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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

You've Got This!

Sometimes that's all I need, that little voice that says "you've got this"!  So for anyone else that needs that little bit of encouragement.  Consider this post yours.

We all have those moments in parenting where we wonder "Am I doing this right?  Am I screwing up my kid?  Am I giving them the best chance for the future?"  I will admit that some weeks I'm wondering that on a daily basis.

Let me ask you this, are you doing what you can for your child?   And by asking that, I'm not asking you if you are "supermom/superdad" because this is not about living up to perfection.  I mean, do you spend some time with your kids?  Do you tell/show your kids you love them?  Then yes, you've got this.

I think sometimes as parents we are really good at making ourselves feel guilty - guilty that they had hot dogs for supper instead of skinless boneless chicken breast with steamed vegetables and brown rice, guilty that we cut the nighttime story short, guilty that we may have raised our voice in a moment of frustration.  But, in the end, those are small moments in a lifetime of raising a child.

While I don't have any earth shattering, life changing tips for being an awesome parent, I do have a few tips for feeling good about how you're doing:

1 - Doing your best is the best you can do.  - I know, it sounds cheesy, but there is truth in those words.

2 - IF you decide to read parenting advice (news story, blog, or otherwise), check your sources.  Not everything on the internet is a fact.  And it's easy to be "sucked in".  So if someone is promising you the secret to a full night's sleep with young children in your house - take it with a grain of salt and don't be so hard on yourself if those tips don't work.

3 - As a follow up to the point above - if you are reading a news story, blog or other information source online - don't read the comments section.  Trust me.  They are full of judgement.  It's never a good idea.  Just.  Don't.

4 - Make memories.  This one involves a time commitment, and I know sometimes finding time can be a challenge, but doing fun things together is good for you and good for your child(ren).  Making memories doesn't have to be anything expensive or elaborate.  Going for a family walk, cooking together, exploring a park you've never been to before on the other side of town, those are all simple ideas for making memories together.

5 - Don't be so hard on yourself.   This is a bit like repeating point number 1, but, we are often our toughest critics.  Don't compare yourself to anyone.  While there's nothing wrong with working towards "self-improvement", your motivation shouldn't be that Mrs. So-and-So never seems stressed, her kids are always well behaved, and she appears to have a perfect marriage.  Focus on you and your family... you'll be a lot happier.

Do you have your own tips?  Please share in the comments below or join me on Social Media!


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Vacation Destination: Saint John, NB

Those of you who have read this blog before know I tend to focus on travel.  I decided to keep in that theme this week, although my destination is more of a "staycation" destination for me because it is my hometown of Saint John, NB.  

Uptown Saint John

My work schedule, and the fact that we're continuing to do some work on my house, have made it pretty likely I won't get out for much in the way of travel this summer, so I've decided to "play tourist" in my own city.  There's lots to see and do here, so I will be doing this through a series of posts.

Given that I have readers from different regions/countries that may not be familiar with Saint John, I thought I would give some basic information about the city.

Saint John is located in the South of New Brunswick, a Canadian province on the East Coast - our borders connect to the provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia, and we're connected by a bridge to Prince Edward Island.  We also border the State of Maine (US).  So you can drive here with relative ease from many areas, but we also have our own Saint John Airport (YSJ), and have some other international airports within driving distance such as Moncton (YQM) and Halifax (YHZ).

Today I'm going to highlight Harbour Passage, a waterfront walking trail in Saint John.  There is no cost to access Harbour Passage.

Harbour Passage follows the waterfront of Saint John Harbour

Harbour Passage can be as easy or challenging of a walk as you would like to make it.  Currently it stretches from our two cruise ship terminals all the way over to the world famous Reversing Falls.   There are several "natural breaks" along the way if you don't quite want to walk the entire distance.  Please note that this is the length at the time of publication, there are some talks of expanding the path, so the path may be longer, but it's well marked, so you will know if it expands beyond the areas I mention.  

One of the many information panels along Harbour Passage.

There are a few hotels located close to Harbour Passage, and there is parking area for those travelling there by car (if you care using Google Maps - if you search HMCS Brunswicker, Chesley Drive, Saint John, the parking is located in behind that building).  

The path is not hard to find as the pavement is red.  There are signs near most of the entrances, and there are many information panels along the path to tell you about the area.

The red concrete is the "signature" of Harbour Passage.

Not only is there a lot of history along Harbour Passage, but the panoramic views of the harbour are breathtaking.  Not to mention you can experience the highest tides in the world!  I will mention that to get the full effect of the tides, it's best to go once during high tide, and once during low tide.  As a general reference, the tide changes about every 12 hours, but it's gradual, not instantaneous, so you can visit and then return later to experience the difference.

Saint John Harbour

View of Uptown Saint John from Harbour Passage.

The path is fairly flat, except for a hill if you are heading to Reversing Falls.  You will often see people walking, running, roller blading, skateboarding and riding their bikes along Harbour Passage, any of those methods of transportation are welcome!   It's also "dog friendly" provided your pooch is on a leash, and please pick up after your furry friend!  

My daughter enjoying a bike ride on Harbour Passage.

There is lots of green space along the way, as well as benches to sit, so there are lots of places to have a picnic if you so wish.

There's also several sculptures along the route, each has a small plaque or description near them, so be sure to check those out!

Can you spot my little girl in this sculpture? 

There are also a few areas that kids will find interesting, including my daugther's favourite section.  Under the Harbour Bridge, that passes directly over a section of Harbour Passage, there is a small part of the path that takes you out to the water.  It's a prime spot for looking for seals.  We spot them frequently out in the water (they don't come on shore, but they do sometimes swim close).  There is a small play area for kids here with information panels about some of the marine life.

Be prepared for a day of activity, nature and history along Harbour Passage in Saint John, NB.

Have you been to Harbour Passage before?  What did you think?  Any tips you would like to share?  Feel free to share in the comments below, or join me on social media!

Stay tuned for more on my featured vacation destination (or "staycation") Saint John, NB!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Let's Connect!

When this blog began, it stemmed from a previous "private" blog I had created for friends and family that don't live near by so they could see my daughter after she was born and learn about how she was progressing.  

I decided I wanted to reach out to a wider audience and connect with new people in addition to my small network of family and friends.

I started this blog on January 14, 2011, and I haven't looked back.  As cheesy and cliché as it may sound, I have found blogging incredibly therapeutic.  It has seen me through job changes, frustrations, happy times and my most significant event, the loss of my dad in 2013.

I try to stay authentic and real to my true self, and I hope my voice comes through in these posts.  

Blog posts take a little more work than, say, a Tweet or Facebook post, so my blog posts are not as regular here as they would be on social media platforms, where I tend to post several times a day.

If you like what you've seen here, please connect with me on social media.  Whether you're a lurker or want to reach out and say hi, I welcome all of those interactions.  

Below are links to my social media accounts.  Feel free to connect with me on as many of them as you like.  And as an added BONUS, I'm having a bit of a contest right now where you can win $20 CAN in PayPal Cash, so have a look and you could end up with a little extra pocket money for your summer adventures.  Keep your eye out for this picture on my social media channels:

Follow me on:

I sincerely thank all of you who have been reading my blog, and to those of you who are new to my blog, welcome!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

How Do You Use Your Travel Points?

I'm going to make an admission.  I love earning points - any kind of points - on purchases I would make anyway, like groceries.  I belong to different grocery store points clubs, and I have more punch cards than you can imagine in my wallet, but my favourite are travel points.

I won't get in to each individual travel rewards program and their pros and cons, but I thought I would do a general overview of how I make the most out of my points.

Many travel rewards programs that are available right now offer both travel benefits like airfare, rental cars and hotels, but also offer little bonuses like the ability to trade your points for merchandise.   So with so many options, how do you choose the best value?

The best way to ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck (or, in this case, most bang for your points), is with a little research.  I know, I can already hear the collective "boo" and "hiss", but, hear me out.  I'm going to outline a little example for you below:

Please note the points outlined in this example are not representative of any program, simply arbitrary numbers to give a visual example.

Say you are trying to decide between using your points for a flight from Toronto to New York, or, whether to use the points for a new laptop.

A couple of initial tips:

1.  If the rewards site lists a "retail value", it is sometimes higher than what you would pay in a local store, so have a look at your local store prices first.

2.  When considering your flights, many travel points programs still require that you pay taxes and fees.  It's best to check your rewards programs policies on these fees, because sometimes those costs can be significant.

Now, on to the redemption towards a reward.

In this example, we will assume that you are looking to redeem for a pretty basic laptop that is selling in your local department store for $349.99 + tax.  And the flight you are looking at from Toronto to Orlando is $335, taxes included, round trip.  (Note - I did find a laptop and a flight for each of those prices, respectively, but they were found on the date of publication, I can't guarantee the prices will be available in your city/town or at the time you look it up).

Your rewards program wants 4500 points for the laptop, and 4100 points for the flight.  No additional cost for the laptop (shipping is included), and the flight has a charge of $185 for taxes and fees that you have to pay at the time of booking.  Pretty close in benefit, right?  So this one may come down to a personal preference.

However, consider, instead of a flight to Orlando, it was a flight to Vancouver.  Cost is $610, taxes included.  Same taxes and fees on the flight as the Orlando flight and this time only 3900 points.  In my eyes, this is the clear winner for points redemption.  Let's have a look at the math:

I live in New Brunswick, so I will use our 15% HST rate for the tax on the laptop.  :

Laptop = $349.99 + tax = $402.49 OR 4500 points
Flight - Toronto to Orlando = $335 OR 4100 points
Flight - Toronto to Vancouver - $610 OR 3900 points

To determine the value per point for each redemption, I'm going to take the price of the item, and divide by the points required.  Note that I am subtracting the taxes/fees from the flight cost because you will still be paying that.

Laptop = $402.49 / 4500 points = approximately 9 cents per point
Flight - Toronto to Orlando = $335 - $185 (taxes/fees) = 150 / 4100 points = approximately 4 cents per point
Flight - Toronto to Vancouver = $610 - $185 = $425 / 3900 points = approximately 11 cents per point

So in my view, the best value is the redemption for the flight to Vancouver.

The math and research seems complicated, but I like to make sure I'm getting the best deal!

And as an additional tip - in general terms - if you are redeeming for a flight, and your originating point is within Canada, your best bet is to redeem for a flight to another Canadian destination, OR, somewhere close to the border.  This is not a tip that will suit everyone - it depends how good a deal you want to get, and what "comfort" you're willing to give up.  The option I will outline below requires more research and planning, and often more airport transfers.

I have redeemed for flights to Chicago from New Brunswick.  Usually takes one transfer to get there (no direct flights to Chicago from New Brunswick), once in Chicago, I was able to snag a direct flight to LAX for $40 (Canadian!!) taxes included.  Why didn't I redeem for the whole way to LAX?  Well, for one, I didn't have enough points to redeem even for one of us to fly the entire way to LAX, but by redeeming to Chicago, I got us both there on points.  Also, even if I had the points, it was going to be more than double the points to get me to LAX than it was to get me to Chicago.  Again, to make this decision, I had to do some analysis of the prices (how much would I be paying in taxes/fees for each destination, what are the overall costs of the flights versus what is required for points, etc).  Again - generally speaking - with a few exceptions, the Canadian route of your flight path is likely the most expensive.

Those are some of my tips on travel points redemption.  Have questions or your own tips to share?  Share in the comment section or join me on Facebook (click here) or Twitter (click here) to chat with me!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Puerto Vallarta Video Review

In April 2017, I was fortunate to make my first ever visit to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Check out my video review below, and you can read more on my blog in my previous review posts.  You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Have your own experiences in Mexico you would like to share?  Please share in the comments below or on the Youtube Video!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Puerto Vallarta Travel Review - Part 2

If you missed part 1, be sure to go back and read it to get the full experience of our first trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  You can find Part 1 here.

After check-in and a tour of the hotel, we unpacked some items and took in the sites around the property and grabbed a cocktail. 

This is the panoramic view from the Pool Bar.

Each day the hotel provided us with a little information sheet that outlined the expected weather for the following day, some activities at the hotel, and a daily Spa special.  It was so very handy and provided opportunity to enjoy the spa at a reduced price.  Unfortunately, we were not able to take advantage of the spa while we were there, due to our abbreviated trip, but they offered many services such as facials, massage, manicures and pedicures at very reasonable prices.  And the ambiance of the spa was very relaxing.

Not only did the Villa Premiere offer great services, but we were invited to take advantage of the services of the sister hotel the Buenaventura Grand, which was located next door.  We decided to head over and have a look around and try out the buffet.

Sampling some of the food offerings of the Buenaventura Grand.

We arrived at the buffet for their "international cuisine" night.  There were so many food offerings, and everything we tried was delicious.  There were no shortage of tables, and we had a great view of the water and pool.  

A post shared by Katie (@katie_nb) on

 We ate at the buffet several times during the course of our trip.  It was convenient if we were heading out somewhere to stop in and grab a bite.

We did have the opportunity to walk down to the Malecon as well.  This Boardwalk area is only about a 15 minute walk from the hotel, and the area has plenty of shopping and restaurants.

We were able to find a restaurant that was showing the NHL hockey playoffs.  We're big hockey fans, so that was a great find!

The area was full of people.  It was such a lively and fun area.  No shortage of clubs and things to see.

Once back at the hotel, we were able to make reservations at la Corona for an evening meal.  I have to say, this was one of the best meals I have had in a long time.   We were greeted with a "welcome cocktail" and presented with the menu. 

 I ordered a stuffed chicken, and was given some twisted bread to enjoy while I waited.  Delicious!

When the food arrived, the presentation was wonderful - so good I couldn't resist taking a bite before I snapped my picture.

It tasted as amazing as it looks.  

We followed the meal with a little dessert, which was equally as delicious, but admittedly, I couldn't finish the whole thing as the meal left me feeling completely satisfied.

If you don't feel up to sitting in a restaurant to eat, no problem, because the Villa Premiere offers a pool side menu with lots of delectable treats.  We often ordered from this menu for lunch.  And the staff come to see you at your chair, so you don't even have to get up to order!  What service!

Another great bonus?  Room service is included in your "all inclusive", so you can get food 24 hours a day.  We took advantage on our last day so we could pack our bags and enjoy lunch on our balcony.  

Our stay at Villa Premiere was second to none.  Every staff person we encountered was courteous, polite and simply a pleasure to deal with.  We certainly recommend this hotel highly for anyone considering a trip to Puerto Vallarta!

Well, in the words of talk show hosts: that's all we have time for today.  Stay tuned for the next post in this series where I will cover a little more about activities offered in the area.   

Have your own experiences in Mexico?  Feel free to join the discussion on my Facebook page, or on Twitter.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Puerto Vallarta Travel Review - Part 1 - Arrival

I was fortunate enough to win a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (I still can't believe it).  This is a review of our trip.  Although I received the trip free of charge, the opinions in this review are my own.  There is so much to cover, my review will comprise a series of posts.

I'm from the East coast, and most of the people I know around here tend to vacation in other areas of Mexico, particularly the Eastern side of Mexico.  So I thought this was a unique opportunity to experience an area that not many people I know have been to and share my experience with them.

We flew out of the Saint John Airport (New Brunswick, Canada) in the early morning and had a quick turnaround time in Montreal.  Next thing we knew we were on a nearly 6 hour flight (!) to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  This would be our first trip to Mexico.

As we approached Puerto Vallarta, we started to see some mountains in the terrain below.

Our view from the plane as we approached Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

When we landed, one thing we experienced that was unlike other airports was that, once through immigration, we were bombarded by people offering us drives to our resort.  I was looking for a particular shuttle, that I had arranged a drive with before arriving.  A gentleman approached us and said he was from that company.  After a few minutes, it was easy to see that he was not, in fact, from the shuttle company.  Everyone in this area was trying to sign people up for a tour of a new property close by that was selling condos.    So be aware, if you aren't interested in seeing the property, you can sail right through.

We finally found our driver and made our way to the hotel.  Due to a little misunderstanding, we tried to check-in to a hotel only to discover we were at the property next door.  Tired and hot, we arrived at the Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway.  

Lobby of the Villa Premiere.

From the moment we arrived in the open and beautifully decorated lobby, we felt instant relaxation.  The staff at the front desk was so welcoming.  They offered us a champagne while we checked in.  We were informed that our suite was not ready yet, but there was plenty to keep us occupied until our room was ready.  

We were presented with a menu of scents and pillow types for our room.  The variety of scents featured everything from invigorating scents to relaxation. And the pillow menu featured extra plush pillows to ergonomic pillows.  After selecting our scent and pillows, we made our way over to have a welcome head-neck-shoulder massage.  

Massage Area.

After our massage, we stepped out to the pool area to have a quick look around.  The concierge gave us a run down on the property:

- 1 large pool, and a smaller pool connected to the pool bar.  The pool bar has a deck attached that looks out over the beach.
- There are 3 restaurants - La Ceiba, La Corona and Murales.  You can also get food poolside.  More on the food later.

Next to the pool, as well as on the beach, there are some comfortable beds for lounging, complete with pillows.  And surrounding the pool there is no lack of lounge chairs with towels, so no need to lug towels down from your room.

Once our room was ready, the bellman took us up and showed us all of the amenities.  The luxury and amenities in this room were amazing.  Check out the video below for the tour of our room.

Our Suite at the Villa Premiere.

Our linens, mini bar and hotel room scent were refreshed daily.

As demonstrated in the video, there was a double jacuzzi tub and stand alone shower in the bathroom.  Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and lotion were provided and refreshed daily.

As you can see, the view from our balcony was amazing, and we could hear the waves from the beach at any given time of the day or night.

View from our balcony.

The room featured a privacy screen as well as a black out screen to block sunlight if you needed a little extra time in bed in the morning.  Both screens were controlled by a remote control (so cool, right?!).

The hotel is located not far from the Malecon, the famous Puerto Vallarta boardwalk.  My husband and I walked down a few nights, but if you have any difficulties with your mobility, or if it is a particularly hot day, you may want to take a cab down.  The staff in the lobby will be happy to arrange for a cab for you.

Although our trip was only 5 days, there is so much to tell!  So stay tuned for "Part 2" of my Puerto Vallarta Review series.  

PS - Keep an eye out for my video review coming soon to the Overtired Mama YouTube page!

Have you been to Puerto Vallarta?  Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or join in on the conversation on the Overtired Mama's Facebook Page or on Twitter.