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In Health, Parenting, Random Thoughts, Working Mama on
April 27, 2019

Get Outside and Walk

Walk anyone?

We recently shared a blog about Edmonton’s River Valley being the best running spot in Canada.

Now, maybe you don’t run but what about a walk?

I’ve been making a habit of going for a walk with a friend every weekend I can. Alberta is an hiking, walking, running playground. We’ve even got some suggestions for you here.

Here’s why I head outside – with a friend!

  • Ummm nature is beautiful.
  • Sunshine and fresh air are good for you!
  • Exercise! Walking will lower your risk of heart disease and stroke – Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada  
  • I sleep better – probably both the fresh air and the exercise!
  • It’s FREE….well, we do usually buy a cup of joe to take with us.
  • It is good for my emotional well being. We spend the whole time talking, venting, catching up – it feels like a form of therapy.

Read more

In From the Editors, Parenting on
July 25, 2017

Why I Let My 5 Year Old Play With Tools and Knives

I consistently let both kids (5&8 years old) use real tools and knives. I believe there is a time and place for plastic toy versions of both of course. Like when you want to get a picture of your son dressed as Stitch cutting vegetables for supper and you need both hands to use your camera and his knife skills aren’t quite there yet.

Using knives

Cutting up peppers for supper

But for the most part they use real knives when helping to make food. My 5yr old cut the peppers for supper last night and as soon as my husband walked through the door he wanted to show off what he accomplished. He was so proud and I even got him to eat some which was an added bonus! They also use real hammers, screwdrivers, nails, and saws.

We have rules about leaving your tools around and when they are able to use them but for the most part they are free to pick up a hammer, grab some nails, and start building! A great way to start them using tools is to get a piece of styrofoam (hardware stores sell them in sheets like the one pictured below for cheap!), some nails, screws, screwdrivers and hammers. They learn so much just by playing with these simple materials! I also picked up a pair of safety glasses from the Dollar Store because after seeing Grandpa at work he decided he needed to be safe too.

Using screwdrivers

The look of concentration!

Using a hammer

His favorite is the hammer

There are so many benefits of letting your kids play with tools:

  • building confidence & familiarity with tools
  • fine motor skills
  • gross motor skills
  • shape recognition
  • sense of responsibility by making sure tools are taken care of properly and not left outside
  • develops their imagination (what can we build? What materials should we use?)
  • builds muscle
  • hand eye coordination
  • allows them to explore different textures

As the parent let them lead. They may not hold the hammer right or turn the screwdriver the right way but let them explore and play to figure it out. That is part of the fun!


In Explore on
July 12, 2017

Celebrate Parks Day with Alberta Parks!

The 3rd Saturday of July is Parks Day across Canada! The purpose of Parks Day is to encourage people to get out and explore nature around them. This is something that we can definitely get behind! There is nothing more soul reviving than connecting with nature, exploring the great outdoors and celebrating the amazing and pristine outdoor spaces that we are so lucky to have in Canada.

Alberta Parks across the province will be participating by hosting fun activities for the entire family! A few exciting events at some of the parks will be:

  • Special Interpretive Programs
  • Games
  • Face Painting
  • Demonstrations from Parks Staff
  • Horse Drawn Wagon Rides
  • BBQ Lunch
  • Face Painting
  • Sandcastle Competitions
  • Cake! It is Alberta Parks 85th Anniversary after all!

For all of the parks that are celebrating, along with what activities and times you can expect the events click here!

Will you be attending an event this Saturday to celebrate Parks Day?

Every Day Girl

In Explore, Rocky Mountains on
June 10, 2017

Hiking Braggin Rights in K-Country

by Sue Em, 
This year, we decided to kick off our 2017 hiking season in Kananaskis Country close to Bragg Creek. It is sometimes harder to know which hikes are appropriate for our family. We have an adventurous pre-teen and a six-year-old who is just gaining his hiking mojo. Getting a hike ‘just right’ in ability can be a little bit challenging. Sometimes we nail it, sometimes we don’t.
Our first hike this season, Braggin Rights was a challenging choice, to say the least! We chose to take Braggin Rights all the way up to Reconnect and down the loop via Long Distance. There were some fun switchbacks at the end of Long Distance, but they were largely downhill so, it kept the trail interesting enough for us.
Starting at the trailhead, there were already a large number of bicycles who were taking the same route, many families and adults use these trails so be aware of the bicycles coming down the hill above you.
The first part of the trail was largely between trees, and there wasn’t much of a view to be had. But as the trail twisted and turned, there were clearings and views to behold.
The spring flowers were already in full bloom so we had fun checking out some of the pretty purples and pinks that peeked out of the ground all around the trail.
When we finally got to the summit, it was a little disappointing only because we were still surrounded by trees all around us so the view, was only so-so. Everyone felt it was time to refresh with a quick snack before our descent.
Braggin’ Rights and Long Distance Trails were definitely a great workout for our winter feet, but I don’t think this would be a hike for us to repeat. The ‘payoff’ was not as big as a hike like Grassi Lakes or Grotto Canyon, but a good way to get to know the different parts of our hills here in Alberta’s K-Country.
After our hike, these hungry bears needed to eat something delicious – and Bragg Creek’s Italian Farmhouse was our first choice. We were looking forward to trying some good pasta and the restaurant did not disappoint!
Children enjoyed the Pizza and Meatballs pasta that were on the kids’ menu – and the grown-ups had a splendid time with some more pasta and chicken Caesar salad!

Sue Em writes because she loves words. Her blog is where she writes about all sorts of interests including crafting, books, writing, hiking, and food. Sometimes it is an opportunity for her to write about herself in the third person. Sue is a mama originally from Singapore who now calls Calgary, Alberta home. She enjoys life as a busy person who loves wearing many ‘hats’ – educator, homemaker, chef, maker, artist, traveler, and mom. You can also find her on Instagram @missusemIn real life, you can sometimes find her in Calgary working as a presenter and facilitator at the Telus Spark Science Centre. Because yes, she loves science too.

In Calgary, Central Alberta, Rural Journeys on
May 30, 2017

Granary Road – A Must See This Summer

This weekend we had the privilege of touring Granary Road located minutes outside of Calgary. The same people that brought you Jurassic Forest North of Edmonton have created an incredible destination for families to enjoy all year round. We visited before the landscaping was done so please note that in any picture we post there will be some changes and the ground will be covered with mulch in the play areas.

The Market at Granary Road

When you first pull up you see a beautiful building that will house The Kitchen Restaurant & Bakery, which will have fast-casual food during the day and will transition into a more sophisticated menu during the evening, as well as The Market. The restaurants will be using produce grown in the huge greenhouses that sit beside it making it the freshest it can possibly be. Your lettuce will never be in a truck and transported! You cannot get fresher than that.

The Mezzanine area offers spectacular views of rolling hills, farmers fields and the active learning park. The vaulted ceiling, hardwood walls, windows everywhere and iron trusses create the perfect atmosphere for enjoying a meal or wandering the market which will run year round Thursday to Sunday.

The market vendors have been hand picked and include:

  • Produce from their on site greenhouse
  • Award-winning Butcher Shop
  • Artisan Cheese and Sausage
  • Handcrafted home goods and women’s accessories
  • Pizza and pastas fresh out of a stone oven
  • World-Class Chocolatier and Decorative Cake Baker
  • Hand Scooped Old School Ice Cream,
  • Fresh mini donuts and salty nut snacks
  • Top Shelf Wine Shop

The Active Learning Park

Just outside The Market is three kilometers of trails that lead the kids through 11 exhibits with themed activities at each stop. These areas are developed by a team that includes Calgary teachers to ensure that the content is aligned with Alberta Education’s Program of Studies for science so the kids will be learning through play! Each play area has something for all ages making this an easy place to visit with a group of kids. Trust us when we say you need to plan to spend a full day here.

The pictures speak for themselves for how much time was spent making each exhibit an incredible place for kids to explore. For more details on each play area you can see a full map and description here. My kids loved the Ant Farm Adventure, Bat Cave Hangout (there will be a Blind-As-A-Bat Echolocation Maze where participants will put on a helmet with sensors.This lets kids feel what echolocation is like!), Orchard Tree House, and Arachnid Web (mostly because the giant spiders were VERY life like and freaked me out quite a bit!)


There is also a petting zoo, Mushroom Meander, Wetlands Discovery, Chicken Coop (yes there will be real chickens who apparently love to go on swings!), and a Frog Pond with in ground lily pad trampolines.


Kids 3-14: $14.00 + GST

Adults 15+: $17.00 + GST

Seniors 60+: $15.00 + GST

Families are welcome to bring their own food, bathrooms will be easily found within the park, and paths are wide enough to accommodate strollers. They have put a huge emphasis on creating a space that is affordable for families, a place that you can visit again and again, and a safe area that will encourage kids to get out and play.

Box Social Event Planning

In Lifestyle, Parenting on
May 8, 2017

How technology can get your kids outside

By  Alisa Taylor

Albertans are celebrating the end of a long winter’s nap and relishing this much deserved warm weather. The chirping birds and sprouting buds may be enough for parents to get outside and into nature but the same can’t always be said for our kids. Prying their hands from their beloved devices to enjoy a walk in the river valley or help plant the garden can be like taking away a Mom’s first cup of coffee in the morning. Not likely going to happen.

It is well documented that nature reduces levels of stress and anxiety and improves mood and creativity. One study linked spending time in a forest setting to an increased expression of anti-cancer proteins which lasted 7 days post forest walk. Fortunately, technology can assist us once again in providing our kids their daily dose of sunshine. Utilizing an app or becoming creative with what motivates your child can get them out counting lady bugs or ripping up the trails.

Here are some tech-inspired ideas to reinvigorate your child’s love for the great outdoors:

  1. Geocaching – there is no shortage of geocaches hidden all over our province ranging from easy, kid-friendly caches to challenging, complex, where-am-I-going caches. The excitement in the search and finding the treasure is sure to draw out the most reluctant You Tuber.
  2. Photography – the number of picture enhancing apps and fun photo filters available can inspire the youngest of photographers. Encourage your child to appreciate and capture on screen the smallest creatures in nature or notice the beauty in a single water droplet left hanging on a leaf.
  3.  Scavenger Hunts – suitable for older kids who can be on their own, parents can set up a scavenger hunt around the neighbourhood or on the trails. Perhaps the last clue will lead to the home wi-fi or iTunes password that was just changed.
  4. Go-Pro – creating content via video and sharing that content is immensely popular with kids. Attaching a go-pro or similar device to their bike helmet or scooter can bring out their adventurous and creative sides. Plus, the excitement in watching and editing their self-made videos may spark further outdoor creativity.
  5. Bird watching – the river valley is a haven for our feathered friends. Did you know the great horned owl is Alberta’s provincial bird and they are right here in our YEG river valley? Download a bird watching app like Peterson Bird Identifier & Field Guide and see how many chirpers your kids can identify.

“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength” – Maria Montessori

Alisa is a former Criminal Intelligence Analyst and has worked in law enforcement for the last 15 years. She is passionate about keeping kids safe and kind online and ensuring they thrive in our digital world. When Alisa isn’t online, you might spot her in the YEG river valley with her dogs, husband, and daughter or escaping the city for a weekend of camping.  You can follow Alisa on her blog The Lotus Page as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

In Explore, Rural Journeys on
April 29, 2017

Head East of YEG!

By Allison Hopkins

Take a day trip east of Edmonton to explore two unique Alberta treasures; Elk Island National Park and Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.

Stop at the visitor centre to pick up a map of Elk Island including a list of trails. With three trails under 4 km and a 300m living waters boardwalk the park offers family friendly hiking. Play at the sandy beach and playground of Astonin Lake, swimming is not recommended due to swimmer’s itch. Paddle in Astonin Lake by bringing your own canoe, kayak or paddle board or renting from Astonin Lake Recreation area. Don’t forget to drive down Bison Loop Road and stop to watch the Bison!

  • FREE park admission to Elk Island National Park to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.
  • Enjoy an ice cream at the Elk Island Golf Course or a picnic with fire pits at one of the four picnic areas (wood provided).
  • Pick up a discovery kit in July and August from the Astonin theatre located next to the playground including a geocache kit, pond discover kit and a backpack kit.
  • Check out a park program in July and August including Bison Backstage on Saturdays and Sunday 1 p.m. & 3 p.m. Pre-register at the visitor centre.
  • Haskin Canoe rents canoes, kayaks or standup paddlebaords; check webpage for operating hours.

After visiting Elk Island National Park take a short drive to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and walk around the open air museum. With thirty-five restored and relocated buildings including churches, a school house, grain elevator and blacksmith shop to explore.

  • Kids 6 and under are free admission! Family of four is forty dollars or FREE with Experience Alberta History Annual Pass.
  • Bring along rubber boots if it has rained lately as the paths can get muddy.
  • Pack a stroller or wagon to help those little feet explore the area.
  • Be aware only water is allowed in the village.
  • Picnic tables and fire pits (no wood provided) along with a food concession offering Ukrainian food (summer only) are located before the entrance to the village.
  • FREE wagon rides Thursday to Monday during summer months.
  • Opening day Saturday of the May long weekend.

Check out the webpage for special events like Ukrainian Day and Harvest of the Past Day. As the Ukrainian Village is a seasonal attraction and some services at Elk Island National Park are also seasonal, please always check their websites before heading out!

Allison Hopkins is a tea loving, wannabe blogger, passionate planner of adventures and crappy house cleaner of 2.