Victoria, B.C. – Where We Ate, Played And Stayed #exploreVictoria

My family and I just got back from a wonderful 3 night stay in Victoria, B.C. – the home of my first truly vivid memories, where I grew from a toddler into a young girl. I’ll share some memoir-style posts soon but today I thought I’d give you some ideas of things to do, food to eat and where to rest your head at night!

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We were blessed with some great weather while we were on the island; it’s usually milder than it is here in the Lower Mainland. Our province’s capital is beautiful all year-round but I’d say from March through October you’d be able to enjoy all the outdoor things Victoria has to offer. And with plenty of indoor experiences, restaurants and cozy corners to curl up with a book (or significant other!) this romantic getaway should also be on your list of winter escapes.

Here’s Where We Ate:

Dinner at Pizzeria Prima Strada – For delicious, authentic Neopolitan pizza, you’ll love the variety of toppings and sauces this place has to offer. Children can select a special bambina pizza (straight cheese) so don’t write this off as an adult-only dining experience! My youngest actually devoured some of our funghi pizza, loaded with, of course, mushrooms! All 5 of us were intrigued by the way the dough was handled and stretched (I never thought to hang it over the countertop!) and then wood-fired to perfection.

Lunch at Frankie’s Modern Diner – We found this place just by walking around the downtown core. It’s got a great location with lovely street-side views. I’m so glad we gave it a try; the whole experience is created to represent a retro diner but definitely more upscale. All your favourite comfort foods are on the menu, mouth-watering and made from scratch. What caught my eye as we walked in was the incredible selection of desserts on display in the giant fridge by the reception area. So before I had even decided on lunch, I knew I was having the New York style cheesecake with strawberries. It was one of the best slices of anything I have ever had!

Dinner at Barb’s Fish & Chips – This restaurant we found on a list of top places to eat and I’m so glad we tried it. It wasn’t just the tasty battered cod but the fact that it was situated right on Fisherman’s Wharf. We ate there on a beautiful evening with the sun setting over the water and just a slight chill in the air. It was fun and casual with picnic benches under a covered area. We finished eating just in time for a stroll along the wharf, admiring the float homes and daydreaming about retiring in one of the condos overlooking the sea.

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Snack/Dessert at Chocolats Favoris – This came recommended by my friend on Instagram where I had asked for ideas of where to fill our bellies in Victoria. So this chocolate heaven was already on my radar but also super easy to spot when the older kids and I took a walk around downtown. Of course, we had to stop in even though it was closer to dinner time; I couldn’t really say ‘no’ to a soft serve cone dunked in one of their incredible flavours (you can sample what you like till you find a match for your tastebuds!). And I don’t mean like a quick dip, coming away with a thin, flaky chocolate-like coating. I mean, this thing was so thickly coated, it was like there was a bowl of chocolate surrounding the vanilla ice cream. You had to bite through it. Definitely check this place out as it’s the only one in Western Canada!

Dinner at Millos Greek Restaurant – This was definitely a family hit with something for everyone. The food was incredible and I loved that it has been family owned and operated since it opened (and the restaurant is as old as me!). It was the perfect place to unwind after a few days on the go, eat some of our Greek favourites (oh, with the exception of my oldest who opted for the fettucine alfredo and said it was the best she’d ever had!) and then amble back to the hotel which was basically directly across the street. We would absolutely eat here again!

Breakfast at Willie’s Cafe & Bakery – Recommended by my friend Salma from The Write Balance, we made this our last meal on our way back to the ferry. We sat in a really beautiful section of this old-bakery-turned-restaurant where we were kept warm by a toasty fire. We rarely eat breakfast out, even when we travel, so it was nice to treat ourselves to pancakes, French toast, different styles of eggs etc. I loved the fact that this place has been around since 1887 and that they use local and organic ingredients.

Here’s Where We Played:

The pool at Hotel Zed (where we stayed the first night – more on that below!) – Recommended by my friend Jamie from Styling the Inside, we had to check out the waterslide called The Zedinator. It was a huge hit with my oldest and my husband; they both said it was fast and scary! We spent the entire first afternoon in this pool just unwinding from the excitement of catching the ferry!

Royal B.C. Museum – I didn’t know how a museum would go over with my 9, 7 and 3 year olds but I think the fact that we spent 4.5 hours in there and they never asked to leave once kind of gives you the picture! This was a highlight of our trip; we each came away with something. Even the 3 year old loved the interactive components (she didn’t know what was going on but she loved pushing the buttons!). My personal favourite was the First Peoples exhibit and the Our Living Languages section. There was so much to see and listen to and even life-size models to experience – it was just incredible! I would love to go back for the Terry Fox exhibit that opens next month. We ran into my son’s preschool friend’s family there (isn’t that crazy?) – they said they visit family on the island often and the museum is always a stop. I can see why!

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Miniature World – This was a short walk from our hotel as well. The kids really enjoyed it but there was so much to see that they just zipped through the whole thing fairly quickly. If you’re a history buff, I think you’ll appreciate the scenes from the world wars and the development of technology. There are also some more whimsical displays of fairy tales and nursery rhymes; again there is an interactive component with many buttons to push, making this a hit for the 3 year old.

Colwood – This city is only 10 km outside of Victoria but truly does feel like its own entity. This is the neighbourhood I lived and went to school in so we really only stopped at my old home, my elementary school and the corner store I used to frequent for two cent candy! But there is more to see there in terms of parks, trails and lakes, and of course seaside beaches.

Goldstream Provincial Park  – For a brief stop before catching our ferry home from Victoria, we took in some deep lungfuls of fresh air amongst the giant Western Red Cedars. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the restaurants and activities when really, to truly appreciate a place, I think it’s important to connect with the natural surroundings. And in Beautiful British Columbia it’s a shame to go anywhere and not spend some time with Nature. You can spend a lot of time in this park on the trails and scoping out the waterfalls, but for us it was short and sweet. We’d definitely go back here again though with more time and a picnic lunch!

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Here’s Where We Stayed:

Hotel Zed – As I mentioned above, my friend Jamie suggested we try out the pool and waterslide at this place. It’s a fun, retro motel-style lodging with bright colours and a really old-skool vibe. They even have typewriters in the lobby and rotary phones in the suite! This is a really budget-friendly solution for a family of 5; we got a suite with a separate bedroom for $149/night. There is a free VW shuttle that takes you right into downtown which is a 5-10 minute drive away. After the first night we decided to move closer to the inner harbour so we could just walk right out of our hotel lobby and to our destination.

Marriott Inner Harbour – When we were walking around downtown after dinner the first night, the Marriott caught our eye as a place we would like to try out; it was so close to everything we wanted to visit. When we discovered the pricing was also quite competitive, we decided to move in there for the next two nights. We didn’t have a separate room but were able to get a twin mattress cot so the 5 of us had comfortable sleeping arrangements. What we’re learning is that as a family of 5 we have to consider accommodations a little differently. We were thankful that the Marriott allowed us to roll in a cot!

Have you visited Victoria lately? Tell me in the comments where you ate, played or stayed! I’d love to hear!

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10 Martin Luther King Jr Quotes To Share With Your Kids

This morning, while the kids ate their waffles and strawberries, I played for them a YouTube video on my phone which I placed at the centre of the dining table. The kids were quiet (rare) as they listened to Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Prior to playing the video for them, I gave them a brief intro to who he was, what he stood for and the non-violent ways in which he stood up for what was right. I told them about the trip we made to Atlanta, GA with some friends when my oldest daughter was 4 and my son was 15 months old – a trip that included a visit to MLK Jr’s birth home, church and the National Historic Site dedicated in his honour.

After dropping them off to school, I sifted through my photos of that trip which truly held some of the most moving moments of my life (including a visit to a former plantation and slaves quarters). I have a rekindled spark in me to share this world with my kids – not just to enjoy its pretty destinations, but to experience other cultures, visit historical sites and learn the stories that haunt our human history. The world has it all and I want my children to feel they belong to it.

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The house in which MLK Jr was born and raised.

If you’d like to share some inspiring quotes by MLK Jr with your school-aged children, here are my favourites. What would you add to this list? Please leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!

  1. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
  2. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.
  3. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  4. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
  5. The time is always right to do what is right.
  6. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  7. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
  8. I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
  9. We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  10. We may all have come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

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Leaving My Kids

This time next week I’ll be waking up in Calgary, Alberta which is like 1000 km away. My kids and my husband won’t be with me. YOU GUYS!! I haven’t done this since my middle child was 18 months old (he’s now 6), and that was a two night Whistler staguette for an old college friend. I cried both those nights in the hotel room I shared with women I barely knew. Thankfully, they were all passed out from drinking while I cried my sober self to sleep.

Whistler is a two hour drive away. Next week, I’m leavin’ on a jet plane!

I didn’t think twice about booking this trip; my youngest cousin (my little sister, really) is graduating from medical school and I am unbelievably proud of her. I feel like I went through these past 3 years with her, getting nervous for exams, anxious about steely preceptors, and feeling relieved when each rotation ended. Though we have an age gap of 12 years, she is one of my best friends. I remember the day she was born, getting the call from my grandparents. I remember meeting her for the first time when she was 3 months old, holding her close as I rocked back and forth in the chair in her bedroom.

I remember when she was 6 and her dad, my mom’s brother, died. My mom was adamant we not lose touch with our cousins following his death; I am grateful to her for the love she had for her brother’s kids because that love has continued to grow in my own heart and now in my children’s hearts. Really, it’s an honour to have the opportunity to watch my little sister cross that stage and I know my mom and my uncle will be there in spirit. How could I miss the chance to be close to them, too, once again?

We usually visit my cousins and aunt every couple of years as a family. Each time we’ve gone I’ve had one or two or three children with me. Of course, that’s a very different trip! When babies need to sleep or nap, I need to excuse myself from conversations and chai to put them down. Or stay with them the entire time because they won’t sleep. When we go out, my attention is mostly on the kids. This time will be really different because I can stay up and drink chai without keeping an ear out for someone coming down the stairs. I’ll eat at a restaurant without cutting up someone else’s meal first. (Unless either of my cousins prefer this – I’m actually quite good at it!) My cousins have asked me, “What do you want to do when you’re here?” and I can’t decide! Should we just stay in in our pj’s and eat ridiculous amounts of baked goods? Or should we dress up and paint the town red? Decisions, decisions. I can get used to those kinds of decisions.

But I’m not gonna lie. I know being away from my kids and husband will be hard. To make it a bit easier on them, and on me, I’ve written letters to the two big kids for each day that I’m away. (The hubs can add “Remember to give kids a letter each day” to his to-do list). The letters greet them in the morning as I normally would, and include something to remember for the day (like family birthdays…May is a busy month for birthdays in our extended family so this is kind of insurance that my husband will remember, too). My little girly will get a drawing from me each day (because seriously, I can draw a heart and she’ll squeal in delight before she asks for a pen and scribbles all over it).

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To help the hubs, I’m going to cook a few meals ahead of time. Which, actually, is not any more work than I normally do, since I tend to cook a lot in the beginning of the week when the afternoons aren’t so crazy so that we have food to carry us through the nutty days. But I do make it a point to tell him, at least every other day, that I’m preparing meals for them. Is that so I feel less guilty? Haha! Perhaps. But hey, it’s working, because I actually don’t feel guilty at all about this trip!

Have you been away and left kiddies behind? What have you done to make it easier on them and yourself? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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Owning A Piece of B.C. Beauty Is Easier Than You Think At Springs RV Resort in Harrison Hot Springs

I think at some point or another, many of us dream of owning a getaway place. Maybe the thought drifts into our mind at 2 pm on a Wednesday at work, or while driving home at 5 pm on a Friday – wishing the weekend consisted of a lake and a campfire instead of errands and, blech, responsibilities. For me, a home away from home, set in the woods, ‘away from it all’ means a place to just be, where my kids don’t have to keep up with all the pressures of growing up in a culture where they have to do it all. And frankly, neither do I. It means getting back to the simple and real things in life, where our family is the centre of it all.

But is that just an ideal that is unattainable in the gorgeous, but pricey, Canadian west coast?

What I found out totally surprised me.

Last weekend, my family and I had the pleasure of being hosted at Springs RV Resort in Harrison Hot Springs, located right on Hot Springs Rd. just a few minutes drive from beautiful Harrison Lake and village. I was really excited to take my family on this experience, as we have never stayed in an RV, and we really didn’t know what to expect!

We were greeted by this big, hairy guy (no jokes at my husband, please!) As you drive along Hot Springs Rd, keep an eye out for him and you won’t miss the driveway!

When we drove in, the next person we met was the super friendly caretaker, Janice, who later became our kids’ best friend. (They visited her several times a day for a ball that they used to play foosball in the outdoor clubhouse area). It was clear from first sight how well cared-for the grounds are; there is definite pride in the way the park is maintained.

As I said, I had no idea what to expect at an RV park. I was told there would be an outdoor kitchen. I assumed that was a Coleman stove hooked up to a little propane tank perched on a picnic table. It was not that. It was this:

After picking our jaws up from the ground, we headed in to the trailer itself.

For the sake of the owner’s privacy, I didn’t take pictures of the inside. But suffice it to say, the 5 of us were very comfortable: the hubs and I got the bedroom, the two older kids shared the pullout couch and we set up the baby’s cot just off the kitchen. The kitchen, I might add, that is on par with the one I have at home…except maybe a little shinier. I’m serious!

But I have to admit, though the fanciness was a plus, my FAVOURITE part was that the kids were SO happy and entertained! A safe, gated community, Springs RV Resort has loads to offer toddlers, children and teens – from a playground, a fully-operational vintage carousel, swimming pool, hot tub, and organized activities like Craft Hour every Saturday morning.

Parents! Do you know what it feels like to let your kids run out the door after breakfast in the morning and know they are safe and happy ‘somewhere out there’? It’s such an amazing feeling, for all of us. The kids loved their freedom and frankly, so did the hubs and I.

Don’t take my word for it – listen to what the kids have to say!

And it really is like that! Here are my happy kids:

We left the kids at the playground and took a stroll through the neat rows of RVs. I just loved looking at the different ways people extended their living spaces to the outdoors, with well-built decks housing comfy furniture, cooking equipment, full kitchens and happy, happy inhabitants! Being surrounded by such lush greenery was breathtaking – my eyes kept bouncing from the trees to the gardens to the decks. This sign on someone’s fence made me smile. I love lakeside culture. It truly is a lifestyle.


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During the summer, there is a community BBQ in this clubhouse area so the night we arrived, we got to enjoy the gourmet burgers!

And this sign indicates how much fun they have here as a group!

Of course, it’s Harrison Hot Springs, so what would a visit be without a stroll through the village (or pedal on the rent bikes), delicious eats and a dip in the lagoon? All of this is minutes away! I loved how we could spend hours amongst the other tourists, then return to Springs RV Resort and feel like we were at our own private getaway.

And then…at the end of the day…

So, if you are looking for a vacation home in our beautiful province, here are some things to consider:

And there is a special offer happening during the month of September that really is a great deal!

To learn more or book a tour, visit their website or call Mary at 778-242-4279. Tell her Taslim sent you! 
Custom Built Deck & Gazebo is as easy as 1.2.3……..

 

1. Purchase one of the select lots by Sept. 28th, 2014

2. Receive a custom built deck and gazebo – a $10,000 value – free!
3. Relax and enjoy owning a piece of vacation paradise!

Offer Expires 09/28/14

*Deck & Gazebo package includes: 20 x 15 foot pressure-treated deck and 10 x 15 foot rough fir and cedar shake open style gazebo with purchase of select lot.  Offer subject to change without notice. Offer valid for new purchases. No cash value. Not to be combined with any other promotions or offers.

SPECIAL OFFER!

Custom Built Deck & Gazebo is as easy as 1.2.3……..

1. Purchase one of the select lots by Sept. 28th, 2014
2. Receive a custom built deck and gazebo – a $10,000 value – free!
3. Relax and enjoy owning a piece of vacation paradise!

Offer Expires 09/28/14
*Deck & Gazebo package includes: 20 x 15 foot pressure-treated deck and 10 x 15 foot rough fir and cedar shake open style gazebo with purchase of select lot. Offer subject to change without notice. Offer valid for new purchases. No cash value. Not to be combined with any other promotions or offers.
SPECIAL OFFER!

Custom Built Deck & Gazebo is as easy as 1.2.3……..
1. Purchase one of the select lots by Sept. 28th, 2014

2. Receive a custom built deck and gazebo – a $10,000 value – free!
3. Relax and enjoy owning a piece of vacation paradise!

Offer Expires 09/28/14

*Deck & Gazebo package includes: 20 x 15 foot pressure-treated deck and 10 x 15 foot rough fir and cedar shake open style gazebo with purchase of select lot.  Offer subject to change without notice. Offer valid for new purchases. No cash value. Not to be combined with any other promotions or offers.

Scotch Creek Cottages – Just One Of B.C.’s Gems #exploreBC @ShuswapCottages

You know that feeling, when you really need to stretch your legs, take a deep breath…and not have a darn thing to do except just that? Well, and swim in the lake. Barbecue some burgers. Read. Write. Sit at the campfire. Just those things.

I had been craving that for so long.

I’ve been feeling like I need a BREAK and to me, being at a cottage on the lake, is just that.

So when my husband suggested a three night cottage stay at Shuswap Lake as part of our first family road trip, I don’t think I have ever said “YES” to anything so quickly. After a quick internet search, we knew that we would find exactly what we needed at Scotch Creek Cottages.

I called the property manager, Greg, the very next day and he was extremely helpful in helping us select the best cottage for our needs. We were blown away by Cottage #18 – just one up from the lake, 2 bedrooms (the kids’ room had bunk beds – they were thrilled!), washer/dryer, beautiful kitchen/living/dining area and large covered porch complete with picnic table. I never said we were camping. This was full-on glamping. But there was a communal campfire, so that was a big check off my list!

Probably the best part was the playground situated in the middle of the horseshoe of cottages. Right after breakfast each morning, kids would run to the playground from every which direction to meet up with their new best friends. Don’t you just love how kids can do that? Become insta-besties? My husband and I loved how they could go out and not have to be directly supervised. They were always within eyeshot and earshot, but we didn’t feel the need to hover or be watching them every second. We remarked that this must be what it was like for our parents who were able to let us run out the door every morning and feel secure in knowing we were out having fun and would be back when we got hungry.

When they weren’t making up new games with their buddies or building sandcastles in the shade of the playground equipment, they were going for a dip in the lake with yours truly, or being rowed around by my hubs in our dinghy. There is even a giant trampoline within the designated swimming area which they enjoyed TREMENDOUSLY!

Such a beautiful setting – and total lakeside living. We ate when we were hungry, swam when we wanted to and that’s basically how the days passed. There was still the baby and all her needs to consider so the writing and reading didn’t come as easily as I would have liked. And we didn’t get the best sleep since we slept in the same room as her. She decided to turn into a newborn on this trip and woke up every two hours, probably because she could hear our every move and wasn’t in her familiar surroundings. But as I mentioned in this post, I had my life jacket on – my mantra “This time next year…things will be easier” and I do hope we return one day so we can chase her around the grassy area.

There is a lot more to Scotch Creek than meets the eye, yet it is a sleepy little blip on the map. I would recommend staying more than three nights if you want to try some of the activities off the cottage resort. Oh, and if you like to fish…you can even catch your own dinner!

If you are looking for a place to stay in the Shuswap area, try Scotch Creek. It’s on the other side of the lake from the more ‘party’ house-boat area. The lake is warm and so is the hospitality.

Do you have a favourite place to cottage? Tell me! I think I’m hooked…