Family-Friendly Summer Fun in and around Metro Vancouver

Summer has finally arrived after months of gloom. The grey clouds have (mostly) cleared and we’re ready to enjoy Vancouver at its best. You won’t find travel plans filling my summer calendar; I’ve waited months to catch a glimpse of the sun and now that it’s arrived I intend to take full advantage of all the family fun beautiful British Columbia offers. I’ll save my travel budget for February’s dreariness, thank you very much.

The Healthy Family Expo’s Summer Family Fun Guide 2018 is a great resource for local families. Packed full of info on attractions in and near the Metro Vancouver area, it provides a glimpse of what families can expect when they visit Maplewood Farms in North Vancouver, West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, the Britannia Mine Museum in Britannia Beach just south of Squamish, and Destination Cultus Water and Adventure Parks.

We were lucky enough to enjoy each of the five attractions featured in the Summer Family Fun Guide thanks to the Healthy Family Expo. I was a little concerned about the age gap between Grady and Poppy (would Grady at almost-seven enjoy the attractions with Poppy at just two? Would Poppy be able to participate in the fun that Grady had?), but my fears were unfounded. Each of the attractions we visited appealed to a wide age range to include family members of different sizes. The cherry on top of this fun-filled sundae was the music we enjoyed during the drive to our adventures. Jessie Farrell’s new album, Sparkle & Shine, was the soundtrack for our car trips. The nature-inspired tracks are perfect to listen to as we travel to our outdoor adventures. The tunes are catchy and upbeat  and I have found myself humming "Ladybug" at work on more than one occasion (hashtag: mom life / shrug emoji). You can preview and download this album on Apple Music or order the CD online, and also catch Jessie & The Gumboot Kids on CBC Kids!

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Cultus Lake Waterpark has been around as long as I can remember but I’d never been. The Cultus Lake Adventure Park was added in 2014 and together the two form Destination Cultus. As I planned my route online, it looked like quite the trek but once we got on the highway it was smooth sailing and we reached the park in just over an hour. Pro tip: if you park at the Adventure Park (the first exit off the roundabout) you’ll pay more than double the rate of the Water Park lot. It’s closer to the park, and it’s a bit nicer because it’s shaded, but you pay for it. Both parks are welcoming and inclusive of riders of different age groups, from the Honey Pots (think Disneyland’s teapots) to the Runaway Mine Train roller coaster in the Adventure Park and the Tots Castle to the Valley of Fear in the Water Park. Everyone can participate, and everyone can have fun. Make sure you buy your gem bag (available for $5 at all ticket booths in the Adventure Park) and visit the Wilderness Trail to pan for gold and gemstones.

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Maplewood Farm has long been a family favourite. I’ve been taking Grady since he was old enough to toddle after the goats in the goat enclosure. This was Poppy’s first visit and it did not disappoint. My city gal’s mind was blown at every step, from the Shetland ponies where she exclaimed, “yook at dat cow!” to the potbelly pig pen where she shrieked, “yook at dose puppies!” Grady loved the autonomy of interacting with the animals, practicing his patience so the roaming chickens would come close to investigate, and braving the rabbit run all by himself. The highlight is always the goat enclosure where the kids can play with the goats. We camped out under the cherry tree for an hour while Grady fed the goats cherries he picked up off the ground and Poppy tried to boss around a herd of unwilling goats.

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I’ve been driving past the Britannia Mine Museum since I was a little kid driving to Squamish to visit family. Being the first of my siblings to spot the giant mine truck from the highway gave the ultimate road trip bragging rights. Finally being able to visit and cross it off my childhood bucket list was a dream come true. They caution against bringing children younger than three and I have to agree. It wasn’t unsafe to have Poppy there with us but it did hamper our enjoyment a bit. There’s some walking on uneven ground, quite a few steps, some loud noises, and some portions of the tour are in total blackness. She and Grady both loved the panning for gold, though, and Grady learned a lot. Out of all the places we visited, it was the only one where I felt Poppy was maybe a bit too young to participate. I had a silly smile on my face the whole time we were there, even while wrangling a feral toddler. Taking a picture with my kid beside the giant mining truck felt like a full circle moment. Grady’s already talking about visiting for Easter because one of the mine employees told him a dragon visits to leave eggs for the kids in the mine tunnels.

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I hadn’t heard much about the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, which I count as a personal failing seeing as my great uncle was a steam and diesel electric train engineer, and actually drove the Royal Hudson during Expo 86. Steam Train, Dream Train is on heavy rotation in our bedtime story routine so both kids were thrilled to check out the trains. Walking around the elegant Royal Hudson 2860 was exhilarating, not only for the kids. The sheer magnitude of the steam engine and intricate detailing are breathtaking. The WCRHP is interesting and informative for train buffs but manages to be engaging for the little ones as well. The mini ride-on train provides a nice view of the train yard, and the sandpit and wooden train are great for some decompressing playtime after keeping little hands to themselves for so long.

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We're lucky to have so many family-friendly attractions within day-trip distance of Metro Vancouver. It's easy to plan fun adventures that don't require a day of driving, and don't break the bank, meaning your travel fund can overflow into your ice cream fund and everyone wins.

Hands-on Cook-off Contest by Better Together BC

The Hands-on Cook-off Contest is back! Between now and May 16, 2018, any BC resident can submit their video to enter to win some amazing prizes (like $1,000 cash, thankyouverymuch). 

Videos can be submitted in either of two categories:

  • To enter in the Multigenerational category, at least two generations must be involved in the making of the recipe.
  • To enter in the Youth category, at least two youth aged 18 and under must participate in the making of the recipe.

Cooking with my kids is not stress-free, and sometimes it is not even a little bit enjoyable for anyone participating in the cooking or existing in the general vicinity of the cooking. But it's important. I want my kids to grow up with a healthy relationship to food. I want them to appreciate the care and effort that goes into preparing food. I want them to be familiar with different ingredients and different cooking techniques. I want them to feel comfortable and confident in the kitchen.  

My parents never discouraged me from experimenting in the kitchen, even when it resulted in offerings such as a solitary black olive floating in a (white porcelain) bowl of water. They made me feel like I'd created a new and exciting dessert when really what I'd presented them with was a faux turd. My parents gave me the freedom to play with different flavours and made the kitchen a fun place to spend time. It's something that's stuck with me and it's something I want to give to my kids.

If you're a BC resident and you've got a budding chef, head over to Better Together BC to enter the contest, but also to check out the great resources and recipes. Good luck!

{image: bettertogetherbc.ca} 

{image: bettertogetherbc.ca} 

Keep Kids Safe with Lil Worker Safety Gear

I heard about Lil Worker Safety Gear through the local parent grapevine. Started by a local arborist and dad of three little ones, Lil Worker Safety Gear makes high visibility gear for kids. 

Safety is my number one priority and if I could, I'd encase both my babies in bubbles with neon flashing lights and 24/7 security guards whenever we left the house. (I'm a peach to be married to. Just ask Shawn.) Little kids are unpredictable. Taking Grady and Poppy for walks is not relaxing. Grady is old enough that he won't run off but Poppy can't be trusted. And just because Grady is old enough to have a modicum of common sense, that doesn't mean he's always visible to drivers. 

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James from Lil Worker sent us Safety Fleece Jackets to try and Grady's first comment when I showed him was "it's just like a construction worker!" He's totally right. They look like miniature work site high-viz jackets, not costume-like or twee. These aren't dress-up clothes, they're high-quality, well-made, garments featuring professional grade 3M Scotchlite reflective strips. 

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Keep your kids SAFE! The first high-visibility sweater for kids designed to comply with the high standards of workplace safety organizations.

Keeps kids WARM! Ultra snuggly, grandparent-approved 100% poly-brushed 270GSM Polar Fleece. Huggability guaranteed.

High-contrasting colours and 3M Scotchlite reflective strips enhance visibility during early morning and late afternoon play. (Seriously, your child may even be visible from space with this thing.)

Industrial grade YKK zipper that no mortal child can destroy.

Super tough, machine washable fabrics are designed to withstand the rigours of playtime.

Available in three high viz, high contrast colours and sizes from 18m to kids’ size 7.

Other benefits of this high visibility fleece sweater for kids:

Greatly reduces parental stress and worry – you may even start holding hands with your partner again! (Seriously, how long has it been?)

Significantly reduces down time searching for missing children.
— lilworkersafety.ca

There's an almost five-year age gap between Grady and Poppy, which means when we're at the playground, they're interested in different things. The Safety Fleeces mean I can keep my eyes on Poppy and let Grady have a little more freedom because he's so visible. I don't spend time searching through the sea of kids to find him, I glance up and my eyes are drawn straight to the neon yellow. He gets a bit more independence and I feel confident I can locate him quickly (and I can keep track of Miss Independence whose main goal in life seems to be to lose me in public). 

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Lil Worker Safety Gear is going to be on Dragon's Den October 12th on CBC and I can't wait to see the presentation and results. I have a soft spot for small, parent-run businesses so I've got my fingers crossed for James and his crew. 

If you've got little people in your life, check out Lil Worker Safety Gear. You won't regret it. I'm adding the rain jackets to the kids' Christmas wish lists because I'm so pleased with the quality and durability of the fleece jackets. If, for whatever reason, you're not happy with the products, you can't beat Lil Worker's return policy:

Just like growing up, shopping for kids can be tough work.

If you’re not 100% satisfied with your order for any reason, please email me at james@lilworkersafety.ca and I’ll make sure you’re happy. Period. Full stop.

No messing around, no pain, no fussing, no crying, no haggling, no arguing. I promise I’ll just make sure you’re happy. That sounds like a good return policy to me.
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Lil Worker Safety Gear on Facebook

Lil Worker Safety Gear on Instagram

#VizYourKids

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{Disclosure: I received product in exchange for this review; all opinions stated are my own.}

LVL Lash Lift and Tint

A few weeks ago, I asked for mascara recommendations on my Facebook page. I use mainly tarte cosmetics, and have used their Gifted mascara for years, but I was looking for a change. A friend suggested I try getting my lashes tinted. 

As fate would have it, one of my favourite bloggers, Janette from Ava to Zoe, posted a review and giveaway for an LVL Lash Lift by Stefania Lash Bar...and I won!

Truth time: I had no idea what an LVL Lash Lift even was. Stefani does LVL Enhance by Nouveau Lashes.

LVL Enhance straightens your natural lashes at the root, creating the appearance of longer, thicker lashes. Plus the added lash tint creates a mascara-style effect, so your lashes are perfect from the moment you wake up. No extensions, no adhesive and no need for mascara!
— https://nouveaulashes.com/lvl-enhance-the-natural-lash-lift

I don't have a lot of time to fuss with my face (understatement!). I like that the lash lift uses my own lashes and after the first 48 hours I have no restrictions or special care instructions. The tint makes it look like I'm wearing mascara, even though my eyes are completely free of makeup. 

Stefani's home studio is cute and artistic, and her table was so comfortable I almost passed out during the hand and arm massage (while your lashes set, she does a hand and arm massage with locally made lotions). The entire process took less than an hour, was completely painless, and there were no harsh smells. The products Stefani uses are vegan and cruelty-free. 

I was a little concerned that I would wake up with irritated eyes this morning but I was pleasantly surprised. When I fall asleep without removing my mascara (BAD, HILLS) I wake up with angry red, itchy eyes so I was expecting something similar this morning. My eyes were totally fine this morning. No pain, no discomfort, no itch, just beautiful lashes that made me look like I'd already spent some time in front of the mirror. I'm thrilled.

So! Who wants to see the magic Stefani performed?

Disclaimer: I won this service in a giveaway so I did not pay for it. I am not required to write, nor am I being compensated for, this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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