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What to Bring on a Day Trip to Ontario Parks

Looking for a little family getaway outdoors but just for the day? Pack some outdoor gear, a picnic lunch, and head out to one of Ontario’s Parks!

What to bring on a day trip to an Ontario Park? It all depends on which Ontario Park you choose! Since there are over 300 provincial parks in Ontario, with more than 100 operating parks with visitor facilities, there is undoubtedly a park close by for you to enjoy with the family.

We’re lucky to have Sibbald Point Provincial Park about a half hour away from home. Located on Lake Simcoe, this park has camping, picnicking, fishing, boating, and swimming from its clean and sandy beach. Living close to nature and spending time outdoors has so many benefits including reducing stress and improving your mental health. So, we’ll be sure to take several day trips to Sibbald Point during the summer – it’s our go-to spot for sun and sand.

What do we bring for the day? Typically, we pack a cooler, portable BBQ, mini-tent and beach chairs and head up to the lake for a day of beach fun. The most important part in our family? The food! My hungry teen boys like to ensure we’ve packed enough food and snacks for our visits to the park.

Packing sandwiches is fast and convenient, but when you want something a little extra, we like to make something hot off the grill, like our own homemade burgers with some yummy sides.

Bringing a picnic lunch to an Ontario Park takes a little bit of preparation but it’s oh so worth it when you’re hungry from swimming in the lake. I’ll break it down for you with some tips and ideas on what to bring on a day trip to Ontario Parks.

What to bring on a day trip to Ontario Parks

Prep ahead of time

The key to having a delicious picnic is all about preparation! Plan out your lunch menu and snacks ahead of your trip. Instead of bringing everything with you to prepare there, have everything ready beforehand, and leaving the finishing touches at the Ontario Park of your choice.

For this visit, I’m making homemade burgers with a pasta salad and coleslaw – you’ll find my recipes below. I’ll have mostly everything prepared in advance so that once it’s time to start cooking, the prep is minimal.

I prepared the burgers at home and placed the patties in between wax-paper, then stored in a plastic container. I find using reusable containers and cutlery the easiest and greenest way to store food for the day. Also, I prepared the pasta salad and coleslaw but didn’t add the dressings until it was time to eat, to avoid soggy sides.

Don’t forget to pack fresh fruit as well! I’ll chop up half a watermelon and store in a container to avoid making a mess on site.  Nuts and/or trail mix, granola bars, and cheese and crackers are good snack options too.

The Ontario Parks website has some great tips on what you need to help plan your day-visit or camping trip. 

Packing food

We have a large cooler with a drain plug and wheels, which is convenient to carry.  I usually pack some ice at the bottom of the cooler, and then add the meat and mayo-based dishes closest to the ice, then adding bottled drinks and fruits closer to the top.

Adding frozen drinks such as water to the cooler serves two purposes: extra ice for the cooler and ice-cold drinks during a heat wave!

Make sure to keep a few garbage bags with you; one to collect recyclables, and one for garbage. Since we’re only going for the day, we bring our garbage (which is minimal) back with us. Any paper towel or napkins can go right back into the food containers to bring home.

Other food ideas?

Other than sandwiches and burgers, what else can you bring to your picnic? Think of your regular lunch fare and kick it up a notch!

  • Add some oomph to your regular hot dogs by cooking a chili in advance and use as a topping; heat up some chili before you head out to the Park and keep in a thermos to stay warm.
  • Skewers are a quick and delicious option. Chicken or pork souvlaki with Tzatziki and pita is a winner anytime, anywhere.
  • Sausage on a bun with corn
  • Ontario Parks website has some other great camping meal ideas.

Portable grill or camping stove?

Most people who camp use a camp stove or the campfire. But if you’re heading out for a day visit, a portable propane grill is your best bet. While charcoal BBQ tastes good, it does tend to cause a lot of smoke and smell, especially if you’re grilling in a picnic area close to a lot of other visitors.

If you’re a regular camper, you may prefer a camp stove or simply your campfire.  It might be more convenient because you can bring both a frying pan and a pot for cooking different types of foods. You can cook just about anything on a two-burner camping stove that you could cook on your stovetop at home. The trick is making sure that your stove offers decent wind protection and simmer control. 

In our case, my propane grill wasn’t working properly so I opted to use a camp stove to cook our burgers. Cooking food on the campfire can be fun but it does take longer to cook as you won’t want to cook your food right over the flames, but off to the side.  Many fire-pits in come with a camp grill at Ontario Parks. You can use some aluminum foil and place directly on the grill, or with a cast iron pan – be sure to have heat-resistant oven gloves. Ontario Parks has some great tips on camping stoves.

Here is my simple and easy recipe for Homemade Hamburgers and Easy Pasta Salad:

Homemade Hamburgers

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lbs of AAA or Angus ground beef, lean
  • 1 onion, shredded
  • 1 tbsp ketchup or barbecue sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp chipotle sauce or dried
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, add ground beef, and all other ingredients.
  2. Mix well and then form the well-seasoned beef into patties.
  3. Pack them between layers of waxed paper and store in a reusable container.
  4. Grill on each side for about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Enjoy!

Easy Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams rotini or fusilli pasta (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1 red onion sliced thin
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • ½ cup black olives, sliced
  • ½ yellow or red pepper, sliced
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. each oregano, basil, garlic powder, thyme, rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta until al dente. In the meantime, slice or shred all vegetables and add to a medium-size reusable container.
  2. In a small container, mix olive oil, vinegar and spices and sugar, and shake until mixed.
  3. When pasta is ready, remove from heat and immediately drain with cold water. Once cool, add pasta to a reusable container.
  4. Add 2 tbsp of olive to pasta to keep moist. Keep dressing and vegetables separate until ready to serve.

Yield: 6

Homemade Hamburgers

Homemade Hamburgers

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs of AAA or Angus ground beef, lean
  • 1 onion, shredded
  • 1 tbsp ketchup or barbecue sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp chipotle sauce or dried
  • 1 egg

Instructions

    1. In a large bowl, add ground beef, and all other ingredients.
    2. Mix well and then form the well-seasoned beef into patties.
    3. Pack them between layers of waxed paper and store in a reusable container.
    4. Grill for about 7 minutes on one side, flip and grill for another 7 minutes on the other side.
Yield: 4

Easy Pasta Salad

Easy Pasta Salad

The perfect side dish for my homemade hamburger recipe for a picnic or day visit to an Ontario Park.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 500 grams rotini or fusilli pasta (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1 red onion sliced thin
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • ½ cup black olives, sliced
  • ½ yellow or red pepper, sliced
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp each oregano, basil, garlic powder, thyme, rosemary
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper

Instructions

    1. Cook pasta until al dente. In the meantime, slice or shred all vegetables and add to a medium-size reusable container.
    2. In a small container, mix olive oil, vinegar and spices and sugar, and shake until mixed.
    3. When pasta is ready, remove from heat and immediately drain with cold water. Once cool, add pasta to a reusable container.
    4. Add 2 tbsp. of olive to pasta to keep moist.

Notes

Keep dressing and vegetables separate until ready to serve.

 

How to visit an Ontario Park

Reserve your daily vehicle permit in advance of your visit to avoid disappointment. Select Ontario parks are offering free visits from Monday to Thursday! To learn more, visit Ontario Parks:  https://www.ontarioparks.com/reservations

 

 

 

This post is proudly sponsored by Ontario Parks. As always, the opinions expressed are my own.

 

Best Places to Travel With Kids in the U.S.

There are so many places to travel with kids in the U.S., and so many variables, too! Where you should go depends on what your family likes, how old your kids are, what your budget is, and how long you have for your trip. But what are the best places to travel with kids in the U.S.?

If you and your family have a tight budget, consider staying local. Search your state + vacation + budget to find the best spots that won’t break the bank. There are so many beautiful places to travel with kids in your own state, that you can easily take a road trip.

But if you’re considering a different state, travelling with kids when they’re young can provide savings too; when they’re under 2 years old, they fly for free! So that’d be the perfect time to fly to Hawaii or another far-away location before you have to pay for a plane ticket.

How can you decide where to travel with kids in the U.S.? We’ve narrowed it down a little for you… Here are the best places to travel with kids in the U.S.

Best Places to Travel With Kids in the U.S.

Niagara Falls

Known as America’s Oldest State Park, Niagara Falls is home to the Aquarium of Niagara, which will probably be your child’s favorite part of the visit! You can get up close and personal with penguins and even sharks!

Photo by hk on Unsplash

Grand Canyon

Just like Niagara Falls, people travel from all over the world to visit the Grand Canyon. If you’re visiting, be sure to check out this Arizona Bucket List before you go!

Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

San Diego

With year-round warm weather, miles of gorgeous beaches and fun outdoor activities, San Diego is a top vacation spot in the U.S. because of its fun family vibe. One of the most-visited cities in the world and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S., families can explore 70 miles of shoreline during their San Diego family vacation. San Diego also features some of the top tourist attractions for families; there’s plenty to do and see for kids of all ages.

San Diego is a Fun Destination for the Family - Belmont Park rides

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

This is one of those spots that you don’t want to forget your camera for! Go hiking, visit the Jagger museum, take the Crater Rim Tour, or just drive Chain of Craters Road. Before you go, you can check the volcano conditions. Sounds crazy, right? “Check volcano conditions before you go!”

Image by Tommy Beatty from Pixabay

Golden Gate Bridge

Take a walk on the pedestrian pathway on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Older kids will love the absolutely breathtaking views of this great city, but with more than 10 million annual visitors, there’s a lot of hustle and bustle so be mindful if you have little ones. Plan your visit before you go.

Photo by Carl Solder on Unsplash

Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks, or OBX, is a 200-mile long string of narrow barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, beginning in the southeastern corner of Virginia Beach on the east coast of the United States. The stunning barrier islands are home to some of the largest undeveloped beaches on the East Coast, making OBX a popular beach vacation destination for families.  If you’re looking for casual lodging for the family in The Outer Banks, North Carolina, then Waves Village Resort in Rodanthe is a wonderful choice.

10 Fun Activities to Do Outdoors in the Outer Banks Rodanthe Pier

Yellowstone

The world’s first national park, Yellowstone is one of a kind. Explore mountains and forests, catch a glimpse of hot springs and geysers, and watch wildlife in its natural habitat. Be sure to check for road closures before you head to Yellowstone in the winter.

Photo by Donovan Atherley on Unsplash

Disney World

You and your kids can have a wonderful vacation at any Walt Disney World resort, but the flagship in Orlando has to be the happiest place on earth. The toughest part will be decided which one of the parks to visit; Magic Kingdom, Epcot Centre, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom.

Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

Cedar Point

You’ll enjoy live entertainment, water rides, thrill rides, and events for the whole family at Cedar Point. Located in Ohio, this is a spot you’ll want to visit during summer!

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Where’s your favorite spot to travel with kids?  

 

Why Instagram Turned Me Off Social Media

At one point, my passion (and livelihood) was the internet, spending much of my time online and “living and breathing” social media. But then everything changed with Instagram. Soon enough, Instagram turned me off social media completely.

Before Instagram blew up into a platform full of egoists and wanna-be celebs, it was a place to share photos instantly – off-the-cuff moments of our lives, a behind-the-scenes visual of the little moments not usually shared publicly. It offered people an inside scoop of our realities – raw and unfiltered.

In the early days, it was popular to use the dark pre-set filter of our snaps so they could appear a little more blurry and artsy. Imagine that! Now, Instagram images are glossy, highly-edited magazine covers. Some influencers-turned-photographers learned Photoshop, bought expensive lighting and purchased DSLRs. Others took courses to learn how to capture the best “Instagram-worthy” shot with their iPhones, slowly killing some photography businesses in the process.

They hired photographers to capture the carefully curated moments of their picture-perfect lives. They hid their regular, mundane day-to-day parts because Instagram is supposed to be an “escape”. Only show the pretty in life – and God forbid it wasn’t designed and photographed like an art director of Vogue or House & Home.

Why Instagram Turned Me Off Social Media
Which one is the real Khloe Kardashian?  Photos: Instagram
Why Instagram Turned Me Off Social Media
Flawless skin or filter???  John Mayer on Instagram

It’s all one big, stupid, pointless farce. No one lives that way.

Instagram was first created to share Instant moments – stories were there to capture in-the-moment snaps. The “instant” in “Insta-gram” became lost when brands began to see an opportunity to leverage their sales. The secret word – monetize.

The blogging industry took a hit when Instagram peaked and the “influencer” became the hottest commodity in social media marketing. Instagram influencers began purchasing followers, likes and even comments to boost their engagement, driving their “price” up higher.

Remember when brands caught on?

It took a while but the brands caught on, and the few that had integrity, did their research on influencers before agreeing to work with them. But the others, the majority, fed the beast. Brands flocked to the hottest influencer of-the-week, throwing money for them to wear the latest trend, apply the newest shade of eye shadow, show-off their flawless skin. They overlooked the bot comments and fake likes, as long as the numbers were there to prove the campaign was successful, even if they were bought.

Soon after, regular folks caught on.

“Oh, all I have to do is post some pretty pictures and buy some followers and I can make money!” Every Dick and Jane in town suddenly became an entrepreneur by starting an Instagram account, purchasing a $39 online course on how to become an “influencer” and ta-da! Anyone with even a tiny following could “influence” others’ purchasing decisions; they coined the terms nano-influencers, micro-influencers and so on…

Source: MediaKix.com

Fake Famous is a documentary that delves into this phenomenon with a social experiment. They take three non-famous people and throw them into the social media influencer world by “faking” fame. They use tactics such as buying followers and faking a luxurious lifestyle to garner followers. The doc is definitely worth a watch, and shows you have to be a certain type of person to lavish – borderline narcissist perhaps? – to play the Instagram “game”.

The pressure is real.

What about the bloggers we once knew, did they fare well on Instagram? People we once admired succumbed to the pressure of boosting their numbers. How else could they compete in a growing sea of influencers? The market became so saturated that many bought into the competition, finding various slimy ways of growing their pages – basically selling out. What non-celebrity manages to get 3,000 new followers within 48 hours?

Instagram became an addiction.

And that’s what social media is purposed to do, to keep you on their particular platform as long as possible.  Keep scrolling and scrolling endlessly, our brains shutting down while flashes of video, altered and filtered selfies, and silly dances to catchy tunes seep into our subconscious.

Instagram also rewards users by spending hours on their platform; the more time you spend scrolling, the more your posts will be seen too. You keep feeding the beast and the beast will reward you. The algorithm shifts depending on how many endless hours you’re willing to dedicate to making Instagram richer. 

And that’s one of the main reasons Instagram turned me off social media and “killed” blogging.

Instagram turned me off social media.

Well, not killed – because no matter what, your own blog/website is YOURS; not owned by Mark Zuckerberg who can switch the algorithm without notice and kill your audience. And if you can’t dedicate two hours a day to spend on Instagram, Instagram won’t give a shit about you! 

Let’s not forget about the highly-coveted 10,000 follower mark when the skies magically open up for the heavenly reward – the swipe-up feature in Stories. What people will do to reach that 10K! If Instagram allowed this silly feature for every user despite the number of followers, the underground sub secret business of bots might not be so lucrative.

Attention spans have dwindled.

No one wants to read blogs anymore because their attention spans have dwindled down to a mere 15 seconds. I remember in my broadcast journalism classes, we’d ask our interviewee to dumb things down to short soundbites. That worked for television, but people still enjoyed reading long-form content – you remember… newspapers, magazines, books and even blogs. 

Now, those short soundbites are all we’re accustomed to, and sometimes 15 seconds is too long. It’s to the point where mere seconds is the maximum amount of attention we’re capable of giving at any moment. How has this become our lives today?

You have six seconds to make an impression.

Many people bought into this idea of beautiful feeds and consistent, glossy images. But there were some – like me – who didn’t fall into this notion that Instagram has to be the new generation of bullshit.

I was more focused on the content, sharing stories, helpful tips and resources. But it seemed no one was interested – or had the attention span – of long-form content anymore.

I’ll keep doing my own thing.

Writing a book was a goal I had for many years and to see it come to fruition was a career highlight. It was the highly-anticipated peak of my blogging career. Writing a book would open more doors, while adding credibility to all the work I’d done leading up to this pivotal point.

But I had less than 10,000 followers. Brands began overlooking those who were “less-than” the huge numbers they sought. It didn’t matter than I wrote a book; an author with a smaller following couldn’t dare compete with an influencer with 25K fans.

Maria unfiltered and filtered amotherworld
Me – unfiltered and filtered

Put a fork it in.

That’s the society we live in today, and I’m so over it. I’m over the huge egos, the “look-at-me!” cries for attention, the over-sharing, the manipulated images, the parents who use their kids as props and future-fashionistas.

So I will keep doing my own thing, staying true to myself and not changing who I am to feed into the insanity that has become of Instagram. Instagram has turned me off social media in a way no other social media platform has.

The bubble has to burst at some point. And just like blogging once had its hay day, Instagram will too be a thing of the past.

 

5 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Kitchen

We spend a lot of time in our kitchens and for many, it is the heart of the home. It’s not just the place to cook and enjoy meals, but it truly is the space where the family comes together.  No matter how busy each family member is with work, school, extra curricular activities, going out with friends, everyone comes home to the kitchen.

We’ve had the same kitchen since we moved in! It’s gone through a lot of wear and tear, thousands of meals (and clean-up). We’ve put off a kitchen renovation for so long because of the logistics involved – the main factor causing some hesitancy is knowing we wouldn’t have a kitchen for at least six weeks.

But the is time is near for a full kitchen renovation. A kitchen should last for 20 years or more, and it surely has in our home! But time is up! 

So where to begin? There are many things to consider when planning a kitchen reno, and there are so many ideas, it can become overwhelming. Here are some things to consider when planning a kitchen reno:

5 things to consider when renovating your kitchen

5 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Kitchen

1. Colour and style

Many people find online research helpful to explore kitchen colours and styles, as well as the latest trends and materials available on the market. Pinterest and Houzz are great places to start for inspiration. But sometimes pictures aren’t enough; you want to see and touch countertops, tiles, cabinets.

That’s why a one-stop shop like Improve Canada is so convenient – there are over 350 showrooms to improve your entire home including kitchen, bath and living spaces. Improve Canada is Canada’s largest centre for home improvement, conveniently located in Vaughan, Ontario, off Highways 400 and 407. There are general contractors, interior designers, vendors for flooring, backsplashes, cabinets, landscaping and pool contractors, and custom furniture manufacturers/importers.

Do you know when you have a vision but can’t quite describe it until you see it? That’s what happens when you browse the showrooms; once you walk through a real kitchen layout, you can visualize what the space would look like in your own home. GT Kitchens and Azure have some great kitchen renovation ideas; these particular designs caught my eye.

How long will the pure white kitchen trend last? Back when we chose the materials for our current kitchen, the colour of maple wood was all the rage. When you talk to experts who are in-the-know of current – and upcoming – trends, they can help you decide on a palette that you’ll love for years to come.

5 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Kitchen
Azure Design Studio
Kitchen Reno GT Kitchen & Bath
Azure Design Studio
Azure Design Studio
GT Kitchen & Bath

2. Cabinets

When we bought our home (from a builder), we upgraded to solid maple cabinets. Nowadays, many of the kitchens use composite materials. So I’m not sure we’d want to rip out beautiful maple cabinets to replace them with MDF – it doesn’t seem to make sense. We might consider hiring a company to refinish them to a two-tone; perhaps white for the upper cabinets and grey or navy blue for the bottom. I’m not sure yet.

Vangarde Cabinet Design and Factory makes cabinet fronts and accessories that fit Ikea kitchen, transforming ordinary looking Ikea kitchens into extraordinary ones.

White kitchen cabinets
Vangarde Cabinet Design & Factory
Kitchen Reno GT Kitchens & Bath
GT Kitchen & Bath
Vangarde Cabinet Design Factory
Vangarde Cabinet Design Factory
Vangarde Cabinet Design Factory
Vangarde Cabinet Design Factory
GT Kitchen & Bath

3. Countertops

For our kitchen renovation, we will be looking for more durable countertops. We’re leaning towards quartz, although granite and marble are the most popular choices when it comes to natural stone countertops.

Marble is elegant in appearance, while granite offers a more natural look. Granite is durable and heat-resistant, but if not sealed, can get scratched. Marble is more expensive and not as durable but is heat-resistant. Both surfaces will need to be sealed once in a while to keep from scratches and maintain durability.

Quartz countertops are great at resisting scuffs, scratches, and stains. Being an artificial material, quartz need sealing as does marble or granite. Quartz is actually harder than granite more durable. But it be damaged by excessive heat so you can’t place hot pots and pans directly on the surfaces. Quartz is a lower-maintenance option, is easier to maintain. and more environmentally friendly.

Sinco Granite, and Surfaces for All Purposes have gorgeous options for countertops, as does MESH Porcelain Slab and Tile and Metropolitan Tile.

GT Kitchen and Bath
Sinco Granite countertops
Sinco Granite
Surfaces For All Purposes
Surfaces For All Purposes
Mesh Porcelain Slab and Tile
Sinco Marble and Tile

 

4. Backsplash & Flooring

Cork, tiles or wood floors? Since our kitchen is a high-traffic area, I’m looking for durable flooring and porcelain is a hard and resistant material. I love the larger porcelain or ceramic tiles that look like marble or wood grain.

We have ceramic tiles and over the years, have several that have chipped, and there is no way to hide them. Porcelain clays are denser and less porous than ceramic clays, which makes the tiles harder and more resistant to moisture. Porcelain is also considered more durable and better suited for heavy usage than ceramic tile.

MESH Porcelain Slab and Tile, and Surfaces for All Purposes and Metropolitan Tile also have a wide selection of materials that can work for backsplashes and flooring.

Pyramid Home Renovation sells flooring and kitchen fixtures, as well as offers contracting services. They have beautiful styles and colours to choose from, as well as high-end kitchen and bath fixtures.

 

MESH Porcelain Slab and Tile
MESH Porcelain Slab and Tile
5 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Kitchen
Pyramid Home Renovation
Pyramid Home Renovation
Pyramid Home Renovation
Pyramid Home Renovation
Pyramid Home Renovation
Pyramid Home Renovation improve canada
Pyramid Home Renovation

5. Extra storage

Busy families desperately need more storage so would be looking at adding a custom-built kitchen island to match the cabinets, as well as a pantry. At Improve Canada, plan a visit to Star Woodworking which designs and manufactures custom kitchens and cabinetry.

Star Woodworking
Azure Design Studio
5 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Kitchen
Star Woodworking

 

Improve Canada

You can visit and browse Improve Canada at your leisure, but for a more personalized experience, the centre offers booking appointments for you so that you can have the best shopping trip, as well as due to Covid-19 restrictions and for safety purposes. Also, depending on when you are visiting, it’s best to book an appointment to ensure the showrooms are open and not busy with other scheduled visits.

When you call the customer service team, they will ask you questions about your needs and they will set you up with the best experts for your renovation.

Improve Canada is located at 7250 Keele Street, Vaughan. Call them to book an appointment at (905) 677-2577. Visit them at Improve Canada – Canada’s LARGEST Home Improvement & Renovation Centre

Azure Design Studio

This post is proudly sponsored by Improve Canada. As always, the opinion expressed herein are my own.

How to Decorate your Backyard on a Small Budget

Outdoor living spaces have become more popular, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020. Since we haven’t been able to travel anywhere or have people over, many of us have created our own little oasis in our backyards. 

We’ve been spending more time – and  money – on our backyards, patios and decks than ever before. And with good reason – the backyard is our connection to the outdoors, a natural space where you can relax and unwind.  A place where you can ease your mind after a long stressful day and appreciate the natural world in style.

Decorating a backyard may seem daunting as some of the items to decorate your outdoor space may come at a high cost. The good news is that you don’t need to take out a second mortgage to create a backyard oasis. Nope, you can be creative and smart when coming up with a simple plan, with the right materials and some imagination. There are a few inexpensive ways decorate your backyard on a small budget.

Here’s how to decorate your backyard on a small budget:

How to Decorate your Backyard on a Small Budget

decorate backyard small budget

Plan first, shop later

Before you shop, make a plan.  Think about these questions: what type of theme are you going for? A calm, zen-like atmosphere, a culinary retreat, or a Canadian campfire scene? You don’t have to necessarily choose one theme and implement favourites of each but it can help narrow down costs if you’re able to choose what you’re more likely to use.

What will you be using your backyard for – dining, relaxing, or both? If you plan on entertaining dinners, a patio set with a table and chairs might suit you best. If you plan on relaxing and reading more often than entertaining, a sectional couch with a table might be a better fit for your lifestyle. You may ditch the table and sectional completely and opt for a few Muskoka chairs surrounding a fire pit.

Another important thing to note when decorating a perfect backyard is that the setting should follow the style you have in mind or the one that fits your backyard’s shape and size. 

Outdoor Furniture

Garden furniture is an essential element in creating your backyard oasis. After all, you need to be able to sit down to relax somewhere rather than on the grass or concrete! Some decent furniture sets could cost up to $1,000, but depending on your budget, you can always get quality knockoffs for much less. Also, look on resell sites such as Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace where you can find some gently used chairs and tables.

Sometimes comfort is more important than esthetics; these Zero Gravity lounge chairs are the most comfortable. I can take a nap in the shade lying on one of these!

Zero Gravity Chair

For Living Black Sling Zero Gravity Chair Canadian Tire

 

outdoor loveseat

CANVAS Breton Patio Loveseat Canadian Tire

outdoor sectional

Sol 72 Outdoor™ Merton 7 Piece Sectional Seating Group with Cushions | Wayfair.ca 

outdoor dining set for four people

ÄPPLARÖ Table and 4 folding chairs, outdoor – brown stained. Official Website – IKEA

red Muskoka chair

KLÖVEN Deck chair, outdoor, red – IKEA

 

Outdoor Seating Area Shade/Canopy

Your backyard should also have a covered roof or sturdy umbrella that will keep you out of that hot summer sun. A covered seating area provides space to relax in the shade and a place for dining, reading and entertaining comfortably. It doesn’t have to involve heavy furniture or construction; you can always go for an adjustable convertible canopy that is easy to set up and use. For a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a backyard canopy that is easily assembled and built sturdy to withstand those humid thunderstorms. Another option – and very affordable – is a sun shade.  

outdoor canopy

ABCCANOPY Pop Up Canopy Tent  10X10 Ft | Wayfair.ca

outdoor patio umbrella

Arlmont & Co. Tipton 108” Market Umbrella | Wayfair.ca

Sun shade for patio

AsterOutdoor Sun Shade Sail Rectangle 8′ x 12′ UV Block Canopy for Patio: Amazon.ca

Outdoor Lighting

Like inside the home, the right lighting creates an atmosphere. Outdoor or open-air lighting can also give you extra outdoor fun time well past sundown and create an ambiance that will keep you and guests wanting to stay outside well into the night.

Outdoor string lights can add a touch of magic to your backyard space.  There are so many options to choose from – LED, solar-powered, battery-powered; and white, multi-coloured, vintage bulbs and even mini patio lanterns. I prefer solar-powered so you don’t have to worry about extension cords and plugs.

Outdoor edison lights

CANVAS Montmarte Heavy-Duty Outdoor String Lights Canadian Tire

patio lantern lights

CANVAS Wasaga String Lights Canadian Tire

A fire pit can also give you the ambiance you’re looking for, as well as a spot to make s’mores, of course! There are various options too, from a fire pit with cooking grid, to a fire pit table.

firepit table

Endless Summer 39-in Rectangular Gas Fire Pit | Lowe’s Canada (lowes.ca)

outdoor firepit

Pleasant Hearth Bellora Fire Pit with Cooking Grid | The Home Depot Canada

Artificial Wall Grass

City-dwellers may not have the space for tree and flowers, even grass. But there’s a clever solution – adding artificial wall grass to your space. A wall of grass can make your space very private as well, and add that nature feel to your backyard. There are even DIY options on Etsy.

Sunnyglade artificial hedge is used for outdoor decoration, patio, garden fencing, backyard, and more.  Its tendency will cover the walls of your outdoor area with green color. These outdoor artificial wall grass can cost from $10 per square meter.

grass wall

Artificial Lime Green Boxwood Hedge | TableclothsFactory

 

Flowers

Flowers are obviously a must for a backyard oasis. Buy pre-made planters from your local garden centre or create your own baskets or plant a flower garden.

Roses, pansies, marigolds – stick to a colour theme to make choosing flowers easier. Go for pinks and purples, or yellows and oranges, or red and white for Canada Day.

Here are some gardening tips for growing plants from seeds.

Accessories

For some final touches, add a few outdoor pillows and cute dinnerware to complete your backyard space. These pillows are beachy and cute.

to the beach pillow

Beach Outdoor Pillow by Ashland® | Michaels

outdoor dinnerware

Breezy Melamine Palm Leaf Dinnerware | Crate and Barrel

outdoor dinnerware

W Home™ Palm Leaf Dinnerware Collection | bedbathandbeyond.com

With these backyard tips, you are on the right path to setting up a well-decorated and functional backyard. Good luck with having a more pleasant backyard fun time!

outdoor dining table and chairs backyard

11 Beginner Tips for Growing Plants from Seeds

Are you a beginner gardener? While it may seem easier to start your garden from a transplant, or “ready-made” plant, growing plants from seed can be satisfying.

One of life’s hidden treasures is watching your seeds grow into healthy plants with edible fruits or leaves. This is a fantastic way to get into gardening early in the season.

If you’re new to gardening, start small and with a few easy-to-grow varieties. You’ll have the most success if you keep things easy. It’s easy to grow from seed to harvest with the right light and some basic equipment.

What is the best way to start plants from seeds? Here are 11 beginner tips for growing plants from seeds.

11 Beginner Tips for Growing Plants from Seeds

  1. Ensure that the timing is right.
  2. Use the right containers
  3. Make sure your soil is right
  4. Plant your seeds at the appropriate depth
  5. Water
  6. Maintain a constant moisture level
  7. Fertilize
  8. Keep the soil warm
  9. Keep air circulating 
  10. Seedlings need light
  11. Harden off your seedlings

seedlings growing in small containers

1. Ensure that the timing is right.

When planting seeds, the main aim is to get seedlings or plants ready to be transplanted outdoors once the weather permits. Check the back of your seed packet to see when you can start planting them inside and when you should move them outside. This may vary depending on where you live (gardening zone).

Starting seeding 6-8 weeks before the last frost is a good rule of thumb. While timing is key, don’t worry if you start a little early.

Some plants, such as beans and squash, grow so quickly that they don’t need to be started indoors. Read the seed packets carefully to find out which ones to start and which ones to guide sow, which means to plant them outside right away.

2. Use the right containers

You don’t want your containers to be too large or too small, so choosing the right ones is crucial. Choose a container with a depth of at least 2-3 inches and a width of about the same. This will encourage you to start your seeds without worrying about them being planted too deep or too shallow. Make sure there’s a drainage hole in the bottom. This is essential to avoid root rot and overwatering.

3. Make sure your soil is right

Watering and sunlight are essential, but so is soil composition. Purchase a test kit from Amazon, have your soil checked by a local nursery, or visit your local extension office, which will most definitely test it for free. When growing plants from seeds, it’s not a smart idea to reuse the potting soil from your houseplants. You shouldn’t use soil from your garden unless it’s freshly mixed soil that you haven’t yet planted anything else in.

Starting with a new, sterile soil mix is the best way to go. This guarantees disease-free, stable seedlings. The majority of potting mixes are devoid of nutrients. I know the bag says it will feed your plants for up to 6 months, but to ensure you get the healthiest plants, add your own liquid fertilizer a few weeks after the seedlings have sprouted.

Make sure the soil is moist until you start bringing it into the container. You don’t want the soil to be soaking wet or muddy in consistency. It just needs to be slightly damp. This means that the seeds have moisture right away, which aids in their germination. Moist soil also helps to nourish seedlings as they do not have their own established root system yet.

4. How deep should I plant my seeds?

One of the many pleasures of gardening is planting seeds. Here’s a little secret about how to always get the perfect depth. This is founded on a lot of trial and error over the years.

The general rule is that the seed should be planted twice as deep as it is long. So, what exactly does that imply? Let’s make things a bit clearer. Multiply the number of seeds you have by two. If your seed is 1/8 inches long, you can plant it 1/4 inches deep. Isn’t it simple? Most of my seeds are planted about 1/4 inches deep, as this tends to be the sweet spot for germination for most seeds.

5. How often should I water my seeds?

Water is necessary for the growth of seeds and plants. You don’t want to overwater or underwater your seeds so they won’t germinate. Begin with moist soil and water once a day. You may need to water twice a day if you live in a dry climate. Test to see if your soil is dry to the touch. If it is, a small amount of water should be added.

6. Maintain consistent moisture

Use a seed starting container with a lid to maintain a high level of humidity. This is an excellent place to launch your seeds. This is by far the simplest method for creating a high-humidity setting. Another excellent way is to sandwich your seeds between two damp paper towels and store them in a tightly sealed plastic container with a lid.

7. What temperature do my seeds need to be kept at to germinate?

The majority of seeds germinate at temperatures ranging from 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Hold your seeds at 75°F after they’ve sprouted. They will stay safe and flourish as a result of this.

8. Do I need to fertilize my seeds?

Although your seeds usually do not need fertilizer once they sprout and become seedlings, a weekly fertilizer will be required to help them develop a solid, safe root system. Understanding the basic needs of your seeds can be as simple as looking at the box they came in or doing a fast Google search.

9. Do I need to circulate the air for my seeds to grow?

Yes! Air is necessary for seedlings and plants to develop and thrive. Adding a fan to your setup can improve air circulation and help avoid damping-off, a seedling disease. Keeping the air moving around your seedlings will help them survive and develop into strong, healthy plants.

10. How much light do my seeds need?

Some seeds germinate best in the dark, while others need a moderate amount of light to germinate. You will find out what your seeds need by reading the box. All seedlings need light once they have sprouted. You can leave seedlings outside throughout the day (as long as it is warm enough), and then bring them back in at night.

This hardens them off while also providing them with the light they need to develop.

11. What is hardening off seedlings?

Hardening off the seedlings refers to preparing them for planting outside. Start by bringing your seedlings outside for an hour on the first day, then increase by an hour per day for the next 7 days. This will acclimate them to the outdoors. Then, you should be able to transplant them to their permanent location after a week of being outside for 7 hours at a time.

When your seedlings are outside for the first few days, provide them with shelter. Direct sunshine and windy conditions should be avoided. Allow them to grow stronger and more accustomed to being outside.

 

Plants from seeds are not difficult to develop, but they do take some planning and patience. You’ll have hearty, balanced seedlings in no time if you follow these steps! Get the kids involved in gardening as well – they’ll love getting their hands dirty, digging, and watching the seeds grow into full-size plants! 

 

 

Photos by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

5 Practical Tips to Help Balance Work and Family

Working from home has undoubtedly been the new norm since the Covid-19 pandemic hit every corner the world. At first, it looked like we would never get used to working, resting, and playing under the same roof, but that was not the case. It was just a matter of time before everyone got accustomed to the new norm and was able to move on with their lives. Except a group of people called MOMS.

Based on conventional perception, Moms are tasked with helping every family member strike a balance in their lives but don’t often get someone to do the same for them. This often makes being a working mom in the pandemic look like they’re running in circles without knowing how and when to stop. The struggle is real!

As a working mom during the pandemic, your life has always been about juggling simultaneously between multiple roles. One minute, you are putting the children to bed, and the next, you are clicking away on your laptop on the kitchen table while making breakfast. When you are not picking up Lego in the living room, you worry about cleaning up the mess around the house or doing laundry.

With these multiple tasks, lockdown for you as a mom has been overwhelming. And balancing work and family without losing your sanity has become so daunting.

You are not wrong trying to be the best mom to your spouse and children, even if it means putting your life, career, and work on the line. But does it really have to get to that extent? No, and it shouldn’t come at the cost of your own health and sanity.

So, we’ve compiled 5 practical tips to help you balance work and family without going to bed every night depressed, angry, stressed, and with aches in every part of your body.

5 Practical Tips to Help you Balance Work and Family

1. Set Boundaries

As a mom who wants to balance work at home and family, it would be best for you to establish a daily routine that clearly states your workday’s start and endpoint. Setting up a daily work routine means that you won’t be attending to one last report, opening just one more mail, or taking an unprecedented task once your work hour ends.

Setting boundaries and having a weekly work hour schedule is one of the quickest fixes to balancing your work and family life. Although, sticking to a strict work routine for weeks and even months to come may seem uneasy. But, the results should get you motivated to keep going for as long as you need to.

Now, your boss or clients will know not to ask you to take an assignment or order after work hours. Your family will become less intrusive since they know you have a routine that also has them included. Honestly, doing extra while working from home is just so inevitable. But, by setting boundaries for yourself, family, and work, you will always have enough time to balance each side, keep everyone happy, and improve productivity at work and in your responsibility as a mom.

2.  Define Your Workspace

Working from home has made it almost impossible to have a designated area just for work. A space where you can put your creativity, problem-solving skills, and brainpower to use. Working from home comes with a lot of flexibility that can mar your success at balancing work and family life.

Not defining a workspace means that you can work almost anywhere around the house, from the bedroom to kitchen, living room, etc. Carrying your work everywhere around the home simply means that you will likely be doing more work than you imagined.

It is crucial to set aside a conducive space for work. It doesn’t have to be a specially built room or office. An ergonomically-designed desk that lets you adjust between standing and sitting positions is ideal. Not defining a workspace that is free from any form of distraction will make getting jobs done on time a lot difficult. If you can’t get designated tasks done when due, you’ll need to spend extra time working. And that means less time for family and relaxation. 

3. Ask for Help

Though often difficult, please do not try to be a supermom who can do everything around the house alone without asking for help from anyone. You don’t need to be everything to everyone at all times – it’s impossible, and will lead to burnout.

Do you have family, friends or even neighbors that could help? Buy yourself some time by asking if your children can hang out, or play with their kids for an hour or two outside while you get things done. This will, of course, depend on where you live, and the public health restrictions for that area. If restrictions aren’t as severe where you live, make sure your safe “bubble” doesn’t have contact with a lot of others. Make sure they’ve been faithful with adhering strictly to the pandemic safety guidelines.

If you have older children, engage them around the house. Ask them pack to their toys after play, tidy up their rooms, and prepare their own snacks. Older siblings can look after younger ones – it’s also great babysitting experience. You’d be surprised at how well children love to take up responsibilities and do them even beyond expectations.

The bottom line is that you’ll achieve more balance in your work and family life if you can engage all family members to help with chores around the house.  

4. Make Weekends Count

So you’ve worked five days a week, and hard! You don’t want to ruin your weekend with that unannounced buzz on your work cell phone. If you can’t do away with being tempted to grab your mobile and have a glance at what’s going on in your email inbox or social media, it may be best for you to turn your gadgets off completely and keep them out of sight.

If you haven’t already, make it a point to start treating weekends differently and make them fun by enjoying quality time with your family. Weekends don’t come often, but if well-planned, they can be a perfect getaway from workday woes, and help strengthen your family life. It’s about balancing work and family, remember? Never take your work into your weekends. It just has a way of ruining everything!

5. Reflect 

Is your working from home creating problems in your relationship? What are the possible consequences if you don’t maintain a healthy work/family life? What will your life be if you continue to do what you are doing now for the next six months, or even a year? Do you need to prioritize your relationships more?

You need to be clear on why you need to balance work and family life in the first place. This will help you establish a purpose and direct the ideas we have shared with you in this post to achieve precisely what you are aiming for.

 

Learning to adjust can take a while, but incorporating these practical tips into your daily life could be the only thing you need to start having a happy family while also being productive at work.

 

mom working alongside daughter

 

Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Energy Bars

This recipe for Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Energy Bars is one you’ll want to tack onto your kitchen bulletin board for easy reference. Rather than buy a box of energy bars from the grocery store, you can make these fresh in your own kitchen.

These energy bars are a cinch to make at home; as long as you keep good stock of the ingredients. They’re quick and easy, gluten-free and packed with protein. It’s more economical to buy ingredients in bulk; I always keep a big container of Medjool dates and huge bag (Costco) almonds in the house as they keep well for several weeks.

These gluten-free energy bars are great for breakfast on-the-go, or for an afternoon pick-me-up with an almond-milk chai latte. I will usually go for two pieces because they are guilt-free!

When I make the next batch, I will experiment with adding some other nuts and seeds, and some dairy-free chocolate chips. I’d imagine you could increase the number of tablespoons of peanut butter and add oats to make a larger batch, but I’m also sensitive to oats, even if they’re made in a gluten-free facility.

Here’s my recipe for quick and easy gluten-free energy bars:

Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Energy Bars

Ingredients

2 cups pitted Medjool dates 

1 cup almonds

3/4 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut 

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1/2 tsp almond extract

 

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a Vitamix or high speed blender and pulse until the mixture comes together in a clump, about 2 minutes in the Vitamix.
  2. Spoon our mixture into a parchment-lined 8×8” pan. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and press down with hands.
  3. Refrigerate for about a half hour to firm up.
  4. Slice into squares or rectangles. Sprinkle some cocoa powder on top, or drizzle with melted chocolate.
  5. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Almond energy bars

Yield: 10 squares

Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Energy Bars

Almond date energy bars on a plate

This recipe for Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Energy Bars is one you’ll want to tack onto your kitchen bulletin board for easy reference. Rather than buy a box of energy bars from the grocery store, you can make these fresh in your own kitchen.

These energy bars are a cinch to make at home; as long as you keep good stock of the ingredients. They’re quick and easy, gluten-free and packed with protein. It’s more economical to buy ingredients in bulk; I always keep a big container of Medjool dates and huge bag (Costco) almonds in the house as they keep well for several weeks.

These are great for breakfast on-the-go, or for an afternoon pick-me-up with an almond-milk chai latte.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pitted Medjool dates 
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut 
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Instructions

    1. Place all ingredients in a Vitamix or high speed blender and pulse until the mixture comes together in a clump, about 2 minutes in the Vitamix.
    2. Spoon our mixture into a parchment-lined 8x8” pan. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and press down with hands.
    3. Refrigerate for about a half hour to firm up.
    4. Slice into squares or rectangles. Sprinkle some cocoa powder on top, or drizzle with melted chocolate.
    5. Store in an airtight container.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    10

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 274Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 87mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 6gSugar: 32gProtein: 5g

    Squares of almond and date energy bars

    Do You Have a Word of the Year for 2021?

    Let’s never speak of 2020 again, shall we? I don’t think there’s ever been a year people around the world have collectively wished to be OVER than this past year.  While the pandemic won’t magically disappear in 2021, there is a renewed sense of hope for better days ahead.

    With the promise of a number of vaccines, and the eventual trickle down of people receiving it, we can hopefully see our lives returning to normal at some point this year. But the process will be slow… and it makes me wonder how many more months of this limbo-state will we have to endure.

    Usually, I like to take time during the first few days of January to reflect on the past year, and then create a WORD, an intention for the upcoming year. A mantra of sorts.

    But because of Covid, I think it’s fair to say we’ve all had much more time and reason to reflect. Many of us have been forced to get back to the basics, and practice gratitude for good health, family, and even food and shelter.

    So how can I drum up the desire to create a new word for 2021 when 2020 was such a disaster?

    Well, it was also an eye-opener, in many respects. Sure, it was frightening and precarious. But it was also eye-opener in many respects. Grounding. There are always lessons to be learned from difficult periods, as long as we realize them and use them towards positive change. And we must hang onto those simple yet profound moments (and people) that make life truly meaningful.

    Despite the hardships and challenges of last year, I do think it’s still worthwhile to create a WORD for 2021. After all, with all of the lessons and reflections, that word might be greatly different than previous years – and possibly simpler too.

    Do you have a word of the year?

    Choosing one word to sum up a theme for the upcoming year is no easy task. What one word can represent all of the things you hope to be, do and achieve?

    My word in 2014 was flourish as I looked to expand my business. I couldn’t choose one word in 2015 so I opted for three, while in 2016, my word was nurture. In 2017, my word was manifest; In 2018, I chose three theme words as I couldn’t narrow down to one. My 2019 word was pivot, and open in 2020.  

    What is your word for 2021?

    Do you have a theme word for 2021? Narrowing your goals for the year to just one word can be a challenge. But what would your word be?

    My word is a simple one this year.

    Most of us spend many of our waking ours thinking, planning, analyzing, and worrying. Add in technology and social media, and it’s a recipe for mental overload, overstimulation and exhaustion.  This past year has been particularly challenging, pushing many of us into a psychological tailspin. Those who never suffered anxiety or depression were suddenly catapulted into caring for their mental health and prioritizing self-care.

    Part of that self-care means more people were taking walks outdoors, going on nature hikes, baking and cooking, spending more time with family, taking up a new hobby, starting a new exercise regimen, practicing yoga or meditation – simpler things in life, unmaterialistic things, that ground us.

    So my word for this year is grounding.

    Grounding

    A practice I began some time ago but truly made priority this past year. It must continue through 2021 – and always for that matter.

    There’s a scientific reason why grounding, or earthing, is good for you; connecting with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote physiological changes including better sleep and reduced pain.  

    Grounding also connects us with the here and now, the present moment. Grounding creates calm, contentment, decreases stress and anxiety, and allows us to live in the moment and appreciate what matters most in life. It’s a way to connect deeply with the earth and our own bodies and souls, reminding us of our part in this vast universe.

    Grounding for me also means feeling stability and security, something that has been lacking for some time. While last year, I was open to receive opportunities, this year I must stay grounded and nurture what I have.

    What is your word for 2021?

    Do you have a word of the year? amotherworld.com

    Do You Have a Word of the Year for 2021?

    How to Have a Fun New Year’s Eve This Covid Year

    New Year’s Eve is going to look a whole lot different for many people this year because of Covid-19. It won’t be much different for us as we usually spend New Year’s Eve at home. But for others, New Year’s Eve usually means going out for dinner, a banquet hall for a dance, or a night on the town.

    This year, many places have restrictions and here in Ontario, we’re in a lockdown which means all non-essential businesses are closed including restaurants, bars and large social gatherings. So what can you do for fun this New Year’s Eve if everything is shut down?

    Well, guess what? You can still have a fun New Year’s Eve this Covid year! Here’s how to have a fun New Year’s Eve this Covid year:

    How to Have a Fun New Year’s Eve This Covid Year

    Virtual event.

    Sure technology has a few downsides, but this year, being able to connect virtually has been a lifeline for work, education and keeping in touch with friends and family. Many businesses have pivoted to online, with creative ways to keep people engaged and spending their hard-earned money. There are many online games, classes, tours and activities that you can participate in virtually, and there is no better time than on New Year’s Eve. Join a virtual event

    Toronto is hosting a variety of virtual events, here is a list of them: 15 virtual events for New Year’s Eve 2021 in Toronto (blogto.com)

    Scavenger hunt.

    Arrange a virtual scavenger hunt with some friends or family on a Zoom call. Virtual scavenger hunts are remote games where players have to collect items and finish challenges before time runs out. Since we can’t go out to find things, this idea is to finish items in your own home, and fulfil the challenges at home as well.  Accomplish all the tasks and find all the items and present them to your challengers via video call. Here are some fun ideas: Virtual Scavenger Hunt Ideas & Sample Lists (teambuilding.com)

    Virtual escape room.

    Another idea is to partake in an online escape room. How does it work? Teams are placed within a virtual room and presented with a mystery. They then have to crack codes or complete challenges to escape. Here are some of the best escape rooms to try this year: The best virtual escape rooms to play with friends this New Year | Spectator Life

    how to have a fun New Year's Eve This Covid Year

    Board game night.

    Pretend the internet is down, and the TV can’t connect and bust out the old board games for a night of laughs and challenges. Our favourites here are classics like Monopoly, Game of Life and Clue, and the newer fave, Speak Out. Playing a game of Spit, 21, or Gin Rummy with a regular deck of cards is also fun, and even more competitive when there is a small reward involved. Enter to win the board game Clue here: Holiday Gift Guide for Kids and a Giveaway! amotherworld

    Karaoke fun.

    A karaoke machine is also a fun way to spend the evening. Belt out your favourite tunes while your children watch on, and your teenagers roll their eyes at you. Want to include family members outside your household? You can connect on Zoom, Watch2Gether, or Houseparty, the video-calling app that makes for an easy and fun virtual gathering. Here’s how to set up a virtual karaoke party with your friends and family online:  How to Throw a Karaoke Party on Zoom | WIRED

    Video game tournament.

    Have a video game tournament with the family. My boys love playing NHL hockey on the PS4 against each other. The kids have been playing multi-player virtual games such as Fortnite and Minecraft for some time now, so they know how valuable gaming is to connect with their friends. This is how the new generation Z socializes, especially this past year.

    For the musically-inclined, compete in a round of Rock Band, or have a Just Dance competition in your family room. If you don’t know how to set it up, just ask the kids – they are likely much more technically savvy than you are!

     

    Get dressed up.

    Closets full of clothing but nowhere to go? Now is the time to dress up in fancy outfits and take photos of one another. The dress you were supposed to wear at your child’s Grade 8 graduation, or the fundraiser event that was cancelled this past summer? Wear it on New Year’s Eve. Might as well get a little fancy, even if you have nowhere to go!

    Create some new photo memories.

    While you’re all dressed up, arrange a photo shoot. Take some pics for memories because 2020 has been like no other, and for social media if you dare. Feeling spunky? Perform a few silly dance videos while you’re dressed up and post them on TikTok.

    Can’t be bothered to get out of our pajamas? Totally understand! Instead, stay cozy in your loungewear and take some fun photos with the family with face-changing apps on Snapchat or Instagram. Silly faces are optional.

     

    Stay safe and have fun! Happy New Year!

     

    How to Have a Fun New Year's Eve This Covid Year

    Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

    Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash