Posts Tagged "Travel"

Cancun Vacay

Posted By on Feb 27, 2014

We went to Cancun at the end of January. It was amazing.
We stayed at the Gran Caribe and have no complaints. Zilch. It was fabulous, as is their resort in Playa Del Carmen, where we stayed a year and a half ago.

Here are my favourite pics from the trip. (And a video of Abby flipping off a  yoga ball in the sand on the beach!)

cancun fam











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Puerto Vallarta, Feb. 2012

Posted By on Feb 20, 2012

Two lessons were learned this trip:
1. We do not like boat trips.
2. When faced with a beautifully sunshiny day, finally, on the last day of a trip, one should still wear sunscreen.

First a shout out to Charlie the potty master. For a week before we left, I was so worried about the potty situation. He was peeing no problem, but would not go #2, anywhere. He finally went a few times a couple days before we left, and it was a non issue the entire trip. He even peed outside, on a tree during our Pirate boat excursion! Yay Charlie!

The weather was the worst the locals had seen in 3 years! Lucky us. Fortunately, we proved that the Hilton’s do not need sun to have a great time.
The lack of sun gave us the opportunity to stay in the pool almost all day most days, without fear of a brutal sunburn. We were still getting tanned (& a little burned) through the overcast sky though.

The resort was okay. Great for kids and had amazing service & people. The buffet left a lot to be desired, but the a la carte restaurants made up for it.
The worst thing (and only for me since I’m such a light sleeper), was the location of the room. We were on a loud street with a thin glass door. I had to leave the air conditioner and bathroom fan on all night (& had earplugs in) to drown out the noise! Everyone else slept well though! The nightly shows were awesome for the kids. Charlie, if he didn’t fall asleep 5 minutes in, loved to clap for the dancers.

We went to the Malecon on Monday- early in the week to check it out. Pretty statues and sandcastles, and some fun shopping. The cab was super cheap there and back and was an easy little afternoon trip.

Tuesday was Daddy’s birthday, and the Italian restaurant sang and gave him a cake. The icing on the plate read, “happy birtday”…and we laughed! The waiter called Charlie ‘Carlito’, and remembered his name and my drink choice by the 3rd time we went!

We met some great people from the Edmonton area, and the girls were very sad when Alexa and Marley had to leave on Thursday.

The girls got their hair braided on Thursday. There were a few tears, but after an hour and 10 minutes (!!!) they looked great! I’m not really looking forward to taking them out in a few days!

On Friday, despite a crappy weather day, we headed out on the Pirate Boat Tour. $255 got us breakfast, lunch, all our drinks, snorkeling and water sports on a secluded beach. 6 hours of fun, right? Wrong! Mike and I got a little sea sick before the boat even left the dock. We both took some kids gravol and managed to keep it together, but it was agonizing at times. The pirates were great and tried to put on a great show, but it was cold and rough and we were all a little distracted.
By the time we were approaching the secluded beach, it was really rough, and the pirates announced that only really strong swimmers could go snorkeling. That left us out, which was really disappointing because that was the main reason we did the excursion. When we reached the beach, we had to get out of the pirate ship and into a smaller motor boat to be taxied to shore. They were recommending leaving electronic items on the pirate ship, and I knew why later. This was probably one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done. I’m honestly surprised all three kids and the camera (that I had to take, of course) made it unscathed. It was so rough, that jumping into (& later out of) the boat was pretty much a leap of faith. Mike took Charlie, I took the bag with the camera, and the Pirates helped the girls. I was very grateful to get to shore! And I would definitely not recommend that tour for families with young children. Which would be the majority of their clients I think.

Saturday we finally had a sunny day. It was awesome. We played at the pool, but also spent a lot of time at the beach. We just laid our towels in the sand. Heaven. Drinking fancy drinks and frolicking in the ocean. Sunscreen? Meh. Who needs it? We wanted a tan after all! And only had one day to do it. Well. Both daddy and I were burnt to a crisp, and I even got sun stroke. Abby got it the worst for the kids (of course), but we were way more diligent with them.

Sunday morning we rushed through breakfast to get a quick swim in and a quick shopping trip to the flea market next door before heading to the airport. Where, stupid Sunwing couldn’t seat us together. I sat with the kids for the take off, then Daddy took over. So here I am, on the airplane, sitting in peace, blogging!

All in all I’d give the trip a 7/10. The kids were trying at times, but they are at home too. The resort was okay, great for the kids, but the weather sucked. Not much we could control, so we just went with it!
Big kudos to Daddy who always made sure our bellies were full, offered to do almost all Charlie’s potty trips, and mommy always had a drink in her hand.

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Our Oprah Experience

Our Oprah Experience

Posted By on Oct 10, 2011

Meet my husband, Mike:

Calgarian On Oprah

He’s handsome, the best Dad and husband, and a Paramedic. Loves fishing and working out.

This is what Mike looked like in August of 2009, when our son was born:

And this is what he looked like in 2004:




Here he is in April of 2010, less than 8 months after our son was born (and he looks even better now!):

Mike’s total weight loss was just over 100lbs. He’s lifting weights now, and gaining muscle. Looking more like Marky Mark (err…Mark Wahlberg) everyday!

Almost all of his hard work was done in 20 months. He hasn’t ate Fast Food since September of 2009, and he goes to the gym (or works out at work) at least 4 times a week. He has completely transformed his body. He now has a weird love affair with Salad Dressing, has traded beer for Gin & Soda (no calories!) and his snack of choice are apples and bananas.

One day, while perusing the Oprah website (I checked it almost daily to see if they were accepting ticket requests), I came across a request of theirs, looking for people who had lost 100 pounds or more. So I wrote in. Quickly. I don’t even think I proof-read it. Just a couple paragraphs about Mike’s weight loss, and the strain that his transformation had put on our marriage. We’re all better now, but that first year of him working out so much was very tough. I was at home with a newborn, and hormonal. He was working his full-time job, which took him out of the house for 48 hours at a time, running his own business with his business partner, picking up shifts at other medic jobs, and teaching here and there too. He was playing hockey on Tuesday nights when he was home, and going to the gym every time he could. And he was reaping the rewards. Looked great, felt great, was getting compliments from everyone. Everyone except me. I was resentful. I loved him when he was fat, and reminded him of that all the time. I cringe now when I think of how I acted towards him then. But again, I was HORMONAL!

Anyway…the Oprah team was interested! An associate producer contacted me a couple days later and wanted pictures! Only problem was, we were in Anaheim. I uploaded images and tried to email them to her from my iPad, but with the free (crappy) WiFi at the hotel, the email wouldn’t send. So we forgot about it. The night we got home, the email sent. I didn’t even realize it, until I received a call at 8:15 the next morning. They were really interested! I talked to the producer on the phone, then she called Mike, then called me again. Then she emailed asking for more pictures. She had said that they were planning Oprah’s last show on Weight Loss, and had no idea what that was going to entail yet, but to ‘manage our expectations’. It’s important to note here, that it is IMPOSSIBLE to get tickets to the Oprah show. Especially now. It’s her last season! 2 of my neighbours actually got tickets a few months ago, and I was totally bummed, because I had tried as well, and didn’t get them. I kept telling myself that everything happens for a reason. So at this point, I was just thinking how amazing it was to be talking to a producer at The Oprah Winfrey Show. We never really thought anything would come about it, since there are many, MANY people who write in to the show, and many people who had lost a lot of weight, a lot more weight than Mike. Then she called. EEK! Mike (and I) were invited to the taping of ‘Oprah’s Weight Loss Finale’ show on April 27th. Mike will be one of 100 people who have lost 100 lbs or more that Oprah would like to honor in some way during the show. She said they may just get to stand up and Oprah will acknowledge them somehow, maybe they will come on to the stage – we don’t know. We have no other details than that! Well that, and to ‘manage our expectations’. lol!

Within 4 hours, I had booked the flights, made hotel reservations, reserved a boat cruise and lunch at a swanky restaurant. I’m going to see Oprah!! We’ll be Calgarians on Oprah! Major cross off on the Bucket List. And all thanks to my husband. Who I loved fat, and I love and absolutely ADORE skinnybuilt. XOXO Now…what to wear…  

April 15th – UPDATE!
Yesterday the producer called to ask me to ask Mike if he would be ‘open to’ coming out on stage with his shirt off. Seriously. She mentioned there were so many women involved with the show already, that they wanted to feature a guy, and wanted my hunky husband! Immediately after I told Mike he started doing (more) crunches. How can you say no to Oprah’s team?? So, I emailed her to say he was in. Today she called again. They wanted to officially invite Mike as a Guest! They are sending a car for us at the airport, and putting us up at the Omni Hotel (where all Oprah’s guests stay!). I cannot tell you how surreal this all is. I have yet to stop shaking, and the phone call was 6.5 hours ago. My poor husband is probably doing crunches at work right now – in the back of an ambulance somewhere.

Chicago Update:
We got to Chicago Tuesday after being delayed in air for an extra 25 minutes after a prior aircraft landing drove off the runway. Our ‘car’ drove us straight to Harpo Studios.


Sarah (or amazing producer) met us at the door, where we exchanged hugs. After the many, MANY conversations we had over the last few weeks, it was pretty awesome putting a face to a name. She took us backstage (OPRAH’S backstage!!) where some of the other guests were rehearsing their on-stage reveal. We ‘made ourselves comfortable’ on the famous red audience chairs. I immediately shed a few tears. Seeing the director ‘Joe’ in action, taking in the whole moment, well, it was incredible.


We then went into the dressing room, where some women were deciding on their outfits. Mike changed about 6 times. Dress pants, swim trunks, back and forth, back and forth. They decided against the shirtless walk on stage in the trunks, because it would be too hard to explain why he was in swim trunks with the current scripting. But they immediately took him to the photo studio for some stills, one of which was put on the screen during the show. We were told then that Mike’s segment will be 3.5 minutes. Oh ya, he gets a WHOLE SEGMENT!


I had to sneak a picture of him standing there in his trunks in front of about 4 women. It was so insane!! Later, our car took us to our hotel to check in, then on to the spray tan place, where Mike got a airbrush tan, even though he wasn’t even going shirtless anymore!


We had dinner in our hotel, Restaurant 676 – a $150 dinner, all paid for by Harpo! It was awesome. It was pretty fancy, and absolutely delicious. I had two martini’s, which didn’t feel like such a great idea the next morning, but it sure helped me sleep that night!


Show Day:
Wednesday morning was a total whirlwind. We were up at 4:15 (which was actually 3:15 Calgary time!) We got ready, had $22 room service toast, and out to our waiting car at 5:45. We were both so nervous, we barely spoke to each other until we got to Harpo. We were shown to Green Room 3, where we sat nervously for about 1/2 hour. Then the hair & make up team came in, set up, and called ME over to a chair. I had NO idea I was getting my hair & make up done, so this was pretty cool. The lady who did my make up has worked for Harpo for 20 years! While I was getting my hair done, our producer Sarah came in to talk to us about the questions Oprah might ask. Then we went to the stage to run through where Mike would go and how he would walk onto the stage. After that, we went back to the green room and sat around for a bit. Finally it was time for Mike to get dressed, and then the sound crew came in to put mic’s on both of us. They came to take me to my seat, and I had to leave Mike in the green room forever!

I went and sat in my chair; front row! I missed most of the ‘audience warm up’, but when I came out, they confirmed the taping would be aired on May 10.

Then Oprah came out, no major fanfare or introduction; she just walked on to the stage. She was briefed very quickly, read through the introduction on the teleprompter, and then it was go time! Mike was the 6th segment (out of 7), so unfortunately he had to sit in the green room for almost the entire show. He was really nervous back there, and I was equally nervous out in the audience. The 5th segment was Bob Green, and after his segment, the seat filler beside me moved, and Bob sat beside me. Before Mike’s intro, Oprah kept talking to Bob, so I might be in those shots too, if they don’t edit it out.

Finally it was time for Mike’s segment. The director came up and briefed Oprah on the next segment and gave her a card with details and Mike’s picture on the top. Then he said, “Mike’s wife is in the front row there, Shannon” and he pointed to me. Oprah looked at me, repeated “Shannon” and I gave an excited little wave. Oprah said my name! Then it was time. Oprah said a little introduction, while a couple fat pictures came up on the screen behind her, and they played the Dr. Oz clip.

The Dr.Oz clip, for those who don’t know, is what got Mike selected to be part of the show. Mike had told Sarah the first time they spoke, about an Oprah show years ago with Dr.Oz. on the show, Dr. Oz said for every 35 pounds of weight a man loses, he can gain an inch of penis length. Sarah (and obviously the rest of the team) thought this was so funny, that Mike was upgraded from 1 of 100 audience member who lost 100 pounds or more, to an actual guest. When we arrived the day before for rehearsal, Sarah let it slip to me that they had been referring to Mike as ‘penis man’. And when she went to introduce him to some other staffers, one guy said, “oh we know who YOU are!” it was hilarious.

Then Oprah called Mike out. The rest is a blur. I remember him coming out, giving her a high five and sitting down. I remember the first question; about the Dr. Oz clip, and what that did for his motivation. I remember him blushing, and talking really fast during the first answer. I know the second question was about him never wanting to take his shirt off in public, and they showed a shirtless pic. And the third question was unscripted, she asked if it had become a lifestyle for him. He did awesome answering that question, thinking on his feet. Of course after the taping, we thought of a better answer than what he gave…hindsight! I had been coached that Oprah might ask me about the saying we have at home, that Mike is now “half the guy he used to be, but twice the man he was”, so I had been repeating that quote over and over in my head, not wanting to screw it up, during the entire taping. Well, she didn’t ask me that! She asked me if Dr. Oz was right. Lol. I said “yes, Dr.Oz was right” (I think). I may have done some spastic move with my head, I’m scared to see it. I was a little taken aback when it wasn’t the question I was expecting. After Mike’s segment, he came and sat down with me (they moved Bob over). The 7th segment was blank on the show plan, so we figured there was some kind of surprise coming, and there was! Everyone in the audience got a Schwinn Bike.

02-06-2011 2-57-49 PM

After the surprise, the directors where organizing all the special 100 audience members to come up for a picture. At that moment Oprah was standing on the stage, about two feet in front of me. What just happened suddenly hit me, and I lost it. I started doing the ‘ugly cry’. Oprah probably thought I was a crazy person, totally thrilled to get the surprise gift or something. She looked at me and asked in amazement, “Why are you crying??” I said, “YOU!!”, she said “come here for a picture”, and gave me her hand. After a very ungraceful mount on to the stage in a tight skirt, she put her arm around me, gave me a huge squeeze, and we smiled for the photographer. She kept her arm around me for what seemed like forever. That was an amazing experience. I was now in shock, where I stayed until the next day sometime. Oprah then thanked everyone for coming. She acknowledged all the hair-dye that went into us all being there, lol. She also acknowledged the time off work and the babysitters people had to get. She was so gracious, and honestly thankful, it was awesome.


We went back to the green room, where a couple Oprah mugs were waiting for us, all gift wrapped. We got our microphones off, said goodbye to Sarah, and got back in our car. Our car took us to the Omni to pick up our bags, then on to the SAX hotel, where we stayed for the next two nights. While we were checking in, we saw Dax Shepard and Kristin Bell talking to the concierge. Cool! That afternoon we went to the Signature Room for lunch. It’s on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower. I did the death grip on the handrail in the elevator all the way up, and down. The view was incredible, even though it was cloudy and rainy.





We walked around a bit after that, and then went back to the hotel. We meant to go and plan out the rest of our day, but ended up having a 2.5hr nap. Apparently we were exhausted! We had dinner at The House of Blues that night,

100 101

and then headed over to Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar that was recommended to us by our friends who had been to Oprah/Chicago back in February.


It was really fun. In addition to pianos, there were also drums and bass, and all four of the performers played all the instruments and sang. And did it well! Incredible. The next day we walked and walked and walked! Checked out the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park and did a river cruise from the Navy Pier.


Of course during the cruise, the sky opened up and it started pouring. It was really cold, but interesting. We had to go into a pub (Harry Carray’s Tavern) at the Navy Pier to have a drink and warm up afterwards. We walked around the shops a bit, and found Garrett’s Popcorn, which was one of Oprah’s Favorite Things once, and I can see why.


Ya, it’s just popcorn, but OMG!! So good. That night we went to Dick’s Last Resort for dinner. I knew what to expect, I know they are known for being crass and rude to the patrons, but wow! It was pretty hard to get used to!
It ended up being pretty fun though. After that we headed the the Redhead Piano Bar. It was really swanky, and full of 50 year old cougars. Lol. Not our thing. So we only had one drink there, and then headed back to Howl at the Moon. It was even better than the night before. By 10 pm it was packed with people, and they had 6 people performing instead of just four the night before.


I highly recommend this place, it really puts our dueling piano bar in Calgary to shame. While we were there, Vickie from Housewives of Orange County came in. But she only stayed for about 10 minutes. Friday we were up at 5:30, and got to enjoy one more chartered car ride from Harpo to the airport. I love having a driver! It was an amazing trip, and an incredible experience from start to finish. I don’t know how many times Mike and I said to each other, “is this really happening?”. We are so grateful for this experience, and it couldn’t have been any more awesome. Air date of the show is scheduled for May 10th.

Local Celebs – For a week:
It’s a Media Blitz! Here are all the links!

All radio interviews here. (Excuse the last one where you can hear my kids)

May 4 – Global TV spot.

May 10 – Breakfast Television

May 10 – CTV Interview with Darrel Janz.

AND…The Show! Here’s Mike on OPRAH!


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Vegas 2011

Posted By on Sep 29, 2011

We got back from Vegas a couple days ago, and I wanted to blog it before I forget the deets. We had a great time, and our friends Kim & AJ are very easy travel companions!

Here we are going out on the first night:

 On Friday, we went to the iHeartRadio Music Festival, it was awesome.
The next day we walked the strip, went for an awesome dinner and then on to Garth! That was a Bucket List thing for me and it did not disappoint.
Sunday we did the pool, did more of the strip and went to Fremont Street, where AJ and I did the zipline (bad filming on Mike’s part, you only see a split second of me at the end). Afterwards we went back to teh Tropicana, where we wanted to go dancing. The club was closed (boo!), so we made our own. Definitely the silliest, and funniest part of the trip!
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Disneyland/Palm Springs 2011

Disneyland/Palm Springs 2011

Posted By on Mar 31, 2011

We are back and rested up from our whirlwind of a vacay to Disneyland and Palm Desert.
The trip started with a surprise for the girls, on Bella’s Birthday:

And we were off to the airport to meet Gramma and Grumpa!

We arrived to our awesome suite at the Anaheim Desert Inn late in the afternoon. We unpacked, and went and got some snacks, and dinner at the Buffet place a couple doors down (Captain Kidd’s). We even got them to bring out a piece of cake and to sing!

Bella announced it was the Best Birthday EVER! And we hadn’t even got to the park yet!

That night, Mike and I took Bella to the roof of the hotel to watch the fireworks – it was FREEZING – but a pretty cool way to end a 5th birthday!

The next morning we were up, fed and at the park shortly before 9am. Main Street was packed with people, waiting for the rides to open. We headed straight to It’s a Small World, and we aren’t sure why. BORING! But then we went for pictures with the Princesses, and were glad to see it was way less busy than the last time we were there. The girls met Belle, Tiana and Ariel, and it was awesome to see the magic was still there; I was worried Abby would be too old, but she wasn’t.



After that we headed over to Toon Town, where we did the Roger Rabbit ride and walked around a bit. The kids wanted to do the roller coaster in there, but the line was insane. We also saw Goofy in Toon Town, and I’m mad we didn’t get Mike in the picture to go with the family pic we got with Goofy last time!
The rest of the day was great, we did lots of rides, and managed to wear ourselves out completely before the rain came at around 3pm.


The second Day was our “One Magic Morning”, where we got to get in the park and hour before the general public! Sounds awesome, and the reason I bought a 3 day pass instead of a 2 day pass, but it turns out that it wasn’t as ‘intimate’ as I thought:

But we managed to get on Space Mountain pretty quickly, so that was good. (And by quickly, I mean it was only a 35 minute wait! lol!). And I will never do that ride again! Scared the bajeebers out of me. We did a lot the second day – got on almost all the rides we wanted to, with the exception of Indiana Jones and Soaring Over California – both of which we got Fast Passes for, and were both broken when we returned! Boo!




After dinner, we left Charlie at the hotel with Gramma and Grumpa, and Mike and I took the girls back. We got tons of rides done (with very short lines), and stayed for the fireworks – which is my favourite part. I was doing the ugly cry at the end!



When we woke up the next morning it was rainy and cloudy. We were very grateful we went back the night before, and decided to not risk heading to the park to get rained out, and head to Palm Desert early. After picking up the rental van, and somehow getting all our luggage and the stroller (and us!) into it, off we went on the California Freeways to the Desert heat!

We spent the next 4 days at Gramma’s new place in Palm Desert. We shopped till we dropped, and pool-hopped. The pools there only allow kids for an hour at a time, so on the last day the girls spent the afternoon spending an hour at each. It was the least we could do, after dragging them around with us shopping so much!

We went to Grammie & Papa’s Condo for dinner the night we got to Palm, and had brunch with them the next morning. They were on their way to Newport Beach for a week.

Abby lost her top tooth at the Outlet Mall!


We loved the Orange Trees and eating fresh oranges!





We weren’t ready to leave the heat of the desert, but at 9:45am on the last day, we left Palm Desert and headed back to LAX to catch our 3:45pm flight! Next time we definitely have to fly out of Palm Springs, if we can find cheaper airfare. To do that this time, it was going to be $468 a person! We flew out of LAX for $159.
Here’s a little video wrap-up from the girls:
Did I mention we shopped?
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