Thursday, July 21, 2016

UBT Review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast from Theatre Under the Stars

Disney's Beauty and the Beast is an enchanting musical for the entire family, and the first Disney film ever to make the leap to stage. The 'tale as old as time' follows Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, a young prince transformed by a wicked spell. If the Beast can learn to be loved, the curse will end and he will be restored. But time is running out...

Our Mommy Ambassador Melissa was thrilled to have the opportunity to take her daughters to see the show.

I’m not embarrassed at all to admit that I still have every single Beauty and the Beast soundtrack song memorized. In fact, as I watched the TUTS performance of this Disney classic at the Malkin Bowl on its opening night, my five-year old daughter stared at me suspiciously as I belted every tune along with the cast. In her eyes, perhaps I was now just a bit cooler than before – or perhaps she was a bit embarrassed? Either way, the show was thoroughly enjoyable. But honestly, the stage could have been empty, save the outstanding performances of Lumiere (played by Victor Hunter) and Gaston (played by Dane Szohner). Seriously. That’s how incredible the performances of both these gentlemen were – they stole the show!

After digging a bit on the internet to learn about these two, I’m now convinced that I needed to see Hunter as Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical. Maybe another time, as I’ve missed it now.

But otherwise, the night was truly splendid. Since my family and I reside in the Fraser Valley, we rarely get a chance to venture out to Vancouver. I had truly forgotten how beautiful Stanley Park is – lush greenery, and those well-kept gardens are amazing!

The Malkin Bowl was set up in such a lovely, intimate setting for the show, and the set design and costumes were impressive. The show kept true to it’s Disney roots, with the additions of a few new songs, and overall, all of the performances were amazing.

Even a few rain drops on our heads failed to deter the audience from laughing, singing and having a ball watching the story unfold. Both Jaime Piercy as Belle and Peter Monaghan as Beast are delightful, bringing an authentic yet unique energy to this beloved classic. And major honorable mentions to Cogsworth, played by Steven Greenfield (I marvelled at how well he kept his arms and legs bent like the hands of a clock)and LeFou (played by Nicholas Bradbury).

I think a TUTS yearly visit will be in the cards for my family. What a treat – a wonderful night for the whole family! Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and West Side Story, running July 6 - August 20, 2016 on alternating evenings at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl. For more information or to purchase tickets checkout

Enter to win a pair of tickets to see TUTS Beauty and the Beast. Enter at in the contest section. Good Luck! Contest closes Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

UBT Review: 4 Tips for Pokémon Go Safety

The new mobile game Pokémon Go has won the hearts and minds of millions with over 7 million downloads in its first week of release. This has happened so quickly that many parents are just catching up with this new craze.

What makes this game different is it features “augmented reality” technology, which means players look at their mobile phone screens and see animated Pokémon creatures superimposed on the “real-life” background generated by their phone’s camera. To the player, it appears that they are throwing balls at a Pokémon monster right in front of them. The game also calls for a lot of walking to reach virtual map targets like a PokéStop supply station or a Pokémon Gym where players can battle to capture that location, or to incubate and hatch Pokémon eggs.

The game has several advantages to consider, but parents should be aware of real-world safety concerns before deciding whether their family will embark on a Pokémon Go adventure.

First, the Pokémon Go advantages: Fitness, Friends, and Discovering your own neighborhood in a newway. Parents have urged their kids to “go outside and get some fresh air and exercise” for years. Now sleepy teenagers are suddenly waking up early and walking many miles a day to play the game.

My daughter was happily exhausted by the end of her first day of playing – surprised to see that she had walked nearly 11km that day. Not bad exercise for a lazy summer Saturday! She is also making plans to get together with friends to go hunting each day and having a lot of fun socializing. Since the virtual PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms are located on a variety of public landmarks, she has explored our neighborhood in a new way. She’s learned about new hiking trails and historic locations, and is visiting parks such as the botanical garden with her friends.

Pokémon Go safety concerns and real-life Kidpower safety skills: I have taught Kidpower personal safety skills to thousands of people and the skills can be applied to everyday life — including new situations that pop up like the sudden appearance of Pokémon Go.

Here are four safety concerns associated with Pokémon Go to address them:

1. Co-Pilot with your Kids
Since this is a totally new activity, if you are going to let your kids play Pokémon Go, it is important to co-pilot with them. Let them show you how it all works, and at the same time observe them, look at the potential safety hazards, and address the concerns by practicing skills as needed.
The game may expand kids’ neighborhood horizons in a good way, but you don’t want them wandering off without thinking about where they are going and what they are doing. Kidpower has an excellent detailed article, “Preparing Children for More Independence” that I highly recommend to help parents co-pilot the neighborhood exploration aspect of Pokémon Go.

2. Use your Awareness
The safety conflict inherently built into Pokémon Go is that players are walking in the real world – but looking at their phone screens. This can be somewhat mitigated by focusing on the skill “Use your Awareness” – looking up frequently to see everything around you. We definitely don’t want kids to trip and fall, cross the street without awareness, or walk into traffic by accident. This particular Pokémon Go safety conflict will remain a significant hazard and will have to be continually evaluated and managed.

3. Don’t Lose Sight of the Situation
Part of safety awareness is keeping in mind what the larger surroundings and situation look like. A historic graveyard might be fine to explore in the afternoon with friends but would be unwise to explore at night, or alone. Since PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms are fixed locations, it is likely that players will encounter other people they don’t know.

Teach, remind and reinforce stranger safety rules. At Kidpower we say that “most strangers are good,” but there are rules for how to interact with them when kids are on their own. The core Kidpower Stranger Safety Rule for younger kids is to “move away and check first” before you talk to a stranger, take anything from a stranger, or get close to a stranger.

Make sure kids know that just because you and a new person are both playing Pokémon Go, it doesn’t mean that you are friends; you are still strangers to each other. Unfortunately, there have already been real-world examples of robberies committed using Pokémon Go as a tool or lure. There are actually “lures” engineered into the game to bring more Pokémon characters to a location, but also to bring more people. Always be aware of the context and situation that you are really in. Safety is generally found in well-lighted, well-traveled locations where there are a lot of people around that you could get help from. Parents have to help monitor those situations for their kids, and set rules and guidelines.

4. Be Aware of Digital Safety Concerns
Pokémon Go is a brand-new release that poses some obvious digital security concerns and potentially less obvious ones that might be discovered later. It was almost immediately discovered that the game app requested full access to a user’s Google accounts if they signed in with their Google IDs. This was a huge security hole that may have been unintentional, and may not have been exploited, but it allowed access to players’ Gmail and Google Drive contents. Definitely not cool, to say the least. The app’s first update has already been released to fix this problem. Players may want to consider creating a new “junky” Gmail account only used for login purposes.

The second digital security concern – yet unanswered – is how user data will be collected and used. This could be a Big Data privacy nightmare. The application has access to a player’s camera, GPS locations and more. This data could feed into paid advertising, law enforcement, even national intelligence gathering. It is beyond the scope of this post to address all these concerns, but it is definitely worth researching and taking your family’s privacy seriously.

If you feel like this is a lot to consider when your kids just want to play the popular new game during summer break, I feel your pain! Being a parent in the 21st century sure throws a lot of new curveballs at us, virtual or otherwise. But I am thankful that our basic Kidpower skills can help us navigate these new challenges.

Dr. Amy Tiemann is a parenting and child safety expert who teaches Kidpower personal safety as the Center co-director of Kidpower. She is the author or executive editor of several books including Mojo Mom; Courageous Parents, Confident Kids featuring Amy McCready; and the forthcoming book Doing Right by Our Kids, written with Kidpower Founder and Executive Director Irene van der Zande. Learn more at

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Family Vacation: Five Ways to Travel Less this Summer

It is no secret, we are a family that loves to travel. Whether it be an overnighter locally or heading down South, I am famous for planning our next trip. My all-time favorite travel is FREE or DISCOUNTED travel. Find me someone that doesn’t love to travel for FREE…I will tell you how we do it!

When I say FREE, I have really indirectly accumulated membership reward points on my everyday purchases such as groceries and gas. Hey, we all have to eat – I am happy to let my weekly grocery shopping pay for my hotel rooms!

And I truly use various membership reward programs to my full advantage. Especially the ones that have a zero dollar membership fee. There are MANY reward programs out there. Here are some of my favorite FREE reward programs; Save On Foods, Aeroplan and Air Miles. Each have their own set of perks in my opinion, and can be redeemed for air travel, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and even theme park tickets – yes, think Disney. These reward programs also offer you the chance to collect points at various participating partners, which makes the points add up even faster.

Get yourself signed up and make sure if you have two cards, your partner also has one, leaving no points behind. The amount of programs out there are endless. MY TIP: My strategy is to maximize my point accumulation with just a handful of reward programs, gaining FREE travel faster. Trust me, it works!

My sheer obsession with collecting points has led me to the world of spreadsheets.  I am a list maker and I organize these all on an old fashioned spreadsheet with my login links and passwords (I password protect my document for security). I set myself a reminder each month to update the points balance, and I also make some comments as to what I am saving for, and how close I am to achieving that reward.  I also make sure I know where I can accumulate said points. What gas stations to fill up at, stores to shop at. There are also a number of apps out there that can be used to track your points, although I have not tried many, I simply prefer one list where I can see everything easily. I am a bit vintage you could say, I am a pen and paper kind of girl. MY TIP: I also make sure to keep proof of my stay, my boarding passes for airline travel, or any other documents as proof of the transaction. This is to ensure if any points are missed to be credited to your account, you can easily follow up and get the credit.

Firstly, we use a visa which offers us points on our everyday purchases, which can be “cashed” in for accommodations, air, land and sea travel, car rentals. I had stumbled across a fantastic resource when choosing a credit card It highlights the annual fee and the benefits of the reward program.

We have a few cards, but the main one my husband and I use, is our TD Visa Infinite First Class card. This card works for us, as we love the option to be able to book accommodations, car rental, air travel, and it covers everything, including the taxes. I really appreciate the option to work my magic and secure a fantastic deal on a hotel, complete my stay, and simply call up and I can redeem the entire stay, and they credit me back onto my account. So easy.  We use this to its full potential. We put everything on our card and pay it off, points, points, POINTS!  I pay all our monthly bills to gain even more points. We also use Expedia, and book through the TD for Expedia site, where you earn 3x the points. BONUS! I also love this type of card as there are no blackout dates, your travel, and your way.

I sign up for them all. I personally am partial to the Hilton chain of hotels, based on sheer personal preference, but regardless of the chain, I ensure I have a membership rewards card so I don’t lose out on any points out there. For example, Hilton Honors allows you to choose to collect their Hilton Honors points, or Aeroplan, or split. It is a fantastic program.

Plan ahead – make sure to leave yourself ample time if you are redeeming points for ANY travel vouchers or theme park tickets from any membership programs. Some can take upward of 10 weeks to process. Do not leave yourself disappointed. MY TIP: Make sure to always read the fine print, such as date expiration. Do your research on the card that is right for you, earn points responsibly and start making that milk and bread get you closer to some FREE travel rewards!  Happy collecting!

Christi Manson is a full time professional, blogger and married Mom to a spunky five-year old daughter. Christi lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family, and spends time day dreaming and planning the next getaway adventure! Christi is a Family Travel Expert blogging about her adventures on 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Product Review: Philips Sonicare for Kids

Brushing your toddler’s teeth can be tricky. Getting them to sit still without trying to grab the toothbrush from you can be frustrating. My husband and I struggled to get our three-year old to brush his teeth. We used gauze on our fingertips and a child-sized toothbrush. We even tried brushing our teeth together as a family, and letting him hold his own toothbrush. Nothing worked!

When asked to do a review of the new Connected Philips Sonicare for Kids, I was really hoping this was the change we were looking for. Why does a three-year-old need an electric toothbrush, you ask?  As a parent, who is concerned about my children developing good dental hygiene early, I was happy to try it out.

Having had my share of teeth problems, I wanted to save my son from years of dental work. The Connected Philips Sonicare for Kids is a rechargeable power toothbrush, designed with Bluetooth technology to give children a fun brushing-experience. The brush connects to the Sonicare for Kids App, which features a cute purple character named Sparkly, whose “sole job” is to help kids establish good brushing habits.

Once you have downloaded the app to your phone or tablet, the app automatically connects with the Sonicare toothbrush (you must be in the same room as the toothbrush for it to connect). As soon as you push the ON button on your toothbrush, Sparkly opens his mouth wide for brushing to begin. The app shows Sparkly’s mouth depicting your child’s teeth as the toothbrush moves along the inside of your child’s mouth. Little animated germs bugs appear encouraging your child to clean that area to remove the bugs.

What I liked most about the new electric toothbrush is the bell ringing (KidPacer). Your child’s mouth is divided into four quadrants. Starting with the upper teeth on the right-hand side. When the bell sounds it is time to move to the bottom teeth on the right-hand side. It is then time to move to the left-hand side and clean the upper teeth, followed by the lower teeth.

Thanks to the handy KidTimer feature, the app also records the length of each brushing (two minutes is recommended). This solves the problem of your child not brushing for an adequate amount of time. The app also records the number of times your child brushes his or her teeth, and send out a reminder to your device if your child forgets to brush.

For children who like to see scores, the app allows your child to unlock achievement goals while developing regular brushing habits.

Here are some other cool features of the Connected Philips Sonicare for Kids: 
• Comes with two brush head sizes that are specifically designed to gently clean and protect teeth as they grow
• Two kid-friendly power modes, a low mode for younger children and high mode for older kids
• Fun interchangeable stickers for personalizing their own toothbrush
• Anti-roll design to allow children to apply toothpaste on their own

Connected Philips Sonicare for Kids is recommended for children age three and over. It provides parents with added peace-of-mind about the frequency and quality of each brushing. This is a great device for helping your child developing long-term teeth brushing habits.

Retails for $59.99 and replacement heads retail for $21.99 for a package of two. Available at Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, Loblaws, and London Drugs.

Thanks to Philips Sonicare your child can win the Connected Philips Sonicare for Kids Toothbrush!  Share your toothbrushing story with us and be entered to win. Complete our online contest form at (in the contest section). Happy Brushing

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Enjoy Time with the Family this Canada Day

July 1: Canada Day Celebrations
Canada Place
10:00 AM – 10:30 PM
Van stage performance, workshops, circus performers, giant board games, face painting, water park and fireworks.

July 1: Canada Day at Sunset
Sunset Community Centre, Vancouver
12:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Come to Sunset for an afternoon of family fun. There will be a petting zoo, a bouncy castle, face painting, food trucks, live music, and cupcakes for everyone.

July 1: North Shore Canada Day Parade 
10:00 AM
East 13th Street, Lonsdale Avenue and West 17th Street, North Vancouver
There will be bands, community organizations, dancers, members of the RCMP and the Legion, and many others.

July 1: Langley Canada Day Celebrations
McLoed Athletic park, Langley
Family activities, rides, main-stage entertainment, a car show, an assortment of ethnic foods, dog show, fireworks, pony rides and much more are all on the menu for this fun-filled and exciting event.

July 1: Canada Day at Fort Langley National Historic Site
Fort Langley National Historic Site 23433 Mavis Avenue, Langley
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Celebrate Canada’s 149th Birthday at the site where British Columbia was born. Enjoy multicultural music, cake and ceremony at noon and family activities. Fort Langley’s celebration continues at the neighboring museums: Langley Centennial Museum and the BC Farm Machinery and Agricultural Museum – be sure to visit us all for a fun-filled day.

July 1: Surrey Canada Day
Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre, Surrey
10:00 AM – 10:30 PM
Celebrate Canada Day with multi-platinum award-winning Canadian musician Matthew Good.

July 1: Canada Day Celebrations
Burnaby Village Museum
11:00 AM – 4:30 PM
A 1920 backdrop for multi-cultural family entertainment including a musician, displays, and demonstrations.

July 1: Pitt Meadows Canada Day
Spirit Square, Pitt Meadows
8:00 AM –2:00 PM
Get up early, and head over for a pancake breakfast. Join the 8K charity run (or the shorter Kids Run), then continue the festivities at the square.

July 1: Maple Ridge Canada Day
Maple Ridge Memorial Peace Park
10:00 AM –3:00 PM
Begin your day with a visit to the Haney Farmers Market and BIA Summer Market. Maple Ridge Museum and Archives Society will join in the celebrations. . Entertainment, singing, dancing, activities, food and fun will continue throughout the day.

July 1: Another All Day Canada Day
Queens Park, New Westminster
11:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Come to Queen’s Park for a fun day of celebrations. There will be family entertainment and fun activities for everyone.

July 1: Coquitlam Celebrates Canada Day
Town Centre Park, Coquitlam
12:00 PM – 11:00 PM
A fun-filled day of festival favourites including entertainment, food, cultural village, artisans and a spectacular fireworks display.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Follow-up Interview with UBT Celebrity Dad: Rick Campenelli

At UBT June is all about Dads! We had the opportunity to chat with Rick Campanelli, on his last day of parental leave. He talked to us about his decision to take four months off work to spend with his family and how he will balance it all when dealing with a work schedule, that's now busier than ever.

UBT: So, today is your last day on parental leave. How does it feel?
RC: Yes, it's my last day and it has been such a joy. I have loved every minute of it. This is the first time I have done this. I have three boys now. With Noah and Jack, I took a few weeks off each time. But I realized I am getting older and wanted to be there to help my wife, Angie. And then I just wanted to do it for myself as well, just to be with my kids and with my wife. It was the best decision I have ever made. I would have taken the maximum amount of time, but I am joining a radio morning show in Toronto on the 27th and they wanted me to start, like yesterday.

UBT: Taking time off work is becoming more popular for dads, but it can be a tough decision for many. Tell us about how you decided to take parental leave with a career in the spotlight.
RC: I talked to my wife about it and we decided it was probably the best thing that we can do right now for our family. I am 46. I don’t have as much energy as I did eleven years ago, when Noah was born. It was a no-brainer. It just made sense for us and it was the perfect time to do it. Everyone has been so supportive.

UBT: And how do you feel about going back to work?
RC: It is exciting, to get back to work, but it is also terrifying at the same time, because it will be a totally different routine now and I will very rarely see my family. That saddens me. I get teary-eyed because I will have to leave the house around 4:30 am and I won’t be getting back home until around 6pm. No longer able to do all those things that I have been doing for the past four months with my wife and boys. I really am going to miss it.

UBT: Do you think your experience on parental leave will change your perspective on things, when you do get back to work?
RC: I have always been a family-first, type guy. My family is my priority. Work is important and I am going to get my work done, but my family comes first. I know I will always be thinking about them when I am away, because it has been so amazing to be with them and bond with them. And I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. It’s going to be totally different now so that’s going to be a major change. My attitude toward “family first” is getting stronger, as I have more kids.

UBT: What would you say to men who might be considering parental leave?
RC: If new dads are considering it, I suggest doing it. My advice is to just take some time to be with your wife and your newborn. You really do see the growth. Harrison is four months today, and I have already seen so many changes. I wouldn’t have been able to witness and observe these changes if I was at work. He is smiling and laughing as I interact with him. It is so beautiful. I would have missed out on all that. And then having a two-year-old at home as well has enabled me to bond with him every day, and our relationship is getting stronger. We go out for bike rides every morning - just the two of us. And it’s just so wonderful. So, if guys are considering it, I say: Go for it! You’ll never get these moments - those precious moments - back.

Read our past Celebrity Dad interview with Rick 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vancouver Aquarium's Newest Exhibit the Discover Rays Touch Pool

If you or your kids love the ocean and it's extraordinary marine life, then you must visit the latest exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium this summer. The Discover Rays Touch Pool was an experience was worth waiting for.

For a month Jacob and I were eagerly waiting to go to the aquarium to visit the Discover Rays Touch Pool by marking our calendars and counting down the days.

Finally the day came, full of excitement we went to the aquarium just in time for the first showing. As my sister and my 8 month-old nephew, Javed, parked the stroller, Jacob and I anxiously waited in line to enter the exhibit. Before entering there was an Aquarium staff member greeting us and informing us on how to interact with the rays. (FYI, strollers are not permitted in the viewing area and children are required to walk or be carried).

Inside there was a cleaning station to wash your hands. After washing our hands and rolling up our sleeves, we went to find a spot. The spot we found was worth the wait. Jacob lay, tummy down, flat on a platform while I stood next to him. We held our hands in the water, waiting for the rays as they glided by.

"I want to touch a big one!" Jacob said with excitement.
"How do they feel?"  I asked.
"Soft and slippery!"

The exhibit has a 50,000L pool, which features two species of rays: Cownose and Southern stingrays. The Cownose stingrays seemed to be more curious as they sometime came into investigate or linger around certain area. One came right up to Jacob hand and bumped him with it's cownose. Talk about close encounter! The Vancouver Aquarium did promise an up-close and personal experience and it certainly was.

The exhibit wall's are full of pictures and vast information on both Cownose and Southern stingrays, along with others species. It also highlights that these "Angels of the Ocean" are skyrocketing towards extinction due to over fishing and human activities.

Before leaving we asked Jacob what was your favourite part of the Discover Rays Touch Pool. He replied, "touching the rays and seeing the teeth because they were flat and used for munching."

The Discover Rays Touch Pool admission is included into the price of entrance and will be it's home for next two years. So if can't make it out for the summer, you still have a lot of time. For more information on the Discover Rays Touch Pool visit,