This is likely the most impromptu travel guide on my site to date, and it comes down to the many wonders of Seattle taking me completely by surprise! Originally we had planned one night in Washington’s largest city to see Justin Bieber, and we didn’t intend on doing much else. When Justin cancelled his show the day before we were set to leave on our trip, we decided to go ahead anyway, and I immediately took to googling and Instagram hashtag searching, determined to find at least a few local gems.
I ended up with more than a few gems – Seattle is a full on treasure chest full of inventive plant-based products, charming wine bars, and delicious dining. In just 48 hours, we found so many incredible spots that I could have easily spent a full week just wandering around.
When I envisioned Summer’s early years, I always pictured lots of travel. She’d grow up on sandy beaches and knee-deep in snow, forever chasing a new adventure while eating whatever food was available without complaint. I had high expectations for a highly adaptable kid, and I was going to get as many flights in as I could before she turned 2 and trips became double the price.
And then 2020 threw us all a massive, coronavirus-shaped curveball, and my globetrotting toddler fantasies evaporated.
It’s been 3 years since Summer was born, and aside from a few flights from Toronto to Vancouver and back as a newborn to see family, we haven’t ever taken a proper vacation together (like so many families these past few years!) When we booked this Garrison family Disneyland trip in the early Autumn (a tradition from our own childhood that I have been so eager to pass on to Summer) we were convinced COVID was only going to get better. As cases grew we became less and less confident in our decision. I already had one “Summer’s first Disney trip” cancelled in March 2020, and by the time the holidays rolled around this past year, I had resigned myself to another cancellation.
And then, after spending Christmas Day together, one by one my entire family tested positive. With the worst having already happened, and our chances of contracting or spreading the virus again so low, we decided to move forward with the trip after all. And gosh, what a trip it was!
Taking Summer to the Happiest Place on Earth (for me that means a both California itself, and Disneyland within it) was nothing short of a dream come true. All of the magic that I’d been so lucky to experience in my childhood came to life all over again seeing it through her eyes. All of that said, there were quite a few things that were different due to travelling with toddler in COVID times, and I wanted to share some of the tips and tricks we picked up along the way:
Personally I find travelling with a kid Summer’s age fairly fun, and a lot less stressful than the unpredictable baby on a plane phase. Summer was so excited to fly, and she did incredibly well on our flights. Some simple things that helped were:
Choosing a flight time where she was well rested. Summer does NOT nap on the go anymore, so we try to plan travel around nap time vs. inclusive of nap time. Our flight down was first thing in the morning and couldn’t have been easier – we just ran around the airport before boarding to burn some energy, and then she sat and watched a movie almost the entire time without moving. The flight back we flew late afternoon when she usually naps, expecting she’d pass out from exhaustion after 4 days of swimming, sunshine and Disneyland. Unfortunately she did not sleep, and ended up begging to get off the plane and into her bed by the end of it. Lesson learned!
Packing new and exciting snacks is a great way to keep your kid occupied on the plane once they get sick of watching movies / screens. Raisins, fun granola bars, cheese strings and fruit roll ups are a couple of our travel favourites, plus a lollipop for emergency meltdown moments (they keep Summer busy for the longest time!)
Packing a few “gifts” is a toddler travel tip passed down from a dear friend of mine, and it really works. Basically the trick is, wrap up (or just pack up) a few exciting new toys, like little books or trinkets from the dollar store. It doesn’t have to be a big investment – mostly it’s about giving them something NEW. When Summer is getting testy / bored on a flight, this has been a surefire way to calm her down and gain more calm time.
I can’t offer a super helpful take on travelling during COVID times – because we had tested positive so close to our trip, and had passed the 14 day recover time, we were not required to test on either side of the border. The rules on this are constantly changing, so I recommend checking both the Canada website and the website for the country you are travelling to, bu at the time we flew, we needed a positive test result and doctor’s note confirming we had recovered.
For those who don’t know, I’m a Disneyland fanatic. As in, I have the castle tattooed on my body and I have been to the parks 25 times so far (I’m turning 32, if that puts it into perspective). Taking my own child to experience the magic has always been on my bucket list, so making this trip happen was a BIG deal.
Plan for breaks! This was a major learning curve for me, because I like to do Disney all day with no resting whatsoever (fyi my feet STILL hurt from this trip weeks later). Summer still naps, so late afternoon she crashed pretty hard and refused to sleep in the stroller. It was really helpful to travel with the grandparents because they were more than happy to take Summer back to our hotel room for a break while my sister and I rode as many adult rides as we could fit in. If you’re traveling solo and taking turns isn’t an option, I’d recommend taking an extra day in Disneyland (there are a lot more rides for toddlers in Disneyland park vs. California Adventure Park) so you don’t feel too rushed trying to get to everything when your kid is exhausted.
Make sure you pack masks for your kiddos, as they do need them for some of the indoor rides if they’re ages 2 and up (this may change, but for now it’s quite seriously enforced at the park)
Do your shopping outside the park to avoid wasting time once you’re through the gates. Almost every store on the Disneyland property stocks the same items, save for a few specialty shops, so I recommend hitting up Downtown Disney in the evenings after the park is closed (World of Disney has the most choice anyway!) I found it particularly hard to find clothing in sizes for toddlers this time around, especially matching stuff with adult sizing, but the Disneyland hotel gift shop was actually a hidden gem full of kids sizes and styles I didn’t see anywhere else.
We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel this time around because it was such a special trip for us all (and it’s nice to be “in the magic” at all times with kiddos) but honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it right now. A lot of the perks that come with the price were on hold, such as early park entry for hotel guests, and a lot of the services were really lacking (we had cold water for showers most mornings!) In the future, we’ll likely save money staying at a nearby offsite hotel, but we did really love the Disneyland hotel pool, so no regrets!
Overall, if you are a big Disneyland fan like me, I’d suggest lowering your expectations for a visit right now. Unfortunately it felt like so much of the experience has been impacted by budget cuts and staffing issues. We had quite a few extremely negative encounters with “cast members”, many of the shows weren’t running, and a lot of the special little details from past visits were missing. Despite the changes, remember to be kind! Everyone is doing their best with the current situation, and kindness goes a long way, especially at The Happiest Place on Earth!
I lived in Toronto for almost 12 years, which means I likely know it better than I know my own hometown of Vancouver! I’ve been planning to get back for a visit as soon as it felt safe to do so since I made the decision to relocate back to the West Coast in March 2020, and after what felt like forever, we finally made it happen this last month.
I went into this visit with a list of my old standby favourites to revisit, but what I didn’t expect was how many awesome new businesses have popped up all around the neighbourhoods I once called home. Plus, I had the new perspective of seeing The Big Smoke through a toddler’s eyes – because we made our move while Summer was still a baby, it was a completely new experience to explore with her now. Some things, like public transit, were more complicated and than I had anticipated, while others, like hanging out at my favourite brewery, were more kid-friendly than I could have known!
In all the years I called Toronto home, I featured a lot of local businesses, but I never put together a proper city guide. So here it is, a pastel (family friendly!) guide to Canada’s biggest city.
If you see a *, it means the spot is better suited to adults, otherwise this list is family friendly!
I stayed at this upscale downtown hotel pre-parenthood and I loved it then, but my expectations were definitely exceeded this time around with a toddler in tow. The room was spacious and quiet, the staff was incredibly helpful, and they even provided a crib so we didn’t have to pack one! Plus the central location made taking TTC all over the city quick and easy. If you’re looking for a beautiful (and well-priced) home base to explore the city from, I highly recommend this hotel!
This project has been a LONG time coming! I’ve been pastel hunting for “good walls” for so many years now, and though I always wanted to do a guide like this for Toronto but the colourful walls there were few and far between, and every time I’d get a substantial list together half the walls would be painted over with a darker colour or covered in graffiti tags (insert old lady eye roll.
When I moved to Vancouver this past spring I was amazed by the seemingly endless colour wall options all over the city (and beyond!) Despite having grown up here, and visiting annually for the past twelve years, I had never really noticed just how many #randomactsofpastel can be found in alleyways, down the side of warehouses, and decorating storefronts. It’s one of those fun things that you notice once, and then forever notice everywhere you go (you just wait!)
Before long I had a google doc going with intersections, addresses and company names pointing to rainbow stripes, mint green murals and faded pink facades. It quickly became clear this list was too good not to share, so armed with my camera and a very patient, sweet, wonderful boyfriend (thanks Jonnie), I set out to document as many of the colourful walls that I’ve spotted over the past few months as possible. Some of the photos in this list have already made it to the Instagram grid, either recently or through snaps I took on my past visits to Vancouver, but there’s also a lot of totally new shots (with outfits inspired by each different location, of course!)
The final result? A prismatic pastel rainbow tour of the city as seen through my favourite photo walls!
Casa Gelato (1033 Venables St) – East Van
This is THE pink wall in Vancouver. There’s a ton of space, different angles / options depending on where the sun is at in the sky and what kind of exposure you’re looking for, and best of all, it’s part of a very fun ice cream shop that I HIGHLY recommend working into your shoot plans! I took my pregnancy announcement photos here (and continue to shoot here with Summy) so it holds an extra special place in my heart, and obviously, gets top place on the list!
Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant (1132 E Hastings St) – East Van
If you’re looking for something a bit lighter than Casa Gelato, Pink Pearl is just a few blocks away and I hear the Dim Sum is delicious!
Pink Palace (2222 Bellevue Ave) – West Van
An architectural wonder on the West Van waterfront, this building was based off of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, and reminds me of wedding cake every time I drive past.
Honorable Mention //
Opus Hotel “It’s Love Baby Wall” (322 Davie St) – Yaletown
This tiny slice of pink wall is perfect, for, well, a baby! I heard a rumour this one is already gone but I haven’t been by in person to confirm yet.
Lorna Jane (295 Terminal Ave) – East Van
A bright magenta pink building with lots of wall space, but I haven’t shot anything there yet as it’s a bit bright for my feed!
Vancouver Taxi (790 Clark Drive) – East Van
Patchy orange with lots of greenery, and different shades from painting over graffiti (which I always sort of love) but not a ton of space to shoot larger scenes.
No. 5 Orange (205 Main St) – East Van
A darker burnt orange wall with a good amount of space to shoot! Perfect for autumn outfit photos with your pumpkin spice latte. And in case you google it – yes, yes this building houses a strip club.
Honorable Mention //
Hey Kokomo (2028 Vine St.) – Kits
This storefront is the perfect shade of peach but it’s mostly window (not much space for a full body shot!) Fingers crossed someday the paint the alleyway down the side the same colour.
Granville Island Kid’s Market + Bridges Restaurant
Note: Granville Island has a wealth of colourful walls in general! Personally I’ve spotted blues, greens, a small pink, but the possibilities are endless when wandering around that sweet tourist spot. Make sure you go on a weekday if you want to beat the market crowds!
Andina Brewing (1507 Powell St) – East Van
A darker shade of yellow panelling, this brewery doesn’t have a ton of open space to shoot but it works well for “top half only” shots (or full body if you don’t mind the non-yellow bit at the bottom). I’ve also heard they serve great Ceviche!
Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale (290 West 3rd Ave) – Near main Street
We happened across this perfect pastel yellow warehouse while shooting at Juke Print (you can see one from the other!) and it’s the ideal photo wall if yellow is what you’re looking for.
A-Tech Auto Service (328 Clark Drive) – East Van
Right in the same neighbourhood as the Andina dark yellow, Relaxus dark purple, and __ dark blue, I love the texture of this softer buttery shade of yellow. There’s also a very good RED just down the street at Callister Brewing (red is the anti-pastel, so it doesn’t get an official spot on the list.)
North Shore Taxi (264 Pemberton Ave) – North Van
If you’re looking for the perfect key-lime backdrop, look no further than this taxi HQ (right across from the pink and purple garages mentioned above!)
Warehouse at the Corner of Pacific and Hornby – Central Vancouver
This seemingly abandoned warehouse building near the Burrard Street Bridge is a great shade of green on all sides, and because it’s not currently in use there are few cars in the way.
Angel Building (68 East 1st Ave) – Main Street
Painted cement in the ideal shade of toothpaste green tucked on a very unexpected street just off main. This spot is super close to the light blue listed below!
Honorable Mention //
Queen’s Park (4600 Cambie) – Upper Main Street
Rumour has it there are cute mint spots in this park but I have yet to see them myself! Can anyone confirm?
Century Car Wash (33 E 2nd Ave) – Main Street
I’ve been eyeing this adorable tiled mint wall for awhile and will add a photo here when I’ve shot something there!
Meetrice Noode (4488 Main Street) – Main Street
A neon green wall on the side of a restaurant
Helen’s Grill (4102 Main Street) – Main Street
Patchy Kelly green down the side near the bus stop!
Despatch Centre (1481 Franklin St.) – East Van
This massive building is darker blue at the bottom, and lighter blue at the top, which means there are so many options for shooting there (and all the space to do so!)
Main + Industrial (228 Industrial Ave) – Main Street
For a lighter, aqua blue, look no further than the big blue building at the bottom of Main Street. There are also darker blue accents that can be worked into photos (see cute example from my pal Tina’s account here)
Capilano Custom Interiors (1311 Pemberton Ave) – North Van
Maybe one of my favourite unexpected photo spots ever! I came across this pastel set of garages on a run shortly after I moved to the North Shore and stopped in my tracks! Bonus – it’s almost directly across from Douce Diner, one of my favourite breakfast restaurants in the city.
Palette Coffee Roasters (323 Semlin Drive location) – East Van
Good coffee, and a great purple wall! Lots of different spots to shoot with varying shades of purple and interesting textures. I highly recommend following the building around the corner for my favourite section!
RELAXUS (1590 Powell Street) – East Van
A brighter, deeper purple option with tons of space to shoot and different wall textures down the sides.
Jukebox Print – Near Main Street
A fun rainbow striped wall with lots of space and different colour variations depending on where you stand. There’s even a little rainbow staircase!
City Centre Motor Hotel (2111 Main St) – Main street
This hotel/motel looks somewhat unremarkable from the front, but walk down the side of the building and you’ll find one of the most magical pastel works of art in the city.
Arbutus greenway (1606 W 5th Ave) – Kits / South Granville
The greenway is an amazing pathway to explore by bike or on foot, and it crosses through a handful of epic photo spots. There’s a honeybee mural nearby, but this abstract wall of shapes where the path meets Fir St. is my pick.
Dachi mountain mural (2297 E Hastings St) – East Van
One of my favourite restaurants in the city, and one of my favourite murals too! Go for the photos, stay for the wine and oysters.
Fun Alley (106 W 1st St) – Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver
Doesn’t get much better than a colourful alleyway complete with continued painted pattern on the ground!
Elyse Dodge “Traverse” mural (812 East Cordova Street) – Strathcona
I am a big fan of Elyse’s work, and this massive mural is a total showstopper. She and I have teamed up for a framed print giveaway, coming soon to the feed!
Alley-Oop – Downtown Vancouver
Yellow, pink, purple AND orange? Oh my! This colourful alleyway has a basketball court vibe but lots of plainer bits for photos too (pink example from my feed here)
Honorable Mention //
Pink and blue “It’s Love Baby” mural @ Davie and Thurlow (beside Denny’s)
Hootsuite primary colour shapes mural (111 E 5th Ave)
A few general courtesy reminders:
-If the wall belongs to a business, try to support that business! Eat at the restaurant, buy a product they sell, or use their services at a later date.
-Try not to park illegally or get in anyone’s way! I am always conscious not to disrupt business if I’m using someone’s building for photos without paying.
-If you come across a location on this list (or otherwise) that has since become private property, please ask permission before entering!
What colourful walls did I miss? Let me know in the comments!
In an effort to get better at quick, informative blog posts without all of the fluff, I’ve challenged myself to get this guide to camping with a toddler live the same week we went on our very first camping trip. Let’s hit the road!
To start, I’d like to say I’m an extremely inexperienced camper and definitely not an expert on this subject – in fact I’ve probably only camped 6 times in my entire life and two of those times were at music festivals in a field. I was really nervous about taking Summer out on an overnight camp, but being back in BC has pushed me to reconnect with my roots and spend as much time in nature as possible, so I figured why not give it a shot? Turns out all of my fears about camping with a kid were the biggest obstacle to overcome – she LOVED it and other than the intense packing and unpacking, the whole experience was super stress-free.
A few notes //
-We did just one night for our first trip as a test run, and I highly recommend this route as a fun way to introduce camping without being too overwhelming.
-So much of parenting is about knowing your kid, and in my case, Summer is an outdoor baby through and through. She loves to get dirty, sit in the sun, explore, and actually spends a lot of our indoor time at the front door banging to go out with the dog, so I had a feeling sleeping under the stars would be a hit, and it was.
-I did not attempt our first camp alone! We took this trip with the very lovely guy I’m dating (I will share more about this at some point but for now I’m keeping the details to myself!) and I was really grateful to have the extra set of hands. Not to say you can’t camp solo with kids, but toddler age is definitely easier with a partner / friend / family member to share the responsibilities.
Top Tips //
-Pack a few familiar toys and books (especially those you use at bedtime), but keep it simple – rocks and sticks won every time!
-Even if you plan to co-sleep, bring your travel crib! In our case the travel crib didn’t fit in the tent, but it was extremely helpful to have while making dinner over the fire and setting up the camp site.
-If you have a travel stroller, bring it for evening strolls around the campground (great to set the stage for bedtime!) We also found a carrier was super helpful when we went on longer hikes – I swear by the Sakura Bloom Scout, which I’ve been using since the day Summer was born and absolutely adore!
-Do your research on the campground and it’s amenities. We went to BirkenHead Lake and though it was amazing, in the future I would probably choose a warmer lake for Summer to swim in more comfortably!
-Food-wise a lot of folks recommended pre-cooking meals that could be heated and served instantly, but we mostly just did lots of snacks like handheld fruit, crackers, juice boxes and baby food pouches. I did make a big batch of orzo salad that we all ate, and we cooked veggie dogs on the fire, but otherwise we kept food as simple as possible (Summer prefers snacks to full meals at this stage anyway, so it worked!)
-Load up on layers (for you and your child!) We went through more changes of clothes than I could ever have thought possible and barely made it home with anything dry / cleanish to wear.
-if you’re risking a longer road trip, try to plan it around nap time and make sure you do something to tire your toddler out before loading up the car and hitting the road! We learned this lesson the hard way on the drive up because we were rushing to get going, and she ended up awake and angry for 2.5 of the 3 hours. Before heading home we spent the morning at the beach, and she slept 2.5 hours instead!
-Be prepared, then have fun! I made sure we had Summer’s favourite hat, the best natural sunscreen (works for the whole family) and natural bug spray (I highly recommend this one!) I also put together a little emergency pack with an assortment of kiddo medication, bandaids, and antibacterial cream.
-My last *very* unofficial tip: use your stroller muff as a sleeping bag if it’s cold at night! Summer slept in pjs with feet and hand covers, a warm sweater, her sleep sack, a knit hat, and then I put her down in her Bugaboo winter stroller muff (as far as I can tell… it’s the exact same thing as a toddler sleeping bag!) We also hung her white noise machine in the tent and brought her blankie from home, and she did so well! You can also put a hot water bottle or hot pockets in the bottom of the sleeping bag on extra cold evenings for good measure.
That about covers everything I learned from our first experience overnight in the great outdoors! More camping trips (and probably more camping tips) to come soon!