The Force Awakens in Victoria

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With the excitement of our three December birthdays behind us, we thought the time was right to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We made the trip to Victoria to see the movie on the only IMAX 3D theater on the island; thanks to Nana Five who sent us some holiday funds earmarked just for Star Wars!

While not as family-friendly as the other Star Wars films, we definitely had a memorable time feeling like we were right in the middle of the action. Five String prepared a Star Wars inspired mix for the car ride, and we found it got us in a Star Wars frame of mind while driving down. We hope you enjoy it as well either before or after (but probably not during) your own viewing of The Force Awakens :)

A New Spin on Snow Tubing

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We’ve very much been enjoying the winter climate here on Vancouver Island: cold enough for occasional snow but no bitter cold temperatures. We thought the few inches of snow in our river valley was impressive, but we soon realized it was nothing compared to the feet of snow we found during a day of tubing at Mount Washington.

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The highway drive from Qualicum Beach toward Courtenay was easy, and the 18 km  Strathcona Parkway is definitely manageable for anyone with four-wheel drive and/or good winter tires. Overall, less than an hour total to get from our doorstep to a winter wonderland. The sky was overcast when we arrived, but the clouds soon opened up offering breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks.

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The Tube Park is located at the Alpine Lodge, and we found the layout to be perfect for even the youngest of us. After choosing a lane and whooshing down the track, it’s a short walk pulling your tube up to the “Magic Carpet”, which does the work to get you and your tube back up to the top of the track. The operators were super friendly and made sure the kids got on and off without any issues, and after a few times down the kids felt comfortable enough to race ahead without us to begin their next trip down the slope.

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We originally didn’t know if we would get bored after a few times down, but this definitely was not the case. We underestimated the sheer variety of ways to tube down the track, each one providing a different experience. Fortunately, the wonderful staff at the top of the run gave us the nudge we needed. After the kids had their first time down, they were asked if they wanted a spin on their next trip. The first few spins were of the tame, “let’s see if they like this” variety. By the end of the day, though, the Younger Fives were begging the operators for the most head-spinning whirls they could muster, and the staff was more than happy to oblige. Spins are even more fun when shared, and we experimented with 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and even 5-person twirls down the slope. The only thing more dizzying than trying to figure out all the possible ride combination with five people was the actual experience of spinning like a mad teacup down the slope yourself!

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Fives’ Facts About Snow Tubing at Mount Washington

1. Location: Mount Washington (elevation 1,590 m or 5,220 feet) is located about 25 km from the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. It is home to the Vancouver Island marmot, one of the most endangered mammals on the planet.

2. Driving: The Mount Washington Alpine Resort is located at Exit #130 of Highway #19, about 13 km north of Courtenay. The Strathcona Parkway takes you the rest of the way, and chains are required if the weather turns ugly. Click here for more information about winter driving to the resort.

3. Passes: There are family two-hour and full-day passes (covers 2 adults and 2 children), with the option to add additional children at a discounted rate. We found the full-day pass to be ideal. We spent about 1.5 hours tubing, then took a leisurely hour for lunch inside the lodge, then went back out for another 1.5 hours. Not having the pressure of trying to get in as much tubing as possible before time ran out made the day much more enjoyable :)

4. Height Requirements: Children under 42″ ride free with an adult in the same tube. At first we were worried that our 7 and 5 year old might not make the cut. In the end, with boots on everyone was tall enough to ride on their own, and we were very glad we got each child their own pass so they could ride independently.

5. When to Visit: We planned our trip for a weekday, which meant the wait time was basically non-existent. The Tube Park is open 11am-7:00pm (and until 9pm on Friday and Saturday), and we had the place to ourselves until after lunch. We heard that on the weekends the wait can increase considerably, so go during the week if at all possible.

New Year’s on Ice

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Like many before us, we have found Vancouver Island to be a family-friendly wonderland. Living in the Parksville / Qualicum Beach area, we have been impressed by the many recreation opportunities that make the area special, from beautiful beaches to peaceful provincial parks. However, some of the most underrated recreational asset are those run by the Regional District of NanaimoFor a reasonable monthly price, both residents and non-residents alike have unlimited access to swimming at the beautiful Ravensong Aquatic Center and ice skating (rentals included) at Oceanside Place Arena, as well as Drop-In Gym programs twice a week.

DSC00584 DSC00597One of their showcase events of the year is the New Year’s Eve Family Celebration, and we were sure to reserve our complimentary tickets when they first became available on December 1st. The evening is a culmination of the many holiday-themed skates offered during the month of December (complete with lights and decorations), but it definitely takes the festivities to the next level. Live jazz music greeted us as we arrived, and we were faced with deciding what to try out first: skating in the Winter Wonderland rink, playing hockey in the other full-sized rink, taking a spin on the kid-sized Pond rink, or heading upstairs for New Year’s crafts.

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Skating won out, so we took some leisurely laps around the Winter Wonderland and admired the many holiday scenes around us. High Five couldn’t get enough of skating between the sleigh and various benches throughout the rink, and Five Ball and Five of Hearts dashed around the ice, weaving in and out of skaters with ease.  Five String and Five Spice could only marvel at what excellent skaters the Younger Fives have become in just two months! We then headed back to the rental window to pick up hockey sticks and very much enjoyed shooting the puck around the ice for the first time.

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After some good skating, we decided to unlace, get our faces painted, and head upstairs to make some New Year’s crafts. From crowns to masks to wands, the kids stayed busy for well over an hour making their accessories. They were visited often by many characters in costume, including the Regional District’s polar bear mascot as well as Elsa and Anna from Frozen. The button maker was also a big hit, and we got to choose a design (or even make our own) to be transformed into a professional button. As always, we were super impressed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the staff, including the many high-school aged assistants.

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Before we knew it, the time had come for the New Year’s countdown and balloon drop (at 8:00 pm). Noisemakers found their way into everyone’s hands, and the excitement kept building until the balloons dropped from the ceiling only to be snatched up by a flurry of hands. All in all, this was by far the most fun and stress-free New Year’s Eve we’ve ever spent together as a family. The variety of activities appealed to kids of all ages, and the three-hour long event was the perfect amount of time. Also, ending the evening well before midnight within minutes of home meant no long drive or over-tired kids. Thanks to all the wonderful staff whose hard work made this evening so memorable!

A Tea-rific Birthday

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A brilliant time was had by all on the occasion of the esteemed Five of Heart’s birthday tea party on the 26th of December, 2015, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The guest list for this auspicious occasion included the revered Jack Camiliar Kirk, the captain of industry John Effery Numscott, Lady Martha Potts, and the dandy Eugene Onegin.

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Catering and decoration were provided by Five Spice Sweets. The impressive spread of homemade vegan pastries and sandwiches surely earned a place among the most lavish of society gatherings. Guest were enchanted to survey a Lego version of the entertaining room, including a miniature of a romantic excursion of Mister Harold Potter and Miss Virginia Weasley to Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop.

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Five of Hearts herself took on the menial job of table setting and yet brought dignity to the task in a manner befitting her station. Her detailed knowledge of arcane and hallowed table setting etiquette reflected well on the young lady as well as her governess. Equally impressive were her composed manner throughout the affair and her dainty comportment while cooling tea.

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Though one hesitates to provide a printed venue for gossip, there was murmured talk that Five of Heart’s birthday wish came true shortly after she extinguished the candles. Soon thereafter snowflakes blanketed the countryside, at which point the guest parted with convention and rushed therewith into the ether without their dinner jackets or overcoats. After some spirited tossing of snowy globes at one another’s torsos, the guests retired inside to warm themselves in the glow of the fire and of stimulating conversation. Burning warmer than the flames, however, was the affection all felt for the guest of honor on the occasion of her 9th birthday.