During the Christmas season there are always events and markets to attend to enjoy the festivities with the family. I personally hadn't gone to a Christmas market or light show in a long time and I felt like it was long overdue, especially now that my son is four years old!
Fortunately this year right next door to my home the brand new ENCHANT light maze opened in False Creek since the end of November. It is the largest light maze in the world and from all the crowds in my neighbourhood and beautiful photos on social media I knew I couldn't miss it.
I think because it was next door I thought I had lots of time and could go whenever I wanted but that wasn't the case. The first weekend was sold out online and every time I would go back to check when all three of us could go, it was always sold out! On December 20th I was determined I was going to go that day because it was the last day we could make it as a family before Christmas.
I went on the website looking for a number to call for more information since it said it was sold out and was glad to see that they sold tickets at the door starting at 3:30 everyday. I rushed over earlier knowing that there would be throngs of people already cued in line and when I got there at 3:00, I was at the back of a very long line. I was hopeful that I would get tickets though because the friendly ENCHANT staff would come up and down the line asking who was buying tickets and who had already purchased them online. My son was entertained with the children ahead of us so I just waited patiently and at about 3:55 the line quickly moved up and I was attended very kindly by the staff and was even given a great deal since I was a local resident of the neighbourhood. Hook ups are always appreciated, especially at Christmas time! Admission is $20 for adults and $15 for kids aged 6-15.
We decided to go at 8:00 P.M. which is the second time slot after most families leave from the 4-8 time slot. We walked over and our smiles quickly grew larger as we came to the entrance and saw the ENCHANT sign that was so beautifully lit against the dark evening sky.
As you walk in there are many delicious food trucks that make the smell wonderful when entering and to the right there is an undercover area like a lounge that is heated and serves alcoholic beverages.
Past the concession area is the actual entrance to the light maze. My husband had an actual plan to be able to find all the nine reindeer within the maze which is the whole objective. For every reindeer you find there is a little station where you receive a stamp until all nine are found.
I on the other hand was so excited and just began wandering around taking pictures of everything. My son was just beyond happy and was running around like crazy around the maze. Seeing him be so joyful was the best part of it all. All of the areas were very beautifully decorated in different kinds of lights and some mirrors. It's a perfect event for spectacular photos with family and friends because it's lit up everywhere and there's all sorts of props too. I certainly took many photos and they came out so nicely.
With kettle corn in hand the entire time we had found seven reindeers and had all but two left. We decided to start all over again and find the last two so that we would have enough time to find all nine and see the market too. So following his plan we found the last two reindeer quickly and got all of our stamps, mission accomplished!
When we made it to the market I was so pleased to see a large selection of local artisan unique crafts and gifts available to purchase. I always appreciate when events support local small businesses at this time of year. As we came around the corner I saw my husband's eyes light up when he saw the sign for King's Cannoli. Ever since we returned from or trip to Italy we've allowed ourselves to indulge in the occasional cannoli to reminisce about our vacation. We enjoyed two cannoli's with some hot chocolate and sat in a heated area to relax and enjoy the last few minutes of the event.
One suggestion I would make if you're coming with children and babies is to use the bathroom right before coming, as all they have available is porter potties which isn't ideal in frigid temperatures. In case you need to change your baby the market area has a few seating benches that could be used discreetly with a changing mat.
Since we walked we didn't have to worry about parking, which is a bit pricey for the lot that is allocated for the event. The Canada Line Olympic Village sky train station is about 3 blocks away and makes it an easy transit access point for commuting to and from.
Overall I really enjoyed the ENCHANT experience as a family and it added to more memorable Christmas moments this season for us. It is only open until the end of December so if you haven't gone yet I highly recommend it. I think it's been a great success and I really hope they bring it back next year.
It's so important to get away from the everyday busy city life and to get into the outdoors. Being surrounded by nature only without any of the daily distractions is incredibly uplifting and necessary for our minds and bodies to be in full health. I was invited to attend the Fixed 2016 Retreat at Camp Jubilee in the beautiful setting of the Indian Arm in B.C., by the More than 12 Church.
I had attended one of their services prior to coming to the retreat and by the feeling and energy I felt from that one time I knew that I wanted to be around these love filled people especially in a natural setting.
This is not your average church that you would normally expect, these people have a passion within them that is infectious!
From the moment I was on the boat in beautiful Deep Cove, smelling the salty air and seeing the city life drift away on our way to Camp Jubilee, I felt a wonderful wave of peace come over me. I knew that this retreat was going to be an amazing experience for my family and everyone attending.
The organizers Karolyn Haze and pastor Terrence Richmond did an awesome job of putting together the trip with lots of fun activities for all ages and inviting some powerful speakers to renew our minds and spirits. They even accommodated special dietary needs which was a huge relief for my family since we are now gluten free eaters.
What I noticed right away was how warm and inviting everybody was with one another which is always a great way to start a trip with people you don't necessarily know. The first night there we enjoyed a lovely dinner meal after settling in, and then the Renewed Life youth group held their own activities. It was great because my son Romeo made some friends right away as he certainly isn't shy and his outgoing personality was in full bloom with them! It allowed for my mother and I to be able to relax more and to be fully present for the prayers and powerful talks given by all the pastors while he played his heart out with them.
After a good nights rest and a delicious lunch the next day, we were put into separate groups for canoeing and archery which I was so excited about because I have never done either! Romeo sat next to me in his cute little life jacket and his eyes were about to pop out of his head he was so excited! We canoed across the Indian Arm and back with our group. There's something so special and soothing about being in the middle of a calm body of water, just being present in that moment with the mountains before us and the ocean below. I'm so glad Romeo got to see and enjoy the environment he was in from that perspective. After a short break we did some archery which I think was Romeo's personal favourite activity of the day. He was so proud of himself to learn a skill like that. Since we returned I bought him a small archery set which he's been using everyday all day, its so awesome!
Our evening on Saturday was one of my personal highlights of the weekend as I listened to pastor Damien Giacchino speak profoundly about inviting and maintaining ourselves in the presence of God and what that actually means and what it looks like when it's done authentically without any personal selfish motives. My own perception on how to maintain oneself in that presence shifted greatly while listening to how well he articulated biblical passages in context to this, with a very realistic and practical way for everyday life. He was very honest about his own past that led him to ending up in Bay Area prisons and sharing openly about how being in the presence of God turned his life around. It was very clear to see and feel how much his life transformed through faith and how he continues to impact many people with his story. I was deeply inspired and my own faith was strongly renewed.We ended with all of us of us sharing in prayer for one another which was so healing on many levels to both give and receive that gift.
At the very end of the second night the youth group came back in from their evening activities and started celebrating and dancing in the main hall. Romeo rushed downstairs to participate and it was such a blast watching him dance to the hip hop music along with all of them. So much soul revival!
Music certainly played a wonderful role in uplifting and uniting everyone in this retreat...and others! It transcended age, sex, cultures and beliefs. Pastor Terrance and Jeff are certainly gifted in this area and they love to share it with everyone. While we sang out his hip hop song "That Love" during the closing service, Pastor Terrance had shared that he'd like for all of us to sing in love to the Yoga group just outside of the hall, who were also at the same camp for their own retreat. The song is full of just that-LOVE. So we did! While he rapped, we sang along and danced and it got so energetic that the ENTIRE Yoga group came inside to join us! It was so beautiful to see how Love and Joy can break boundaries and bring people together. Pastor Terrence asked them after the song if they'd let us pray for them, which they said yes to because it wasn't about religion or church or division, but just a gesture of love to them, because we are ALL God's children and we are all loved equally. It was so humbling and beautiful to tangibly witness and feel The Presence of God in that room with all of us.
True Love in action.
This past weekend meant so much to my family. We had so much fun, learned immensely from everyone and connected with incredible people who are unapologetic about their faith and committed to making a difference in the world.
I experienced what Jesus taught us and what He intended for us to do.
To love Him first and to always be in His presence is to to know how to love the self and unconditionally love others.
For God is love and when we personally and intimately know Him, we know what real love is. We are all called to be vessels of His Presence and love. I received my love fix and it was truly a retreat and renewal for me that I am going to continue to share and cultivate in my personal life and with my community.
Thank you to everyone from the Church of More than 12, Renewed Life Youth Group and Stacey and Damien Giacchino, you have all impacted me greatly and I will
never forget this experience.
Last week I celebrated my 31st birthday. I wanted to enjoy the day without over planning it. For a few days leading up to it I felt that it was important that I spend the entire day with my boys. Sergio is usually really good at sneaking in a few surprises to keep it somewhat spontaneous, but he knew that what I wanted the most was to be with my family and celebrate together.
I decided on a somewhat indulgent dinner for the evening, so I opted to keep it healthy and light for brunch to have a balanced birthday. We went to Zend Conscious Lounge in Yaletown which is an all organic and vegetarian spot that I have gone to before. I enjoy the healthy, nutritious menu items here because taste is never sacrificed for healthy ingredients. The ambience is very relaxing and you can feel that the people who work here authentically believe in what they are sharing through this restaurant.
When they told me that my favourite item wasn't available I was disappointed for a brief moment but quickly said to Sergio that the point for the day was to appreciate every moment and to be in full gratitude for my blessed life. I am focusing on all the wonderful things in my life today and will stay in that mental state. Needless to say everything we had was fantastic.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon, which just so happened to be one of the rainiest Monday's I can remember, we walked in the rain downtown while shopping for a few things under a massive family sized umbrella. I'm not usually one who really enjoys rainy walks, but on my birthday it was simply refreshing.
The evening was spent at Baru Latino, a Latin American restaurant on the West Side of Vancouver. Now I'm going to be honest, finding a restaurant with a variety of authentic and delicious Latin American food in Vancouver isn't as easy as it would be in a city like New York, where places like that are the norm, like sushi is here. All I wanted was to enjoy lively latin music and delicious food from various countries in one spot that wasn't just serving tacos. Well Baru Latino definitely met my expectations!
There were so many delicious items to choose from. Dishes from Peru, Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela and more. I finally settled with the Argentinian steak for my main dish with a Latin Lover cocktail- not a very traditional pairing but it worked for me!
I had Romeo next to me eating Platanos and Sergio was having a rich Pork Chop dish with a guava glaze, which was absolutely delicious. All of us were really enjoying ourselves.
At the end of our dinner right when we were about to have our dessert, I received some very shocking and sad news about a close relative of mine who had passed away that morning. I was very upset so I took a few moments to regroup myself in the bathroom. I came back to the table and had my family sing Happy Birthday to me. I was eating my dessert fighting tears but also was so grateful that I had my son and partner with me. All the way home all I could think of was how fragile life really is. One moment I'm celebrating life and the next I'm mourning the death of a loved one. Life is so precious and we often take day to day living and even celebrations for granted. I had such a powerful and tangible reflection of how the simplest things in life, the things that have no price tag, that cost nothing are the most valuable without a doubt.
Love and my family were the most precious birthday gifts that day, and they are everyday.
My mother flew down to California to show her support and I witnessed many of my family members join and really come together to show their love. Our family really is one of a kind. We are nuts and we do some crazy things but when it comes down to it and things get tough, we will always be there for one another and show our love when it's most needed. No amount of money can buy that family connection and unity. It is a kind wealth that some people sadly will never feel and know. That type of wealth for us comes first and I am so incredibly grateful that God has blessed me with a family that knows how to celebrate the good times and also knows how to be there and love one another through the hard times.
Looking back this whole week at my birthday I can whole heartedly say that I am really glad that from the moment I woke up I chose to be grateful for my life and to have nothing but gratitude in my mind and heart for everything that I'm blessed with. My very life itself being the most essential, and sharing that life with my loving family. Having that in my mind that entire day allowed for me to be able to experience joy in many moments and respond to everything I experienced in pure love and I will always have this one particular birthday as a reminder of what really matters.
I dedicate this to my entire family. I love you all so much and it really gives me a lot of comfort feeling and seeing how all of us supported one another with so much love and will always continue to!