Travel Books & Games

Who would have guessed it? Tell your family and friends that you will be traveling around the world and they will gift you with some great travel-themed stuff over the Christmas holidays! Here is a round-up of our lovely new books and games:

The Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World (2016)

rough-guides-first-time-around-world-cover-320x491

Crocodile Creek Discover World Animals Puzzle

crocodile-creek

Atlas of Adventures: A Collection of Natural Wonders, Exciting Experiences and Fun Festivities From the Four Corners of the Globe

atlas-of-adventures

The Great Journey by Agathe Demois

great-journey

 

On Light Pollution: The End of Darkness

A nice little video from the New Yorker on the effect of light pollution and its impact on star-gazing by the general public:

I’ve said it before, but visiting parts of the globe that have minimal light pollution is one of the things I am most excited about for our world trip plans.

My Favourite Things To Do In Ottawa

I was watching this clip (from “Every Frame a Painting”) the other day about how great Memories of Murder is and I was reminded of the amazing video store in Ottawa where JBot and I first rented it.  Invisible Cinema in downtown Ottawa was the gateway drug for so many fantastic new films. Wyatt was only too happy to recommend new things to us. You know the place is great when they organize films by director!

Just looked it up and it has been shuttered. Dang!

And now with friends about to depart for a holiday in Ottawa, let’s continue down nostalgia lane and share some of our favourite places in Ottawa:

Chez Lucien in the Byward Market (137 Murray Street). Where art is worshipped along with the baseball game. The burger named after Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is so good. Try it with the side salad and french fries. Their free jukebox is stellar. As is the romantic chocolate fondue.

This is a great spot to visit after the National Gallery.

I was obsessed with Hintonburger when I was pregnant with G-Man. Oh man, nothing better than a big greasy delicious local homemade burger with bacon…. <queue Homer Simpson drool sounds> When we first started going there they ran out of a little trailer. Now they have taken over the old KFC so they have a much bigger space. I’ll admit, I loved the lop-sided tables. And the burgers. Still worship those burgers.

Beau's

Craft beer has really gained popularity in Ontario but, for me, it all began with Beau’s. Not in Ottawa proper but outside of town in the small village of Vankleek Hill, Beau’s has grown into a top-notch brewer and a role model for keeping businesses local and independent. Their Oktoberfest is a blast if you are visiting  the Ottawa area in the fall. They have a new patio to tempt travellers to stay and eat and drink after a tour.

There is a lot of great hiking trails in and around Ottawa. The Trans-Canada Trail that runs along the Ottawa River and next to Parliament and the canal is very popular, of course. When we lived in Ottawa Mer Bleue was our favourite hiking spot. It is an easy looped trail through a bog. Bog ecology is really fascinating. Which reminds me of Beau’s fantastic seasonal beer called Bog Water. It is made with myrtle! So good!! Pretty sure that beer is inspired by the Alfred Bog though…

Another place in Ottawa that has a special place in our hearts is the residence of the Governor General. It is called Rideau Hall. The building itself is gorgeous, the history is interesting, but it is the site itself that is worth a visit. The gardens and arbour are lovely. Plus, we also had a regular meeting of families at the sweet playground there. Best in town!

Scone-Witch

Rideau Hall is also close to the Scone Witch on Beechwood. They have more than one location. Their scone sandwich with turkey and Stilton cheese is the stuff of dreams. And their lemon curd. It is also next door to Books on Beechwood.

We used to live close to the Glebe neighbourhood. It has a nice vibe. We loved their annual yard sales.

If you are visiting Ottawa, definitely check out the schedules for the Bytowne Theatre or the Mayfair. Great movie theatres!

And if you are looking for coffee check out Bridgehead! They have a few different locations throughout town.

I am sad to say that our favourite Jamaican place is no more. We will miss Frederick, his crazy spicy jerk, and his crazy strong homemade ginger beer! The same has to be said for Zen Kitchen as well. We had the best food and drink pairing EVER at this vegan restaurant. But, that is the fate of restaurants I suppose. It can be a hard business…

Ottawa has a bad reputation for being boring, “the town fun forgot” gets flung around a lot. But really, it just inevitably looks bad in comparison to Montreal or Toronto. That and the large number of civil servants who don’t really cut loose amirite?  ^_^

The Middle Child Syndrome: a.k.a. “Harry Potter & the Cursed Child”

I was talking with a friend the other day about the new Harry Potter play (I am an avid lover of the Harry Potter stories) and was describing it as ‘a cautionary tale for the case against boarding schools.’ I don’t think it is spoiling the new play for readers by saying that Harry is struggling with his relationship with one of his children, that has been pretty clear in the play’s advertising. My suggestion to my friend was that if Harry’s child wasn’t shipped off to Hogwarts for large portions of the year their problems would have been resolved much sooner!

Potter Family

My friend, who is by trade a psychologist specializing in children and families, asked if the child in question was Harry’s middle child? Aha! The middle-child syndrome! Of course. G-Man was quick to remind us of this great AsapSCIENCE video about the effect of birth order on children’s personalities.

Definitely some similar themes in “Harry Potter & the Cursed Child!!”

Rainy Days / Hot Days: NFB Films

After a month (more?) long drought in the Niagara region we are finally having a proper rainy weekend! Like many afternoons so far this summer spent escaping the heat and humidity, we are finding ourselves turning to indoor projects. Lego is always a big hit, of course, and we had a brief success with one of the Green Kid Crafts project boxes. JBot found some super-on-sale dance games for the Kinect which has been a great way to stay active, and we still spend lots of time with our week’s supply of library books. Then there is the never-ending home-repair projects, the forgotten stack of board games, and other toys waiting to rediscovered…

Sometimes it is fun to try something new however and one of our favourite discoveries this week has been the kids cartoons on the NFB website. T-Rex hadn’t seen many of these yet and really enjoyed them! The Log Driver’s Waltz and Blackfly get sung a lot around here, and the kids have watched The Cat Came Back at school. T-Rex really liked:

Peep & The Big Wide World:

https://www.nfb.ca/film/peep_and_the_big_wide_world/embed/player/

Peep and the Big Wide World, Kaj Pindal, National Film Board of Canada

How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly:

https://www.nfb.ca/film/how_dinosaurs_learned_to_fly/embed/player/

How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly, Munro Ferguson, National Film Board of Canada

The Dingles:

https://www.nfb.ca/film/dingles/embed/player/

The Dingles, Les Drew, National Film Board of Canada

The Girl Who Hated Books:

https://www.nfb.ca/film/girl_who_hated_books/embed/player/

The Girl Who Hated Books, Jo Meuris, National Film Board of Canada

(There are a lot of great films for adults as well. My own nostalgia leans towards Waterwalker, Paddle-to-the-Sea, and The Man Who Planted Trees. Have fun exploring!)

 

Disney Parks

Check out this great Disney mash-up made by Lindsay McCutcheon!

We have a family vacation to Disney World coming up soon and I wanted to blog about some the helpful hints for planning for trips like this:

  • During Disney World’s slow season they offer special incentives to attract people to the parks. For example, with the package that we bought, we have 7-Day “Park Hopper” tickets, our hotel room, and FREE “Quick Service” Dining Plans to use the week that we are there. G-Man is turning 10 a few days before we go and qualifies for the adult meal plan which will work out great. His tastes have moved beyond the “hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and pizza” that seems to fill most of the kid’s menu options at the majority of the restaurants.
  • We had a lot of success booking with a travel agent rather than through Disney Park itself. Once those annual free dining plans vacations are available,  travel agencies buy a large number of rooms during that season. Trying to book directly through Disney didn’t work for us but going through Small World Vacations worked great!
  • Finding your way around Disneyland in California or Paris is relatively easy. These parks are a reasonable size to get a grip on. However, Disney World in Florida is massive and you really need to do some homework before you go. It feels sort of counter-intuitive to have so much research to do before a relaxing family vacation but, if you are like us, being prepared and feeling like you are making educated decisions really helps with our family’s economy and enjoyment.
  • Disney’s website is a good start for reading about attractions, special occasions, hotels, and dining. It is also where you will make all of your reservations for Fast Passes (basically a reservation for major rides), dining, and buying any of the other extra bells and whistles you want. Example – Disney has a photo service, they deliver special presents to your room or dining table, etc.
  • There are many excellent resources to help you wrap your head around Fast Passes, dining plans, restaurants, whether to stay on-site or not, which hotel to chose, how early you need to make all of the all-important reservations. My favourites are Touring Plans, Disney Food Blog, and Mouse Savers. Touring Plans publishes guidebooks of course but one of their major assets is their planning software on their website that helps you to create itineraries that minimize your wait times. If you are thinking about taking a trip to Disney World, try planning at least a 6 months (or more) in advance so that you can pick the best time period for you. Restaurant reservations begin 180 days before your date and they fill up VERY QUICKLY. There are different levels of dining plans. If you chose the “Quick Service” option like us there is only ONE “table service” restaurant that you can make a reservation at – “Be Our Guest” it takes a dedicated plan of attack to score those seats.
  • We chose to take advantage of the sale on dining plans but we are also super excited to go during Disney’s Halloween season so that we can go to the “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.” This is the only time that you can enter the park in costume. Plus, Halloween is awesome. And trick-or-treating at Disney sounds super awesome!