June 11, 2012

What to buy for Father’s Day

Dear Fashionistas,

With Father’s Day just around the corner, many of us are scrambling for the perfect gift to give the men in our lives. We are looking for something that fits their personality to a tee, something that they will appreciate, something that they will cherish, but most importantly, something that says, ‘you are truly wonderful and our family is blessed to have you’. Here are my top three picks for great father’s day gifts. For even more options, check out my ‘170 Father’s Day Gift Ideas‘ board on Pintrest.

Ciao for now,

From the friendly fashionista

Char (also known as Epic Mom)

1.) For the technology and travel enthusiast

If the man in your life is a photography enthusiast, then the Kata Pro-Light Backpack is the thing for him. It is an ideal tool for traveling photographers, the backpack features a tripod holder, a camera strap, and a padded laptop compartment. The greatest thing about this backpack, is that it protects your equipment during inclement weather.

Kata KT PL-BG-205 Pro-Light Bug 205 Backpack

2.) For the comic book aficionado

If the man in your life is a huge Star Wars fan, then the gift for you and your little guy to get him would be this wonderful book entitled, ‘Darth Vader and Son’ by Jeffrey Brown. It has been getting rave reviews across the board as a hilarious story about Darth Vader from a typical paternal perspective.  Check out the trailer below!

Darth Vader and Son (Star Wars (Chronicle))

3.) For the Fashionable Father

If the man in your life is a sharp dresser, he’ll appreciate these great items to keep him looking spiffy. You can’t go wrong with any of these basics. In a summer filled with bright clothing, he’ll look cool and collected sporting any of these neutral picks.

Happy Father's Day
March 7, 2012

Touring Puerto Rico

Dear Epic Readers,

I hope this post finds you well. As promised, here is the fifth and final issue in my Travel Tuesdays series. So grab a pirate’s punch and let’s hoist off on an epic adventure to stunning San Juan Puerto Rico.

Located in the Caribbean, nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, and just east of the Dominican Republic is the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.  Historically speaking, this island is a colourful cultural and racial mix of Spanish, Taínos and African.  The Taíno Indians who inhabited the territory, called the island Boriken or Borinquen which translates: “land of the great lords” or “the great land of the valiant and noble Lord”.  A little fun fact is that San Juan named for (St. John the Baptist), was the name of the island and and the town was called Puerto Rico.  It was only later that these two were switched.

In San Juan, we chose to go on the Old and New tour of the city and it was exceptional.  Even though it was an overcast and rainy day we still had a blast exploring the town.  Our guide Charlie had a wealth of knowledge about the people and places of Puerto Rico that kept us thoroughly engaged.  We explored the tunnels and other defenses of the 17th-century military fortification, Fort San Cristobal.  We visited the Cristo Chapel, the Governor’s Mansion and other historical sites.  We checked out San Jose Church, El Convento Hotel, the Condado section of New San Juan, and popped by the gated community where Ricky Martin’s parents live! 

Here are some of the most exciting highlights of the island:

  • The Vieques Biobay (go kayaking then take a swim in the green, glowing bioluminescent bay)
  • Camuy Caves (rappel down the mouth of the cave, go mud-sliding, body rafting, and free jumping)
  • Old and New San Juan Tour (interesting architecture and fascinating oral history of the island) 

Cheers,

From the beautiful island Puerto Rico,

Char a.k.a Epic Mom

[singlepic id=586 w=640 h=427 mode=watermark float=]

[singlepic id=561 w=640 h=427 mode=watermark float=]

[singlepic id=583 w=640 h=427 mode=watermark float=]

February 29, 2012

Visiting St. Thomas and Snorkeling in St. John

Dear Epic Readers,

I hope this post finds you well. As promised, here is the fourth issue in my Travel Tuesdays series. So grab a pirate’s punch and let’s hoist off on an epic adventure to serene St. Thomas and St. John.

Located in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea is the beautiful gem of St. Thomas. For centuries, the island has been a notable pirate refuge, as evidenced by historic sites like Blackbeard’s Tower.  Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas has been one of the busiest ports and trading centers in the Caribbean since the 19th century.

We chose to take the ferry from St. Thomas to St. John and go snorkeling.  St. John was an untouched breathtaking vista of loveliness. It was lightly populated and quiet. We did the St. John Champagne Catamaran Sail-away excursion and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. We took a catamaran from St. Thomas to St. John, had two hours for snorkeling, where you could either dive directly off the anchored catamaran or get ferried to the beach and go snorkeling from there. This excursion lasted four and a half hours, 90 minutes of which was sailing back to St. Thomas, sipping on champagne and nibbling fresh bread and cheese. Since we were on St. John, we could have also opted to spend a day in the U.S. Virgin Island National Park and experience the beaches and bays, while exploring the ancient rock carving and hiking trails.

 Here are some of the most exciting highlights of the island:

  • Eco Boat, Hike & Snorkel of Cas Cay
  • Donkey ride in Coral Bay via Carolina Corral; you can also rent horses.
  • The National Park Service offers a guided hike that lasts 5 and a half hours. You will see part of the park’s rain forest, the Reef Bay Plantation ruins and at the base of the trail, you can see their famous rock carvings.

Cheers,

From the beautiful islands of St. Thomas and St. John,

Char a.k.a Epic Mom

February 15, 2012

Zip-lining in Dominica

Dear Epic Readers,

I hope this post finds you well. As promised, here is the fouth issue in my Travel Tuesdays series. So grab a pirate’s punch and let’s hoist off on an epic adventure to delightful Dominica.

Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, you will find the lush paradise of Dominica. It is also known as the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” for its refreshing natural beauty. The island boasts rare animal, plant, bird species and spectacular rainforests. It is home to Boiling Lake, the world’s second-largest hot spring. One of its tropical forests, the ‘Fresh Water Lake Trail’ can be found on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. There are many sulphur springs dotted throughout the island. Another highlight of this island is that it has the largest remaining community of Carib Indians. Since 1903, they have populated a 3,700 acre Territory on Dominica’s east coast.

I have to confess that visiting this island was a true treat for me. From the time I was a child, I remember hearing stories of Dame Eugenia Charles. The women in my family would be encouraged by my Dominican grandmother to aspire to greatness, since the ‘Dame’ paved the way for us. Dame Eugenia Charles was the first female lawyer on the island of Dominica. She then went on to become the world’s longest continuously serving female Prime Minister, holding office from 21 July 1980 – 14 June 1995. For her uncompromising stance on anti-corruption and individual freedom, she became known as the “Iron Lady of the Caribbean”. I’ve always felt a connection with her since we both have roots in the island of Dominica and we both attended the University of Toronto. She has been a role model as a strong West Indian woman who chose her own path and destiny in spite of the many challenges she faced. This is the type of legacy that I plan to pass on to my daughter.

Some other treats for me were seeing the Twin Falls of Trafalgar, taking a ride on the Ariel Tram and Zip-lining over a gorge.  As we toured through the island, I marvelled at it’s green lushness and wondered why my great-grandparents would ever move away from this gorgeous paradise. We drove higher and higher into the mountains, smelling sulfer springs, viewing tropical plants and flowers I had never seen before. Our guide (who is convinced that our families are related – and I agree it’s quite possible) regaled us with botanical knowledge to marvel the mind. Before you know it, we were hiking up to see the Twin Falls of Trafalgar. What a sight to behold!  I tried to capture the essence of the mother and father falls with my digital xti but no photo could fully capture the majesty and power of the falls.

Then we were driving to the Aerial Tram. When we arrived, hubby and I cosied up in the back as we coasted higher and higher above the trees. The only way I can describe it is…Zen!  It was so therapeutic to slowly ascend into the sky with only the birds talking to us; we each gained a new appreciation for quiet solitude. When we arrived at the top, hubby got off to go on his planned zip-lining run and I readied myself to take another relaxing ride back down on the Tram.  But before you know it, I had decided to take a leap of faith and go zip-lining too (hubby and the tram gang were very convincing).  As I put on my gear, I was still very nervous.  I had my group in high spirits listening to my musings. I feel the need to point out that the guides were absolutely wonderful, explaining every facet of the adventure in detail, and they were very encouraging. Here’s a shout out to Lloyd and the rest of the gang, “Holla”!  Even more reassuring was that one of them always went first so you could know that the line was in working order (lol). So there I was on a platform high up in the trees about to zip over a 350 foot deep gorge – you can imagine my anxiety. But I sat into the harness, double checked that I was triple clipped to the cable, let go and ‘let God’. It felt like flying, or what I imagine flying might feel like. I shouted in exhileration as I felt the wind whip past.  The first jump was the shortest (125 ft), followed by a longer one at 250 ft.  We then repelled 40 ft and ended up going on the longest zip-line of the course (810 ft) over the Breakfast River Gorge. Thus, begining and ending my zip-lining career accomplishing the feat of conquering the highest zip line in the southern Caribbean. At the very end, I was so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something I’ve always thought was interesting but was too afraid to try. I originally expected to take a leisurely ride and call it a day, but I’m glad I took the road less travelled and had an epic adventure zip-lining.

Here are some of the most exciting highlights of the island:

  • The Twin Falls at Trafalgar
  • The Emerald Pool
  • 18th Century Fort Shirley in Cabrits National Park
  • Boiling Lake
  • World Creole Music Festival
  • Bird watching in the Northern Forest Reserve (Red-necked and Imperial parrots)
  • Whales watching offshore
  • Kalinago Barana Aute (Kalinago/Carib Cultural Center)

Cheers,

From the beautiful island of Dominica

Char a.k.a Epic Mom

February 8, 2012

Snorkeling in Grenada

Dear Epic Readers,

I hope this post finds you well.  As promised, here is the third issue in my Travel Tuesdays series.  So grab a pirate’s punch and let’s hoist off on an epic adventure to Grenada.

In the South Eastern Caribbean, about 100 miles north of Venezuela, you will find the gorgeous island of Grenada (pronounced Gree-Nay-Dah).  It is also known as the Spice Isle or the Isle of Spice.  Over the centuries, the island has been inhabited by Black natives of African descent, British, French and Amerindians – both Arawaks and Caribs – whose artifacts and carvings can still be found throughout the island.

More than 70% of Grenada’s exports go to the United States and European Union. Their growers are increasingly adopting sustainable farm management practices, which is why their clean, green organic approach to agriculture is recognised around the world.  Cocoa, Banana, Nutmeg and other spices for export have been the island’s main source of foreign exchange for hundreds of years, and in fact Grenada is the world’s second largest nutmeg producer.

One huge highlight for me about Grenada was going to the world’s first Under Water Sculpture Park at Molinere Bay.  Wow, that was an exhilarating experience!  All of you who have read my blog from the beginning know that I’ve always struggled to learn how to swim.  This summer, I had a breakthrough at my local swim school and was able to swim the entire length of the pool and back.  Even accomplishing this feat, I still have no clue how to tread water.   So you can imagine how the voice in the back of my head was screaming at me to stay on the cruise ship and let hubby go on this adventure by himself.  Still, I resigned myself to put on my swimsuit and take a book with me on the tour so I could stay in the catamaran if I changed my mind at the last moment.

Off I went on the catamaran, zipping over the waves, my hair streaming behind me, the wind whipping in my face – what a feeling of freedom and exhilaration!  Then we slowed down for our guide to share some details about the aquatic life around the island.  After this tutorial, our next stop was Molinere Bay.  It felt almost like an outer body experience, floating outside myself as I watched the real me get into a life jacket, flippers, and goggles, climb over the edge of the boat and ease into the ocean.   Now, all my friends will tell you that I am an extremely cautious person.  I am not a risk taker, and never have been.  Had you asked me about this last year at this time, I would have said, “I never will be a risk taker!”  Yet, having children changes you.  Having watched my kids learn to walk and talk and do all those incredible feats that they do in their first few years; having encouraged them to try again when they literally fall on their bums when learning how to walk; having been their cheerleader for three years and encouraging them to try something new even if they are scared, I decided to take the same advice myself:  to be brave and bold and try something new too.

Before I knew it, I was holding on to a little lifebuoy, swimming along looking at the most amazing, breathtaking vista before me.  Seeing fish in an aquarium pales in comparison to watching those iridescent luminous shimmering fish swimming everywhere.  It was breathtaking.  Then I glimpsed something off in the distance, coming into focus and taking shape as I approached.  There were beautiful sculptures dotted along the ocean floor!  My favorite was one called ‘Christ of the Deep’ standing majestically with arms outstretched and head looking up towards heaven.   Christ of the Deep was placed in St. George’s Harbor to commemorate the people of Grenada for their help and to thank them for the hospitality they extended to the people on board the Italian ship Bianca C after it caught fire and sank in the harbor. 

If you are in Grenada, book a Seafaris Powerboat Eco Tour and ask for Albert.  He is passionate about sharing the history and ecology of Grenada and is a wonderful guide of the underwater sculptures.  He was truly awesome at making the excursion interesting for both experienced and novice snorkelers!

Here are three of the most exciting highlights of the island:

  • Visit the Mona monkeys that live near Grand Etang National Park.
  • Tour St. George’s market for ginger, cinnamon, mace, turmeric, nutmeg, coconuts, bananas, and so much more.
  • Snorkel in the world’s first Under Water Sculpture Park at Molinere Bay.

Cheers,

From the beautiful island of Grenada

Char a.k.a Epic Mom