We were in Victoria for a week without the kids this time, but we've gone several times in years past and will continue to go in years to come. It's a lovely city with an amazing climate, friendly people, local food, and gorgeous architecture. Not to mention, of course, that we have family there- and the ocean. The ocean is a big draw.
Without further ado: Here's the list of Things to Do! And these aren't in any particular order. Some are better for the kids so they will be marked accordingly. If we feel kids would be bored then we'll mark them "adult".
Bear in mind even if an activity is marked as a half day, at the very least you will need to plan on finding something to eat or drink after, and be flexible with your timing. We have learned the hard way not to make commitments to get somewhere right after a day trip- either it takes longer than we think or the traffic doesn't cooperate. When you're on vacation, just give yourself the freedom to take your time.
1. Butchart Gardens
-Plan for a day away! I went as a kid and hated it- got very bored very fast. (Adult)
2. City Tour, including Craigdarroch Castle
-Plan for a half day! (Adult)
-We went with CVS Tours, so that's who I linked you to. We enjoyed the tour so much- the bus was air conditioned and with tinted windows we could sit in comfort. The driver was fun to listen to, a good driver, and had so much to tell us. The Castle itself only takes about an hour/90 minutes or so to get through, so the half-day tour is mostly driving through interesting neighborhoods, hearing about the history of Victoria, and seeing places you probably wouldn't get to really see if you're focusing on driving.
-We highly recommend it as we learned so much about the city and saw so much of it.
3. Historical Food Tour
-Plan for a half day! (Adult)
-You start at the Victoria Public Market and explore the interesting local businesses, hear their stories, and sample their food...and then you walk. We enjoyed tasting everything from Olive Oil to Macarons to Peroghy.
-You will hear fascinating stores about Victoria- just like on the CVS tour- but from a street level. It was so much fun and we enjoyed the tastings tremendously.
4. The Bug Zoo
-Plan for a half day (Kids)
-The Bug Zoo is located downtown and housed in a small space with an amazing collection of bugs. If you and your kids like the wiggly and crawly, hairy, tiny, or huge bugs, this is the place to go. They offer tours- the staff will take small groups of people from habitat to habitat, often with the opportunity to touch and hold bugs.
-My kids were enthralled. It can take as short or as long as you like- we had to leave early once before my kids were ready, which resulted in an epic meltdown. Be sure to give yourself more time then you think you'll need.
5. Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
-Plan for a full day (Kids)
-So much for adults as well, if you love the ocean as much as I do. The exhibits are phenomenal, so beautiful and so important. Like most aquariums, there is a huge element of education involved. They have worked hard to educate and teach the public about the Sea and all that lives within and depends on it to live.
-I've only been there once, several years ago, and we are definitely going to revisit when we return next time.
6. Willows Beach
-Plan for a half day- but be prepared for a full one (Kids)
-So much for the adults as well. This beach has easy parking, food, washrooms, and a playground. Lovely sand to play in and water easy to wade into. Hit up the dollar store to pick up some sand toys to enjoy and gift to another family when you leave :)
7. Gonzales Bay
-Plan for a half day (Adult)
-This is great for kids too, but with no on-site parking, washrooms, or food available it's less family friendly. You will definitely still find sand that's playable and ocean that's walkable, and the views are amazing.
8. Whale Watching
-Plan for a half day (Kids)
-Our tour was with Prince of Whales, so that's who I linked you to- but I think all the companies in Victoria are driven to promote respect for the ocean and its inhabitants. I know they work together to help watchers see whales. There's never a guarantee because ocean creatures are free to go where they want to, but we've now been on 3 different tours (one in Southern California, and twice in Victoria) and we have always seen whales- Humpbacks twice, and Killer Whales once.
-You never know what the weather will be like out at sea- it's best to bring a light jacket, a hat, and sunglasses. One whale watching tour we did in July when my second was an infant was so cold we almost needed a toque and gloves, so be warned- it's very different on sea then on land.
-If you think you or the kids might be prone to seasickness, it's best to bring Gravol (motion sickness medication) with you. You may also consider a day pack with bottled water for each, a battery charger for your phone, and a good camera that snaps pictures quickly. The whales will appear (often without warning) and then are gone, and if your camera takes its time to load you may miss capturing the experience on film.
-Many companies offer photographs taken by their staff during the tours, so ask about that option so you can just enjoy the day without worrying about what photos you may be missing.
I'm sure you'll enjoy Victoria as much as we did. Drop me a line and let me know what treasures you have discovered there!
This is my passion, and I’m so grateful I get to share it with you!
“How are you doing that?” my oldest son asked, leaning against the counter and watching me. I was grabbing random jars of spices and herbs from the pantry, taking their lids off, sniffing them, and keeping some out while putting others back.
He’d been watching me for a couple of minutes while I measured random amounts of spices, adding them to my prep bowl and tasting or smelling as I went along. It was a test-kitchen day, and I was working on a new recipe.
“I don’t know,” I answered after considering for a minute. “I just do it. I was born to do this”. And it’s true, I realized.
Before I cooked, and long before it was trendy, I played with essential oils. I used to blend perfumes and massage oils, bath salts and bath bombs. I devoured books and studied everything I could about beneficial properties of different oils, the best oils that worked together, and the different ways to use them.
I remember just “knowing” what scents would work well together, which ones would help when I had a chest cold, which ones would soothe sadness or a headache, which ones would wake me up during a mid-day slump at my boring office job.
Spices and herbs contain essential oils, and recipe development comes naturally to me. I truly was born with this ability, and it’s all I want to do. There are days where I’m desperate to start working on a project that’s been growing in the back of my mind, but I can’t because I don’t have the time. Those days frustrate me because all I really want to do is cook. Then there are the days where I get to spend the whole day in my kitchen, and those are the days that light me up.
This is my passion, and I’m so grateful I get to share it with you!
Please follow me Facebook and sign up for my newsletters, and copy my free spice blend resource, shared with this post on Facebook. I can’t teach you how to blend your spices the same way I do, but there are some great suggestions on which spices and herbs work well with which foods.
If you need a hand figuring out how to make food and nutrition work for you, give me a call. We can chat for a few minutes to see if I can help. Sometimes you can't figure it out on your own, and if you're at the point where you know you're done trying it on your own, hiring me might be your next step.
Enjoy your week, friends!
Wednesday is International Women's Day, and our local Staples store is showcasing some female entrepreneurs- come on out and visit me! I was lucky enough to get a table, and I'll be there between 10 and 2. In the spirit of meal planning and home cooking, I've got a draw set up to win those goodies and that gorgeous pot. If you can't come to my table, I'll be drawing my online guests a gift card for Walmart- so you can update your kitchen too :) Follow me on Twitter to attend virtually, ask questions, and enter the draw. I haven't done a twitter party before, but I'm excited to try! I'll be using #themealsmavenstaplesparty.
Elsewhere in the news this week, food prices are increasing...which isn't surprising to me, and has long been a driving force in why I so strongly encourage meal planning. Registered Dietitian Heidi Bates was on global news this morning, discussing some ways to eat well and save money on groceries. Here's the video.
As #themealsmaven, I'm excited to finally articulate my business as what it has always been, and expand what I love to do to include more of it. Client-centered nutritional coaching services with an emphasis on personalized meal planning and custom recipe development. I love watching people light up and reach their goals regarding food and nutrition, and offering a coaching dimension gives my clients the opportunity to really make long lasting and positive changes to their relationship with food. It's complicated, and different for everyone. That's why I am so excited to work one on one with each of my clients. We all eat, but it's a different path for everyone.
If you're ready to partner with food and change your relationship with nutrition but aren't sure where to start, it's time to ask for help.
Email me today to set up a free confidence call. Let's talk.
Today I have a guest post from Sherry, owner of Stamped Treasures. I've known Sherry for many years in a friendship that began when we were both new Stampin' Up! demonstators. Sherry has a unique art style that creates functional items with timeless beauty, and today she's writing about the value of planners. She's got a class coming up in a couple of weeks, and I am her guest speaker!
Last week we talked about New Years Resolutions, and now it's time to talk about out how we manage to organize and keep them. Without further ado, here's Sherry!
Planning with paper and pen has been around for years. With the rise in popularity of technology, you'd think it would be a dying craft. You may be surprised to learn that the planner community and the love of paper planners are actually becoming more popular.
Planners can help organize your busy life, plan your meals, record your thoughts, and document and track your goals. Planners can help keep you on task and focused. I find nothing quite as satisfying as making a check mark next to a completed task. At the end of the day seeing that list of checkmarks makes me feel accomplished. It sounds odd, but I find being able to check a task so rewarding that it makes me stay focused on my list of to do’s. For me, that check mark has to be in the form of putting pen to paper, a check box on my phone or computer just doesn’t give me that same sense of accomplishment.
How about you? Are you a list maker? Do you love pretty notebooks, planners or calendars? Maybe you are looking for a creative outlet? Or maybe a way to document things your kids say or do that makes you smile? You’d be surprised at what a planner can do to improve your life and productivity.
If you are curious about types of planners, what all the hype is and/or how you can use a planner to stay organized, as a creative outlet or to record your memories, I'd love for you to join me at my upcoming planner class on Tuesday January 17th at 7pm. Class fee of $15 includes an abundance of information on types, styles and how to use planners, two make and takes and a brief talk from my friend Stacy from The Meals Maven on menu planning.
If you own a planner(s), please bring it along with adhesive (available to purchase in class if needed) and scissors to class.
Today I've got a guest post from Ryan, owner of The Backyard Basket. Our businesses are a natural fit to work together, though of course you are welcome to work with each of us as before. I asked him to write to let you know a bit more about his philosophy. Welcome, Ryan!
The most difficult part of eating healthy and having a great relationship with food is to sift through the information overload we are fed everyday when we walk into a grocery store. Buzzwords like Fibre, Protein, Trans Fat Free, 100 calories, etc, often take up the landscape when we are looking to make healthy meal choices. Enter the partnership between The Meals Maven and The Backyard Basket.
The Meals Maven designs great healthy meal options and The Backyard Basket executes these meal options by delivering the best ingredients in the right portions, all pre-cut, to your door.
Recipes can be very difficult to follow or execute as you often have to buy more of a certain ingredient than you need, you need to understand how to prepare the raw ingredients into the correct form for cooking (ie chopping onions) and then follow every direction closely to create a great meal. Additionally, our busy lifestyles only allow a small window of time to get our meals made and then take our kids out the door to a sport, piano lesssons, etc. By pre-portioning all the ingredients and chopping all the vegetables/meats for each meal, we help you skip the grocery store and the tears that come with chopping onions.
All Natural Ingredients vs Processed Foods
All the ingredients we prepare are all natural and free of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. If you can’t pronounce it, it will not be in our food. Science shows that a whole food diet of natural ingredients can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, risk of heart disease, risk of diabetes, reduction of eczema and overall better health. By focusing our attention on providing a balanced meal plan with all natural ingredients, we are helping provide the best fuels to help prevent the health issues above while creating a great food relationship.
When we look at cultures around the world, our western world is the most heavily influenced by Big Food Industry. They market their products with claims of high fibre, added protein, low calories. However, the reality is that these products will have no balanced nutrition and will often be full of sugars, preservatives or artificial flavours that only make the food taste good and get the consumers addicted while big food makes more money.
The best example of this is milk. We all see the commercials that sell us on the health benefits of milk…high in calcium, vitamin D, Vitamin A. The reality? Vitamin D and A are added to the milk during the pasteurization process and a serving of broccoli (100g) has more calcium than milk.
We feel the best ingredients are the ones that do not need any packaging to sell us on the benefits. Walk through the fruit and vegetable section of your grocer and you will notice they don't need to do much to sell these items. No claims of vitamins, protein, fibre, etc. These are the types of food we use to develop our meal plans to make you feel the best you can.
EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER
Ryan Sieben, B.Comm
I am excited to share a guest blog post with you today. Kareema Batal and I met last week at her store, Urban Organics. We shared some great conversation and I got to tour the store and talk about what great plans they have going forward.
I will be interviewing Kareema on Facebook Live in the near future...stay tuned!
I am so thrilled to be able to share some of my thoughts and experiences today through The Meals Maven blog. Stacy and I met quite recently and I, for one, am so happy that we did! We shared some brief conversations with each other about sugar, snacks, energy, and how complicated food has become for people. I wanted to speak about those issues from a retailer's perspective. But first, let me tell you a bit about me and us.
My partner and I own and operate Urban Organics Market in Sherwood Park. Urban Organics is a market dedicated to providing clean products to our community. We believe we are our customers' trusted source for pure living and we always strive to stay true to that. My role is shopping, really. Which is the best job on the planet! I graduated in 2014 from the Nutrition and Food Science program at the University of Alberta. I dabbled in a bit of everything in my undergrad and various jobs I've held over the years, but one very important skill set that I developed through all of it was an eye for quality and an understanding of manufacturing. Which is why I'm the product guru at Urban Organics and why I think we as a retailer are best equipped to source and provide the best quality products for our customers.
Let's talk about sugar. If you come to Urban Organics today, you won't find a salad dressing, a pasta sauce, or a decent selection of cooking sauces on our shelves. The reason for that is I simply can't find a product I'd recommend to you. Other markets, especially organic ones, are stocked to the brim with three, maybe four or more delicious options in these three categories. What's the deal? The deal is sugar. From a purely objective point of view, I completely understand the need for sugar in these products. If you are a company making organic or "natural" salad dressings for the market, you want to a) avoid chemical preservatives because consumers don't want that anymore, and b) want to have an extended shelf life to be able to produce in large volumes and keep stock for months and months. Remember - products need to cross borders, travel long distances on trucks, and wait in distribution warehouses before they get to the supermarket shelf with yet enough shelf life for the consumer to be comfortable buying it and storing it their fridge until fully consumed. The best option, more often than not, to achieve all of that is to use sugar. From a nutritional stand point, however, that still doesn't sit well with me.
There are a plethora of websites, books, research publications, and organizations dedicated to educating consumers on the danger of sugar to our health, so I won't bore you with the details, as I'm sure you've heard it all before. One thing I do like to point out to people, which is one of the main reasons I try to avoid products with - what I believe - unnecessary added sugar, is the danger of sweetness addiction. Take a moment and think of all the foods you consumed today - how many of those foods were SWEET? I bet MOST of what you consumed is sweet. The introduction of packaged foods into our diets introduced our bodies to sugar, far too much of it. We have now become accustomed to the taste of sweet, we crave it, and we find a hard time eating and accepting foods that are not sweet. That is a powerful change in our biology and one that we should not be indulging or encouraging.
For that reason, and many others, I call added sugar in these products unnecessary and I try my best to avoid recommending products with unnecessary added sugar. I ALWAYS try to encourage people to make their own using some of our organic oils, fresh organic herbs and spices from Harmonic Arts, and fresh organic produce. But, I do understand that people are busy. We all lead very busy lives and we often need the convenience of ready made foods. So what's the solution?
I think we have an idea. We'd like to see these products made locally. Why can't we make salad dressings, cooking sauces, and delicious pasta sauces right here in Edmonton from organic ingredients? I get butterflies in my stomach when I bring this up. We have NO REASON to import such basic items that are full of sugar. We can make it ourselves, in small batches, conveniently packed for the folks on the go, and that are not on our shelves for two years. Wouldn't that be great? I'll leave you with that thought because I'm hoping one of you would feel inspired or maybe encouraged to get into the food making business. Our doors all always open to local producers so don't hesitate to get in touch; we'd LOVE to hear from you!
I had the opportunity to go on a limo/wine tour here last night with the Fort Saskatchewan Mom's Night Out group. It was interesting to learn how they make wine here in Alberta. They use rhubarb and raspberries to make their 2 current wines, though they have another fruit crop- cherries- that they are growing and hope to expand into as well. The farm is pesticide and herbicide free, and like Fort Saskatchewan, they use sheep to keep their grass mowed and fertilized. They also don't use sulfites in their wine, which I found really interesting, because I know a few people that can't drink wine for the headaches it causes. A couple of the moms on this group found the wine tasting didn't give them their usual headache.
We toured around their land to see their crops, and went back into the distillery to discuss how the wine is made, from start to finish. It's a big job, but they seem to enjoy it. I enjoyed the tasting too; I think I prefer the blush (The Barb) over the red, but both were nice and I bought a bottle of each to serve at our next extended family dinner. Supporting local businesses is something important to me, and I think it's pretty fun to drink wine produced right here in my home province, even if it's not grape based.
I still prefer a nice glass of Malbec on its' own, but look forward to pairing these wines with a terrific dinner. You can check out their wines here.
Limo service was provided by Eternity Limosines. We packed into a couple of limosines and it was a pretty extravagant journey! I've never been in one like that before. Some of us ate dinner first at Original Joe's, and they worked hard to get us our drinks, food and bills before the limo arrived. I ordered the jambalaya and I'm modestly happy to tell you that my recipe is better. I will get that up on my recipes one of these days! I plan on including that in my "little bits" cookbook, because it's so good.