Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Poppy's all grown up

Today was Poppy's first day back at the daycare -- four days of daycare to be followed by his first day in junior kindergarten.

Holy cow. Already at the age of going to school.

Last year, I needed a crowbar to pry him from my leg while dropping him off at the new daycare for the first time. Today? He was hopping in the kitchen before we left the house and he was hopping and clapping his hands all the way from the car to the daycare. When we got inside and I signed in, I called out to him to say goodbye as he was already at the other side of the room, he just briefly turned around, gave a cursory wave and then dived right back into what he was doing as if I wasn't even there.

He's all grown up. Sigh.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Days 14 and 15 ... and Home

Well... we're finally home after a pretty uneventful drive home, except for the massive construction delays in both Montreal and Toronto on the way home that ended up extending our drive by a hour and forty-five minutes in total.

Turns out that our timing was impeccable. Hurricane Bill is on the way to the Maritimes by tomorrow (although it sounds like it won't be too severe by the time it hits land) and a couple of rip-snorters, as my mom called it - tornadoes, in the north part of Toronto during the two days before we were to pass by. The weather gods were certainly on our side throughout this trip.

15 days.
4643 kilometres (2885 miles).
Five provinces.
Twelve relatives from Pene's side of the family that we visited (Ottawa and PEI).
Two relatives from my side of the family that we visited (Halifax).

We didn't do much at all during the final two days getting home - just drove along and stopped here and there to stretch or to get some food. Stopped in Montreal yesterday and had a nice dinner at St. Hubert - a chicken joint that is very much like Swiss Chalet.

We're finally home and Dingo was quite overjoyed to see us, he actually sprinted back and forth around the kitchen all abuzz, no mean feat for a barrel-shaped cat.

Everything certainly felt strange around the house - it was almost like stepping into a new world, new colours, new designs, etc. and it made me realize how nice it was in the Maritimes with their own way of life and building designs. Even my car felt strange after being in the van for two weeks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Days 12 and 13

Well... this is it. On our way home now after being in the Maritimes for the past twelve days.

Day 12 - Wednesday the 19th

Our last day in Halifax. We decided to just do whatever comes to mind and do as many little things as we could to wrap things up in town. Our first stop was at the Dalhousie bookstore as Ashley decided she wanted a poster or something to pin up on the wall to 'inspire' her to keep her goal of attending Dal. Found a pennant and a Tiger (Dal's mascot) stuffed animal for her, plus a few other small knick knacks for the boys.

After Dal, we headed on over to the Halifax Public Gardens, a formal Victorian garden encompassing an entire city block, surrounded by four streets. Lush gardens, plants, trees, ducks, swans named Horatio and Nelson, homeless people, senile seniors, office workers enjoying their lunch breaks - it's got them all! After an hour or so, we strolled down Spring Garden Rd. to check out the boutique shops and grab various ice cream delicacies at Dairy Queen. I still mourn the demise of Swensen's, which was a great ice cream place before Dairy Queen took over about a decade ago - my father used to live in two places a mere block away from there, so my childhood saw numerous trips over to Swensen's.

We then drove over to Point Pleasant Park. It was startling to see how it had changed since Hurricane Juan destroyed about 70% of the trees there about five years ago - gone were the lush forests that you could walk through to explore some of the ruins of old British forts. There's a reseeding process in place though, so it should be about a decade or so before it's fully forested again. Saw the memorial for soldiers that perished in the two World Wars, with my grandfather's name on it - he was a surgeon lieutenant on a ship based out of Halifax that was torpedoed in 1943 in the Atlantic Ocean.

As it was still in the midst of a heat wave, we elected to head back to the house and go for a swim in Chocolate Lake (I was disappointed to see it was a bright teal colour). Had gourmet pizza for dinner and then split up to do different things in the early evening -- the little boys went to a movie with my father, Zack went to a different movie with my stepmother, and Ash/Pene/I went down to the waterfront to score a BeaverTail dessert (and a MooZoo blueberry-banana smoothie for me). We walked along the waterfront for a spell, it was nice to not have any crowds around for a change as the previous few times we had been there earlier in our stay, there were always huge crowds around for the Busker Festival. Saw an artist displaying some nice Nova Scotia scene paintings, so picked up three to bring home.

Day 13 - Thursday the 20th

The time is here. It was time to pack up the van, drag the kids into there, and hit the road for home. Easy drive to Fredericton (decided to skip the Hopewell Rocks as it appears the kids and Pene were a little burned out from everything). After checking into our hotel, we decided to go for a little drive to see what restaurants were out there and to check out the historic Garrison district - Fredericton was the place where the British garrisoned their soldiers for nearly a century. It was a bit of a letdown as we didn't find much interesting down there - walked around for a bit and not really seeing anything we liked. So we bailed out and headed back to the hotel to veg out for a bit, before picking up some dinner and going for a swim in the hotel pool.

Tomorrow... the odyssey continues to home.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 11 - South Shore

Day 11 - Tuesday the 18th

Once again, it was a boiling hot day, and it's been such a big deal that the front pages are full of stories about it. Halifax, simply put, isn't known for 30+ degree days.

Today, we packed up the van and headed for the South Shore for the day. Our first stop was in Mahone Bay, a picturesque town (really, most Nova Scotia towns along the coast are) about 50 minutes from Halifax. We parked halfway down on the main street and strolled up and down checking out all of the shops in the area. Picked up some more souvenirs and knick knacks for the boys to keep them entertained. We made an extended stop at the Amos Pewter shop where they had a display centre in the back to demonstrate how they create pewter products, quite interesting. We bought a couple of pewter Christmas tree ornaments to give to our friends who are watching our cat while we're away, and some pewter starfish earrings for Ashley. Also explored a new tea brewery, antique shops, The Teazer (a well-known shop) and took pictures of the three churches from the other side of town. Here's a pic of the three churches:

After all that, we were ready to hunt down some lunch, so decided to hop back into the van and make the 10-minute drive further down the road to Lunenburg. Had a decent lunch at a local diner called Large Marge's as I knew the kids would be a little fussy about eating at some of the tourist places with all the seafood on the menu. After lunch, we set out to explore the streets and waterfront of Lunenburg. Lunenburg is a very colourful town (as you can see from the picture below) with houses and buildings in all sorts of wild colours (bright blue? check. neon-purple? check. pink? check. lime green? check.) and has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its cultural/natural heritage. It's also home to the Bluenose II, the schooner -- if you have a Canadian dime around, that's the original Bluenose on the front of the dime.

We explored some of the interesting shops around and picked up a loot of stuff to bring back home (also got a thank-you gift to my parents for having all of us over), then went to the Fisheries Museum on the waterfront. They had huge aquariums to showcase the various types of fish that can be found in the ocean, plus tanks for the kids to reach in and pet starfishes, crabs, lobsters (with rubber bands on their pincers!), etc. The museum also had displays of the various crafts used by fishermen over the past two-plus centuries to pull in fish.

Here's a shot of Lunenburg's waterfront:

We intended to continue on to The Ovens, a natural formation of caves that can be explored which is about fifteen minutes south of Lunenburg, but we had just spent four hours exploring and it was sweltering with some of us starting to get overtired and really cranky, so we elected to just head on back to Halifax in time for dinner. Ash, who really pushed for us to go to The Ovens earlier, didn't even make a peep about missing out on The Ovens. Maybe on a future trip...

After a nice dinner of provolone-stuffed chicken breast smothered with parmesan and Italian herbs, some of us drove out to Sandwich Point, about ten minutes down Purcell's Cove Rd. from my parents, and went for a stroll amongst the rocky shoreline. Really, a great way to stretch out the legs and be able to look out into the horizon over the endless ocean with nothing in between there and Europe.

Oh, and remember when I mentioned in the previous day's post about Zack losing his cellphone and later finding it at the admissions desk? Today was Ashley's turn to lose her cellphone, and she finally found it underneath the van's seat after I made several calls to her phone to help her find it. At 11:30 at night. Sheesh, kids... there's a reason why parents develop gray hair quite quickly.

Tomorrow (Wed.)... ack. Our last full day in Halifax before we make the long drive back home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 10

Day 10 - Monday the 17th

Another scorcher today... the heat index was in the 40's Celsius, even with the ocean breeze (or more accurately, lack of one) coming in.

It was a productive day, though. We took Ashley to Dalhousie for a campus tour and by the time it was done, she was over the moon with the idea of going to Dal. Not only did the university have all of the programs and courses she liked, she also liked the residences and the layout, and a major clincher for her, the ability to transfer her International Baccalaureate credits directly towards the degree she'd want for med school. Some of the colleges she's interested in back in Ontario doesn't offer this ability to transfer credits, so she was considering only being in the IB program on a part-time basis as a result. Plus, of course, it helps that both my dad and stepmother are well-known at Dal. It got to the point where Pene and I spent some time exploring the housing situation here in Halifax as it's a city that we both love and Ash also has come to greatly like, and Pene's job is relatively easy to transfer from one office to another anywhere in Canada. The major sticking point would be my job, but I'm sure something could be worked out if it ever got to that point. Probably nothing happening for at least two years anyway.

Also went to the Discovery Centre, which is a science museum for kids. It's not bad and was a good way to kill 1.5 hours to avoid being outdoors, but certainly not anywhere on the same level as the Ontario Science Centre (which is easily 4 or 5 times larger and could spend all day there). Zack almost lost his cellphone there, and we certainly would have strangled him if it wasn't recovered at the admissions desk as we still have two-plus years left on the contract for the phone...

Another swim in the neighbour's pool and a big dinner, then we just vegged out in the evening with a DVD of 'Get Smart'. Nice and easy movie to park the brain cells for a while.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Days 8 and 9

Jeepers, it's hot. The first two days of 2009 where the thermometer hit 30 degrees Celsius. That limited us to doing a little less than what we intended to do over the weekend, but that's okay, we probably needed to slow down a bit during the halfway point of the trip so we could recharge for the final few days.

Day 8 - Saturday the 15th

With yet another bright and sunny day in the works when we got up, we headed down to the Halifax Farmer's Market at the old Keith's Brewery building. A spectacular setting for a farmer's market as the building used to be part of the Alexander Keith's brewery - the old stone building is still intact and all the nooks and crannies inside make for an interesting backdrop as you navigate the building to check out all the booths - there's crafts, vegetables, displays, stuff all over the place, plus of course there's Mary's bakery, home of the best raspberry/chocolate croissants I've had. We bought a cheese cutting board that was handmade with multiple types of wood by a Nova Scotia artisan - we got a similarly-patterned lazy suzan from the same artisan about six years ago, so now have a matching set.

Then we let the boys loose on a boat-shaped playground by the waterfront - figures that Nova Scotia would have a nautical theme for a playground. This was right by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, a nice museum that had a display about the 1917 Halifax Explosion, where nearly 2000 died and 9000 injured after two munitions ships collided in the harbour and then exploded a half hour later with thousands of people watching from the hills, not knowing that there were explosives on board. The MMoA also has a display with actual stuff from the Titanic. Cool stuff for the teens.

With the heat out there, we elected to go to the beach again at Williams Lake (the same one we went to yesterday) and spend a longer time there for the kids to splash around in the late afternoon.

Day 9 - Sunday the 16th

Another hot day. We booked a canoe and kayak to go out into the harbour for later in the day, then headed over to the Hydrostone Market area, an European-styled eclectic mix of shops and eateries crammed on one city block. En route, we stopped at the Fort Needham Memorial Park where they set up a plaque and stone memorial to the victims of the 1917 Halifax Explosion. It was easy to see why people succumbed to the temptation to watch the events unfold - Halifax is a city built on a slope away from the waterfront so it's almost like sitting in a massive auditorium. So with it being December and all the leaves off the trees, you can easily picture thousands of people hearing about a collision between two ships in the harbour and then gathering to discuss what's going on ... then *boom*. The sloping nature of downtown Halifax made the damage and casualties that much more severe.

A short walk over from the Fort Needham took us to the Hydrostone Market. We had a nice lunch at Julien's Patisserie with dessert afterwards - they use authentic French baking with artisan breads. I had an eclair with Pippy while Pene had a tiramisu made with mascarpone cheese.

After some time exploring the Hydrostone area, we decided to hop onto the ferry to take us to the other side of Halifax harbour, to Dartmouth. Just a little fun for the kids to ride a ferry and also hopefully take in a nice breeze. At the other side, nothing was really open with it being a Sunday so we just strolled on the other side for a bit and let the kids run wild on another nautical-themed playground set. After a half-hour on the Dartmouth side, we decided to cancel the plans to go canoeing/kayaking because it really was hot -- it was better for us to be under the water instead of being on top of the water for a hour at a time!

We then took the ferry back to Halifax and headed home. A neighbour generously offered the use of their pool so we hopped in to cool off - the perfect tonic after a day of exploring the city and walking around in the heat. We spent nearly two hours in the pool before finally being dragged out.

The evening was capped off by a terrific meal at a Mongolian restaurant - the food was perfectly cooked and each of the three older kids completely cleaned off their plates, which is no easy task to accomplish. (Give Poppy time, he's still only four years old)

Today? Not sure what we'll be doing the rest of the day, but we do have a tour planned later this morning at Dalhousie University, where my stepmother still works and my father recently retired from (it's also where HD taught for a year, in the same department as my dad!). Our eldest is two years away from going to university and she wants to explore her options to see what's out there. Halifax is one of her favourite cities and she's interested in med school and the field of psychology, both of which are ideally provided by Dalhousie.

Tomorrow - look forward to going to the South Shore for the day, exploring Mahone Bay, Lunenburg and The Ovens.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 7 - Peggy's Cove

Day 7 - Friday the 14th

Golly, it's a full week since we left for our vacation already - it really doesn't seem like it's been that long at all.

Today, we're off to Peggy's Cove. It was another bright, sunny day and everyone was in Halifax for the Buskers Festival so it was the perfect opportunity to get out to Peggy's Cove before the crowds get worse.

It's about the 15th time I've been there over the last four decades, and it never gets old. Poppy, in particular, was quite energetic and bounding from rock to rock in a constant motion, so it was a challenge for me just to keep up with him and prevent him from going over the edge of a big rock here and there - after a while, he learned to settle down and let me go with him alongside, so I was able to show him the best ways to navigate safely while still undergoing the thrill of bouncing from rock to rock. A whole two hours of exploring the rocks built up a nice sweat before we called it quits and headed to the Sou'wester shop for a little souvenir shopping. Ashley got a nice seashell chain to hang from her bedroom window and Pene got a garnet slice chain, while the little boys were delighted with their new Webkinz pets.

After nearly three hours in total at Peggy's Cove, we decided to see if we could find a beach at Prospect Bay, but ended up going too far past the turnoff before we realized it, and with everyone feeling cooked from all the rocks, we elected to just head back to Halifax and go for a swim in the lake nearby the house instead. There's a lake right behind the Cunard Junior High school (I can't imagine having a lake right by a school where kids could sneak off during breaks) on Williams Lake Rd., and it's got a nice beach with lifeguards. We spent a hour there letting the kids go wild, then headed back home for a BBQ dinner. My stepmother never buys anything pre-made -- everything is from scratch, including bread and spices, and the burgers were no exception. It had nice seeds, spices, onions and a few other items in a perfectly formed burger. Finally, we wrapped up the evening with a pigfest at Dairy Queen.

Days 5 and 6

Day 5 - Wednesday the 12th

For the first time in four days, we had a sunny morning to wake up to. We quickly gobbled up some breakfast in the hotel lobby and packed up the van to get as much as we could get done in downtown Charlottetown. Yesterday was a day for catching up with relatives - today is our chance to do some real sightseeing before we hit the road to Halifax.

We found a parking spot right in front of Province House in Charlottetown - it's the building where the Charlottetown Conference meetings were held in 1864, and the work started from these meetings eventually led to Canada becoming a nation on July 1, 1867. We then walked down from there to the waterfront and our first stop was at Founders Hall, a museum documenting the steps undertaken to set up Canadian Confederation and the years afterward when other provinces later joined Confederation (interestingly, while Charlottetown was the host of the conference, PEI declined to join Confederation until a few years later in 1873).

Afterwards, we just walked around the waterfront shops, exploring the various stores and bagged a loot of souvenirs to bring home. The big kids finally found some PEI shirts that they liked, and Pene got some things for herself after spending so much looking for other things for the kids so far on this trip. There was a mini aquarium on the dock with lobsters, crabs, starfishes and other sea life - interesting to see a number of starfishes bunched together in one corner, seeing how flexible they were.

On the way back from the waterfront shops, we walked up to Province House and I got a good look inside the old building, seeing the historic chambers where the assembly met and viewing a film, "A Great Dream."

We had lunch at a great family diner, Sam's. I found this place as one highly recommended by the locals and not well advertised in the tourist books, and it showed as we might have been the only 'tourists' in the entire restaurant during a busy lunch hour (judging from the way everyone else were dressed). The food was fantastic, which is typical for a local joint - they tend to have better food than the big name fast food places that most people go to.

We were all feeling somewhat tuckered out from the up-and-down walks around the waterfront, so we elected to go on ahead a little early to the Wood Islands ferry and grab a primo spot. Arriving a hour ahead of schedule, we drove over to the lighthouse by the ferry site and explored the area. The view was incredible - it's easy to feel serene in such a setting.

The ferry was a treat - it's about my fifth or sixth time on the ferry, but this was the best weather I've sailed on. We also discovered that they now had a Cows ice cream shop on the ferry - if you're ever in Nova Scotia or PEI, be sure to check out Cows as the ice cream is second to none, as voted by an international panel of travel experts.

Upon arriving in Caribou on the Nova Scotia side, it didn't take long to get to my father's place in Halifax. Had a mini-dinner as we were still full from the huge portions during lunch at Sam's, took the boys over to a playground and just vegged out without having to worry about what we're going to do next or what attraction we're going to see, etc.

Day 6 - Thursday the 13th

Today was a real easy day. My father took the boys to see the latest Ice Age movie in 3-D, while the older kids, Pene and I went down to the Halifax waterfront to take in some performances during the annual Busker Festival. Our favourite was an Australian duo who performed incredible juggling tricks and contortions such as one standing on the other's shoulders while both juggled flaming pins. In this picture below (click on it to see it in full size), the girl is actually standing on the guy's head while juggling.

On the way back, we picked up some lobster and enjoyed a feast back at home.

Oh, and while we were at the Busker festival, I discovered what suspended baseball players do when they can't be around their teams for five days:

A Kevin Youkilis-lookalike in the crowd.

Be back later with some stories of our day-trip to Peggy's Cove.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Days 3 and 4

Day 3 - Monday the 10th

"If it's Monday, this must be Moncton..."

We woke up to a steady downpour outside. I drove out to a supermarket to pick up some fresh muffins and cinnamon roll buns for breakfast - thought it'd be nice to have that instead of splurging on some greasy stuff at a fast food joint.

Still raining when we got out into the van and I didn't have much hope we'd get a lot done today besides driving as the forecast was for more rain throughout the day. To my delight, the rain let up as we were approaching Grand Falls in northwestern New Brunswick, so I hopped off the highway and parked at the Malabeam Info Centre so we could explore the Grand Falls gorge. Spectacular, and I'm sure it would have been even more spectacular if it was bright out to accentuate the sparkling water. Right on cue, it started raining again just as we were done with the gift shop after exploring the gorge.

We then drove along a side road down to Hartland, home of the "world's longest covered bridge" -- if you've got a little extra time, I always recommend taking a side road not far off from the main highway as it's usually a far more interesting drive. I've been on the newer main highway in New Brunswick, and while it's nice and all that, let me tell ya that the side roads are infinitesimally more interesting to go through. It tells me more about the local people and I enjoy seeing the different ways of life and the tiny hamlets along the way.

Anyhoo, back to the topic. The bridge was nice, it was narrow enough to require a stop sign on both sides of the bridge so drivers had to take turns going through the bridge.

(click on the pictures to see it in full size)

Kitschy, sure, but the kids enjoyed it. I enjoyed it.

After the bridge, I decided to hop back onto the main highway so we could get into Moncton by a reasonable time so we could decide if we wanted to go ahead with The Hopewell Rocks with the weather being uncertain. After checking into the hotel, it was still raining and we felt kinda tired after being at the gorge earlier in the day, so we elected to skip the Hopewell Rocks for now, will probably go there on our way back home. The big kids have already experienced the Rocks and the little kids won't miss it if we end up not going. We ended up going to the mall that was next to the hotel, bagged some good deals and some new clothes for the little boys, then picked up some ready-made foods to bring back to the hotel to eat. When you're on "kid time", sometimes you just don't feel like bringing kids to a restaurant as they get all hopped up and it's a little more relaxing to feed them and let them run loose in a large hotel room.

Tuesday the 11th

What a great day.

We woke up to a very wet outdoors as it apparently rained cats and dogs overnight. Fortunately, it had stopped by the time we got up, so it made loading up the van much easier. Our first stop was in Shediac, a town on the Acadian coastline, and we added another notch on our one-degree-of-separation-from-HD game by climbing up on the 'worlds largest lobster'.

After the stop in Shediac, we hopped onto the Confederation Bridge for the 12-km drive over the Northumberland Strait between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Still cool to take the bridge even after a half-dozen trips over there by now. Once off the bridge, we stopped at the Gateway Village to let the little kids run wild at the playground and the big kids to go shopping. Here's a piece of the bridge...

After the Gateway Village stop, we headed over to meet up with Pene's cousin and her son for lunch. They have a little cottage that is right on the shoreline and with the tide being low, it was a treat to walk along the coastline and dig up some shells and rocks to keep as souvenirs, an enthralling time for the kids in particular. Definitely more interesting than the typical tourist traps. Had a nice lunch and conversation to catch up on the news as we missed seeing her the last time we were on the Island in June for the funeral of Pene's grandmother.

Afterwards, we went for a drive through the countryside (by now, the sun was fully out and the skies had cleared up) to Charlottetown, explored a couple of minor attractions and checked into our hotel.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Days 1 and 2

It's been a great first two days of the trip - I don't think you could have designed a better start to any trip, except I'd take out the heavy rain and a little later than expected arrival at the hotel tonight.

Day 1 - Saturday the 8th

We left home first thing in the morning in bright sunshine and our first stop was at The Big Apple, a kitschy (but cool) attraction in the middle of nowhere - it bills itself as the "world's biggest apple" (umm, hello? New York City?), but it's got a pie store, gift shop, rides and llamas to pet. We picked up a couple of apple pies and hit the road again to grab a quickie lunch at Subway before staying on the highway for good to Ottawa.

Arrived in Ottawa about 3:30 pm and drove up to the little hamlet of Dunrobin to the home of Pene's cousin. We were unprepared for how nice the house was, out in the country and right on the Ottawa river, with Quebec on the other side. A gaggle of relatives were there to gather for a barbecue dinner, and the two daughters of Pene's cousin immediately took to entertaining Pippy and Poppy in the backyard for hours. After the BBQ, we went out into the canoe and paddled all over the river with Ontario on one side and Quebec on the other side - it was Pene's first time ever in a canoe, if you can believe that. The evening was capped by a gabfest around a bonfire in the backyard.

Day 2 - Sunday the 9th

After a breakfast of eggs and bacon, we headed over to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau along with our host family. If you've never been to the museum, I highly recommend you check it out if you're ever in the Ottawa area. It was perfect for both adults and children as there's also a Children's Museum in there, complete with "passports" for the kids to collect stamps as they explored the area.

We then bid farewell to Pene's family and hit the road, picked up a few lunch items from the grocery store. Zipped right through southern Quebec, waving hello/goodbye to both Montreal and Quebec en route without getting out of the car (even if we did make an unscheduled trip over the St. Lawrence River to touch Quebec City for about 45 seconds). Had dinner at Mikes Restaurant, nice for the kids to get out and run around for a bit, and Poppy actually finished his entire dinner for a change (chicken nuggets).

When we got out of the restaurant, it started to rain pretty hard. The last hour and half of our drive turned into a slightly-hairy two hour drive to the hotel in Edmundston with the two-lane highway twisting and turning in the darkness in the rain. But we did make it safely and did pretty well even if we got there a little later than we expected. The room is huge and more than comfortable enough for all six of us, so we're happy with that. Look forward to getting up in the morning and hitting the pool for a hour or so before moving on to Moncton.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I was at the library yesterday to pick up some books to read while on the beach. As I approached the check-out counter with the 8 books in tow, the first book I saw on the librarian's desk was none other than Wake, by Lisa McMann.

Life is funny that way. Oh, and we survived one heck of a flash rainstorm complete with a little hail.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cottage life

Well... it's been a nice two days up north so far. The first day was interesting with traffic chaos, but we ended up discovering a nice side route that I had never been on in the 40 or so years I've been traveling up north.

Once we got to Orillia, we spent about 2.5 hours searching for a new bike for Pippy as his old bike is far too small for him and most of the next size's bikes are too big for him. He's the classic 'tweener' - most kids his age are small enough to fit in the learner bikes that have training wheels on them and then allow them to learn without the wheels for a bit before moving onto a bigger bike. Pippy's huge for his age and there's a gap between the 16-inch bikes and the 20-inch bikes that a lot of boys move up to, and for girls there's an 18-inch bike. I don't really get why there's a difference, but almost every 18-incher (no that's not code, folks) is designed for girls. Pippy won't touch a 'girly bike' in his words.

Later on at the cottage, problem solved as another kid had an extra bike that fits Pippy. So I spent half of yesterday teaching him how to ride the bike without wheels with some success. There's a huge difference between Pippy being able to ride a tiny bike last year and a much bigger one this time around, so it was quite an adjustment period for him. It was a bit comical to watch as Pippy rode off with his slightly-older cousin, but she's tiny and riding a 12-incher in record speed while he's trying to keep up on an 18-incher that is at least twice as long as hers.

And no visit to the cottage is complete without two staples.

Here's the "Holy Grail" of Muskoka cottage country:

Weber's Burgers on Highway 11, just a short hop over from the cottage.

And here's a golden oldie - The Pop Shoppe was the 'it' drink in cottage country for some time and then it vanished around the mid-80's. About three or so years ago, it had a rebirth and it's regained its popularity up in the Muskoka area:

Yum yum! A Weber's burger with a Pop Shoppe root beer (pineapple for Pene) hits the spot.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vacation time!

We're heading up north to the cottage this morning for a few days. Ahhh, nothing beats vegging out at the cottage without having to think of home or work or anything in the home area.

Here's a preview of where I'll be...

If you look in the background, you might be able to see a water tower sticking out from the top of the trees - that's Casino Rama. Just far enough away to not be imposing on us, thankfully. (click on the picture to get a much better view of everything in there - picture was taken in May before everything fully bloomed)

Then, a week from today we hit the road for Ottawa, the first stop on our two week trip. Looking forward to getting out of town and exploring both new and old places (let's face it, by now I've touched pretty much every place in N.S. and P.E.I. as I've been there dozens of times, but will enjoy showing some of the best places to Pene and the kids). I'll keep a running travelogue on here where I can.