Rice Lake Ontario, With Kids

I’m going to hold my hands up here and admit that I didn’t do my research so well when I stumbled upon Rice Lake as a place to stay while in Ontario. My friend who lives in Canada had suggested the Kawartha Lakes as being an ideal place to visit that is not too far from Toronto and Guelph (where they live) and somehow Southview Cottages on Rice Lake stood out as being much more reasonably priced than many of the other cottage resorts. Turns out Rice Lake isn’t technically a Kawartha Lake, but it’s more ‘in the region’. Whoops!

Thankfully for us we haven’t seen any of Ontario’s other lakes so we had nothing to compare it against and we thought it was stunning. It’s just an hour and a half from Toronto and was ideally placed for us visiting some of the surrounding area during our week there.

STAY

We stayed at the Southview Cottage Resort which I genuinely couldn’t fault. No, I lie, we arrived in the middle of a crazy heat wave and the cottage’s air con system was pretty old and not so effective so we may have melted into puddles in the first couple of days. That aside though, the cottage was spacious, clean and equipped with everything we needed for the week (including gas BBQ hooked up to the cottage’s gas supply). The resort also upgraded us from a Lakeview cottage to a Lakeside one free of charge on arrival and we couldn’t have been better placed to take in the stunning views of the lake.

On site was a heated pool and toddler wading pool,  a brand new play park, a lovely selection of nature walks AND you have free use of the canoes and pedalos as well as the option to hire a boat for the day too.

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Unfortunately you need to have a boating license so we didn’t think we would be able to properly go out on the lake. Luckily though, we met a lovely Canadian couple who were licensed to drive a boat so we had a great day out fishing with them and their two children. And T caught a fish all by himself. I’m not exaggerating when I say that moment was the highlight of his entire holiday.

Explore

I don’t think the kids would have been bored if we had stayed in the resort for the entire week as they just loved being in the pool and swimming in the lake. But us adults did want to see what else the area had to offer.

Peterborough

Our first full day on Rice Lake fell on Canada day and we heard the nearest large town would be holding various celebrations so we headed over to check it out and got to watch their Canada Day parade.

We also took some time to wander around Millennium Park which sits on the Otonabee River in downtown Peterborough. The Park features a landscaped walking path with sculptures, flower beds, the Butterfly Garden, grassy areas and benches.

Bewdley

The community of Bewdley (population of about 650 people) was around a 15 minute drive from our resort and we took ourselves out there for lunch and an explore one afternoon. It sits on the western side of Rice Lake and has a great play park right in front of the lake so the kids can play while you take in the beautiful views.

We had lunch in Rhinos Roadhouse, a great traditional Canadian restaurant which sits on the main road and had a lovely outside area for you to take in the view.

Cobourg

Around a 40 minute drive away is the town of Cobourg, a fantastic beach town on the banks of Lake Ontario. We enjoyed a few hours at and by the beach building sand castles, swimming, playing at the parks and in the splash park, checking out the boats in the marina and grabbing ice creams. I’d definitely recommend it for a proper beach day if you’re in the area.

 

Muddy’s Pit BBQ

Muddy’s Pit BBQ just deserves a section of its own. We would never have known about it was it not for a lovely local recommending it. Situated in a little town called Keene, only the locals seem to know about it (which I love). The food is served at the counter like in a deli and you sit on picnic benches to tuck in. We had the carnivore sampler with baked beans and mac n cheese. No frills but AMAZING tasting food, great beer and live music, and it’s so relaxed that the kids can run around freely without bothering people. If you’re in the area you MUST give it a visit.

We had a fantastic week exploring Rice Lake and the surrounding area and could easily have stayed longer. Have you visited this area of Ontario before? What would you recommend?

Cx

 

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Toronto With Kids

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about doing a city break with the kids, having never done anything like this with them before. But since we were flying into Toronto from Edinburgh we couldn’t very well pass up a chance to see at least a little of this beautiful city on the first stop of our break in Ontario.

Thankfully Toronto is an incredibly child-friendly city with so much going on for the whole family that there was really nothing to worry about (apart from the searing heat, which really affected all our energy levels).

I’ve detailed below some of the things we got up to that will hopefully provide a lil inspiration if you’re thinking about visiting with your kids.

CN Tower Restaurant

The CN Tower used to be the highest free-standing structure in the world (at 1815 feet) until the Burj Khalifa overtook it in 2008. The prospect of going to the top of a ridiculously tall building is pretty exciting for kids (our eldest at least) so we didn’t want to leave without doing this.

We opted to make a reservation at the restaurant for lunch as it means skipping the queues (which can apparently be up to 2 hours long) and, although a bit pricey for food, removing the stress of trying to entertain two children in a huge queue…well that’s priceless isn’t it!

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To access the Tower itself costs 38 CAD (ages 13-64) and 28 CAD (ages 4-12) so for 65 CAD per adult and 12 CAD per child to eat AND access the glass floor afterwards doesn’t make the cost seem so eye-watering. The restaurant itself sits on a revolving floor so no matter where you’re seated, you’re guaranteed to see every view! All in the comfort of your own space with no crowds surrounding you and, if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy it all with a large glass of wine in your hand. The restaurant itself is really child-friendly. They get their own menu, special cups to drink from and some colouring in to do if, like our youngest, they’re not interested in watching planes land at Billy Bishop airport just across the lake or attempting to spot ant-like people walking in the streets below.

After our lunch we were escorted down to the next level to check out the view again and then the next floor down for the glass floor. To be honest, after experiencing the view from the restaurant, we didn’t feel like this had the same level of excitement for us. However T enjoyed chilling out on the glass floor for a bit.

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To plan your experience check out their website here.

Toronto Railway Museum

Conveniently located just across the road from the CN Tower and with a really low entrance fee (5 CAD for over 14s and 3 CAD for under 14s), this was a perfect way to while away an afternoon. There’s a fab train simulator so you can have a go yourself at being a train driver, plus you can explore some of the real carriages.

Note that if the kids want to go on the miniature train ride outside this is an extra cost (3.50 CAD for over 14s and 2.50 CAD for under 14s).

The museum is also conveniently located just beside the Steam Whistle Brewery, so you can grab one of Canada’s premium Pilsners and enjoy the views before heading on your way.

You can find out more about the Railway Museum here.

Centre Island

A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and it’s only a 10 minute ferry journey (which in itself is an adventure for kids, well ours at least), you can easily visit Centre Island over a couple of days as there is just so much to see and do.

And why rush it? Take a picnic and check out the beautiful fountains, gardens, maze, Franklin Children’s Garden, beach, park and splash pad.

If that’s not enough for you, go along to Centreville Amusement Park for that carnival fun of times gone-by. Great for younger children, no scary rollercoasters, just great fun rides, including a Ferris Wheel with amazing views of the Toronto skyline, log flume, twirling teacups and pony rides. You can also pop along to the Far Away Farm petting zoo which is completely free.

For opening hours of both and prices for Centreville check out their website here.

If you have the time, and the funds allow, I would take a day to explore the Island and then pop back for another day just for Centreville and Far Away Farm.

You can get the Centre Island Ferry schedule and up to date pricing here.

Ontario Science Centre

We had THE best day out here. There is an entire floor of the Ontario Science Centre dedicated to children’s exploration and fun. There is genuinely too many activities to note. Our two didn’t even do everything there was on offer but they did have a chance to find out a little more about space, play with bubbles, water, torches and balls, help build some walls, play in the supermarket, play in the ‘vegetable patch’ and read books. And this is just some of the fun we had.

It’s a bit of a drive out of the city centre, but well worth a visit. There’s even an IMAX cinema!

For prices and opening hours and up to date info about what’s on, check out their website.

Chinatown

Head to Chinatown for dinner and let the kids explore the market stalls and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurants. We chose a fabulous low-key restaurant and were surprised at how child-friendly it was. We got great advice on the right kinds of dishes for the kids in terms of spice and portion size and they barely blinked at the mess and noise we created, and not just by the kids. I managed to drop a scalding bowl of soup and wontons were flying ALL over the place! Needless to stay, we didn’t stay too long after this. Also, after some of the expenses of the previous days we couldn’t believe our entire meal came to less than 50 CAD.

Harbour

We happened upon the harbour a little by chance as we had some time to kill before our lunch at the CN Tower and we could have easily made an afternoon of our visit. There’s a man-man beach with Muskoka chairs to chill in while watching the planes landing at Billy Bishop Airport just across the lake, or to take in the amazing view of the CN Tower.

Streetcars

The Toronto Streetcars are not only a fabulous way to get around the city, for children they are pretty darn exciting to hop on and off. The routes and pricing are really easy to get the hang of so don’t be afraid of trying them out. We loved this guide to the Streetcars when we were doing our research ‘How to Take a Streetcar in Toronto’ so do check it out.

There’s obviously soo many other things to do in Toronto with kids…Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium, Hockey Hall of Fame and Riverdale Farm but we didn’t want to feel as thought we’d rushed around simply to tick things off a list. We had so much fun doing the things we did that we left the city feeling like we would happily visit again and again and always find something new to do.

Have you visited Toronto with your children? What are your recommendations?

Cx

Cuddle Fairy
Wanderlust Kids

Unleashing our Wild at Wildhood

Wildhood oh Wildhood.

How we fell in love with your laid back ethos and nature loving vibes. We explored, we got lost, we found ourselves, we laughed, we reconnected – we did everything you said we would on the posters and more. You were our first family festival and you gave us the bug.

Wildhood was billed as a ‘weekend of escapism, excitement and adventure’ where you were encouraged to step away from technology and enjoy quality family time in fairytale surroundings and the team rose to the challenge.

My Fife for Kids partner in crime Jess (aka That Crafty Mother) and I were just a lil over-excited to be invited along with our families to experience the magic for ourselves, and oh how magical it was.

The sun shone, the castle moat sparkled and the smiles said it all.

Jess: ‘I’ll be honest, it did take us an hour or so to find our rhythm and work out our day plan. We really wanted the dudes to lead the way and being social introverts this wasn’t an easy task! However animals masks made, a forest trail hiked, a maze lost in, a free banana, a good nosey about plus a picnic later and they were ready.

Fuelled with excitement, cake and an itinerary of adventure, we set foot into the real world of Wildhood serenaded by the Ukulele Orchestra of Sunny Leith.

The dudes discovered sticklebacks and tadpoles in the pond, crafted hedgehogs and built micro stick rafts. Carved stones, played hide and seek, attempted slacklining, ran through long grass fields, graffitied in the woods and made up stories of a magical rainbow kitty. They even had a poem composed especially for them, a perfect souvenir.

Sun kissed, giggling and exhausted we fell back in to the car and headed home to reality. Magic was had that day and it won’t be forgotten in a long time.’

Claire: ‘We arrived on site just as Circus Alba were setting up some equipment for the kids to try out and that was it, the kids were hooked! We spent the rest of the morning learning how to hula-hoop and spin plates and it took A LOT of persuasion to move from the tent to see what else was on offer.

Our exploration took us as far as the beautiful storytelling tree where we found ourselves with two entranced littles who again had to be coaxed on to another area. After a picnic lunch we did manage to have some fun pond-dipping, slacklining, playing drums in the woods, exploring the maze and trying out Rugby Tots (which little L adored) before it was back to Circus Alba for one last go at learning new skills before enjoying a hot dog in the last of the sunshine as the day came to an end.

The kids had an absolute blast and though we missed so much of what was programmed, it was perfect to have a day out led (mainly) by what they wanted to do and not once were they bored. We could certainly see that camping and coming for the entire weekend was the ideal way to be able to experience all of what Wildhood had to offer. Here’s hoping that the weekend was such a success that the team are already busy planning year 2.’

*This review was a collaboration between myself and Jess of That Crafty Mother/Fife for Kids. We were gifted free tickets in return for a fair and honest review of our experience. You can follow Fife for Kids on Facebook here.

Learning to Swim with Merbabies

I’m going to be honest, swimming is my least favourite activity to do with the kids. I know they love it, but I always find the pools cold and because I’m usually the one holding L while she bobs about, I’m even colder. So in general, I don’t love it.

But, it’s a life skill and I’ve been planning on looking at lessons for L for a while. T’s lessons are the traditional arm-bands ones so I was intrigued to find out what Merbabies would be like since they don’t do arm bands.

Firstly, I was delighted to find that the pool in Inverkeithing High was lovely and warm. Honestly, an actual warm pool. What a treat! First hurdle down.

L is a shy little one. She’s unsure of new people and clings to me like a Koala each time we go swimming (even though she says she likes it) so I was a little worried about how she would be.

I’d love to say that she loved every single second but that would be a lie. She cried as soon as Emma-Lou, the teacher looked at her, but thankfully this didn’t last. Emma-Lou is just so lovely and warm, she engages with the little ones, but not too much so they still feel safe with their parents. She is clearly really experienced with little ones and set out fun games throughout the lesson. She made it clear that if anyone did not want to do something this was ok. No pressure to just dunk your baby right under the water…phew! It would be hard not to like her.

About 8 minutes into the lesson L was holding on to the side of the pool unaided and grinning from ear to ear. She blew bubbles in the water AND she let me partially submerge her. This from a girl who cries if her brother splashes her in the bath, is MASSIVE. I was honestly shocked at her confidence in the lesson within just a few minutes.

We had a really fun 30 minutes and L then asked me for the rest of the day if she could go back. It’s fair to say the classes get a big thumbs up from us. So much so that I will keeping an eye out for the expansion into week day classes in our area.

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Merbabies offer accredited small group lessons for babies right up to pre-school with a complete emphasis on learning through play. Do check out their Fife for Kids listing for more details on the timetable, costs and to contact the team.

Cx

*The Fife for Kids team were paid for this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely honest. Images provided by Merbabies.

 

A weekend in Inverness-shire

The Highlands have been on my list of places in Scotland to visit for a while now. I always feel slightly ashamed when I speak to friends from other countries and am asked about the north of Scotland and I have to confess I haven’t seen a whole lot of it. So, I may have put on my persuasive voice when we were deciding on the annual weekend getaway with Alan’s side of the family. The last couple of years we have been to Perthshire, which is so beautiful that we were thinking about visiting again this year. However, it can be difficult to find accommodation for our huge family so we looked farther afield.

SLEEP

We opted for the Highland Holiday Home and weren’t disappointed. Located in Errogie, on the North East end of Loch Mhòr and just a couple of miles to the East of Loch Ness it’s perfectly rural (whilst being near enough to Inverness for a wee visit).

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Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Let’s all be honest. New Year’s resolutions don’t work.

And here’s why.

We spend December living excessively. Eating and drinking pretty much constantly from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. Routine is thrown out the window and we just live moment to moment. And the media encourages this with non-stop food and drink adverts everywhere we look. So, by the time the month ends so have the adverts and they’ve been replaced with the diet and exercise ones. So we feel crap about what we’ve consumed and how we look. Then we start nit-picking about other aspects of our lives. ‘We don’t go out enough’, ‘I’m a bad parent because I hate pretending to be a ‘insert animal here’, ‘the kids watch too much tv’, ‘I look at my phone too much’ and so on.

And we resolve to be better people.  Eat less ‘bad stuff’, start an eating plan, stop looking at social media all the time, cut down on the Gin intake or whatever else you think is ‘bad’.

Then come the end of January we’ve failed miserably and feel crap about ourselves again!

Has anyone ended a year feeling positive about having achieved this type of resolution?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely in the mood for eating a bit better and moving a bit more. But only because I’m at risk of turning into a bit of cheese and quite fancy a bit of normality. Not because I’m getting sucked into this negative thinking and feeling disgusted by myself.

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Christmas Isn’t Perfect. And That’s OK

Some of you may have read the post I did recently where I was basically having a big ol whine about not being able to find any Christmas Glee. It’s been a tough few months and we’re definitely not out of it just yet, the house is still the number 1 talking point and for all the wrong reasons. There’s just so much to do and we’ve been fighting the clock to get it ready for our first Christmas there. I think we could have done it if we really went for it. But after Alan missing out on so many evenings and weekends because he’s been doing things at the house, it seemed a bit pointless to burn ourselves out to get in a few days before Christmas and then we would have missed the whole build up to the big day, which, lets face it, is the best part.

Also, even though it was me who was really driving the ‘let’s get in before Christmas’ dream, when I actually took a step back and thought about it is started to seem a bit silly. I’ve put Christmas on this pedestal, wanting it to live up to all sorts of Insta-worthy amazingness when really, all the children care about it playing with their new toys and seeing their cousins. The don’t even care about the Christmas dinner. They’d probably be happier with pizza if we’re all being honest about it.

So now we’ve decided not to move in before Christmas and stay with Alan’s mum and dad for it. It’s different for all of us and there’s some things we’re all having to do a little differently. For example, the Christmas tree has gone up a little later than we would have normally have done it (due to T’s incessant asking about it), but a little earlier than they would have done it (due to T’s incessant asking about it). And I’m sure it’ll be really lovely for them to see the little ones’ excitement on Christmas morning, but there’s no way they’ll be loving the fact the excitement starts at 5am.

Anyway, thinking about these small things that will be a bit different this year has got me thinking about all the utter craziness that we can get sucked into in trying to make Christmas perfect.

Before you read on, if you do any/all of the below and love it, that’s great. I’m not judging. Christmas traditions are brilliant as long as we enjoy doing them. The things I’ve noted below are simply some of the things I’ve not found so enjoyable but have been sucked into in some bid to create Christmas perfection. Read More

5 Great Value Christmas Activities in Fife

Ooh, I love Christmas.

More so than ever since having my children. I want to make it completely magical for them and have lots of festive days.

Every year though I’m torn between wanting to do ALL the great Christmassy days out and not wanting to get lost in the abyss of spending enough money that it could pay off the mortgage. I genuinely believe we can have a blinking great month of December without it costing an arm and a leg. Let’s all remember it’s about being together and sharing some quality time with our loved ones.

So, with this in mind, I’ve been doing my research in order to bring you, the lovely people of Fife my list of Great Value Christmas Activities and hopefully provide a little inspiration if you’re starting to think about what you’d like to get up to.

1. Take A Trip To Carnegie Hall

We all love going to the Theatre at Christmas time for a fun-filled family trip. I doubt very much that we like how much it can cost for the whole family to see a Christmas show. It can be eye watering. For the last 3 years we’ve visited Carnegie Hall and seen some brilliant shows that guess what, have NOT cost an arm and a leg.

I was so happy to see that not only is this year no different, but they have actually have a whole family festival going on this Winter.

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A Personalised Letter From Santa

Hi guys,

I’m about to mention the C word!

Its only just November I hear you cry.

I know, I know!

However us parents have to be organised. If your little uns are of an age where they are thinking about Christmas already then they will most certainly be talking about their Christmas letters for Mr Claus himself. We will be sitting down to do T’s very soon.

So I’m just a tad excited to be involved with Letter From Santa, a great website where you can get a personalised letter from Santa for your child.

There’s a brilliant selection of great value packages with letters, texts and even activity packs starting at just £4.99. Such a great idea for injecting a little extra magic into Christmas.

Go check them out and thank me later,

Cx

*this post contains affiliate links

Fall In Love With Northumberland

It’s been an intense few months what with the house project getting into full flow and various other bits and bobs going on. So to say we were ready for our annual catch up with some very good friends is a bit of an understatement. I was champing at the bit to get going on Friday and finally, after popping up to the house to take receipt of our new kitchen (exciting) and waiting for the car to be serviced and being told it needed extra repairs (sob), we managed to get on our way.

This is our fourth trip away with these friends and our families have expanded somewhat since the first one, so we’ve leaned more towards booking more spacious cottages so there’s plenty of room for the kids to run about. They are inevitably more expensive but I do think it’s worth it. Especially since we do spend our nights in after being out and about during the day. Also because we go away with another family we do have a bit of freedom to book something a bit nicer than the norm.

So we booked East Bickerton, right in the heart of the Northumbrian countryside.

The cottage is absolutely stunning and Lizzie, the owner, lives right next door which is really handy if there is anything you specifically need. Not that we did need to contact her as she had thought of everything. Apart from on our final morning Alan woke up with a bug and wasn’t able to travel. Lizzie was so gracious in allowing us to stay past the 10am check out, telling us we could stay as long as we wanted. Thank you Lizzie! When we arrived there was milk, biscuits, tea and coffee awaiting us (I love little touches like that). As well as being a stunning home in a stunning location, it was also really family friendly. We were provided with two travel cots and two high chairs, a stair gate and boxes of toys for the kids to play with. One piece of feedback I would give Lizzie is to advertise this as it’s a huge draw for families and saves us packing our own. As if all that wasn’t enough we were able to order a supermarket delivery which she kindly took receipt of for us. All in all East Bickerton gets a massive thumbs up from us.

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