Sunday, August 17

Cynthia Loyst: Behind the Scenes at THE SOCIAL

{If you missed it, my Momterview with Cynthia Loyst from a few months ago is HERE. She spoke about how she landed the role on the show, her thoughts about the institution of marriage, and being a mom to her now fourteen month old son Jaya. The interview has held the top spot for pageviews here on This Mom Loves for several months, though it had some competition from coverage of her co-host Lainey's Smut Soiree. Clearly a lot of my readers are fans of THE SOCIAL!}

When I had the chance to go behind-the-scenes at THE SOCIAL, I walked into the co-hosts' office in the morning and Cynthia immediately jumped up and greeted me with enthusiasm and a warm hug. I really do feel like we're friends already, and the more I hear her talk on the show, the more I feel we're kindred spirits. Need proof? She likes to go to bed early. She never really cared for the bar scene, especially when strange guys would try to dirty dance behind her. She used to be a belly-dancer. Fine, we don't have that trait in common, but still..

After the show, Cynthia and I had a chance to sit down and catch up, and I had a few new questions (some mine, some from my readers) to throw at her.

What are your favourite topics to cover on the show?

We cover such a range of topics, but I'm fired up about anything to do with love and sexuality and gender, particularly when we start to pigeonhole people into gendered ideas, though it's hard not to do that I must say. I'm one of the people who often is saying "we can't say all men are x, y and z," or "we can't say all women are x, y and z" that stuff kind of gets me fired up.

But then the most random topics will get me worked up. One day when I was riding into work I heard about a Mississauga bylaw that was taking place because a man saw his neighbour's laundry hung up too high, and there was too much of it, so they actually passed a law legislating what types of drying mechanisms you can have in your backyard or how much laundry you can have, and I thought "Oh my goodness, what have we come to in this world?" Talk about first-world, suburban problems, where someone's not harming anybody, except maybe the vision of your perfect home, and they're actually trying to help the environment, and yet you're going to cause such a big stink over this. Now a small caveat: when I actually saw a photo of the laundry when I got to work it was alarming, but I still stand by the fact that I hope we live in a world where we can throw out some of those ideas, especially when it's for the greater good.

Long and short of it, when it comes to love, relationships, family and gender, those are the stories I most gravitate towards.

And what about guest segments? Do you ever get to work and think "Yay! We're doing this today!" or "Oh no! We're doing this today!"?

I have a love/hate relationship with the exercise segments. Right now I am woefully out of shape. {Here I gave her the required "Yeah, right!" look, though I totally understand that there's a difference between being thin and being fit.} I think I'm eating less, or I'm running around chasing the baby, but I actually am the least in shape I've ever been in terms of muscle tone. Whenever I do an exercise segment which is maybe five or eight minutes long I hurt the next day afterwards. That's how pathetic I am right now! I know Lainey and I were rolling our eyes because I think we're in the fitness segment tomorrow and we often feel like we get very winded - they're tough!

I love fashion segments. Erica Wark is our guest stylist on the show - and she, of course, as you probably know just got engaged live on the show - and we love her. She's like part of the extended family of our team, and she's so talented at what she does. Let's face it, fashion is just so fun! On that note too, Matthew is our guest hairstylist on the show, and I learned great ideas from him last week. I'm not one of those people who has ever really looked at a magazine and been able to teach myself a new hairstyle, but I do learn from those segments and there are things I've gone home and tried.

At other shows you've worked on before you've also worn a "producer" hat. How different is it to just be on-screen this time around?

You know, it's been a hard transition for me. I never wanted to be in front of the camera. Part of what interested me about television was producing real people's stories and I was into documentary production for a long time, and I loved getting to meet people and sit down with them in their home and having them tell their own stories. I never felt the need to be in front of the camera. But things change in the world and in a way it was a survival mechanism for me. At the time, there were a bunch of layoffs, kind of like what's going on right now in the world of television, and I made a pitch to someone because I thought my job was in jeopardy, that I could produce and host a show about sexuality. That was my wheelhouse at the time, I was writing an advice column, and it just so happened that it was accepted because it cost next to nothing to do so that's when I hosted Sex Matters on CP24 so I got to do both at that time, the whole thing rested on my shoulders.

But now, I get to take a step back as producers do their jobs. I still sometimes have to remember to, as Traci puts it "stay in my lane," because I'll be thinking in my head about things that should be happening or should be done, or this needs to move on, and I've learned to just let that hat be tossed away. But it's hard! Producers by nature can be control freaks and part of the thing about being on-air is you have to let things go.

Can you think of any funny mishaps or bloopers that have happened on the show?

There are a lot of undergarment mishaps! Some of us are all about the supportive undergarments and layering though some of us...okay, I'll say it, Lainey often doesn't wear underwear! But sometimes we'll get dressed and realize that a bunch of stuff has to change because undergarments are showing, so that happens. It doesn't make it to air!

One time early on when the show first launched I was walking down the stairs and my shoe somehow just came off! God bless Traci, she picked it up and put it Cinderella-style back on me right before I was going to sit in my seat because it was way behind me. I also worry that one of us is going to trip down those stairs. I know we've gotten more confident and cocky and I don't often use the handrail so that might happen, we might pull a Jennifer Lawrence sometime, but it hasn't happened yet!

Before THE SOCIAL started, people (like me!) used to say "I wish we had a Canadian show like THE VIEW". Then when you started, it was made clear that there shouldn't be a comparison, and that this show would be very different. Lately, I've seen at least two American guests come on THE SOCIAL and say "I wish we had a show like this in the States", which makes it seem like you've almost surpassed what they're offering. What do you think it is that sets you apart?

I think there are a few things. I really do think it's our dynamic with each other. I didn't know the other girls very well before we launched the show, and when I first heard this was our lineup I wondered "Are we different enough? Is this going to stand out? Are we going to butt heads?" Then the show started to evolve and I realized we are such distinct personalities so that's what people say to us, that we're very strong, opinionated women and that we're all very different from each other. So I think that's one.

We also very much care for each other, so there's not the same kind of drama behind-the-scenes. We have gotten into some intense discussions but we do really all deeply care for each other, and I think that shows through too, that it's not speaking this story that we often hear where women can't have arguments with each other without having trouble off-camera, so I think maybe people are picking up on that dynamic.

I also think that we're able to let topics breathe. I know from watching THE VIEW more recently, they fire off and go through a lot of topics very quickly and I think it's harder to get in depth into an idea that way.

Plus we also bring our own personal experiences and I think - or I hope - that people really feel they become a part of our lives, through the interactivity with social media as well. People can literally tell us, in the moment, what they're thinking about something we've said and we respond back. I think that whole thing has created a kind of intimacy.

Who's your dream guest for THE SOCIAL?

I've been a huge fan of Prince since childhood. I'm a total dork about him, I grew up on his music and had fantasies at one point in time about being in a relationship with him. He's such an odd bird but I have huge respect for him as a performer. He's so shy and complicated that I would be beside myself but I would love for him to be on the show. Plus maybe I could try on his heels!

Thanks, Cynthia!

Be sure to follow Cynthia on Twitter, and of course catch her on THE SOCIAL weekdays on CTV.

Thursday, August 14

The Happiness Project: August (Contemplate the Heavens)

For the month of August, "The Happiness Project" author Gretchen Rubin tackled a pretty big project, which was to "Contemplate the Heavens":

I definitely consider myself a religious person. I've inherited a very strong faith and I value Catholic education, Mass and sacraments.

This chapter of Rubin's book was about more than religion, though.

Her goals:

  • Read memoirs of catastrophe
  • Imitate a spiritual master
  • Keep a gratitude notebook

These ideas didn't resonate for me this month. I've certainly done the first, and since Jesus counts as a spiritual master, I spend my life attempting to do the second.

As for gratitude, I've tried the notebook approach before, but couldn't stay consistent (which is what happened with the author as well). I do, however, take time every day to be thankful for all of the blessings I have in my life.

I don't think it would be appropriate to start rambling about what I have, especially when there may be readers out there who are struggling with what they don't. I would, however, like to share a quote that, while biblical, can be applied in all sorts of contexts regardless of your beliefs:

"To whom much is given, much will be expected." (Luke 12:48)

Are we meeting the expectations?

Wednesday, August 13

Teacher Tips For Back-To-School Shopping: My CHEX Daily TV Segment

Last night I made my second appearance as a guest on the CHEX Daily Show to share teacher tips for back-to-school shopping, and again I had a great time. I was a lot less nervous (the night before and day of) and the whole process (from segment preparation to self-makeup application) seemed much easier since I'd already done it once.

This time I was sitting at the table on set, which was helpful since I had school supplies to spread out, and I found it so easy to chat with hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson and share all of my tips.

Looking for some practical back-to-school ideas (and pet peeves) from a teacher's perspective? Check out the video clip below. I'm at the 29:53 mark, if it doesn't cue there for you.

Email subscribers: if you can't see the embedded video, click here:

A few bonus tips that were on my list, but I didn't share on the show:

  • When the weather is nice (until we start wearing boots, which will probably be, oh, in October) kids should have running shoes for outdoors as well as indoors. They have over an hour of outdoor recess each day, plus DPA (Daily Physical Activity), and they'll be more active and safe in proper footwear. (Flipflops and party shoes don't cut it in the classroom either!)
  • If kids are bringing technology to school, keep it physically safe in a sturdy case, but password-protect items whenever possible too (making sure you also know the password!)
  • A tip from a Grade 1 teacher: even though there shouldn't be much homework at this age, kids still need a large enough backpack to hold their lunchbag, water bottle, agenda and anything else they may want to shove in there. Some kids bring cute little bags that just don't have enough room.
  • LABEL EVERYTHING. Your child may be old enough to recognize her belongings, but it's pretty tough when three other kids have the exact same thermos or hoodie. You would be shocked if you saw the amount of clothing that gets donated from our lost and found bin every year...and our school is tiny!
Finally, here's a shot of the Crayola Twistables pencil crayons - a very neat invention, though they do produce garbage compared to traditional pencil crayons. (I even called Crayola to ask if the leftover plastic cases can be recycled, and while they're working on that, the answer right now is no.)

Thanks to Teresa and Mike for having me, and all of the teachers who shared input for this segment - I'll be picking your brains again soon!

Monday, August 11

Blog Bits: How Email Subscriptions Work

Warning: this post is not intended for experienced bloggers with email delivery programs set up and running. I'm actually writing this for the large majority of my readers who are not bloggers, many of whom have asked me questions lately about how it works when you subscribe to a blog through email. Newbie bloggers might take away some helpful info, and of course everyone is welcome to read on!

How it works from the reader's end:

If you love a blog (like This Mom Loves, of course) you can usually find a spot on the homepage directing you to sign up for blog updates through email.

Mine is a little logo that looks like an envelope at the top of my sidebar, and if you click on it, you are directed to a FeedBurner Email Subscription page for This Mom Loves. (I chose to go with FeedBurner, but there are other popular services like MailChimp that you can use to send out your posts for you.)

You enter your email address, type in the captcha that's shown, and click on "Complete Subscription Request". There's still one more important step: you'll receive an email called "FeedBurner Subscription Confirmation" (check your spam if it doesn't arrive right away), and you MUST open that email and click to verify the subscription before you'll start getting updates.

After that, you'll receive any new blog posts from that site in your email daily (though I don't post that often), which some people appreciate so they don't have to keep checking the site regularly for new posts. Most bloggers send links to their new content through social media as well, but if you don't want to have to go looking anywhere, you can get posts delivered right to you, which you can read and/or delete at your leisure.

If you want to head to the blog to read the post, you just click on the title of the email. Sometimes people choose to do this because they want to see what comments have been left (they don't appear in the emails) or because photos or videos can't be seen properly. After I posted the video of my first CHEX Daily appearance a couple of weeks ago, I quickly learned that most people reading my posts in email could not see the video I had embedded in the blog post. From now on, I'll include a link to the clip as well to make it easier to find.

I have my FeedBurner subscriptions programmed to be automatically delivered to readers at 9 a.m. each day (which hopefully reinforces to you that I am not sitting at my desk in my classroom blogging when I should be teaching!)

When the emails land in your inbox, the "from" line reads "This Mom Loves", and the "subject" is the title of that day's blog post.

I made a choice to have the entire posts available in the body of the email, but this is a heavily debated topic in the blogging world. Many bloggers just email the start of the post, with a "click here to read more", directing you to the blog to finish reading the post in its entirety. I find as a blog reader, it bugs me when I have to take that extra step. I sign up to receive blog posts because I WANT to do the reading in my email, and it's an inconvenience (however slight) to click, open a browser, and pick up where I left off.

As a blogger, I understand the theory that your pageviews may very well go down if you make it too easy for people to stay away, (and stats can be very important when it comes to working with brands, plus advertising revenue is often based on how many times your blog is seen online) but I'd rather respect my readers' preferences and keep my content circulating.

It's easy to unsubscribe if a particular blog just isn't doing it for you anymore, or if you decide you'd prefer to read it directly on the web instead of in your email. On that note, I have a confession to make: when I first started using FeedBurner, I checked off the box "Send me an email whenever people unsubscribe". Why on earth did I do that? Those messages, though infrequent, would always bring me down. (Interestingly, there's no option to be notified when someone new signs up!) When putting together this blog post, I made a decision to uncheck that box...and it feels so freeing!

Subscribing through email can be a very convenient way to get new content from your favourite bloggers right in your inbox. Why don't you go ahead and sign up for This Mom Loves right now?

If anyone has questions, I'd be glad to answer them, and comments are welcome as always!

Friday, August 8

Girl's Bedroom: Facelift # 2

It's been a busy summer! You may have already seen our bathroom reno, or my older daughter's bedroom facelift. Today we're moving on to Maggie's room (she's the six-year-old).


This bedroom was the last room in our home to have the original paint colour (from 11 years ago). It started as a guest room, then became the nursery for Frannie, followed by Maggie, who has been in there ever since.

Here are a few "before shots":


Maggie selected her bedding from Target, and while at first she was drawn to the patterns with horses, etc. I convinced her to choose a pattern that would grow with her, as I don't plan to redo her room for several years.

She knew she wanted pink walls, so we grabbed several paint chips to bring home and look at with the bedding, and I gave her a few suitable choices, leaving the final selection to her.

We considered changing the girls' flooring (they still have carpet) but it wasn't in the budget so we gave it a good cleaning and will keep a change on the list for the future.

I had the bright idea to move her dresser into the closet, which I did before I thought to grab the camera for the "before" pics, but it's definitely helping with organization "after".

Here's what it looks like:

Quick idea - I used some adhesive shelf liner to dress up Maggie's play table (and cover up all of the marks from being so well used).



I had framed one of my Grandma's doilies (an idea I saw on Cityline) and it was in the bathroom prior to our latest reno. It didn't match anymore, so I painted the frame white, picked up a roll of wrapping paper at Dollarama to use as the background, and gave it an update to work with Maggie's new colour scheme. 



More AFTER shots:

Yes, I'll admit, I wanted to move the doll bed to make the room look cleaner for the photo, but I resisted!

Maggie has become a "beauty products" junkie (lip balm, moisturizer, hand sanitizer). These new bins keep things contained on her headboard.

I'm absolutely loving the dresser-in-closet move. 
Our next big task will be to go through the girls' wardrobes for fall!

And that, dear readers, should be the end of our home renovating/redecorating for 2014. Thanks for following along!

Tuesday, August 5

Lainey Lui: Behind the Scenes at THE SOCIAL

My take on celebrity gossip queen Lainey Lui evolved over the course of my day on the set of THE SOCIAL.

When we first met in the co-hosts' office, she stood up to greet me, and offered a polite handshake. I told her I enjoyed her book (Listen To the Squawking Chicken, about her Chinese mother) as well as her Smut Soiree event, she thanked me, then got back to business.

This didn't surprise me, as Lainey is known on the show as being very direct, matter-of-fact, and unsentimental. I wasn't expecting her to throw her arms around me and start braiding my hair.

I do think that I underestimated how much actual work and focus would be happening before the show. I had envisioned these four friends, chatting it up while getting their makeup applied, but it seemed like there was always something to be done: a producer talking to them or research happening on the computer, not leaving much time for idle chitchat. (Lainey herself has more jobs than I can count, co-hosting THE SOCIAL being just one of them.)

My little notebook was full of questions for each of the co-hosts (some of my own, and several submitted by readers), but as time flew by and 1:00 neared, I assumed that I wouldn't be getting any one-on-one time with the gossip maven.

However, after the show, Lainey made a point of coming over to the publicist who was helping me out for the day, who relayed that Lainey would like to make some time to speak with me later, if I didn't mind following her over to eTalk, where she was needed on set. Uh, no, I didn't mind.

Once we made our way over to her second desk, she could not have impressed me more. She sat right next to me and I felt like I had her entire laser-focus. She leaned in, looked right into my eyes, elaborated on her answers and gave me exactly what I needed for her profile.

Here's what we chatted about:

I loved the book. Any plans for another one?

Eventually. I spent all last year writing and promoting the book, and I feel like writing and words are like a well and I have depleted my well so I need to build it back up again.

Any themes in mind?

I have some ideas. It wouldn't be memoir-y, it probably would be fiction. We'll see. Or maybe I'll never write one, I don't know. I've got enough jobs!

You've spoken before about the importance of gossip is society. How do you feel intelligent women with rich lives can justify such an interest in what's happening with celebrities?

It's about balance. We can still do our cerebral reading and our jobs and also make time for entertainment. I think sometimes it's an unfair question because nobody asks a man when he's doing his job and has an important career why he takes time out to watch the football game. I feel like the more that question is asked the more I bump up against it because men don't have to justify why they watch sports, so why should we have to justify why we like knowing about Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie, especially when the conversations about Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie could lead us to a better understanding of ourselves. In my TEDTalk I talked about the sociology of gossip and what those conversations reflect back to us about our culture and our understanding of each other and I don't think people are having those understandings when they're watching a home run, but I do think that there is an exchange of information that can happen when you're talking about the breakdown of a celebrity marriage or the breakdown of a celebrity friendship.

I'm going to take advantage of this time with you right now to put you on the spot about my favourite celebrity. At Smut Soiree you talked a bit about her indirectly in terms of her marriage, but I'd love to know what she's really like as an individual: Jennifer Garner.

Professionally Jennifer Garner is really nice. When you're interviewing her, when she goes to a junket, she's there to give you what you need. She doesn't complain, she isn't rude. A lot of celebrities can make you feel that you're beneath them or wasting their time but she doesn't. In terms of how she is in life, this is somebody whose image is the soft earth mother, and it's true that she cares about her children, but she's a lot more calculating and ambitious than people credit her for. I don't think these are two bad adjectives, but I think many people who have this image of her as being the perfect mother would consider it a little duplicitous.

Let's move on to country music stars. Are there any country musicians you find gossip-worthy, or can you give us the scoop on anyone?

I haven't interviewed a lot of country music artists, but I have interviewed Tim McGraw, who is probably the biggest one. He was very accommodating, very on point, there's not a lot of warmth that comes from Tim McGraw from interviews which doesn't mean that he's mean, he's just not warm and fuzzy. He's not Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson!

I've been at a party with Taylor Swift, and essentially, no matter how you feel about her she is totally in control. She's about as successful as you can get, and I think that's worthy of discussion. And she hasn't fallen off the rails yet, and for a child star, quite rare. Some people would say "give her time", but I think the difference between Taylor Swift and a lot of other artists who start young is that she had to make her way by writing her way, whereas a lot of them were prepackaged with material made and tweaked for them whereas she actually knows the construction of a song, and I think that's going to carry her forward.

There's no better gossip in country music than Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, the way they got together, the rumours swirling about them now, those two are definitely watchable. I would like to have this conversation with you in five years and see what we say about those two because I think some shit's coming! Only by virtue of the fact that nothing lasts in this business. When they got together she was quite young, and there are so many obstacles thrown in the way of love when you're famous that it's rare for a relationship to last so I'm not saying anything is wrong right now, but because it's so rare for relationships to last, I wonder what's going to happen and what they're going to have to deal with.

With all of the different things you do - writing a book, working on two shows, maintaining a hugely successful blog - do you have any time-management tips to offer? How do you manage to be so productive when you've got the same 24 hours as everyone else?

I see it as the same 24 hours, so I know that this isn't the sexiest answer, but I think sleep is overrated. I think people can happily function on less sleep than is prescribed. From Sunday to Thursday I work on four to five hours' sleep. When it's Oscars season and I'm in LA for eTalk and we're shooting during Oscar weekend and on Oscar night I don't sleep. We do a red carpet show that ends local time 5:30, then we watch the Oscars, then I start working on my blog all night, then I do voiceovers for eTalk the next day and then about noon LA time I'm on a plane headed for home. I think that when you use all your hours you do more. 

People are like "Well, the doctors say you have to have eight hours' sleep," or "I can't function on less than seven," or "I'm a zombie," but I feel like that's a self-fulfilling prophesy so you believe it. When you wake up after having only four or five hours of sleep you think "I'm going to be useless today". But what if you woke up and said "I've gotten enough sleep, and I just gotta do what I gotta do"? I say this too because you do it when you get up and feed your baby - so I hear - and I say if you can keep a child alive during that time it's a pretty big responsibility, so if you're able to keep something alive after that little sleep, I'm pretty sure you can go to work and push a few buttons, take some calls. That was a long way of answering that I just don't sleep that much. And I'm okay with that.


When I asked for a photo at the end, Lainey made a point of finding out if we could use the eTalk set for a better background, and also took time to pose with a friend of mine - and huge LaineyGossip fan - who had been in the audience with me and joined us after the show.

Conclusion: Like Tim McGraw, Lainey Lui doesn't come across warm and fuzzy (and she has never claimed to - last week on the show she jokingly referred to her "black heart"), but I'm afraid I have to out her here and say that her kindness and consideration certainly showed in her actions. Plus, THE SOCIAL (and the world of celebrity gossip) wouldn't be nearly as interesting if she was all sweetness and light instead of the "CompLainey" we know and love.

Follow Lainey on Twitter, check out all her celebrity gossip (and she has GOOD stuff) at LaineyGossip, and of course catch her on eTalk and THE SOCIAL weekdays on CTV.

Saturday, August 2

My CHEX Daily Debut: Keep Kids Learning Over the Summer

Thursday night I made my debut as an education guest on the CHEX Daily Show!

I was super nervous, but once we got started it was great, and Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson were very easy to talk to. The time went so fast, and I was WAY overprepared in terms of content (a lesson for next time), but I was happy with how my outfit, hair and makeup looked on camera, which is much more important anyway. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

Here's the video, if you missed it (I come on a few seconds after the cougar. By which I mean the animal at the zoo.) NOTE: It's at the 36:00 minute mark if it's not cueing at the right spot (some readers are having technical difficulties).

(Video courtesy of CHEX Television - CHEX Daily)

A point I really wanted to make and of course forgot:

Modeling reading for your kids is so important too, and that might fit in very nicely with your summer plans. Just think: when you curl up with a good book or magazine and tell the kids that no one can bug mommy during her special reading time, that's actually GOOD parenting. Remember that.

Also: when incorporating real-life Math into activities with your kids, don't forget that they're learning everything in metric. We are so used to talking about measurements like heights and weights the "old fashioned" way (because of previous generations, but also due to American influence) but kids need to talk about how many metres and centimetres tall people are, and how many grams and kilograms things weigh. I have trouble with that myself! Even with temperature, I have caught myself telling the girls the outside temp in degrees Celsius, then five minutes later reporting the heat of the pool in Fahrenheit. No wonder kids get confused!

Main point of the segment: summer is for fun and relaxation, not "WORK", but there are a lot of natural, easy-to-incorporate activities for kids that will keep their brains sharp over the summer!

Let me know what you think, and if you have any ideas for future segments you'd like to see. I'll also be enlisting an email group of fellow teachers to give input on topics every couple of weeks (so I'm representing a range of educators). Please give me a shout if you'd like to be part of that! (katewinn77 at yahoo dot ca)

Thanks to everyone for all of your support for this venture through email, texts, Twitter, Facebook...I am so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life.

Friday, August 1

Family Fun at Medieval Times

I know you've heard about Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, where guests journey back in time, enjoying a four-course medieval feast (eaten only with the hands, of course) while taking in games of skill, falcon and Andalusian stallion performances and the main event: the jousting knights!

This week, we visited the Toronto Castle (the only Canadian location), and the girls both say it's the highlight of the summer so far.

Upon entry (after paying $11 for parking at a pay-and-display machine), guests are given a table card color-coded to indicate which Knight of the Realm you will be cheering for, which in our case was the Black and White Knight. Next, there's a photo op with one of the characters (Frannie and Maggie were thrilled that they got to meet the princess).

After that, we headed into the great hall, offering a bar, merchandise for display, and lots to look at. You can even take a peek through windows at the gorgeous stallions.

Once the "call to table" occurs, guests make their way into the arena and find their colour coded tables. Your "wench" greets you (yes, you're supposed to call her that), drink orders are taken, and the show begins, with portions of the meal being served intermittently. We feasted on tomato bisque soup, garlic toast, a huge portion of oven-roasted chicken, spare rib, herb-roasted potato and an apple pastry.

My girls loved watching the falcon and horses, but by the time the knights were showing off their skills, the kids were eager for the actual jousting to begin!

We cheered hard for our Black and White Knight, and both girls were thrilled to received a carnation from him during the show:

While our Knight did not ultimately win the competition, the girls were still absolutely thrilled with the experience, and I would highly recommend it as a family destination. It's not a cheap outing (regular price for adults is $66, kids are $43 with children under 3 free), but check out the Special Offers section of their website when making plans. The current deal has adults for $40 and children for $30 which is a huge discount, so be sure to look for bargains so you don't have to pay full price.

As a testament to how much action and adventure was involved in our afternoon, this was Maggie on the ride home:

P.S. I also recommend it as a class trip destination as well. I've gone twice, and both times it was fantastic. There are special group rates, and kids LOVE it.

Disclosure: We were provided with a free Medieval Times experience for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.