Exploring One’s City

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Toronto Harbourfront

When I was in my 20’s, I was constantly downtown. I lived in the far Eastern and worked in the North-East suburbs of Toronto but I was still downtown as much as 4 times a week.

Even then. I hadn’t even come close to exploring all the wonderful gems the city had to offer.

Now, what with career advancements and being a parent, it takes a lot of effort to go downtown. Normally, we need a reason to go. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy going – I love our city and everything it has to offer! I know there’s so much to do in our own city – we actually could do a stay-cation and not have any luck covering all there is to see and do in a week.

Still, I always tell Doug, “We should go more often!” It’s true – we really should make an effort. Parts of the city has changed and we really had no idea. The waterfront, for example, is simply gorgeous now. It always was but the additional work the city has worked on for the past 10 years is all very new to us.

For example, I had no idea they are playing free concerts at the Toronto Music Garden all summer long. All summer long! For FREE! Come on – how much better can it get?

It just goes to show you – never underestimate how many gems one can find right in their own city.

And a Camping We Go Again

After only going camping 3 weeks ago, we were off again! This time to Darlington Provincial Park.

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Early morning view of the lake.

We’ve camped once here before and though the distance is only 45 minutes average from where we live and considered a park close enough to the suburbs, it’s surprisingly a very nice place to camp for a short, weekend! It does feel like we’re cheating being so close to home but when we’re in the park, it has that camping-like-feeling. And it is beautiful – like an oasis we can escape to for a quick trip.

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Hobbes guards our trailer from pesky squirrels

I feel like we’re counting down each camping trip we have with our little old trailer. It’s been good to us for several years but come around this time next year, we’ll be graduating to our new 20′ custom trailer. Things will work for once – like the fridge, the sink and we’ll have temperature-controlled HVAC! Of course, I’m not sure how much we will need the A/C as we tend to camp at the tail ends of the season more than the hot months, but the heating will help us stay warm in the spring and fall, and should it get hot, Hobbes can be more comfortable. Especially if we need to leave him for a couple of hours if we venture somewhere where dogs are not allowed. HVAC is a standard component for all of their trailers – But I do see it as a bonus!

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Part of our hike was along the beach.

We did the Burk Trail this time (last time we did the Robinson Creek Trail) which took us about an hour to complete.

I made the unfortunate mistake of asking the person on duty in the historical pioneer cabin if the structure we were standing it as an original. Instead of a simple answer (with perhaps a dose of a little history lesson along with it), he went on and on and on giving me what I can only describe as a history LECTURE! The whole time, Doug was outside waiting for Hobbes while Chaeli and I were trapped inside with this very odd man.

Doug said afterwards this man needs training at working in the business of volunteerism in the interpretation/historical sector. I’m sure he was harmless but it was getting VERY uncomfortable because as I tried to get away with him, he would follow me very closely and even position himself right in front of me. When he started to do the same with Chaeli, that’s when I found a way out and left.

Amazingly, he continued to follow us outside.

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Lovely inch worm came for a visit.

The 2-night weekend trip was perfect. The weather was beautiful and oddly enough, it wasn’t as buggy as I thought it to be. We spent glorious amounts of time outdoors. I could feel the stress just melt away no sooner than we arrived and set up.

As always, that first sit-down at the campfire on the first night with a mug of wine is always one of the best moments. As is the early fresh air greeting me when I step outside our trailer after waking up.

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Last view of the lake.

Unlike last time, after being exhausted from the red-eye out of Vegas that morning going into our camping trip (and the business trip was such a busy trip), I was back to my morning schedule – woke up 6:30AM, took Hobbes for a long walk (30-45 minutes), snack on half a protein bar while I read, and waited for the other two to wake up so we can make brunch.

We go again in August for our week long trip and I only wish we had time to schedule a July weekend trip.

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Dogs deserve a chair, too!

First Camping trip of 2017

There’s been a lag in my blogging.

You see, there was Mother’s Day at my parents’ place…

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Orchids for my mom – her favorite color is purple

And then there was the business trip to Vegas the morning after where I saw just snapshots of Vegas during short lunch breaks, between meeting to meeting or the most I saw of the actual Vegas strip, my ride in the cab back to the airport…

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View from my room

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The Mirage Atrium

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Las Vegas airport – butterflies

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Las Vegas strip – on the way to airport

It was a crazy week and I’m questioning how I survived. But somehow I managed to survive. A part of me questioned if I was really going mad when I decided to take a red-eye out of Vegas Thursday night so I had time to pack and go camping for our Victoria Day long weekend starting Friday evening.

At the time, I regretted it but as soon as I arrived at Balsam Lake Provincial Park and we set up for our campfire, all was good.

I looked up at the stars as the sky was crystal clear that night and said to my husband, “This is what I needed. I came from Vegas, a busy week where there was constant bright lights and big noises all the time… to this! Quiet. And the only bright lights are from the campfire and the millions stars above us.” What a difference, to come from one crazy world into another one so opposite it’s difficult to believe they both exist on the same planet.

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Hobbes the Dog guarding our site from dangerous wildlife – like birds and squirrels

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My belated Mother’s Day gift

Knowing the week before wasn’t ideally a great mother’s day for me, my husband and daughter saved my present for after our first brunch in our trailer. I saw this book a couple of months ago and had to get it – Glamping with MaryJane. I immediately put it on my wish list and now, my wish has been granted.

I love the style and sass of this book but more importantly, as we will be a proud owner of a 20 foot trailer next summer, it gives all the essentials in taking care and maintaining one’s trailer. As well as how to make it a home away from home with stylish decoration and craft tips.

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Our traditional steak dinner over the campfire.

And hubbie got creative – using our tripod from our outdoor cast iron dutch oven, he fashioned some chains to a round bbq grill so the steaks could cook further away from the flames. It worked. That’s all I can say – it worked very well!

We did do a 1hr hike on the Saturday but since it rained all day Sunday, we went to a friend’s cottage 20 minutes away (after sleeping in, having a late brunch and doing some chill-out time in the trailer – it’s a small trailer but it’s still nice to chill out in it). I finally got to meet his two kids (both in their 20’s) along with the daughter’s boyfriend and another friend. So odd to be sitting there among the “young folks” but I enjoyed it very much. The boys were so kind they even gave me a hug good-bye! I assume I passed their ‘coolness-test?’

Monday, we left right at check-out time, trying to enjoy our stay as long as we can as the rain let up and gave us a comfortable temperature. Heading back to the city, we had severalĀ  hours left before the end of the day to clean-up and relax a little. Aside from the rain, it was a successful first camping weekend – and we’re off again for a 2-night camping trip in a couple of weeks!

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Hobbes the Dog was so pooped the last night of camping – he feel asleep on his back (he rarely does this)

Easter Weekend 2017 was EPIC!

And I say it was epic because, as usual, we hosted Easter dinner for my family. This year, however, we outdid ourselves.

No. Seriously. I think we raised the bar. There’s no way we will top what we did this year unless we win the jackpot and fly my entire family to Hawaii, first class and hire high-end catering with only the most expensive vintage wine.

Oh yes… followed by a private Polynesian dance performance. And massages on the beach for all!

It’s nice to have her old enough to help now.

The menu consisted of:

Italian Spring Salad – tossed with Bocconcini, Heirloom Tomatoes and Prosciutto

French-cut Marinated and Grilled Lamp Chops

Smoked Rainbow Trout

Roasted Leg of Lamb

Grilled Asparagus

Tri-Colour Sweet Potato and Bacon Casserole

And everything turned out PERFECTLY! Plus, I paired dinner with an amazing Shiraz from Australia. It helped it was 15% alcohol level.

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I love finding boardwalks in the middle of a forest!

To back up, the weekend started off with a 1 hr and 20 min hike. It was semi-challenging due to all the constant up and down climbs. However, very much worth it because, well, as you can see, we needed to start working off our dinner even before we ate our Easter dinner the next night.

Overall, it was a wonderful long weekend!

But what made this year’s Easter shindig of ours was epic was the following conversation:

Dad: When marijuana becomes legal next year, can you get some?

Me: I suppose. Why?

Dad: I want to try it.

Most excellent!

St. Paddy’s Dinner, Winter Hike and Discovering Vintage Red Wines

We ended our staycation with a bunch of little things mixed with a whole lot of nothing.

Just the way I like it!

Friday night, we had my family over for some Irish Stew. To be honest, I am not a fan of stew. Or soup. On the occasion, I do enjoy a cup of soup as an appetizer, but unlike my husband or daughter, I don’t enjoy it as the main entree. My favorite for the evening was the beef bone marrow. We only had a small spoonful each but it was simply delicious!

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Beef shank bone marrow

And no, we did not use the new Ikea dishes – I’m still saving those for Easter. However, my mother did find the hand-me -down plates with the side-rust stains in a box we were ready to dispose of. She hoarded all of them. ALL OF THEM! I tried to explain to her there was rust on the side (not that she couldn’t see herself – you can’t miss it after all!) But she insisted she needed them.

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Frozen ponds are beautiful!

Being the last weekend before going back to work, I needed to make every moment count.

I did this with: a) a walk/hike; and b) red wine. Both we managed to squeeze in. In fact, we were able to go on a hike three times during our week off. I’m very happy with that. There’s something said about winter hikes – the chill in the air is refreshing, the frozen pond is still and beautiful and that feeling of warmth when you’re back indoors is just a wonderful feeling.

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SAVED Red Wine from California

The red wine was pretty much consistent every night while we were off. Our last night, we opened a new vintage find called SAVED. Very full-body and dry with a whopping 15% alcohol level. Just my type! And while they say to never judge a book by it’s cover, I totally judged a book by it’s cover. I’m glad I did – this was delicious!