Category Archives: Travel

Our Stay At Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel

7th February 2013

Just before the holidays, my family and I were lucky enough to have a long weekend in Toronto and we stayed at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel.

The Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel is newly renovated and boasts 6 floors, 222 rooms and 36 suites. It is perfectly located downtown on Bloor Street East and within walking distance to great shopping, fabulous restaurants and museums. If you’re headed to a game, or hitting up the Eaton Centre for some more shopping, it’s just a short drive or subway ride away.

We arrived at the hotel Friday afternoon and drove right up into the valet area which is located right next to their side entrance and steps away from their lobby and registration desk. We were warmly welcomed by the valet and actually, we experienced wonderful service every step of the way, from registration to room service to the concierge. Every one made a point of welcoming the kids, who get no bigger thrill than staying in a hotel so this just added to their joy.

The lobby was beautifully decorated for the holidays and absolutely immaculate, as were the elevators and hallways. (A germaphobe notices these things.) We arrived to our room and it was very nice – a suite with a separate sitting area with television, a desk, a bedroom with two queen beds and huge closets (and another tv) and a very nice bathroom with separate glass shower and separate bath. It was perfect for a family of four.

We headed out on foot, after checking in and spent a few hours shopping in the Bay/Bloor & Yorkville area. It was great to be able to walk with the kids and be at our destination so quickly. We did some major holiday spending damage, and we lugged our bags home among all the pretty sparkly lights in the area. It was just a fantastic day. When we returned, we were surprised with some great treats – sadly, I don’t have any pics because the kids ravaged it immediately.

The next morning, on Saturday, we enjoyed a breakfast in the colourful hotel restaurant, Matisse. It was delicious. Sunday morning, we had room service instead, because we’re spoiled and the kids really wanted to see Spongebob on tv – two birds, one stone.

We had a wonderful stay in a great hotel, and would absolutely stay again next time we’re in Toronto, especially if the goal is shopping. If I have one complaint, I would have to say because it was agreed among the four of us, the pillows on the beds were very uncomfortable. The rest of the bedding was nice and crisp, but the pillows were just too soft and shapeless. Other than that, everything was fantastic. Thank you so much to the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel for a wonderful family weekend.

You can find the hotel here and on Facebook and Twitter.

The Blogher 2012 Awards

13th August 2012

First off, I have to thank my sponsor Chevrolet Canada for making my NYC trip to Blogher possible, and also for giving us some wheels to get there! THANKS SO MUCH!! I APPRECIATE YOU!!

The trip started with a road trip with two of my favorite people, Lindsey and Karen who I love even more after spending five days with them (not sure they would say the same), but they put up with me that long, so that clearly earns them bonus points.  I’m pretty sure we covered every possible topic during our many hours driving to and from NYC – none of us will be running for political office now.

Okay, so yes, technically I’m late with my Blogher post since everyone and their dog has already published theirs, but I blame the Olympics (and general laziness). Here are my overall thoughts on Blogher – it was HUGE (thats what she said). Really, really big and so, so many people. Too many I think, but that much estrogen in one building would make anyone nervous. Don’t get me wrong, I like most females, but the weird ones that push people, and are rude and steal swag from displays are just not my kind of females. Thankfully, most everyone I met were real sweeties, and had a great, fun vibe which just happens to be the exact vibe you need in NYC. Will I go next year? Probably not – it’s very close to my birthday, and I’d rather spend my 40th in NYC.

Yes, that gives you an entire year to plan the perfect birthday gift for me. You’re so welcome.

In the meantime, I would like to share my best of list for Blogher 2012.

BEST ROOMIES: Lindsey and Karen, although technically, the lovely Karen wasn’t officially a roomie, but she makes a great crasher. Also, she snores louder than I do, so thanks for that, Karen.

BEST NYC STREET SHOPPING: I’ve been looking for sunglasses that would look good on my face FOREVER, and I finally found some for $10 at a street vendor. Seriously, how can you resist me?

BEST JERSEY ACCENT: I liked Heather before talking to her, but I like her more now, because she sounds like Snooki, minus the dirty, drunk, leopard print tights factor. Also, she laughs at my jokes, so she’s a keeper.

BEST DANCER: I have NEVER seen someone bounce/jump/dance this much consistently for HOURS before Sparklecorn. Sam wins the award for best dancer hands down and if she can get someone to videotape her doing that for 30 minutes, she may just have the next big thing in fitness videos. Also, that is some funny, funny shit.

BEST Snub Comeback: You know when someone looks right at you, smiles and makes small talk and you’ve been talking to them on Twitter for three years and they have NO IDEA who  you are? That is the social media snub at it’s best – Karen snubbed me the first night of Blogher – we had a convo and she smiled politely and I knew she had no idea who I was. I thought it would be fun not to say a thing until she figured it out. Two days later, she  full on attacked me with her huge smile and kind of dirty hug, so I forgave her. I kind of love her.

SWEETEST Blogger: Hands down – the lovely Elaine is a doll.

Best Keynote: Martha wins, with Katie Couric a close second.

BEST Snark/Champagne Buddy: Emma is just funny as hell and I just want to figure out ways to spend many hours just hanging out with her because she is cool. Total girl crush.

BEST Cupcakes – sugar never tasted so good.

BEST Art: By best, I mean strangest because I still don’t get it at all. I love a great museum, so I took some time to check out the MOMA since it was so close to the hotel. No offense to Marcel Broodthaers, but “Belgian Lion” or “found object in frying pan” makes no sense to me. My 5yo leaves found objects all over the place, so technically I am living in a messier version of a modern art museum. Goldmine! YES!

*

Did you go to Blogher? Did you like? Will you go next year??

The Lysol Booth At Blogher 2012

7th August 2012

I’m back from Blogher in NYC and I had a great time. I’ll have a post about it in the next couple of days, but until then I wanted to share a video with you.

While at the Expo, someone (and I’m sorry but I can’t remember who it was), suggested I check out the Lysol booth and ask them if they know a song.

So I did.

And here’s what happened.

Clearly, the most entertaining booth at the expo.

Good times.

Our Summer Vacation – Boston

1st August 2012

The second part of our family vacation was in Boston.

It was three days of non-stop walking, “exciting” subway rides and lots of museums and attractions.

Our favorite stops included the Aquarium, the Museum of Science and the Museum of Art.

The kids LOVED their first subway rides, and it was just a really fun trip.

Again, I have way too many pics to go through, but I have a few to share for now.

I’ll be back with a more detailed post about what’s not to miss in Boston on a family trip!

Our Summer Vacation – Kennebunkport Maine and the Nonantum Resort

31st July 2012

We just back from our glorious family holiday in Kennebunkport, Maine and Boston.

We stayed at this wonderful resort called the Nonantum Resort – it was five minutes from several beaches, and a ten minute walk from Dock Square (the main part of town). We lucked out in every way – our room was perfect, the breakfast buffets were fabulous, the pool was fun for the kids and the children’s programming was a lovely bonus. From crafting, to outdoor movies to campfires, they had thought of everything. We loved it so much, we would love to make a trip to Maine,an annual family trip. (Nope, not sponsored, just very happy with our stay.)

It is such a beautiful part of the country – gorgeous  beaches, lovely weather with no bugs in sight and nice, friendly people everywhere.

If you have the opportunity to take a relaxing vacation in the United States, Kennebunkport, Maine is a great choice.

I’ll leave you with some of our pics from the trip – I have 3,000 pics to go through, so this is what I have for now!

 

Our Summer Trip 2012

28th July 2012

Time flies when you’re having fun – this is never more true than when you’re on vacation.

We just got back from a week away to Kennebunkport, Maine and Boston – it was so fantastic.

As I’m currently under a pile of laundry and unpacking, I’ll leave you with some highlights for now:

  • The 5yo lost two teeth during the trip – one in Maine and one somewhere in the car on the way home (tooth is still M.I.A.).
  • The 8yo decided that “smiling with teeth is stupid” and refused to smile in most pics – the ones he is smiling in required bribery on my part. I’m ok with that.
  • Going to a beach on a windy, cloudy day DOES NOT MEAN you don’t require sunscreen. Worst burn ever doesn’t even begin to cover it.
  • There are no freakin’ bugs in Maine – seriously, not a single mosquito was seen during our entire trip – it was HEAVEN!!!
  • Peeing “in da ocean is amazing.”
  • There is NO Starbucks in Kennebunkport. I repeat, NO STARBUCKS.
  • Watching my husband rediscover his love of taking pictures was absolutely a highlight.
  • Having said husband take the same pic I would take with my camera because he had the “better camera”…. not a highlight.
  • $3 cupcakes are overrated.
  • Only in Boston can you stand next to a giant noodle. Yeah, I’m still confused by this one myself.

More to come!

My Blogher Advice For Blogher 2012

10th July 2012

Back in 2010, I was lucky enough to be able to attend Blogher in New York City, or what I like to call, My Four Days of Sanity Tour.

Thankfully, I’m going again this year and am super psyched it’s back in NYC!

It of course makes perfect sense that since I have attended ONE Blogher conference in total, I am absolutely qualified to share my worldly Blogher knowledge – with you. Enjoy and take notes.

Clothing

  • I’ll begin with the obvious – wear COMFORTABLE shoes. You will walk A TON, and you will need to wear something you can run in when you’re mowing down people at the Expo to get to that pen you so desperately need and can’t live without.
  • Wear what you love to wear – just leave your Easter bonnets at home.
  • Do not leave home without a CARDIGAN – obviously. Also, because the hotel is chilly and nipple action in photographs is so 2004.
  • Wear some good sturdy underwear – it’s damn hot and humid in NYC and thongs will only contribute to painful chaffing action. Or you could wear thongs and we’ll know why you’re walking funny.

The Hotel

  • The hotel is actually very nice and in a great location, so WIN. However, the elevators may break you – prepare yourself for the longest elevator waiting times you will ever experience. Now get over it and use it as a time to chat with your neighbour. Also, bicep curls while holding your bags of swag is very productive.
  • The hotel bar in the lobby is the place to be late at night. Don’t want to go to sleep because these are the only four days you get to be sans kids for at least a year? Well then I’ll see you there (bring your pennies – the cocktails are tasty, but not cheap).
  • Be nice to the staff – because being rude to people makes you an asshole. Also, they have access to your toothbrush when you’re not around. Remember that when you’re brushing your teeth and tasting toilet water.

The Conference

  • Oh yes, the real reason we’re in NYC (nope it’s not the shopping). It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this conference isn’t possible without the hours and hours of hard work and preparation of some amazing people (no I don’t work for Blogher). So appreciate it and check out the sessions and events, and all that it has to offer. The keynote speakers (hello Katie Couric and Martha Stewart), the Voices of the Year – it’s all just too good. By the way, you heard about the Colin Firth/Magic Mike Final Keynote right? 
  • Don’t just show up in NYC without some preparation first – Sit down and figure out the schedule and what you want to attend in terms of sessions, etc. Figure out the parties you can’t miss and all that jazz ahead of time so you don’t feel completely lost when you get there.
  • Introduce yourself! But remember, introducing yourself is a two part process. For example,

1. “HI, I’m Maria! (Followed by the blank-who-is-this-chick stare).

2. “Online, I’m BORED Mommy (Ding, ding, ding – OH, Hi! How are you?!!).

I’m not kidding – I did this every single time I met someone new. People you haven’t met in real life won’t know what you look like or who the bleep you are until you’re face to face, and staring at each other’s nametags. Don’t be offended by that, it’s just reality. Think of it as a blind date, but with less groping.

  • Don’t skip meals, no matter how tired/hungover/lazy you feel. This is the perfect time to meet other ladies and see if they chew with their mouth closed.
  • Travel in Pairs/Packs – Every year, you hear the same complaint about people being clique-y – I don’t agree with that. It’s just natural that you want to be around people you know and/or are comfortable with. If you’re shy or easily overwhelmed by thousands of women you don’t know, then make plans to conquer those moments with your roommate/girlfriend/bestie. Don’t miss out on a great weekend – be confident and tell yourself that you belong there as much as anyone else, because you do. Yes, this is a sarcastic free bullet point. You are welcome.

Parties

  • Blogher weekend is party overload – tons of official parties, and tons of unofficial and private parties. It is literally impossible to go to everything, so don’t even try. Go to some, skip others and have fun regardless.
  • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT miss Sparklecorn – it is a four hour dance party and just crazy fun.
  • Don’t get too drunk and end up in some weird, compromising situation because we are a people obsessed with the internet. Yes, your fellow bloggers can also be your worst nightmare/paparazzi.
  • Don’t forget or lose those drink tickets you will get at the start of the conference – those babies are prized and will save you some money at the parties. Also, use them to trade for electronics and designer handbags with the drunk people who don’t know what is happening until it’s too late. Ahem.

PACKING

You need a ton of stuff in that oversized (I’m going to try to fit in every piece of swag known to man in here on the way home) suitcase. Including:

  • Cell phone, laptop, ipad, chargers
  • Business cards – if you forget, just bring a permanent marker and write your info on their cleavage
  • Clothing – no really, because that would suck
  • Shoes, supportive underwear, nude pantyhose (one of these things is not like the other)
  • Camera
  • Schedule
  • Cab fare x 4 days – it’s more than you think, I promise you
  • Canadian flag decals – put these on so people don’t have to ask you why you’re so nice, polite and apologetic
  • Lysol wipes – no really, bring an entire container, and wipe down your room (and roommates) before unpacking a thing. You’re welcome said the germaphobe.
  • Heavy Duty, XL garbage bags – Double as obscenely large carry-alls, for the SWAG of course.
  • A copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (or other dirty book)  – for a weird/spontaneous (yes dirty books make you smart) book club and also so you can actually READ IT before you constantly tweet about how much it sucks. Seriously, that’s how reading works. Read first, speak later.

But I digress.

Oh look, Bruce Jenner.

Oh, and if nothing else, just remember this and you’ll be fine:

See you there.

A Day At The Toronto Zoo

6th June 2012

We recently were invited to spend the day at the Toronto Zoo.

We love the zoo so we were very happy to be there.

Along with seeing some of our favorite animals like the giraffes, the penguins and the new baby polar bear, we also had an up close experience with the rhinoceros and his trainer.

The five year old wasn’t happy that she couldn’t pet or feed the rhinoceros – I’m ok with that.

As the family got lost at the zoo, I also had the opportunity to learn about the “Hidden Zoo” which is the work the zoo does in conservation, preservation, research and education. Did you know that the Zoo participates in “captive breeding and re-introduction programs?” The Toronto Zoo is also the “only Canadian zoo with a reproductive physiologist on staff.” I didn’t know about either of these efforts. There is just so much that goes on behind the scenes, and it’s all funded through its patrons. I wish I lived closer because I would jump at the chance to get a Family membership – if your kids love animals and you live close enough to enjoy it often, you should consider a membership. A family membership starts at $121 for one year which is amazing.

Of course, we enjoyed more than just the animals – we also enjoyed a ride on the zoomobile, and the carousel, and our kids emptied their pockets at the gift shop.

And the kids and their dad LOVE the hands-on stingray exhibit. I like it too – from afar. Hence why I’m always the one with the camera.

Just call me snuffleupagus.

Disclaimer: We were treated to a day at the zoo, however my thoughts and my aversion to animal poop is my own.

His First NHL Game & Daddy Road Trip

5th April 2012

The husband surprised our eight year old son with a daddy/son road trip to Ottawa on Tuesday night to see the Senators game – his first NHL game.

He LOVES everything hockey right now. It’s all he thinks about and he reads NHL books every free moment. He has this uncanny ability to remember facts and stats and he can also tell you something about any and every player in the NHL.

His joy and excitement for the sport is really fun to watch.

He had such a great time at the game and even made a friend, another little dude sitting next to him.

Of course, being an eight year old, he prefers to tell you all about his fun trip himself.

I think we got the best seats in the house! The game was AWESOME. I also made a friend at the hockey game.

It was so fun!

It got really physical. There were a million penalties and fights!

I got a tshirt at the hockey game and hockey cards.

It was SOOoooooooo AWESOME!!!

The face says it all, don’t you think?

What You Need To Survive A Road Trip – March Break 2012 #KinderMom

28th February 2012

March Break is almost here.

I don’t know how early you make plans, but we are last minute planners, which basically means we’re not really planners at all.

We don’t actually know what we’re doing for March Break yet, but we still have about ten days to figure it out.

The kids are really hoping that we take a road trip to the U.S. to visit their little cousins during March Break.

We’ve made the trip before, and it’s about an eight hour trip (not including bathroom breaks for the wee bladders, so add at least two hours to that). The kids were three and six the last time we went on such a long trip, so it involved many snacks, dvds, music, toys, and pee breaks (did I say that already?)

Now that the kids are five and eight, I have no doubt they will be much easier to travel with. I’m lucky that they are willing to sit in their carseats/booster seats with zero complaint, and do not get car sick – ever.

So, here are my tips for a successful road trip with kids:

  • Start with a clean, empty car. It’s impossible to get packed and organized if the car/van is a disaster to begin with.
  • Put everything  you don’t need during the actual road trip in the trunk, so there’s enough room for the stuff you will need to easily access.
  • Dedicate separate bags for different roles – Snack Bag, Entertainment Bag, Emergency Bag and Mommy’s Bag of Sanity
Some Bag Details:
Snack Bag – Easy to eat snacks (granola bars, goldfish, fruit, etc), water, juice, wipes
Entertainment Bag (I have two of these – one for each of my kids and I hang them off the head rest of the seats in front of them for easy access) – they contain a book, notebook w pen, DSi or LeapPad with games, stuffy, etc. And lot’s of DVDs!!
Emergency Bag – Change of clothes for each kid, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, wipes, Tylenol
Mommy’s Bag of Sanity – iPhone, mags, book, laptop, earphones, mints, hand cream, lip gloss, camera, notebook/pen, Starbucks card – fully loaded!
(FYI: The perfect bags for lugging lots of stuff, and that are sturdy and flat bottomed so that they stand on their own – LLBean totes – love them. Super durable!)

Oh, and let’s not forget Daddy (a.k.a. the driver in our family) – he will require a bottomless Tim Horton’s coffee, a GPS, and CBC radio. And once we’re out of range for the CBC, he will require Mommy listening to his endless talk about work…..hence, ahem, the earplugs.

 

Carrying on…..

 

Once we’ve got the car packed properly, gps programmed, bladders emptied, and kids strapped in – we are off! We try to leave as early as possible so that we can get a few hours of driving in before our lunch break, and that way we can arrive by dinner time at the latest. At least that’s the plan, but as all parents know, plan on nothing but being flexible on road trips, or you might just be disappointed at some point.
If you can plot your stops in advance (for food, gas, bladder time), then you are awesome. If not, you are still awesome, but less Martha Stewart-like.

During the actual drive, I think it’s important for the kids to actually do more than just stare at the tv and other electronics, so we take breaks from that and play games together! For my son, I create a list with every U.S. state and as he sees license plates with each state, he checks them off. Sounds simple, but he enjoys it and it gets him very interested in looking out the window and finding every state. For my younger daughter, we do a Bingo game where we have animals, nature, objects listed that she has to find. It’s super fun times. Really. I also declare set “reading times” or “drawing times”, so that we can shake things up and again, not spend hours just playing with electronics.

 

I hope this helps you when planning your upcoming road trips, whether they’re during March Break, or not. This post is part of my continued partnership with Kinder as a #KinderMom! Please make sure to stop by their Canadian Facebook page to check out their 2012 toy selection, and enter their monthly contests!! You still have time to enter their February contest for a $500 staycation – well you have two days to enter, so HURRY ON OVER!!

“Disclosure: I’m part of the Kinder® Mom program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”
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