Our Review of Island Grand by TradeWinds Resorts in St Pete Beach

This month our family had the pleasure of heading to Florida for a much needed holiday. We spent part of our trip at Walt Disney World after which we headed further south to the lovely community of St Pete Beach to enjoy some sun and sand.  St Pete Beach has many different accommodation choices, we chose to stay at the Island Grand by TradeWinds Resorts which happens to be smack dab on one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. In an earlier blog post I’ve written all about why we chose the Island Grand, head over to read it HERE.

Photo: TradewindsResort.com

Photo: TradeWindsResort.com

Today’s article is all about  our experience, we fell utterly in love with St Pete Beach and the Island Grand and I can only hope to be able to reflect why. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, sit back and get comfy because this could take a while. The resort is jammed with activities and amenities worthy of telling you about.

Arrival

Arriving at Island Grand we were excited and probably very chatty as we drove up to the gate house. There a friendly man greeted us, checked our names against a list of incoming guests and guided us to the front entrance. As we pulled up near the front door a staff member immediately appeared, greeted us and began joking with the kids. He called over a porter who loaded our bags onto a cart and we headed to the reception desk. Check in was simple, the staff is courteous and thankfully wrote down any and everything we needed to know. This is a large resort so I was thankful for the reception clerk’s notes on the map in the upcoming days.

Our Room at Island Grand by TradeWinds Resorts

Island Grand has 13 different accommodation choices to suite the needs of it’s guests. From your standard hotel room to pet friendly suites you can almost find a room which would suit anyone’s tastes. We stayed in a Tropical One Bedroom Suite which was perfect for our family, it actually surpassed any expectations we had.

Our suite was recently renovated, as we opened the door we immediately found ourselves in the bedroom which was decorated in warm, inviting tones. Each of the queen beds had mattresses which were of excellent quality and provided the perfect amount of support for my bad back. The beds were made with soft linens, a light coverlet and extra bedding was available in the event we needed it.

There was one dresser in the room, along with a full sized closet and one side table which had space for storage. There was a TV in the room which made separating the girls for down time simple, one in the living room and one in the bedroom = everyone happy.

Tradewinds Island Grand Bedroom

At the far end of the bedroom there is a solid door which lead to a hallway. This door allows the bedroom to remain a quiet zone when other family members were talking or watching TV in the living space, further into the suite. Passing through that door you find yourself in a hallway with the doorway to the bathroom on your left.

The bathroom was also recently renovated and we really liked the warm tones chosen. The counters are granite, the towels fluffy and absorbent, the bath products left to use are of higher quality and the space was spotless. The counter space was something which impressed me, far too often we see hotels skimping and it ends up being a hassle to organize all of the products our family needs available. Not an issue here.

Tradewinds Island Grand Bathroom

Leaving the bathroom you continue down a bright hall a few steps and find yourself in the living space. The far wall is completely windows and right now I’m resisting the urge to share the VIEW with you and stay on program describing the living room and kitchen…sigh just like when we were there the view is drawing me in.

This suite has a kitchen which suited our needs. There are all the amenities from home one would need to serve meals as preferred.  There is a microwave, cooktop, toaster, coffee maker, fridge and all the plates, glasses and utensils one would expect. There is also a mini-bar stocked with beverages and snacks which runs on an automated system. The moment you remove something from the mini-fridge it’s billed to your account, this is important to note…worthy of a family meeting to explain to the children.

We had a rental car so it was simple to load up on groceries, we made sure to keep the fridge stocked with water and other drink/snack choices for our days on the beach or poolside.

Tradewinds Island Grand Kitchen

The living room was large enough for all four of us to chill out in together. The couch pulls out into a double bed which surprisingly the kids didn’t insist upon using…guess those beds were just too comfy to resist. With a wall of windows overlooking the beach, the room was consistently bright and fresh feeling.

Tradewinds Island Grand Living Room 2

Tradewinds Island Grand Living room

Here we go…onto the view!

This suite comes with a balcony, it’s narrow but one hardly notices because there are cute little chairs and the VIEW simply captures you. This was a feature of the room which my husband and I especially enjoyed. At night once the kids were sleeping, we’d sit here and enjoy time alone. It’s time which is precious to us as a married couple and as we celebrated our 11th anniversary on that balcony, it’s time we won’t forget.

Tradewinds resort view

Tradewinds Island Grand View

One morning as I sat quietly enjoying the view, Chelsea came out, leaned on the balcony rail and asked “Does every kid in the United States wake up to this mama?”…sigh, she’s so adorable.

tradewinds island grand view in morning

Activities at Island Grand by Tradewinds Resorts

There are simply too many activities for children at Island Grand for me to list. I’m going to choose a few of our favourites to feature here but please do head to their website to see a full list.

There are 7 heated pools within walking distance at TradeWinds which again are designed to suit the needs of everyone. We spent most of our time in one of the deeper pools which also had a toddler pool, perfect for those families with little ones. Right next to this pool is the children’s activity centre “Konk” which holds daily activities for a fee. You can also enrol your child in different supervised programs in Konk if you’d like some time alone with your spouse.

tradewinds pool

The beach front pool is flanked by a restaurant, the adventure centre (where you get free towels and pool/beach toys are available to purchase) and has quick access to the beach. It’s also a lovely spot to relax in the sun on a windy day when the beach winds were a bit too much.

tradewinds beach side pool

Our kids managed to make fast friends with another family during our stay and these kids were enamoured by the meandering river which winds its way under bridges around the resort. They were chuffed when they found out there are FREE paddle boats which they could take out. I’m not sure the lovely swans in the river were quiet ready for this bunch!

paddleboats tradewinds

Who knew that ping-pong would be such a draw for our eldest daughter? Apparently she has a VERY competitive streak (like her Mum) and insisted on daily ping-pong matches with my husband and anyone else who happened to walk by. This was some old fashioned fun which was hilarious to watch….we may have lost some ping pong balls in the river…

tradewinds island grand ping pong

Each day there is something scheduled for the children, from poolside game invasions to campfires our kids were keeping track and having a BLAST! It was a pleasure to be able to attend the activities without ever having to leave the resort to do something different.

Tradewinds Island Grand fire

Food & Drink

When travelling to a resort for a holiday, we often find ourselves bored with the food and drink choices after a few days. This simply didn’t happen at the Island Grand. Between our own meals which we made in our suite and the restaurant choices available we found a variety of foods which was more than acceptable. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet, a pizza party and even some fine dining!

tradewinds food

How could I possibly be on a trip without a Mocktail? There are some fabulous choices available for non-drinkers…like this beauty!

tradewinds island grand mocktail

The Beach

I could easily write an entire article based solely upon the experiences our family had on the beach, honestly it’s left me with such deep-rooted feelings that I am transported back there by simply looking at the photos. Sigh, its white sand, the breeze, the feeling of the sun on my skin…it’s all coming back to me as I light the fireplace here in the ‘burbs.

With your resort amenity fee you are granted access to many things, including these gorgeous cabanas. You simply sign yours out for the day and you can come and go as you like. From the cabana you can order yourselves food and drink whenever you’d like, simply scan a barcode located on the cabana table and you can use the FREE wifi to place your order which will be brought to you beachside. How awesome is that!

tradewinds island grand cabana

The kids simply aren’t going to lounge on the beach all day, thankfully there are games and of course the massive High Tide Water Slide for them to enjoy! This was a hit with my children and even my husband….and I managed to capture some of it on film…

From sun up to sundown we were drawn to the beach, in the evening when the tide came in we found jellyfish along the beach which lead to some learning opportunities with the girls.

tradewinds jellyfish

There were also dolphins which we were able to see both from the beach and our balcony, talk about a sense of awe watching them emerge and play. Unfortunately I didn’t even think to grab my camera with the zoom lens but I did manage to capture this one from our balcony, you can just see the dolphin diving.

dolphin

Now I’ll share some of the amazing images from among the hundreds I snapped during our beach time…

Island Grand by tradewinds resort beach family

Island Grand by tradewinds beach with kids

island grand by tradewinds resort beach

Final Thoughts

Our trip to Island Grand by TradeWinds Resorts in St Pete Beach far surpassed any expectations we may have had. The staff are friendly, professional and courteous, the grounds are well thought-out and maintained. Each day we discovered something new to enjoy and this goes down as one of our BEST family trips in history!

You can find out more by connecting with TradeWinds Resorts on Facebook, Twitter or by visiting their website.

 

Disclosure: We were provided our accommodations in return for sharing our honest opinion.

Chicken Soup Kicked Up a Notch & a Giveaway! #ChickenDotCa

At this time of year I feel like I’m cold almost all day. There’s no real reason for it, yes the temperature outside is dropping but to my husband’s dismay I’ve turned on the heat. Wether it’s a psychosomatic thing or not I’m chilly and when I feel like this there’s nothing like soup to make me feel all warm and cosy. Funnily my family get bored of my chicken soup quickly… so I have to kick it up a notch and get going on come different flavours to make them love soup as much as I do.

When looking for healthy, delicious soups I often head over the the Chicken Farmers of Canada recipe page. Here you’ll find dishes that are super simple (a requirement for me) and a variety of flavours which will make even my picky eaters happy.

Broccoli, Potato & Chicken Soup

broccoli, potato & chicken soup

This easy, creamless soup looks big on effort but is not. Potatoes provide the soup with body and Emmental cheese lends its distinctive flavour. This makes a lot, and is perfect for company. It doesn’t require a lot of time to put together, and the delicious combination of broccoli, cheese, and chicken makes this recipe well worth a try!

Chicken Chilli with Pumpkin & Chocolate

chicken chilli with pumpkin and chocolate

Chili loves pumpkin and chocolate! Use these fun ingredients to help revitalize an old favourite. The pumpkin adds fibre and body while the chocolate and cocoa powder blend in creating rich, smooth flavour. Make this quick, warming dish with lean ground chicken to hit the spot on a cold day.

These are just a few of the recipes I’ve Pinned to try. Go check out the site, there are some tasty looking Crockpot recipes as well!

Easiest Ever Southwestern Dinner

southwest chicken dinner

The ideal weekday slow cooker recipe – one that can be put together in minutes with extremely flavorful results that appeal to all ages. This recipe fits the bill on all points. Try it once, chances are you have everything you need right now, and this recipe will become a constant in your repertoire.

Velvet Chicken & Corn Soup

corn and chicken soup

This silky soup comes together very easily, thanks to your slow cooker. Aromatic ginger infuses this Chinese-inspired soup with loads of flavour. A finishing touch of tamari, an aged soy sauce, brings all the flavours together into one comforting chicken soup.

These are just a few of the recipes they have listed which I’m going to try out. Are you like me, please tell me you’re feeling the cold these days and suddenly crave soups like a mad woman? or man?

GIVEAWAY ALERT

The fine folks at Chicken Farmers of Canada have provided me with a lovely prize for you soup lovers! One Canadian reader will win this set of bowls and a thermos (which is amazing, I have one and it’s wicked good).

SONY DSC

To enter simply fill in the Rafflecopter form below, winner will be drawn on November 8th and have 48 hours to respond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I am participating in the Chicken Farmers of Canada campaign by ShesConnected. I received compensation in exchange for my participation in this campaign. The opinions on this blog are my own.”

Play CAA's Game of Life to WIN #CAAGOL

It’s back! CAA had such great success with last year’s Game of Life that they’ve brought it back and they’ve amped up it up.

game-of-life

 

 

Game of Life 2013

This year they’re still offering a fun game but it’s BETTER!

  • Over 2,700 daily prizes to give away! Valued at over $200 each.
  • Bonus entries! Play games within the Game of Life to earn more entries
  • Mobile gaming! This year you can play on the go, grab your phone or tablet and you can play when not at a desktop.
  • Choose 1 of 3 trips for the Grand Prize; a Polynesian Escape, Florida Family Fun or Danube River Cruise.

 

How to Play the Game of Life

Setting up your profile to play is super-simple!

Register to Play the Game of Life by clicking HERE

20130924120110-GameBoard_Example

  • Begin by logging in, each player begins with $2000 game dollars.
  • You can use game dollars to purchase a game CAA membership which provides you with opportunities to move through the game with fewer bumps in the road.
  • Spin the wheel to make your move. You may gain or lose dollars, advance or go back on the board, win an instant prize or be entered into the Grand Prize if you happen upon an in-game challenge.
  • When your car arrives at the airport your game becomes an entry in the Grand Prize draw.
Looking to earn bonus entries? Try any or all of the following:
  • Share the contest on Facebook
  • Share all the Facts and Instant Prizes on Facebook
  • Tweet about the contest
  • Invite your friends to play and they register for the contest
  • Sign up to receive email communications and more information on CAA Magazine online and the CAA Member panel
  • Successfully complete a partner game play challenge
  • Share the CAA video

Grand Prizes

  • Polynesian Escape – 11-day trip for two people to French Polynesia (Papeete, Moorea and Bora Bora) valued at $10,000 CAD
  • Florida Family Fun – 8-day trip for four people to Orlando theme parks valued at $9,000 CAD
  • Danube River Cruise – 11-day escape for two people from Prague to Budapest valued at $10,000 CAD

Who wouldn’t want to WIN these amazing prizes? Good Luck friends, I’ll be playing right along with you!

 

CAA South Central Ontario is a not-for-profit auto club which also offers travel dealshome insurancetravel insurance and auto insurance. There are more than 1.9 million CAA members in South Central Ontario and over 5.9 million members in Canada.

Big Family or Craving Quiet at Walt Disney World? The Cabins at Fort Wilderness has it all #DisneyHaunt

Travelling with our family of 4 should be a simple thing, a standard room fits a “normal” family of our size easily and it should be a no brainer right? Not so much for our little crew I’m afraid. We just don’t fit into that little box and only realized this by trial and error. We have 2 very different girls who are 7 and 9, we knew this before ever booking a hotel room for the night but we had NO idea how different their sleeping needs are until we were stuck in hotel room at bedtime with one yelling at the other to be QUIET!

You see we have one daughter who chatters herself to sleep while the other seeks utter silence and darkness to drift off to slumber. This has proven to be a HUGE challenge in the past when we’ve had to share accommodations, to the point where we now book rooms which allow them to sleep apart. These little darlings also need downtime, the ability to decompress from the events of the day and to clear their little brains of sights, sounds and just relax.

We recently had the pleasure of being invited to Walt Disney World by Disney Canada to experience #DisneyHaunt. Walt Disney World is one of our favourite vacation spots which I’ve written about in a number of articles which you can find HERE. Cabins at Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World really hit the mark for our family’s accommodation needs, let me show you in more detail..

Fort Wilderness Cabins

With over 750 acres of forested property, Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort and campground truly makes you feel like you’re escaping the hustle and bustle. Our little cabin set the tone immediately, it was rustic and cozy.

The Cabins

Disney Fort Wilderness Cabin Outside

Chelsea presenting our cabin!

Each cabin is well thought-out, with your own driveway you are assured space for your vehicle which you may want as this resort is quite remote. There is a bus system within the resort but it can take up to 20 mins for a bus to arrive and get you to the point where you transfer to the outer Disney buses to the theme parks. This may not matter to many people, but it’s nice to have the parking available for those who choose to rent a vehicle.

The cabins also have their own decks, we enjoyed this as it was another space for us to rest and enjoy watching the creatures walk through the forest. One evening while sitting on the deck with my husband we had an armadillo walk past our deck which I can honestly say was a first for us.

Disney Fort Wilderness Cabin

The cabin interior

Walking into the cabin you’re greeted with vaulted ceilings, a full kitchen, sleeping accommodations for 6 and a full bathroom. There is daily housekeeping and they even do your dishes! If you don’t feel like shopping you can easily phone over an order for groceries which will be delivered for a small fee.

The Murphy bed in the living room

The Murphy bed in the living room

Our cabin had a Murphy bed which we adored, it allowed us to separate the girls at bedtime and assured each a solid night’s sleep.

cabin at fort wilderness Kitchen

Fully Equipped Kitchen

The well appointed kitchen comes equipped with all of the tools and dish ware we needed. There is even an outdoor BBQ if you are the grilling type.

Fort Wilderness Cabin Bedroom

The Bedroom

The bedroom was lovely, it continued with the rustic flair and had adorable bunk beds, along with one for us adults! The mattresses were comfortable and provided good support for my bad back.

WildLife at Fort Wilderness

Over the entire property we were surrounded by nature and its inhabitants. We saw deer, rabbits, wild turkeys, armadillo, lizards, horses and more. The children especially loved chasing the lizards and even managed to catch a few…thankfully no lizards were harmed in the hunt.

Disney Fort Wilderness Turkey

Wild Turkeys Wandering

Disney Fort Wilderness Lizard Catching

Lizard Catching

Activities

At the Cabins at Fort Wilderness there are a variety of activities for everyone to enjoy. From the white sandy beach to checkers games to horse carriage rides you can find something for everyone.  There is the Meadow Swimmin’ Pool which features a corkscrew waterslide, whirlpool spa and kiddie pool or a fort-themed water play area with tot-friendly slides. Just down our cabin’s road there was a “quiet” pool which we enjoyed.

Disney Fort Wilderness Chess

Enjoying an intense checkers match

The resort has free wifi which you all know I used and loved. There is also TV in the cabin which the girls enjoyed later in the evenings.

If you’re a family who craves quiet time like ours or happen to have more than a few children, you really should check into staying at The Cabins at Fort Wilderness. It is a great option to regroup and rest after spending hectic days at the them parks. We highly recommend it and hope to return soon!

Disclosure: We were given our stay free of charge while attending #DisneyHaunt. All opinions are my own.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cups Recipe $400 Giveaway #EggItForward

Here in Ontario it’s Thanksgiving weekend which always gets me to thinking of the blessings in my life. As I take the time to truly reflect on my journey, I’m struck by the amazing opportunities, people and gifts I’ve been given. There were times in my life when I had much less, when my health failed, when finances were in the gutter…so many times when people would step in with a gesture of kindness which would change my negative perspective. I can remember right after my first daughter was born I found a homemade meal on my doorstep with a loving note from someone wishing us well. It probably the BEST meal we’ve ever eaten and reminded us that we had folks pulling for us.

With this in mind I’m so happy to have teamed up with This Lil Piglet to invite you all to #EggItForward to someone in your life. We are giving you a chance to win $250 towards your local food bank AND $150 Burnbrae Farms gift basket, including coupons. Details about this fantastic giveaway are at the bottom of the post…way below these delicious photos…oh and be sure to check out This Lil Piglet’s Turtle Pumpkin Cheesecake, you’ll thank me later.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cups Recipe

Strawberry Cheesecake Cups Recipe @SoberJuilie.com #EggItForward

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup  graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup  plus 2 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 3 Tbsp.  butter or margarine, melted
  • 3 pkg.  (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp.  vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam
  • 6 strawberries
  • 1/4 cup chocolate syrup

Preparation:

Begin by heating the oven to 325°F.

Mix the graham crumbs, 2 Tbsp. sugar and butter until they are well blended.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cup base

Now press the graham cracker mixture onto bottoms of 18 paper-lined muffin pan cups; I found it easy using an ice cream scoop.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cups Muffin tin

Set aside the muffin tins and beat cream cheese, remaining sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cups mixing

Now pour the cream cheese mixture over crusts in the muffin tins.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cups before baking

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until centers are almost set, then cool completely.

Spread evenly with 1/3 cup strawberry jam, (I was far too generous and ended up with very messy cheesecake cups), garnish with fresh strawberry halves and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cups Recipe @SoberJulie.com #EggItForward
Strawberry Cheesecake Cups
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Julie Elsdon-Height
Serves: 18
Lovely Strawberry Cheesecake cups which are perfect to take to gatherings.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
  • 3 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam
  • 6 strawberries
  • 1/4 cup chocolate syrup
Instructions
  1. HEAT oven to 325°F.
  2. MIX graham crumbs, 2 Tbsp. sugar and butter until blended; press onto bottoms of 18 paper-lined muffin pan cups.
  3. BEAT cream cheese, remaining sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crusts.
  4. BAKE 25 to 30 min. or until centers are almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 2 hours.
  5. Spread evenly with 1/3 cup strawberry jam. Garnish with fresh strawberry halves and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

#EggItForward Giveaway

#EGGITForward

One lucky Canadian winner will recieve a donation of $250 in their name to their local food bank AND a $150 Burnbrae Farms gift pack full of swag and coupons.

 

It’s simple to enter:

  1. Often food is used to show our appreciation. First tell me how you give thanks using eggs around Thanksgiving in the comments below.
  2. Pin one of the 2 finished Strawberry Cheesecake Cup images in this post to Pinterest.
  3. Mandatory Entry: Using Instagram via Twitter or simply Twitter, tweet your favourite recipe you use to #EggItForward and include another fellow Twitter pal. You can either tweet a picture of that recipe OR just tell us in a tweet using the hashtag #EggItForward using the following format:

For example: ” @BurnbraeFarms I would share my Strawberry Cheesecake Cups with @ThisLilPiglet #EggItForward “

Note: You can tweet directly on Twitter using a statement OR via Instagram through to Twitter using attaching a picture to your tweet. You can enter as many times as you want on Twitter BUT always use this format.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.

Sayin It Out Loud: I Like GOOD Toilet Paper! #LetsTalkBums

I know many of you are here because my title is just so far out there from the normal conversations we find ourselves having and you’re wondering if I’ve lost my mind. Frankly I know you all have preferences for toilet paper and today I’m going to be right out loud and tell you all what I think!

I HATE cheap, thin, rough toilet paper! There it is, I’m saying what many of us feel.

Whew it feels good to expect more and say that outright. So what is a girl to do when she is looking for bathroom tissues which she’ll actually appreciate? Well, I was sent some products from Cottonelle which have honestly changed my routine.

Cottonelle-logo

 

Cottonelle Wipes Get Thumbs Up

Having two daughters one may think that bum talk isn’t heard around out home…but one would be WRONG. There’s nothing like toilet humor or complaints to get the laughter going. My girls have both had the chance to try out the new Cottonelle Fresh Care Flushable Cleansing Cloths and officially give them the thumbs up.

I will spare you the entire conversation but my youngest says that they don’t leave bits of paper on her butt and my eldest likes that they’re smooth and don’t “bug” her bum.

Cottonelle Fresh Care Flushable Cleansing Cloths—Sleek New Dispenser

lets-talk-bums-cottonelle-canada-427x690

These wipes were designed to be used in conjunction with Cottonelle toilet paper. They really did leave us with clean feeling bums as advertised. My first question was about their impact on septic systems but they’ve been tested and meet the requirements of municipal  treatment so no worries there.

These wipes contain no alcohol, oil or soaps and the new sleek dispense is not only attractive but durable so it will last long enough to be refilled a few times.

Cottonelle Fresh Care Flushable Cleansing Cloths On-The-Go Soft Packs (10 count)

Cottonelle-Fresh-Care-Flushable-Cleansing-Cloths#LetsTalkBums Twitter Party

1380678_10151888735320813_245140133_n

Join us to chat about BUMS on October 17th at 8pm EST using the hashtag #LetsTalkBums. I can predict it will be a hilarious, fast moving party you won’t want to miss! There will also be some fabulous prizing from Cottonelle including party prizes of GC’s and a year supply of Cottonelle.

Hosts: @MyChaos, @SimplyStacie & @SoberJulie

For your chance to win, RSVP below and Please follow @Cottonelle and the party hosts. Then, jump on Twitter using the hashtag at 8pm EST on the 17th, don’t forget to use your Twitter handle url in the rsvp.



Celebrate Everyday Moments #OpaYopa

Assuming you’ve been reading SoberJulie.com for more than 5 minutes, you’ll probably know that I am a HUGE fan of celebrations. From Birthdays to Christmas I simply love the feeling when I’m looking forward to being together with my family to mark the occasion. These days I’ve extended that celebratory feeling to the little things in life.

The little victories matter in my life, with everyone being so busy and the challenges which feel like they’re around every corner I’ve learned that an attitude of gratitude can make a difference in how I experience life. If I’m busy running around looking for disaster, I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. When I’m able to look through life’s disappointments and still see the gifts, well now those are the true joyful moments.

Today my daughters were arguing, my body was in pain and yet I was able to feel some Florida sun on my face for a moment and breathe that lifeblood of humility and gratitude back into my body. “Let’s have a smoothie!” I yelled to the girls and off we went in search of a smoothie to celebrate the moment.

These days my celebrations don’t include booze, I look for heathy choices like one of my Mocktails or a treat that is actually healthy while being delicious.

52177882c5e36-GENE0000_FB_YOPA_TabPG_ENG2

 

Each 100g serving of Yopa! is 80 calories and offers double the protein of regular yogurt, no gelatin, no artificial flavours or colours, and 0% fat. This is a healthy snack with 5 flavours which everyone will enjoy!

Yopa! Giveaway

One lucky Canadian reader will win a prize pack from Yopa! valued at over $100! Entry is simple, just fill in the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway ends October 26th, the winner will have 48 hours to respond. There are other blogs with the same giveaway, feel free to enter them all but you can only win one prize.
Disclosure – I am participating in the YOPA Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada on behalf of General Mills, and received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion.
The opinions on this blog are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Disclosure – I am participating in the YOPA Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada on behalf of General Mills, and received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. 
The opinions on this blog are my own.

Heading to St Pete Beach to stay at a Tradewinds Resort in Florida

As a family, each of us has a different wish list when we’re planning a holiday. While I’d enjoy spending all of my time shopping and relaxing in the sun, my family has different interests. As you can imagine it can be quite a challenge to find a vacation which hits everyone’s wants and needs (sleep is a priority!).

In the past few years we have fallen in love with Florida, its warm climate, friendly people and fantastic customer service has never let us down. We are actually here in Orlando now, after spending a few days having our minds blown at Disney we are staying steps from the outlets which pleases me immensely! Tomorrow we are heading down to Island Grand, a Tradewinds Resort on St Pete Beach.

TradeWinds Entrance

We specifically chose Island Grand because it has something for everyone in our family at a resort that is not an all-inclusive located right on the beach.

TradeWinds Island Grand has completed all phases of a $20 million renovation project! Renovations include guest rooms, suites and specialty units; meetings space, lobby, Grand Palm Colonnade, and more!

A 20-acre beachfront playground, TradeWinds Island Grand was created with fun in mind. Bask beside one of five heated pools. Let the kids play at the KONK while you indulge in a massage or a romantic dinner. Explore our impeccably landscaped grounds by paddleboat along the meandering waterway. Give our concierge a call to arrange a fishing, golf or snorkeling excursion. At the Island Grand, your choices are limited only by your imagination. You pack your things, we’ll pack your stay.

Activities & Services at Guy Harvey Outpost

The choices here seem endless but each of us has made a wish list of activities which we can enjoy. Many are provided free of cost, and a few will be special treats.

On my list is the Body Works Spa, I’d love to see about getting a pedicure after doing so much walking. I also plan on making good use of the cabanas on the beach, I’m picturing myself utterly relaxed watching the kids play in the water.

CabanaHero3 (2)

Sydney cannot wait to check out Fish Tales with Captain Tim and the Splash Island Water Park. How amazing that there is fishing themed activities for our little angler, honestly this is rare to find located directly within the resort.

Watersports Hero 3

Chelsea is looking forward to having her hair braided on the beach and swooping down the High Tide Water Slide which is right on the beach.

HTS Hero Volleyball

My husband is easy to please. He wanted our own kitchen to prepare meals using local foods, shopping close by and a gorgeous beach. Guy Harvey Outpost has all of his requests and MORE, I cannot wait to see which activities he’ll choose to try.

You can find out more about Tradewinds Resorts on Twitter @TWResorts or FB on their Tradewinds Island Resorts page.

Keep an eye out for my updates over the next few days as we experience all they have to offer. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Disclosure: I was provided a stay at this resort for purposes of review; I was not compensated. All opinions are my own. 

Looking for a Restaurant to Please the Whole family? #MandarinON

When given the choice of where to eat our kids will always scream they want to go to Mandarin!

pink logo

As someone who has recently developed a taste for Oriental foods, in the past I shied away from dining at Mandarin…boy I didn’t know what I was missing! This is a restaurant which caters to all tastes, the atmosphere is amazing, the customer service is stellar and the food…oh the food is delicious!

buffet shot

What began as a small Á-la-carte restaurant in Brampton in 1979 has transformed over the years to the buffet style restaurant which has 20 locations across Southwestern Ontario. Each location’s award-winning buffet has an extensive soup and salad bar, grill tables, a prime rib counter, a sushi corner, and a variety of hot foods showcasing the best in Chinese Canadian fare. An array of desserts and an ice cream sundae bar offer the perfect end to the meal. Take-out and delivery are also available at every location.

Mandarin is committed to customer service, their missions statement is certainly upheld each and every time we visit!

“Every customer must feel welcomed as soon as they arrive. Every customer must be happy and smiling when they leave.”

Mandarin Moon Festival

Recently I was presented with the chance to take our family to experience the Moon Festival at Mandarin. We knew the girls would be super excited and to make it even more of a celebratory dinner we decided to include two of their friends.

Mandarin Outside kids playing

When you enter Mandarin the atmosphere immediately speaks to you. The restaurant was totally dressed to celebrate the Moon Festival and there a gorgeous pond which spans the waiting area at the front of the restaurant. The children were fascinated watching the Koi swim around the area and it kept them occupied as I went to the desk.

mandarin pond

 

The staff greeted us all warmly and our reservation was confirmed. We didn’t have to wait long, right on time we were led through the restaurant by our host who happily explained the entire layout and the legend of the Moon Festival.

Once upon a time there was a famous archer, Hou Yi, who with his arrows was able to slay mankind’s worst enemies, ferocious beasts that inhabited the earth. Yi was married to Chang-O, a beautiful but inquisitive woman who had been an attendant of the queen mother of the west before her marriage. Now at this time, there were 10 suns that took turns circling the earth-one every 10 days. One day, all 10 of the orbs circled, together, causing the earth’s surface to burn and threatening mankind. The wise emperor of China summoned Yi and commanded him to kill but one of the suns. This Yi proceeded to do. Upon the completion of his task, Yi was rewarded with a pill, the elixir of life, and advised: “make no haste to swallow this pill, but first prepare yourself with prayer and fasting for a year.” Being a wise man, Yi took the pill home and hid it under a rafter while he began healing his spirit, In the midst of this, Yi was summoned again by the emperor.

While her husband was gone, Chang-O noticed a beam of white light beckoning from the rafter. She followed it and a fragrant perfume, discovered the pill and swallowed it. Immediately, Chang-O found she could fly. Just at that moment her husband returned home, realize what had happened and began to reprimand his wife. Chang-O flew out the window into the sky. Yi sped after her, bow in hand, and the pursuit continued halfway across the heavens. Finally, Yi had to return to the earth because of the force of  the wind.

His wife reached the moon and there, breathless, she coughed and part of the pill fell from her mouth. Now, the hare was already on the moon and Chang-O commanded the animal to take pestle and mortar and pound another pill so that she return to earth and her husband. The hare is still pounding.

As for Yi, he built himself a palace in the sun as Yang (the sun and the male principle), Chang-O as Yin (the moon and the female principle).

Once a year, on the 15th day of the full moon, Yi visits his wife. That is why the moon is full and beautiful on that night.

It’s a romantic legend which we all appreciated and the decorations were gorgeous. Once we were seated at our table our very engaging server arrived to explain the buffet system to the children and take our drink orders. She had a great sense of humour and totally understood the kids, even to the point of teasing them about eating dessert first.

Mandarin family

There was much banter and the kids boasting about who was going to eat the most….and off we went to experience the buffet. To say there’s something for everyone is the understatement of the year! From salads to desserts Mandarin has thought of every dietary need, low sugar, low sodium…it’s all represented in their delicious dishes.

Mandarin Buffet

The staff at Mandarin were very conscious, we were paid close attention to with offers for drink refills and even warm facecloths to clean up before and after our meals. And in case you’re wondering how the kids did…..well I think that they’d agree the buffet at Mandarin kicked their butts!

Mandarin after dinner

If you’re in Southwestern Ontario, grab your family and head over to your local Mandarin to experience the Moon Festival before October 20th! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

WIN a Trip to Bahamas from Mandarin

In celebration of the Moon Festival, Mandarin is giving away an all inclusive trip for 2 to the Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort in Nassau Bahamas! Head over to Mandarin’s Facebook page and share your story of romance with the one you love to enter.

 

Tips for Protection on Social Media #ESETProtects

As a parent of two girls I was excited when I was asked to use  EST Smart Security 6 and share my findings with you all. Last month I focused upon the features that ESET Smart Security 6 provides and how to set it all up. You can see my review of that on my ESET Smart Security – The Protection We’ve Been Looking For blog post. This month I want to talk to you all about being protected while you’re using social media. October is National Cyber Security Awareness month and I don’t know that we all keep our security in mind while we’re watching YouTube videos or chatting with friends on Facebook or Twitter.

Personally, I spend copious amounts of time on Facebook and Twitter. It’s so easy to access wherever I am, there are times when I’m laying in bed, resting but still able to interact. It’s amazing how far we’ve come…the days when my chronic pain is too bad for me to go out and interact with folks aren’t spent in isolation because I can connect on social media. BUT there are risks involved with this development of technology which we have to be aware of and protect ourselves and our families from.

Tips for Protection on Social Media from ESET

Don’t give too much away…

Be careful how much you give away about yourself in your “About” profile (on the far left of your profile page). The more you add, the more an identity thief can learn about you straight away.

Many people like to say as much about themselves to make them seem more interesting. Resist this, your friends know how interesting you are! So no clues to your home address, mother’s maiden name, age or relatives should be given. You can add your phone number but this can be locked to friends only or even just yourself and Facebook. It can be useful for Facebook to know your mobile number as they can use it to alert you of suspicious activity.

Keeping your private stuff private

Facebook gives you the option to control your privacy settings, although by default it opens up your info to more or less anyone. So, let’s look at Facebook’s Privacy Settings in detail. These are found under the arrow at the far right of the Facebook window. Click on the arrow and then click the Privacy Settings tab. This opens up a menu bar that governs what Facebook can do with the information it holds about you.

Who can see your timeline?

Now go to Timeline & Tagging. This allows you to determine how much or how little of your timeline is seen by others and whether you want to be “tagged” or not.

Who can access your personal data?

This set of options is probably the most important on Facebook as it allows you to control what third parties can access to your Facebook profile.

A Facebook friend is not forever

Unless you are using Facebook for marketing purposes, think about the actual ‘friends” you really want to connect with. For example that guy who you kind of knew in the your first dorm room? The random woman you once met on holiday. Do you have any idea what they are doing now? Are they trustworthy? When was the last time you heard from them? You get the picture. A little pruning of the Friends list is a good idea every now and again. One more tip, don’t publicly announce holidays or other absences on Facebook and use Facebook email to communicate directly with friends.

Set the controls on YouTube

This deserves a special mention simply because of the popularity of the video sharing site among teenagers. Like Facebook, Google states that no-one under 13 should use the site. However the safest bet is to set up a child user account which will block any inappropriate content. You can also turn off comments to prevent your kids being abused or bullied by other users and stop them from doing the same. A quick review of the comments on virtually any YouTube video will demonstrate how nasty these can be – a practice known as “Trolling”.

With regards to social media safety tips, we have a recent WLS blog post that is great, and features Bieber (great for SEO given his high profile) which discusses Five Social Media Posts you should never click.

ESET provides a free tool called Social Media Scanner that can scan your Facebook and Twitter to protect you and your friends’ timeline, messages and newsfeed from malicious objects.

ESET Helps Protect Against Risks on Social Media

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 1.14.11 PM

When you purchase ESET Smart Security 6 you also get their Social Media Scanner. Wether you’re logged into Facebook or not, once you install ESET Social Media Scanner it protects your profile from malicious content by providing Facebook security scans of your wall, newsfeed and private messages. It scans these areas looking for any malicious links and if it finds any you’re immediately notified by email with instructions on how to clean the threat.

Installing the Social Media Scanner is very simple, I just went to this link:ESET Social Media Scanner. It asked me for approval to access my approval for the app to access my data and scan it. Next I was asked if it could post on my profile that I was using Social Media Scanner and finally it hit the main screen where I clicked to perform a scan.

social media safety

The scan was completed and I found I had not threats but there were some on my friends walls which I was notified of. Thankfully they weren’t actually threats, they were links I knew but if they were threats I could have the system notify my friend or I could directly.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 1.56.15 PM

Tips to Avoid Theft of Your Device from ESET

Password-protect your computing devices.

While it sounds obvious, if anyone steals your device they will have to defeat your password to get at your data and accounts, which will significantly slow attackers. Although it is not impossible to defeat password protection on a digital device, it adds a useful layer of protection, buying you time to locate and recover the device.

Always backup your files.

Why? Even if you can’t recover a stolen device that does not mean you have to lose all your information and software. Regular backups are the ultimate defense against theft of your files. There are plenty of options for backup these days including online backup. Taking the time to setup backup really pays off if a device is stolen, helping reduce the pain involved in re-creating the sensitive content.

Use tracking software to help get your stolen device back.

Why? Getting your stolen device back is not impossible, particularly if the device itself can tell you where it is and you can communicate with it using a sort of “remote control” via SMS or other methods. You may even be able to communicate with the person who has it. (Here’s an example of how one piece of anti-theft software for PCs.) However, it is not recommended that you physically confront the thief for safety reasons. Always work with your local law enforcement.

Don’t tempt thieves with unattended mobile devices, particularly in public places.

Why? Leaving your computer or mobile device unattended in a car, airport or restaurant is akin to asking for it to be stolen. In a recent survey we found that 1 in 5 stolen devices were taken from a car, 12% from an airport, train, bus, or other public transportation, and 11% from a restaurant or coffee shop. (Here’s an example of anti-theft software for Android devices.)

Encrypt sensitive data

Why? Storing sensitive data in encrypted files prevents anyone exploiting your data if your computer is stolen. Note: File encryption is available free on recent version of both the Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X operating systems. This step is a lot easier than it used to be, so the pain level is low these days (unlike in years past).

Bonus tip. Think about removing sensitive data from your device.

Why? Your computer may interact with sensitive data but it does not need to store all of it right there in one place. Consider using encrypted removable media for sensitive data and carrying that separate from the computer. Maybe leave sensitive work files on the company network and access remotely over a secure connection. This way, if “bad things” happen, you’ll have much lower likelihood that the bad actors got off with critical information.

In today’s age it’s not easy keeping up with the changes and risks in social media but we ARE living our lives online and we must be sure that we’re investigating and protecting ourselves appropriately.

To find out more head over to the ESET Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter. ESET Smart Security received the esteemed PTPA (Parent Tested Parent Approved) Seal of Approval, the most publicized and highly recognized award seal in North America.

1236278_588610881184933_248625282_nFor a limited time, receive 15% off the purchase of ESET Smart Security 6, the first step to online security for your family.

 

 

 

 

Giveaway

Prizes:

5 Eset products (valued at $59.99 each)

1 x $100 Target Gift card

1 tablet preloaded with Eset software (Choice of Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab or Google Nexus)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own.

page3image29312