Jen’s Top 10 Vacation Destinations

Summer is a great time to get away for a vacation. Whether you’re adventuring with your family, looking for a romantic paradise with your partner, hoping to lie around on a beach or explore spectacular sights, we hope some of these Top 10 Vacation Destinations will jumpstart the trip of your dreams!

1.  Dublin, Ireland: A stay in the famous Shelbourne Hotel is truly special and the afternoon Champagne Tea is worth the splurge. The Shelbourne Hotel is a great starting point to explore all Dublin has to offer. Wander through the local shops, take a tour of Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, go for drinks at the Guinness Storehouse (the home of Guinness), or just relax with a stroll through St. Stephens Green. Pack a picnic lunch and bring a book and you’ve got a wonderful afternoon ahead!

The Lord Mayor’s Lounge at The Shelbourne Hotel. Photo credit: Shelbourne Hotel

2.  Niagara Falls, Canada – This breathtaking spot is always worth a visit, even in the winter when everywhere is ice-covered and the crowds are nowhere to be found. Visit the historic falls in a variety of ways: take a self-guided White Water Walk, take the Hornblower Cruise right up to the falls, or if you’re feeling adventurous, take the Wildplay Mistrider Zipline. But there’s more than just the falls to see! Visit the Botanical Gardens or the Butterfly Conservatory. When you’re done explore Clifton Hill for restaurants and amusement, or take in a show and dinner at The Niagara Fallsview Casino. Don’t forget to stick around for the nighttime fireworks!

View of the Horseshoe Fall in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

3.  New York City, USA – Check out the Big Apple in the fall when crowds are thinning and the temperature is more comfortable. The list is endless of what to do: the Hop-on Hop-off double decker bus tour is the greatest way to see the city and learn about the history even if you’ve been to the city many times before. You can also visit the big attractions: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the MoMA and the Met. Take in a show, eat in any one of the endless delightful restaurants, go shopping or just wander.

Photo Credit: Hop-on Hop-off Bus

4. Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA – Take the historic Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for an true adventure – it’s like stepping back in time. I never understood how magnificent the Grand Canyon was until I saw it in person. Photos do not do it justice! While at the South Rim you can even eat (or stay) at El Tovar Hotel where National Lampoon’s Vacation was filmed.

Photo credit: Grand Canyon Railway Train & Hotel

5.  Route 66 – “It winds from Chicago to LA….”  If you’re up for a road trip, travel sections of Historic Route 66. Add it to a trip to the Grand Canyon, and head down to Winslow, AZ to start traveling along the old Route 66. Before you leave Winslow be sure to visit the Corner. Then settle in for a fascinating drive with attractions that are interesting for all ages. Summer is the busiest and warmest season, but fall is the best time to visit!

6.  Stockholm, Sweden – Summer in Sweden is true happiness! From tiny wild strawberries to fresh potatoes and snaps (and the snaps songs), what’s not to love about the land of the midnight sun! Though Stockholm is spread across 14 islands, it’s easy to navigate with bridges, ferries and public transport. Signage is in both English and Swedish, making it easy for non-native speakers to enjoy the city. Go see the Vasa, the ancient Swedish warship that was raised from the depths of the ocean, or step into the present and visit Norrmalm, the modern heart of the city. And don’t forget the wild strawberries!

7.  Tokyo, Japan – Ancient traditions and culture are everywhere in this modern metropolis.  There is so much to take in and learn here. May is a great month where you can witness the amazing Sumo tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan and the not-to-be missed 1000 Samurai procession in Nikko – it’s truly incredible! And how could I forget to mention the cherry blossoms?

Photo credit: Go Tokyo

8. London, United Kingdom – Again, a massive city with so much to see and do that it can’t all be listed here! Plan ahead (if possible) to make sure you see what’s most important to you. Tea at Fortnum & Mason is tops on my list for my next trip!

Photo credit: Fortnum & Mason

9. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada – Banff is a real beauty in the Canadian landscape and a sight to behold. Summer in Banff and Lake Louise is magical. Spend time hiking – short walks to mountaintop treks or whatever is most comfortable for you. Tour by bike, or paddle the lake. If relaxation is what you’re after, be sure to check out the hot springs.  And choose anything from luxurious accomodations to beautiful campgrounds. Banff is yours to explore!

Photo credit: BanffLakeLouise.com

10. Austin, Texas, USA – Austin has it all. Typically you might think of the music scene, great shopping and fantastic food, but if you’re not afraid of bats, the Congress Avenue Bridge is pretty amazing at dusk! Austin is surrounded by the breathtaking Hill Country which is worth a trip outside of the city to see. And don’t forget to try the Texas BBQ!

Photo credit: Merlintuttle.org

Now that you’ve got your destinations in mind check out some of our Best Travel Tips and How to Pack Light when Traveling with Kids.

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Jen’s Top 10 for the Holidays – Best Holiday Baking!

Isn’t it funny how the holidays sneak up on us? Suddenly it’s less than a week until Christmas, and we are already in Hannukah! If you are planning on bringing something to a holiday gathering – or hosting people at yours – I thought I’d share with you my top 10 holiday baking ideas. All of them are total crowd-pleasers, and lots of them are super quick!

1. Festive Shortbread Bites

Who doesn’t love a small cookie? Hard to resist, and just so cute, these will get snapped up in no time. Recipe can be found here.

2. Candy Cane Brownies

Chocolate and a refreshing candy cane crunch- a perfect combo! These are wonderfully decadent, and if you like chocolate and mint together, there’s really no other time of year to make a recipe that is as appealing as this. Recipe can be found here.

3. Soft Baked Gingerbread Cookies

With a sparkly sugar coating reminiscent of fresh snow, these gingerbread cookies are incredibly soft and hard to resist. What are the holidays without a bit of gingerbread? Find the recipe here.

4. Peppermint Bark

It doesn’t get much easier than this wonderful chocolate peppermint bark! Melt chocolate, swirl on wax paper, sprinkle with finely crushed candy canes and cool. perfection! Recipe is right here.

5.  M&M Christmas Cookie Bars

Cookie bars are one of those baked treats that seem to instantly conjure up childhood memories. With all the best bits of a cookie but in a thick cut squares, these are sure to go really quickly at your next get together. Recipe is here.

6.  Christmas Sugar Cookie Truffles

If you are looking for a giftable food item, these would be a perfect hostess or holiday gift.  a wonderfully soft sugar cookie truffle center, dipped in white chocolate (or you could do dark chocolate if you prefer!) Recipe can be found here.

7.  Eggnog Cheesecake Cookie Cups

For something really special and decadent, you must try these eggnog cheesecake cookie cups. Rich and incredibly delicious, they are perfect for a special dessert table. Find the recipe here.

8. Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

What is fantastic about this recipe is that you could easily substitute any kind of cookie (even slice and bake store bought cookie dough!) and then dip them in white chocolate and finely crushed candy canes. They look perfect for the season, and taste amazing! Recipe is right here.

9. Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

For those who loves their treats to be sweet AND salty, this salted caramel pretzel bark ticks all the right boxes. Find the recipe right here.

10. No Bake Thin Mints

This is a great recipe for anyone who says that they ‘don’t bake’. Starting with store bought wafer cookies, you really just melt a bit of chocolate melts and start dipping! Find the step-by-step right here.

These are my favourites, but we have loads more recipes and last-minute holiday ideas over on our Holiday Cheer Pinterest board- check it out! Have a wonderful holiday season, everyone!

Jen’s Top 10 Tips for Getting Organized and Back to School

Ah, September! The unmistakable feeling of a fresh start seems to be everywhere, even if you aren’t a student. I love this time of year, and thought I’d share my top 10 tips for getting organized – perfect for back-to-school, or just getting a fresh start this fall.

Homework Station Ideas, for More Than Just Homework

This is a brilliant round up of all sorts of homework station ideas, which can apply to more than just homework – think about how handy it would be set up something similar for incoming mail, paperwork you need to handle, or even just how to keep track of your family’s busy lives! Find them all here:

 

Colour-Coding Your Planner for Maximum Effectiveness

When juggling a lot of priorities (and possibly appointments and activities for multiple family members) colour-coding your planner can be a lifesaver. Here is a great way to get organized by colour-coding your planner:

Free Printable Calendars

Not into planners? No worries, there are lots of free printables out there to help you get organized, like this pretty one from Sparkles and Sunshine:

Portable Hot Lunch ideas

Whether you are a student or working in an office, everyone gets bored of cold lunches and sandwiches. Here is a great round up of easy and delicious hot lunch ideas that are sure to hit the spot:

Daily Folders

If you find that your life involves a lot of free floating paperwork, then this folder idea is going to change everything:

Organize Your Email

Email is one of those things that gets away from us so easily, and then when we need to find an important message, we end up sifting through thousands of emails. This is a great post on organizing your email with digital folders – so much better!

Increase Productivity with Priority Setting

When juggling a lot on your plate, it can be hard to set priorities in a way that helps you get more done and doesn’t feel overwhelming. This system (you’ll have to scroll down a bit, but it’s there!) is perfect for sorting out a massive to-do list:

Find a Time Management System that Works for You

There are lots of things that can crop up that can leave you feeling like you haven’t made any progress on your tasks. Here’s some great ideas for time management that you can use to help stay focused:

Staying Motivated On Multi-Step Tasks

Sometimes it can be hard to stay the course on a big project. Here are some tips on staying motivated, which you can also use to help motivate others that might need a little nudge on big projects for school or work:

Remember: Balance Prevents Burnout

It’s easy to get so focused on getting things done and prioritizing work and/or school, but it’s important to have balance.

And if you love Pinterest as much as I do, here is a Pinterest board to follow that is full of great back to school organization ideas and crafts!

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Jen’s Top 10 Backyard Fun Ideas for Summer

Summer feels so short, but there are lots of great ways to make the most of the beautiful weather without leaving your backyard. Here is my top 10 list of backyard fun ideas for summer!

1.Summer is a perfect time for s’mores, but who says you need to go camping to make them? Setting up a great backyard s’mores bar is sure to be one of the most memorable nights of the summer.

2. Make your own outdoor Jenga set for backyard games that are going be a hit with both kids and adults. So easy to make!

3. Bring the indoor furniture outside and set up a drink or food station to end all food stations. Don’t forget extra napkins!

4. Host an outdoor movie night in the back yard. Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows and popcorn- you can project a movie onto a hanging white sheet, and be sure to bring some speakers outside! Small projectors you can use with your smartphone make the project part easy.

5. DIY your own hammock bed from wooden pallets! Easier than you would think, and as dreamy as it gets for the backyard in the summer.

6. Nighttime backyard bowling with water bottles and glow sticks just might be the most fun thing for kids and grown ups alike.

7. An outdoor pizza bar makes feeding friends and family a breeze- setting out lots of toppings and flatbreads, then grilling them on the barbecue to perfection. So easy, and perfect for warm weather when it’s too hot to cook inside.

8. Flamingo ring toss has all sorts of fun retro vibes and is sure to make everyone smile. You can even rent flamingos, if you don’t want to buy any!

9.  Like the idea of camping, but without the hassle of actually camping? Set up a tent in the backyard and experience all the fun of camping without any of the yucky bits!

10.  It doesn’t get easier than this- inflatable pool, a pile of blankets and pillows, and snacks! An outdoor lounge comes together in a snap.

If you are looking for more summer inspriation, we have a Pinterest board full of the best summer ideas!

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