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5 Tips for Planning Your Disney Vacation

5 Tips for Planning Your Disney Vacation

Are you thinking about a Disney vacation?  Stressed even thinking about it?  Not sure where to even begin planning?  

As a former travel agent who specialized in Disney destinations, this was the most frequent question I got, especially from first-timers…”Help me!  Where do I start?!?”

I have spent countless hours researching my own trips and helping clients, friends and family plan their dream vacations.  It can be completely overwhelming, with the mountain of information out there.  But it doesn’t have to be stressful!

Here are my 5 tips to get you started planning your trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth”!

1. Start Planning Early

The earlier you plan your Walt Disney World vacation, the more flexibility and options you have when it comes to making reservations.  Walt Disney World Resort reservations can be made up to a year in advance in some cases, and sometimes sell out during busy seasons. Do you have a princess that has to dine with Cinderella or Belle?  You’ll need to reserve that 6 months ahead.  

Doing your research and putting together your plans well in advance also takes some of the stress out of your vacation.  You’ll be ready to make Dining Reservations and Fastpass+ picks as soon as your travel window opens

Plus you can have extra fun anticipating your upcoming trip!

2. Order your FREE Disney Planning Video

Get a sneak peak of everything Disney has to offer with a FREE Vacation Planning Video!  This is a great way to get information and ideas, and an exciting build-up to your vacation.  We order a new one every year, even if we aren’t planning to visit, just to see what’s new.

Click on the link here, and pick your Disney destination (or all of them if you wish).  You’ll get an email confirmation with the link to watch your video online at any time!

3. Do Some Research

Books and blogs and websites, oh my!!  It can be a lot to wade through.  Here is a list of my favourite websites, travel blogs and planning tools.  While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a good starting point, and each one offers something a little bit different.

Walt Disney World  – the official site

Disney Tourist Blog – my favourite blog, and the best photos around

Mousesavers – lots of great money-saving tips

Touring Plans – trip planning tools from the authors of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World

DISboards – discussion board for all things Disney

4. You Can’t Do It All

Walt Disney World covers over 47 square miles.  That’s twice the size of Manhattan.  There are 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 2 shopping, dining and entertainment districts, 2 mini-golf courses, a sports complex, 21 resort hotels…I could keep going, but hopefully you get the drift.  The place is massive!

Even if you had an unlimited budget, and multiple weeks vacation, you still couldn’t see and do everything at Walt Disney World., and there is new attractions and lands being built all the time!  I have well over a dozen trips to “Mickey’s House” under my belt, and there is so much even I haven’t experienced.  

Most people choose to spend a week, and with realistic expectations and a good plan, you can see a good selection of what Disney has to offer and still come away smiling!  Make a short list of your “must-do” rides, attractions, characters, and don’t forget to plan some down-time too!  

After all, this is supposed to be a vacation!

 5. Use a Travel Agent that Specializes in Disney Vacations

If you’ve made it this far, and you’re more overwhelmed than when you first started (which, by the way, is completely normal!), this last tip is probably the best.  Find a travel agent, but not just any agent.  Make sure you get an agent that specializes in Disney vacations!

I can’t stress this point enough!  And I learned it the hard way!  

Back in the day, before I was “in the know”, before the internet was big (dating myself here) my then husband and I booked a last minute honeymoon to Disney, staying at Caribbean Beach Resort (my all-time favourite), requesting a king bed room, because…honeymoon!  We booked through a reputable, nation-wide travel agency (at a well-known Canadian department store now in bankruptcy protection).  

While our travel agent was a wonderful person, and an experienced agent, Disney was not her area of expertise.

On arrival, we discovered that king bed rooms were a completely different booking category, at a more expensive price, and that there were no king bed rooms left!  Disney did try their best to help because…honeymoon, giving us chocolate truffles, and eventually moving us to a king bed room.  But for the first 4 nights, we slept in separate beds, because my then husband was 6’4” and a sprawling sleeper, so we didn’t fit in a double bed!  

Omen for our doomed marriage?  Probably.  But I digress.

Find a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations.  They know the information.  Heck, they are graduates of the Disney College of Knowledge (I know…I have the Ears to prove it)! They usually have made several trips to the “world” themselves, and attended Disney Travel Agent FAM trips where they learn even more about the parks, resorts, and cruise ships.

Best part, there is NO FEES for their services!  All that knowledge is yours for no extra charge! And they can usually save you money, because they know all the discounts available, even after you book!

My recommendation is Cindy Dennis from Pure Magic Vacations, a Disney Authorized Vacation Planner agency (one of the first in Canada!). She is an experienced, knowledgeable agent who can help you plan the perfect, magical vacation!  Contact her for a FREE no obligation quote, and say hi from Little Pockets of Bliss!


So, I hope these 5 tips help make it easier when you are thinking about planning your Walt Disney World vacation in Florida!  And I wish you a magical trip!

Got tips you would share?  Questions about Disney travel planning?  I’m working on more Disney travel posts soon.  What would you like to see?  Drop me a line, or leave a comment below!

 

I got angry at my 10-year old today…

I got angry at my 10-year old today…

I got angry at my 10-year old today...

I got angry at my 10 year old today.  Not that this was the first time, nor the last time, I’m sure.

We had been having such a great day too.  Slept in, talked a bit while snuggling in bed. He even said he wanted to take a break from video games today!  Well, this morning.  Okay, maybe until after breakfast.

We packed a picnic lunch and went to the park, laid on a blanket, and stared at the sky.  “This is really nice, Mom.  We should do this more!”  Music to my momma ears!  There’s something in my eye…

After lunch, we carried on through the park, stopping at the swings, where he made a friend or two.  Once he tired of that, we headed off with the phone, in search of some Pokemon, and the unavoidable “Raid Boss Battle”, which has somehow become our summer routine.

Only for one more day this week.  He’s back to his father’s house tomorrow.  And then it’s my time.  

Or so it was supposed to be, until I got a text this afternoon, asking me to keep him until the following morning.  I always reply yes, because I would rather my kids be with me as much as possible, even though it invariable means more babysitting for my mom while I’m at work.

But then it sinks in that the lazy afternoon of writing in a coffee shop, or reading a book on the deck won’t be happening.  I’ve just lost out on the “me” time I had been counting on for the last 5 days.  And I’m angry, frustrated, resentful.  

I cycle around like this every week…miss him like crazy the second I drop him off at his dad’s house, and can’t wait for him to get home.  Love my time with him, despite the constant fights with his brother, arguing over video games or lego or who took what from who’s room, and can’t wait for him to go back to his dad’s so I can get a break.  

So back to my anger this evening, over something so foolish.  I was trying to get some writing done, sitting on the couch beside him, glancing up every time he would say “Look Mom, watch me defeat this guy!” or “Watch me play this round!”.  But then he would get mad because the wifi signal upstairs kept dropping, meaning he would lose connection to his video games.  And he lashed out at me, blaming my computer work for hogging the signal.  

So like every mature parent (snort!) I grabbed my things and stormed off to my room, to get some peace and quiet!!  After all I did for him today, taking him around to play that stupid Pokemon Go game, waiting around for him to battle just one more gym, or go the long way around to catch some other character!  Another turn on the swings, or letting him run through the splash pad fully clothed until he was completely soaked! My grumbling went on and on as I typed it all out.

And as I wrote about it, remembering our afternoon together, I caught myself.  I realized that might just be the last time he runs through the splash pad, or wants to be pushed on the swings.  He only turned 10 a few short weeks ago, and yet he’s wearing the same size runners as me.  Brushing our teeth last night, looking in the bathroom mirror, I noticed he’s only a head shorter than me.  He’ll soon surpass me, and even his older brother, if he keeps up the pace he’s been on since birth.

My feelings of frustration about losing my free afternoon tomorrow now suddenly don’t seem so important.  My anger, which was more to do with his father that with him, has dissipated.  I know when the boys are both grown up and gone, in a very few short years, I’ll have time enough on my own.  More alone time than I will be comfortable with, I’m sure.

I made myself see that I get this extra bonus day with my not-so-little boy.  Just me and him, before his big brother comes home from camp, and we’re back to being the “Three Musketeers”.  So we will celebrate.

Probably by hunting down another Pokemon “Raid Boss Battle” and catching that Articuno that eluded him today.

Friday Five – Sweet treats from all over!

Friday Five – Sweet treats from all over!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  You know how before you start a new diet, you have one last cheat day, where you binge on all your favourite foods, the ones you are going to give up?  Well, this week’s post is something of that sort.

Summer is here, and in an effort to get my boys away from the screen time, I’m trying to plan more of an active summer (key word there being “trying”…but I digress).  A great excuse to get more active myself!  My youngest is about to get a FitBit Zip for “grading” present, and then everyone in the house will have one.  I’m going to put fresh batteries in the others, and set us all up as “friends” on the FitBit app.  Our goal is 10,000 steps a day.  Being that my boys are pretty competitive, this should make for some interesting fun!  At least, that is my hope!

So, in light of our impending venture to increase our exercise and activity, we might as well start cutting back on sweet treats and incorporate healthier snacks like fresh veggies and fruits.  Going from this…

…to more of this…

Yeah…my kids will be super excited about this (did you hear the sarcasm in that??)

But as “Murphy’s Law” would have it, it seems yummy, sugary sweet desserts are crossing my path at every turn!!!  Here are some of the drool worthy things I’ve found this week.

1. Travel the world with ice cream

Wanderlust Creamery is an ice cream parlour in California, but with a twist.  Each flavour is inspired by someplace in the world they have been, or aspire to travel to!  Wanderlust at it’s finest!  You can dream of Thailand with the Sticky Rice and Mango, or envision high tea in Britain with the Earl Grey.  Lavender fields of Provence inspired the Honey Lavender, while perhaps campfires in the Pacific Northwest led to the Smoky Road flavour.  They also have seasonal flavours like Lilikoi Pineapple Li Hing Sorbet, inspired by my favourite Maui, Hawaii!

Check out this video for all the cold, luscious goodness from around the world!

2. Mini Pancakes with Nutella

Last week I mentioned our slight obsession with Nutella around my house.  Well, the internet went an upped the game with this tasty snack…mini popover pancakes drenched not only in Nutella, but peanut butter too!  OMG, I can almost taste that ooey-gooey goodness in my mouth just writing this post!

You can get these yummy snacks at Holland House, a food truck in the Dubai Mall.

3. La Maison du Chocolat

In french, that translates to House of Chocolate. All things chocolate. Chocolate heaven. Headed up by the best craftsman chocolatier in France, Nicholas Cloiseau, this boutique dessert shop makes all kinds of chocolate treats!

You can now find these boutiques all over the world, or order online from the original in France.  Be right back…I’m messaging my contact in Paris as we speak!

4. Taiwanese Wheel Cakes

While these tasty looking cakes have quite a long history, the company Catmint is bringing them to NYC, with both traditional and modern flavours!  Right now they can be found at various food festivals, but are hoping to open a permanent location after the summer.  Take a look!

5. Wild Doughnuts

Another NYC find is The Doughnut Project.  This specialty doughnut shop is creating some unique flavours in their small batch doughnuts.  Try PB and J, Blueberry and Parsnip, Beet and ricotta, or Everything!  They even serve Frozen Doughnuts in the summer!

I may have drooled a little on the laptop here…just sayin’.

You may have noticed all of these videos were posted by Insider.  They have a few different channels, including Insider Dessert and Insider Travel.  I love the inspiration that they share daily, and I invite you to check them out on Facebook for more!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  I apologize for the sugar coma I may or may not have induced.  Got a sweet treat I should try? Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Friday Five – Mac’s Mural, Wonder Pens, Shrimp Rolls, John Williams and Nutella

Friday Five – Mac’s Mural, Wonder Pens, Shrimp Rolls, John Williams and Nutella

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!

1. Mac’s Mural and Neighbours Day

A couple of weeks ago in the Friday Five, I posted about this blank wall outside my neighbourhood Mac’s store.

And here is what it’s been transformed into this week!!

This is the result of combined efforts of Waterloo Regional Police, Mac’s Convenience Stores, street artist MagicFinga WonG, and the local community.


You can check out more pictures and videos of the work in progress, and yesterday’s reveal on the Williamsburg Community Association Facebook page.

The project was finished just in time for Neighbour’s Day this Saturday!  Don’t forget to check out what’s happening in your ‘hood for this city-wide annual celebration!

2. Wonder Pens

This family-run company in Toronto, Ontario specializes in specialty fountain pens and stationery supplies; a very narrow niche market, that some could say is falling by the way-side with the advent of all things digital.  But there is popular return to “pen and paper”, calligraphy, and traveller’s notebooks (see my Friday Five post on my favourite Chic Sparrow notebooks).

My latest addition to my traveller’s notebooks meant shopping for some size specific accessories.  While other online retailers like Amazon and Etsy will usually fit my needs, in this case, Wonder Pens is not only less expensive, but much quicker than waiting for shipments from Japan.

But what makes Wonder Pens amazing is their attention to detail, and good old fashioned customer service.  When was the last time you got a hand-written thank you note for your business?

I invite you to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and if you’re local to Toronto, they also offer workshops in calligraphy, letter writing and more!

3. Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls

Our summer weather is about to get HOT this weekend.  I find it always makes for a struggle when looking for meal ideas that don’t involve the stove or the oven.  We love the barbecue, but sometimes even that seems like too much effort when the temperature outside soars.

A few weeks ago I came across this recipe on Facebook, and thought I’d give it a try.  I had all the ingredients on hand except mint, so I just made a quick trip to the grocery store.  We keep frozen, pre-cooked shrimp in the freezer, as it makes a quick protein to add to salads.  Just dump about half the bag in a bowl of cold water and thaw for a few minutes.

I have made a similar recipe before, but this one also included a tip for rolling the rice noodles in romaine first.  It made rolling everything in the rice paper soooo much easier!

While they do take a bit of effort, and patience, I think the results came out pretty good!

My finicky boys weren’t fans, but the rest of the family enjoyed them.  I will definitely make these again.  They would make a great addition to a pool party or get-together with friends!

4. John Williams tribute

Harvard University’s recent commencement ceremony included a special tribute to composer John Williams.  If you’re not sure who John Williams is, check out the video, and see how many of the songs you recognize!

5. Nutella Cafe

We’re pretty big Nutella fans in our house.  I am a bit ashamed to admit that most jars don’t last long, and rarely see anything other than a spoon.  So we are totally on board with this new cafe Ferrero is opening in Chicago, celebrating all things Nutella!!

Now, there is a Nutella cafe in Toronto, but it’s more of a “grab and go”, not the dedicated chocolate hazelnut establishment Chicago welcomed this past week.

Definitely adding this to my list of places to visit in the windy city!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  What’s been great in your world this week? Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

 

 

 

Friday Five – Wonder Woman, Lego, Pottery, Neighbours Day and a Ventriloquist

Friday Five – Wonder Woman, Lego, Pottery, Neighbours Day and a Ventriloquist

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  It’s starting to feel like summer, and we’ve got a jam-packed weekend ahead of us!  PA Day movie, Lego, getting outside and enjoying the beautiful weather!

1. Wonder Woman

I have very fond memories of my childhood.  Raised in a family of all girls, my mother made sure we believed we could do anything, be anything, that boys could.  Now that I am a mother, I may have two boys who are all about superheroes, but I’m still raising them with the same principles, that girls can do anything.

In that vein, I was stoked to take them (and my mom) to see Wonder Woman today.  And I want to love this movie, I really do!!!  But I have to say, it was just good.  It started out really great!  Diana the child is fiery, precocious, adorable.  Gal Gadot is perfect in this role, fierce, yet kind.  The storyline and the scenes of the Amazon tribe of women, wonderful.  And I like Chris Pine and his character Steve.

Something just sort of unraveled in the ending, and I was left missing something.  I do think the reviews I have read so far are pretty on point.  The movie is inspiring, certainly for little girls who so desperately need some mainstream female idols, and I think it will still accomplish that.  But as a true fan, I wanted just a little bit more.  I’m hoping a few more viewings, maybe when it comes out on Blu-Ray, will do the trick.

Did you see it yet?  What are your thoughts?  I’d be interested to know!

2. Lego Fidget Spinners

Today is a PA Day for the boys, and I’m always on the lookout for stuff to keep them busy, without their electronics.  Luckily this week, Lego posted on their Facebook page instructions for a few different Lego Fidget Spinners!  Pretty sure we’ll be able to scrounge up the pieces to make these today!  I’ll post pictures of what the boys come up with, and I’d love to see your creations too!

3. Waterloo Potters Open House and Seconds Sale

Celebrate Summer with Waterloo Potters Workshop!  They are hosting their annual Open House and Seconds Sale this weekend, June 3 and 4.   Located in Waterloo Park, at the Eby Farmhouse across from Lion’s Lagoon, this is our opportunity to tour the workshop, catch a demo of pottery being thrown on the wheel, and let the kids play with clay.  You can also shop the pottery “seconds” that have been donated, with all proceeds benefiting local children’s charities!

4. Neighbours Day

This annual City of Kitchener event happens the second Saturday in June, this year on June 10.  Free events and activities are happening all over the city, as part of the “Festival of Neighbourhoods” initiative…garage sales, BBQs, sports, movie nights, outdoor activities, cooking demos and more!!  You can check out what’s happening near you or host your own event!

My family is looking forward to playing soccer with the KW United Football team, Food Trucks and Movie Night at Max Becker Common in Williamsburg!  What is your neighbourhood up to?

5. Darci Lynn

Check out this audition video from America’s Got Talent.  Darci Lynn is a 12 year old ventriloquist, not your ordinary, everyday talent!!  It’s pretty clear she wow’d everyone, including the judges!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  What’s been great in your world this week?   Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Friday Five – Food, Drink, and all kinds of Art

Friday Five – Food, Drink, and all kinds of Art

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!

1. LCBO Food & Drink Magazine

Our household eagerly awaits the release of every issue, and the Early Summer edition is now available.  Chock full of recipes, entertaining ideas, new products and recommendations in wine, beer and spirits, I usually read it cover to cover!  This one was no exception.  I’m already planning to try making the Pumpkin Seed and Chili Crusted Fish Fillets on the cover.  There is also some interesting takes on shandies and sangria recipes that caught my eye.

You can grab a copy of this free magazine at your local LCBO, or read the digital version online (or download the app to read on your device).

P.S. Our latest shopping trip (to grab the magazine, of course!) netted many of the new coolers!  So far I’ve tried Cabana Coast Refreshments Moscow Mule, and Goslings Dark & Stormy, both featuring ginger beer…very yummy!  It’s shaping up to be a great summer on the patio!

2. Elspeth Mclean

This Australian artist, who now makes Canada’s west coast her home, has gained the title of viral internet sensation for her Mandala stones.  Each one is individually picked from the beach, and painstakingly painted, dot by dot.  The results?  Stunning!

You can check out her creative process in the video below.

The only way to get your hands on one is through her Etsy shop.  They are only released once a month, with a prior announcement, so you know when to be ready…they disappear within minutes!  As the artist herself puts it…”good things come to those who wait (and keep trying)!”  In the mean time, you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

3. G&G Signature Designs

This local husband and wife team in Baden make custom hand-painted signs and home decor.  They also offer DIY Sign Workshops!  You gather up a few friends, pick a project design, and they bring the party to you!


Check out their designs on Facebook, and contact them for more information!  I think one of the Canada flags might find it’s way to my backyard fence!

4. Red House Patio Party Giveaway

I’ll admit, this Waterloo restaurant has been on my “must try” list for quite some time, but I hope to get there and do a review soon!

In the mean time, check out this awesome giveaway!


5. StreetART at Mac’s

See this empty wall?  This is the Mac’s store in my neighbourhood.

What they are about to do with it is just awesome.  See below…

“Waterloo Regional Police Service, in partnership with Crime Stoppers of Waterloo Region and Mac’s Convenience Stores, are calling on the community to help take part in an exciting new project entitled StreetART at Mac’s.

This project, to be completed in June, is an opportunity for police to work alongside youth in our community to build positive relationships while helping prevent crime.

On June 5, youth are invited to come out to a Kitchener Mac’s Convenience Store, located at 192 Activa Avenue, to spray paint an outdoor wall with professional street artist, Magic “Finnga” Wong. On June 6 and June 7, Wong will work his magic to create a beautiful mural that reflects Waterloo Region. On June 8, during the kick-off to the annual Waterloo Regional Crime Stoppers Conference, participants, media and community members will be invited back for the reveal.

Other services that have taken part in this program, including the Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police Service, Peel Regional Police Service, Thunder Bay Police Service, Barrie Police Service and Ottawa Police Service, have reported a noticeable reduction in crime at their mural locations.

During the month of May, Waterloo Regional Police will be accepting submissions of drawings, sketches and paintings from members of the community that depict what Waterloo Region means to them. The winner will have their picture included in the mural. You can tag us with your sketch on Facebook (@waterlooregionalpolice), Twitter (@WRPSToday) or Instagram (officialwrps).
You can also e-mail your submission to Cherri.greeno@wrps.on.ca.

The funding for this initiative is being covered through an educational study grant from Harvard University.”

You can check out the short documentary on the StreetART program here…

I can’t wait to see the process and the final product for the project at my local Mac’s!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  What’s been great in your world this week?   Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

 

Friday Five – Blue Mountain Getaway

Friday Five – Blue Mountain Getaway

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  Something different again this week.  For Mother’s Day last week, I spoiled myself with a couple days getaway up to the Blue Mountain region, alone, sans kiddos.  I thought I would share with you my top 5 from that trip, with lots of pictures!

Now, I have to begin with a caveat…I am not really an outdoor adventure type of person.  No zip-lining or mountain climbing, no sailing or off-road biking.  Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time outside, and I enjoy hiking, scenic lookouts, soaking up the sun, listening to the birds. But the usual adventure activities that tempt people to the Blue Mountain region are not what draws me there.  My bliss is in the quiet, the sounds of nature, slowing down to enjoy the view.

This is my second annual trip to Collingwood, and I repeated many of the things I did last year, for exactly the same reasons…bliss!  I’m really thinking retirement would look good up that way.  I could spend spring, summer and fall exploring everything there is to see and do, and then rent out my place to some snow-loving adventurers for the winter, while I escape to warmer climates!

So, without further ado, here is my top 5 things I love about Blue Mountain region!

1. Thornbury

Follow Grey County Road 13 north, through the picturesque Beaver Valley, right to the lake and you’ll end up at Thornbury Harbour, just one of the sights in this small town.

Bliss at the beach!

I did spend quite a bit of time with my toes in the sand, just enjoying the perfect blue sky, listening to the waves lapping at the shore, collecting a few rocks, and taking pictures.

Little River Park at Thornbury Harbour
Boats getting ready for summer!

The Georgian Trail, a 34km long hiking and biking trail that runs from Collingwood to Meaford, passes right through Thornbury, along the lakefront.  While I was there at the beach park, a group of senior women were just loading up their bikes after a cycling excursion.  I also spotted a few fishermen where the Beaver River meets Lake Huron, and just a bit further upstream is the Thornbury Fishway, a “fish ladder” that allows trout and salmon to “jump” upstream to spawn.

But this charming little town also boasts a surprising number of restaurants and shops.  Some of my favourites…The Cheese Gallery, Sincerely Yours Boutique, and Loft Gallery.  It was really hard to narrow down the choices of where to go for lunch.

2. Miso Hot

My craving for sushi won out when it came to lunch picks, so off I went to try Miso Hot in Thornbury.  This fusion restaurant blends Korean and Japanese favourites for a unique take on Asian cuisine.

Miso Hot, 21 Arthur St, Thornbury
Simple, yet elegant space, featuring local artwork
Bulgogi Lunch Bento Box

The lunch special options, served bento style, are an incredible value.  Served with miso soup, green salad and choice of 6pc sushi roll, it is the perfect combination, especially for folks like me who have trouble making up their mind!  I chose a true fusion, the Bulgogi Lunch…Korean style sliced beef stir fried with veggies and sweet marinade.  I paired it with the spicy crab roll, and a serving of hot sake to drink.  A second lunch ordered to go, the Maki Lunch, 8pc Dynamite Roll and 6pc California Roll, served as an excellent dinner later that night!

3. Craigleith Manor Bed and Breakfast

Located in a quiet neighbourhood minutes from Scandinave Spa, Blue Mountain Resort and the town of Collingwood, with direct access to the Georgian Trail behind the property, Craigleith Manor Bed and Breakfast is the perfect home base for your getaway.

Upon arrival, you are encouraged to treat the home like your own.  Automatic keyless entry with your personalized door code allow you to come and go as you please. Hosts Guy and Craig do make an effort to greet guests in person, depending on time of arrival, to give you a tour and answer any questions you might have.  Gracious and knowledgeable, it is clear how much they take pride in their business and providing the ultimate guest experience.  They have exquisite decorating taste and attention to detail!

The main floor is open and spacious, with a two-story entryway.  Here you’ll find a cozy reading corner with desk, and a library of information on local attractions and restaurants (each one taste tested by your hosts, who are happy to help make dining reservations for you).

Two-story entryway with library of local attraction info and restaurant menus

The living room, complete with fireplace, sectional sofa and elegant chairs, invites you in, with soft jazz music playing in the background throughout the day.  Guests are encouraged to cozy up by the fire with a glass of wine, read a book or enjoy a magazine.  Large picture windows and sliding glass doors look out over the beautifully landscaped backyard and deck (which are scheduled for even more enhancements this year).

The kitchen and dining room round out the main floor space. Guests are encouraged to use the space for dining outside of breakfast hours.  Real dishes and cutlery, as well as wine glasses and placemats are offered.  There is also a microwave, and a guest fridge off the kitchen.  As a solo traveller, I don’t dine out often, so this was a welcome luxury for my take-out dinners or enjoying wine and cheese al fresco on the deck at sunset!

Dining room
Open and modern chef’s kitchen

Speaking of dining, the breakfast here is an outstanding feature included in your stay.  Each night a menu is left for you to mark your selection for the next morning, including your preferred time.  Locally sourced ingredients, and home-made touches abound in the ever-changing selections, including hot and cold options.  Each dish is skillfully prepared by your host and chef Guy, and beautifully presented.

Sample of morning breakfast options
Breakfast bar with fresh coffee, juices, yogurt, home-made granola, fresh fruit salad and jams
My breakfast…eggs my way, maple bacon, homefries, and toast

This adults-only accommodation has three rooms, impeccably decorated with modern and luxurious touches.  Ensuite bathrooms feature in-floor heating, bathrobes, and all the essentials.  LED TV with cable, Netflix, and Wi-Fi mean you’re never without technology.

My second visit was just as blissful as last year, and I again chose the Birch Suite.

Super comfortable queen bed
Modern ensuite with spa-like feel
A little humour for your reading pleasure
Flat screen LED TV smartly hidden in the closet
The view from the aptly named Birch Room

Although my 2-night stay was short, it was the perfect way to kick back, relax, and enjoy the quiet solitude offered at Craigleith Manor.  I hope to keep making annual (or more frequent) visits to the area, and when I do, you’ll find me here…

Season 2 of Sense8 on Netflix, after a day at the spa

4. Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain

In keeping with my theme of quiet relaxation, you just can’t beat a day at Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain.  Nestled on 25 acres of land, surrounded by trees, you are invited to relax in the heart of nature.  The premiere experience is the Scandinavian Baths, following a circuit of body warming, cooling and relaxation.  There are a number of different options for each around the property, including hot baths, eucalyptus steam room, saunas, cold plunge pools, solariums, hammocks, and muskoka chairs.

While the baths are the main draw, it can get quite busy, with long waitlists, particularly on weekends and holidays.  One way to guarantee your spot is to book a massage with one of the Registered Massage Therapists on site.  A variety of massage services are available, including couples massage, hot stone, and of course, swedish relaxation.  Access to the baths is included (as well as bathrobe rental), and reservations can be made up to 4 months in advance.  If you have extended health benefits coverage through your workplace, you can claim your massage, making your day at Scandinave free!

Silence is the rule, so talking is discouraged.  You also won’t find any wi-fi, and cellphones are not permitted.  The spa is open year-round, giving you the opportunity to enjoy nature in all it’s splendour; spring, summer, fall and winter!  A bistro in the main building provides light lunches of sandwiches, salads, beverages and snacks.

One word of warning…bring sunscreen!  The spring sun caught many people (myself included) off guard, and after a day spent soaking in the baths, enjoying the great outdoors, you might find yourself a little sunburnt!

5. Harbourview Park

At the water’s edge in the town of Collingwood, you’ll find Harbourview Park.  The eastern end of the Georgian Trail, this community park boasts many features, sure to tempt those of all ages and walks of life!  A boardwalk trail winds through the park’s tranquil wetlands, where you can spot an array of wildlife.  The Arboretum, a botanical park with several species of trees, bushes and plants is surrounded by winding trails, both paved and natural.  You can find many hikers and bikers enjoying the scenery.

My stop was the Collingwood Labyrinth, an 11-circuit walking path modelled after the famous Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth in France.  This peaceful walk promotes rest, relaxation and reflection.  A perfect end to a blissful few days away!

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of the Friday Five!  I hope you enjoyed my favourites from the Blue Mountain region. Have you travelled to the area?  Got any favourites you’d like to share?  Leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Friday Five – Charity in honour of Mother’s Day!

Friday Five – Charity in honour of Mother’s Day!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week! This week I am doing something a little different. In honour of Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, and since I struggle with what to buy for my mom, I thought I’d share what I did this year…a donation in my mom’s name!

Here are five worthy causes that have crossed my path recently, that I believe in and support. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of them directly relate to moms, kids and families. Please consider donating to one of these, or share your favourite causes that are close to your heart in the comments below.

1. Kenya Spare a Camera

Meet my friend Norm, a former Kitchener native who now makes his home in California.  He’s the one in the middle, surrounded by those adorable, smiling faces!

In 2010, he had the opportunity to spend a month at Cura Orphanage in Kenya, home to children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.  While helping to raise much needed funds for the orphanage, he also shared his photography hobby with the children.  He came with donated cameras and taught them the basics of photography.  Most had never seen or used a camera, some had never seen pictures of themselves before!

Check out these beautiful images captured by Norm, and by the children of Cura.

Another visit in 2011, and it’s hard not to feel the emotion in this reunion…

Norm is off on a jet plane again, headed for Cura this week, donated cameras in tow, and I can’t wait to see the pictures and posts from this trip!  You can follow on his website, Kenya Spare a Camera, or Facebook group.

I encourage you to read Norm’s post from Mother’s Day 2011, and please consider making a donation.  And if you have any old cameras you’re not using, consider donating those too!  They will definitely be used to capture the bliss found in this remarkable place!

2. Charity: Water

I’ve posted about how much I am enjoying the audio book version of Danielle LaPorte’s White Hot Truth (release date May 16!), and I am so happy that proceeds from the sales of the book are going to two important charities; V-day and CharityWater.org.  Check out the video by clicking on the link above.  See how you can help change lives with clean water, especially this Mother’s Day in honour of moms.

3. Mary’s Place

Mary’s Place is YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo’s emergency shelter for women and families, located in downtown Kitchener. Homelessness is the only criteria for shelter.  While cash and gift card donations are always welcome, they also maintain a wish list of non-monetary items that are accepted and used for the programs.  You can also donate online here.

4. Help for Finding Joy

Rachel Martin is the single mom of 7 behind the popular blog Finding Joy, one of my favourite bloggers, and in some ways, the inspiration for Little Pockets of Bliss.  A few weeks ago, she went through the horrific experience of a fire that completely gutted their minivan.  Luckily they all managed to escape, though Rachel did suffer burns to her foot during the ordeal.

I think losses from a fire hit home for me, as my “real world” job is 911 operator for the fire department.  I handle these calls, knowing that I’m talking to someone in what is, perhaps, the worst moment of their life.  While all that truly matters is that everyone gets out safe and sound, after it’s over, the material losses are still pretty devastating.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up, to help with medical bills and the cost of replacing her van.  Due to the age of the van, the replacement value will not be much towards the cost of a new vehicle for 8 people.

5. The Strong Oaks Woodshop

My mom picked this cause for my donation in her honour, as my Mother’s Day gift to her!  She came across this post, shared by one of our favourite children’s book authors, Ben Hatke (check out his website for more info on his art and books like Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and Nobody Like a Goblin).

Again, a devastating fire has claimed everything this company worked for.  While insurance will cover the cost of replacing the building and tools, their specialty is working with reclaimed wood, something you can’t just go pick up at the hardware store.  And while they are waiting to rebuild, their employees and their families will suffer from the lack of work.  Check out the video story of this amazing company and it’s people.  Strong indeed!

Well, that’s it for this week’s Friday Five! From my mom and me, I’d like to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!  How are you spending the weekend?  Got a great charitable cause you would like to share? Leave a comment below, or come find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!  I’d love to hear from you!

Friday Five – Holy Guacamole, Young Studios, Guardians Vol 2, Backfire Effect and Little Wonders

Friday Five – Holy Guacamole, Young Studios, Guardians Vol 2, Backfire Effect and Little Wonders

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex, Young Studios Art, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 review, Backfire Effect, and Little Wonders.

1.  Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex

 

This local, family run, mexican food business specializes in “fresh food as fast as we can”! Started five years ago in downtown Kitchener, Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex now has six locations in Kitchener-Waterloo, making it convenient to get your taco or burrito fix!  The “fresh” in fresh mex is key, and here ingredients are just that;  salsas and guacamole are made daily from in-house recipes, meats are sourced locally and cooked in store, veggies are chopped and prepared fresh always.

They recently had the unfortunate experience of having their Facebook page hacked by some not-so-savoury individuals , and had to start fresh (see what I did there…savoury…fresh…pun-ny!).  In true style though, they kept it light and humorous…

Make sure to follow their new page, and if you haven’t tried them yet, or it’s been a while, why not plan a visit!  Today, Cinco de Mayo (May 5) is a great day…

I’ll be there for dinner…take-out of course, because the margaritas will be flowing at home!  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

2. Young Studios

Another interweb find that is rockin’ my art world is Adam Young.

Underwater creatures to date 🐙#polarbear #killerwhale #anglerfish #jellyfish #hermitcrab #turtle #octopus #whale

A post shared by Artist: Adam Young (@young_studios) on


This artist from Newfoundland has truly captured the “down east” spirit that I know from my childhood vacations.  The rich, vibrant colours, coupled with seaside and underwater animal themes is just plain awesome!  Check out his work, and be sure to enter in the draw for a print of his new work “Two Quilts”…although my mom has her eye on this one!!

3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Three generations went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 last night…my mom, my oldest boy and me.  We were eagerly awaiting this sequel, as the original has been a household favourite since it first came out.  I was especially hopeful for an equally smashing soundtrack…you might recall me mentioning our spontaneous dance parties in the living room in a previous edition of the Friday Five (and my apologies for no #GrootDanceBomb video…the boys staunchly opposed recording video evidence of said dance parties).

Feeling a bit disappointed this morning as I write this review.  I was really expecting to download an awesome soundtrack, but the songs were less than memorable (interesting to note, my mom liked the music in this one better than the last…a generational thing?)  We all agreed that the movie dragged a bit, and that the best, most humorous scenes were already in the previews.

There is definitely a concerted effort to develop the characters and delve into more of their backstories in this film.  It wants to be a movie that tugs on your heartstrings, but sadly, it felt forced and fell short (and for someone who cries at the drop of a hat, there was not a tear shed last night).

The bright light was definitely Baby Groot, who stole the show!  Those huge eyes and expressions easily made for the funniest and most memorable moments…I mean, really, who can resist that face?!?

Are you going to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 this weekend?  Let me know your thoughts!  Did you like it?  Better or worse than the original?

4. Backfire Effect

I’ve seen this one quite a few times in my Facebook newsfeed this week.  It’s an interesting read, and certainly fodder for a lot of conversations.  This one is the “clean” version, without all the swear-y bits (although I personally like the swear-y bits…you can find that version here).  Thoughts? On the swear-y thing, or otherwise!  Lol!

5. Little Wonders

Had a little visit down memory lane this week, watching Disney’s “Meet the Robinsons” with the boys.  The movie came out way back in 2007, when my oldest was just 4 years old, and I was pregnant with his little brother.  Shortly thereafter, our family changed, due to divorce, and we became “me and the boys”, the three musketeers (another story for another time).

This song was, and still is, somewhat of an anthem for us.  My oldest knows the song by heart, can identify it from the first few notes when we are out and about and it happens to come on the radio or in a store.  “Mom, it’s our song!”

I tear up every time, but yep, it’s our song!  Pass the tissues…

Well, that’s it for this week’s Friday Five!  What was blissful in your week? Leave a comment below, or come find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!  I’d love to hear from you!

Friday Five – Chinese Food, Disney, Mother, Art and Nasa

Friday Five – Chinese Food, Disney, Mother, Art and Nasa

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday Five…5 things that are bringing me bliss this week!  From chinese food to Disney, motherhood and art, there were so many inspiring things to share with you this week!  Enjoy!

1. 126 Chinese Restaurant

My family is always on the hunt for good Chinese food, and I think we have tried every local restaurant over the years.  Yes, I do mean “Canadian” Chinese food, but that is how I was raised.  I can recall fond memories of Christmas eve at the Tien Ho Inn, or neighbour get-togethers at the Waikiki restaurant.  We always had sweet and sour chicken balls, bbq pork fried rice, almond guy ding, and of course, egg rolls.

There have also been adventures over the years…a traditional Szechuan restaurant in Quebec, where we struggled to order from an unfamiliar menu, or a surprising octopus dish in Toronto that I am still haunted by decades later. My tastes have diversified as I’ve grown up, and I now enjoy a bit more spice, or noodle based dishes.  Octopus doesn’t scare me quite as much, although I still can’t bring myself to eat it, even the tentacle-y bits of calamari.

Last Saturday my father suggested ordering in Chinese, and so began the hunt for which restaurant we would try.  I recalled seeing 126 Chinese Restaurant in my Facebook feed, and a friend had raved about it, so I suggested we try it.  A quick 15 min drive to pick up our order, although I have heard that delivery is quick and reliable too.  While the restaurant doesn’t have great curb appeal, the close proximity to hotels, motels and nearby expressway makes it appealing for take-out.

I was warmly greeted when I entered the restaurant, and while paying for my order, she asked how I was enjoying the beautiful weather.  A nice touch, when it seems I’m encountering less and less “service” lately.  We ordered our traditional fare, plus beef and broccoli, and the house lo mein (for me, the only spice lover in the house). Even after stopping on the way home for McDonald’s for the boys (I know, but I’m still working on their Chinese palate), the food was still piping hot.  Veggies were all fresh and crunchy, and the flavour was spot on for our “Canadian” tastebuds.

The spread
Beef with Broccoli
Chicken with Vegetables and Almonds
Chicken Balls, large chunks of chicken, not overwhelmed with batter
BBQ Pork Fried Rice
House Lo Mein, shrimp, chicken, pork, and not too spicy

I think we have found our new go-to for Chinese take-out!  Give 126 Chinese Restaurant a try and let me know if you agree!

2. Disney Vacation Planning

 

Mickeys Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2014

I’m dreaming a little bit this week, although I have no current vacation plans, so it’s a bit bittersweet.  But I’m also breathing a sigh of relief, as the 2017 Free Dining promotion was announced, and I am not a part of it this time!

In a former life, I moonlighted as a travel agent specializing in Disney vacation planning. While I thoroughly enjoyed helping my clients plan their vacations, educating them on the best ways to tour the vast expanse that is Walt Disney World, or sail the high seas on Disney Cruise Line, I did eventually have to give it up.  Being a single mom with a full-time job elsewhere, priorities reigned supreme.  Promotion time for Disney means hours spent on the phone to adjust client bookings.  Tireless travel agents from all over go the extra mile to get this deal for their clients.

One such agent is Cindy Dennis at Pure Magic Vacations.  She has been vacationing at Walt Disney World since she was a child, and now with her own family.  I had the privilege of calling her my client on more than one of her Disney vacations!  We have now become friends, and she is the travel agent, helping others plan their vacations!  While she specializes in Disney destinations for Canadian travellers, she also plans vacations to other popular Florida destinations, and beyond!  Her travel and planning experience gives her a great advantage when helping plan everything from transportation and accommodations, to dining reservations and touring plans.  There is never any extra fees for her services, and it can save you countless hours of research and stress!

Thinking about a Disney vacation?  Contact Cindy and she can help you navigate the “World of Disney”, helping you plan the vacation of your dreams!

Email: cindy@puremagicvacations.com

Facebook: @cindyatpuremagicvacations

3. Mother with Carrie-Anne Moss

Some may know Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, from the famed Matrix movies.  Or more recently from her television work on the series Humans or Jessica Jones.  But where I most intimately know her from is her personal offerings on Annapurna Living, a website designed by her to inspire and uplift women.  I have been an ardent follower since the beginning.  What I have received is so much wisdom and guidance in my own journey as a woman, mother, spiritual seeker.  While most of the offerings are from Carrie herself, she has also gathered a group of other amazing women, all with stories and experiences to share.

One of the best gifts I ever gave myself was enrolling in Mother two years ago, for Mother’s Day of course!  Carrie-Anne Moss has partnered with Natalie Christensen, writer and parenting coach, to deliver this four-week course that “cultivates intimacy, self-discovery and connection” in motherhood.  Words cannot describe how much I gained from the wisdom here.  It has made me a better mother, more patient, understanding, and forgiving, mostly of myself.

I whole-heartedly encourage you to check it out, and join me as I revisit this course, it’s teachings, and all the women of Annapurna Living!  The course is only offered once a year, and starts May 1!

4.  Tim Bengel Art

This showed up on my Facebook feed, and I was in awe.  Watch for yourself and see.

5.  Nasa Free Library

How cool is this?!?!

“NASA officially has launched a new resource to help the public search and download out-of-this-world images, videos and audio files by keyword and metadata searches from NASA.gov. The NASA Image and Video Library website consolidates imagery spread across more than 60 collections into one searchable location.

https://images.nasa.gov

NASA Image and Video Library allows users to search, discover and download a treasure trove of more than 140,000 NASA images, videos and audio files from across the agency’s many missions in aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight, and more. Users now can embed content in their own sites and choose from multiple resolutions to download. The website also displays the metadata associated with images.”

Well, that’s it for this week’s Friday Five!  What was blissful in your week?  Let me know!