We remember….

FortmacstrongMay 3, 2016, a day that will live in infamy for hundreds of thousands of people. I waffled on posting this post, a day of gentleness was needed. Pass the day by without a word, but a somber thought.

Last year, I sat in my office paralyzed by the news of what was happening in Fort McMurray. I wrote two posts, one on the eve of the mass evacuation, and one a week later. There are really no words to describe the trauma that the beast left in its wake. It affected everyone who lives there, and who ever lived there. It was life-changing. It brought together a nation in care, and a city in strength.

It’s one year later, my friends brother wrote a book, Into the Fire, I flipped through the pages and was overcome by tears, tears of pride, tears of loss and mostly tears of memories. Of not knowing what part of my hometown would be left, if my friends and family would go back to a home, and general concern for their wellbeing. I get asked all the time if I have been back to McMurray. I have not, not because I don’t care, but because I’m still raw. wfaI spent fours weeks during the fire in the Provincial Operations Centre, where I prepared briefings for the Premier, wrote speaking notes for Premier and Minister, developing the content that would direct and inform my fellow McMurrayites of the numbers they should be calling, or where they needed to go for services. I did it because it was my way of caring for McMurray. My way of making sure my friends, family and fellow McMurrayites were being cared for. I did it because I grew up in Fort McMurray. I did it because when you’re raised in Fort Murray lending a hand is a way of life. I never expected anything in return, other than the safe return of my friends and family.

As the thousands of tributes, books, and feeds that fill social media and our senses, I have no doubt that the thousands of first responders, fire fighters and personnel that worked to battle the blaze will be honoured as true heroes.
QuoteWe are all forever grateful for the risk they took, and the determination they have that protected homes and kept the community safe.

Today, I ask you to give respect, to be gentle and kind to the people of Fort McMurray. They are still healing, they are strong, stronger than before. But they are healing and caring for each other. To my friends, family and fellow McMurrayites, do what you need to do, and remember we have your back.  Because we know you would do the same for us. #YMMSTRONG #YMMfire #Weareback #stronger #grateful #thankyou


Breakfast with Mickey

Part five of five, hope you’ve enjoyed the overview of our Disney vacation.

Our last day in California was planned to be a slower more relaxing day. We only booked one thing and left the rest up to exploring and hotel pool.

We started our day with Breakfast with Mickey and friends at the PCH. This breakfast is more laid back and beach themed. The menu and location is a bit smaller and it is a bit more affordable. We chose this breakfast purely for Stitch. In Disneyland, Stitch is not a regular roving character. In Disneyworld, he can be found in parades and in Hollywood. Knowing this, we knew we had to find away for the Big Cupcake to meet her favourite Stitch. We booked our breakfast reservation two months in advance of our desired date. This is a must if you want to dine with characters, dining options with Princess and Mickey and Goofy fill up fast, and if you want to see the characters without a line, this is a great option.

The menu at PCH Grill is American, pancakes, fresh toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken sausage, pastries, fruit, an omelet station, and chilaquiles. There was also a children’s buffet station, which had the MICKEY shaped waffles and pancakes. That is really the fun part about the character breakfasts. Our girls love Mickey shaped food, in fact, a few years ago I hunted down a Mickey Waffle iron, and not the face, but the shape, the same waffle iron used at the Disney resorts, for Christmas for my dad. It is a hit when the girls stay over at get to have Mickey shaped waffles for breakfast.

Throughout breakfast Minnie, Daisy and Stitch roam around the room. Mickey stands at the front and people can walk up and get photos. So don’t forget the camera. Our girls loved the ability to interact with Mickey again, but said they weren’t fans of having their breakfast interrupted by the characters. Ha. I guess you really can’t win them all. But the one thing they loved was dancing with Stitch. That was the highlight.

After breakfast, we headed into Downtown Disney. This is the shopping and eating district of Disneyland, You don’t need a ticket to get into this area. There are restaurants and some great shopping. The girls found there way into the Anna and Elsa Boutique, which also offers the same services at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. The girls hopped in the chair and settled on the Elsa Winter Braid for the big cupcake and the Anna braids for the little cupcake. By this time, the girls were pros at getting their hair and make-up done.

After a bit more shopping we headed back to the hotel for some relaxation by the pool. That evening we kept it pretty low key. The girls went to bed at a regular time, and Kyle and I headed to the nearby mall to eat at the Lemonade Cafe and drinks and dessert at what we are certain was the ONLY Canadian inspired gastropub in all of California.

The Great Maple is a modern American eatery with Poutine! Canadian much…and maple bacon! suspicious… then on the menu you see Montreal Spiced Beef – so Canadian. There’s even an N.S. Wolfhound drink, which we asked if it stood for Nova Scotia, the bartender said no, after some female bartender who made up the drink…we suspect that is not true. Ha. Either way, we had some drinks and ordered the maple bacon donuts and Granny Smith Apple Pie. WAY TOO MUCH FOOD. We should have stuck with one. We did not expect to get three full sized donuts, which were amazing. But we had leftovers so we took the donuts home and thought the girls might enjoy them for breakfast before we left to go back home. Even the second day the donuts were amazing. Both girls were a bit concerned about bacon on their donuts but tried them and each had a full donut.


DCA, here we come

Part four of five. Again, we got a late start, but we were ready with our app, and fully sunblocked up. We were excited to explore this new park. We have not been back to the Disneyland resort since DCA opened, so we were all very excited for this new adventure.

We got to the park, with our princess clad little girls, picked up our stroller and made our way into the park. Following the Lines App, we quickly entered the lines in Carsland, and sent a runner for Radiator Springs FastPasses – Best Ride as determined by this family. Acquire these early, because about ten minutes after we picked up our passes, all the passes were distributed for the day, and the standby line was maxed at 140 minute wait. In fact, they shut the standby line down for thirty minutes to process FastPasses. We rode alot of lines, and even managed to meet Sophie the First, Doc McStuffins, Goofy, Donald and Daisy Duck and Mater.

The longest line we waited in was to meet Olaf, Kristoff, and Elsa. But when you have two little girls, waiting for Elsa is well worth the wait, plus it was all inside and the girls explored the hyperion theatre or danced to the music playing while we waited in line.

During our trip, the Disney Food and Wine Fest was going on, this foodie family was excited. Alcohol can be purchased in DCA and that meant, trying different food offerings, wine and beer. We passed by some awesome offerings all featuring a key ingredient local to the region. There were booths focused on olives, cheese, artichokes, lemons, and a lot more. There were so many choices, having foodie kids that love brie and macarons, the choices for them were pretty obvious. The brie on toast with fig and mint. The soft buttery brie mixed nicely with the sweet brie and fresh mint. This was the perfect snack for the girls as we ran between rides and waited in line.

After optimizing our time on rides, we rode a lot of rides, the girls wanted to cool down. In the Bug’s Life area of DCA there are two spray parks. Great for the hot days. The girls quickly discarded their princess costumes, thankfully we had the foresight to put tank tops and shorts on them, and the girls ran into the spray park. It is surprising how wet they can get in ten minutes at a spray park. With that behind us and the girls refreshed, lunch was on the attack. We made our reservations at the Wine Country Trattoria via the Disneyland App, and made our way to the table waiting. Tip: We brought a lot of snacks into the park with us, you are allowed to bring any snacks or food you would like as long as they are not alcohol or in glass containers. TIP: This allowed us to push back our meals past the normal lunch and dinner crowds, avoiding long lines and crowded eating areas.

As the trattoria, the girls were served an appetizer plate of veggies and fruit while they waited for their pasta meals. The adults had salads and homemade pastas in a nice shaded area. Despite the restaurant located at Pacific Pier and the main walkway, it was raised and a great break from the heat and the crowds. After lunch, we were off again to ride some more rides, collect our World of Colour FastPass, a must get if you want to watch the DCA evening show, and see more of DCA. We did not have dessert in the trattoria because the big Cupcake knew the macaron cart was located right outside the resturant, so we headed there to pick up two meyer lemon blueberry macarons. The cupcakes ate it, but said the lemon was too subtle, and the blueberry marmalade was too sweet, Verdict: the Mickey Macaron was better in flavour.

While the Food and Wine fest is on, there are a number of culinary events throughout the park. Events included cooking demonstrations with MasterChef Graham Elliot,  Iron Chef  Cat Cora, Cake Artist Duff Goldman and Guy Fieri. Unfortunately, no shows were scheduled with the celebrity chefs while we were there. We were pretty bummed, but the girls didn’t mind because they were able to partake in Jr. Chef which just happened to be hosted by Celebrity Chef GOOFY! The girls loved the chance to cook oatmeal cookies with Goofy for free. It was a pretty big highlight for them as they are both budding chefs. The big cupcake also had an opportunity to dance with the Jammin Chefs who just happened to be Chip and Dale. Sadly, these opportunities are only available during the food and wine fest.

That evening we headed to Paradise Pier for the quick serve counter restaurants to grab some dinner the cupcake some clam chowder soup in a sour dough bread bowl (her only dinner request for the trip) from Pacific Wharf Cafe, while the rest of us went to Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. The little cupcake had the Mickey check meal, these meals are offered at all the dining options and offer a small milk or water, with fruit or yogurt. The little cupcake chose the whole wheat chicken quesadilla with water and rice and fruit. I got the Fire-Grilled Citrus chicken, which came with flour tortillas, rice, beans pico de Gallo, Guacamole and sour cream. It was amazing, chicken was moist and flavourful, and light. Kyle chose the Carne Ascada with beef, all served with the same sides and said it packed a nice balance of flavour and heat. And because we were eating Mexican and margarita’s are premitted in DCA, we tried the lime flvour from Rita’s Baja Blenders, verdict the Trattoria has a better lime on the rocks marg.

After dinner, we headed to the boardwalk to wait for the World of Colour show. It is a mad dash for good standing space, you have to be quick and TIP: Communication with your group is key. We were lucky that we got our FastPass World of Colour tickets early in the day so we had a pretty good viewing spot for the 9 p.m. show. The girls watched the show mesmerized by the dancing water and the images appearing on the water. They were getting a bit restless waiting for the show to start as that was the most they had waited the entire day, and it was in one spot, and late in the day, but they said the show was well worth the wait.

As the show ended the park began to empty, to minimize waiting for the tram and to leave the parkade, we took the girls shopping for a few souvenirs. Both girls love Stitch and we already have four in our house, so we gave them their disney money and let them buy what they wanted. Little cupcake purchased Stitch’s sister Angel and the big cupcake opted to wait to find something at Downtown Disney, because she couldn’t decided when I told her no more Stitch stuffies – seriously she already has four!

Stay tuned our last day in California is coming up tomorrow.