will we go again? Yes.

Will I bring my daughter again? Once was enough for her.

There was a lot to keep her interested, but after an hour she was ready to go. My son however could have stayed all day. So, he and I will go back and explore some more another day.

I fear I wasn't able to convey the true cool factor of the AR technology, so I'm including a short video clip below so you can see it for yourself.

Oh, and one final tip—wear comfy shoes. You'll be doing a lot of walking and you wouldn't want your feet to get dino-sore!

Jul
20
2012

Party Planning For Parents

Tips For Hosting A (Relatively) Stress-Free children's birthday party

Party Planning For Parents

Most parents would rather gnaw off their own arms than face the daunting task of hosting a kids’ party. Hence the trend to outsource parties to playcentres or indoor amusement facilities. I’ve done it. Were the parties successful? Sure. Were they especially memorable? Not particularly. Were they expensive? Absolutely. Throw in food and loot bags (don't even get me started) and these affairs can cost a (gnawed) arm and a leg.

A new trend for budget conscious families is the return to the “home party. Old-school games, hot dogs on the BBQ, cake. These simple parties are the ones kids tend to remember. If your home is too small to host a party, you can easily host your party at a local park.

Who to invite? Inviting your child’s entire class is not always possible, nor desirable. If you’re inviting all the boys from the class, fine. The girls will understand and won’t likely be offended by not being invited to your son’s Minecraft party. However, if you’re only inviting a few of your child’s classmates, be considerate and try to keep invitations under the radar. I’m not saying you have to invite everyone. In fact, small parties of 3-5 guests is often the way to go -- more budget friendly and you can often do more. e.g. “Sleepover at the Science Centre.” Just be aware and discreet.

Preparation is the key to any successful party, kids’ and adults’ alike. Always plan MORE activities than you think you’ll need, but don’t try to rush through them. Start with the ones you really want the kids to try. Stay on track in terms of time, but if an activity is going well let it continue. If the natives become restless, cut your losses and move on.

TOP 5 TIPS for 'Less Stress' birthday party planning:

 

1. Don’t go it alone. Have extra bodies around to help. Enlist your spouse, the grandparents, family friends to help out the day of.

2. Have a sheet for parents to sign as they drop off their child. Have them include their cell number (to call in case of an emergency during the party) and their email address so you can email photos from the party and/or a thank you card.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. The internet has millions of decor and game ideas, templates, recipes. Do the research and modify to suit your party.

4. Your job is not to impress the parents of the guests with fancy cakes and loot bags. Kids don’t care about those things. They are happy to eat a frozen Sarah Lee cake with sprinkles on top and eat chips straight out of the bag (funny enough, so am I!). This party is for YOUR child so just have fun. Keep that in mind, everything else will fall into place.

5. Reuse items or repurpose things you have around the house. For added touches visit the local Dollar Stores for things like coloured balloons, plastic table clothes, etc. I also share and borrow items from fellow mamas who’ve thrown similarly themed parties in the past.

The parties that stand out are often the most simple. It’s all about the atmosphere. If the hosts are relaxed and having fun, that’s a successful party. My husband participates in our children’s birthday parties. He got out on the field during a soccer party and played (hard) with the kids. They loved it. At a water party, he was the first to launch a water balloon. And at our Lego party, he was right there, building away. And that, in my opinion, makes a good birthday party, great.