Tag Archives: travel

Cuba 2014 – A Family Experience to Remember

It was so different than last time. Our last visit to Cuba involved very upset children, very tired parents, some limited fun, and a desperate desire to get back on Canadian soil.

Granted, the circumstances were different. We travelled as a foursome. We booked a 3 ½ star resort that was not so new, and our children were younger.

This time, we travelled with extended family; we ran into people we knew from home; the resort was 4 ½ stars; it was newer. It was an all-around better experience.

And since we’ve been back, we’ve all missed it very much. The sun, the beach, the seashells, the waves, the sandcastles, the pools, the restaurants, the ice cream…ooohh the ice cream!

SAM_0614 SAM_0616 SAM_0813

About a week after we got back, it occurred to me that life was carrying on in Cuba. People were getting up each morning and walking along a sun-drenched path to a delicious buffet of breakfast delights, then heading to the pool or the beach with a drink in one hand and a book in the other (or in our case, buckets and shovels and blow-up water toys). And the same staff was serving food and drinks and cappuccinos at the lobby bar while happy vacationers lounged about soaking up the calm day.

After realizing this, that everything we enjoyed the week before was still happening at the same lazy pace while we were back here at home in the cold and damp, trudging through our lives at work and school, it took me a few days to get over how much I missed our vacation.

I’ve been reading a book about how the brain works and how memories are created (The Whole-Brain Child, Siegel & Bryson, 2011, p. 67). And I know I have created this memory of how wonderful our vacation in Cuba was this time, especially since I’m lining it up in my mind with the not-so-great experience we had two years ago. But our vacation this time around really was wonderful.

Having gotten over how much I yearned to just be in Cuba at that resort with all of my family, enjoying ourselves together day after day, it finally occurred to me that the sameness of it would be its downfall eventually. We would tire of the warm and happy days and nights spent in each other’s company. We would become annoyed and yearn for some greater purpose.

And that’s when I realized that what Canada has to offer—my life here, the kids’ schools, my job, shuttling kids around, cold one day, hot or warm the next, snow, rain, sunshine—was the very variety of life. It is good to have different seasons, to have different things to do, different people to see depending on the day of the week.

It was fantastic to have spent so much uninterrupted-by-life time with my family—immediate and extended—but it is also nice to come back to our lives with these memories and all that they have taught us about being together and making the effort—no matter where we are—to come together and enjoy each other.

To Cuba! SAM_0501


Be a part of the history! Name Hornblower Niagara Cruises new Catamarans!

My family and I love Niagara Falls. We have, in recent years, made Niagara Falls our annual spring family trip destination. We like it so much, we then arrange for a weekend of babysitting courtesy of the grandparents and my husband and I go back without the kids. One thing we had hoped to do as the kids got older was take a ride on the Maid of Mist. Now that it has ceased to operate from the Canadian side, we have two choices: 1. Cross the border (not my preference) or 2. Check out the new service provider, Hornblower Niagara Cruises. When next we visit Niagara, I suspect we’ll go with the latter. It would be neat to also have a hand in the cruise company’s history as it starts up on the Niagara River this spring. Right now, they are inviting everyone to help them name the two newly built boats. Read on for how you can participate:

Hornblower invites participants to be a part of history.

 NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. – Hornblower Niagara Cruises is about to make history – and they want the world to be a part of it.

To kick off the arrival of Hornblower’s Catamarans, the company is now holding a contest to name the two newly built boats for operation in Niagara Falls, Ontario this coming spring. The catamarans will go on to provide Canada’s legendary boat tour to millions of visitors from around the world for the next 30 years.


“We are inviting anyone with a winning idea to be a part of history by naming our boats,” said Lee Carr of Hornblower Niagara Cruises. “We are looking for the two perfect names that best reflect Niagara Falls and Canada and inviting people from around the world to submit a name”. The winning names will receive a 5-day VIP trip to Niagara Falls with a luxury hotel stay, meals and entertainment in one of Canada’s most popular destinations.

The contest, which is currently open for entry on the company’s Facebook page — www.facebook.com/Niagaracruises, is open until December 15th. The winning names will be announced on January 1st, 2014.

The contest has already gained international attention and is being supported by the Canadian Tourism Commission and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation. Hornblower has received name submissions from countries around the world including India, France, Japan and others.

Hornblower Niagara Cruises was recently awarded the concession to operate boat tours to Niagara Falls by the Niagara Parks Commission, an agency of the Provincial Government of Ontario. Hornblower will assume operations from the Maid of the Mist in April 2014. The Niagara boat tour is a world-famous iconic Canadian experience that has been thrilling millions of visitors from around the world for more than 150 years.

About Hornblower Niagara Cruises

Hornblower Canada Co., operating as Hornblower Niagara Cruises, will be the official boat tour operator of boat tours to the waterfalls of Niagara Falls beginning in 2014 in partnership with The Niagara Parks Commission, an Operational Enterprise Agency of the Canadian Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Providing early morning, afternoon, evening, falls illumination and fireworks boat tours to one of the world’s natural wonders, Hornblower Niagara Cruises will deliver an unforgettable experience to its guests in Niagara Falls, Canada. Hornblower Niagara Cruises is part of the Hornblower Family of Companies – a leader in marine hospitality with locations throughout North America.

Vote for the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary

Just hoppin’ on the blog quickly today to let everyone know about this fantastic little place called Change Islands tucked away in Newfoundland (my mother and husband are from there). The island is a beautiful spot full of history and wonderful people…and the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary.

And right now, you can vote (quick registration required) for the Pony Sanctuary in the Aviva Community Fund to help them get funding for a new barn to house the ponies and continue the work that they have been doing to maintain the Newfoundland pony population and revitalize the community of Change Islands, Newfoundland.

Did you know that Elizabeth Taylor owned a Newfoundland pony as a young girl?

And that the Governor General of Canada visited the ponies and his wife named one of the ponies “Kate” after the Duchess of Cambridge?

“Kate” still lives at the Sanctuary.

The woman who runs the sanctuary and cares for the ponies is my husband’s aunt (shown below with my daughter).



That’s my daughter when she was two with her grandfather and her great aunt (the lady who cares for the ponies).

The Changes Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary has made it to the Aviva Community Fund Semi-Finals.

Please VOTE and help them win!

Newfoundland pony

Big Sister getting to know a Newfoundland Pony with her Poppy on Change Islands.

If you ever have a chance to visit Newfoundland, a visit to the ponies on Change Islands is something you won’t want to miss!

Fun at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

Fun, fun and more fun. That about sums up our day spent at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre just north of Toronto.

I wasn’t sure my daughter would be impressed because she hasn’t been exposed to much in the way of LEGO in her life. But I had forgotten her penchant for building (she has a wooden block set handed down to her from a cousin that she drags out regularly, even if I put it away where she can’t find it).

So she was indeed impressed!

Girl at Legoland, Toronto

She spent so much time at this ramp, running LEGO wheels and LEGO cars down it for me to catch or to see if the cars she built would crash and fall apart or if they would stay together. After what seemed like hours, she ran down the steps and exclaimed, “Mommy, Mommy! Can you buy me boy LEGO? It’s so cool! It has wheels!” So now we are putting “boy” LEGO on her wish list for birthdays and Christmas. Continue reading

A family trip with the Ford C-MAX

I’m just back from a wonderful week away with my kids (unfortunately hubby had to stay behind to work) and from a wonderful week driving a new Ford C-MAX.

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid

Ford C-MAX Hybrid

My daughter hadn’t started camp yet, so I took a few days off to take her and her brother to the cottage for some R&R. (Anyone who vacations with kids will tell you that there is nothing resting or relaxing when you’ve got kids around, so there was no real R&R for me. It was go-go-go from sun up until sun down; and then sometimes after sun down. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying.)

And we got to do all that going in a Ford C-MAX Hybrid. A sweet little ride with a ton of mommy-must-have features.

Size and Comfort

The C-MAX is about the same size as my Toyota Matrix. It’s a hatchback like the Matrix and it seats five people comfortably. But the C-MAX has more leg room in the front and back seats. Even though I was only toting tots around and leg room wasn’t really valued by my second row passengers, I appreciated the space because it provided me with extra room to stash our bags for our cottage trip. Not that we really needed the space since the trunk was very roomy.

Packed trunk of a Ford C-Max

Packed and ready for the cottage. Lots of space here!

The cockpit of the C-MAX lends itself nicely to a mommy driver (although my husband loved it, too, so it’s probably better described as lending itself nicely to parent drivers).

Fantastic Features

All the functionality for remaining safely in control of the vehicle and its features while driving were within easy arms reach. And because this isn’t a big family car, the kids were within arms reach right behind me. Plus there was the voice command operation of just about everything you could need during your drive. Very handy. And very intuitive. This was the first time I had driven a car with voice activated features, and I found it to be easy to use, straightforward and very helpful while driving. And the Bluetooth was phenomenal. I have Bluetooth in one of my other cars, but it’s choppy at best when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone. I can hear them well, but they can’t hear me. Not so with Ford’s Bluetooth. It was clear on both ends. And so easy to sync my phone to.

The Auto Climate Control was another feature I especially loved. In my own car, I’m forever turning the AC on because it’s hot, then turning the AC off five minutes later because it has gotten too cold. Then turning it back on again in short order when things heat up. With the Auto Climate Control, I set the temperature I want for the driver’s side and the passenger’s side and then, based on my settings, the fan and the cooling system cut in to keep the temperature in the car regulated. This meant that I could stop fussing with the dials and buttons and enjoy my drive at a comfortable temperature. And the kids didn’t complain either because no one in the car got too hot or too cold.

Another feature I really liked was the hands-free liftgate (a must for packing the car with no help from the hubby and two kids running around). This feature alone is enough to make me want to buy this car. I consider it the ultimate mommy feature. Grocery shopping, cottaging, baby on one hip, diaper bag in one hand, sippy cup, toys, etc. in the other. There is no better way to open a tailgate and dump your stuff (not the baby, though) than the hands-free liftgate. Just kick your foot under the back bumper and let the system do the rest. Up comes the tailgate and in goes your stuff. (The remote-entry key must be on you near the back end of the car for this to work.)

Hands-free liftgate

This was me every time I went anywhere with the kids at the cottage; loaded down but still able to open the liftgate…HANDS-FREE!

Performance and Fuel Efficiency

The C-MAX is a nice sized car; not too big, not too small. It’s very roomy with ample compartments to tuck stuff into for long trips. For its size, I was impressed with its handling on the highway. A long drive up Highway 400 in rush-hour traffic meant contending with a lot of transport trucks and tons of anxious commuters trying to get home at the end of the day. The C-MAX had the kick and power to easily overtake other cars and trucks and get me and my kids out of the city and into the peaceful countryside. It was a smooth ride, too; very quiet and comfortable.

And fuel efficient. I drove 200 Kms up north, spent my days driving in and out of the town near our cottage and day tripping to various activities and tourist destinations with the kids, and then 200 Kms back at the end of the week and I barely used half a tank of gas. In my own car, all that driving would’ve been a tank of gas and then some.

Around the city, the Ford C-MAX was even better (as it’s meant to be). I drove my daughter to camp and then I drove to work and back the last couple of days that I had the car and the gas gauge didn’t move at all. Again, in either of my cars that amount of driving would have cost me a quarter tank of gas. And with today’s gas prices, I’d rather be driving a Ford C-MAX!

Kids beside a Ford C-MAX

All ready for camp and another ride in the Ford C-MAX

I can honestly say that, when it comes time to buy a new car, my family will be considering the Ford C-MAX Hybrid.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Ford C-MAX was provided on review. The opinions stated above are my own. No compensation was received for this article.

Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary

My mother and husband are from a small town on a small island in Newfoundland. The island is called Change Islands. It’s a beautiful spot full of history and wonderful people.

I didn’t appreciate it when I was young and had to spend my vacations there, away from my friends in the city. But as I get older, I can see the beauty and peacefulness that that rock in the middle of the ocean has to offer.

I can’t do it justice in my writing (at least not yet). So I will share with you an article about a pony sanctuary that has been built on the island to help increase the quickly dwindling  numbers of Newfoundland ponies. The woman who runs the sanctuary and cares for the ponies as if they were her children is my husband’s aunt.


Big Sister visiting the ponies on Change Islands with her Poppy and Aunt Netta.

Newfoundland pony

Big Sister getting to know a Newfoundland Pony with her Poppy on Change Islands.

If you ever have a chance to visit that part of Newfoundland, a visit to the ponies on Change Islands is something you won’t want to miss.


I had the pleasure of spending Mother’s Day with my friend, Julie, the mother of one my daughter’s classmates. My family joined theirs for dinner and I had a chance to talk to Julie about this amazing thing she’s doing: walking in a 30k in Costa Rica and raising money for the Arthritis Society.

Since I have arthritis, Julie’s cause is particularly important to me. And when I wanted to find out more about Joints in Motion, Julie very kindly allowed me to ask her a ton of questions. (For brevity, I have summarized our discussion.)

nc: How did you get involved with Joints In Motion?
jb: A life-long friend of mine had participated in Joints In Motion before and got me involved for the walk that’s coming up in Costa Rica. Continue reading