Quebec Ski/Board Trip – March Break 2015

Doug got what he’s wished for. A winter week off for some skiing far enough away from home where he feels like he’s not skiing on wimpy Ontario hills. I can’t say I blame him – it’s nice to be on longer runs even though this year, after being sick with a respiratory bug for 8 weeks, I was at my weakest state for my snowboarding season. I hadn’t had any practice until our first day at Owls Head in Quebec, near Magog.

So let me just say this – I did enjoy the road trip to our neighbouring province. The two towns we stayed in were beautiful and the hospitality we received from the people there were just simply wonderful! But the actual boarding part was a challenge for me. I have never been on anything outside of our dinky Ontario ski hills. And the first day’s condition were icy and windy. It was snowing as well – so with the gusts of wind, visibility was low. I was using new bindings that were proving difficult to get in and out of, especially after wiping out and trying to board with bruised ribs for the remaining week (I did take the next day after my accident to just go snow shoeing).

Would I do it again? Probably. As frustrated as I was while boarding in such conditions, I do want to try again. And hope I’ll go in with better strength and stamina.

Hotel Et Spa Etoile Sur Le Lac - Magog, QCMagog sur Le LacWe stayed at this beautiful inn on the lake – Etoile-sur-la-lac – during our first two days skiing at Owls Head. Our patio faced the lake. The hotel was very nice – our package included a sit-down breakfast with choices from their menu.

Magog - sunset across the lakeMagog - sunset by the marina

Microbrasserie la Memphr̩ - MagogMagog itself is a charming town with year round activities. Everywhere we walked, however, was very picturesque. For the first night, we went into town for dinner, finding ourselves at a great ambiance-type pub РMicrobrasserie la Memphr̩. It was a little cool that night but not cold enough for us to decide to walk for 15 minutes to this pub. It gave us a chance to watch the sunset acoss the lake.

The food in Magog for the three nights we stayed was lovely. The Microbrasserie (see above chandeliers made of mason jars) allowed me to try duck confit salad and duck wings as appetizers. Chaeli, of course, had poutine. The next two nights I treated myself to a lovely salmon entree and then some sweetbreads (finally!)

Owl's Head, QuebecOwl's Head - QuebecThe view from the top of Owl’s Head was spectacular. The resort itself, however, felt a little old. And the clientele was so-so. One thing that can’t be beat is their $20 all day ski-lift tickets for Monday to Wednesday skiing.

Sutton, QuebecMont Sutton

Tire sur la neigeFor our final day of skiing/boarding, we made our way back to Sutton for a day at Mont Sutton. Knowing what we know now, we’re definitely not only going back to this ski resort next year, but we’re going to spend our entire time just at this location.

Not only were we impressed with the way this ski resort was run but there was a significant difference with the faithful Mont-Sutton-fans. While it’s a public ski hill, it had that private club feel but not in a pretentious way. More like a very large family welcoming any new comers.

Both Doug and Chaeli also preferred the variety of runs – stating it was more fun especially the ones that weaved in and out of trees. Chaeli also got to experience Tire sur la neige – a Quebec treat which is freshly made maple syrup mixed with snow on a stick. They were make this at one of the upper chalets!

While I’ve never been to one of the bigger places like Mount Tremblant, I don’t think I can anymore. The crowd and line-ups just to get on a lift doesn’t sound like fun. We hardly had to wait for more than a couple of minutes to get on the chair lift and both places had a more off-the-beaten-path feel to it.

Auberge Agnes Horth - Sutton QuebecAuberge Agnes Horth - Sutton QuebecFor our last night in Sutton, we stayed at this great country inn – Auberge Agnes Horth. The couple that runs this in made our stay so welcoming. Breakfast and dinner are included and let me just say the home-cooked meals were fantastic!

Chaeli was in heaven with her lasagna. Doug and I had the Montreal steaks. And the red wine pairing could not be beat. We ordered a bottle – why not. Our room was just upstairs.

Caribbean Regal Princess Cruise 2015 – St. Thomas and St. Maartan

Red wine tasting on the Regal PrincessOne thing we did on this cruise was to agree to not worry so much about how much we were spending. And I’m thankful of this decision. We work too hard not to have to stress about saving every penny and nickel when we go on vacation. Luckily, we never seem to want anything that are beyond our ability to pay. However, I wanted to make some memories and experience what we could.

One of the best things we did for ourselves was join the Super Tuscan Wine tasting. The above photo is one of the example food pairings we indulged in. With several pairings of about the best red wines I’ve ever tastes, we had an equally delicious food pairing. It wasn’t an expensive fee – $40 US each. My husband and I will talk about this experience in years to come.

Another luxury I gave myself was a spa pedicure. I can not stress how important this was for me to treat myself. I always wanted to know what it was like to use Princess’ Lotus Spa and now I know it’s going to be a must-do anytime I’m cruising.

I sat across these beautiful large windows in brand new, spa pedicure, massage chairs, sipping green tea and watching the ocean water.

The pedicure service was amazing. My feet were smooth and soft like a baby’s bottom when I was done! My legs were exfoliated up to the knees as well. Heaven!

Emerald Beach St. ThomasWhen we arrived at St. Thomas, all we really wanted to do was spend a day at the beach. We found that the smaller and less popular Emerald beach not too far from port. It was exactly what we were looking for – secluded and not jammed pack like the other bigger tourist trap.

I’m not a sandy-beach type of person but after finding a spot under a tree, I was happy to just be all lazy like while reading my book.

Escargot & beer by St. Maarten beachWhen we first arrived in St. Maarten and took a ferry over to the dutch side, we did a bit of walking before stopping for a bite to eat. I have to admit, the food was not good at all. I ordered a grilled chicken Caesar but wasn’t quite sure it was chicken. I was also waiting to see if I got food poisoning. I ate what I could and then pushed the rest aside.

Now, the very large escargot drizzled with garlic and herb butter with a bottle of Amstel beer was where it was at! And had I have known, I would have just ordered more of this with a side of small garden salad. Maybe next time. Plus, there’s really nothing like sitting on a shaded patio right on the beach, drinking a bottle of cold beer.

St. Maarten dutch sideThe shopping district was interesting but what we enjoyed the most was going off the beaten path. The above is the image we saw as we started to leave the tourist area, finding our way through to the residential zones.

St Maarten port - feeding dockside fishBefore leaving, we went to the dock area of the ferry with some buns I brought from the ship. This was more for my kid’s sake. I gave her the buns and away she went, tearing small pieces and throwing them into the water. There were already a variety of different schools of fish waiting for the free give-away.

Regal Princess at seaWe spent the last two days at sea as we made our way back to Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale. What a beautiful, calming view. A lot of fun memories were made both on and off the ship. Looking forward to our next cruise in a few years.

Not our last camping trip of the season… if you can believe it!

With the lack of camping trips this season, my husband was getting pretty desperate. I admit I missed camping too but I can survive one year where we take a bit of a break from it.

Still, he pushed and pushed. And we fought about it as well. In the end, we came to a happy resolution by meeting in the middle.

He wanted to go somewhere about an hour away. I had no time to prep. So… we tried out this independent campground just 10 minutes away. It’s not a provincial park but had amazing hiking trails surrounding the campground.

All were happy and I’m glad we did it. It also gave us a chance to try dehydrated eggs (with grass-fed, hormone-free, anti-biotic free bison sausages).

deydrated eggsdehydraged eggs and bison sausagesNo, we weren’t aiming to create a gourmet meal here. There is hopes to do a portage/canoe trip where we’ll have to be somewhat creative with how we eat since we won’t have the opportunity to lug around a cooler. We’ve managed in the past – it’s do-able if we only go for two nights, preferably near the end of the summer when it’s not as hot.

The only problem is most of the dehydrated food packages is really high in either carbs or sugar. Which is exactly why our only option so far was to purchase these dehydrated eggs. The verdict? Edible but of course, no where near as good as actual eggs. :)

hiking - wildflowershikingOf course, we made sure we went on a lovely hike. For the entire morning, it rained. Which was fine. We slept in and had a very late brunch in the trailer.

By the time the sky cleared, we were ready to stretch our legs. Plus, Hobbes needed to burn off some energy. We hiked for an hour – and got our fill of fresh air.

new toquecamping fashionWe were only semi-prepared for the cold. The forecast showed and even lower dip for the temperature that night. While we brought along a of of fleece tops and bottoms, we didn’t have anything for our heads or Chaeli’s hands.

So, we took a quick trip to Sails and took advantage of their 50% toque sale (we were only 15 minutes away from one of the locations).

There was a Dollarama next to it so we picked up some 3-in-1 gloves for Chaeli.

campfire steaksOne way I was convinced to go camping on such a cold, rushed weekend… witness the above photo. This picture does not do these steaks any justice. I bought these earlier that day at Whole Foods. Yes, I paid a mint for each. They are hormone and anti-biotic free. And about 2 inches thick!

I’ve had some pretty seriously good steaks in my life. But only a couple stand out. The one was on our last Princess Cruise when we paid cover charge to dine in the Crown Grill Restaurant. The second would have been the Tomahawks we bought as part of my dad’s Father’s Day gift.

These recent steaks would be amongst the top three. Every bite had an amazing flavour. Well worth the money.

hobbes the dogAnd yes, even Hobbes got some of Doug’s scraps with his dinner.

It was a nice little get-away, once again, in our little trailer. And as the title of this post suggests, it’s not our last camping trip. We’ll be needing more winter gear as we head up further north in a few weeks to camp by Georgian Bay. What? You say we’re crazy?

No, let me correct you. My husband is crazy. We’re just not very bright for letting him convince us to go along with his craziness.


Wedding in the Country

With Chaeli staying with the grandparents, Doug and I went to the Saturday wedding of his co-worker’s. We booked a motel room for the night. Smart move on our part… since we left the wedding after 11pm, it was nice to be just minutes away from our rented room and bed.

Sacred Heart Church - Peterborough, ONThe couple had their wedding in their Catholic church. The ceremony was long, as is typical with most Catholic ceremonies. This one was about 75 minutes in length. We sat at the very back of this massive church (out of respect for their family and friends to have better seats) so it was difficult for me to follow. The father officiating the ceremony sounded a bit like the Swedish chef from The Muppets due to his slight accent, sound system and echoing acoustics inside.

I missed the vows and the announcement that they were husband and wife. :)

wedding decorationsnewly wedsThe reception was held at the banquet hall of their community hockey rink. It was a lovely affair. I enjoyed the decorations – nothing over the top but elegant in its simplicity. Despite the fact that I knew no one there (I hadn’t even had the chance to meet the groom until that day), I had a good time.

But by 10pm, I was very tired and ready to go to bed. I would say I was showing my age but there were people 10-20 years older than me that were partying way past the time we chose to leave (just after 11pm).

So my new theory is that these people don’t have children living with them anymore. They are past that stage of parenting and have gotten a second wind in life! Will this happen to us? When our kid leaves the nest, will we get this second wind? I sure hope so!

date night!I suppose Doug and I did have a date-night. It’s always nice to have a reason to dress up and be out with one’s spouse. When I think about the last 5 or 6 times we had a chance to dress up for a formal night, it always involved Chaeli and our family. Not that romantic. Whether it was for a family or family-friend wedding. Or on formal nights during the cruise we took last December.

This time, we didn’t know anyone hardly. So in a way we were pretty much on our own!

Historical downtown - Peterborough, ONSmoke trout crepes - Black Honey CafeWe slept in next morning (8:30am – that’s a luxury for me) and took our time getting up and getting ready. The motel did have a hot breakfast included so we decided to check it out. It was pretty horrible. But we managed to get down some breakfast sausages, some toast and some questionable egg ‘patties’. We’re pretty sure they were not real eggs. The coffee was so-so. But, we were hungry and needed just a little something to tie us over.

After checking out, we went to the downtown, historical area of Peterborough, which was also by the waterfront. It definitely had a lot of charm. Unfortunately, being on a Sunday and past the summer season, many attractions and stores were closed.

We did find the Black Honey Desserts cafe open and serving Sunday Brunch. Neither of us were hungry but we felt completely unsatisfied with the breakfast offered at our motel. Doug and I shared a beautifully prepared smoked trout and poached eggs crepe. It came with spring greens an the tastiest rosemary seasoned roasted potatoes I have ever had. I limited myself to just several pieces of the potatoes and had only a little of the crepe. But I definitely gobbled down the rest.

We also had two mugs of their delicious, fair-trade and organic coffee.

If you’re ever in Peterborough, do check this place out for brunch. Everything on their menu looked good! The ingredients were very fresh.

Camping at Sharbot Lake – July 2014

I’ve been a bad wife and a bad mother. I’ve been working so hard and focused so much on my new projects at work (both exciting and stressful at the same time) that I wanted to do a stay-cation and work part time from home. Mind you, I did plan on making sure we did fun things during the day but I figured I would still wake up at the same time every morning, head to the gym while everyone slept so I could join them for breakfast or brunch when they woke. Then we would do something fun in the city (or just outside the city). Work would have been when we got home before dinner and after dinner. Or after breakfast if we were having a late start of the day.

But my husband put a stop to this mad way of thinking. He asked what the point of a vacation was if I wasn’t really going to take a true break from work? Yes, he had a point. This is a special year though as we re-build and re-brand ourselves in so many ways. Being the new marketing manager makes me pretty much accountable for all of this.

And so, he convinced me to go camping for a few days. There’s no WIFI during camping and therefore, no way for me to connect.

Now, I do have my Asana app which links me to my team. Any updates on our projects would be notified to me through this app. Yet my boss, the VP, gave me orders to not do any work or think about work. He must have told this to the rest of the team because I received no notifications until Sunday, the day before heading back to the office.

Anyway, we found ourselves at Sharbot Lake, thankful we were able to get a great site since we were going mid-week. It was so beautiful and we definitely plan to head back there again.

Sharbot LakeWe spent one day hiking the Discovery Trail. While only just over 2 km which is nothing compared to the usual distance we hike now, the terrain was on the more rugged side which I love! It also walked us through several different types of scenery and landscapes. Chaeli noted that this made the whole hike much more interesting as we got to see many things.

Sharbot Lake camping - toadWe encountered a lot of different wildlife – all small types, though. The first morning, Doug nearly stepped on a toad just outside our trailer. I picked it up and gave it over to Chaeli to release in the woods. Hobbes got a chance to sniff (and lick) it. I am guessing toads give off a bitter taste as part of their defense mechanism because Hobbes backed up quickly and shook his head vigorously in disgust.

Hobbes encountered many squirrels and chipmunks – including one that came running across our campsite. It probably did not see Hobbes or maybe it was on a suicide mission because Hobbes, waiting for the right moment, pounced without a sound and intersected the poor squirrel. The squirrel was unharmed but did get flipped into the air before it scurried away and ran up a tree – making a lot of noise along the way!

trailer campingChaeli was wiped every night we were there. Not only did we remain fairly active, but she also would join the neighbouring kids for a game of soccer or tag whenever they gathered in the big field behind our camp site. It was an ideal spot for us because she was constantly in our view.

camping foodcamping foodI always tell people – just because we’re camping doesn’t mean we have to rely on just hot dogs and canned food. And because of my diabetes, I have to remain healthy even while vacationing, camping or not.

Luckily, we have an electric cooler and we were staying at a hydro site. This made packing mixed spring greens easier, as well as other veggies. I prepared all the veggies before leaving though – I cut up carrots, celery, bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli then threwg them into Ziplock bags the day before we left. This allowed also for easy snacking access for healthier food options.

And nothing compares to a thick, juicy steak that’s grilled over an open flame.

Sharbot Lake fishingWe spent one afternoon canoeing and fishing. But none of us had even a nibble. It was pathetic.

The next day, just for a last attempt, Doug took Chaeli to the unused campsite across from us which was next to the lake. They just stayed on shore to cast their line in. While Doug caught some very small fish he released right away, Chaeli snagged this 2lb Large Mouth Bass with just her dinky Mickey Mouse rod we bought for her from Canadian Tire of all places!

Sharbot Lake canoeingIt was a great vacation. We arrived home Friday afternoon which still gave me a couple of days for a mini-stay-cation to round up my week off. I managed not to log on my laptop for at least two days after we made it home but did check email Sunday late afternoon (I knew I would have a lot of emails and just wanted to start filtering out all the junk and reading some important emails).