On why we love small ski hills: Mt Baldy, BC

Over the winter holidays, we took the kids to Mt. Baldy near Oliver, BC, and I was reminded of all the reasons I’d choose a small ski hill over a big one any day.

No, Mt. Baldy does not have the number of runs as Big White or Lake Louise or Whistler, but it makes up for it in a bunch of ways. 

Our kids learning to ski at Mt Baldy

Fancy is overrated when you’re learning

Our kids are only just learning to ski, and I’m getting back into winter sports after a really long break. We lived in Asia for six years and did not touch our snowboards that entire time. When we returned to Canada, our kids were babies and toddlers. Because skiing with preschoolers is a particular form of hell, we avoided it. But with bigger kids now (11, 9, 7), we’re ready to dust off our skis and snowboards and hit the hills.

When you’re learning, you really don’t need the fanciest chair lift or an enormous menu of runs. In fact, the fewer the better. Baldy’s two chairs gave us ample runs and plenty of powder to get started.

The price is right

For us folk who prefer not to be bound to one winter sport, and who love variety, the price point at a small hill is just right. Baldy is half the ticket price of Big White and almost 3x less than Whistler. A small ski hill with a smaller price was absolutely perfect for our family.

Less waiting, more skiing

Hands down, this is a mighty draw for small hills. At Baldy, we never waited longer than a couple of minutes to get on a chair lift, and that was during high season. Even buying lift tickets was low-key. You just don't have the volume of people that you do at a bigger resort. I credit Baldy’s short lines and chill vibe with our kids going from zero to skiing blue squares in a matter of hours.

We never waited longer than a minute or two for the chair lift.

Endearing quirky culture

A place scores big points in my book when it has a quirky vibe. At Baldy, there was no pretense. It felt low-key, real, and authentic. The lift attendants were congenial and friendly and always offered to slow the lift down so we could all get on and off without incident. I needed this most of all as I struggled to nail the dismount on my snowboard. At least there weren’t that many people to see my struggle.

After two days at Mt Baldy, the kids were taking jumps through the trees.

10 trails to hike with kids in the okanagan

10 excellent trails to hike with kids in the Okanagan

From waterfalls and rugged canyons to panoramic lake views, these ten trails to hike with kids in the Okanagan dish up some of nature's best and are short enough to bring the whole family along for the ride.

A life of adventure, hiking and exploring doesn't have to end when kids enter the picture. Kids have a way of finding new thrills and obscure wonders that adults have simply forgotten how to see. Hiking with kids in the Okanagan is a great way discover beautiful scenery, get exercise and make family memories together.

We've pulled together our favourite trails to hike with kids in the Okanagan, including maps and GPS coordinates to get you off on your family hiking adventure.

10 excellent trails to hike with kids in the Okanagan

1. Crawford Falls, Kelowna

Clocking in at two kilometres round-trip, the hike down to Crawford Canyon Falls is a perfect family affair. It is a steep descent into the valley, but newly built stairways and railings make it safe and manageable for kids. Plus, you can't beat a waterfall reward at the end.

https://steveamie.com/fun-seekers-should-head-to-crawford-canyon-falls-and-with-kids/

2. Kuiper's Peak

Kuiper’s Peak Mountain Park is a rocky outcrop in South Kelowna and a perfect outdoor play park. The whole area is void of trees because of the 2003 fire, but that makes for exceptional views of Lake Okanagan and the Okanagan Valley. There are plenty of opportunities to scramble and climb up jagged hills.

https://steveamie.com/kuipers-peak-bring-kids/

3. Paul's Tomb

This easily accessible trail is good for hiking or biking. With isolated beaches and caves along the way, it's the perfect hike for little adventurers. Take the trail from Knox Mountain, or use the lesser-known Lochview Trail.

https://steveamie.com/pauls-tomb-trail/

4. Predator Ridge - Okanagan Lake Lookout Loop

This short trail located just off Highway 97 southwest of Vernon is perfect for the whole family. It offers sweeping views of the mountains to the west and Okanagan Lake.

https://steveamie.com/preditor-ridge-okanagan-lake-lookout-loop/

5. Cedar Mountain

Cedar Mountain sits above the Mission area in Kelowna. A hike up the well-worn path offers a scramble up the final ascent and stunning panoramic views of Okanagan Lake.

https://steveamie.com/want-gorgeous-views-hike-cedar-mountain-near-kelowna/

6. Bear Creek Canyon Rim Trail

Located in West Kelowna, this popular walking trail loops around a gorge with a waterfall.

https://steveamie.com/bear-creek-canyon-rim-trail/

7. Cougar Canyon

Cougar Canyon in Vernon is all jagged rock, plunging canyon and beautiful views of Kalamalka Lake. The hiking trail is short, but the drop off to the canyon below at the top is steep - do keep kids within arms reach!

https://steveamie.com/cougar-canyon-perch-jagged-cliffs/

8. Scenic Canyon Regional Park

Marvel at some of Kelowna’s most fascinating geological wonders - Rock Ovens and Layer Cake Mountain. In recent years, the regional park has expanded new hiking trails with exciting names like Pinnacle and Black Bear. It's a great walk for the whole family.

https://steveamie.com/scenic-canyon-regional-park-rock-ovens-layer-cake/

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9. Mill Creek

Mill Creek Regional Park may be close to the airport and only 500 square metres in size, but don't let that deter you. It packs a lot in a small space, including a raging waterfall. The trail is perfect for the whole family, including small kids and is open and walkable from March through November.

https://steveamie.com/mill-creek-kelowna-best-trail-with-small-kids/

10. Mt. Kobau

If you're interested in seeing the Okanagan Valley and the Similkameen region from 1500 metres, Mt. Kobau is your best choice with kids in tow. Drive to the summit on a well-graded forestry road and wander around the top where you can see the Okanagan Valley and the Similkameen region.

https://steveamie.com/strolling-around-mount-kobau-summit/

These are our top picks for family hiking in the Okanagan. Which are your go-to family walks and hikes? 

Exploring With Eyes Wide Open: Taking In This One Wild Life

We tend to keep a clipping pace during the summer months. Whether it’s road trips, camping expeditions, or adventures to nearby parks and recreation areas, there is always something on our radar. Why? It's how we fully take in this one wild and precious life of ours.

Summer is good, crazy, awesome busy

So far this summer, we’ve camped a couple of times, visited off-the-beaten-path hot springs, hiked to waterfalls, rafted down a river, visited a new provincial park, and slid down ice-cold natural rock waterslides. We also road tripped the Oregon Coast, which was excellent, though more driving than we expected. We still plan to hike to Christie Falls and a ride down the soon-to-be-minted Okanagan Rail Trail.

All this is on top of working during the week so us adults can meet our professional deadlines.

Our neighbours give us looks of exhaustion when our car disappears for yet another weekend away. And truth be told, sometimes I feel exhausted too. We’ve gotten to the point, now halfway through summer holidays, where we have no clue what we’ll eat for supper every day, and the fridge is decidedly bare and empty.

Who has time for groceries when they’re out playing in the sun? We don’t. So, we sent the kids to daycare and camps this week with jam bagels and fridge scraps, nary a fruit or vegetable in sight.

Why? If we’re tired, why do we do it? Why do we keep this pace? Why bother?

I thought about this the other weekend while we hiked with friends from our campsite at Conkle Lake Provincial Park to a nearby waterfall.

As my 7-year-old waltzed down the wooded trail singing with abandon in nothing but her underwear and a costume cat tail (I kid you not), it struck me...

Adventure is our way of taking in this one wild and precious life of ours with eyes wide open. 

One wild and precious life | Eyes wide open

I mean, when else does THAT happen in my life? My kid walking around the forest in a feline costume en route to a gorgeous waterfall, that is. When else do I hear my feet crunch just so through twigs and pinecones as we wander down paths unknown? When else do I pause to really take in the sharp sweetness of a forest-foraged huckleberry? When else is my curiosity (and that of my children) piqued around every twist and turn?

[caption id="attachment_3520" align="aligncenter" width="834"] One of our kids hiking just the way she likes it.[/caption]

There is a certain intentionality in exploring. As we enter the moment fully, we notice things we wouldn’t otherwise. The burst of colour as a butterfly flutters past; the vibrant yellow of lilies on lily pads in calm, cool mountain lakes; the moment of awe when you see the waterfall crashing hundreds of feet down volcanic rock to a crystal clear pool below.

As we make space for adventure in our lives, we widen our experience of life itself. From the big, vast vistas to the tiniest of creatures, adventure causes us to take this one, wild and precious life with wide, open eyes.

In a strange way, adventure is rest

It takes a certain hectic frenzy to ready ourselves for an adventure. We pack our Honda Fit to the brim with luggage and camping gear; we cross of grocery lists and pack our cooler as full as we can. And that’s not even getting to the swimming suits and towels and clothes and paraphernalia a family of five needs.

But when we’re off, we’re off.

Adventuring is a bit like Sabbath for me. It causes me to stop and remember that right here in the middle of it all we can take the time to pause and enjoy each other and the world more fully. Once we’re out the door, we stop thinking about the dishwasher we forgot to empty before leaving, or the pile of clean laundry that needs to be folded, or the perpetual to-do-list of home improvements weighing on our minds.

As paradoxical as it sounds, when we adventure, we end up creating space for much-needed rest.

The great adventure - seizing each moment

The ins and outs of every day, normal life, are good and necessary and we will head into September like the best of them more than ready for a new school year and a calmer rhythm. We’ll welcome the routine of the school bell and consistent bedtimes and swimming lessons and a Monday to Friday schedule.

But this season of exploration is good too.

It occurs to me that as we choose adventure, we have to say no to other things. You have to make the space to go, actually booking time off the calendar and not letting the stress of the “what ifs” win.

To go, you first have to let go.

The journey itself, the exploring, the adventure, is meditative in a way. We focus on what is immediately before us – the open road, the hiking trail, the blooming flower, the deer, the river, the waterfall, the gorge, the beach, the mountain. Moment by moment, we take it in.

Rush adventure? No way! Instead, we pause to drink it in. Drop by drop, we embrace the joy, the richness, the beauty of each moment.

So. Even though summer is busy, it also gives moments to see life as we’ve not seen it before, to consider the world and our lives from a different vantage point.

[caption id="attachment_3521" align="aligncenter" width="834"] The Oregon Coast as seen from the top of Devil's Punchbowl.[/caption]

Meteora viewed from Agion Spevma

Dancing in the air in Meteora, inspired hiking in Greece

Meteora means “suspended in the air” and it is a truly magical spot for families to hike in north-central Greece among centuries-old monasteries. Each monastery defies the limits of ancient engineering (and gravity), clinging to the top of sandstone spires.

“We just finished three days in Meteora. Days surrounded by majestic pinnacles and spires of rock reaching for the heavens. Towering fingers and fists of conglomerate with delicate monasteries perched on top.” - Journal notes, May 2014

Reaching for the Heavens

Starting in the 11th century, monks began to settle onto the sandstone spires and caverns in and around Kastraki and Kalabaka, Greece. At its zenith, 24 monasteries were operational. Today, only six are active.

While the history itself is fascinating, for families who enjoy hiking, Meteora is a feast for the senses with well-trod hiking trails, beautiful views, and hidden treasures begging to be discovered.

While Kastraki is home to the six UNESCO-recognized monasteries, the entire area boasts remarkable rock formations and hidden gems.

[caption id="attachment_3096" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Spectacular scenery in Meteora Spectacular scenery in Meteora[/caption]

How to Get There

Direct trains connect Kalabaka to Thessaloniki (roughly three hours) and Athens (roughly 5 hours).

Our jaws dropped on the taxi ride from the train station to our guesthouse (we stayed at Patavalis Rooms in Kastraki. With its spacious rooms, small onsite restaurant and large balcony with views of Meteora, it's perfect for families with kids). Meteora is like a fairy tale, something from your imagination, come to life.

[caption id="attachment_3100" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Feats of ancient engineering in Meteora Feats of ancient engineering in Meteora. The cable car runs across the steep valley to the monastery with supplies.[/caption]

With two children three years and under along for the ride, our exploration of Meteora was filled with hiking (with kids in carriers), awe-inspiring vistas and plenty of marvelling at feats of ancient engineering. We also stuffed ourselves as full as possible with delicious Greek food.

[caption id="attachment_3094" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Back woods hike between Roussanou Monastery and Grand Meteoron Backwoods hike between Roussanou Monastery and Great Meteoron[/caption]

We stuck to hiking, but there are dozens of climbing routes and a Via Ferrata on offer for seasoned climbers and those with older kids.

[caption id="attachment_3099" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Photo op at Grand Meteoron Photo op at Great Meteoron[/caption]

The six monasteries are all worth a stop. You can make shorter or longer hikes out of visits by walking to/from the sites instead of hiring transport. The main attractions are Great Meteoron, Varlaam Monastery, Roussanou, Holy Trinity Monastery, St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery and St. Stephen’s Monastery.

[caption id="attachment_3097" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Hike Agion Pnevma, Meteora Hiking to off-the-beaten-path Agion Pnevma, a hidden church tucked into a crevice of rock between Kastraki and the Monasteries.[/caption]

Our favourite ended up being totally off-the-beaten-path Agion Pnevma, which required some tricky footwork and the help of ropes and cables. The views from the top, and stumbling upon an ancient place of worship cleft into rock face was absolutely worth it.

[caption id="attachment_3095" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Kalabak, Meteora, Greece with kids There are loads of places for kids to run, jump and be wild and free in Meteora.[/caption]

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https://steveamie.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-a-road-trip-through-jordan-with-kids/

https://steveamie.com/traveling-to-cuba-with-kids-6-things-to-know-before-you-go/

The ultimate guide to a road trip through Jordan with kids!

Jordan is a remarkable country to visit with kids. Middle Eastern hospitality is nothing short of formidable and Jordanians are warm and welcoming. The local cuisine is very palatable for kids (flatbread and home-made hummus? Yes, please!) A road trip through Jordan with kids is a great way to explore the country. Having your own rental car and the flexibility and independence that offers make exploring this Middle Eastern country a real joy.

The Ultimate Guide to a Road Trip through Jordan With Kids!

For a small, landlocked country, Jordan packs a punch and boasts dozens of places of historical and spiritual importance.

“We are in Jordan, a land of friendly smiles, so welcoming of our family and constantly handing out treats to the kids. Jordan has far exceeded by expectations. I’ve loved the country, it’s people and the sights.” –Journal notes, March 2014.

From sweeping vistas of sublime pastel hills to the windswept sandscapes of Wadi Rum; from the eerie beauty of the Dead Sea to the breath-catching splendour of the ancient city of Petra, Jordan is astonishing, and it has something for everyone.

Around every twist and turn, the country boasts jaw-dropping views and mind-boggling history. It certainly puts life into perspective when you’re surrounded by thousands of years of history. In Jordan, you are literally wandering the same land the ancients did millennia before us.

Road Trip Through Jordan With Kids

We secured our rental car at the Queen Alia International Airport where we got a great week-long rate, including car seats for our two daughters. As we looked at the map and plotted our journey, we decided loosely on a loop of the country to see and experience as much as we could.

First Stop: Amman

[caption id="attachment_3038" align="aligncenter" width="834"] The Roman Amphitheatre in Amman, Jordan[/caption]

Amman is a dynamic and electric Middle Eastern City. It boasts Roman ruins, bustling markets, and every restaurant you can imagine from hole-in-the-wall hummus and falafel shops to five-star options. Soak in the charm of Amman’s ancient streets and take in the grandeur of the Roman Empire with a visit to the Citadel and Roman Amphitheatre. In Amman, you can stock up on baby necessities like diapers and wipes, infant formal and baby food.

We stayed at the Jordan Tower Hotel and like everywhere else in the country, it oozed hospitality and welcome towards families and kids.

“I LOVE it. Such hospitality. They love and accommodate the kids. Amazing breakfast with olives and feta. Delish!” – Journal Notes, March 2014.

[caption id="attachment_3039" align="aligncenter" width="768"]Amman Citadel "Look Mum, I'm a pillar!" At Amman's Roman Citadel[/caption]

Madaba

“Each day on the road contains far too many highs and bitter lows to remember. Moments of awe overseeing the same land Moses did at his death. Moments like the 1500-year old Byzantine mosaic of the Holy Land. Its splendid beauty, the mystery of it. How the mosaicists could capture with tiny stones such remarkable geographical accuracy.” – Journal Notes, March 2014

After getting our bearings in Amman, we headed to Madaba to base there for a few days. Madaba is much smaller than Amman and easier to navigate with kids in tow. Staying in Madaba meant less time managing traffic and more time exploring. The Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, Bethany Beyond the Jordan and the Ma-In Hot Springs, all excellent sites to visit, are within an hour's drive from Madaba.

For anyone from the Judeo-Christian tradition, the sites around Madaba will ring a bell. Mount Nebo is where Moses saw his first and final glimpse of the Holy Land and nearby Bethany Beyond the Jordan is where Jesus was baptised.

The focal point in Madaba is the Saint George Byzantine church which is home to the Madaba Map, a well-preserved map of the Middle East in the form of a mosaic. The map is the oldest surviving cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and Jerusalem.

[caption id="attachment_3051" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Madaba Mosaic Map of the Middle East Madaba Mosaic Map of the Middle East[/caption]

 

A True Dead Sea Experience

The super salty Dead Sea is a marvel. Take a dip and float to your heart’s content, then for a couple of extra dollars, slather on the Dead Sea mud for a complete and true Dead Sea mineral experience.

[caption id="attachment_3043" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Dead Sea, Jordan Getting our full Dead Sea mud spa experience![/caption]

Along the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, the northern strip is home to resorts and hotels. Just south of the strip lies Amman Beach - Dead Sea. It’s a more affordable option and has public showers on the premises, a restaurant and canteen and umbrellas and chairs for rent. As life-long flashpackers, you can guess which beach we chose.

“The Dead Sea. An amazing experience. Floating so buoyantly in the heavy salt water. It stung eyes and cuts and the oily water coated our bodies and bathing suits. What an experience! Standing straight up and not touching the bottom…not sinking. It took a while to realize I wasn’t treading water to stay afloat. You could lean back and chill out, without sinking.” – Journal Notes, March 2014.

Ma-In Hot Springs

The Ma-In hot springs and thermal waterfall sit roughly 30km southwest of Madaba and 20km southeast of Amman Beach. Here, a warm waterfall plunges off a cliff into a pool below. There is a small restaurant on site and the warm pools are wonderful for a swim with the whole family.

[caption id="attachment_3050" align="aligncenter" width="768"]ma in hot springs The Ma-In hot springs and thermal waterfall make for a wonderfully warm swim.[/caption]

Heading South - Onward to the desert!

After our fill of the Dead Sea, thermal hot springs and thousand-year-old mosaics, we hit the road for Arabian sands.

Wadi Musa – Petra

Located 236km south of Amman, Petra, the rock-cut capital of the ancient Nabateans has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985. It’s been inhabited since prehistoric times but became a major caravan centre during the Greek and Roman empires.

Most days I am not thankful when my young children wake me up at the crack of dawn. But the day we explored Petra, I was bursting with gratitude.

We walked the 1.2km through the Siq, the only way to enter Petra. The narrow gorge has sheer rock faces that rise from the rocky ground to the barely visible sky above. Walking, walking, walking, rock on all sides as you meander and twist the rocky path of the Siq. And then, we caught a glimpse of the Treasury, purple and pink in the early morning light. We had one of the world’s most famous monuments all to ourselves.

We explored Petra for a full day, opting for short, self-guided hikes to the High Place, the Monastery and the Amphitheatre, to keep things manageable with our one and three-year-old in tow. At the end of a long day of exploring, we hired donkeys for the ride back to our hotel.

[caption id="attachment_3066" align="aligncenter" width="834"]The Treasury, Petra The Treasury, Petra all to ourselves first thing in the morning.[/caption]

Wadi Rum – Our Very Own Arabian Nights

Haunting, rugged, windswept desert landscapes. Wadi Rum hand delivers your fill of sand, rugged beauty, and camels. We stayed at the Sun City tent compound (we stayed in the tents, there were no Martian domes in 2014!) where we stayed in semi-luxury in the middle of the desert.

[caption id="attachment_3055" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Wadi Rum, Jordan Wadi Rum, Jordan[/caption]

We put the kids to bed in the tent, then made our way to the shared area, with rugs and pillows to lounge on, for a feast of roast lamb and couscous. Every 20 minutes, we took turns running through the sand back to our tent to check on our slumbering children. As we walked back to enjoy more of our meal, the Milky Way burst overhead, stars shining magnificently in the desert’s inky blackness.

[caption id="attachment_3053" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Sun City Tent Camp in Wadi Rum Sun City Tent Camp[/caption]

Notes:
Pick and choose your camel ride carefully. We made our decision in a split second and ended up with a pubescent boy camel guide who talked on his phone the whole time. Also, our children were terrified of the camels.

[caption id="attachment_3054" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Wadi Rum camel ride Wadi Rum camel ride[/caption]

Aqaba - Where Nations Converge

Crucial geography converges around Aqaba. The borders of Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are a stone’s throw apart. The crystal-clear waters and in-tact reef, make a trip in a glass bottom boat, or a diving/snorkelling trip great fun.

We stayed at the Bedouin Garden Village which had rooms encircling the restaurant. This made evenings of adult conversation and calmly sipping tea and imbibing shisha a possibility once the kids were asleep.

[caption id="attachment_3057" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Snorkeling in Aqaba Snorkeling with tanks in Aqaba, Jordan[/caption]

Venturing North for Roman Ruins

If Biblical history isn’t your thing, relics from the Roman empire are a-plenty in Jordan. After catching enough of the sun's rays and seeing the downed tank while snorkelling, we headed north on Jordan’s Highway 15 for Jerash and Ajloun. We were ready for more Roman ruins and castles.

Jerash

The ancient walled city of Gerasa lies just outside of Jerash. Gerasa, along with Umm Qais in Jordan’s far northwest made up two of the cities in the Roman ‘Decapolis’. At the Gerasa site, you’ll find Hadrian’s Arch, the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Artemis and the remarkable Forum’s oval colonnade. The site also has a hippodrome, an ancient sports field that used to seat up to 15,000 spectators!

The sheer size of the archaeological site is magnificent.

[caption id="attachment_3044" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Jerash Roman Ruins Jerash Roman Ruins[/caption]

Castles and Forests in Ajloun

The 12th Century Ajloun castle was built by Saladin’s nephew in CE 1184-1185, primarily to manage nearby Bedouin tribes who allied themselves with the Crusaders. Much of the castle is open to explore.

[caption id="attachment_3037" align="aligncenter" width="834"]ajloun castle Ajloun castle[/caption]

When we tired of crusader history, we visited the Ajloun Forest Reserve for long walks in the sunshine surrounded by wildflowers. After Ajloun, we hightailed it back to Amman to drop off the rental car and catch our flight onwards to Kuwait.

This was our story and our adventure in March 2014 with our then nine-month-old and two-year-old daughters in tow.

Have you added Jordan to your bucket list yet?

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Hygge dance parties

How to Manage the Winter Blues with Kids

The days are short, the darkness long, and the cold unforgiving. Winter months in Canada can feel isolating and, well, a bit sad to be honest. But, since life is adventure (and short), we really ought to make the most of the winter months. Whether it's the reduced daylight hours, or the added effort it takes to bundle kids up for anything and everything, or the low cloud cover and lack of sunshine, or the fact that we spent six winters in a tropical country, I struggle with winter. But I have found ways to make the most of the winter months with children in tow. Here is how I manage the winter blues with kids.

7 Ways to Manage the Winter Blues with Kids

1. Plan a play date

It is totally tempting to hibernate indoors during the winter months, but cabin fever is very real. Social isolation only intensifies any feelings of angst that come from the cold, grey skies above. When we are sociable, we build connection. Even if you don't feel like leaving the house, make a plan with friends and organize a kid-friendly play date. Your mind and body will thank you.

2. Pump up the jam

Blare your favourite tunes and get your heart pumping. Kids love to wiggle their energy out with kicks and jumps and wild dance moves. Our children love to pull out their costume box and let their imaginations go wild as they dance and prance around. By the end of dance parties in our house, everyone feels better. Exercise, after all, is a well-known mood-booster.

[caption id="attachment_2913" align="aligncenter" width="834"]Hygge dance parties Dance parties in our house turn into full costumed affairs with lots of gymnastics.[/caption]

3. Skip the dishes

Forget cooking and hit up a local coffee shop or eatery for a quick meal. Loads of restaurants and coffee shops are set up for kids. Treat yourself to a lunch or snack where you don't have to worry (as much!) about cleaning up.

4. Head outdoors

In Scandinavian countries you'll hear this in the thick of winter: "There is no bad weather, just bad clothing." Take those words to heart and bundle up. A walk around the block or a run down a hill on a toboggan gives our bodies a much-needed boost of Vitamin D.

5. Schedule self-care

Caring for ourselves in the midst of parenting can feel selfish and impossible. But the truth? We cannot pour from empty cups. In the winter months especially parents need to prioritize physical, emotional and mental well-being.

You know best what inspires and rejuvenates you. Perhaps it's changing out of pyjamas into a normal human outfit. Maybe it's preparing a nutritious meal. It could be shutting off Netflix and instead, picking up an inspiring book. Or, perhaps it's hiring a sitter and heading to the gym or doing a workout video at home. Find what makes you tick and make space for it.

6. Practice thankfulness

Did you know that practising gratitude is connected with greater general happiness? It is.

“Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.” (Harvard Health)

Take time to regroup each day and reflect on what you are grateful for. Don't be afraid to include your kids too. Here's one idea -- make a gratitude wall! -- that includes kids in the practice of gratitude that I wrote for Learning Resources.

7. Dream big dreams

Striking the right balance between living fully in the moment and planning for the future can be tricky. Don't be afraid to flesh out your bucket list during the dark months of winter. Brainstorming adventures, activities, and future plans can help beat the blues. Ask your kids what things they dream of doing and then make a plan together. Set your list in motion, but don't forget to be present today.

What are your tips and tricks to make the most of the winter months and beat the blues?

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https://steveamie.com/6-tips-to-travel-with-an-infant-and-keep-your-sanity/

https://steveamie.com/transatlantic-cruises-awesome-with-kids/

This winter I will (try to) embrace hygge with kids

Hygge continues to blow up the internet this year, and for good reason - it is a burst of light and warmth in the middle of dark, cold winter. It makes me hopeful that I too can be more positive about this whole winter thing. While I'm a born and bred Canadian, and my ancestry is 50 percent Swedish, after six winters spent in Southeast Asia, I just don't love winter (there, I said it).

Here we are right between Christmas and New Years, the glow of Noël is dimming, and I know all too well that we have at least another couple of months of winter ahead of us. I love heading to the mountains to snowboard every now and then, but truth be told, life is infinitely more complicated when you have to get three children six years and under into snowsuits just to leave the house.

But, life is short, and life is adventure, so I really need to get better at embracing hygge. It's especially important to embrace hygge with kids, or it will be an even darker season than it already is.

What is hygge? It's pronounced 'hooga' and according to Visit Denmark, it's roughly translated as 'cosiness' but actually represents much more than that.

"Hygge is a tricky word to define, it's a feeling, an experience, a sensation. It means creating a warm atmosphere. It is enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm amber glow of candlelight is hygge. Stomping through woods, wrapped up warm on a fresh Autumn day before returning to a fireside for hot cocoa is definitely hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too." - Visit Denmark

Isn't that nice? I love all those things too...in theory...

How I embrace hygge with kids

Jammies day(s)

Nothing shouts comfortable and cosy to a kid more than their favourite PJs. The second our oldest child comes home from school, and every day of Christmas holidays, she has donned her choice pyjamas and sits in front of the fireplace. I can hardly blame her (it's cold outside! And as I write, I'm in my sweatpants.)

And why not? Why not embrace the cold weather by wearing our lazy-day, warmest clothing in daylight hours or darkness?

Have a hot chocolate party

Pull out all the stops. Bring out the tea party set or the china teacups and lay the kitchen table with a fancy tablecloth. Hot chocolate and Christmas baking oozes warmth. Plus, kids love a special occasion, especially when sugar is involved. It's the perfect opportunity to eat up those shortbreads or gingerbreads that are hanging around.

[caption id="attachment_2896" align="aligncenter" width="834"] My childhood tea party set (circa 1991) makes an appearance after a long time in storage, just in time for a hygge hot chocolate party. Note, my oldest daughter (right) is in her pyjamas mid-day.[/caption]

Read, read, read

Cracking open a good book while toasting toes in front of a fire? Yes, please. In our case it's reading books on the couch in front of an electric fireplace, but does it really matter? Reading with kids is another wonderful 'hygge' activity. A 2013 EmorUniversity study found that reading boosts brain connectivity AND heightens empathy, imagination and creativity. When we make reading part of our daily schedule with our kids, we uplift our spirits, expand our worldviews and bond with our children. Don't have an expansive selection of books at home? Head to your local library!

Make snow 'candy'

One of my favourite memories of growing up was when my dad and grandfather would take my sister and me outside to snowdrifts and make 'snow candy'. In an instant, the harshest of cold days turned magical on the Canadian prairies.

What other time of year can you cook candy on a stove top and then see it harden in the blink of an eye in the snow? This tradition hails from Quebec's cabane-à-sucres (sugar shacks) and is totally worth infusing into any family cultural practice! Simply heat maple syrup on a stove top, then drizzle it on the snow outside. It will harden into edible "snow candy" in seconds. Total magic!

Play board games

Our kids are still thick in the midst of the preschool years, but even we have found a few games we can play as a family. Go Fish is perfect for testing matching skills and a simple game of Memory even captures our 2-year-old's imagination for a brief moment!

Have a comfy family movie night

Whatever the rules are for your family, break them! Eat supper early, or eat it on the couch (that's against the rules in our house). Fire up the popcorn maker or throw a bag in the microwave. Load up with blankets and pillows and find a family-friendly flick. Or, take the opportunity to head down memory lane and watch fun family videos.

What 'hygge' practices have you infused into your life to warm up your winter?

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6 tips for travel with infant

6 tips to travel with an infant and keep your sanity

International travel is an amazing experience. But travelling with kids, and infants, in particular, can be really exhausting. Here are our top tips to travel with an infant and keep your sanity from six years of living overseas and travelling internationally with our three kids.

There are loads of families who still make travel a priority even with kids in the picture. It can be done and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Do you want to go to Europe? Go. Do you want to go to Asia? By all means, go. You and your children will be welcomed with open arms (and restaurant wait staff will very likely entertain your children, so you can eat a meal in peace).

Most other cultures in the world have a very high regard for children and they are actively included in public spaces. That is the beauty of travel, and what is so worth embracing. As tiring as travelling with children can be, it’s equally exhilarating, life-changing, and remarkable.

But no, it’s not exactly easy. Infants don’t usually get the memo about time changes or jet lag and there will be diaper explosions and spit ups wherever you are in the world. But you WILL make it if you push through.

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6 tips to travel with an infant and keep your sanity

6 tips to travel with an infant and keep your sanity (1)

1. Book the bassinet on your flights

If you don't pay any attention to anything else in this post, listen to this one! Your arms and your patience will thank us. Book your flights early and get on the phone with the airline if you need to. A bassinet means your infant can sleep in a horizontal position during the flight and you can either eat your meal with your tray table down (without a squirming infant on your lap) or have a snooze yourself.

2. Ditch the stroller, embrace babywearing

A baby carrier is versatile and agile, keeps baby close, and won't bump around on cracked sidewalks and cobbled streets. Infant carriers are also small enough to pack away into a carry-on when you’re boarding a flight so you don’t forget it in the luggage compartment! It can also double as a child restraint device at restaurant tables in the event there are no highchairs to be found. (Experience speaking here!)

When we travelled through the Middle East and Europe for three months in 2014, we brought a stroller with us from Cambodia but ended up forgetting it in Kuwait. Whoops! We didn’t actually end up missing it though, and the remainder of our travels were more lightweight and agile without it.

3. Pack infant feeding equipment

A bottle or sippy cup, small spoon, and a plate or bowl all pack up simply and easily and barely add any weight to your bags. It makes life so much easier when you’re not worried about your six-month-old slamming a restaurant’s ceramic plates and metal cutlery around. Plus, you can feed baby anywhere, anytime. Bonus!

4. Prioritize lovies

Whether it’s a favourite book, a soother, an adored stuffed animal, or a beloved blanket, it’s 100% worth bringing one or two items your child treasures. One caveat: you will spend plenty of time during your travels double and triple checking that said lovies are indeed packed and with you. Trust me, it's worth the stress and hassle. Not only does it make sleeping in strange beds more comfortable, those lovies will end up carrying a special place in your heart over the long run. ‘Monkey Anna’ is one stuffed animal who has a special place in our lives. Purchased four years ago in Mostar, Bosnia, she is now a part of the family and comes on all our adventures. She also turns up in nearly all our family travel pics!

5. Pack extra baby clothes in your carry-on - but not too many

Some days it feels it takes special magical powers to strike the right balance with carry-on luggage. Too little and you're hooped in the event of a diaper blowout; too much and you end up a sweating, fuming mess dragging needless pounds of luggage around the airport terminal. Worse still, with too much carry-on luggage, you're more likely to leave something behind.

In a bid to keep carry-on luggage to a minimum, I have made the critical error of not bringing extra infant clothes with me on the airplane. I have vivid memories of our 4-month old wearing only her diaper and wrapped in my scarf as we disembarked the plane. No matter how short your flight is, pack an extra outfit or two for baby in your carry-on.

6. Embrace Thoughtful Tech

We celebrate screen-free activities, games, toys and books like any other parent. But tech has its place and it can make the travelling journey so much more relaxed!

White Noise App

We make sure we have our favourite white noise app on our phones and Ipad when we travel and it works like a charm lulling our kids to sleep in different hotel and guesthouse rooms. We use the “Sleep Pillow” app.

Downtime and Transition Entertainment

Sometimes you end up on the cream of the crop airline with personalized entertainment systems for all. Sometimes you don’t and you thank the technology gods that you have your mobile devices along for the ride.

Some of our favourite infant iPad games are:

Kids Doodle - Movie Kids Color & Draw - Bejoy Mobile

Nighty Night - Fox and Sheep GmbH

Peekaboo Barn - Night & Day Studios, Inc.

My Little Town: Toddler's Seek & Find - wonderkind GmbH

Memories from home

Before we departed on our Epic trip of 2014, we loaded a photo album on our iPad for our 2-year old daughter. The photo album had pictures of friends and important things we were leaving in Cambodia, and a basic itinerary of our trip all the way back to Canada where we would reunite with our families. It did help provide context and memory for our kids in the middle of changes every single day.

Depending on how long you’re travelling with your infant and young children, this may be a way of helping them remember loved ones, or helping them prepare for the next stages of your adventures.

These strategies have been tried and true for us as we've travelled the world with babies in tow. What are your top tips and tricks for making international travel with infants go more smoothly?

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why we should travel with kids

Why We Can (And Should) Travel With Our Kids

Adventuring with a family sees hundreds of defining moments. That is precisely why we can and should travel with our kids.

Why we can and should travel with our kids

why we can (and should) travel with our kids

Recapture the transcendent moments

In their 2010 Ted Talk, ‘The 4 Myths of Parenthood’ Babble.com founders, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, talk about how in parenthood we “trade average happiness” for “transcendent moments.” Typically, our emotional highs and lows tend to flat-line as we grow older, but having kids changes that. Parents “submit to losing control” and in that, find great meaning in life.

One way to capture those “transcendent moments” every day (and often multiple times every day) is to travel with kids. You really do experience the super duper highs and the horrendous lows.

I remember my mystical Dead Sea experience in 2014 shattered by the piercing screams of a three-year-old who got ultra-salty water in her eyes.

And I won't ever forget the terrible overnight bus ride in Turkey where both of our daughters took turns shrieking throughout the entire trip. It was so bad that to this day we have never taken another night bus. Ever.

Of course, I remember all too well the day we travelled along the Croatian coast, drinking in the breathtaking views around every twist and turn, and my daughter throwing up on me three times in a row because of motion sickness.

These moments of utter despair stretch us beyond what we think we are capable of, way out to the far-flung reaches of our comfort zones. And there, in those places of tension - repeated and incessant - we grow. We change.

Slower, deeper travel

When we travel, we do not move quickly, this family of ours. We have to take pit stops and sometimes the fastest we go is at 2-year-old speed, wobbly legs and all. For someone who has always loved to hit up all the sites and experience all the things, it can feel like an eternity with kids.

And yet.

Slow travel with kids goes deeper. We experience the warmth and hospitality of different cultures who welcome our children with open arms. We engage with families from different cultures because they have kids too. Moving more slowly, we are able to absorb rich and deep experiences because we aren't rushing around trying to see everything.

Create lifelong memories

On our Epic Trip in 2014, we experienced amazing things together. Like riding a camel with my nine-month-old daughter through the dramatic desert canvas of Wadi Rum in Jordan. We floated in the Dead Sea and then soaked up Istanbul’s emotive and chaotic pizzazz. With my three-year-old on my back, we explored Buzlduzha, the old communist headquarters in off-the-beaten-track Bulgaria. My eldest daughter turned three in Mostar, Bosnia surrounded by pockmarked and battle-scarred buildings while my youngest turned one in the courtyard of a little Macedonian hostel. To this day, our kids talk about our 'Epic Trip'. It is immortalized in our stories, songs, and pictures.

[caption id="attachment_335" align="alignnone" width="834"]Bagan_Myanmar_travel with kids Our eldest daughter experiencing Bagan, Myanmar at the tender age of 18 months, in 2013[/caption]

Cultural literacy grows empathy

It's good for us to be "foreign" once in a while. There are some things we can only learn when we’re far away from home and guests in a different culture and country. To not be in control? To see how normal and inviting and welcoming other people are? To meet real people in their cities and countries?

That builds connection.

Shauna Niequist says it perfectly in "Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes":

"We travel because I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak and view the world. I want them to know that “our way” isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood—they love to play, to discover, to learn. I want my kids to learn firsthand and up close that different isn’t bad, but instead that different is exciting and wonderful and worth taking the time to understand. I want them to see themselves as bit players in a huge, sweeping, beautiful play, not as the main characters in the drama of our living room."

Carpe Diem

But perhaps the greatest reason for travelling with kids is that life is too short not to. It's fragile and doesn't hesitate to throw curve balls. When presented with any new opportunity, even if it’s a bit wild, I would like to be the kind of person who jumps at the chance and says “YES”.

Since our epic trip, another daughter has joined our family and I want all of them to grow into strong, resilient and adventurous young women. The best chance of success in that department is if they see my husband and I modelling those things in everyday life.

Travel - however close or far away - is a great place to start.

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6 Tips finding adventure close to home

6 Tips for Finding Adventure Close to Home

Travelling to exotic destinations is fabulous fun, but thrill and adventure CAN be found anywhere. 6 tips for finding adventure close to home.

Of course, travelling internationally to far-flung and exotic destinations is wonderful. But never forget that a life of adventure is a state of mind, not a specific location. Here are our top tips seeking out and finding adventure right where you are.

6 Tips finding adventure close to home

Pretend you're a tourist in your own city

Seriously. Look up new restaurants you haven't been to. Commit to exploring every single park in your town. Choose to walk down a different street. Discover a neighbourhood you are unfamiliar with. Go on a walking tour of your city's downtown core or cultural/arts district.

There are always, always things to discover.

Sometimes the best stories and experiences happen when we see the same thing and the same people through a different lens.

Regional Gems

At last count, there were hundreds, like literally hundreds of regional and provincial parks across Canada. Most are totally free. Many have bathrooms, campsites and picnic spots. Some even have winter facilities. With so many to choose from, there is always something new to explore within a short distance.

Nearby National Parks

There are 46 national parks in Canada, many that are off the beaten path or not as well known as the more famous ones. Plus, there is a big bonus in 2017 - in honour of Canada's 150th anniversary, admission to all national parks is free

Science Centres and Museums

If ever there was a place for discovery, science centres are it. And they are scattered across Canada's main cities, meaning they are never too far away.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Is there any child that doesn't love a zoo, a farm or a petting zoo? There are dozens of opportunities to meet animals face to face. Wildlife recovery centres, zoos, and family farms are spread across Canada offering wonder and excitement for kids.

Maximize long weekends

Last year we took advantage of the tail end of the shoulder season in the Rocky Mountains to explore Revelstoke, BC. It's right on the No. 1 Highway and we've driven through it a million times, but have never taken the time to actually explore. We found a cheap hotel for a couple of nights and hit up all the sights we could find with the girls. It still goes down in history as one of the best family vacations. Our oldest daughter even told us, "I LOVE long trips!!" And it was only a long weekend.

Take a look at the map, pick a place that's far enough to feel like you've been 'away' but not so far as to make it a real, long road trip, and pack up the family.

That's it from us. How about you. What are your tips and tricks for adventuring locally with your family? 

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