Category: Reviews

The Definitive Top 10 Halloween Candy List

Well,  another Halloween is in the books. This year, B and J (dressed as Drake and a rocker girl, respectively) had a blast trick or treating, and came home with a pretty good haul of goodies. Mounds of junk food, for real. One thing that I noticed was that some treats were better received than others. Uh, not just by B and J,  but by me, too. As such, I figured I’d rank them. Consider this the top 10 Halloween candy list that my kids got this year. There’s no real criteria; it’s just based on my own subjective, unintelligent, unreliable opinion.

Got it?

Ok, let’s get our Ryan Seacrest on, and count ’em down!

10. Granola Bars

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Coming in at number 10 on The Definitive Top 10 Halloween Candy List is a good ol’ granola bar. While not as exciting as the other contenders, it does have its charms. For example, it’s probably not that unhealthy, so it can be used in candy negotiations (ie. “Daddy? Can I have a chocolate bar?” “No! No more junk. Go eat a granola bar or something.”). Plus, since nary an apple was found in any of the loot bags this year, it’ll have to do, as the only nutrional option.

9. Rockets

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Conversely, let’s talk about Rockets. These sweet tasting packages of sugar tablets have little in the way of nutritional value. However, they are a favorite among the kids, since they are sweet tasting packages of sugar tablets. The only reason that they aren’t higher on the list is because of J’s habit of playing with them and pretending they’re medicine.  The idea of a little girl and her stuffed animals play-popping pills is kind of weird, what can I say.

8. Smarties

The Definitive Top 10 Halloween Candy List

Don’t get it twisted, American readers. What we call Rockets up here in Canada, you guys call Smarties down there. Our Smarties are multi-coloured, candy-coated chocolates, however, and are, as the kids say, da bomb dot com. Oh Canada, indeed!

7. Tootsie Pops

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I have no idea if B and J even  like these. When I saw them in their bags, it made me think of that Lil Kim and Sisqo song “How Many Licks”, so that counts for something, right? Pretty sure that song wasn’t about Tootsie Pops, though.

6. Coffin Crisp

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Another Canadian specialty. This is a bite sized, Halloween-themed Coffee Crisp chocolate bar. Big ups for getting into the holiday spirit! In fact, the only thing better would be if the kids somehow got these full sized.

Wait, what’s that?

They did?

The Definitive Top 10 Halloween Candy List

Sweet! Hey, that was kind of fun. Let’s do that again!

5. Random Chocolate Bars

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These are cool…….

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But bigger is better!

Aight, one more time!

4. Caramilk Bar

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OK, now turn it up!

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Woooo!

Huh?

Check the back? Why?

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This expired in July? Who the heck gives out expired candy on Halloween?! That’s cold like Minnesota, yo.

Man, I need a new number 4.

New 4. Doritos

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Perfect. Cheesy, nachoey goodness. And most importantly, not expired.

3. Pringles

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Potato chips are always a hit, but the kids seemed to really like these mini Pringles cans, to get their salty fix.

2. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

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My personal favorite.  The only reasons that they aren’t number 1 is because when they are left in less than ideal temperatures, they melt, creating a gooey mess which the kids still eat, resulting in gooey messy children.

1. Cans of Soda

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Pop pop, homies! At the top of The Definitive Top 10 Halloween Candy List are beverages! Maybe the people who handed these out did it deliberately. Or maybe they did it because they didn’t have any candy to give out, so they raided their pantry (sucks to be the kid who got a can of corn from them).  Regardless, B and J’s eyes lit up the most at these unusual handouts, so that’s why they are number 1. I remember feeling the same way when I got a can of Coke while trick or treating back in the day. It’s like ordering a pizza, and getting a steak instead. #whatapleasantsurprise

And that’s that. Peace out, starboys and stargirls.

I hope your Halloween was as spooktacular as ours!

Review – LEGOLAND (Vaughan Mills)

I’m always on the lookout for interesting things to do with the family. The more fun, the better. So, when my good friends at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre offered us tickets to come check out their LEGOLAND Vaughan Mills location, you know that we jumped at the opportunity to go, faster than you could say “Everything is awesome”!

WHAt is it?

If you’ve never been before, LEGOLAND Vaughan Mills is a spacious 34,000 square foot playground full of rides and attractions, dedicated to all things Lego.  A land of Lego, indeed!

After you are admitted entry, you are soon given the opportunity to take part in an interactive, hands-on “factory tour”, where you learn about how the bricks are made. Your kids will probably enjoy hearing about the process. My kids enjoyed running off and playing on the stations.

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QUEST LOVE

Next up for us was the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride. We sat in A “chariot”, and rolled through the dark, using laser zappers to shoot at various dangers.  Points were awarded for hitting the targets.  This part was probably better suited for older kids, as B and J struggled with the zappers. They still liked the ride and the thrilling action, though.

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J and I on Kingdom Quest. Did I mention it was really dark?

 

EVERYTHING IS BETTER SMALLER.

We then made our way to MINILAND, which featured replicas of many Toronto landmarks, made entirely of Lego! This was easily my favourite attraction.

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4D OR NOT 4D, THAT IS THE QUESTION

After MINILAND, it was off to the theatre, to check out The Lego Movie 4D A New Adventure. Now, if you enjoyed the Lego Movie like I did, then you’ll like this short film, too. It has many of the same characters, and a pretty clever storyline. I found myself loudly chuckling at some of the dialogue (much to the dismay of the children around me). Y’all been warned, though – you may get wet. 4D ain’t no joke!

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Ok, kids! Smile for the camera! Or make weird signs with your hands, Your choice.

 

TO QUOTE CHOCLAIR, LET’S RIDE

We then made our way over to the Merlin’s Apprentice carousel ride.

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Don’t let J’s smile fool you in that picture. She was legit ticked that, despite me peddling furiously, K and J still flew higher in the sky than we did!

THIS AND THAT

With the rides checked off, K and I let the kids explore the facility at their leisure. B and J spent a long time together in the Lego Fire Academy, which is a play and climb area. They then split off and did their own things. B loved the Racers Build and Test zone. He used Legos to build a vehicle, and then tried it out on the tracks, against the creations of the other children there.

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Some of these kids’ cars were not well-designed, like the one girl’s car that had a single wheel. Conversely, one car was engineered so supremely that I  wanted to ask the boy if Elon Musk was his father.

J played in this zone for a bit, too, but she spent most of her time in Duplo Village, or as she mistakenly called it, Suplex City (sorry, Brock Lesnar!) and in Lego Friends.

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They spent so much time playing in these areas that we didn’t even see a bunch of the other attractions, like the Star Wars display, or the cafe, or the Earthquake tables. The only other part which I saw them visit was the “Partied So Hard That I Need To Pass Out On This Bench” attraction:

 

 

 

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Just kidding. This wasn’t a real attraction.

 

CONCLUSION

We spent two hours there, and could have easily stayed longer You know a place is a success when your kids don’t want to leave, and B and J did not want to go when we wanted to. In case you were wondering, there is a Lego shop connected to LEGOLAND Vaughan Mills. It’s a great place to grab some parting gifts, or to act as a bribery tactic if your kids don’t want to leave.

One other observation – we went on a holiday, and it was really busy, especially the lineup to get in. I would suggest buying tickets online beforehand, to save time and money.

Overall, we all really enjoyed LEGOALAND.  It compares very favourably to other local family-friendly destinations. I definitely recommend checking it out, if you’re planning a day trip with the kids!

 

 

Kellogg’s All Bran Buds Energy Balls Recipe

Now, if I can keep it real with you, I’m not the greatest cook in the world. I used to really suck at it, actually. Since becoming a parent, I have become more competent in the kitchen, pretty much out of necessity. I’m still the type of dude who would rather eat, than create eats, though.

So imagine my surprise, when I received this package, from my friends at Kellogg’s:

kellogg's all bran energy balls

kellogg’s all-bran energy balls!

 

What Kellogg’s has done this fall is partner with three top Canadian chefs – Craig Harding, Connie DeSousa and Alexandre Gosselin. And what these chefs have done is come up with fifteen new healthy, upscale comfort food recipes which feature Kellogg’s All-Bran! The results are restaurant-worthy dishes, chock full of fibre.

Not only that, but Kellogg’s challenged me to “think inside the box”, and incorporate All-Bran into the meals in my house.

More fibre in our diets is definitely not a bad thing, so I stepped up to the challenge!

I figured I’d start off simple. A big bowl of All-Bran cereal.

This did not go well:

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Always pour the cereal first, then the milk. Not the other way around.

OK, OK, that photo is fake. The real flames were bigger. I edited them out, so you could see my face.

My next attempt was to actually try one of the chef-inspired recipes. It would require me to seriously come correct with my cooking game. The dishes looked so darn delicious, however, that I was down for trying.  Feeling in a seafood mood, I narrowed my options down to Chef DeSousa’s All-Bran 30 Minute Tuna Crudo with Citrus and Jalepano or Chef Harding’s Hazelnut and All-Bran Crusted Lake Erie Pickerel with Infused Romesco Sauce.

Unfortunately, these were a no-go when I overheard my kids talking.

B casually told J that he only liked fish that tasted like chicken, and not fish that had eyes and swam.  No clue what he meant, but busting out some fish for dinner afterwards probably would not have gone over well.

Any idea if this tastes like chicken?

Does a ratfish taste like chicken?

Undaunted, I finally settled on a recipe that I thought would be a winner in our house:

Kellogg’s All-Bran Energy Balls!


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These balls are made with dates and nuts and reinforced with All-Bran Buds. The best part for me was that they didn’t involve using the oven at all, so there was no worrying about over/undercooking.

They were pretty easy to make, as well. I gotta admit that I did make one mistake – I misread the recipe and rolled the coconut into the balls, as opposed to rolling the balls into the coconut. This worked out, though, because it made for less messy eating (re: there wasn’t a trail of coconut droppings as the kids wandered around the house munching on them).

The balls turned out well, and were a hit with the family. They really do make a a great, healthy anytime snack!

Don’t be afraid to think inside the box. Try something new, and incorporate All-Bran into your recipe repertoire this fall!

kellogg’s All-Bran Energy Balls

Ingredients

1/3 cup roasted skinless hazelnuts

1/3 cup roasted skinless almonds

2 cups pitted dates

7 tbsp almond butter

Pinch of cayenne

1/3 cup goji berries (can be substitued with dried blueberries or cranberries)

2/3 cup All-Bran Buds

2/3 cup grated coconut

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of your food processor, grind the hazelnuts and almonds finely. Transfer to a bowl and set aside
  2. Add the dates, almond butter and cayenne pepper to the food processor. Mix into a puree. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine the nut mixture and the date puree, goji berries and All-Bran Buds. Mix until smooth.
  4. Shape into balls the size of a lime and roll into the coconut. Refrigerate at least one hour before eating.

*Energy balls have a shelf life of ten days. Keep refrigerated.

 

For more ideas, check out the All-Bran website,  www.AllBran.ca. For even more ideas and recipes, including the ones by the chefs, visit here, https://www.pinterest.com/allbranca.

 

 

Review – Safari Tales! An Educational Gaming Experience

Note: While this is a sponsored post, the opinions given are 100% my own.

My kids love handheld devices. If given the opportunity, I am sure that B and J  would mess around on them for days at a time, uninterrupted. If given the opportunity, I am also sure that they would eat ice cream 9 days a day. Regardless, we obviously monitor and limit their usage on the devices.  This does present some challenges, especially when it comes to gaming apps. Ideally, whatever it is they’re playing would have lots of educational value, and not just be mindless timekillers. Once they get it into something, they really get into it, you see, so their engagement levels are through the roof sometimes.  The problem I’ve had is finding educational games which they’ll actually enjoy and engage in, instead of just the mindless ones.

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Now, that’s where Safari Tales comes in. Developed by Kuato Studios for 4-10 year olds, this is a pretty sweet game. Basically, you select your character (you start with a baby elephant, but can find others eventually, to play as them) and then you’re free to roam an African savannah. Because it’s a 3D world, you are really encouraged to explore the environments. The key to Safari Tales is that it enhances literacy skills.  Throughout your adventure, you play various mini-games, and collect artefacts. Along the way,  you learn numerous facts and figures about the environments and their inhabitants.  One neat feature is that your session is recorded while you’re playing.  Then, at the end of it, an interactive storybook is created, so you can read about about what you did, on your adventure.

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Going back to what I was saying about monitoring device usage. Safari Tales has an option called Parent’s Corner, where you can personalize the game to your child’s liking. For example, you can adjust the reading age accordingly. As well, you can pick the session length, so playtime doesn’t go on and on!

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We downloaded this game onto our iPad.  While it was a bit tough for J (who’s three years old), B (five years old) loves it. He especially likes interacting with the character, Darwin, who’s a meerkat. Darwin’s almost like a guide, in that he helps lead you through the game. However, at any time, you can also ask him questions, by selecting words, to form proper sentences. Darwin will then speak the answers to you. As far as I can tell, all of the Q &A is related to facts about the animals or the environments, which is pretty cool. Sometimes, B doesn’t even play the rest of the game, and just kills time talking to Darwin!

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Overall Safari Tales is one of the better downloadable educational games that I’ve experienced.  It’s fun, easy, and engaging, with graphics that are top notch. It’s reasonably priced, too. Definitely recommended for young kids.

Download it here!

 

Road Trippin’: Sesame Place Tips!

This summer, for a vacation, K and I decided to do something different. Or, different for us, anyway. We loaded up the car, buckled in the kids, and went on a road trip! Our destination was also pretty unique, too.  Sesame Place, hence this post being about Sesame Place Tips!

From talking to people in the Greater Toronto Area over the years,  I realize that the more popular family road trips are  places like Disney World, New York City, or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  K did some research, however, and discovered Sesame Place, in Langhorne,  Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.  In all honesty, I had never heard of it before.  As well, for some reason, I thought Philly was a lot farther from Hamilton than it actually is. Turns out that it is only about an 8 hour drive away. Anyway, after talking it over, we figured it would make for a sweet adventure. With that, our trip was set.  We’d stay in Philly, and check out Sesame Place!

Here are some RANDOM STYLE Sesame Place Tips!

Random Thoughts and Stuff

sesame place tips

B and J posing for the camera……. by not posing for the camera.

 

♦Basically, it is a Sesame Street-themed amusement park. It is part dry activities and part wet activities.  The dry stuff includes a bunch of rides (including Vapor Trail,  a thrilling, kid friendly roller coaster), a huge net climb area called Monster’s Clubhouse, and a full sized replica of Sesame Street itself.  There were even some characters wandering around on it, for photo ops.

 

the wet stuff

♦In terms of wet stuff, there are water slides, a lazy river, splash pads, and our personal favorite, The Count’s Splash Castle. This area had a giant 8′ high tipping bucket, multiple  slides and tons of things to play with, like levers, wheels, sprinklers and blasters.

♦The big selling point of Sesame Place to us is that it is gears towards small children. B and J  are average five and three year old kids. They were able to go on all of the rides and water slides, either alone, or with a parent.

Sesame Place Tips

Taking a selfie on a ride is hard. The worst part? The ride hadn’t even started yet.

 

the ticket and getting there stuff

♦Our tickets were complimentary for the day (thanks for the hookup, Sesame Place)! Day tickets for anyone 2 years and older are $65 at the gate, and $55 online. So if you’re a family of four, it’s not exactly the cheapest day out. For what you experience there, though,  I do think that it is fair value. Now if you are going to make a road trip out of it, and this is especially for my fellow Canucks (the exchange rate ain’t no joke!), plan on checking out the park for two days, to really get your money’s worth. See, if you purchase a day ticket online, you can also get a ticket for a second day free!

♦Side note Sesame Place tip for my peeps in Southern Ontario – the drive wasn’t too bad. The route we took was very scenic. Obviously, when travelling with children, making lots of stops is a must. Luckily, there’s some cool stuff along the way, to keep the interest levels piqued. We ended up in Williamsport, PA for a long time, checking out the World of Little League Museum. We also made our way to Hershey and toured the chocolate factory (side side note: don’t watch Charlie & Chocolate Factory with your kids three days before going to Hershey, unless you want to have to constantly explain to them why Willy Wonka isn’t there).

♦While the park is full of attractions, it really isn’t that large. That’s all good, in my books. Navigating around it wasn’t difficult, and you can go from one end to the other in decent time.

the scheduling stuff

♦ Because it was a hot day, we wanted to do all of the dry attractions first, to beat the crowds, and then get changed into our bathing suits afterwards, to try the watery ones. This gameplan wasn’t really necessary. My suggestion would be to just treat the visit like you’re going to waterpark.  Like I said, the park isn’t that big, and the attractions are pretty close to each other. A lot of people would just dry themselves and their children off  before hitting up the dry rides, so you really don’t need to worry about the hassle of extra outfits.

♦With that said, if you do intend to hit up both worlds, bring water shoes. I stupidly brought sandals. I realized this was a bad idea as soon as  the fam decided that they wanted to go on the water slides. Standing in line, barefoot, on hot cement? I’m kinda over it.

♦Speaking of lines – oh Mylanta, Sesame Place was packed when we were there! Unless you buy an upgraded Abby’s Magic Queue, to get special treatment, be prepared to wait in long lines for rides and food. As the old saying goes, patience is a dish best served cold.

Uh, no one has ever said that before, Mike. You made that saying up.

Really? My bad. Anyway, have some ways to kill time in mind, to help alleviate the inevitable restlessness your kiddos will have, while waiting in line.

♦Because of the limited space, there was a lot of “stroller’s row”. That is, people would park their strollers jammed with their stuff along a fence or something, and leave them there while they experienced the park. If that idea makes you uncomfortable, cabanas are available to rent, as well as lockers.

 

the food stuff

♦Lemme circle back to the food. Sesame Place has five different restaurants on site, each with their own unique offerings. There is something for everyone, for real. Compared to other theme parks and whatnot, the food is reasonable in terms of pricing, too. Once again, it pays to go online prior to attending, as  there are ‘meal deals’ available for purchase, which will save you a few bucks. One cool-looking option (we didn’t try it)  was ‘Dine With Sesame Street Friends’. This gives you and your kids the opportunity to eat, dance, sing and take pictures with some of the characters.

♦ Soft-sided coolers are allowable in the park. You can pack some drinks and small snacks like chips, pretzels, cookies, whole fruit, and pre-made sandwiches, if you want to really save money on eats.

♦For $11.99, you can get a collectible, reusable bottle which you can refill unlimitedly on the day that you got it. This was probably our best investment at Sesame Place. I lost track of the number of refills we made.

 

other stuff

♦There were several stores on site, to purchase souvenirs, as well as other odds and sods which you may have forgot to pack,  like sunscreen or towels. One popular item  was a Sesame inscribed waterproof case with a lanyard. Tons of people were rockin’ those bad boys around their necks.  Neat souvenir, while also keeping valuables close to heart.

♦Be sure to make time for a parade! It is quite the energetic spectacle. I’m pretty sure I saw one mom doing the Nae Nae dance, too, which was probably a first on Sesame Street.

Sesame Place Tips

Picture from the parade. Big Bird got jiggy wit’ it.

♦We arrived at Sesame Place at about 11:00 AM, and left at 7:00PM. While exhausted, we all had a blast. We even missed out on a ton of stuff. There were musical shows throughout the day, that looked like they would have been fun to check out, for example.

There really is just so much to see and do, to keep you and your fam entertained.  I definitely recommend visiting it sometime, if you have younger children.

Sesame Place

100 Sesame Rd

Langhorne, PA 19047, United States

1 866-464-3566

http://www.sesameplace.com/

 

 

Review – Marvel Universe LIVE! (Hamilton, Ontario)

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So I checked out Marvel Universe LIVE! last night, at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton. I can honestly say that it was unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before!

B had been pretty pumped for the show, for weeks. However, despite being corrected repeatedly, he insisted on calling it “Marvel on Ice”. When we arrived, any disappointment that he had about the lack of ice was immediately replaced with awe, as he was amazed with the elaborate stage set up.

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I was impressed with the variety of people in the crowd. While it was mainly composed of families with small children, many of whom were dressed up as their favourite Marvel characters, there was also a fair number of older teenagers/adults without any kids. The appeal of Marvel really does span all ages.

That multi-generational appeal applied to the show, as well. Without giving away too many details, the best way that I can describe it is that is like one of the recent Marvel movies come to life. Basically, Loki was being a really evil power-hungry prick, and needed to be stopped by a bunch of superheroes. In terms of the dialogue, action sequences and special effects, all were top notch. B was a bit too young (5 years old) to really understand the plot, so I had to explain the story to him as it unfolded. I even chuckled a few times at some of the jokes (that went over his head, of course). I don’t think that he cared about the plot, though. He was really into the show, regardless. Between the pyro, lasers, and motorcycles, it really did get your adrenaline flowing. The fight sequences and stunts were very well choreographed, too (Black Widow busted out a sick Frankensteiner, for any wrestling fans out there).

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There was also a mean armbar sighting, too!

You know that old commercial tagline, about paying for the whole seat, but only needing the edge? The only time B sat was to stuff his face with food. He was standing or jumping up excitedly the rest of the time. It was cool, seeing him get caught up in cheering for the good guys as they kicked the bad guys’ butts. I should note that the fights weren’t too violent or gruesome/bloody  (that was a slight concern that I had, going in).

Another cool part was the sheer number of characters. There were 25, encompassing many parts of the Marvel Universe. Pretty much everyone that you’d expect made an appearance.

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The biggest crowd-pleaser (and B’s favourite) was the Hulk. He was huge, yo!

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With intermission, the show wrapped up in about two hours, which was the perfect amount of time.
Marvel Universe Live!  greatly exceeded my expectations. I would say that if you’ve enjoyed the Marvel films from the last few years, you’ll really like this show. Even if you’re not, there’s so much going on, that you’ll still be engaged. Marvel fans and non-fans – don’t be afraid to assemble, if this show comes to a city near you!

Bird Kingdom!

One of my family’s favourite places to visit is Niagara Falls. It’s only an hour from us, so we hit it up a few times a year. There’s just so much to do , that it is always a great way to get out and entertain the kids.

Recently, we visited an attraction which we had never been to before – Bird Kingdom!  They generously hooked me up with some complimentary passes (thanks again, BK!), so we checked it out. Here is my review of our trip there.

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Now, I wasn’t that familiar with this place, prior to going.  I’m not exactly an ornitholgist.  I assumed that the Trashmen would be around somewhere in the building, singing “Surfin’ Bird”. When B and J asked what Bird Kingdom was, I told them that it was a place with lots of birds in it.

Turns out, it is actually a lot more than that!

What it is, you see,  is the world’s largest indoor free flying aviary. It covers several different floors, and is broken up into different experiences.

Unfortunately, our visit started off on a bad note. Despite wearing shorts, J really had her cranky pants on. Once we arrived, she refused to get out her stroller, and was being extra whiny. Luckily for us, the whole facility was very stroller-friendly, and easy to navigate.

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Our first experience was The Old Museum. Full of old artifacts and pictures, it showcased the history of the building, and also of Niagara Falls.   I didn’t soak it in as much as I would have liked, however. J was still grumpy, while B was in a rush to find the birds. They didn’t really want to learn about Annie Taylor, as fascinating as she was.

Sorry, Annie

Sorry, Annie

We did slow B down enough, to snap a picture of him in a barrel, going over the Falls.

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Not literally going over the Falls, of course

Next up was The Explorer’s Base Camp. This area had lots of birds and creatures out n the open, for us to get real close to. In some cases, we could even touch them!

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At this point, J’s mood brightened (the idea of looking at a turtle was too alluring). So she got out of the stroller, to explore. She spent the rest of the visit running around excitedly, like her big bro.

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Turtle Power!

Up next was The Small Bird Aviary, which was exactly as it sounds. It was pretty surreal, watching these little tiny birds zipping around. I could feel the breeze sometimes, on my face, as they flew by.  One thing I forgot to note is that a ticket attendant gave us a list, on the way in to the kingdom. It was a scavenger hunt, for finding various things throughout the facility. Several of them were in The Small Bird Aviary, and B had a blast trying to track them down.

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We then moved on to The Night Jungle.  This had numerous strange and nocturnal animals in it, many of which appeared to be asleep (go figure).  Flash photography wasn’t allowed, so I couldn’t take any pictures, but take my word for it: The Night Jungle was pretty cool…..and creepy. Also, while we didn’t stop to partake in it (Wait. Scratch that. We couldn’t stop because B and J whizzed by it in a hyperactive rush, to see what was next), there was a Kid’s Archaeological Dig in this area, too, where children could go and dig up treasures.

The last experience, was the best one, in my humble opinion, Discover The Kingdom. It is this huge, multi-level indoor rainforest! The pathway starts at the top, and works its way down. Along the way, you encounter numerous birds and other creatures hanging out freely.

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I particularly was impressed with the big waterfall, which you could walk under, and the Javenese house, a hand-carved wood structure built in 1875.

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All in all, my family really enjoyed Bird Kingdom. We spent about an hour there, and that was with two fast-moving small kids who couldn’t wait to see what was next on the adventure. Tickets are reasonably priced, as well.  If you’re visiting the Falls, it’s definitely worth checking out!

Bird Kingdom

5651 River Road

Niagara Falls, Ontario  L2E 7M7

http://www.birdkingdom.ca

 

Giveaway/Review – Medieval Times Toronto!

Recently,  Medieval Times Toronto hooked me up with some tickets, to come check out their castle with my family. Here’s my  honest review of the experience.

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Now, I’m not going to front, I had heard of Medieval Times before, and I had seen commercials for it, but I honestly had no idea what it was all about. I kind of thought that it would be like The Princess Bride, with people saying ‘inconceivable’ a lot. Despite my poor attempts to explain it, my kids were pretty stoked to go, though. B wanted to see some knights kick some bad guys’ butts, and J wanted to stuff her face and watch the horsies.

We were advised to arrive early, so we showed up an hour before our showtime. The first thing you notice, when you step through the doors, is that all of the staff are in character. It was pretty cool being called ‘my lord’ by everyone that I talked to. A guy could get used to that, in everyday life.  Anyway, the other thing you notice is that this really was a kid-friendly place. There were tons small children running around, who looked to be five years old or younger, like B and J.

Because we were so early, we had some time to check out the castle.

K and I bought some light-up swords for the kids, from the gift shop!

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B saw a falcon up close!

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While B and J didn’t really appreciate it, K and I got a kick out of the dungeon, with all of the old torture devices on display!

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And we even posed for a family picture, with the princess!

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Note: The actual family picture came out pretty ghastly, despite everyone’s best efforts. You don’t want to see it. Imagine one happy princess surrounded by one disinterested kid, one miserable kid, and two fake smiling parents who look like extras in Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun video. Just terrible. Don’t worry.  I’m sure you’d have better luck getting a nice shot than we did.

Eventually, it was showtime, and we made our way to our seats. Front row center, in the red and yellow section. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our server, err, I mean, serf. Throughout the evening, he did an awesome job in keeping the drinks and food flowing. The four course dinner consisted of garlic bread, tomato bisque, roasted potato, cob of corn, a big piece of oven-roasted chicken (or, as the serf told B, much to his disgust, dragon meat), and a butter tart for dessert. All of  this was eaten like in medieval times – with your bare hands (if those hands happen to be little, though, like B and J’s, cutlery is available!). The food was tasty and filling.  Both kids ate a decent amount, and I was happy to see our serf come by, unsolicted, with takeout containers at the end of the meal, for leftovers.

Now the show itself. Without getting into all of the details, let’s just say that it is pretty entertaining. The arena is broken up by colours, and each colour has a knight to represent them. As an added touch, on the way in, all of us peasants were given a paper crown to rock, with the colour of it corresponding to the section we were in.

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Our knight, holding things down for our section.

Throughout the evening, the knights engaged in different competitions. Many were on horseback, but the final fights were on foot. B and had a blast cheering on the knight reppin’ our section, red and yellow. J, as expected, had a blast watching the horsies.

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With all of the cheering, music and flashing lights, the atmosphere was crazy. Just a lively, raucous environment, especially during the final battles.

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FINISH HIM!

In between the competitions, there were other aspects of the show, too, like a story involving some bad dude who wanted to capture the princess, as well as a performance from the Royal Falconer (the breeze of the falcon whizzing past my head knocked my crown off!).  Because of how well the show was paced, B and J were riveted the whole time. This kept the usual bickering/complaining/silliness to a minimum, which was rare and awesome. Much to their delight, too, our knight was the overall winner!

All in all, the evening was a success. Before the show was even over,  B and J were both asking  us when we were coming back! The four of us had a lot of fun, and the time flew by. For not knowing much about Medieval Times going into it, I was very impressed. For what it’s worth, I recommend it as something for families of all ages to check out sometime, if you’ve never been before.

One other highlight of the evening was when the red and yellow knight was throwing flowers into the audience. You know when you go to a sporting event, and during a break, they do a t-shirt toss giveaway? Everyone in the crowd jump ups and yells for a t-shirt, but it never actually gets tossed to you? It was like that…….except B and J actually got tossed a flower! They agreed to share it, of course.

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Flower power!

Speaking of giveaways, one lucky reader is going to get hooked up, too. Medieval Times Toronto is going to give one of you four general admission tickets! Enter below.

DATES –  Giveaway closes at 11:00PM on June 30, 2015.

ELIGIBILITY – Open to all residents of Canada, except for Quebec. Tickets are valid until September 1, 2015.

Unaffiliated Product Review – LG G3 Phone!

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When I was in the market for a new cell phone a while ago, I did a lot of research. My last phone was OK, but I realized later that I had much better options available. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.  After much thought, I finally settled on an LG G3 Smartphone. 

Now, without getting into all the specs and stuff, the phone is pretty sweet. There is one thing, though, that I neglected to look into, among all of my research – what happens if your small children get a hold of the phone? I don’t know about you, but my kids are always fiddling with various electronic devices, usually to negative results ( ie. Hmm. That’s weird. I thought I taped Better Call Saul last night. Where’d it go? And why did someone record two minutes of an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?).   Here’s what you’re probably wondering, then: just how “kid-proof” and ‘”parent-friendly” is the LG G3 phone?

Excellent question, you brilliant reader. I’ll try to answer.

Here’s my UNAFFILIATED PRODUCT REVIEW!

PROS:

 Durability

B does this thing, where he’ll steal my phone, and take off with it, which causes me to chase after him. When I catch up to him, he panics and drops it. Haha. Hoho #Boyswillbeboys. So far, my LG G3 has survived numerous drops on carpeted and tile floors, without a dent.

Taking Good Selfies is Easy

B and J are fans of the selfie, both in taking them, as well as looking at them.  The LG G3 has this feature where if you hold your hand out in front of the screen and then make a fist, it sets off a timer. This allows you a few seconds to adjust the camera and get into your pose, prior to the shot being snapped. Once I got the hang of it, taking the perfect selfie couldn’t be easier. It even works with two hyperactive kids. Check it out!

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That’s not a a very good picture.

 

Bad example. Alrighty, here we go!

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This one’s even worse! None of you are ready for the shot.

Never mind. Let’s just move on.

I Can Lock My Kids Out Of It

I’ve lost track of the number of times that K has come to me, complaining that B or J got into her phone, and deleted a bunch of stuff. The problem is the security feature. It is just a password, which B and J, against all statistical probability, have somehow figured out. With the LG G3 phone, however,  I’ve set it up so that my security feature is a custom series of knocks. You can’t unlock my phone unless you know the way to tap the screen. This has totally thrown B and J for a loop. I remember one time, when I couldn’t find my phone. Eventually, I found J with it, in a closet, sadly mashing the screen, to no avail. My fantasy baseball team super important personal information is safe from curious children.

 

CONS:

 It Doesn’t Take Pictures On It’s Own,  Of Stuff That Might Be Useful Later

I had this conversation with J recently, driving home one night, discussing the happenings of that day:

Me: And then I had pizza for lunch.

J (laughs hysterically)

Me: Whats so funny?

J: You don’t have lunch at work!

Me: Yes I do. Everyday!

J (silence for a few seconds while she thinks)

Then:

J: Can you show me?

Me: Show you what?

J: Show me you eating pizza.

Me: Uh….

J: On your phone. Show me a picture of you eating pizza.

Me: I didn’t take a picture.

J: Why?

Me: I….don’t usually take pictures of me eating.

J ( while laughing hysterically): You’re tricking me! You don’t eat lunch at work!

And that was that. Without physical evidence, I could not prove my case.  If only I had a picture. Unfortunately, The LG G3 phone lacks the ability to randomly snap shots without your involvement. It should know what future arguments you are going to have, and act accordingly. Maybe the new  LG G4 has this feature.

No Magic? What’s Up Wit’ Dat?

One day, I asked J what she wanted for breakfast one morning, She said cereal. Perfect! Nice and easy. I then asked her what kind she wanted and listed off the options in the pantry.

Her choice?

Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Which I didn’t list, because we didn’t have it.

Her reaction to this? She dropped to the ground and cried uncontrollably. After a few minutes, she stopped sobbing and blubbered “Check it on your phone.” Needless to say, the fact that my  phone was not able to save the day and magically pull a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of the air was pretty disappointing. Step your game up, LG.

It Can’t Travel Back In Time

On another occasion while driving home with J, the conversation turned to my favorite stuffed animal when I was her age (three). After I told her a bit about Mr. Wrinkles The Stuffed Dog, she casually asked to see him on my phone. I casually said that wasn’t possible, and she causally got ticked off.  This is another drawback. The LG G3 phone can’t go back in the past to document every important event in your life. Sorry, McFly, reliving memories is not just a click away. I’m pretty sure Apple is working on an iPhone which is able to time travel, though.

Time travel? There's an app for that.

Time travel? There’s an app for that.

 

CONCLUSION

The LG G3 does a lot of stuff well. However, for a smartphone, it really isn’t that smart.

Well...no, I guess not.

I don’t know. I’m really not qualified to be reviewing phones. There are a million better places to turn to, for that kind of advice.

That’s all that I got. Before I go,  let’s try one more selfie!

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How many times have you tried to do this? And this is your best shot?

 

Meh. Whatever.

It’s good enough.

Review – WWE Live!

Some high flying in-ring action

Some high flying in-ring action

 

As I’ve noted before on this site, my son is a big fan of World Wrestling Entertainment.  On May 2, the WWE Live tour came to Hamilton, and, courtesy of two tickets from the WWE, we were able to attend the event!

In the weeks leading up to the show, to say that B was excited was an understatement. This was his first time seeing it live, and he was pumped to see a bunch of Superstars in person.  Not going to lie, though. As a parent, I was a bit nervous. I had been to live shows in the past, and it wasn’t the most family friendly environment. Now granted, this was years ago, before the shift to the more PG rated product that B was familiar with. I did do some online research beforehand, as well, and the general opinion seemed to be positive, in terms of taking small children. So off B and I went!

The first thing that I noticed, when we got to our seats, was that there were a TON of families with little kids in attendance. Almost all of them had merchandise and/or signs, supporting their favorite Superstars.

Me being old school, I had decided to rock a Mr. Perfect shirt to the show:

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No. No I am not perfect.

And B being new school, he decided to rock a bunch or random wrestling stuff, along with a shirt of his favorite wrestler, Kofi Kingston:

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The second thing which I noticed was that letting B pick cotton candy as a treat probably wasn’t the best idea, as he devoured it within minutes.

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Uh, can you say sugar rush?

The show started with Bad News Barrett’s entrance music filling the FirstOntario Centre. When he came strutting out, B hopped out of his seat and booed him, along with most of the other fans. Wrestling is all about good versus bad.  The babyfaces and the heels. B gravitates to the nice guys and girls. Through the whole night, I could tell that he had a blast cheering all of them on to victory. The atmosphere really was bananas, too. Thousands of people just losing their minds at the performers. It really wasn’t that hard to get caught up in the excitement!

My concern about the family friendliness also turned out to not be too big of a deal. In our section, someone did let a profanity slip once, but I heard him be quickly admonished for it (because there were kids around). From then on, “Kick his butt!” or “So and so sucks!” was the extent of the bad language.

Speaking of sucking, let’s go back to the aforementioned Kofi Kingston. B loves him, mainly because of the fact that he has always been a good guy. Recently, though, Kofi started a team with two other wrestlers called the New Day. They’re basically three happy-go-lucky guys who fans should cheer……but they don’t. So basically, Kofi’s character is a good guy who people boo. As a result,the New Day are slowly turning into bad guys.

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New Day, in action.

As luck would have it, the New Day actually wrestled at the show! B instantly recognized the first chords of their entrance music, and started freaking out when they entered the arena. This made me freak out, too. We were the only freaks, unfortunately. They got booed lustily by everyone else, and pounded with ‘New Day sucks!’ chants, throughout their match. Our feeble attempts to start a ‘New Day rocks!’ chant fell on deaf ears. The highlight/lowlight was B hopping onto his chair, to yell “New Day does not suck! They rock!” (don’t worry, I did pull him down, and told him not use the word suck).  New Day lost the match, but still walked out with their tag team championship belts, which thrilled B. He got to see his fav wrestler in person, who left with his gold title, to our cheers. Sweet!

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New Day’s opponents that night, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd, celebrating like nobody’s business.

All in all, the show was about two and half hours, but it flew by. In terms of the Squirm Test (how I tell if my kids are feeling something, based on how much they squirm), it was a success. B was on the edge of his seat the whole time. The only time he started to get fidgety was during the last match, a wild brawl  between Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper, which went all around the ring, and had them putting each through tables. B was getting pretty tired by that point, so I don’t blame him for getting restless.

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One sleepy looking lil man, on our way out.

One final note – man, some of these wrestlers are huuuge. TV doesn’t do them justice. The fact that dudes that large can pull off the athletic stunts that they do is pretty incredible.

Thanks again, WWE, for the hookup. Sports entertainment at its finest. Great night at the fights!

 

 

 

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