Vampire Campfire: Live Comedy and Improv Means Summer Fun for Kids (and Adults!)

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If you’re looking for fun events with the kids this summer, you must go see The Second City‘s Vampire Campfire. Nathalie and I were invited to check it out with our kids and it was a total hit.  There is lots of singing and dancing, and children are invited to participate in various ways, not least of which is shouting out ideas that the five actors then employ in their show.  A lucky couple are invited onto the stage. Humour rules the day, and I’m not too proud to tell you that I’m pretty sure I was laughing louder than any young person there.

The plot: when lackluster monster children are disappointingly unscary, their baffled/disappointed parents send them to remedial Camp Boo. Friendships form, and the bonds between the mini-monsters help them defeat an evil plot to cut down all the trees in the camp, surrounding areas, and the world!  Camp Boo helps the monsters find a way to scare on their own terms, and the monster children grow into the unique creepies there were always meant to be.

The Second City‘s set-up is perfect for kids.  It’s a small and intimate theatre with no bad seats in the house. You are close enough that you can see all facial expressions and hear everything without mikes. Also, in what I consider appropriate respect to 4 Mother’s dedication to food this month, you can order food at The Second City while watching the show and take a break from the hot summer kitchen!

Nathalie and I attended with kids aged almost 4 to 10 and runs about an hour. The youngest of our group was a bit young to understand what was happening although he listened and watched all the live action.  The other kids loved it, my older two keep asking to go back!  It’s not such a crazy thought, since all the shows would be different depending on what feedback the improv actors get from the audience. Also, with family four packs at $45, the show does not break the budget, and you might luck into a discount coupon (I found one in our kids’ summer packs from school).

Vampire Campfire also opened our eyes to something we don’t see very often: good improv. When I told my husband about it, I mentioned the classes and camps they offer for kids (they also have classes for adults). He immediately suggested it for the (biggest) little joker in our family.  Who knows what his potential for fun might be if he were surrounded with other funny kids instead of me?

In the “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” vein of things, I have to say that this was an event that I truly enjoyed bringing my kids too – it was a real pleasure. If you want to treat your kids to some live, funny entertainment that will have you laughing right along, Vampire Campfire is the way to go for easy summer fun.

Photographs courtesy of Nathalie

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Chipotle Restaurants: A Fresh and Fast Take On Real Food

It’s summer, and if you’re like us, that means more moving around than usual. Most of what’s involved in this is good – we get to see different things, learn from new surroundings, expand our notions of the world beyond ourselves. But there’s an underbelly to travel, whether local or distant, and that’s the challenge of feeding yourselves well. At home, we take pains to eat and cook mostly at home, because that’s where we can best get the healthy, delicious, whole foods that we know we thrive on. Not so much when we venture into the unknown.

Last weekend, my husband and I took our kids for an overnight stay at a hotel in a neighbouring city. Again, this was mostly fun, but on the morning we were to leave, our youngest couldn’t get out of bed due to fever. And on the drive home, our middle son threw up in the car (he doesn’t get carsick).

The culprit, we knew, what what we had been eating. Although I had packed fruit and water, we were relying on restaurant meals. We were avoiding fast food, but our more expensive restaurant meals weren’t much better in the end. There were no other causes for their illness, and they recovered as soon as we got home: I think that we let our children eat themselves sick.

What if there were fast options for on the go that were actually healthful?  When Chipotle sent us some grow books and invited us to try out some of their food, I knew that maybe such a goal could be achieved. With tag lines like “Whole or Nothing”, Chipotle is leading the charge on responsibly sourcing high quality, local and organic foods in the fast casual industry. Thinking back to our crappy feeding experience while away, I was more than eager to find a better alternative and take my boys on a Chipotle outing.

Chipotle was downright busy at lunchtime, but the line moved quickly. It has a simple, rustic decor, but otherwise looked like a bustling eatery. It distinguishes itself quickly enough though, with the following statement prominently posted right next to the menu: “Food With Integrity: We serve ingredients that are raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers. That includes meat raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones and seasonably available local and organic produce.”  A sigh of relief and ray of sunshine to whet the appetite!

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The food offerings are at once simple and varied: different types of burritos, bowls, tacos, and salads. There are several meat options, but we enjoyed the tofu special called “sofritas”, and had a burrito bowl and tacos. We chose which types of rice and beans we wanted, as well as a range of toppings (4 types of salsa, sour cream, cheese, etc.) and it was impossible not to notice how fresh the lettuce and tomato salsa were. (I would later learn that their tomato salsa is prepared by human hands every morning on site. No wonder it’s so good.)  From what I had heard about Chipotle‘s commitment to fresh, wholesome food, I expected our meals to be delicious.  They were.

If we had at Chipotle‘s during our travels instead of at the unknown pubs and restaurants we found, we would have saved a pile of money and not gotten sick. We would have filled ourselves with real food that is delicious and nutritious, and known that our money is supporting a fast-growing food giant that is blazing the trail to responsible sourcing and preparation of food. Take a read of Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and fast food’s enormous impact on animal, agricultural, and human health, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Chipotle is making a huge positive impact where it is desperately needed.

A few years ago, a vegan friend committed to all things eco sent me an untitled email with a link. It was an animated clip of a fast casual restaurant’s concern over factory farming and their commitment to making better choices, and the first time I heard of Chipotle. I wouldn’t forget it, and having had their food, I’m a good old-fashioned fan.  Here’s the clip: sometimes a cartoon is worth a thousand words.

How To Preserve Photographs

photography-149174_640On Tuesday, I wrote about preserving my family’s history. I spent countless hours creating a book using the bookmaking website, Blurb. Creating books isn’t for everyone. They are time consuming and don’t solve the problem of the boxes and boxes of loose photographs. I have such a box and I asked BLACKS for the best way to safeguard them. They sent me over their Platinum Shoebox.

It’s a genius service that saves you time and protects your irreplaceable photos.

Here’s how it works:

I send them my loose 300 prints (or 300 mounted slides or 300 negatives) and they send me back all of my prints in their original condition, a USB flash drive with all digital images of all the prints, a soft cover proof book, and hard cover Premium Layflat matte photo book.

In a few weeks, my photos will be organized and carefully arranged for my boys to view and enjoy for years to come.

But . . . I have to admit there is a part of me that’s apprehensive about putting my entire collection of old photos into the hands of stranger. It’s like putting your passport in the mail. I mustn’t let my mind wander the realm of possibilities . . .

Family History

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I just finished reading Boston Girl by Anita Diamant and now find myself deep into Between Gods by Alison Pick. Both books have much in common: Judiasm, harrowing war stories and gutsy women trying to make sense of their personal unrest; albeit Diamant’s story is a fictional novel whereas Pick’s is a revealing memoir.

What I find most compelling, perhaps because I’m an Ancestry.ca junkie, is that both books tell a family’s history.

The theme for this month is exactly that – Family History. We will be delving into our pasts, exploring connections between then and now, and sharing tips for unearthing and organizing your own family history.

Dads play a central role in the family, and we’re grateful for the loving fathers in our lives. To honour these men, we will publish our annual Father’s Day Gift Guide that you will want to bookmark for next month’s celebration.

We are finally seeing the signs of spring! After a grueling winter with record-breaking stretches of extreme cold weather, we are thankful for the blossoms and buds. Nathalie takes beautiful photos on her daily walk that remind us to be mindful of the little joys in life. To see her pictures, follow us on Instagram.

Laughter Might Just Be the Best Medicine

WrBMbB7RxM4u5JIqXabhCKuTR0zsSEMC8Xdf1FuxKIhsMI2ViuajPHeRyrGeWZxHThere used to be Readers Digest magazines scattered around my childhood. I didn’t read many articles, but I did always search out the jokes and riddles of the Laughter is the Best Medicine section. They were short and easy to read, and I liked the little cleverness of each short set of lines. And yes – sometimes they were funny.

In the (gaping) span of time from then until pretty much last year, I think I had what I can only call an under-appreciation of the power of humour. I have always loved a good laugh, but I didn’t seek it out. It never occurred to me that one could inject more humour into one’s life. Laughter and jokes were more like the good fortune of stumbling on a penny on the sidewalk. It didn’t help that I didn’t watch much TV.

Gratefully, late to this game (like so many others), I have clued into the fact that popular culture is a great source of good times and good laughs. Last year someone told me to give Chuck a chance. I watched that show to its bitter end, primarily because most episodes afforded me one good belly laugh. Which is sometimes precisely what is needed at the end of the day.

It made me think: there must be more.

I revisited Russell Peters‘ stand up shows, and tried out a few others. This year I discovered Sherlock which isn’t really a comedy but it does combine some great light moments and good fun with mystery and drama. I watched The Heat with my husband. On my bookshelf is People I Want to Punch in the Throat. Beth-Anne reminds me that I can re-read comedy (I thought Bossypants was a great read too). And because Tina Fey created it, I watched the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episodes (the supporting cast is so funny).

This newfound discovery of humour has given me a more conscious respect for humour, in all its forms. I’ve always appreciated it in person, but words and the screen offer rich possibilities too. I also have a burgeoning realization of the potency of humour – it can be a much needed distraction, but it seems like regular applications of it, like exercise, can have more long-term effects too. Keeping laughter closer to the forefront of the mind can lighten a heavy load, or shed a layer off a gray day.

Like many moms, I’m trying harder to toss myself into the mix of people that I take care of, and finding funny moments has become a regular tool with which to do just that. It turns out that laughter really is one of the best medicines in the cabinet.