Hidden Valley Resort: Family fun in Muskoka

Hidden Valley Resort: Family fun in Muskoka

Vital Statistics

Location: Hidden Valley Resort, Huntsville, Muskoka, Canada

Best For: Families, small groups 

Star Rating: 4/5 as the rooms that are on the parking lot side aren’t as nice as the lake side.

I spent most of my childhood going to our family cottage on Lake of Bays in Muskoka, Ontario and they are some of my most fond memories. Our cottage was built by my great grandfather back in the early 1900’s and was such a beautiful spot. In July 2017, we held a family reunion with our extended family and what better place than in Muskoka where we spent so many summers together.

We decided on a lovely place called Hidden Valley Resort. It is located just outside the town of Huntsville, about a two hour drive north of Toronto. As we pulled up to Hidden Valley, I was instantly reminded of the resort from the movie Dirty Dancing (I am aging myself now!). The lobby had a very warm feel with a mixture of wood and stone accents and a beautiful view of Peninsula Lake.

Rooms

There are 100 rooms at this resort, with quite a few choices depending on the size of your group. The rooms are decorated with a natural decor to add to the ambience of being on the lake.

We had a two queen bed traditional room that faced the parking lot. I would recommend asking for a lake view room as I felt that our room seemed a bit damp and dark because we didn’t seem to get as much sunlight that you would receive on the lakeview side….and who wouldn’t want a view of the gorgeous lake!

Activities

One of the best parts of this resort was all the activities to choose from. They have their own water sports facility that all guests can use for free. Activities include paddle boarding, canoeing, pedal boats, windsurfing and kayaks. 

The private beach was beautiful with loads of lounge chairs for people to sit. The beach included a beach volleyball court off to the side, which our family used often.

The property also has tennis courts and a basketball court, which the little kids in our family loved. Every evening the resort would put on a campfire down at the lake and one near the pool where the kids could roast marshmallows.

Amenities

As the resort is is open in all seasons, they have 2 pools. One is an indoor pool that can be used year round and an outdoor pool for warm weather.

They have an amazing games room for all ages that includes a pool table, foosball, air hockey and all kinds of video games. You can keep the kids entertained in there for hours.

The resort also has a small gym that includes a few weights, a treadmill, a stationary bike and an elliptical as well as a sauna.

Hidden Valley has one restaurant where we ate all our meals. They were wonderful and able to accommodate our whole family and seat us all together every evening for dinner. The menu had lots of choices and a separate kids menu.

Verdict

Overall, I would highly recommend this resort as a fabulous family vacation. We were there for a total of four days and I was sad to leave. The staff were professional and kind and very patient with our large group of 35.

There were many choices of activities to keep everyone engaged and entertained. The food was delicious and the rooms were comfortable. If you’re in Canada, I highly recommend you checking it out!

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Vietnam With Kids: Planes, Trains and Bicycles

Vietnam With Kids: Planes, Trains and Bicycles

Vietnam: Vital Statistics

Location: SE Asia

Best For: Families, couples, small groups

Star Rating: 4/5 (lost a star due to the issues we had with potable tap water)

When we returned to Canada after living in Singapore for four years, our friends were amazed at the amount of traveling with did with our children. We kept hearing “we were so brave” and “weren’t you nervous to go there with your kids?” I can honestly say that South East Asia is one of the best places to travel with children.

The people are so kind, the food is delicious, the beaches are stunning and there are so many incredible activities for families to enjoy. One of our favourite places was Vietnam, it is packed stunning landscapes and has an incredible cuisine.  Have a read of our top stops in this beautiful country: Hanoi, Ninh Binh, and Hoi An.

Hanoi

Our first stop was Hanoi. The capital of Vietnam, it is a beautiful and chaotic city found in the north.

Accomodation

We stayed in La Siesta Hotel in the Old Quarter which is walking distance to all the main sites.  But if you want to save your feet, you can take a cyclo ride for a couple dollars. It was an affordable hotel that included rooms ranging from deluxe triple rooms to premier duplex rooms that have two floors. The hotel was very clean and the staff were helpful. The front desk will organize day tours, as well as taxi rides for you. It also included breakfast, which consisted of local Vietnamese cuisine as well as western style breakfast of eggs, toast and pancakes.  

The Tu linh legend hotel is another hotel in the Old Quarter,  our friends stayed there while in Hanoi.  They really enjoyed it and thought the staff was very friendly and helpful.

Food and Drink

I highly recommend waking up early and have breakfast at a local Pho stall.  Also watch for the pastry sellers carrying their fresh doughnuts over their shoulders, the kids will LOVE them, and so will you (tip: buy your donuts in the morning when they are fresh – at night they’re stale).

But if you’re in need of a good Aussie breakie, check out the Hanoi Social Club. It’s also a good spot for a drink. And with that in mind… Le Pub  offers a wide range of beverages (an extensive menu of eats ) at great location near Hoan Kiem Lake.

We also really enjoyed the Gourmet Corner. It served beautiful and authentic Vietnamese food with an incredible view!

Things to do in Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake

The boys loved our cyclo rides around the old town and the walks along Hoan Kiem Lake. It is beautiful and peaceful lake right in the middle of the Old Quarter with a lovely red bridge in the center. There are many cafes and restaurants around so if you feel like a drink or snack along the way there are loads of choices.

Water Puppet Show

Vietnam is famous for their Water Puppet Shows. These shows have been around for 1000 years. The Than Long Water Puppet Theatre is located opposite the Hoan Kiem Lake near the red bridge.  Our performance included stories about everyday life in Vietnam as well as other legends and folklore. There are many shows a day for people to choose from and the tickets range from $4.00 – $8.00 USD.

Museum of Ethnology

We spent one of our afternoons at the Museum of Ethnology. It is located outside of the Old Quarter which required a taxi ride, but we loved being able to see another part of the city. The boys really enjoyed the museum as there were quite a few hands on activities for them to learn. The outdoor exhibit was our favourite, there we were able to explore the traditional homes of Vietnamese tribes. The homes were made out of bamboo and wood with most being on stilts. I think the boys with their blond hair and blue eyes were the biggest attraction for the locals who were visiting that day as there were many pictures taken with them as well!

Ninh Binh

After our few days in Hanoi we hopped on the local train and headed south to Ninh Binh, a national park two hours south of Hanoi. Many local Vietnamese people visit this park on the weekend to escape the heat and smog of the big city.

We fell in love the minute we arrived.

Imagine huge limestone cliffs with rice paddies in the center and a river winding through. We found out while we were staying there that we had just missed the cast of the newest King Kong movie as they filmed some of the scenes there… that would have been fun to see!

Accomodation

Tam Coc Rice Fields Resort, is exactly how it sounds….right in the middle of the rice fields. They had little bungalows made out of bamboo with thatched roofs and little pond in the middle where the boys could fish. They supplied us with bikes and even contacted their friends to find a baby seat for our youngest to be able to ride with us.

Things to do in Ninh Binh

There many different hikes you can do around the area as well as temple hopping. We were able to ride our bikes to Bich Dong Pagoda and into town where we took a boat ride to Tam Coc, which was a highlight for us. We also did a day tour with a guide where they took us to see  Hoa Lu temples of the Dinh & Le Dynasties. It was a bit touristy but we still enjoyed wandering around. If you want to see a spectacular view of the area and all the rice paddies, the hike up to Hang Mua temple and the 500 steps you need to climb is worth every twinge in your calves!

Overnight Train

After our couple days in Ninh Binh we decided to do what the locals do and took an overnight train ride down to Hoi An. We used a website called Seat 61 which was really helpful to book as it was all online. This was such a fun way to travel as we got to see the Vietnamese countryside and was quite comfortable. We had our own cabin which turned into two bunk beds for us to sleep on. There were food trolleys that came around where we could purchase food and the boys were in heaven!  

Hoi An

Hoi An is a beautiful town in the center of Vietnam that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. We stayed a little ways out of the old town as we wanted to be in between the beach and the town. We enjoyed where we stayed as we spent most of our time in the town but it was nice to be close to the beach for the one day we did go.

Accomodation

Hoi An Salute Hotel and Villa is a charming boutique hotel. They also provided bicycles for us which we used daily. 

Victoria Hotel is not a budget option but highly recommended by friends of ours that stayed there a couple years ago. They also do a great champagne brunch on a Sunday and you can use their facilities.

Things to do in Hoi An

The beach was nice for the kids to play on, quite wide, but the ocean wasn’t the best as it was a bit rough for the kids to swim in and not that clean. We spent most of our time in the Old Town wandering around and went to a fantastic tailor that specialised in leather products. Both my husband and I bought leather jackets, boots, and bags for a great price! 

Great Vespa Tours was a really fun way to explore Hoi An and the surrounding area. We also took a day trip with Hoi An Ecotour.  It was brilliant and very family friendly.

Food and Drinks

Little Faifo, this restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese and is quite lovely inside. It gets quite busy, so try and get there early.

Mango Mango was another one of our favourites. Try and sit upstairs near the window so you can people watch all the action that is going on the street below.

Morning Glory was another restaurant that friends of ours suggested, it serves an array of Central Vietnamese street food and traditional dishes. We didn’t get a chance to make it, but it is on our list for the next trip

Vietnam is a beautiful country, rich in history and culture that I highly recommend to any family heading to SE Asia. We only just scratched the surface and can’t wait to go back to explore again.

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Five Ways To Boost Your Metabolism

Five Ways To Boost Your Metabolism

When you’re trying to shed a few kilos there are things you can do to make that journey a little easier (it’s often hard to change habits, so every little bit helps!). Boosting your metabolism is a great way to get your body working for you, even when you’re not working out!

For a little background, basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the rate at which we turn calories into energy. The BMR is affected by your gender, age, diet, activity level, thyroid function, amount sleep, amount of body fat, body temperature, weight, and likely our genetics. But even if you’re being woken up 70 million times a night by a little one, or are blessed with ultra curvy genes, we have some ways to improve your metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and particularly the burning of fats for fuel.

Here are five tips to boost your metabolism:

1. Start your day with lemon, raw honey, and cayenne pepper water.

I know, the cayenne sounds a bit scary but it has some amazing benefits. Cayenne pepper heats up your body temperature thus burning more calories. It also stimulates your body’s metabolic rate. The lemon helps to keep blood sugars balanced. This prevents insulin spikes and reduces fat storage, all the while keeping your body alkalized. Raw honey is an excellent source of all natural energy, it has medicinal benefits, and it tastes delicious!

2. Having a nutritious breakfast.

We always hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to lose weight. Having a balanced breakfast with protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and fruit and vegetables will keep you fuller longer. Some examples include oatmeal, poached eggs with avocado, and scrambled eggs with greens and mushrooms. See our Recipes section for more ideas.

3. Strength Training

This doesn’t mean you need to become Arnold Schwarzenegger, but instead build long, lean muscles with strength and resistance training. Your body’s metabolic rate increases when you have more muscle mass to maintain and you continue to burn calories long after you’ve left the gym.

Photo by GMB Monkey on Unsplash

4. HIIT Training (High Intensity Interval Training)

This style of exercise has become very popular over the last five years and for good reason. It has been shown to burn more fat effectively than longer forms of cardio. Doing this type of exercise a few times a week helps increase your metabolism and burn fat while you are resting.

 Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

5. Eating protein at all meals

When we eat, it increases our metabolism, this is called the thermic effect of food. This occurs because we burn calories while digesting our food and processing the nutrients. Protein increases our metabolic rate by 15-30%.

Photo by Mark DeYoung on Unsplash

Best of luck with your weight loss journey! Make sure to check out our Recipes and Nourish sections for more ideas on how food can help you along the way.  You’ll love how you feel when you’re filling your body full of whole foods and have a rocking metabolism that helps you lose weight while increasing your energy levels.

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Mummy on a New Mission: Celebrating Life after Breast Cancer

Mummy on a New Mission: Celebrating Life after Breast Cancer

August 17, 2017 was the day before my 40th birthday, the day I heard the words, “It’s cancer.”  My world stopped. But I think deep down I already knew. I had felt the lump myself a month prior to the biopsy, but I was on holiday and there wasn’t anything I could do.

It’s amazing to me the amount of strength you can conjure up during a time like this. The few days after the diagnosis I had a very strange sense of calm come over me. I had accepted that I had cancer and I was ready to meet it head on.

After my diagnosis, it was a complete whirlwind. I met my surgeon with my little entourage to make sure I had as many ears as possible to take in the information we were about to receive. My surgeon was amazing, he completely set the tone for what was to come with my medical team. Within two weeks I had my surgery. I was given two choices from my surgeon, to have a full mastectomy or to have the tumor removed (a lumpectomy) and then chemotherapy followed by radiation. I opted for the lumpectomy as my surgeon explained that it would be the same result as having a mastectomy, so I chose to keep my breasts. It was a pretty painless surgery and I healed very quickly.  

Five weeks later, I started a very intensive round of chemotherapy which would last six months. This is what I was most scared of, the unknown.  I envisioned myself throwing up all the time and being confined to bed. I was petrified to lose my hair because it’s the first sign you have a serious illness. I was told by my doctors that it would start to fall out around day 17.

I remember the first clump vividly. I was at my son’s hockey practice and I ran my hand through my hair and there it was. I tried it again and another clump came out. My whole body felt hot with anxiety and I was worried other people would see the clumps of hair in my hand. At that point in my treatment I still looked, for lack of a better word, ‘normal’.  

The next day, we decided to do a family head shave. I didn’t want to have to deal with my hair coming out slowly and to be honest, it hurt. My scalp was so sensitive that I just wanted it off. We shaved our boys’ heads first and then asked them if we should shave my head as well, they answered with a very enthusiastic yes! I would highly recommend shaving to anyone facing hair loss through chemo, it gave me a real sense of control in a situation where there is very little of that to go around.

I am happy to report that I was able to handle chemo much better than I ever expected. I truly believe that our healthy lifestyle and making sure that my body was getting the best nutrients at all times helped. I also think my mindset was a huge reason why I was able to cope. I had such faith and confidence in my medical team, so I was never scared. I never believed I was going to die, and fought like hell to be there for my children and my husband. They still needed me and I wanted to be there for them.

I’ve found post treatment to be more difficult than the treatment itself. I was suddenly left on my own to sort out how to live again. The wounds, both physical and emotional, take a long time to heal. I was still dealing with the mental fatigue and brain fog, the joint pain and hot flashes from chemo, and the tightness in my skin from my radiation. But the support from my medical team was gone.

You go through the many stages of loss… loss of your old life… loss of flesh… loss of your physical stamina… loss of feeling feminine.

But then you start to come out the other side. You realise that out of change and pain comes light. I realised what is important to me and how I want to spend my days now. I realised I want to pursue my passion around health and wellness and help others with that as well.

I have a long year ahead of me as I heal emotionally and mentally, but I am taking strides to work through it all. I have enrolled in a breast cancer recovery course and the doctor I am working with gave the best analogy of how it feels to come out the other side. She said, “It is like you are a beautiful vase that has been smashed to bits, and you now have to figure out how to put the pieces back together. The pieces will never go back exactly how they once were and it is up to us on how we choose to put them together.”

To celebrate life and surviving the treatment year, my family and I went on a holiday to Belize over the one year anniversary of my diagnosis. My younger sister said to me on the day, that they now get to celebrate me for two days for the rest of my life….one being a celebration of life and the other a celebration of my birth.

I know this will be an emotional year ahead with all the anniversaries but I choose to look at them with a sense of hope and gratitude for my life and everyone in it. I choose to thank the chemotherapy and the radiation for giving me my life… I choose to look after myself and my family even more now with a focus on what we put in our bodies. I choose to live my best life!

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