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Fast forward six weeks: life update!

Fast forward six weeks: life update!

hold.  the.  phone.  Has it really been over a month since I’ve last written?  I’ll admit I had to go back to the blog to see what my last entry was but it immediately felt like it was just last week that I was sitting on the back deck writing about our trip to the East coast.  In what feels like a blink of an eye, six weeks have gone by and we have been through so much change.

For starters, I cut my hair.  Like really, cut my hair.  Yikes!  A hair cut is always a shock but there’s something about a Mom bob that feels so good.  Who’s with me?

In more serious news…I’m back to work now!  I started back at my full-time job in recreation after the labour day weekend.  I was more ready than I realized to get up, get dressed and get out the door in the morning but we are all still adjusting to the transition.

Before getting back to a more ‘traditional’ routine, we were able to squeeze in a few more things into our unforgettable first summer as a family of four.

Just one week after getting home from Nova Scotia, we loaded up the truck once more with our camping gear for another 10-day tour – this time of Southern Ontario.

We joined my Dad and Step Mom for a visit in Welland, Ontario where my Dad grew up and my Aunt, Uncle and cousins live.  Clyde got to swim and ride bikes with his cousin – second cousin?  First cousin, once removed?  My cousin’s son…for anyone that understands how that works.  We drove into Niagara to see the falls and enjoyed some long overdue family time.

From there, we continued on with my Dad and Step Mom to join them in Toronto for a few days.  My Dad was staying in a hotel on business and made room for our family to tag along.  We lounged in the lobby for continental breakfasts, walked down the hall to the hotel pool and snuck back to the lobby once the kids were asleep for an ‘adults only’ Haagen Daaz.  We briefly left the comforts of hotel living to peruse the Yorkdale mall and to visit a friend from home and her two boys.  We made sure to enjoy our last sleep in the hotel knowing we were leaving the next morning for one more camping trip of the summer.

From Toronto, we carried on to Gateway Camping in Wasaga beach.  Super Dad’s sister and her family live just 20 minutes from Wasaga so the boys got to spend time with their cousins everyday.  I’m wishing this heat wave were in now had come through a month ago but we still made the best of our time by the beach.

We stopped in to see some more family in Whitby on the way home to Ottawa.  My Mom met us there and I stayed behind to join her at the Bruno Mars concert in Toronto!  We all made it back to Ottawa and this time with two of my older cousins in tow!

The last week of our summer flew by.  We unpacked, prepped meals, stained the deck, harvested the garden, shopped for fall clothes, planned Jude’s birthday party… oh yes, and bought a condo that required a full renovation…because, why not!  Honestly.

Super Dad is easily the handiest and most hard working person I know.  He, with the help of family and friends, built the house that we live in now.  Together, he and I are very interested in maintaining rental properties and stumbled on a great investment opportunity in a building we know and like!  Our hope was that it would close mid-August leaving us time to renovate before starting back to work but no such luck.  We closed on September 1st with an ambitious goal of renovating and renting by October 1st so needless to say, this month has been busy.

We are so incredibly fortunate to have grandparents nearby that are willing to help out in any capacity – whether it be childcare or building Ikea kitchen cabinets – and even family that will come from out of town with their work clothes to lay hard wood.  We are a tired family but so thrilled to be on track to meet our goal.  Before and after pictures of the condo to come!

Until then, I will leave you with these… some pictures from our sweet Jude’s first birthday party.  I’ve said it before and I will say it a thousand times over – it was the most wonderful year spent with this sweet boy.  He is gentle, funny, curious and so full of love.

Thank you for coming back to visit after six weeks of silence… I am slowly but surely getting my feet back under me and am thrilled to be back writing again.  See you all next week xo

O’Rourke’s go east: our trip to Nova Scotia and PEI!

O’Rourke’s go east: our trip to Nova Scotia and PEI!

My mom recently saved a clipping for me from the newspaper titled ‘The summer of adventure.’  While we always give her a hard time for cutting out an article and leaving it on the counter until the next time she sees me, this one hit the nail on the head.

We are only home a total of four weeks this summer with the rest of the sunny, warm (and rainy) days spent on the road.  Moving from guest rooms to hotels to campsites and spending days filled with friends, family and new parks suits our little quad of ‘movers’ and ‘doers’ perfectly.

This time last week I was writing from a friend’s house in Wolfville Nova Scotia on one of our last mornings spent on the east coast.  10 days prior, we journeyed out with close friends of ours on a two-week camping and road trip from Ottawa.  We had bins organized with ‘kitchen supplies’, ‘utilities’ and ‘campsite necessities’ and bags stuffed with clothes, bedding and beach attire.  It was all neatly jam packed in the back of our Tacoma like a jigsaw puzzle with the extras stuffed in the overhead Thule.

Our first stop was Henry’s house to hit the road in a convoy en route to Quebec City.  This is one of my favourite pictures of Henry and Clyde.

We had been planning and talking about and packing for this trip for some time now so the kids were all pretty excited to finally be climbing in to the trucks for take off.

We made it to Rigaud in time for lunch and found a great park just off the highway.  Well timed stops are crucial when travelling with small kids.  Our plan is always to get as far as we can and then start googling for park options at the next town when the kids are ready for a break.  (Tips: Search “outdoor park” or “community centre” or “play structure” or “recreation” all with reference to the town you’re coming up to and then Google Image to make sure it’s a good stop).

Our next stop was the Quebec City KOA where we pitched our tents for two nights of camping.  If you have never camped at a KOA before, it is lovely.  We had showers and bathrooms across the road from our side-by-side sites and a pool/park/jumping pillow was a short walk up a pathway.  We had beautiful weather and thoroughly enjoyed our first 48 hours of outdoor living.

We couldn’t miss the opportunity to walk the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec so one afternoon, we loaded up the gang and headed for the city.  We watched buskers, ate gelato, overlooked the water and toured the beautiful streets in search of a ‘family friendly’ restaurant (read: something relatively spacious and nothing upscale to accommodate five rambunctious boys…).  We got back to the trucks at nearly 10pm.  It took us a few minutes to escape the narrow parking garage but before long we were on our way back to the KOA with sleeping kids that transferred beautifully to their tents.  Success!

Side note: when we arrived, this talented man was serenading the streets with ‘Hey Jude.’  Naturally, we had to stop for a picture and make a contribution.

On Monday morning, we packed up all the gear and set out for Kouchibouguac National Park.  It was our longest day of driving with 7 hours of ground to cover.  The plan was to set up camp for one night, do some hikes in the morning then finish our journey to Prince Edward Island.

It all started well.  We were on the road by lunch and had changed around some car seats so the kids were content to play and sit next to new driving partners.  We stopped for ice cream and then at the New Brunswick sign for the adults to take a picture.  Eventually, the GPS led us off the main highway and towards a road with warning signs notifying drivers to fuel up before continuing 130kms until the next fuel station (read: sign of any civilization).  This is where things started to fall apart for this leg of our trip.  The road was windy and sections of it were full of pretty significant pot holes.  It poured rain for most of the drive and was getting darker by the minute.  We were grateful to make it out on the other side and headed to the local pizza shop for a late dinner.

We loaded the trucks again at 10pm with full bellies and kids now in jammies.  We picked up some last minute groceries for a cookless breakfast the next morning and set out to find Kouchibouguac Park.  It was only then that we noticed the confirmation e-mail didn’t provide an address.  Our GPS brought us in one direction and our friends GPS suggested another.  We tried both routes figuring at some point there would be signifiant signage for a National Park but no such luck.  It was now nearing 11pm and we had 4/5 sleeping kids in the car.  We quickly decided to forgo Kouchibouguac and start driving to PEI, calling hotels and motels along the way.  We made it about half an hour down the road before finding a hotel that would allow us to share a room and served continental breakfast – done and done!  By 1am, we had 5 kids arranged on the floor and each couple in a queen bed for whatever was left of the night.

Despite a short night sleep, we all woke excited to have Prince Edward Island in our sights.  We crossed the confederation bridge and thoroughly enjoyed looking out the window at the beautiful homes, the sprawling fields and the ocean views.  Our next campsite was Twin Shores Resort with sites that were just a short walk from one another. The ‘resort’ (I’m using quotations because it is still camping after all…) was beautiful and complete with three beaches, a park, a cafe and lots of space for the kids to play.

We spent our days swimming in the ocean, playing in the sand and exploring the red rocks.  One evening we walked along the oceanside boardwalk in Summerside and the next we sat around the campfire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.  We found time for a water balloon fight, ball hockey, bunnock and the park.  The days were so much fun and we were all ready for a full night sleep by the end of each day.

We stopped in Charlottetown for the afternoon before boarding the ferry to Nova Scotia.  We walked Victoria Row, perused the gift shops, ate lunch by the ocean and overlooked the boats with a Cows ice cream cone in hand.  It was a brief but enjoyable stop!

We made it in time for the 6pm ferry and arrived at our friends’ house in Wolfville, Nova Scotia at 10pm.  It just so happened that other friends from home (who actually live in Hong Kong) were also visiting so we arrived to a full house of familiar faces.  We were a group of 11 kids and 8 adults bustling around enjoying one another’s company and catching up on each other’s travels so far. Eventually, we brought in just enough bags to get us through the night and called it a day.

The next four days continued at the same pace as before but this time with the benefit of a local host!  We spent our first full day enjoying the sites of Wolfville.  We started our day at the market, walked a small part of the town, toured the garden and shop at ‘Just Us’ coffee roastery then drove to Evangeline Beach at low tide.

Walking the muddy, snail covered ocean floor was not at all what we expected but we made it out to the ocean and most of us enjoyed the experience…sorry Jude (lol)!

We were fortunate to be spending time with our long time friend and wonderful host on her birthday!  We joined them for their annual trip to Mahone Bay for treats and then to the beach.  The weather was perfect and the ocean waves were crashing into the shore.  The kids built sandcastles, flew kites and ran around in the surf.  The beach was gorgeous and on the other side of a small hill was a fresh water lake with no waves and warmer water.  It was the perfect retreat for a break from the cold, strong ocean!  We enjoyed a picnic and lots of sandy snacks before finally heading back for another late dinner and bed.

Unlike our day at the beach, the next day called for endless rain in the forecast. We decided to head for Halifax and check out the new Science Centre!  It was busy but the kids enjoyed themselves and it was a pretty great indoor activity.  Our friends were taking off for Fredericton the next morning so it was unanimous amongst the adults that the next indoor activity include a cold drink. We picked up some snacks from the Seaport Market and kicked back on the couches at the Garrison Brewery to toast a memorable and successful trip together!

We had one more full day planned for Nova Scotia and with the sun back in the forecast, we set out to hike Cape Split.  Our host and her two kids joined us and while it’s not a ‘kid friendly’ distance, we had three carriers and were able to rotate the kids through along the way.  The hike itself is not challenging. It’s a well maintained path through a forest with a slight incline. There is a  bathroom about 1/3 of the way along but otherwise there’s very little change amongst the scenery.  With four little ones, it took us 2.5 hours to make our way to the end but it sure was worth it!  The view was stunning.  We enjoyed some well earned snacks then held our kids close for pictures near the edges.  Before long, we were rested and fueled up for the return trip.  With only a few bumps and bruises from our adventurous little hiker, we made it back to the car and headed to Henniger’s for ice cream.

After a long day of hiking, it was home to pack and rest up for the journey home.  Our plan was to take the Digby ferry across to St. John’s where we would have lunch, do some sight seeing and then drive as far as we could towards home.  Then we missed the ferry.  Let me tell you – there are few things more heart breaking than sitting in your vehicle with two crying kids and watching your next method of transportation sail away.  The Digby ferry only runs twice a day so we had no choice but to make the best of one last day in Nova Scotia!

We had lobster and scallops for lunch then searched out a local beach about 30 minutes from town.  It was gorgeous and you really can’t be upset for long when you’re lying in warm sand listening to the ocean waves rolling in. We stopped at a fresh fruit/veggie stand and made it back in plenty of time to board the evening ferry.

We had dinner on the ferry and loaded the boys in the truck in their jammies.  We drove to the other side of Edmonton and booked a hotel on the way for a quick stop over.  We were on the road by 8am the next morning and made it home in time for dinner.  It always feels good to get home, sleep in your own bed, cook in your own kitchen etc. but looking back at pictures from our trip has me daydreaming about all of the things left to do on the East coast.

In just two sleeps we set out again on a ten-day tour of Southern Ontario.  Knowing this, we only half unpacked to begin with so it should make for a smooth turnaround.  We are squeezing in visits with friends and family while we’re home but mostly getting excited to be in the Niagara region for prime peach season!

The more the merrier – our favourite way to travel!

The more the merrier – our favourite way to travel!

Hello from Canada’s east coast!

In case you missed this post… 10 days ago, Super Dad and I loaded up every square inch of our truck, put the boys in their car seats and took off on a two week camping and road trip to Canada’s beautiful east coast with some of our closest friends.  We left Ottawa on a Saturday morning with stops in Quebec City and New Brunswick en route to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

For a pair of socialites, the phrase ‘the more the merrier’ couldn’t be more true.  Whether it is sharing a meal, getting some exercise or seeing the world, we are always recruiting our friends and family to come along with us.  As far as we’re concerned, there is so much to be gained by doing things in groups: more ideas, more laughs and more helping hands.

Specifically, we are big fans of group travel.  Together with grandparents and friends, we have been to Mexico, Prince Edward County, Hong Kong, Vancouver, New York City, Montebello, Hawaii and more.

While travelling with others, it’s easier to share a lot of the burdens that being away from home can create and in most cases makes it more accessible and more enjoyable for everyone.

Share accommodations.  Whenever possible, we book an entire home through Airbnb for group travel.  This allows us to share the cost of accommodations and leads to lots of other group travel wins like only renting one car or not wasting time calling from room to room in a hotel.  Not to mention, temporarily living together in a foreign city is way more fun!

Share costs.  At the beginning of a group trip, we almost always start a running tab to account for all shared expenses.  Things like groceries, beer runs and group rates for excursions can easily be picked up by one person and have the costs split accordingly at the end of the trip.

Share tasks.  Living away from home can mean lots of extra work – especially when you’re trying to be frugal and doing things like setting up tents and/or making your own meals.  Travelling with others means you’re not always responsible for washing dishes and getting groceries or blowing up air mattresses.  As the saying goes, ‘many hands make light work!’

Free childcare.  If you’re travelling as a family, this might be my favourite perk to travelling with others.  I’m not even talking about leaving your kids behind so you can go out for dinner – let’s not get too crazy – but having someone to play catch with your toddler while you set up the tent or hold your baby while you pack the beach bag is a huge help.  On this trip, we are fortunate to be travelling with another family that has kids around the same age as ours and they are having so much fun playing together.

 

One thing to keep in mind when travelling with others is to make time for yourself and for your family. In the early days of group travel, I would often get home and say to Adam that it didn’t even feel like we had been away together.  Over the years we have learned to simply check in with one another throughout the trip and whenever possible, set aside some time to experience some part of our time away just the two of us.

Today is our last full day in Nova Scotia and we are spending it doing a hike with our host and then going out for locally made Gelato.  Tomorrow we start our journey back to Ottawa and while I’m looking forward to eating from our garden, seeing the grandparents and sleeping in my own bed, I’m already feeling nostalgic about this amazing trip coming to an end.  Which makes me wonder…

Where to next and with who?  Do you have any trips coming up?!

Meet the [blogger]: The Yellow Canoe

Meet the [blogger]: The Yellow Canoe

I don’t know about you, but I always wanted to be the kind of parent who’s stories were often met with a, “that’s crazy”or a stunned silence. Before having children, my husband and I were both avid travellers, and active in our recreational time. He grew up practicing kickboxing, I played rugby. He did a biking tour of Europe solo and I rode on my University Equestrian team. We both loved camping and hiking and he would soon introduce me to his passion, canoeing. We had both spent time working in different parts of the world and we spent our honeymoon travelling around Central America for 35 days. We knew that when we had children we wanted to add them to our lifestyle not change it to make them fit. As teachers we have the luxury of regular breaks and a long summer vacation which we fill with as many experiences as is humanly possible.

I started blogging after having my second child. We regularly shared stories of our adventures with friends and colleagues and a few friends started encouraging me to write our stories and share them online. I have always dreamed of being a writer but felt extremely nervous to take the plunge and invite other people, friends and strangers, to read my work. Writing has alway felt deeply personal to me and I wasn’t sure how I would handle negative feedback or worse, no feedback at all. But when my daughter was born and our family travel and adventure plans continued to grow I made myself start writing. I have always wanted to raise brave, compassionate, independent children and I knew I would have to lead the way. With a year of maternity leave to look forward to I had the time and the ability I just needed the nerve.

I gave myself time every Monday morning to write. I worked on my novel and when I got stuck I blogged. I wanted to share our family’s adventures with other families like ours. I wanted to swap stories with people who were already exploring the world and the wild with their little ones and encourage other people who were eager to try some adventuring with their kids but weren’t sure how to start or whether there would be support for their decision. I also wanted something to hold me accountable to my kids, something external to push me to say yes to crazy two week roadtrips to Alaska, or flying the entire family to Asia, or back-country canoeing with infants. Everytime I write an entry I am reminded why we choose to make travel and outdoor adventure a top priority.

The Yellow Canoe focusses mostly on our family adventures, from outdoor pursuits, to international travel, to resorts to stay-cations and local treasures. I try to share advice on safety, enjoyability and travel parenting tips through the narrative of our journeys. I believe so strongly in the power of travel of all sorts to strengthen children’s ability to think critically, creatively and compassionately, to be able to recognize problems and care enough to find solutions, to expand vocabulary and unite families through shared experiences. I was excited when Kelly, at “Reckies Raising Kids” asked me to guest blog. I feel honestly thrilled that my small readership is expanding and I am able to share our stories and maybe inspire another family to get out there and have epic family adventures, safely and most of the time sanely.

Visit me at ‘The Yellow Canoe’ for stories of an everyday family doing their best to fill their lives and lives of thier children with wonder!

Summertime packing list

Summertime packing list

Leading up to our East coast camping trip in a few weeks, I’m sharing a summer packing list today for our family of four – two adults, one toddler (3) and one baby (10mo).  We are spending this week at our ‘home away from home’ in Bobcaygeon so I took the opportunity to document the packing process.  Included below is a check list of what we’ve packed for one week away and some notes on our must have’s.  We are travelling in a Toyota Matrix hatchback so I’ve also included a few things that I had initially set out to bring but that didn’t make the cut.

This is a year for celebrating in Bobcaygeon, Ontario.  Not only did our week at the cottage align with Kawartha Dairy’s 80th birthday party but this summer also marks our 25th year of spending one or more weeks at Pigeon Lake Resort.  Most of you know that ice cream is a daily indulgence for me so I was pretty excited for my family and I to be amongst fellow ice cream enthusiasts at the festivities.  We ate cones, got our faces painted and won dancing competitions all despite a sprinkling of rain.

Though it’s not technically ‘our’ cottage at Pigeon Lake Resort, it certainly feels like our home away from home.  It was a particularly special year for me knowing that I was Clyde’s age when I started coming here and that some of my favourite traditions go back for as long as I can remember.  Be on the lookout for a full update of our time here this week including what traditions I decided to start passing on.  If you can’t wait any longer, you can read about our time here on the Family Day long weekend this past February!

I know that none of us are ready to be talking snowsuits and boots so I’ll get back to warm weather packing while the sun is shining and the water is flowing!

Summertime packing list for one toddler (3) and one baby (10mo)…

Suitcase (one for each):
1 x shorts for every day
1 x t-shirt for every day
2 x long sleeve shirts
1 x hoodie
1 x sweat pants
1 x jeans
1 x pair of socks
1 x diaper for every night
1 x pajamas for every night

Shoes:
Crocs
Keens/Water shoes
Running shoes
Sandals

Beach bag:
2 x bathing suits per person
1 x towel per person
1 x goggles per person
1 x water shoes per person
1 x sun/water hat per person
Puddle jumper/Life jacket
Sunscreen
Bug spray

Bath & Bedtime:
1 x muslin sleep sac
1 x blankie per person
3-4 x books
Bath mat
Bath soap
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Medicine (Tylenol, After Bite, Benadryl, Band-Aids)
Pea pod

Mealtime:
Lobster chair
Ezpz mat
Yumbox
Wow cups

Outdoor gear:
Folding beach blanket
Playyard
Balance bike + helmet
Shovels & buckets
Favourite toys (balls, bubbles, mini sticks, activity table)

Carriers
Toddler scc
Baby ssc
Ring sling
Woven wrap(s)

Extras
Diapers
Wipes
Snacks (raisins, crackers, cashews)
Extra angel dear blankie for both
Note: if travelling with a baby that’s of Jolly Jumper age, this is a must-have for me when travelling

Travel bag (toddler)
iPad with shows downloaded from Netflix & Endless Alphabet
Headphones
Yumbox
Wow cup
Colour wonder
Magnets or stickers
Picture book

Travel bag (baby)
Yumbox
Wow cup
Diaper
Wipes
Extra outfit
Receiving blanket
Favourite toy
New toy
Fabric book that makes noise

Summertime packing must-have’s…

Crocs.  I was never a fan of crocs for myself and I honestly never thought they’d wind up on a ‘must-have’ list of mine but they are perfect in so many ways for a toddler at a campsite or cottage.  What I love most about them is that they are a close toed shoe that can be worn in and out of the water and that he can slip on and off himself.  They’re not ideal for climbing on the park because the soles can be slippery but the band across his heel at the back make it doable in a pinch.  I bought two pairs at Costco for around $20 each – one black and one blue so that I can coordinate with his outfit.

Sun/Water hat.  Our sun hats from Sunday Afternoons are a summertime staple – for me and the kids!  They are UPF 50, water repellant, adjustable for years of wearing and guaranteed for life.  They are lightweight, comfortable and protect their head, neck and shoulders from the sun.  My boys wear the adventure hat.  It costs around $50 and when ordered from their website arrives in 24-48 hours.  I wear the Bahama hat.  Having never normally worn a hat in the summer, I was surprised by how quickly this became a must-have for me.  It’s comfortable, stylish and it feels good knowing that I’m protecting my head, neck and face from the sun.

Puddle Jumper.  The puddle jumper is essentially a comfortable life jacket – not too bulky for wearing on the dock but plenty supportive for my 3yo to swim independently.

Yumbox.  I picked up a Yumbox second hand without knowing what kind of unicorn I had stumbled on.  First of all, it is the perfect travelling lunch/snack container and second of all, I haven’t seen another one second hand since!  They are pricey new (around $40ea) but after months of browsing for another one second hand, we asked for one for Clyde’s birthday and bought two others ourselves.  The Yumbox is a bento style lunch box that compartmentalizes food so you can pack yogurt and crackers next to one another without any concerns of leaking.  We have two 4-tray Yumboxes for Super Dad and I and two 6-tray Yumboxes for the boys.  For all the days that we spend at the park, splash pad, campsite, cottage or beach this summer, we have been grateful for an easy and yummy way to eat on the go.

Pea pod (or) Play yard.  I am a big fan of the Pea pod.  It was one of the first items on my registry when I was pregnant with Clyde and we have used it endlessly since his arrival.  I use it in the place of a pack ’n play and/or as a spot for a shady nap at the park or the beach.  This summer, I also picked up the Summer Infant Pop ’n Play with a canopy for shade.  Jude is at the age where all he wants to do is eat sand so having a place to put him down without direct supervision is a huge relief.  It also makes a great spot for he and Clyde to eat their lunches without worrying about them dropping it in the sand (this we learned the hard way).

Didn’t make the cut…

Stroller. I recently sized down in strollers from the Baby Jogger City Select to the Britax B-Agile. There are features that I miss about the City Select (maneuverability and storage to name a few) but the easy to fold, 17lb compact B-Agile has won me over considering how rarely I reach for a stroller.  We very rarely travel with a stroller and when packing beach tents and bikes, it’s the first thing to go. Enter: babywearing!

Pea pod for the beach.  We are big fans of the pea pod.  I have one baby size that I use instead of a pack n’ play when we travel.  I also picked up one toddler size for Clyde but he would prefer to sleep

Scooter.  Clyde just got a scooter for his birthday so we were excited to pack it for him!  In the end, we decided on his balance bike because it would be better on the gravel roads and dirt trails at the cottage.

Pillows.  I love my pillow and bring it with me everywhere.  I often try to pack pillows for everyone in my family but if we run out of room, I just bring their pillow cases and use what is provided for us.

I have pretty well got the hang of the ‘what’ to pack and am now working on perfecting the ‘how’ to pack.  This time I used a combination of duffle bags, small bins and collapsible laundry baskets.  We were able to fit all of the essentials and it’s handy having a laundry basket that I can dump into a washing machine when I get home but I’m still not sure it’s the perfect solution.

Please share any tips or favourite pieces of luggage when you travel!  We still have lots of road trips to pack for this summer and I hope to improve the process each time.

Nova Scotia, here we come!

Nova Scotia, here we come!

With the onset of every summer, camping is always on the list of things we would like to do more of in the coming year.  We live in Canada – a country filled with beautiful provincial parks and campgrounds that offer an inexpensive way to travel and ‘disconnect’ in a very family friendly environment.  Most years, we spend the month of June talking about how we can just ‘jump in the car’ after work on a Friday and zip up to a beautiful campsite for a weekend in the woods.  Then, as most summers go, labour day weekend is upon us and we have yet to pitch a tent.

Why is that??

Well, for starters, camping takes an inordinate amount of planning.  While it’s true that we could jump in the car and arrive at a beautiful, woodsy destination within the hour, it takes much more time and planning to assemble and pack all of the necessary gear for a temporary (and successful) ‘outdoor home away from home.’

Toss in the dynamic of one or more young kids and the thought of camping can seem like more work than it’s worth.

Let me assure you, it is worth it and this year we are finally living up to our mission to do more camping.

We will be spending the first half of August driving from Ottawa, Ontario to stay with friends in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  We are travelling with friends and have campsites booked along the way in Quebec City, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  Between us, there will be four adults and five boys ranging in age from 11 months to 8 years.

 

Our crews have camped together before including a stay at Pigeon Hollows in Bobcaygeon when the kid count was down to four boys – the youngest two having just celebrated their first birthdays.  Our Clyde is on the left.  He is now counting the sleeps to his third birthday and was our only baby at the time.  On the right is Clyde’s best buddy, Henry.  We celebrated Henry’s third birthday in May of this year and he is the youngest of three boys.  I don’t imagine we’ll be squeezing them into a swing for a picture this summer but it may be fun to try!

We are big fans of travelling with friends or family.  We can share accommodations, share costs, share supplies and share the load of planning.  If there are kids on the trip, travelling with friends is an added bonus of free entertainment making it more fun for everyone (most of the time).

Getting the planning underway for a two-week drive and camping trip is a daunting task.  Once both families committed to the trip, we considered that a win and spent a few weeks riding on the coat tails of just knowing we were going.  Finally, one Saturday evening we sent the kids to the basement, got out our laptops and made some real plans.

It took much less time than we anticipated for the trip to come together.  Once we established travel dates, it was just a matter of looking at the map and picking well rated camp sites along the way.  We are fortunate and so excited to be spending a few days with mutual friends in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  It will be a welcomed break to have access to a house and we will be eager for a tour guide to show us around.

With only a few weeks left until our departure, we are now working away at a spreadsheet that will include travel details, packing lists and a meal plan.

This past weekend, our families celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday together in the woods.  We savoured the access to a cabin and running water but set up the tents and air mattresses to make sure everything was in order…and apparently to start laying out some ground rules about no shoes or food in the tent…and no jumping on the mattress…and no pushing on the tent walls…and no wrestling in the tent…and stop tripping on the door…

Why are we doing this again?  Oh yes… for these sweet memories:

Please feel free to send along camping tips, car activities, destination suggestions, or just words of encouragement.  We may need to look back on those at certain points of the trip.

Nova Scotia, here we come!

 

Family day at Pigeon Lake Resort!

Family day at Pigeon Lake Resort!

img_1008-2The year that Family Day was introduced in Ontario (2008), I was spending it with this family.  Three months travelling New Zealand and Fiji with a backpack, a friend from high school (+ her friends) and this great van as our home.  I remember talking to my parents on the phone and them telling me they had the day off because of this new holiday called Family Day.

Nine years later (2017) and I am spending Family img_1066Day at one of my favourite places in the world with my most favourite people – my husband and my two beautiful boys at Pigeon Lake Resort in Bobcaygeon, Ontario.  Things look a little different today than they did nearly a decade ago and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Joining us for the weekend was another one of my favourite people – my Mom (Nana Q)!  More about how much we love having extra hands around here.

Pigeon Lake Resort is a beautiful spot in the Kawartha’s with housekeeping cottages available for daily and weekly rentals three seasons of the year.  My parents first rented a water front cottage at the resort in 1992 and with the exception of one summer, we have spent one or two weeks there every July.  Throughout the years, our annual summer vacation included some of our closest friends and visits from family and friends that lived nearby.  Here I am heading off to Brownie camp from the cottage with my childhood bestie circa 1997.

In 1999, we celebrated the Y2K New Year by winter cottaging with three other families.  I have such fond memories of that week at the cottage including skating on the lake, bonfires and endless snowmen.  When the opportunity came up to go for family day weekend, I couldn’t wait to start building new winter cottage memories at Pigeon Lake with my family – almost twenty years later…say whaaattt!

As luck would have it, the weather could not have been more perfect and we spent all day, everyday outside.  Saturday morning included a trip into town for fish and chips at Just for the Halibut and ice cream from the Kawartha Dairy – did I mention the great weather?  Then it was back to the cottage for an afternoon full of park play, tobogganing and giant snowballs.

Sunday started with one of our favourite weekend traditions  – going into town for breakfast – and continued with mini sticks and a bonfire on the lake. Is there anything better than a warm roasted marshmallow to make you reminisce about summer?  Well, apparently for a toddler there is… “I no like it” he said while sitting contently eating the plain ones from the bag.  I have a funny feeling that the wait time in between marshmallows may have had something to do with his decision.

At the end of both days, we all cozied up in the cottage for a nap to recharge for dinner.  The first night we joined close family friends – the resort owners – for dinner at their home.  The second night we were able to return the hostessing favour by having them over for cards after the boys were in bed.

I was a little bit nervous about a winter trip with an infant and a toddler considering the two weekends prior to leaving we attempted skiing in Montebello and Winterlude which both landed us in meltdown City.  Once again, spending time at Pigeon Lake Resort was exactly what we needed and our whole family felt recharged as we got home Monday afternoon.  Another memorable Family Day weekend for the books!

This is actually the first time that Pigeon Lake Resort has closed up shop for the winter but they will be reopening in May and we are already counting the sleeps to our return in July.  Stay tuned for pictures and details of this amazing place at its peak in the summer.

Pigeon Lake Resort Summer 2016

Our European honeymoon

Our European honeymoon

IMG_0240.jpgFor some, the perfect honeymoon is two lounge chairs on a beach with bottomless margaritas.  For others, it’s a cozy cottage over a long weekend with books and bonfires.  For a couple of newlywed reckies, it was two backpacks, a plane ticket and 3 weeks to explore as much of Europe as we could experience.

Planning and packing for this style trip while also planning a DIY wedding in your own backyard is quite a feat, let me tell you.  Our flights were booked for the Monday following our Saturday night wedding so we organized all of the essentials ahead of time and figured we would let the rest fall into place as we went along.

We flew into London, England and spent the first few days at a bed and breakfast that we booked through AirBNB.  We figured that staying with a local couple would be helpful to get ourselves oriented but as it happened, we spent the first 24 hours sleeping to catch up from all that was a DIY backyard wedding and to acclimatize to the time change.  When we finally felt rested enough to leave the house, we didn’t want to waste any more time inside and let wanderlust lead the way.  It was perfect.  We had cider at a local pub alongside chicken pot pie and fish ’n chips – both served with green peas, of course.  We mastered the subway system, rented bicycles and walked the streets to see all the sights – Hyde Park, Trafalgar square, Buckingham palace, Big Ben, Westminster Bridge and so much more.

IMG_0631.jpgNext on our itinerary was Paris, France but our method of transportation was not booked ahead of time.  We were banking on booking cheap last minute train tickets but it turns out the farther out you book, the cheaper they are so we were looking at some high priced seats.  We settled on an 8-hour bus trip across the Chunnel and into Paris.  Not ideal to give up a full day driving but it was cost effective and we used the time to organize our pictures and rest up for more full days ahead.

IMG_0801.jpgWe made it safely to Paris and walked to the nearest Starbucks for free wi-fi so that we could get our bearings and find the public transportation.  Before leaving London, we had used AirBNB again to book our accommodations.  The bus system in Paris was fairly user friendly and before long we were in the neighbourhood and searching the streets for our newest home away from home.  What we love most about travelling with AirBNB is gaining an authentic experience of living somewhere new.  While in Paris, our one-room accommodations boasted a toilet in a closet!  How’s that for space well used?

We settled in quickly and set off to indulge in some of the best wine and cheese.  It turns out we were two doors down from an adorable winery and finished our evening by describing what type of wine we liked and having bottles brought to our table for us to try.  Paris was making a great first impression and the next few days did not disappoint.  We toured the Louvre, saw the Notre Dame Cathedral, shopped on Champs D’Elysees, stood at the Arc de Triomphe and of course,  marvelled at the Eiffel tower.  Before long we were saying farewell to the beautiful Paris and travelled south to Bordeaux, France.

We hadn’t planned to stay in France after Paris but we so enjoyed ourselves that we decided to travel south for the wine and beaches of Bordeaux – a place that came highly recommended by a close friend.  This is another reason we love to travel with AirBNB is that you can book accommodations as you go and leave lots of opportunity for changed plans.

Filled with cobblestone streets, patios and live outdoor entertainment, this magical city ended up being the highlight of our honeymoon.  Bordeaux has a very well established bike rental system that we used to get around.  There are docking stations throughout the city so you rent a bike from one place and park it at the nearest docking station to your destination.  It was very inexpensive and a nice change of pace from all the walking.

We decided on two excursions while in Bordeaux; the first,  touring wineries. We very rarely pay for organized tours when we travel – in part because we would rather spend our money on food and drinks but also because they are often boring and leave you tied to someone else’s schedule.  It was nice to tour and sample surrounding wineries but we both agreed this would be our one and only guided tour.  The second excursion was to Europe’s largest sand dunes.  We were a little unsure about this because it would take up a full day and involved two hours each way of public transit but it was well worth the trip!  Next stop: Rome, Italy!

This time we flew to our next destination booking cheap tickets with Ryan Air.  It was a nice change from bus ride after bus ride.  We ran into a minor hiccup because the airline required printed tickets but fortunately we noticed that before leaving for the airport and the friendly people at the Apple store saved the day!

Also new for this leg of the trip was staying in a hotel instead of booking with AirBNB. I don’t entirely remember why we made the change but I do remember that the hotel was the same cost and included breakfast so that’s likely what drew us in.

Our time in Rome was spent eating.  Occasionally we would take our food to go so that we could see some sites while we ate but otherwise we could be found searching out authentic gelato, hand made pasta or hand made pizza.  If there’s ever a place to watch your waist line, Rome is not it.  The food was incredible and just looking at the pictures makes me want to hop on a plane and go back.

In an attempt to not roll out of Italy like a pair of blimps, we saw all the sites on foot and walked upwards of 15-20km/day.  With the exception of the Vatican, we were able to see everything for free and stumbled on some great markets along the way!  If you ever get the chance to go and are debating whether or not to pay and wait to see the Vatican – do it!  Being in the Sistine Chapel is breathtaking.

One more “mini-flight” to our final destination, Barcelona Spain!  I’m not sure if it’s because this was our last stop or because Barcelona really isn’t my jam but this was my least favourite of everywhere we went.  It didn’t have quite the same magic as all of the other cities that we visited.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves!  We spent much of our time in Barcelona on the beach relaxing before heading for home.  We attempted to tour one fancy church but were denied because my shorts didn’t cover my knees.  We took it as a sign that we should probably make our way back to the beach.

One thing that made Barcelona extra special was meeting up with friends from back home!  They were touring Portugal and Spain so we arranged to meet in Barcelona and share a place for a few nights.  Together, we saw a Flamenco dance show, drank some pretty terrible sangria and helped to spot a pick pocketer on the beach!  It was nice to spend our last few days with familiar faces and we felt very ready to head home.

That’s a wrap on our European honeymoon circa 2013.  It was on this trip that we reached out to a friend living in Hong Kong to quench the never ending thirst for travel.  Stay tuned for details of our trip to Hong Kong and tips for international travel at 20 weeks pregnant!

Hello from Montebello

Hello from Montebello

Remember a few posts back when I confessed that I invited myself and Clyde to Mexico? … I did it again.  Except this time it was for an overnight at the Fairmont Chateau Montebello with my whole family.  Thanks Mom!

If you are in the mood for a weekend getaway in the winter, the Fairmont Chateau Montebello is the perfect destination.  This was my second time staying for an overnight and I still don’t feel like I have scratched the surface of all that this beautiful place has to offer.
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First up is the stunning lobby with a five-sided wood burning fireplace and the most gorgeous collection of mis-matched couches and chairs.  Curled up on one of these couches or chairs makes you feel like you are in the most beautiful cozy cottage.  My mom treated me to a coffee with baileys while I worked on a post last weekend and it felt very decadent – although the real treat was watching her and Clyde in deep discussion by the fire.  So cute!

Mom was at the hotel to attend a wedding that evening which Jude and I were fortunate to attend as her dates so we spent the afternoon relaxing, checking out the hotel and getting ready.  Meanwhile, Adam took Clyde outside for some fun in the snow.  They played at the park and looked for snowmobiles before coming in with rosy cheeks.  While Mom and I took off in our fancy clothes, Adam and Clyde walked the halls in their Fairmont robes looking very dapper.  Clyde was clearly loving the “hotel life!”

Of all the things that I love about Adam, I am especially grateful that he is a “hands IMG_9877.jpg
on” Dad.  He thoroughly enjoys his one-on-one time with the boys and doesn’t hesitate to be outnumbered if I’m not around.  The plan was for Jude to stay with Mom and I throughout the ceremony and dinner but I was in denial about him not being a sleepy, portable newborn when I made that plan and by 7pm he was ready for bed.  Also part of the original plan was for just Jude and I to spend the night at the hotel with Mom so I was especially glad to have Adam there as I was handing him off after the ceremony.  Once again, it felt very decadent to enjoy a four-course meal at the Fairmont sans kids and some alone time with my Mom!

Our plan for the next day was to ski and swim before hitting the road in the late afternoon.  Unfortunately, sleeping three adults + two kids in one room is not a recipe for restful sleep with my family as Adam and the boys are all extremely light sleepers. We spent most of the night up with one kid or the other.

Nevertheless, we started out with the breakfast buffet and then made the trek to the parking lot to set up for skiing.  The plan was for Jude to sleep in a wrap and for Clyde to nod off in the Thule and then everyone would be ready to go for a swim when we got back to the hotel.  Reality had other plans and we barely made it five minutes down the trail before having to whisk Clyde (and his tears) out of the Thule and haul the boys back to the car.  Mom and I raced up to the hotel room to feed Jude and pack while Adam loaded the car and tried to keep Clyde from legitimately losing his mind due to an overtired meltdown.

I was pretty disappointed on the drive home that the day hadn’t gone as planned.  I probably should have adjusted my expectations after a terrible night’s sleep but I just kept thinking “they’ll be fine once we get going!”  Sometimes having to change my plans because my kids aren’t having a good time is a challenge for me.  Anyone else in that boat?  By the time we got home, Clyde had a full-blown fever and spent the afternoon resting on the couch…as if I didn’t already feel badly about pushing him to go skiing.

All in all we had such a nice time and are so grateful to have had the opportunity to sneak in a weekend at the Fairmont.  Adam and I spent the evening talking about what a perfect day trip this would be and will be marking a date on the calendar as soon as Jude decides a bottle will suffice…until next time, Montebello!

Mexico, take me (and baby) back!

Mexico, take me (and baby) back!

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Passport – check!

Two years ago, I set out on my first solo flight and trip with Clyde en route to a week in sunny Mexico with family.  As it happens, said family is leaving today for a repeat vacation and I’m only slightly considering booking a last minute ticket (read: desperate to go).  Sadly, hubby and I committed to a strict budget for 2017 and a beach vaca didn’t make the cut.  If you are skipping out on the tail end of winter with a trip somewhere hot, please enjoy this read and in exchange, soak up some sun for me!

First thing’s first: I invited myself.  It’s the truth.  I’m sure my family was genuinely pleased to have Clyde and I join them but I didn’t hesitate to ask when I caught wind of the trip.  Travelling with others means extra hands to help, shared costs and a chance for you (and spouse) to sneak in some alone time.

I packed strategically using one backpack (similar to this) so that I could carry my own bag and have Clyde in a carrier on my front.  I also brought one mid-size bag as a carry-on that would be my purse and diaper bag.   I knew that I would have the help of the grandparents as I needed it but having invited myself, I felt a strong need to be ready to travel independently.  Sort of a “bring me along, you won’t even know I’m there” kind of mentality.  Though I did pack light, there are some travel essentials that I never leave home without – the KidCo Pea Pod (baby/toddler), the Phil & Ted Lobster Chair, a door frame Jolly Jumper and a carrier – this time an Ergo Original.  Details on these products and why we love them coming soon!  In the meantime, please know that none of these products are sponsored or have affiliate links – they’re truly the ones we love.

Some things to consider when booking accommodations:

  • Request a crib so you can leave the pack and play at home.  Consider packing your own fitted sheet.
  • Look for a place with a kitchen so that you can meal prep and buy your own drinks.  The convenience of an all-inclusive is handy but includes endless cocktails that you likely won’t get your moneys worth for when  travelling with wee ones.
  • Being at ground level is handy when you’re trekking tiny people and all of their gear to and from the beach.

Additional FAQ’s about travelling (somewhere hot) with babies:

  • Passport:  Most places are set-up to take infant pictures (Walmart, Costco etc.).  You will require the long form birth certificate with your application.
  • Bathing suit: I always stock up on Costco’s 3-piece set when it comes out in January.  Great quality (UV Skinz) and amazing price (~$25).  That said, my preference for a full day in the sun is a one piece because the top rides up exposing back/belly.
  • Swim diaper: Hands down, I love the Apple Cheeks swim diaper.  It fits forever, is great quality, dries quickly and washes out easily.  Bonus!  We shop at Terra 20 with the Clean Start Program for discounts during their birthday month.  Side note: it used to be that you got $20 store credit on their birthday which I’m just learning has changed now as I’m linking.  Not ideal but a discount to a great store is still worth sharing.
  • Sunscreen:  While it’s true that tiny babies should avoid sunscreens, being in the shade is not always an option and I would also like to avoid a sunburn.  If we’re going to be in the sun, I choose Arbonne’s Baby Care Sunscreen.
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    Mid-flight nap!

    Flying with baby:  Relax!  We flew with Clyde many times in his first year and it never phased him in the slightest.  Try to book a front row for quick exit and extra leg room.  Having a carrier is helpful if you need to pace the aisles.  Pack sleep time favourites in your carry-on so baby can nap as usual.  It’s also a good idea to pick up one or two new toys so you have something fresh and exciting if baby is getting restless.

  • The great stroller debate:  This one is totally personal preference – although I can personally compile a lengthy list about why we don’t travel with a stroller.  In a nutshell, we travel without a stroller for simplicity.  We pack lean and mean and take turns wearing baby in the carrier.  Reach out if you’re undecided and would like my full list of pros and cons.

We have enjoyed many trips with Clyde including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and New York City.  More details to come on those trips but please don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to swap ideas about travelling with babies, ask questions or get some reassurances about an upcoming trip.

I will leave you with a picture from this time two years ago when I was sun kissed because I’m pretty sure in certain lights these days I’m basically translucent.  Mexico, bring me back!

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