Saturday, 2 August 2014

Five Must Have Camping/Beach Toys

Must Have Camping, Beach, Pool and Outdoor Toys
Who doesn't camp or visit the beach in the summer months? Even if you don't I bet you are on the look out for some great outdoor and pool toys. I partnered with Mastermind Toys to test out some toys on a recent camping trip to Beyond Hope RV Resort in Idaho. Mastermind was kind enough to provide me with the Dodge Tag and Aquapod the rest were purchased with my own pennies as I knew Grady would love them!

Anteater Bug Vac:

The Anteater Bug Vac grabbed me the moment I saw it on the shelf and with a self proclaimed scientist in the house I knew it would be a hit.
The basic idea is that you place the nozzle over the bug of choice and press the vacuum button sucking said bug up into a clear compartment.The compartment has a magnifying glass so you can get an even closer look at the bug.
The Vac works best with small and light bugs like ants or mosquitoes. However we were able to catch a wasp and large unidentified insect by sucking the bug up into the nozzle then covering the end with a hand or book while continuing to suck until the suction was strong enough to pull it into the chamber.

Grady LOVED this as did every other kid that got their hands on it, it was easy to use even for the youngest kids who were more excited by sucking that examining.

Aquapod Bottle Rocket:

Aquapod Bottle Rocket was ridiculously easy to use and really had WOW effect. For older kids they could certainly be set up in a safe location and left to refill and pump up the rocket themselves. The boys were both under 8 so I wasn`t confident that they could correctly read the gauge on the bike pump and safely launch the bottle.

My only complaint is that it doesn`t come with an initial bottle and a pump. There are lots of small bike pumps out there so I think the manufacturers could easily add this to the box and you would be ready for launch right away.

The boys were too excited to let me get a focused photo
Once we found a suitable bottle Grady really enjoyed decorating it first. I marked a fill line but the boys were insistent upon experimenting with different fill levels. We found 1/3 to 1/2 full made for the highest launch.

Dodge Tag:

Dodge Tag is lots of fun for adults and kids. Originally I bought one set but it only comes with 2 vest so I asked Mastermind to provide me with a second set so more kids could play. Little did I know the dads would be all over the fun and be first to get in on the Dodge Tag action.

The set is two vest and 6 balls. There were no "rules" but basically you are guaranteed fun if you just throw on a vest and start nailing each other with the soft foam balls.

I would love to see a team set that include enough vest for lots of players. It would be a great corporate team building game.

Sea Squirts Swim Assist:

The Sea Squirts Swim Assist vest is an attention grabber to be sure. Lots of people stopped Grady at Silverwood to check out his vest and tell him how cool it was.

The vest has a nice big zipper so it is easy to put on and take off for both kids and adults. It comes in a few sizes so it should be easy to find something that fits snug but comfortable.

The vest gave Grady that little bit of added confidence in the water without the bulk of a life jacket. Of course it doesn't replace a life jacket in terms of lifesaving capabilities but it does allow for more range of movement and enough buoyancy that kids feel secure in challenging themselves while swimming.


Another competitive type game Smakaball is lots of fun and added bonus is that all the parts float so it works great on land and in the water. But like Dodge Tag it only comes with enough pieces for two to play, other players could just use their arms etc but I found the kids didn't really want to play unless they each had a ring.

Make sure you inflated the ball all the way and then give it several hugs and inflate some more so that it will stick in the rings and you can truly smack it around. It also makes a good beach ball if you want to play beach ball volleyball or keep away.

What are your favourite camping, beach, outdoor or pool toys? Any must-haves I should check out for our next camping trip?

Friday, 4 July 2014

5 Reasons to LOVE Calgary Stampede 2014

I know there are lots of Calgary Stampede haters out there. I have friends who leave town because they think it is so awful or just can stand it or what have you. I on the other hand am a big Stampede fan. I agree there are lots of things to hate about it but there are far more good things than bad. Here are some of mine for this year:

1) The new Kids Midway The Great FUNtier:
Although the Stampede is family friendly I haven't always felt that they cater to the family crowd, in the past is has felt more about party-party-party. In any case this year the kids midway has moved. It is in a more open area and closer to all the other kids activities like the tanks and stuff, agriculture area and BMO Kidszone. The other change I noticed was signage all around that asks people not to smoke in the kids area, the bigger better bathrooms with water fountains and lots space so it doesn't feel as packed. The other nice thing is that is set back a  bit so if you want to skip it without your little realising you totally can!

2) Community Spirit: Since the flood last year I have found the people at Stampede to be much more fun loving and friendly. A great example is the guy in line who gave me his extra ticket to sneak-a-peek so Grady and I didn't have to wait in line and I didn't have to pay. Lots of karma going his way! I find there is less rushing and pushing and more smiling and enjoying. Like no one complained when the sweet old man working the line let a young woman cut. I think pre-flood would have made for some angry people

3) I love how everyone gets into the spirit. I know Calgary is not all about cowboys, in fact we probably are very little about ranching and horse riding the past 50 years and more oil and gas ;) So even if you hate identifying as a cowpoke community, think of it as a 10 day dress up party and a great excuse to wear denim to work. Plus hipster love plaid and I love me a nice wrangler butt. But it is so nice to see even corporate Calgary encourages the spirit, you don't hear of companies in other cities having a PNE or CNE or K-days party.

4) Its a whole lots of entertainment for a relatively reasonable price. You could conceivably spend only admission and still have a great time. It is less than the Calgary Zoo or Spark or even Heritage Park (oh that was a bit rhyme-y) And there are ways to get deals to save a bit too. Macs for example sells 2 for $25 passes plus you get two pops with it. Although it is over I would highly recommend Sneak-a-peek for short lines as long as you don't go in the main gates, but once you are in it is smooth sailing.
Found this beauty in the Buckaroos area, so you can recharge yourself and your phone.
5) If you do hate the hullabaloo you will find everywhere else to be a little less busy ;P

So tell me are you a Stampede hater or lover?

p.s. This post wasn't sponsored. I genuinely like Stampede and think it has much more to offer than that other Alberta city's thing

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Little Bow Provincial Campground

We recently tried out a new campground near Champion Alberta just south of Vulcan Alberta. Since we were only going for the weekend it was nice to find somewhere that was around a 2 hour drive or less. After a month of kitchen renovations it was nice to take break.

Little Bow Provincial Park is located on the Travers Reservoir and apparently can be a good place for spotting Peregrine Falcon in the wild. We were a little early in the season so the water was still quite cold and murky from lack of use but the kids enjoyed playing in the sand and splashing a bit.
We camped with 3 other families for a total of 3 trailers and one tent. If you are camping as a group I would suggest booking sites backing on to each other rather than in a row. There is not a lot of foliage separating the campsites and so kids would have more room to play unhindered by the trailers or tents. As well it would increase the privacy for your group.

Camping rates are very reasonable and it is a nice easy drive from Calgary. The lane ways are paved so it is great for biking and very easy to walk or bike down to the water. There is a little shop that sells snacks and some basic items as well as hot food and ice cream. There are several large parking lots at the beach so if you are staying a while it is easy to drive. Unfortunately there is no where along the beach that dogs are allowed but it is easy enough to walk and find a place for them to play.

We really enjoyed hiking up to the top of the hills surrounding the campground and seeing the views and hunting for cacti.

If you are a technology junkie and really need to be forced to put down you electronic devices, this is your campground as it is deep in the valley and has no cell service. There are plenty of payphones and staff on site should an emergency arise.

Mardi has decided that she is an old lady and hates camping. It is really challenging as she is pretty unhappy most of the time and either hides in her kennel or pulls to the end of her rope and looks generally miserable. I think part of it is that she doesn’t like having to stay on leash but if she would just be a good girl and not wander off like Rebar we maybe wouldn’t keep her tied up. Yes we are those people who don’t always have their pups tied up at the campground, except for Mardi the wanderer.! As a result of her new found hate for camping we are not taking them when we travel to Idaho in July. It will be much easier on us and on them.

This was our first trip out this year so needless to say Grady was very excited. He came down with a nasty cold the week we were heading out but we decided to go regardless as he would have been more miserable if we had stayed home. He did not play late into the day like usual and took more “trailer” breaks than he might otherwise but he still had a good time.

You can check out what my friends that camped with us also had to say:

It is such a lovely piece of land in Alberta. It honestly looked like something out a movie set it was just so picturesque! I didn’t really sit down to read my book a lot as it was so nice to just chat and gaze at the beautiful prairie surroundings.

I think if we are looking for a quick trip we will definitely be going back. We have a few others on our bucket list that are close by to check out first!

What is your favourite Alberta campground?