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Exploring Halifax’s History and Culture with Family

By Yashy Selvadurai Murphy @yashyanthi & online at: babyandlife.com 

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Mention the East Coast of Canada to anyone and they’ll immediately talk about the friendly faces and the stunning views of the seacoast which is exactly what you will find in the city of Halifax. This quaint city, rich with culture, is home to many historical moments that are still celebrated today.

Halifax is definitely the most frequented airport for those looking to explore the Atlantic coast and makes for a great starting point for any East Coast road trip. This is exactly the reason we found ourselves in Halifax with a toddler and a baby during the quieter summer months. With plenty to see, learn, and taste, a busy but relaxing weekend can be experienced in the “city of trees’’.

 

 

 

 

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HalifaxCentral to the downtown area, the Lord Nelson Hotel is perfect for families looking to be in the heart of it all. What lures most to this hotel is the rich history that has been well maintained. Original pieces from when the hotel was first built in 1928 are still in place; from the lobby floors and ceilings to the grandfather clock, and even the Canada Post Mail drop, it’s all in use today.

The Lord Nelson Hotel offers suites that make it easy for families to have a little more space, making it a very comfortable visit. From cribs, kitchenettes and the most friendly staff who not only leave you notes about the next day’s weather forecast, but also plenty of water and chocolates for the little ones, this hotel will take care of your every need. A lovely mix of historic charm and modern amenities makes this cozy boutique hotel the perfect backdrop for anyone looking to soak in the maritime air and culture.

 

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Note that kids aren’t allowed at restaurants and bars beyond 9 p.m. so be sure to plan for early dinners if you are travelling with anyone under the age of 19.

Dhaba Express: Out in Bayers Lake, this desi spot is a must visit when you want something spicy. Their veggie thalis and curries come highly recommended, and if you pop by on the weekends there’s a buffet to have you feeling stuffed like you just visited your dadi’s house.

Stillwell: This is one cozy beer bar that has a stellar rotating collection of local craft brews. If visiting with little ones, pop by during the less busy afternoons and be sure to sample from their menu. Classic menu items surpassed our expectations and proved to be the best we’ve had. Did I mention there’s an arcade here as well?

Brooklyn Warehouse: The freshest seafood and constantly changing menu can be found in this casual bistro. If you like comfort cuisine with a modern twist and food plated extremely well, check out this spot in the north end of Halifax.

The Bicycle Thief: A good meal is guaranteed here. The music may be a bit loud at times but it’s great for large and small groups. North American food with Italian soul is what they promise and you definitely will want to enjoy a glass of wine from their fine collection.

Edna: Swing by here if you want to brunch in style. Their regular menu is also fantastic so there’s no going wrong whenever you visit. It is a busy spot so it may be best to swing by during less busy times if you have young ones along for the meal.

Donairs: This isn’t a restaurant but a type of sandwich which no visit to Halifax is complete without sampling. Ask the locals and they’ll direct you to their favourites, and be ready to judge, as there’s a heated debate on which spot makes it best.

 

 

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Waterfront and Boardwalk: A great place to let young kids stretch and run along, the boardwalk is the longest in the world. Kids can stomp around the playground, attempt climbing structures and of course get some frameable pictures of the Halifax waters. Many a ship and yacht sits on the water and perhaps you’ll meet a friendly fisherman who’ll let you aboard!

IMG_7460Harbour Hopper: To get a complete land and sea view of the downtown core, hop on one of these tours and have your camera ready. From the views atop Citadel Hill to those of the city skyline from the water, you’ll leave with plenty of pictures and some quirky details of the history of Halifax.

Citadel Hill: This stroller friendly attraction is truly the heart of the city; no matter where in the city you are you will always have a view of the Halifax clock at the top of the hill. Plan a visit around the Noon Gun to experience the pageantry and spend a few hours commemorating Halifax’s role as a key naval station in the British Empire.

 

 

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: Titanic fans will not only get a good overview of the history but also have the chance to interact with some of the famous artifacts here. Meet Merlin the Macaw and the original models of Theodore the tug boat as you peruse through over 30,000 artifacts including the CSS Acadia. Psst…the CSS Acadia is known popularly as the Titanic, which sunk in 1912.IMG_7413

The Public Gardens: One of the finest surviving examples of Victorian Gardens in North America is also a spot for a casual stroll or picnic. Pick up some ice cream from the café and wander around the gardens as the kids chase the birds and call out the colours of the flowers.

 

Halifax has a small city feel with the big city culture, namely because of the student population that rules the streets during the scholastic year. In the summer, the streets are quieter and pushing the stroller up the hilly roads is a fantastic workout as the views at the top are always breathtaking. Mix in a weekend of family adventure in Halifax to feel the cool, salty breeze on your face and the beat of the Maritimes in your step.

See more of the trip to Halifax in pictures below!

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Chicago: A Road Trip to the Windy City

By Yashy Selvadurai Murphy @yashyanthi & online at: www.babyandlife.com

 

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Chicago

Chicago, home to the second busiest airport in the world, is rich in architecture and old world charm at every corner. Given its central location, Chicago is also a popular road trip destination for many North American families, which is exactly how we found ourselves snacking on pakoras in our Chevy Traverse as we set our sights on the Windy City.

Although there’s something for everyone, it’s suffice to say that Chicago is best experienced as a nuclear family. As with most popular cities, if you’re in a large group and hoping to explore the culinary delights, be prepared to make reservations well ahead of time, something a bit difficult to do if you have young kids along for the journey.

Otherwise Chicago is easy to navigate as a group, from visiting major attractions to navigating the popular EL train system, you’ll have no trouble.

 

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The heartbeat of Chicago can be felt on the famous Magnificent Mile and this is where you will want to stay, especially if you’re in town for a quick weekend visit. There are many hotels in the area but only one actually opens its doors onto Mag Mile, the InterContinental Chicago. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy the old world elegance and original architecture that is still maintained throughout the property. This used to be home to the luxurious Medinah Athletic Club where male members of the Shrine Organization passed their active hours. IMG_20140606_110842

The original pool is still in place and you and the family can take a swim in the world’s first above-ground Junior Olympic-size pool. There are many historical elements, including original artwork and layers of gold leaf detailing throughout the property. Stay in the upgraded modern wing or experience the original charm (and more spacious rooms) in the historic wing! Just walk out the front door of the hotel and you can go from shopping to gazing up at well-known landmarks.

 

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Gaylord: Hankering for a desi fix in steak town? Swing by Gaylord and order up some spicy dishes that will remind you of your nani’s cooking but with a twist. Get the okra and vindaloo!

Giordano’s: If this is your first Chi-Town visit, stuffing your mouth with a slice of deep dish pizza is a rite of passage. Arrive early, put your name on the list and place your order before going for a walk. It takes 45 minutes to make this pizza and the veggie is just as good as the meat one.

The Purple Pig: This busy hot spot can be difficult to get into, but if you’re looking to cheese, swine and wine, you need not look any further. A sure crowd-pleaser, there’s plenty for the pork lover and a good mix of alternate dishes for those that prefer to sway away from the swine.  IMG_20140606_120833-2

The Doughnut Vault: Chicago is home to many doughnut shops and really, how can you go wrong with these? You can’t! But if you’re looking for fluffy, melt in your mouth goodness, swing by here. Expect line ups on the weekends and yes they close shop once they sell out.

David Burke’s Steakhouse: Every street corner has a steakhouse and it’s no secret that Chicago is a meat loving city. With many great options, you really can’t go wrong but if you’re looking for the king of the bull pen, this is it!

 

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Chicago Children’s Museum: A visit to Navy Pier to soak in the rays and explore the carnival scenes should make you want to visit the Children’s Museum where little ones can expel some energy, engage in pretend-play and learn some science while they’re at it. Those with infants, toddlers and tweens will all be taken care of here.

360: Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago is where you can ride up to the 94th floor, absorb the sheer wonder that is Chicago and if you’re feeling adventurous, TILT outwards and soar over Magnificent Mile. Note that only those over 40 inches can TILT but kids can run around and enjoy the 360 views. Catching a sunset here should definitely be on your list.

Art Institute of Chicago: One of the greatest Impressionists collections outside of Paris can be found here, and if you’re looking for a personal experience of the classic American Gothic, this is where you want to be. Great on a hot day as you can spend quite a few hours perusing the collections. Kids; Travel; Chicago

Millennium Park and Cloud Gate: No visit to Chicago is complete without clicking a billion pictures of the “Bean”. Have fun with Anish Kapoor’s sculpture, capture the reflection of the skyline and then pop over to the park behind. If you’re lucky, you can catch a free movie or concert!

Shoreline Sightseeing: There’s no better way to watch the fireworks than catching a Shoreline Cruise. Board right off Michigan Avenue or the Navy Pier, take in an architecture cruise that will not only give you the history of the many landmarks and architectural marvels, but will also end with you gazing up at the sky mesmerized by the fireworks. A perfect way to end the night!

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Chicago is a true cultural hub that will please artists, architects, culinary fiends and historians. This city is very family friendly and don’t be surprised if you find stroller parking and change tables wherever you go. Chicago is also a city with plenty of free entertainment, just be sure to avoid any major conventions by checking the Choose Chicago calendar to determine the best time to visit.

This summer, why not head off on a road trip?

Tips on Travelling With Extended Family

By Yashy Selavadurai Murphy @yashyanthi & online: babyandlife.com  

 

Vacationing with extended family

 

Travelling with your nuclear family is hard enough but imagine travelling with your in-laws , your parents or even your grandmother. And staying sane. It can be done and it can be quite enjoyable. Having travelled for two weeks throughout Ireland with my in-laws, taken grandmother and aunts on a California road trip and explored Mexico with my dad and my husband’s parents, there’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

 

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Call me insane but I actually enjoy travelling with extended family and I must be doing something right because aunts, in-laws and siblings are always ready to be part of a vacation that I’m planning.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are my top tips for planning a successful vacation with extended family:

  1. Determine a destination that appeals to all: Be it a city a few hours away, a country on another continent or a neighbouring town, pick a spot that everyone wants to explore. The destination is the main attraction after all.
  2. Determine any constraints: Be it medical conditions or old age you will want to know the parameters at play. We climbed the Blarney Stone with my in-laws but definitely would not have done that if my grandmother was with us. Know your group’s limits and don’t push it. A short road trip is all my aunts could endure so a six hour trek for a killer plate of sushi was definitely out of the question. family; travel
  3. Figure out the finances: Are there budgets to keep in mind? It can be difficult if one set is used to luxury travel and the other prefers low budget accommodations. Figure out the middle ground and be clear of costs from the very beginning.
  4. Determine mode of transportation: Are you flying there? Is it smart to take a road trip once at your destination? Are you relying on public transit or trains? There are many factors to determine but keep in mind that travelling in a large group can be difficult and that you may want to make arrangements well ahead of time to ensure that everyone is together.
  5. Determine accommodations: Some families love staying in hotels where everyone has their own space at the end of the night. My family likes a mix of hotel and apartment stays, depending on the cities we visit and the duration. I’ve found that using sites such as VRBO and Vacations-Abroad can get you more space for your buck. Everyone living under one roof may also mean that you can sneak out for a date with your partner while the kids sleep and the in-laws relax at home after a busy day.
  6. Determine your itinerary: Figure out what everyone wants to do. Assuming you have now taken on the task to organize the trip, it is your duty to draft up ten (or twenty if you’re going on a longer trip) attractions or things to do and have everyone vote on what they’d like. I choose the popular spots to visit and draft up an agenda for each day. Share this with the group and have a group email or phone call to discuss the plan and address any concerns. Be as detailed as possible – I include times to visit attractions and costs for accommodations and entry fees on the itinerary so that everyone’s aware of all the details.
  7. Be flexible: You’ve organized an agenda and everyone has agreed to it, but know that things may not pan out. Someone might fall ill or need some down time. Figure out how things can be swapped or omitted to stay on schedule.
  8. Give yourself a lot of time: Packing a car with a toddler and newborn is hard enough but packing a car with aunts, a grandmother and your cousins will take ten times as long. Getting out of the house will take another hour. Give yourself plenty of time between each attraction and plan for plenty of potty and chai breaks.
  9. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Ignoring small grievances is definitely called for. Travelling brings out the best in my family but it may not be the same for all. If there are little things that annoy you about your brother in law or your aunt, try to step away during those times or close your eyes. Take it in stride but don’t hold a grudge.
  10. Have no expectations besides having fun: Don’t expect your parents or in-laws to babysit every night. It just isn’t fair. One or two nights will most likely be volunteered by them but if you have an event you really want to sneak out to, ensure the other party knows about this well before the trip.

 

Travel & Events Reporter

Travel & Events Reporter

With young kids along for the journey, I find it extremely beneficial to travel with family. It’s great having extra hands but more over it helps foster a great relationship. Travel is a way for many of us to explore things for the very first time and whether you’re two, 32 or  72 there’s wonder and excitement in marvelling at the Taj Mahal or Cliffs of Moher together. Creating these memories takes effort but it’s worth every minute of planning. The thousand pictures in the end are proof of the fabulous times we had and the joys we experienced. Cherished memories that help us plan the next extended family adventure!

Ladies Who Chai : What it takes to launch a business online

By Yashy Murphy @yashyanthi & online at: babyandlife.com

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Last week  a very eager and enthusiastic group of women gathered at the beautiful Hilton Garden Inn Marquis Lounge & Bistro in Toronto for the second Ladies Who Chai event. Guests were greeted on arrival with a fine array of nibbles, compliments of the Hilton Garden Inn and a Chai Bar hosted by Tea India as they set out to network with fellow Masalamommas.

They also indulged in a mini shopping excursion by Satya Paul and Dagmar Jewellery before making their way for some beauty tips by Masalamommas’ Beauty Editor, Kavita Suri. The lively group of ladies were not only mingling but also engaging in lively discussions as they geared up for the fine panel of speakers on feature that evening.

The panel comprised Reetu Guptu (Vice President Sales & Marketing Strategic Development at Easton Hotels Group), Kathryn Buczko (Social Media Account Executive at Twitter Canada), Salima Jivraj (Founder of  HalalFoodie.ca and HalalFoodfestTO) and Chitra Anand (Head of Public Relations, Microsoft Canada). Under the guidance of moderator Sonia Prashar (Founder & Principal spPR Inc.)

The ladies dished out the politics of the business world, how to navigate the digital and social media sphere and how to mentally and physically prepare for the entrepreneurial journey.

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Sudduf Wyne “As soon as I walked into the venue and I saw all the bright smiling faces, the food options and vendors, I was really really excited and was impressed on how well it was put together.”

 

Ladies Who Chai is a series of educational networking events for Masalamommas who are (or contemplating the journey to being) small business owners, bloggers or entrepreneurs.

The evening’s discussions were focused on what it takes to launch a business online using marketing, PR and the online space.

Reetu started the evening off by providing a backdrop on how passions in one area can easily translate to other areas in one’s professional life. Salima provided Masalamommas with practical tips and tricks on how to launch and promote an online business while Kathryn shared Twitter insights to not only get the word out but also on how to build a strong following. Some of the things she mentioned were promoted trends.

Just some of the tweets during the event:

 

Sample #LadiesWhoChai Twitter feedback

Sample #LadiesWhoChai Twitter feedback

“Promoted trends are for those big announcements, so if you ever are thinking of going big or going home, this is really our version of a roadblock on twitter,” said Buczko.

Chitra got the ladies thinking about entrepreneurial skills and advised on trusting one’s intuition and being the change they want to see.

“In Canada we get a year of mat leave. So if you’re going to leave for a year. People say you’re out of the game. A year is a long time. The marketplace is fast and moving at a rapid fire pace. I believe because so much changes in a year, it’s an opportunity  for us,” said Anand.  “The opportunity is why don’t we use our mat leave for personal development. We’re only the best wives, mothers and daughters when we are at our best. Take that year, it’s a gift of time. Write your business plan, or take a course, or write that book you want to write.”

 

 

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“The speakers were inspiring! I’ve actually made a to-do list of what I’m going to do now to improve my branding and I felt very comfortable coming into this event because of the South Asian flare. It took away some of the butterflies I get at other events. So congratulations for awesome event and I can’t wait for the next one!” said Wyne.

The service at the Hilton Garden Inn, was spectacular. Staff thought of each and every detail including incredible set up for the panel, with lighting and audio. The Chef’s incredibly diverse menu offered a little bit of everything for the perfect ‘tea’ event including nutella wontons, arancini, Indian style potato patties and more! If you’re looking for a place to hold an event, the Hilton Garden Inn Toronto staff set the standard for event management from start to finish.

As with the very first Ladies Who Chai event, everyone in attendance left having developed new friendships, nourished their business building desires and with a new sense of excitement for the challenges that lay ahead.

“Right now I’m juggling having a one-year-old, doing a full-time job and trying to get my wedding and event business my actual dream. It ended up that when I saw this event listing of ladies who chai, I just had to go. I think that this event was actually the push I needed to make my business idea a go,”said Faze.

Masalamommas left with a renewed sense of power and a swag bag filled with treats for all. A big thank you to our supporters Chevrolet Canada, Tilda Rice, Satya Paul, Dagmar, Easton’s Group of HotelsTea India, Kavita Suri and Twitter Canada.

 

Stay tuned for the next Ladies Who Chai event in the fall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Adventures in Ann Arbor, Michigan

By Yashy Selavadurai Murphy @yashyanthi & online at: babyandlife.com

Ann Arbor

Chevrolet Traverse

We loaded up our Chevy Traverse and packed the kids for a quick Michigan getaway this past February. Ann Arbor may scream “college town” but it is also a friendly and sophisticated city filled with plenty of activities for families to enjoy.

Michigan University definitely runs deep in Ann Arbor’s veins but there’s plenty to explore in the biggest little city in the middle. Whether you’re heading that way to drop off your college kid, or you’re looking for a quick getaway with young kids, we’ve got the Masalamommas scoop on how to enjoy this cultural hub where locals pride themselves on “living life different.”

On our most recent travels, the craft beer scene and the many museums truly impressed us.

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If you’ve got kids joining you on your travels, they’ll want in on the action happening at the Hilton Garden Inn Ann Arbor. “A garden’s path can take you anywhere….” is a saying that transports you throughout the property.

From the moment you walk in through their doors, you’re guaranteed not only a blissful sleep, but a fun and cozy stay as well.  Perks travelling families are sure to enjoy are complimentary Wi-Fi, self-serve morning coffee/tea/hot chocolate station, in-room microwave (popcorn anyone?) and a cool pool like no other! 2014-02-15-09.59.23

While the parents lounge by the pool, the toddlers and teens can safely amuse themselves with the various activities in the pool. The hotel is a quick drive from the centre of the town and is right across from a mall. Masalamommas, click your shopping heels!

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Cupcake Station: It’s hard to say no to this little spot where they even have plenty of mini options for the little ones. There’s no need to avoid the sugar rush!

Jolly Pumpkin: Craft beer lovers will have a hard time leaving this rustic brew pub. Knowledgeable staff and fine cuisine can easily keep you here all day if you’re not careful!

Aventura: If you’ve got a large group and fancy some tapas, this spot will bring everyone around the table and take your taste buds on a culinary journey through Spain. They also have a great bar to enjoy some craft cocktails and people watch if dinner isn’t really your thing.

2014-02-16-15.29.05Cardamom: If you’re craving some Indian food, this is where you want to be. Traditional and modern fusion dishes splatter the menu, including some popular Nepali dishes that will have you swinging by for more.

Frita Batidos: Looking for something out of the ordinary? How about some Cuban street food in a casual setting? Everyone’s a friend here as you gather around wooden communal tables to enjoy their boozy shakes and fresh Cuban dishes. Be sure to try their garlic fries!

 

 

 

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Hands-on Museum: Housed in an old fire station, this children’s museum can not only entertain kids but also ignite the power of imagination. Interactive displays span four floors where you need not worry about grubby hands and delicate structures. Fit for kids of all ages 2 to 52!  2014-02-15-15.54.17

University of Michigan Museums: From the Museum of Art to the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, there’s plenty to explore on campus as a visitor. Roam the university as you peruse through the state’s largest collection of dinosaur skeletons and pop by the largest stadium in North America to soak in the culture spread throughout the campus.

Bluffs Nature Area: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the rugged trails here are perfect for mountain biking and hiking. Located close to the downtown core, it’s an easy way to stay healthy on your holiday.

Farmers’ Market: With summer on its way, get ready to nosh your way through Ann Arbor. Fresh produce, baked goods and ready-to-eat meals can be found here in Kerrytown. Most likely, you’ll be serenaded by a band or two during your visit.

Downtown Ann Arbor: A very walkable downtown means you can explore many culinary pursuits all within a few blocks. Swing by the Schakolad Chocolate Factory or Cherry Republic to stock up on gifts for those back home or pop by Zingerman’s for a boutique food experience like no other.

Ann Arbor has something for everyone. Whether you’re a craft beer lover, cherry aficionado, theatre goer or sports fanatic, you’ll feel at home.