TV Shows and Movies You’ll Want to Watch with the Kids

I am always looking for movies and TV shows that I can watch with the kids that are appropriate for their age level. If you have kids ranging from 10-16, here are some suggestions that you might want to try. I don’t know if it’s because Disney owns ABC, but ABC has done a great job of producing good quality family shows.

malcolm in the middleMalcolm in the Middle. Originally aired from 2000 to 2006. I didn’t watch it then but now the Disney Family Channel has started running it in syndication. The show stars Malcolm (Frankie Muniz), an intelligent young teen who is smarter than his parents, Hal (Bryan Cranston) and Lois (Jane Kaczmarek). It was one of Bryan Cranston’s first roles and I have a new found respect for his acting after seeing him in Breaking Bad (one of my favourite shows). My wife and I have commented on the great chemistry between Hal and  Lois in the show.

themiddleThe Middle. Has been airing on TV since 2009. This is one of my kids’ favourite shows. The show is about a middle-class American family trying to eek their way through life. They are a dysfunctional family and the parents, Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Mike (Neil Flynn), show you how not to parent. The kids, Sue (Eden Sher), Axl (Charlie McDermott) and Brick (Atticus Shafer) are great comedic talents. In our family we quite often quote characters from this show, “What would Sue Heck do?” or “you just pulled an Axl”. The kids know what we mean when we say this. There are some episodes where you just shake your head at the laziness of the parents. The thing I really like about the show is that Frankie and Mike usually realize what they did wrong and have some sort of learning/moral that makes you appreciate family.

freshofftheboatFresh Off The Boat. This show is only in its second season and I really liked the characters off the start. This show is based on a book by Eddie Huang, an Asian-American whose family moved to Orlando Florida to pursue the “American Dream”.  Eddie is played in the show by Hudson Yang, who is a great little actor. Again, I find it’s the parents that really add the humour to the show. Eddie’s mother, Jessica (Constance Wu) is hilarious and a little obsessive compulsive and likes to take control of everything. Jessica and her husband Louis’ (Randall Park) personalities offset each other well (one is uptight, the other not so much). Grandma Huang (Lucille Soong) lives with them and doesn’t speak a word of English. Grandma is great for the one-liners. This show also has the key “a-ha” moment at the end of the show.

blackishBlack-ish. Now in its second season, the show has some great humour and some of it goes over the kids heads (makes for a good learning moment when they don’t understand).  It’s a show about a black family raising kids in a predominately white upper-class neighborhood. Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) are parents trying to teach their children about black culture and history. The kids, Andre (Marcus Scribner), Zoe (Yari Shahidi), Jack (Miles Brown) and Diane (Marsai Martin) create the learning moments for the parents. Very well written and my kids just love the kids on the show.  I think it’s hilarious to name your kids Jack and Diane.

thegoldbergsThe Goldbergs.  This was my genre! The show is in its fourth season and based on real home videos that the writer Adam Goldberg filmed growing up in the 80’s. Murray (Jeff Garlin) is married to Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and they have three children, Adam (Sean Giambroni), Barry (Troy Gentile) and Erica (Hayley Orrantia). The show is narrated by Patton Oswalt (he ties in the moral of the story) and George Segal is the grandfather. The cast is amazing. The show centers around Adam and his trials and tribulations of growing up in a household with older siblings.

Looking for some older movies to watch with the kids?  Here are a few suggestions of movies that my kids have liked. I’ve linked them to imdb.com which is my online resource when I want to find out anything about the movie or show. It lists any movie or TV show that an actor has stared in. It will list trivia about the movie, year it was released, viewer ratings, filming locations and you can also find out if there’s any content that is inappropriate for the kids.

Here are some other websites that list movies suitable to watch with your kids:

I hope that one of these TV shows or movies can serve as entertainment for your next family fun night. Please share any of your suggestions you’ve enjoyed with your family!

Thanks for reading my blog!

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Great Weekend Getaways with the Family

To follow up on my Tips to Ensure Your Next Family Trip is Awesome, I thought I would give a couple of suggestions that are great weekend getaways for the family. Keep in mind, when I say weekend getaways, I mean driving distance.

Toronto

IMG_20150925_172951I live about an hour outside of Toronto and there is always so much to see and do in Toronto. We regularly take the kids into town for dinner, shopping, catching a ball game or a show. I’m a Toronto Blue Jays fan and catching a game is always at the top of my list. And if you are a die hard Leafs fan, I’m sure you can get tickets easy enough. If you want excellent, affordable food before the game, Don Juan’s chip truck on Front Street (right in front of the MTCC) has the best dogs and fries ($6 for both – you’ll pay over $20 in the Dome or ACC). Nose bleed seats at Jays games have gone up in price this year and it’s about $26 CDN for the cheapest seats. If I can’t find tickets on ticketmaster, Stubhub is a great alternative to buying direct. It’s also good for concert tickets that are hard to find. Keep in mind tickets on Stubhub are being resold by buyers, they can set the targets as high as they want, so buyer beware.

Here are some other must sees in Toronto:100_1166

Shopping:

If you are coming for an extended stay in Toronto, you may want to look at buying a Toronto City Pass. It will give you access to 5 Toronto attractions but you have to use them within 9 days of visiting the first attraction. If you have a membership at Costco, they sell them a little cheaper.

New York City10256116_10152301377441195_1516929188698358455_o

We took the kids for the first time to New York a few years ago. It was also my first visit and I just loved it! We were only in New York for 3 nights and the highlights listed below are for those that are going to NYC for a very short trip. My wife and I want to go back again, without kids. When staying in New York, expect to pay a lot for parking. We paid $60 per night to park. Don’t expect to use your car during your stay, park at the hotel and keep it there. You don’t want the stress of having to drive around the city.

We did one of the Double-Decker bus tours (definitely suggest doing this). Grayline was the tour bus we used and the tour guide was funny and very informative.

  • The Yankees. I purchased tickets on Stubhub and they were in the outfield bleachers. It was one of the highlights of the weekend. We took the subway down to the stadium and took in the whole atmosphere and experience of being a New Yorker. There was a museum, great concession stands and the building itself was beautiful.  A great adventure for all – baseball lovers and those who don’t follow the sport regularly.
  • Broadway musical. We took the kids to see Mamma Mia! It was a great show. I like to mix in a little culture for the kids once in a while (since I’m taking them to sporting events as well). New York is known for their ‘Broadway’ shows. I highly suggest getting tickets for one show while you are there.  Look online for discounted tickets or go to Times Square and visit the Theatre Development Fund booth to buy half price tickets the day of the show.
  • Times Square. You can’t have a trip to New York without visiting Times Square. I could just sit there for hours and people watch. Our hotel was fairly close by and Mamma Mia was also right near the square. You’ll want to visit it during the day and at night.
  • Central Park.  Such a beautiful park in the largest city in America. We would have loved to have lunch at Tavern on the Green but it was closed when were there. Depending on the time of year that you are visiting the park, you can kayak, rent bikes, tour by horse and carriage, jog or roller blade. Again, I could just spend the day in the park and people watch. There is also a zoo in the park and a little pond that you can rent little remote controlled boats.
  • The Freedom Tower – It wasn’t open when we went but it’s on our to-do list for next time.
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • The Empire State Building
  • The Rockefeller Center
  • Grand Central Station

The list is endless in New York City!

Washington DC

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We loved Washington so much we’ve been back twice. The first time we went we didn’t take any sort of formal tour. The second time we took a night Double-Decker bus tour called DC After Dark. It was three hours long and included stop overs at the major monuments. I wish we would have done the bus tour the first time we went.

The National Mall

The great thing with all the museums in DC is that they are free! There are so many that we still haven’t seen them all. Below are some my favourites (keep in mind I have kids with me and attention spans are short – mine and theirs):DSCN4314

Here’s a link to more museums.

Monuments/Memorials

There are so many monuments and memorials in Washington DC. I enjoyed the monuments as much as the museums. This is where a formal tour really pays off because you hear all about the monuments, how and why they were made and what they represent.

  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Martin Luther King Memorial – This monument was finished last summer. It’s amazing the work that went into this. Again, get a guided tour. The tour guide explained how the sculpture was carved, the meaning behind what Martin Luther King is looking at and the symbolism behind it (I won’t even try to explain it because I won’t do it justice).
  • Washington Monument
  • Jefferson Memorial
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • Iwo Jima Memorial
  • World War II Memorial
  • Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial

Other Sites:

  • The White House – we weren’t able to book a tour. Hopefully you are booking far enough in advance to be able to get in. For tour information from Canada, White House Tour info.
  • Capital Building – this was beautiful! I would also suggest booking a Capitol Tour  well in advance. You don’t want to risk not getting in.

DSCN4283The first time we stayed in DC we stayed in the Dupont Circle area. Right across from our hotel was a beautiful statue of Mahatma Gandhi (we were close to the Indian Embassy). Our second stay was in the Georgetown area. Georgetown has amazing shopping and restaurants. Each area of DC has it’s own little niche that sets them apart.

Like NYC, Washington DC has an amazing transit system. Park your car at the hotel and leave it there. It will be a good weight loss program trekking around your family to all the sights. Make sure you bring a sturdy backpack to carry all your extra clothes, snacks and water for the kids.  Special note: you can’t bring anything into the Capital – no water, no sunscreen, and no food.

As you noticed above, my overviews on each city are very short. I just wanted to highlight a few things that stood out to me. Here are a few more links that you may want to visit to get more detailed information on each of the cities:

tripadvisor.com – I find this to be a great website that lists hotels as well as restaurants and things to do. There’s also an app you can download.

Grayline.com – this was the tour company we used in New York and they also run in Washington DC. I know in Washington you can barter a little bit with the companies to see who will give you the best offer (it’s a pretty competitive market).

Toronto Visitor Information

New York Visitor Information

Washington DC Visitor Information

Ottawa was another great weekend away. That will be another blog…Next on our radar are Montreal and Chicago.  If you’ve been to either of these or anywhere else with tips to share, I would love to hear about it!  Enjoy your next trip and thanks for reading my blog!

 

Travelling the Educational Highway

As once said by Forrest Gump (whom I quote regularly to my children), “I’m not a smart man”. This is how I quite often thought of myself when it came to my education. In high school, I took all academic courses which suggested I was bound for university. Why wouldn’t I go to university if was on that path? It was my final year of high school and I had to make the decision, where was I going to go? I didn’t have a clue. I talked to my high school guidance counselor and since I was good in math, he asked if I had thought about Economics? I hadn’t. Where would I take economics? What kind of job would I get with it? So many questions…

I applied to the University of Guelph and was accepted into the Bachelor of Science, Agricultural Economics. I have no farming background and didn’t have a clue what economics was.  I had been to visit my sister at Guelph and liked the campus so I accepted my offer.

Long story short, I spent four years at the University of Guelph. I partied too much, failed too many courses and was politely asked to leave. My options were to go back home or try to get accepted back into Guelph. I choose the latter.  I ended up taking some accounting, business and Microsoft office courses, to upgrade my skills at Conestoga College and got back into Guelph.  I spent another semester at Guelph pulling off 60’s. It was at that point I knew this wasn’t working and I had to create plan B.  I  went back home to live with my parents and enrolled at Canadore College in the three year Business Administration Marketing program.  Because of the courses I took at Guelph, I got some advanced standing.  I must have done something right at Guelph, because I ended up being a student tutor.  I got all 90’s and I applied for an exchange program. I was chosen to do an overseas placement in Germany where I worked for Mercedes.  I spent two months working and travelling all over Europe. It was amazing. Going to college was the best decision I made and in retrospect, I should have done it coming out of high school.

It was a combination of things that led to my success at Canadore: living under my parent’s roof again, no more partying (I call it maturity), small class sizes, getting to know my teachers and classmates, being engaged on campus and contributing. I did well and most of all, I enjoyed it.

Within a month after graduating from Canadore, I got a full time job back in Guelph. While living in Guelph I got anxiety every time I drove by the university.  I decided to do something about it and enrolled back at the university (part-time while I worked).  With transfer credits and my previous Guelph credits, I only needed 6 more courses to get my Bachelor of Arts. In the end, it took me 22 years and 4 months but I finally finished a degree from Guelph.  The other cool thing is my kids got to see me graduate!

Currently, I’m now taking a Social Media Marketing Graduate Certificate at Conestoga College and will be finished this summer.  Upon completion of this certificate, I will be a graduate of Canadore College, University of Guelph and Conestoga College. Who would have thought so many years ago that taking upgrading courses at Conestoga, things would come full-circle.  Another irony: I ended up getting a cool job at Conestoga working in their Marketing department. As a student recruiter, if asked about my pathway, I always share my story.

Do you have children graduating from high school? Are you unemployed or looking for a career change? Below are a few resources to help you, your children, family or friends find their pathway.

High Five Principles

Career counselors have developed a set of principles called The High Five Principles. These principles help you reflect on the experiences that you are going through and allow you to deal and cope with change.  I wish I would have had these principles in the back of my mind while journeying through my path.

  1. Change is constant (it brings new options)
  2. Learning is lifelong (I’m always looking for my next opportunity)
  3. Focus on the journey (not the destination – if you’ve got a long journey, break it up into small milestones)
  4. Access your allies (you are not alone)
  5. Follow your heart (know & believe in yourself)

Self Discovery Links

One of the first steps in figuring out what you are going to do is getting to know yourself and figuring out who you are. These links are helpful whether you are coming out of high school, just lost your job or are looking for a career change.

Values: My Plan – Career Assessments

Interests: The Keirsay Temperament Sorter

Essential Skills: Government of Canada – Tools, Assessments and Training Support

Learning Styles:  Education Planner Learning Assessment

Personality:  Type focus – Self Awareness

Work Preferences: CareerPerfect.com

Next Steps:  nextsteps.com

Post Secondary Education Links

Now that you’ve figured out what you might want to do, it’s time to figure out who can help you get there. Here are links for colleges, universities and apprenticeships in Ontario.

Ontariocolleges.ca – this is the main application centre for Ontario colleges. There is a $95 application fee and you have 5 choices with no more than three at any one institution.

Ouac.on.ca – this is the main application centre for the Ontario universities. There is a base application fee of $155 for 3 university/program choices. There is unlimited choices after 3 but you pay $50 per additional choice over the standard 3.

apprenticesearch.com – great resource if you are considering getting into the skilled trades.

*Tip: Once you’ve determined your top 3-4 choices for a school, get out and tour the campus. You are investing a lot of time and money into your education. You want to ensure the school you are considering is a good fit for you.

Financial Aid Links

How are you going to pay for all of this? Here are some links to help make your education affordable.

Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)  OSAP is a combination of Federal and Provincial loans.  The nice thing for students is you don’t have to start paying your loan back until six months after graduation, and it is interest free up until that point.

Academic Invest Scholarship Listing Service

Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)

Disability Awards

Scholarship Guidance

Scholarships America

Yconic (formerly studentawards.com)

Scholarships Canada

Student Scholarships

Whatever post secondary institution you decide to go to, they will have a website listing their own scholarships, awards and bursaries. I always tell students to apply for everything you can. The worst case scenario is that is that you don’t get it. If you don’t apply, you won’t know.

I hope I have provided a few useful links that can help you on your educational journey. If you have any questions or need help, just stop by your local post secondary institution and they will have a Career Centre that will provide you with all sorts of support.

I’ve had people ask me, what would you change if you had to do it again?  I always think that I should have applied myself more at university, but in the end I wouldn’t be who I am today without having traversed this, sometimes, bumpy road I call the educational highway. Pathways may change, you just have to be prepared to accept the change and start a new challenge.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Life Hack Videos

I always see these various ‘life hack’ videos come across my Twitter and Facebook feeds and I quite often think I should save these somewhere…I never do. So I went through some of my feeds and pages and pages of research that I had compiled, and found some different ones.

Duct Tape

If you’re like me, Duct Tape is the go-to for everything that needs fixing in the house. My son has been making duct tape wallets, picture frames and flowers since he was able to walk.

This video from HouseHold Hacker has some good ideas for shirt folding and making your own portable cups.

Kid’s Hack

This is a cute little video from Sunny who made this video for kids. If you have a young daughter at home, you may to show her this. Sunny also helped me figure out what to do with those pool noodles during the off season. Thanks Sunny!

Toothpaste

Who would have ever thought there would be a hack on toothpaste. Well there is. I could have used the acne help in high school. The odor elimination and shoe polishing tips are neat.

Binder Clips

This one is really cool. Didn’t realize there were so many uses for clips! Maybe I don’t need to invest in a lot of money for that cellphone tripod I’ve been looking to buy.

Winter

Being in Canada, I can relate to some of these issues. These are pretty cool and some I’ve never heard of. I had never heard of the waterproofing with was, not sure if I would try this on expensive shoes. I don’t know if I would take the time to make my shovel non-stick,  you can watch and decide.

Mobile Phone Hacks

We all have cellphones so I figured this would be an appropriate hack. Many of the things in the video I had heard of i.e. using rice to dry out your wet phone, but there are some very useful tips.

Forks

I had to add this one in. If you’re like me, you’re thinking, there’s a hack for forks?! Yes there is and it’s created by the Crazy Russian Hacker. This guy does a ton of hacks and has over six million subscribers to his YouTube channel.

Simple Life Hacks

This is a good video from Trending Now. Some good tips in here from hygiene to cell phones.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog and I hope you were able to pick up a few useful hacks. If you come across any cool ‘life hacks’ feel free to add them to comments section below so others can enjoy them too.

 

What My Daughter’s Valentine’s Gift Taught Me

For about a month whenever I went downstairs, my daughter, Megan, would quickly hide whatever she was working on and say, “don’t look, I’m working on your Valentine’s gift”.  I thought maybe she was making a nicely designed card or some sort of craft. Then, on Valentine’s morning, she woke up with delight and presented her gift, a Family Valentine’s Game of Life.

I was amazed with the amount of work that went into it. She spent hours on it and said she modeled it after the Hasbro Game of Life and got some inspiration from pinterest.com. I don’t know what was more enjoyable, actually playing the game or watching the passion and pride that she showed in presenting her work.

So what did the game teach me?

Relationships

The game is for 4 people. You have to partner up with someone off the start. She cut out felt coloured pads that were worth different points and if you answered questions correctly, you earned points. The person at the end of the game with the most points won. She created cards that had you guess your partner’s favourite hobbies, colour, restaurant, TV show or book. She created ‘Action’ cards that asked you to ‘Tell your partner you love them and why’ or  ‘List three things that you like about your partner and tell them why’. How often as a family do you sit down and really get to know each other? This game really highlighted that you may not know someone as well as you originally thought.

Make it Fun!

Some of the Action cards asked you to ‘Make up a dance expressing your love for your partner’ or ‘Sing a song to your partner explaining why you like his/her pants’. You could really see her sense of humour come out in the game and it mad it fun.

Patience and Planning

IMG_20160220_1737466For all the Play-Doh hearts that were made, dried and labelled, all the 2000 felt pads that were cut and the time spent designing the squares on the board, significant thought and preparation was put into this. On the game board there are black spaces that you can land on that mean nothing (you don’t get an action card) and black spaces at the end of the game. I asked her how she planned the game board layout with the black squares and she said she forgot about the black squares and added them back in at the end. She learned about trial and error along the way as well.

Adversity

Some action cards were called “Unlucky Cards”. These cards were typically bad cards that made you lose points, go back to start or in some cases, switch points with your partner. How do you handle giving all your points away to someone else? How do you handle not winning? The game also asks you to switch partners during the game. This allows you to get to know the other members of your family better.

I worked in corporate training for over 10 years and had been through all types of experiential learning exercises. The neat thing with this game is you can take the concepts developed here: relationships, goals, planning and apply these learnings to your work environment as well. How well do you know your coworkers? How do you function as team? What happens when you are downsized or moved to a different department?  A lot of the characteristics and skills you learn at home translate into the workplace as well. Megan doesn’t event realize it, maybe she’s on a path for Human Resources, Leadership Development, Organizational Development or … I guess I’m getting ahead of myself here and will let Megan decide what she wants to do.

If you’re looking for some board games to play with the teenager (or pre-teen), here are a few that we like to play (with links to descriptions):

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for the soon to be released corporate version of this game…

Tips to Make Sure Your Next Family Road Trip is Awesome

I know I’m dating myself here, but how many of you remember road trips with your family when seat belts were optional (or nonexistent)? Do you remember getting your pillow and trying to make a bed in between the hump on the floor in the backseat? Or maybe you were lucky enough to own a station wagon and could make a bed in the back. Never once worrying about being a 65 mph projectile through the windshield. Grandparents today often say, “I don’t know what the big deal is with travelling, we never had any problems when you were a kid”. Fast forward to today and a road trip with babies or toddlers means having a tether strap for the car seat and a 15 point harness to keep the kids strapped in. Kids can’t even get out of their seats now unless you’re pulled off on the side of the road. Times have changed.

7 tips to ensure your next road trip with the kids is fun.

PIC000141. Make sure your car is tuned up and cleaned up. The last thing you want is to worry about breakdown on the side of the road.

2. Food/Snacks. If you want to ensure your trip is a success, snacks and food are key. Depending on the size of your vehicle, we bring a cooler and load it with drinks, snacks and healthy alternatives. I find, especially on a long road trip, that I get sick of restaurant food. Hitting the grocery store to restock the cooler and have fresh foods can make everyone feel a little better by the time you arrive at your destination. If you decide on stopping at a restaurant, don’t wait until you’re starving, you tend to pick the first unhealthy choice you come across. You can also save money by the adults (and/or kids) sharing a meal.

3. Games/Technology. Does anyone remember the ‘Bury your Cows’ game? I didn’t think so. This is a game that my sister and I used to play on our long trips to our aunts’. When you passed a farm the first one to holler ‘mine’ counted all the cows up and added them to their score. The first person to spot a cemetery and yell ‘bury your cows’, the other person lost all the points they accumulated. The winner was the person with the most points when you arrive at your destination. I tried this with my kids and it went over like a lead balloon. Hence my search on the net for new car games.

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Classic Colouring Book in the Car

There are a ton of car games that you can play with your kids. Yatzee and Trouble have travel versions that you can buy. There’s also the standard, Bingo and I spy game that you can play.  My kids are little beyond this now and it’s all about technology. We have a travel bag that we load all of our technology into. This will include, car chargers (they can plug their device in while we drive), ipads, ipods, laptops, cameras and movies. I usually hit the library and grab a few movies before we leave. It’s always good to have movies that they haven’t seen, it keeps their attention longer.  It can be difficult, but try and limit your kids’ screen time. The purpose of the trip is to see and experience the country as you are travelling through it. They can miss much of this if they have their noses buried in technology.

4. Travel supplies bag. Before you hit the road make sure you have the following:

  • Paper plates
  • Trays for the kids to eat off of
  • Napkins
  • Wetnaps
  • Water – both for drinking and in case of a spill or sick passenger
  • Cooler – pack it full of ice and healthy snacks.  Good for the car and in the hotel room.  Get everyone involved by letting them choose a couple of their favourites for the car “picnic”.  Replenish the ice when you stop at the hotel.  Find a grocery store or Superstore along the way as they’ll have more fresh food.  The adult not driving will feel like a stewardess to younger kids but honestly, it serves 3 purposes: it gives the co-pilot something to do; it’s a healthy alternative to the typical restaurant stop on the highway and IT SAVES $$.
  • Cutlery (plastic so you can dispose of it – for those environmentalists…sorry)
  • Garbage bags (we dispose of these at every pit stop – especially if you have organic waste)
  • Ziplock bags
  • Cups (with lids)
  • Gravol/Bonine (I will talk more about this below)

5. Travel Books/Apps. I’m a little old school, but I like a travel book. Whenever we pick a destination we buy a Fodor’s or Frommer’s guide books. The nice thing about buying a book is you can keep it as a memento to remind you of all the different places you’ve been. There are also a number of apps that you can download onto your phone or tablet:

Road Trippers – Great for roadside stops, attractions, hotels and more. You can vary the distance off your chosen route that it will search.

Tripadvisor – I like to use this app if I’m new to an area and am looking for a restaurant with good customer feedback. Also great for booking hotels.

iexit – Highlights what’s ahead when driving on the interstate.

Gasbuddy – Helps you find cheap gas. Hopefully you are better at planning than I am and you don’t have to take the next gas station that comes along.

Waze – This is a unique app in that it connects you to other drivers in your area. You can get live traffic reports, police traps and road closures. It gives you real-time driving information.

Apps or websites can be a great tool if you are looking for that little off the beaten path rest stop or maybe you’re looking for an hour or two of energetic activity to tire out the kids.

6. Watch for Motion Sickness. My son used to read in the car but started developing motion sickness.  He took a break from the reading but he could use his ipod/ipad no problem. One day I said, if you can play your ipad for hours at a time, you can do your homework instead. About 5 minutes later he vomited all over the van. I don’t make him read in the car anymore. There are some medications that can help with motion sickness (Gravol, Bonine or motion sickness bands). If you do find someone is getting a little nauseous, try having them sit near the front of the vehicle and look out the front window. Being in the back of the vehicle doesn’t help. If you have a youngster who can’t move seats, you may have to stop for a while. Always make sure you have extra garbage bags on hand, just in case.

7. Lodging. Depending on how long your drive is, I prefer to put in a long day the first day and a shorter one last. Plan out your route and book your hotel before you leave. The last thing you want is to pull into a hotel at 10:00 at night and they don’t have any rooms. We also try and get a hotel with a pool. It’s a great wind down for the kids after so many hours in the car. Many hotels offer a continental breakfast, try and pick a chain that offer this (saves you money if you’re gone for an extended trip). I also try and book with a chain. By going through a chain your points can add up to a free room. I’ve done the Priceline and Hotwire bookings in the past but in the long run I don’t find they are as cheap. Especially if you are not American and the dollar is low. For example, I may book a Priceline hotel at $75 but when you add in the $20 service fees and exchange rate, it’s no cheaper than booking directly with a chain that you can get points with. Also, some of the discount sites don’t give you flexibility in cancelling or moving your dates or guaranteeing that you have multiple beds in your room. When travelling with kids, you can’t risk it.

Thanks for reading my blog. Enjoy your trip and I would love for you to leave a comment if you tried one of these road trip apps (or if you discovered a new one).

 

How to Groom Your Dog

First off let me say that I am by no means a grooming expert. I have never taken a course or any training on dog grooming. In fact, I know groomers do a lot better job than I can do. Now you’re probably thinking, why would I bother reading this post if your dog doesn’t look that nice? The fact is, my dog is clean, happy and I’ve saved the $90 by not taking him to the groomers. I have been an Old English Sheepdog (OES) owner for over 12 years and my newest one is named Crosby.  Crosby has given me quite a bit of experience in dealing with long fur, knots and messes to clean up.

This blog is meant to provide the amateur groomer (like myself) with a few grooming tips.

Brushing/grooming tips:

  • Reward, reward, reward! Your dog will think of the process as fun if they know they are getting a reward afterwards.
  • Play with their paws a lot. Once of the harder areas to groom for many dogs are the paws. While your dog is a puppy, make sure you play with their paws and get them used to it. By doing this, when it’s time for the nail clipping or shaving of the fur in between the paws, they will be used to it (and make your job a lot easier).
  • If you have an older dog, make sure you reward them afterwards. Crosby gets excited when I’m about to groom him because he knows he’s getting a treat afterwards.
  • Pick your dog up on a regular basis and get them used to being lifted. Our breeder gave me this advice when we got our first OES. It’s good to get your dog used to being picked up so that they don’t panic when their feet are off the ground and it will be easier to lift them up onto the grooming table. If you ever have to make that trip into the vet and they have to be lifted off the ground, they will find it easier. With Crosby being over 80 pounds, it’s nice that he’s used to it and doesn’t squirm when I pick him up.
  • Aggressiveness with their food. This has absolutely nothing to do with grooming but it’s one of the best tips that I was taught by our breeder. When your dog is a puppy, take their food dish away from them while they are eating. You are letting them know that you are the Alpha but they also learn that the food will come back. We had big dogs with young kids and the last thing you want is an aggressive dog with kids around.

I have a little bucket that I keep all the dog grooming equipment in. Crosby gets really excited and starts jumping around when he sees me with his grooming supplies bucket. It’s actually a really nice bonding experience between you and your dog.  With Crosby, it’s it’s usually a bit of wrestling match to start but then he calms down for the brushing. Play it by ear on the length of time it takes. If he’s really matted, do it in stages and spread it out over a few days. Depending on how your dog is doing, brushing can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

Brushing/grooming Equipment:

Brushes – the types of brushes you use depends on the coat of your dog. See the links below for more information. IMG_20160203_1929116
Combs
Detanglers – Great for cutting through fur and getting mats out.
Nail clippers – I actually don’t feel comfortable clipping my dogs nails, I’m always afraid that I will clip too much off and cause bleeding. I usually have his nails done at the veterinarian’s or by his kennel. IMG_20160203_1929511
Ear Rinse – Because of the excess hair growth with OES dogs, they can get dirt and gunk build up in their ears. I use this rinse as needed.

In regards to techniques for brushing and grooming, here are some great websites that go into detail:

Clipping/shaving tips:

Before you start your clipping, prepare the equipment.  Layout your tools, setup your table and prepare the bathtub/bathroom with towels so that you aren’t running around afterwards doing it while your dog is spreading dog hair clippings throughout the house.

Clipping/Shaving Equipment:

  • Grooming Table – This is a must. It saves your back, saves your furniture from being destroyed if you are trying to do it on another table and the harness saves your dog from leaping off the table.
  • Clippers – Don’t go cheap, you will regret it. I bought some Oster A5 clippers over 10 years ago (bought them used on eBay) and they still work great today.
  • Blades – You may have to play around with this a bit and as you get more stylish, you may want to buy different length blades or attachments. You also want to ensure they are sharp. You can tell when they are getting dull because it just pulls on the fur. You can get your blades sharpened at a local pet supplies store (typically where they sell blades). I have about 3 different lengths of blades and two of the one I use the most (I keep a backup for one of them in case they get dull during the shaving process).
  • Blade lubricant/disinfectant/coolant – It’s important to ensure your blades are working properly and are clean.

My dog shaving process takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours. The first few times I did it, it took 3-4 hours. Grooming takes patience and practice. After you are done the grooming, give your dog a bath. Crosby loves this part. As soon as he’s done with the clipping, I let him bolt around the backyard for a few minutes (he usually has puppy burn), get a drink and then I just say ‘go jump in the bath’ and he sprints upstairs and hops in the bathtub. He’s got me down to a routine now. 🙂 Ensure that you have your bathroom setup with towels for when you are done. With some bad matting on your dog, you may find that the mats don’t start coming out until after the bath or a few days later. You may have to go back and do some touch ups with your clippers. Here are the before, during and after pictures.

Below is a video to show a few tips while grooming. I hope this blog gave you a few tips to help with your grooming. As I said earlier, it is such a good bonding experience with your  dog. Enjoy, have fun and good luck!

 

How to make your Super Bowl party a winner

A Super Bowl party is an annual tradition at our house and we typically have 20-25 people come for the big event.  With the Super Bowl being less than a week away, and this being my very first blog, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some tips on how to make your event a winner.

4 Simple Steps to make your Super Bowl party a winner!

1. Plan Your Décor

Depending on how many people are coming to watch the big game at your house, seating will be one of the most important factors.  Arrange the seating in your living room so that the majority of seats have prime viewing of the television.  Ensure that you bring in extra seating from other rooms to accommodate the number of guests coming. If needed, you may have to rent seating.  I bring in a TV from one of our other rooms and set it up in our family room so that the kids can watch the game in another room.  Depending on their age, not all kids want to watch the game and they have the option of watching something else. We also have video games setup in the basement.

Do you have a favourite team playing in the game?  Buy disposable cups, plates, napkins and utensils to match the colours of your team. I happen to be a Steelers fan so I would go with black and gold colours. If you don’t have a favourite team, just go with the team colours of the two competing teams.  The dollar stores are great for buying cheap, themed items. They also have football table cloths that add a real festive look to your table. If you are looking for other themed ideas, visit pinterest.com and type Super Bowl. Pinterest.com is a great resource for food, games and themed ideas.

2. Food and Drinkspartytime-1576511-640x960

Food and drinks will be the highlight of the
evening.  I typically set my food up buffet style so that people can serve themselves and get seconds whenever they want.  Setup your dining room table as your main point for food layout.  We have a little counter in the kitchen that we setup for the drinks table.  I have a bar fridge in the basement that I bring up for the game and set it up under the drinks counter in the kitchen (this will save you space in the main refrigerator). This also gives people easy access to food and drinks. Ice is very important for the drink table. Ensure you have an ice bucket, and don’t forget to make lots of ice before your event or go buy a few bags of ice.

Have plenty of beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks available.  You can also put some theming behind your beer or liquor choices.  I came across this article that lists top local beer and liquor sales from each NFL team.  And if you’re looking for an even more selective brew, here’s a little more regional beer selection based on each NFL team.  You may get lucky and find a few samples at your local LCBO or liquor store.  Have plenty of pop, juice and water available for the kids.  It’s up to you whether you put a pop limit on the kids (trust me, you will want to watch the consumption – I’ve seen the worst of it!)

Finger foods are good for grazing throughout the game. Here are some Superbowl staples:

Nachos & Guacamole (a classic for Super Bowl)

Chili (easy to prepare ahead of time)

Wings (you can never have enough)

Meatballs (these are the kids’ favourite)

Veggie platter (not everyone is a carnivore)

Potato Skins (put a little sour cream football lace on it and you’re set)

Fruit platter (I’ve seen a cool watermelon football helmet)

Desserts (lots of creative ideas on Pinterest.com that are football themed)

We typically provide the main staples for everyone coming, plus a few appetizers. It may be good to ask each family to bring one of their favourites as well. Just make sure you coordinate what everyone is bringing so that you don’t have 10 veggie platters.

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3. Games

Depending on who you have at your party, having some games can add an extra element of fun (especially if the football game is a blowout).  I run a Super Bowl betting grid every year that everyone loves (see link below). For 25 cents (a nickel, a dollar – whatever you want) people pick a square and money is given out at the end of each quarter. The numbers are drawn randomly from 0-9 on each side of the grid after everyone has picked a square. One side will be Carolina and the other side will be Denver. The square you picked might be Denver 6 and Carolina 3 (as an example). You win if the score at the end of the quarter happens to be a Denver score ending in a 6 and Carolina in 3. You can setup the grid and payouts however you want.  I also get a big piece of bristol board and draw the grid on the board so the kids can keep track of the board to see if they are in the running for prizes. Here is an Excel sheet I used from a few years ago: Super Bowl 2013 Pool

Bean Bag Toss (or Cornhole game) is another game that is a fun DIY project.  If you ever go tailgating at football games, this is great to bring along. You can also set it up in your basement during Superbowl. I found the DIY Cornhole Game plans for building your own game on IMG_20150823_163253 DIYnetwork.com. The bean bags were a different story. I had to find duck cloth that was black and gold and corn feed and make them myself (okay, I lied here, I actually had my friend’s mother sew the bags for me). Here is a good website that will give you (or your friend’s mother) step by step instructions.

4. Clean up – Wrap up

dinner-party-1464442-640x480Don’t worry about messes and cleanup until after the game. Just be prepared for contingencies during the night which are bound to happen. Have extra towels, rags, paper towels easily accessible for those mistakes. If you decided to go the disposable cup/plate/utensil route, the cleanup will be a lot easier. Have large garbage cans or bags available during your event.

Last but not least, ensure your friends have a ride home if they have been drinking. Call a cab, UBER or whatever your vehicle of choice may be. You could also set up that spare bed in the basement for those that need it.

Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the game! Go Steelers!! Ok, this isn’t their year, maybe next year for my team.