Scuba Claus at the Vancouver Aquarium

If you are looking for a unique Christmas experience, try a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium! Although Christmas is not the central aspect of any visit to the aquarium, the special touches all around the aquarium do make it an extra special time of year. 

From trees covered in jellyfish and sea stars (each one incredibly stunning) to the appearance of Scuba Claus at set times, it’s a real treat to pay a visit at this time of year. 

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Scuba Claus pays a visit to the aquarium to seek out some bells he has lost. My kids (5 and 2) were mesmerized by the experience, and loved the opportunity to go up to the tank and give Santa a high five after the little show. It was such a fun time! They talked about it for days after. 

Have you been to the Vancouver Aquarium during Christmas? We can wait to go again this year!

Family Christmas Traditions in Vancouver for 2015

Christmas is a very special time of year for me, a time I look forward to all year. Since I shop all year round, I don’t often feel the “madness” side of Christmas. Instead, I focus on creating memories and making people feel special. I do more crafts, I spend hours wrapping presents with special ribbons and decorations, I watch movies, and we do many special outings as a family. There are more than 200 Christmas-related events in Vancouver this year, and that can be overwhelming. I’ll share with you the events we have planned for this year, including the ones we visit every year and some new ideas we plan to try. 

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Timberline Country Christmas

New to our Christmas line-up this year is a visit to the Timberline Ranch for their Country Christmas event, running from December 2-20. This is the second-annual Country Christmas for Timberline Ranch, a horse ranch located in Maple Ridge, and features cookie decorating, a Christmas ornament craft, a wagon ride, an indoor hay maze, a petting zoo, a photobooth, a snowball themed ball pit, Storyland, and even pony rides (for an extra fee). It sounds like a very unique event, so stay tuned for our review in early December! If you do want to attend, reservations are required

The Polar Express

Every year, we trek out to Squamish for the West Coast Railway Heritage Park’s exhibition of The Polar Express. As Aiden’s most favourite movie, this event has always had the most special meaning for us. We must have watched the movie dozens of times and, when it comes to the magic of Christmas, for us it’s all about the Polar Express. The event has evolved over the years and now involves a more elaborate “North Pole” experience, with a visit with Santa, a mini train ride, crafts & cookie decorating and many great displays. 

Bright Nights in Stanley Park

Adding to our train-themed event, we visit Bright Nights in Stanley Park to view the three million light display and ride the train through the ever-changing themed displays. This is often an event that people do in large groups, with extended family or friends, and it’s great that a portion of donations and ticket sales go to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. This year, a “Grinch” stole a lot of materials from the venue, so we plan to give a larger donation in recognition of our support.

Canyon Lights 

As annual members (one visit pays for itself for BC residents!), we often visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge for their seasonal displays. While lovely for Halloween, the park truly shines at Christmas. Canyon Lights features the world’s tallest living Christmas tree, thousands of lights throughout the park and on the bridge, plus events including live music and cookie decorating. As this event is nestled close to Grouse, be sure to dress extra warm! Holiday activities begin daily at 4pm. 

Park & Tilford Hi-Light Festival

Local to North Vancouver, the Hi-Light Festival at the Park & Tilford Gardens is a favourite for it’s close-knit community feel. We are frequent visitors to the gardens, so that makes the Christmas event so much more special. On Family Friday Nights, there are Santa visits, hot chocolate, live entertainment, face painting and more! This is an annual tradition for us to do with many of our friends.

Christmas Markets

Last year we were frequent visitors to the Shipyards for their Christmas market and events. This year it’s not as frequent, but there is a Christmas Festival on December 5th and the Christmas Market on December 18-20th. Not to be outdone is of course the Vancouver Christmas Market, which we attended for the first time last year. Be prepared that this event is very busy and crowded, so it can be overwhelming for kids. The highlight for us was the carousel!

You may wonder, are we missing out on major events here? And yes, of course we are. The two biggest events we never seem to get to are:

Rogers Santa Clause Parade

Who doesn’t love a parade? Up until now, it’s never seemed reasonable to attend given the age of our kids, and even this year we can’t make it because of a scheduling conflict. Miracle on 34th Street is my favourite holiday movie, so a Christmas parade is a magical idea to me. Hopefully next year we can include it in our plans!

The Peak of Christmas

Top on my wish list is a visit to the Peak of Christmas where you can take a sleigh-ride, go skating, visit Santa and his reindeer and so much more. It sounds like a beautiful Winter wonderland. The age of our kids and their dislike for cold has kept us away so far, but one year! Plus, if you do every major event, it does get costly (and this is a very costly one).

Other holiday ideas we’ve tried are the VanDusen Botanical Garden display, which is beautiful but similar to our local Hi-Light festival, 

To My Aiden on his 6th Birthday

Dear Aiden,

You’re 6 now! How is it that at 6 years old it feels like you’ve become such a grown up boy? I feel like moving into Grade 1 is such a momentous occasion, even more so than Kindergarten. It has a number associated with it. It is about more than just playing. Suddenly, you are on a path that will propel you all-too-quickly forward to Grade 12. 

You can see how much you’ve changed since you were five, my boy, and how much you have learned and how much you have pushed yourself! 

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You have tackled some major fears and anxieties and overcome them, so proud of your own bravery at challenging those fears. Not only did you learn how to swim, but it became one of your most favourite activities. You learned to love our boat and to love swimming from the dock on Keats. Even as those times have challenged us, I have watched you become aware of your own self in these moments and feel that knowing yourself, at your age, is such a gift!

You skate, you play (and now love) soccer, you are part of a swim club. You learned how to ride trails (and bike ramps) with no fear. You love Lego and Star Wars and Pokemon (you really love Pokemon). You can turn any building material into a ship, particularly MagnaTiles. You learned to read (more than just a few words here and there) and now devour chapter books in a handful of days and constantly need to be reminded to stop reading and go to sleep!

You have lots of friends to greet and be greeted by, and have your solid best friends that will always be by your side. You always have a compliment for others. You are the first one to notice something nice about someone else and always make a note to say so. It’s a beautiful trait of yours that, whether it shines my way or not, makes me so proud of you. 

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Your smile can light up a room. Your excitement infects those around you. Your courage inspires me. And each and every day, I’m thankful as you walk groggily to my side for your cuddles, together starting our day with love and ending it each night with a song, a kiss and an ‘I love you.’ 

Be courageous, my love. Be open. Continue to notice the little things in the world that are beautiful. And tell us about them. Devour as many books as you want. Love the world and all it has to offer. Learn about it. Explore it. And know, wherever life takes you, I’ll be by your side. 


Vancity Box Launches to Celebrate Vancouver

This month, we were excited to be among the first recipients of the Vancity Box, a curated box of BC-made goods that celebrates local companies. Available as a subscription service, each box contains an assortment of BC goods from clothing and snacks to art and fun gadgets. Each month, the products will change, highlighting more of what makes Vancouver such an amazing place. This is especially great for those of us who love to buy hyperlocal goods and support local businesses!

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In their debut box, featured products include a beautiful jar of vanilla cotton candy from Petite Puf, which was the first item to be snagged by our very excited children. You can just see Damien’s nose in the photo below as he eagerly awaits the unboxing! My husband then snagged Billy Bob’s Jerky, which went to his office for snacks (my husband loves jerky). As the only blueberry-eater in our house, I got to enjoy all of the Living Lotus blueberry macaroons (that worked out nicely!). We we are extremely excited to try the Infusion Kit supplied by Graveley & Sons, we just need to go out and get the right rum. Perfect for Fall!

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It’s not often we would go out and get treats like these, so having them arrive at the door made it such a nice surprise. I think the box could function as a great showcase for products and companies you may otherwise have no exposure to, which is great for both vendor and consumer. A solid first box!

Disclosure: The Vancity Box was supplied for review, all reviews expressed are my own.

Half Way to Organized

I named 2015 the Year to Get Organized, and now that we’re 3/4 the way through the year, I am seeing the fruits of my labours. Really, it’s a project I began in 2014 with the first of my “lists.” Once I had two kids, it became harder to stay on top of keeping everything organized, particularly with all the new “stuff.” Over time, I realized that being tidy and organized made me feel better (I’m turning into my Oma) and that I had too much “stuff” anyway. So I began purging and organizing. Over and over.

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I made lists like these. Earlier this year, I started my second list. Today, as most of the items were checked off, I made a third. Some items have remained static (projects I’m obviously avoiding or are not bothering me as much), but others get added. Some projects seem to be yearly, like reorganizing the pantry and bathrooms. Others are always fluid, like going through the toys. We don’t have a huge stock of toys anymore, but there is always room to keep trimming.

This last list feels so much more final. I had to really think about what should be on it. When I mentally picture our house now, most places are tidy and easy to keep organized. When you get down to just what you need, it’s very easy to figure out how to organize it.

Now I’m thinking beyond the last few projects (some big, like the office, some small) to thing that would make our house better: new countertops in the bathroom, new desk in our office.