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The best summer camp in Canada

This summer, my boys spent two weeks at Camp Muskoka and they are still talking about it.

According to them it is the “best summer camp in Canada or even the world.” Not only did they make some terrific friends, but they learned new games (Magic) and songs (Little Red Wagon) that they randomly start singing at the dinner table.

What they like most about the camp is the freedom to choose what they do during the day instead of feeling like they have to stick to a strict routine that other camps have. Rather than swimming in a freezing cold lake at the crack of dawn, their only worry is to get to the cafeteria before breakfast is finished. And the meals are apparently way better than anything we serve them – there too they have a lot of choice in what they were served.

Camp Muskoka is in the business of making happy campers. As their website states, “we firmly believe that everyone has physiological needs that must be met in order to have any hope of meeting their more refined needs. For example, a camper won’t be able to enjoy the mental and physical activities at camp without proper nutrition or a comfortable, good night’s sleep.  Likewise, a camper won’t be able to build confidence and friendships if they don’t feel safe. Whether it be providing our campers with healthy, well-balanced meals throughout the day, having air conditioned lodging to ensure a good night’s rest, or nurturing a healthy and safe environment so campers are recognized for their personal achievements;  everything we do is about helping our camper’s reach their highest potential.”

The thing is, the camp truly does live up to this description. I notice that my kids came back a bit louder than they were before going (their voices raw from singing, laughing and shouting), a bit more conscientious (aware of the need to clear the table – which they are taught to do their at meal times), and a bit more enthusiastic – “hey mum lets make a song about that.”

If you are looking for a safe camp your kids will truly enjoy, I recommend Camp Muskoka. Here’s a video the camp and kids put together that will give a small view of the great energy that permeates the camp.

I tip my hat to the founder of Camp Muskoka, Scott Creed, for creating a fantastic safe place where kids can learn, grow, and have a heck of a lot of fun!

Festival life reminder of beautiful womanhood

Barefoot in the dirt, dancing around a bonfire with my soul sisters, music, wildflowers, and lichen everywhere. This was FrogFest, the celebration of music and nature, and a true healer of the heart after a long hard year of trucking away in the grind of city life.

Festival life in the summer has become as important as seeing cherry blossoms in May and eating fresh apples in late August. It is an essential part of the Canadian music lover’s life and is a process of revival in the midst of hot and hazy summer days. So, what does it really mean to be a woman immersed in nature and music with her best friends? Why venture out into the forest to not shower for three days and commit yourself to the frenzy of festival life?

Quite simply — to free yourself.

If only for a moment, bills cease to matter and the monotony of the nine-to-five life disappears. Life becomes about the next song, the heartbeat of the vast powerful forest, and picking wildflowers because that is the most important thing you could think to do in that moment.

Millennials are living in a time of low employment opportunities, rising living costs, and an increasingly frightening world. In the wake of the impacts of climate change and a growing sense of disunity on the international stage, young people today are left to face growing challenges. But instead of giving up all hope and turning away from the world, festivals like FrogFest inspire me to believe there is a collective of individuals who want to change the world for the better.

Alongside music, sexy people, and the lush forest landscape, there were many conversations around the importance of barter, trade, and changing society from the capitalist confines that have ravaged our planet. I personally witnessed a young seven-year-old lad trade a drawing for a patch that my friend had sewn. When a young woman tripped and fell during a show, ten people were there to pick her up instead of none. The entire experience was a series of gift giving, from physical objects to spiritual offerings. Festival spaces aren’t only about getting trashed and listening to tunes. It’s about experiencing the freedom to be inspired.

It is also a place to really honour the space and power of womanhood. I was lucky enough to camp with some of my oldest and wisest women friends. To see the ladies who have loved and supported me so happy and complete reflected how much opportunity being outdoors gives us to be our full selves. It was empowering to feel attractive in my natural body, and I saw many people, myself included, who frog-hopped into meeting a special someone who made them feel even more lovely in the brief and beautiful dream world of festival life.

If you haven’t been to an outdoor weekend festival before, it is well worth it. Gather a group of your best girlfriends, bring your most colourful and beautiful possessions to share, and get ready to feel more free than any amount of therapy can offer.

Oh, and don’t forget to find a magical frog in the woods. Ribbit! Welcome home.

Here are some photos from FrogFest

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Women of the Week: Patti-Anne Tarlton

Patti-Anne Tarlton is one of the women magnates of the music industry in Toronto. Her success can be attributed to her charismatic business attitude and exceptional managerial skills with her staff. She has a friendly, down-to-earth demeanour, and values collaboration and connecting people invested in music across the country.

As COO, Canada for Ticketmaster North America, Tarlton oversees the business-end operations of the Canadian ticketing market. She is in charge of the features and products that Ticketmaster sells, including the technology that is used to sell and market tickets. These products are sold on international markets across North America. Tarlton is also in charge of overseeing the business relationship with Ticketmaster’s clients, managing business deals with clients (teams, festivals, clubs) and holds relationships with B2B to sell product on their behalf.

Before joining Ticketmaster, Tarlton worked as the Vice President of Live Entertainment at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “I spent 13 years at Maple Leaf. There are a whole host of precious moments, including New Years Eve with the Tragically Hip and when Googoosh performed for the first time in 21 years outside of her home country Iran,” Tarlton says. “It is always fun to see Canadian attractions sell out the arena. It is also great to see how the Toronto marketplace is so multicultural.”

Tarlton’s interest in music began at a very young age when her Uncle, Donald Tarlton, who was one of the most famous record label owners in Canadian music history, came to visit her hometown in Vancouver and his nieces would accompany him to various music events. Donald Tarlton owned Aquarius Records, which represented April Wine, Sum 41, and Corey Hart. “It was likely a slow burn to my love for music,” Tarlton says. “Donald was always a part of our lives and very close to my father. He always had a great record label and grew that over the years. It was always about the next thing and a bunch of vinyl would come my way.” Tarlton got her start in operations as a concert promotor in the music industry. Over the next 14 years, she was a concert promotor for Perryscope Concerts, DKD Concerts, and House of Blues Concerts.

When Tarlton reached adulthood, she decided to move to Montreal and pursue her dream of working in music with her uncle. She recollects the first concert she attended in Montreal was to see Paul Simon and she was impressed by the crowd. “Having grown up in Vancouver, the audience settings were quite different,” Tarlton says. “Montreal audiences stand on their feet and it had this super international flavour to it.” Even as a young adult, Tarlton was interested in how live audiences were affected by the music and how to engage people to enjoy shows they attended.  Her passion with live shows eventually led her to being the VP of Live Entertainment for the Air Canada Centre, the fifth largest venue in the world.

Tarlton believes music creates better communities and a stronger cultural environment. She is an appointed member of the Toronto Music Advisory Council, which is a group of individuals in the industry that meet to exchange ideas and advice on how to create opportunities and respond to challenges in the city’s music industry. She is also a board member on Music Canada Live, which promotes live music. “I feel as I live here in Toronto I, I can advocate for the rest of the country. It was natural for me to try and rally the arenas in sports and entertainment,” Tarlton says. “The benefit of being in Toronto is you have the population and local economy and it is in part our responsibility to advocate for every neck of the woods in Canada. Canadians tend to network and collaborate, be it a local level or countrywide. It is our natural tendency as a nation. Even in a multinational setting, Canadians tend to lean in to find solutions rather than elbows out.”

Tarlton has received the Women of Influence Award from Venues Today, won Coach of the Year from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, and was nominated for Facility Executive of the Year twice for Pollstar.

Tarlton wants to inspire women to reach for high-ranking roles in the music industry. “While I have enjoyed a career and not been set back by my gender, I have two girls and I envision a world where they don’t have to think about gender. I do know that we have a network of really talented women across the country though there are not enough women on civic or government advisory boards,” Tarlton says. “I do feel like I have a responsibility to push women along as well as well as motivate and inspire. If I take lessons from my own life, it is about putting yourself out there. I do not think twice about delivering myself in a conversation and pushing something forward without the one to one.”

When Tarlton isn’t working, she enjoys going to the cottage and waterskiing. She also finds cooking very relaxing after work. She was an avid sewer when she was younger and made over 150 costumes that her two daughters enjoyed playing with as they grew up. Tarlton’s sense of humour and positivity is infectious and listening to her stories is wildly entertaining and deeply inspirational. It is moving to see a strong and high-ranking role in the music industry.  Just don’t forget Tarlton’s advice for Canadian women; network, get yourself out there, and do it on your own terms.

Runners: what’s the deal with shin splints?

I’m not an expert runner by any definition of the word, but I run enough to know the intense and debilitating affects of shin splints.

I started getting them when I first ventured into the sport last year. The first few weeks were terrible, and as a new runner, I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Eventually, I fixed the situation by brushing up on my form and creating a stretching routine any professional athlete would be proud of! Sounds easy, right??

Well, a few weeks ago, they came back! I didn’t change my routine and yet, the pain shooting up my shins was unbearable.

Shin splints are common in high-impact activities that put a lot of stress on the feet and legs. It can also be caused by something called overpronation, when the arch of your foot is in constant contact with the ground due to ankle positioning. This limits the body’s ability to absorb the impact of that connection. Sometimes, stopping your activity and stretching out the area can quickly reduce this pain — but a lot of the time, if you continue the activity that caused the shin splints, it can cause serious injury.

So, what to do about it?

Stretch: This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how little people stretch prior to a workout. Make sure to really work every area. Stretch your arms, your core, your neck, your ankles, and of course, your legs. Sure, the hamstrings are most closely related to shin splints, but if the rest of your body isn’t just as limber, it will cause muscle spasms that will carry down to those shins. I do at least 10 minutes of stretching before I put my shoes on. Try doing some yoga between runs to help keep those muscles stretched and toned.

Get new shoes: This is what I’m going to be doing in the next few weeks. My shoes are old and are loosing their support. This means there is less of a barrier between the pavement and my feet, causing more friction and more pressure on my shins/arches. If you don’t want to get new shoes, maybe try orthotic inserts to help support your arches.

Take a break: I know this isn’t what you want to hear. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear either. But if you are experiencing shin splints, continued stress on the legs will just make it worse and can lead to serious injury. Take one to two weeks off the activity that caused the shin splints. Also try to avoid any high-impact activities that would cause your weight to be placed on the arches of your feet.

Cross train: Just because you aren’t running, doesn’t mean you sit on the couch and watch TV all day! Go for a walk, swim, or hit the gym and use an elliptical or a stationary bike! As long as you avoid activities in which you jump, you’ll be fine! Maybe the better choice is to go for a long walk. Walking is just as good for you as running is, without the stress caused by having your foot hit the pavement with force.

Return slowly: When you do start running again, don’t pick up where you left off. Start slowly and work your way back up. Sometimes, increasing your speed or mileage too quickly can cause shin splints. So, when you do get back into the game, make sure not to over do it. After the run, if your shins are starting to bother you, stretch them out and ice it to reduce inflammation!

Best of luck!

 

What do you do to help ease the pain of shin splints? Let us know in the comments below!

Grilling: from revolution to togetherness

It’s almost here — yes, I’m talking about barbecue season. For most Canadians, this is a year-round phenomenon, but for the less brave or cold tolerant, the beginning of Spring usually means it’s grillin’ time!

Why all the excitement? Well, grilling is more than what sears on the grate. It’s the experiences lived, memories created and the friends and family brought together sharing the common love of great, grilled food. It’s for burgers and buddies and being social without the media.

That’s the passion of Weber!

Rewind to 1952, when a man named George Stephen, a sheet metal worker at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Chicago who also happened to have a passion for grilling, sparked a backyard revolution in America with the invention of the first Weber Kettle charcoal grill. This first-of-its-kind covered kettle barbecue quickly gained a loyal audience with Stephen eventually buying out the company, changing the name to Weber-Stephen, and devoting all of his professional time to manufacturing and selling Weber kettle grills. But he didn’t stop there! In 1985, Weber again revolutionized outdoor grilling with the introduction of the Genesis gas grill, replacing grease-catching lava rock found in other gas grills with a unique Flavorizer system designed to eliminated flare-ups. The food drippings that hit the specially-angled hot Flavorizer bars are vaporized back into the foods for that great barbecue flavour. The juices that don’t vaporize are directed away from the burner tubes into a catch pan at the bottom of the grill making clean-up a breeze. Another revolutionary invention from Weber!

Thirty years later, Weber’s most loved grill just got better! The new, show-stopping Weber Genesis II line of gas grills has been thoughtfully and carefully designed to provide backyard chefs with the ultimate outdoor cooking experience.

Equipped with the new and innovative GS4 high performance grilling system—the heart of every grill in the line—Genesis II grills are available in 2, 3, 4 and 6 burners so there’s one to fit every lifestyle and budget, giving you more reasons to bring everyone together.

Explore the new Weber Genesis II here! 

Bluetooth technology takes the guesswork out of grilling

Genesis II grills also come equipped with something called iGrill 3, a cutting-edge Bluetooth thermometer that makes grilling easier, more convenient, and a whole lot smarter. It’s the perfect solution for the 84 per cent of backyard chefs who are afraid they will fail at the grill. The Weber iGrill 3 monitors the internal temperature of food from beginning to end, sending grilling data to your iOS or Android device and notifying you once your food has reached the perfect temperature. The Weber iGrill 3 is exclusively compatible with the new Weber Genesis II grills in that it fits in a water-resistant docking station positioned on the front of each grill. It includes two temperature probes, which can be adaptable to four probes so you can monitor almost anything you grill including steak, chicken, fish or roasts – giving you perfect results each and every time.

For charcoal lovers, the heat is on with new all-natural hardwood briquettes

“The charcoal segment continues to grow dramatically in Canada with 90 per cent of charcoal grillers saying they want charcoal that lasts longer while providing consistent heat,” said Patricia Larez, vice-president marketing, Weber-Stephen Canada.

The new Weber Briquettes do just that, outperforming other charcoal fuel on the market. Weber Briquettes provide consistent heat and are made from 100 per cent all natural hardwood. They do not include any unwanted chemical binders or fillers and they produce less ash.

They are also conveniently packaged in a weather-protected re-sealable bag that features a handy zip top to help protect charcoal from rain or snow.

Become a backyard hero!

If you are looking to upgrade your grill skills, look no further than the Weber Grill Academy, the first and only school of its kind dedicated to grilling. The Grill Academy, located in Vaughan, Ontario, offers regularly scheduled public grilling classes and is also available for special events. Whether it the “back to basics” approach to charcoal grilling, learning how to smoke the perfect brisket, or simply improving your technique at the gas grill, Weber Grill Expert and Celebrity Chef Michael P. Clive teaches a variety of classes that are sure to get you fired-up for grilling season. Classes are held year round and are always a great, hands-on, edutaining grilling experience.   Each class offers three hours of grilling instruction and when finished, you’ll eat your grilled creation and take home your leftovers!

Visit webercanada.ca for product information and to sign up to receive fresh off the grill news!

Hello Spring! Now, get outside!

Have you ever gone outside just for the sake of going outside?

Taking a walk outside and breathing in the fresh air, running along the beach, or just sitting in a field of green can work wonders for relaxation and stress-relief. Nature can be incredibly peaceful and rejuvenating — and luckily in Canada, these green spaces and beaches are accessible throughout any landscape.

Most people feel they need a reason to go outside, whether it be to play sports or for a planned outdoor adventure to get their next Instagram photo opportunity. Instead, why not just go outside for the sake of it. When I’m in a bad mood, taking a break and walking outside cures the blues faster than almost any other possible solution. The fresh air, sunshine, and peaceful silence creates an appreciation of life that is impossible to find anywhere else.

If you aren’t quite sure how to get outdoors for the pure enjoyment of it, the secret to success lies in making sure you do it mindfully. Don’t go outside equipped with your phone to distract you. Free yourself from all your devices and take your lovely self for a walk and really look at the world around you. You will find that there is so much beauty to see once you remove yourself from the bubble of technological existence. Birds still exist. Trees actually grow taller. It is amazing how much can be noticed without our phones two inches from our faces at all times.

Take note of how your body feels when you are outside as well. It is good to stretch out in the open space and understand which muscles are sore and target those areas. Even doing yoga outside would feel relaxing and in tune with how nature can make our aching bodies feel better.  Even if you have a cold, talking a brief walk can help get some fresh air into your body and may rejuvenate you if you have been inside sleeping for a long period of time.

Next time you find yourself with a free 30 minutes (or even an hour), go outside and revel in the oncoming spring. There is so much to be thankful for in good weather, and taking time to appreciate it leads to a more fulfilling and connected life. The more people use the greens paces and natural areas, the more likely it is to be conserved for future generations. Get outside today and enjoy it!

How to teach kids to care for planet earth

The future of the earth ultimately lies in the hands of our children, which is why teaching them to love and respect nature is so critical.

This type of education helps foster a connection between our urban environment and the natural one that surrounds us. However, for a lot of young children, they just don’t want to hear it. Talking about nature can get boring pretty quickly. However, there are some fun and interactive ways to transform kids into little environmentalists.

First of all, take your kids out into nature. This isn’t something you can teach while indoors. Going outside for a nature walk or hike will show kids that the outdoors is beautiful and irreplaceable. Most Canadian cities are replete with natural destinations and parks (one of the best parts of living in the Great White North), and it is easy to include a walk in your weekend activities. Make sure to bring snacks and a re-usable bag to collect any nature items you may find. When you get home, make a collage with what you collected. To make the nature walk more exciting, turn it into a simple nature scavenger hunt. There are easy pdf print-offs or simply write a few items down for them to check off as you walk. Can your child spot a bird? How about a birch tree or a pinecone?

Another fun idea is to get kids to do a quick litter clean-up while doing a nature walk. Kids might not like this idea right away, but turning it into a game will make it fantastically fun. ‘Race to Recycle’ is a game where you separate kids into two groups and get them to race to see how many litter items they can collect on their nature walk. Whichever group has more pieces of recycling by the end of the walk wins. A picnic to celebrate is always an enjoyable past-time as well.

Environmental crafts are another teaching tool that can be used to help kids learn about the planet and how significant it is to care about green initiatives. An easy art project is to collect as many recyclables as possible and place them into a pile for kids to use for an art project of their choice. The kids could also work together and build a statue out of the recyclables to make something beautiful. After the project is complete, explain how up-cycling recycled items can create new and fun projects and it isn’t necessary to buy new things when you can re-use the old.

Don’t have access to a lot of recyclable materials? Try this simple project! Take a paper plate (made out of recyclables) and paint it blue. Glue pieces of green construction paper to it and make the planet earth. Get the kids to write their favourite things about nature along the edges of the paper plate, which will get the children talking about everything they love about the outdoors. Place the plates on the floor and get the children to take pieces of recycling and dump it on top of the ‘earth’ plates. Explain to the children that by covering the earth in garbage, it can ruin it. Then, take out labelled containers with cardboard-metals-plastics and get the kids to put their recycling into them. Now that their ‘earth’ plates are uncovered, get the kids to talk about how important recycling is to save the planet.

Lastly, gardening and composting with kids teaches them how to dig in the dirt and understand how special it feels when things grow. Throughout the wintertime, you can grow pea shoots and other easy-to-care-for plants in used orange juice cartons and then plant them outside in the spring. Starting a compost when the weather warms also helps create amazing soil quality and shows kids how food is not garbage and can also be re-used.

Making nature fun for kids will help them love it as they grow up. Some of the best memories children can make are outside hiking in the forest with their families or learning how to pull weeds in the garden. By using informative games to teach kids that they have the ability to change the world and care, it will help them go green and hopefully save the planet for future generations to come.

Put away your child’s electronics for spring break

As Spring Break begins, many kids will be at home looking for fun things to do. Unfortunately, this also means many children will be spending their days on the computer or watching TV.

Watching children play together is becoming mildly terrifying. The imaginative games of my childhood seem to be replaced with bonding over video games. Teenagers are glued to their phones, often preferring to text or snapchat instead of going out to the mall with friends. This lack of real life interaction is causing more depression in teens and less connectivity between families. This is dangerous for our society.

Because children are often on electronics, their face-to-face interactions with other kids and adults are reportedly decreasing.  Many kids are also overstimulated by electronics and increased Attention Deficit Disorder is becoming prevalent in young Canadians. Parents that avoid dealing with their kids and stick them in front of the leap pad are enriching the addiction causing exercise rates and outdoor play to plummet.

A 2014 study by the University of California showed children with high access to electronics were unable to accurately recognize non-verbal body language as effectively as children with more limited use of technology. The research compared a group of 51 children that were at a summer camp for five days without technology to a control group of children that had access to technology during the same time. Both groups were tested at the conclusion of the camp and the study concluded that children who had no access to technology for the week were able to recognize body language cues 50 per cent better than children in the control group.

Children in North America over the age of eight spend over seven and a half hours a day looking at a screen. The study also reported teenagers ages 12 to 17 use phones to text message more than face-to-face socializing.

Overstimulation is also becoming more prevalent in kids and youth, according to a study put out by the public school board of British Columbia, with one in 20 children suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Over-stimulation to technology in infants can cause SPD and often leads to ADHD, as well as anxiety due to interrupted development of processing abilities in the prefrontal cortex at a young age.

A report card released in 2015 by the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Health Institute calculates startling statistics concerning children and physical exercise in Canada. Seventy per cent of children ages three to four are getting the recommended 180 minutes of daily activity compared to children ages five to 11, with only 14 per cent of children getting 60 minutes of daily exercise. Only five per cent of teenagers ages 12 to 17 meet the guidelines.

This spring break, get your kids outside to play and have fun! By putting the electronics away and inspiring children and youth to play outside, you can kickstart a better lifestyle that involves less technology. A few ideas include going on a hike as family, playing a game of basketball, or going for a bike ride. I challenge you to actually bond with your family — even if it seems forced to begin with — just to see how your child reacts to the non-screen-related activities. Putting away the computer for a week may just be what you all need!

Put a spring in your step

It seems spring has finally sprung. People are on the move, and more than eager to get back on track with outdoor activities and workout programs.

Still, many are still experiencing a touch of the winter blues. No matter how anxious, it’s not easy to switch gears from often lazy winter indoor activities and exercise routines.

No matter what your outdoor sport may be, starting slowly, rebuilding strength and endurance can save you from (or prevent) an early seasonal injury that can ruin a summer of fun and physical activity. For runners, who may have not kept up steady workouts over the winter as avidly as hoped, the progression of walking to jogging to running might be a route to consider. Remember, pre-run warm-up and post cool-down stretches to prevent injury, and to ensure a safe reentry into steady outdoor workout routines. Getting into a regular schedule, without pushing it, keeps you consistent and on track, without pushing your body too much, and can leave you wanting more…and that’s a sure sign you’re ‘back in the saddle.’

No matter how far you go, remember to take and drink water. You might feel the outing is not long enough to need it, but who knows: on a nice day, you may walk a little longer, or stop in a park. Water is always needed for strength, endurance and focus. If you love to cycle but hate the stationary bike, you may not have kept your legs as strong as they could be for riding outside. Getting back to the streets can test balance going over uneven pavement, stones and twigs. Early spring can bring a lot of rain. Wet streets are harder to stop on and can be a challenge for the best of riders at any time.

As important as anything, drivers aren’t as used to seeing as many bikers on the road and need to readjust their eyes and attitudes to the outdoor athletes of summer. Rain and wet roads are harder to navigate for them too. Some drivers don’t feel comfortable around bikers. Proper protection and rider safety is a priority.

Getting back in tune with your body is important too. Massage and reflexology are just two healthy, preparation and injury preventing approaches en route to getting back in touch with the body/mind connection.

And besides, they feel great.