a story behind each banner image

i’ve added more images to my rotating header (what i especially like about this wordpress theme – aside from just a clean look). i have now 12 images that randomly rotate and appear at the top of my blog each time the page is refreshed.

each of them have a story of their own:

[edited – update] frozen - this is the newest one. i took it just this morning (december 22nd, 2013) after a freezing rain storm which has swepted across our city for the past couple of days. it finally will end sometime later today but the ice will probably remain for a bit. branches were so heavy from the ice, one of our trees in the backyard split in half and our patio is now completely blocked off from one of of that tree.

cropped-frozen-wp-1000x288.jpgRue D’ Baga – snapped from our Port Orlean resort streets while we stayed in Disneyworld earlier this year. the street name was called, “Rue D’Baga” which was where our room was on.

rue-d-baga.jpgrain on windshield – taken during our little day trip to niagara falls on our 8th wedding anniversary. yes, it was a rainy day but actually, it made for a nice, quiet day since not many people were traveling through the niagara wine route.

rain.jpggreen leaves – taken on one of our many visits to highpark.

green-leaves.jpgsea shells – this was from our last full day while visiting ada and hoa in vancouver (while they were still living there). the sea shells were dangling from the deck just outside this little place called Go Fish. best fish taco’s ever!

sea-shells.jpgnorthern california – these next two goes back to 2007 where doug and i did an anniversary trip to san francisco, monterey bay and carmel. the trip also doubled as an excuse to visit friends who just had a baby girl. the below photo is part of the 17 mile drive, followed by another taken along highway 1’s coast.

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cropped-copy-main-banner-3.jpgthe roundhouse – another photo from our vancouver 2012 trip. we snapped this photo while just doug, chaeli and i were exploring randomly on our own through areas of downtown vancouver – gastown, water front and where this photo was taken, yaletown.

cropped-yaletown-wp1000x288.jpgneys park – our first time using our little old trailer! we took a road trip to thunder bay in 2011, tugging doug’s late grandfather’s trailer back, while stopping at neys provincial park to camp out for one night. it was a beautiful park but way too cold to enjoy once the sun set. i was glad it was only just for a night before we drove to a nice, warm motel in the souix.

cropped-lakesuperior-wp1000x288.jpgkillbear park – the next two photos were taken during our summer camping trip of 2010 in killbear provincial park. hobbes was only 3 1/2 months old and had only been with us for three weeks. and what happens? he encounters a black bear!

cropped-killbear-wp1000x288.jpgcropped-killbear2-wp1000x288.jpgpeacocks – this particular image of three proud, male peacocks, was taken when we went to the zoo with tai, B and their kids, m & e. it was their first trip to the zoo as a family. all the kids look so different now. i am favouring this one at the moment because of the beautiful, intense blue.

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camping at bronte creek

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we spent this past cold weekend (the days were nice but our first night felt like it was just hovering above the 0 degrees mark – 2nd night was better but still chilly) camping at bronte creek provincial park.

thankfully, all sites were electrical, allowing us to use our little space heater in our trailer. we have one that has a safety feature – it automatically turns off if it gets tipped over. it actually had to be turned down to the low side – our trailer is so small, it doesn’t take much to heat it up! i ended up sleeping in just a t-shirt and underwear.

first of all, some photos of our weekend:

bronte creek campground dog park

leash-free dog park (campground side)

the leash-free dog park on the campground part of the park was actually a large area with trails that led us through a field, into a forest and a side trail leading down to the creek. a couple of loops around gives both dogs and humans a nice hike. it was very scenic.

bronte creek - kid's farm and petting zoo

sleeping piglets!

bronte creek - kid's farm and petting zoo

little goat resting – loved the backdrop of the wooden framed doorway and textured wall.

bronte creek - kid's farm and petting zoo

chaeli’s new friend

the day-use area is a separate entrance to the park. there’s no way to go from campground to the day-use area except by driving outside of the provincial park and entering through another entrance (campground vehicle permit will let you get in the day-use area but not the other way around; i suppose this does give us campers more privacy). there’s also no way to cross over from one to another by foot or bike as the two areas are divided by the creek with no bridge. we were a little baffled by this set-up – it’s a little bit of a pain to get from one to another but the beauty of the park does make up for this small inconvenience.

anyway, we visited just the barn with the petting zoo – chaeli got a chance to pet and feed different animals, including a lone cow hovering by the fence just waiting for visitors to fetch the fruits dropped by a nearby pear tree as a cow-treat. poor chaeli’s hands are so small that no matter how flat she made her palm, the cow engulfed pretty much her entire hand, leaving a trail of slimy saliva all over! it happened to me too when it was my turn to feed the cow. they don’t have any top teeth so the experience isn’t painful – just a little gross.

bruce trail - river side and ruins side trail

ruins along the bruce trail

bruce trail - river and ruin side trail

posing with uncle hoa (who we believe has 0% body fat)

sunday, after eating breakfast and packing up, we met ada and hoa at a nearby restaurant for lunch.

afterwards, they took us to the bruce trail’s river and ruins side trail for a 4.5 km hike which we completed in about 1 hr and 20 min. we’ve done one hike along another side trail of the bruce trail in the hamilton area which wasn’t too far from this trail – called the ray lowes side trail. i knew before the start of this hike, it would be a good one. not just because ada and hoa usually know how to pick the good ones, but because the trails around the burlington and hamilton areas are all just so gorgeous!

it definitely did not disappoint – the scenery and vegetation gradually changed as we made our way through the loop. it was still incredibly lush in some areas, especially parts of the trail that left the woods and was only small enough for a single file of hikers. i brushed through a lot of vines and floral-type, long stems and for awhile, felt like i was in some type of tropical rain forest.

the difficulty of the trail wasn’t too bad. i wouldn’t recommend it for those who are not in shape and/or beginner hikers as there are some inclines and declines with areas that can become quite slippery, especially if there’s been some recent precipitation. but it’s not too hard, either, as the tough spots are like short bursts followed by a steady plain for a longer stretch. the toughest part is really just the first decent down – which is always more tiring to climb back up at the end.

> view rest of our photos from our bronte creek weekend camping trip.

now about the park itself – it was kept really clean (well, it is in oakville) and definitely classified as a city park where people have the option of trying out camping without going too far from their homes. it’s perfect for this type of fall camping where we only go from friday night to sunday morning. the days are much shorter so we don’t have the luxury of arriving too late to set everything up. rather, it’s close enough for us to make it just as the sun starts to set, allowing us just enough time to stabilize and level off our 2-wheel trailer. barely enough time, though. just barely.

there are also grocery stores and restaurants all around the park within 5-10 minutes of an easy drive. we actually took advantage of this saturday morning where we were suppose to have cereal and fruit. but camping in the cold made us famished! i suppose all the extra energy went into our bodies trying to just generate heat to keep warm. luckily, our park map/magazine had a $5 coupon for coras. so… away we went.

i suppose the downside of this, as with all city parks, you risk getting the type of city people who don’t really understand park etiquette. i passed by one group that were throwing their water melon peels into the bushes surrounding their campsite. not only is this an act of littering (which one can be fined for) but it’s also leaving out edible trash for critters/wildlife (which one can also be fines for). luckily, we were not in bear country but still… it’s more pleasant to camp without the nuisance of racoons and skunks rummaging through the campground area.

but as oakville is a nice, family-style community, we were not bombarded with young (or older) city folks wanting to just come and find a place to party and drink excessively. most of our neighbours were families with young kids. so all in all, it was a successful camping trip. we would definitely use bronte creek again if we were looking for a close and quick get-away.

another year of ‘boo at the zoo’

it’s not the same as it use to be, really, but still, when i woke up this morning, i could tell it was going to be a sunny day. and while doug is at work, i do my best to make the day productive.

mind you, i brought work home from the office and i haven’t even touched it. a part of me wondered if i should just skip the halloween festivities at the zoo this year but then another part of me said, screw it! why should my kid suffer because of the crap from work? plus, a quick look at the upcoming weeks is proving to be quite grey and wet. it’s not a for sure thing that this rain will still stick around come halloween but just in case, at least we get to do something with chaeli on a nice day.

there was one very cool exhibit. they had this creepy crawly cave display where they pulled out the best of the best of creepy-crawlies. many of these species are from behind the scenes and only pulled out during special exhibits.

the artic animals were very active today and chaeli insisted on visiting her favourite animal – the polar bear cub. here are photos she took from today:

indian rhino

the rhino came right up to us

polar bear

eating his kibble

arctic owl

finally – the owl came out to greet us!

sunday ‘ooz’, library and retro-judy blume books

ooz.

this is what doug started to say for ‘zoo’ when chaeli was young. it was a way to say, “hey, think we should go to the zoo this weekend?” while around her so that she didn’t pick up on the word ‘zoo’ and get her hopes up in case we weren’t able to go.

of course, in the past couple of years, she knows that ‘ooz’ is just ‘zoo’ pronounced backwards. and now calling it ‘ooz’ has just become our thing.

while doug worked his sunday shift, that’s exactly where chaeli and i found ourselves yesterday morning. she came up just after 8:30am to wake me up. the zoo opens now at 9:30am (shorter hours past the summer season) so it was just enough time for us to get ready and head over for breakfast.

chaeli brought her digital camera and spent the hour and a half taking as many photos as possible, spending most of her time taking shots of the polar bear cub. he’s grown a bit but still so small compared to the three adults. and very cute with a whimsical, playful temperament.

of course, of the 100 or so photos, most of them came out too dark or blurry but i told her not to worry. we can weed them out later. so she took a few shots of certain animals or scenes to be on the safe side. in the end, about a third were actually quite good. so i opened up a flickr account for her and uploaded the photos to share with family.

here are some of the highlights:

polar bear

cub swimming

polar bear cub

cub was enjoying deep dives

peacocks

a mid-morning snack – picking at the flowers

anemone and starfish

one starfish and one sea anemone-mone-mone…

prairie dogs

hobbes would object to the word ‘dog’ in their names

rabbits

the bunnies were all still sleeping when we visited them

goat

just chillin’ out on the rocks

we came home for a couple of hours before heading out to a library in our area – one of the many main ones in the city that happened to be open on sunday’s.

for chaeli’s grade 3 leading log, she went through four chapter books in two weeks. we do have a lot of books at home but with the rate she’s going, they won’t last her the school year. nor do we have that much space to continue purchasing books (and we don’t want to get carried away with how much we spend either). i will continue to buy some books from scholastics but going to the library is a great way to balance things out.

the usual library we usually go to does not open on sunday – this gave us an opportunity to try a different location. i’m glad we did. the entire first floor is dedicated to children and young readers with one section dedicated to early readers. it pretty much carried all chapter books and contained the perfect selection for grade 3 and 4 level reading.

chaeli chose three books which i think should last her for the next two weeks. she was quite excited – especially as she got to use her own library card and check out the books at the self-checkout area.

the rest of the day was spent with her reading and playing while i uploaded her zoo photos (and camping photos). as well, i read two chapters of tales of a fourth grade nothing (my own copy from when i was 9 – and i still have superfudge, too) before dinner plus another chapter of it before bed. we were also able to get in one UNO game done before bedtime.

it was a great mother-daughter day!

vancouver 2012 – day 4

epicurean cafe vancouver

if we had more time, i would have gone back for more…

We started our fourth day off with a very hearty, home-style brunch at the Epicurean Cafe Bistro. Both Doug and I ordered their Earthy Breakfast:

Eggs poached in a simmering Amatriciana sauce, topped with grilled Turkey or Pork Italian Sausage, accompanied with spicy or mild Eggplants and roasted Potatoes. Toasted bread, butter and jam.

The sauce was a lovey italian sauce and it added just the right flavour to our poached eggs – which were perfectly done. We ended up returning here the next day for a mid-morning americano and their Sicilian Cannolo – once rated the best cannoli in Vancouver.

Ada generously prepared transit tickets for us. After our satisfying breakfast, we hopped on the bus and headed downtown.

downtown vancouver

view of the cityline from the waterfront, convention area

vancouver waterfront

chaeli jumping for an action shot

vancouver winter games flame

more impressive in person – even without the flames

Our first stop was the waterfront by the convention centre, mainly to see the olympic cauldron but it also gave us an opportunity to walk along the waterfront.

gastown vancouver

stopped by to see the statue of ‘gassy’ jack

black frog pub

chose this stop soley based on the name – that’s my beer

Ada gave me a mini-Lonely Planet book about Vancouver – during brunch and our bus ride, I quickly glanced through it to see what other areas we might like. With her suggestion as well, we decided to roam the streets of Gastown. With the brick streets and unique archictecture, it was definitely a very interesting area, indeed. While it is a part of their busy downtown area (we were visiting during a work day, as well), I felt as if we were secluded from the rest of the city. Plus, it gave us an excuse to stop at The Black Frog for a snack and more local, draft beer.

eat st japadog

anthony bourdain stopped by here!

Japadog Terimayo

their signature dog!

It was just after lunch when leaving Gastown – we set off to the absolute main reason of our downtown excursion – JAPADOG! Featured on Food Netword’s Eat St., this was just one of those things we had to try. While the Terimayo dog did not disappoint, I actually fell in love with their Butter and Shoyu fries! Chaeli ate most of it – if I had room in my then very full stomach, I would have ordered one just for me.

Yaletown Vancouver

streets of yaletown

roundhouse vancouver

historic site turned into a great community centre

One of the great things about not having a real plan are the interesting places you happen to stumble upon. This historic area used before as a roundhouse for steamed trains back in the days has now turned into a trendy community. The building above is now an incredible community centre which we had a chance to walk through. We witnessed a lot of families there dropping in different classes and programs. I was instantly envious of what was available to them just a bus stop or two away.

ktis beach vancouver

i have a serious obsession with driftwood

steel chairs at kits beach

i felt like i was reading private messages…

In the evening, while the rest went for a swim at an outdoor pool at the Kitsilano Beach, I decided to have some time of solitude while I strolled along the beach, taking pictures, and then ultimately, finding a spot to read. I found these stainless steel chairs – about a dozen or so – side by side, each with a different saying. You can see all of the ones I snapped a photo of here. Upon returning to Toronto, I did a google search to learn that this was an art exhibit called ‘Echo.

Now, we were suppose to have a beach picnic but the temperature dropped and I could even see Chaeli’s lips hued with a tint of blue. We decided quickly ot have the picnic indoors which ended up being fantastic. With the list of food we bought from the market the day before, we ate on the floor – hand grabbing here and there, filling in hungry tummies. With the bonus of red wine, which we probably wouldn’t have had had we dined out in a public area.

Rest of the photos from day 4.