Disney's Planes And A Movie Screening Giveaway

Now that my children are older—five and a half, and almost eight years old—they love going to go the movies, and we love taking them to the movies. We don't have to worry about them getting bored, or falling asleep, or needing a diaper change. Yes, going to the movies is fun again! 

We're excited to go to the screening of Disney's new movie, Planes—this is going to be one one action-packed 3D animated comedy, and it looks so funny. Think Cars, only with... Planes! 

I'm excited to also be giving away a family pass for 4 to see Disney's Planes on Wednesday, August 7th, at Silver City at 7:00 p.m.

If you'd love to bring your family to see this new Disney movie, leave me a comment below telling me what your favourite Disney movie is, and you'll be entered to win the family four pass.

I'll be picking a winner on Friday, August 2nd—good luck!


Santa's Village In Muskoka: Perfect Vacation For Families (And A Giveaway For You!)

Update: Congratulations to Kathryn on winning! Enjoy!

Have you ever heard of Santa's Village? If you have children, it's one of the best parts about vacationing to Muskoka. In Muskoka's Enchanted Forest, halfway between the North Pole and the equator on the 45th parallel, is... Santa's summer home! Yes, it's pretty awesome that Santa lives in Muskoka during the summer months, isn't it?

Kids will love it because it has two theme parks, a day camp, animals, and a family campground, where children of all ages can visit Santa, enjoy rides, and take part in many of the fun, family-friendly activities. And of course, children can chat with Santa! Why wait until December when they can see the jolly old man in July?

Santa's Village has been around for over 58 years, and it's truly a magical place to visit. In 2010, Santa's Whispering Pines Campground was modernized and upgraded and now includes 11 new cabins, 2 yurts, and 50 new campsites. It's actually been voted Best Campground in Muskoka for the past two years!

New this year: the Village's Spray 'n' Play Beach and Splash Pad is even larger than before and there's even a brand-new Bungee Trampoline in Sportsland. Sportsland also has go-karts, mini-golf, laser tag, and more, so older kids can have as much fun as the little ones.

The attractions are awesome and include a roller coaster safe for the entire family, a riverboat and train rides, a merry-go-round, a petting farm, a great splash pad, the beach, playgrounds, and more. There are even organized daily kids craft activities, and family programs to keep everyone busy, like fishing, supper with Santa, hiking, scavenger hunts, and bonfires—the perfect summer evening tradition!

Santa's Village is one of Muskoka's most famous and popular family-fun destinations, and receives over 100,000 visitors a year!

Thanks to Santa's Village, I'm excited to be giving away a family pass to Santa's Village that's valid this season. This includes four passes.

Here's how you can enter to win a family four pass to Santa's Village:

1. Leave a comment below, telling me what you're most looking forward to at Santa's Village.

2. Like Santa's Village on Twitter.

3. Like Loulou's Views on Facebook.

That's it—much more simple than even starting a Christmas shopping list, no?

Good Luck... I'll randomly pick a winner on August 4th, 2013.

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post, however, all views and opinions are my own.


Artsy In Massachusetts

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As much I love to travel and explore new places, I also love the arts. Having grown up with a professional artist as a mother, I have learned to appreciate art in an entirely differently way. One of my first jobs was working in a fine art gallery downtown, and I've almost never missed one of my mom's art exhibits across Canada. When we traveled to Boston, we made sure to pop into any art gallery we stumbled upon while exploring the city. 

Massachusetts is very artsy, and is home to some of the world's finest museums, like the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. Although Norman Rockwell was born in New York City, he moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1953 with his family. I love the art of Norman Rockwell—I love how he so perfectly depicts the time period, and the real, every day, American life. 

The museum features original artwork of Rockwell, the most you'll find anywhere in the world. It also includes his personal memorabilia, supplies, and reference materials.

And did you know that the Emily Dickinson Museum is in Amherst, Massachusetts? I'd love to visit. 

There is also the great Cape Cod Museum of Art, and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, which is an adorable place to bring young children who are fans of his books. The museum has a great mission: "... to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books." I can certainly appreciate that! 

Of course, during the spring and summer months, there is so much more of the arts to take in while you're in Massachusetts, and so many places to visit like:

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: This museum was built by arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner to look like a Venetian palace. This museum is home to a great collection of paintings and sculptures from many different regions and time periods. 

Museum of Fine Art (MFA): The MFA is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world, and carries over 45,000 works of art—pretty impressive!

Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM): This museum hosts workshops on painting, drawing, photography, and more during the summer months. 

Fall for the Arts on the Cape and on Martha's Vineyard: Martha's Vineyard has a lot of fine galleries, and from September 29 to October 28, the festival Fall for the Arts on the Cape and on Martha's Vineyard takes place. This is a family-friendly festival showcasing local arts and culture, and includes performances by local musicians, and open houses at theatres. 

If you love the arts as much as I do, then Massachusetts should be in your travel plans—there's so much to see and do for the art lover in you!

Disclosure: I am working with Visit Massachusetts, and I am being compensated to write blog posts about vacationing in Massachusetts. All opinions and views are my own.

Top Six Reasons To Vacation At Westin Diplomat Resort And Spa

I love to travel and South Florida is a perfect vacation destination for my family because it has so much to offer: hot, sunny weather, the beautiful ocean, amazing restaurants and shopping malls, museums, a great night life, and amazing resorts, like The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, located just past Fort Lauderdale, right before Miami. I love that it's only a three hour flight from home, too.

As you all probably know, we've been traveling to the The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa since my oldest son was two years old, (he's now almost eight years old!) and each and every time we go, we love it more than the time before. After all, with balcony views like this, how can you not love this resort?

Here are my Top Six Reasons To Vacation At The Westin Diplomat Resort And Spa:

1. The Water: If you're a family who loves the water and you're looking for a tropical, relaxing vacation where you'll be able to swim all day in a gorgeous turquoise ocean, and enjoy two beautiful swimming pools overlooking the ocean (one, an infinity pool, and the other, a lagoon-style pool) then this is the resort for you.

2. The Westin Heavenly Spa: The Westin Heavenly Spa is, well... heavenly. I was given the chance to try a one hour massage the new Westin Heavenly Spa during my vacation, and everything about it was perfection. The entire space is gorgeous, relaxing, and breathtakingly beautiful. The service was amazing, and the massage was incredibly relaxing. I'm so thankful for this experience, and I can't wait to come back for more!

3. The service: I've been to this resort every year (sometimes twice a year) since 2007, and I've never had a bad experience. From check-in to housekeeping services, when you stay at the Westin Diplomat, you're totally, 100% looked after, so you really feel like you're on vacation. We received amazing service by the pool, too. The cabanas are great if you have young children—they can take a nap in there, relax in front of the T.V. and eat their lunch without even having to leave the pool area. (Thank you so much, Westin Diplomat, for giving us the cabanas to enjoy during our vacation—my children were in heaven!) 

4. A Great Escape: The best part about being at The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa is that you really feel like you're a million miles away from the every day... from the restaurants to the amazing Westin Kids Club, there is so much for everyone to do! If you love golf, they have that, too. We love getting out in the evenings, and heading to Aventura Mall (my favourite place to shop!) We also love going for dinner at Carpaccio's in the Bal Harbour Shops

5.Quality Time With Family: We love traveling with our entire family. Most trips to the Westin Diplomat include my parents and my sister and her family, too. It's what we're used to, and it's what we love. This is a perfect family-friendly resort, and I love seeing so many families and children at this resort. Of course, if you're looking for a getaway with just the girls, or as a couple, you'll find that you're not alone. This resort is huge, so no matter how you're vacationing, it's going to be right for you.

6. The Westin Executive Club: During our stay, we were given the chance to experience the Westin Executive Club located on the 33rd floor (one floor above our room!) and it was wonderful. This 10,000 square-foot lounge is where we got to enjoy complimentary continental breakfast every morning, and cocktails and appetizers every night. The views were breathtaking, with one side overlooking the ocean, and the other side, a view of the city.

We love traveling to so many beautiful places, from Bahamas to Maine to Washington D.C., but the one place we keep coming back to is The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa. We recommend this resort to all our friends, too.

We've also just booked our winter vacation—we have the itch to go back already!

Thank you for another incredible stay, Westin. My family and I appreciate everything you did to make our stay so amazing. 


Five Reasons I'm Glad I'm Not The Mother Of The Royal Baby

I woke up the Breaking News this morning. Kate was having her baby and the world was on high alert.

Of course I'm happy that this lovely couple (congratulations, Kate and Will!) had a healthy, I'm sure beautiful, baby boy, but I found it intrusive how much the entire planet—and every media outlet —was reporting on nothing else. I feel like I'm the only one who wasn't tweeting about this news today, and I feel like I must be a bad Canadian for not caring more, but I don't know... I just think something as special and lovely as the birth of a child should be a little more... private? I mean, there are literally thousand of people gathered around the hospital waiting to catch a glimpse of the new baby boy.

I for one and glad I didn't have to share the birth of my children with the entire world. I'm a pretty private person, despite being a blogger and despite that fact that I am online all the time.

I'm thankful that I'm not the mother of the Royal child because...

1. It would be impossibly difficult to have to smile all the time when out in public, especially in those first few very sleep-deprived weeks when you're adjusting to your new normal.

2. It would also be impossibly difficult to sneak a bag of Doritos with the world watching.

3. It would cause me a lot of anxiety knowing how hard it would be to find the perfect push present for me. After all, if I lived in a castle, what could I possibly be lacking or in need of?

4. I'd probably cry if this was how the birth of my baby was announced:

5. The amount of thank-you cards I'd have to write would take a year to complete.

So yes, it's a wonderful thing a new baby was welcomed into the world today, but tonight, I'm thankful  I'm not a member of the Royal family!


Summer Adventure Challenge 2013

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Summer is in full swing, and we've been on the go since school finished. We traveled to Toronto for a few days, and then we went to south Florida for a week of fun in the sun at our favourite resort with our entire family. My boys are attending another week of science camp (they love it!) and we are staying busy by swimming almost every day. Sometimes, though, I run out of ideas on how to keep my boys busy (and away from their DS's and iPads!)

Summer is all about staying active, having fun, and doing as much as possible away from electronics. (Unless you're a blogger, of course!) Summer is about road trips, camping, walks on the beach, picnics at the park, and breezy BBQ's outside with friends. It is also about connecting with your kids—that is my favourite part.

I'm so excited that I've been asked to be a part of the Summer Adventure Mom Blog Challenge with Michaels, because my children will be participating in the Passport to Imagination summer program.

I've signed the Unplugged Summer Pact, promising to cut back at least two hours a day from time spent "online" or in front of the television. Instead, we'll fill that time with fun-filled, creative and fun activities. My boys will attend the Michaels' Passport to Imagination 7-week summer crafting camp, and we're so excited! 

The Passport to Imagination lets little ones craft their way around the world on a 7-week voyage around the globe. Each 2 hour crafting adventure takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 to noon and is only $2.00 a child (ages five and up!)

I'll share with you the crafts my boys will be making and I'll fill you in on more information about the Passport to Imagination soon! In the meantime, if you're interested, you can sign up your children here and let the adventure begin! 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, and I have received compensation to participate in the Summer Adventure Mom Blog Challenge with Michaels. All opinions and views are my own! 

If You're A Foodie, You'll Love What Massachusetts Has To Offer

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One of the things I love the most about traveling is eating. That's right, meal time is pretty important when choosing a vacation destination! I love food, and I love exploring new places to eat. I have my favourite restaurants in all the cities I frequently visit, but there's something very exciting about trying out a new place for the first time, too.

Massachusetts is a great vacation destination for families, especially if you love festivals, the arts, and the great outdoors, but did you know it's also a perfect place to visit if you want an incredible culinary experience? There is something in Massachusetts for every vacationer who loves food. From seafood to pasta to delicious pastries, your taste buds will be very happy.

Massachusetts is a wonderful place to try new food, especially seafood. It's a State that's filled with excellent chefs and culinary experts. After all, the Boston Crème Pie was first baked here! 

If you're overwhelmed with the many fabulous choices of where to eat and where to go to find the best food, check out Flavortown USA. All the information you need in here: from the best diners to the best dives (they may not look fabulous, but the food will be—that's a guarantee!) You can be sure you'll have a good dining experience because all the dining establishments have been rated by people who've experienced these places before you.

No matter where you travel to in Massachusetts, you'll be enjoying some of the finest food there is.

Disclosure: I am working with Visit Massachusetts, and I am being compensated to write blog posts about vacationing in Massachusetts. All opinions and views are my own.


Movie Night On A Stormy Evening

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It was a dark and stormy night and Ottawa was under a tornado warning. It was the perfect night to stay safe and dry indoors. By five o'clock, my boys were in their pj's and cuddled on the couch with their cousins, ready to eat popcorn and watch a movie. After all, what goes better with a stormy night than a great movie to watch in the comfort of your own home?

The movie of choice? A Turtle's Tale 2—Sammy's Escape From Paradise. 

Thanks to Mom Central Canada, we were given the chance to preview the movie before it even hit store shelves. The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever that we had a DVD in our hands before it was available in stores!

We received A Turtle's Tale 2—Sammy's Escape From Paradise before we left for vacation, and didn't have a chance to watch it until today. (If you're interested in purchasing the movie, you now can.)

We got right into the movie (after we had our popcorn in our hands, of course!) and the kids loved it—even my three year old niece. You can check out the adorable trailer here.
Even I loved the movie. I loved that my children were so into it that they never once got bored. The animation, the colours, the characters—so beautifully done. I haven't seen the first movie but now we've decided that'll be the next one we all watch together!

My children both love the ocean, and sea creatures. My youngest son loves crabs and lobsters and my oldest son watches The Blue Planet all the time. He has a soft spot in his heart for sea turtles, so right from the very beginning of the movie, he was hooked. My sea creature loving boys thought this movie was very sweet.

If you're looking for a great movie to add to your home collection, this one is perfect for the entire family. We all give it two very enthusiastic thumbs up!

Disclosure: I am participating in A Turtle’s Tale 2 – Sammy Escapes From Paradise Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

The Great Outdoors: Massachusetts Style

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Summer is all about enjoying the great outdoors. Many days, my boys are outside from morning until night, and those are the days they fall asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows. Oh, the great joys of summer!

I love summer in my city, but I love summer even more when it's by a beach somewhere beautiful, like Cape Cod, or Martha's Vineyard. There is just so much to do in the great outdoors in Massachusetts, especially during the summer months.

The thing my family loves to do most of all in the summertime is swim, whether it's in a swimming pool, or in the ocean. We spend hours on the beach, going for walks, collecting sea shells, playing in the water, listening to the waves, and building sand castles. With so many beautiful beaches to choose from in Massachusetts, I know we'd be very happy. I still have very fond memories of my summer in Cape Cod when I was a child, and of my time spent on the beach during that vacation.

Of course, if you're going to Boston for the first time, you'll probably want to check out Fenway Park. It's almost impossible to visit Boston without bumping into a Red Sox, Celtics, or Bruins fan—so if your family is into sports, you've come to the right place! Maybe you'll be lucky enough to catch a baseball game at Fenway Park, too.

If you love the great outdoors, but aren't a huge sports fan, there is still a ton of stuff to do in this beautiful state, like kayaking, sailing, fishing, hiking, bike rides on the many scenic paths, and visits to the zoo. You can even go whale watching while enjoying the views from the boat.

Whatever outdoor activities you and your family choose to do in Massachusetts this summer, you'll be having a blast, staying fit, and making new memories to last a lifetime.

And hey— don't forget—outdoor activities include shopping, too!

Disclaimer: I am working with Visit Massachusetts, and I am being compensated to write blog posts about vacationing in Massachusetts. All opinions and views are my own.


How To Have The Best Summer Ever

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Summer is my absolute favourite season of all. If I could turn all four seasons into one, I would. Well, I'd leave a month for fall, because I love the colours of the trees, the crispness in the air, and the fall clothes, and I'd take two weeks of winter in December, for the holidays, but after that?

Bring. On. Summer.

You're probably wondering what a summer girl like me is doing living in a city that has like, seven months of winter (okay, slight exaggeration, but you get my point) and minus 30 degrees temperatures for months on end and I guess the reason I haven't left yet is because my entire family lives here. I would hate to be far apart from them.

Anyway! School's out, backpacks have been unpacked, lunch boxes have been disinfected, and we're thinking of fun and creative ways to give the kids a summer they'll remember forever.

Here's how we're making this the best summer ever:

Sleeping In: I know, this is pretty impossible with most children, but hopefully, as the days go by, my children will start sleeping in, even if it's only a few minutes more a day. Once they get used to not having to wake up super early, they'll start enjoying sleeping in, hopefully. (Sleeping in in my house, by the way? 7:00 a.m. Oh, the joys!)

Relaxing: We're now on our own summer schedule. We're relaxing, having fun at home, playing in the backyard, organizing our rooms, and just slowing it down a little.

Getting Creative: Just because my children are out of school doesn't mean we won't be sitting around the kitchen table doing some kind of work. Even if it's not homework, I try to keep my kids busy with fun, creative, and educational activities so they're ready for school once September rolls around.

Kiwi Crate was nice enough to send my boys two Wild Safari crates and as soon as they received them, they got right to work! This awesome kit kept my children busy for over an hour. Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription service, targeted at kids between three and seven years old. A different box is delivered monthly, designed around a certain theme like Dinosaurs, Garden, Superheroes, or Space. Kiwi Crate is for perfect for kids who love the arts and science, and imaginative play.

Kiwi Crate has a summer discovery series with fun outdoor themes like "nature explorers", "world of water", and "fun with flight", sure to keep little ones busy for hours on end!

Get Out There: I love slowing things down in the summertime, but I'm not one to stay home all day long. My boys start getting stir crazy, too, so we try to go somewhere every day: a trip to the library, visits to the park to play tennis, or downtown to take in the sights. We also love going for walks in our neighbourhood.

Visiting Museums: We've been members at all the museums in Ottawa for six years now, and we take full advantage of this! We're so lucky to live in a city that has so many great museums. My children especially love the Museum of Nature, which is so special to me because it was always my favourite museum as a child, too.

Road Trip: We love to include a road trip in our summer plans every year. From Niagara Falls, to Great Wolf Lodge and Maine, my boys love road trips in the summertime. We have special traditions, and spending time together in the vehicle is a great way to re-connect, too. We just got back from a wonderful vacation to Toronto, where we treated to a lovely two-floor suite at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville. We even had close friends over for dinner, and the kids had a blast. We took the boys to Legoland, too. Totally worth it, if your children love Lego, but it is a bit pricey to get in.

Family Vacation: I love getting away in the summer. Whether you're going to the family cottage, to Europe, or down south to enjoy the beautiful beaches, summer is really all about vacations. We're heading to our favourite destination this week—south Florida, where the ocean is warm and inviting. I can't wait!

Playdates and BBQ's: Who doesn't love a great backyard BBQ party with friends in the summertime? It's one of my favourite things to do! A cold drink, good friends, and a dip in the pool with some great music playing in the background and I'm in heaven.

Enjoying The Small Things: I am one of those moms who actually loves going to the park. I still love pushing my boys on the swings, and I still get down and dirty in the sand. Going to the park, taking a walk around the block, cheering on my boys at the soccer field, swimming from morning till night, and saying yes to ice cream whenever my boys ask for it (within reason!) are ways we're enjoying the small things this summer.

How are you planning on having the best summer ever? Whatever you do, I hope you're having fun. Summer is way too short to not make the most out of it!

Oh, and of course, Sangria is my summer drink of choice.


Westin Diplomat Resort Opens Heavenly Spa At Their Beachfront Property

My favourite resort is The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in south Florida. I have been vacationing there every winter and summer for the last seven years, and we can't get enough. My boys love it!

We love the perfect location between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, the infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and the lagoon style pool below, with cascading waterfalls. The ocean views are breathtaking, and the service is amazing, too. We also love how many fabulous things there are to do around the resort, like visiting Gulfstream Park, Aventura Mall, and the Bal Harbour Shops. We also love visits to the Miami Zoo and the Miami Children's Museum.

I'm happy to share the news that the Heavenly Spa By Westin and Westin WORKOUT have opened at the resort's beachfront property.... which means that while you're being massaged, or while you're burning calories working out, you'll be looking at magnificent views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The new 14,000 square feet oceanfront spa and 24 hour state of the art fitness studio have made this resort even more amazing than it was before!

The spa has 10 treatment rooms, a Halotherapy salt steam room, Vichy shower, manicure and pedicure stations, and features a variety of massages, body treatments, facials, and waxing.

There is even a 726 square foot duet treatment room with ocean views and a large soaking tub for couples to relax in. How heavenly, indeed.

The two-story 24-hour fitness studio has everything you'd find at your favourite gym, offers yoga classes, and features a spa cafe.

While I was at the Westin Diplomat, I was invited to take advantage of a one hour relaxation massage. It was... well, heavenly. I took a tour of the new facility, too, and the new space was so beautiful and relaxing... can you say ahhh? 

The Westin Soothe Package starts at $309 per night this summer, which includes spacious accommodations, one welcome spa amenity, a $50 spa credit per stay, daily complimentary breakfast for two, and late check-out. It doesn't get more fabulous than that!

If you were interested in getting your hair done, all you have to do is contact the Aura Salon, located at the Golf property, which is accessible via complimentary hotel shuttle.

To reserve an appointment at The Heavenly Spa by Westin at The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa call 954-602-8400, or check out the Diplomat Resort website.


The Importance Of A Spa Day (And A Synergy Spa Giveaway!)

Before having children I would always take time to do the things I loved, like doing my hair once a week at my favourite salon, going for monthly massages, and getting regular pedicures and manicures. It took a while after my children were born to get back into taking care of me again, but I have a pretty regular routine now where I take the time to do things for myself. A weekly blow-dry is a must! It's so important to take the time to unwind, and do something you love, just for you.

Last week I was treated to a fabulous manicure at Synergy Spa in Orleans, which is just a short drive from my home. (This could get dangerous, you guys!) After my Shellac manicure, I received an awesome hand massage with Moroccan Oil hand cream which was totally relaxing... and smelled absolutely delicious. I was also able to stock up on some Aveda hair supplies I needed, too, because the shelves are full of fabulous Aveda and Moroccan Oil products. 

Synergy Spa is in the east end of Ottawa, right off the 417, and has ample free parking, which is a huge bonus. The Spa is huge, clean, fresh, and offers many wonderful services like massage therapy, hot stone massage therapy, pedicures, manicures, and of course, a full salon for hair care. 

Synergy Spa has already become my favourite go-to spa in Ottawa. The personal service I experienced was great, and they offer every type of service you'd expect from a professional spa. Everything I need, so close to home.

Everyone deserves some time to relax and to get pampered, right? 

I'm so excited to be able to offer one of my wonderful readers a $100.00 gift certificate to Synergy Spa!

Here's how to enter:

Leave me a comment below telling me what you'd do with your $100.00 gift certificate.

Bonus entries:

Like me on Twitter.

Like my page on Facebook.

Like Synergy Spa on Twitter.

Leave me a comment for each bonus entry you've entered.

I'll pick a winner randomly on Thursday, July 11th!

Good Luck, friends. 

Disclosure: I was treated to a gift certificate to experience Synergy Spa. All opinions and views are my own.
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