The Perfect Day Trip From Toronto

When I travel, I love big cities.

I also love the smaller towns, a day trip away, where a different world awaits.

If you live in or are visiting the Toronto area, then this is one day trip that should be on your list.

Go one hour east of Toronto and you will find two of the quaintest towns ever – Port Hope and Cobourg, side by side.

Port Hope has a charming name and plenty of adorable scenery to match. A main street filled with flowers, cute stores and delicious restaurants combined with a rolling river with a path along side makes this town perfect for strolling and relaxing.This is the kind of place that you search for high and low when you travel. And when you find it, you don’t want to leave.

Port Hope is filled with great restaurants but if you are coming, be sure to check out Olympus Burger, a favourite destination for locals filled with a wide range of burgers with Greek names and the best sweet potato fries ever. Any burger place that also includes 3 veggie burger options is also top-notch in my books!

If you are in the mood for Thai, our favourite is The Bualai Thai restaurant where friendly service and a beautifully designed interior meets amazing food and equals major satisfaction.

For shopping, you must visit a one of a kind store just outside Port Hope called Primitive Designs. This is not just shopping, it is sight-seeing around the world! With an inventory from Buddha statues to Tiki bars to wood carved furniture to even transformers made from recycled parts, it makes shopping a delight for even a non-shopper such as myself!

If you are in the mood to swim, drive a few minutes more to Cobourg where the loveliest beach and harbour await.

Port Hope and Cobourg are 2 towns that look like they walked off a Hollywood movie screen. So charming and adorable to look at that you can’t believe they are real!

When you travel do you like to find smaller places outside larger cities to explore? 

3 Ways You Too Can Survive Camping In Canada

Camping in Canada can be fun.

It also can suck.

After a successful weekend of camping, our family has finally succeeded in mastering the art of camping.

What You Need To Do

1. Simplify

For years I have made multiple lists of what to bring camping. By the time my lists were checked off, I had brought everything but the kitchen stove! It would have been easier to put the house on wheels and move it.

This time, no lists. Just a random walk through of the garage and a few items pulled from the dusty shelves. Repeat in kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and still 99% less stuff than previous camping trips. Already less anxiety and more smiles.

Okay, so when we arrived we didn’t have the fly swatter, the mesh protector for food, the cooler filled with food that we never end up cooking, the zillion ziplock bags but who cares? We had bug spray, a tent, some snacks (that we called dinner) and we could still call ourselves campers.

2. Stay Close To Home

There is no rule that camping means driving long distances. Arriving 10 minutes away from home, we had a campsite, trees, birds, picnic table, and a brook. We were camping within walking distance of our house so even if rule number 1 (simplify) massively failed, we could home and redo it. ūüôā

3. Return Home When Redo Is Necessary

So after our first night in our tent without too much padding on the ground (remember we were simplifying) we returned home to grab our couch pillows so that the second night actually involved sleeping!

Camping without sleeping is highly overrated. Camping and sleeping make for happier families!

As we pulled out this morning from our site, both girls thanked us immediately for a terrific weekend of marshmallows, hot dogs, cards, swimming, fires and laughter.

What more could you want from a simple camping trip in Canada?

What kind of camping person are you? 

A Trip Down Rollerskating Lane

As I watch my kids grow up, I travel down memory lane.

Now although I enjoy this kind of trip, it has been made known to me (sighs, groans, protest, dead silence) that not all members of my family love this kind of travel as much as I do.

Sucked into their world of head phones, music, videos, photos, movies and anything that involves technology, stories of walking, running, swimming, biking can take a backseat.

It takes some creative engineering to break through the world of Minecraft!

Enter: the world of rollerskating.

As the kids looked at their roller skates like they were some foreign object dropped down from Mars, they questioned my sanity. Surely inline skates (the known) would be much better than roller skates (the unknown).

Nope! This was going to be a trip down memory lane. Roller skates or nothing!

After a few trips around the dark disco light floor listening to Michael Jackson, they had to agree.

This trip (at least this time) wasn’t too bad, actually!

Do you have any rollerskating memories? I was so happy when we found this rink as I thought that rollerskating had completely died! 

Canada Day: Toronto Style

One word for Canada Day.

WOW.

Toronto has a way of doing that.

On the way to the baseball game, these are the Canadian moments we saw.

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And what brought tears to my eyes, was a parade we stumbled upon put on by immigrants and refugees to Canada. People who have chosen to make Canada their home.

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And then a baseball game that was so much more than a baseball game. A place to celebrate Canadian heroes as they unfolded our flag. It was one of those I won’t forget moments.

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And even the moon was celebrating in all its light.

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Happy belated Canada Day to all. And for those of you who haven’t visited, do come. It is worth the trip.

Living in Cambodia: The Watermelon Way

When I lived in the Cambodian jungle, there was no store. Not. one. single. one.

There was no “I have a craving for (insert junk food) and I think I will hop in my car and go get some.”

Once our maid departed for the day, any late night craving meant boiling water and eating ramen soup. So when a fruit season would hit, I was the first one at the source, scrounging.

I could independently feed myself with le fruit du jour and imbibe all day long! This was exciting stuff. Breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks. Never got boring, ever.

On the odd day that we crossed the mighty Mekong River and went shopping, I would find more of the same fruit. Like lots more (see photograph above). Thankfully some Australian chocolate (which the mouse in my house would eat) and french fries could also be mustered up.

Fruit became my saving grace… all of it… except for one.

Papaya.

Just say no to papaya!

(Eating watermelon today reminded me how much it used to mean to me. And how cheap it used to cost! It also sparked a creative way to use watermelon leftovers on a hot day. Yes, this is he who is a goofball, of the best kind. However, I hope he refrains from such watermelon use in Cambodia when we go this year. He may feel cool, but he doesn’t look it!)

What food saved your day when you were travelling or living elsewhere? Is there any kind of fruit you dislike?

How To Be An Amazing Stepfather

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and Chris was off to bingo. He doesn’t play bingo; he doesn’t even like it.

He volunteers at bingo in order to support Jade’s musical theatre program. 8 hours of volunteering at bingo has provided us with a lot of funny stories.

And every family can use a bit of funny; especially one that develops a little later in life.

When our 2 families met, the blending of our daughters and ourselves was a piece of cake – chocolate for 4 of us and vanilla for 2 of us. Yes, we have 2 daughters who don’t like chocolate! I know… unbelievable really.

When Chris met Jade, he knew instinctively how to create a unique and personal relationship with her. She was in grade 1 and loved to write. Chris, also being a witty and talented writer; developed a strong bond with Jade through their love of writing, often leaving notes for her in random places and always putting one in her lunch box.

Writing led to shared jokes, shared songs, shared stories, and many shared activities. They have designed a world that is their’s together. Understanding who Jade was, they created a system of ” I hate you” which of course means “I love you” and special words that trigger positive happy memories.

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Chris can be a caring and understanding kind of goof ball and this is what Jade loves most. He has dressed up and played the role of a fortune teller for the Harry Potter birthday party, he has played a farmer for the Anne of Green Gables birthday party, he has run a blackjack table for the casino party, he has been the mummy at the Halloween party and he has even worn the pink underwear Jade made him. (The featured picture is of the Christmas they both gave each other underwear!)

Yes, she seems to have him tied around her little finger, the one he used to trim for her since she didn’t trust me to do it.

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They have travelled together, they have played and watched sports together, they have cooked together, together being the key word. Chris, a busy father of 4 girls who travels as part of his job, always makes time for Jade, his stepdaughter. A stepdaughter who is his daughter, no different than our other 3 daughters.

But of all the things they share in common that have created their special bond, ice cream plays the most important role. Both are obsessed with ice cream and Jade has even been known to lick the top of the ice cream in the carton, to prevent Chris from taking any! Yes, this is the kind of weird and wonderful relationship they have developed. They wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Lobster Crawl: The Hunt For The Best Island Lobster Roll

We are a blended family and we blend really well except for one thing.

Seafood.

On one side of the blend, there is a deep passion for all things that swim or crawl. At least once they are in an edible state that is. My husband and 3 of our daughters love lobster rolls. In fact they even have them on Christmas Eve. The other side of the blend, that being myself and Miss Jade, politely hold our noses and wait for it to be over.

So when Erin told me her plans for her latest adventure, I was not surprised. She and her boyfriend Aidan have that 20-something hard life of attending wine and beer festivals in eastern Canada. “Forced” to work and drink at the latest wine festival in Prince Edward Island and very familiar with pub crawls :), they decided to create the lobster crawl, a search for the best lobster roll the Island has to offer. This is Erin’s account on how it all rolled out.

1. Water and Prince Corner Shop (Charlottetown, PEI)

Least favorite roll on our crawl, great overall experience. This spot came recommended by a couple of our Island friends during our Friday night escapades at Gahan House. Served up on a steak-style bun, this baby was unfortunately not toasted.. or buttered. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat lobster in any way, shape, form but I like a little (ok a LOT) of butter on my roll. Perk to this roll; a big-ass scoop of grandma-style, paprika-topped potato salad on the side. Doesn’t get any more Maritime than this. The only sit down stop of the crawl, service was amazing and we even had meaningful conversation with our waitress who was thrilled to hear about our day ahead!

Roll 3.5/5
Experience 4/5

2. The Chip Shack (Charlottetown, PEI)

This stop, recommended by both Cheryl (the best step mother in the world – yes Cheryl did some editing) and other Islanders we ran into was a real treat. Outdoors. Prime spot downtown. Bright and Shiny. Eccentric ‘Chip’ lady running the whole show… Amazeballs. The downside? One frigid, windy pre-summer afternoon on the Charlottetown Waterfront. The goal here was eat the roll, and get out.

The price point was great at under ten dollars, but the most impressive part about this roll was the no-frills hotdog bun used to house the succulent lobster salad. Not only did the smaller bun better complement the amount of lobster salad, but the extra buttery toasted outside was to die for. This roll did not last long. Like I said, it was cold outside, and the roll was unreal! We crushed it and moved onto our next destination. (Side note – the fries or “chips” looked great, we’ll be back to try them out when we’re on a less aggressive¬†eating venture – Cheryl can attest to their unbelievable yummy taste).

Roll 4.2/5
Experience 3.8/5


With full bellies, we hopped in the Jetta and took a lovely coastal drive to Brackley beach, through North Rustico and finally ending in Cavendish. The tourist focal-point of PEI.

3. Captain Sam’s (Cavendish, PEI)

The touristy price point was there, but so was the quality. By far our biggest roll of the day, also came along with a similar steak-style bun as the first stop, but this time with butter. Lots of it. The lobster salad was on point, and the meat-to-bun ratio..perfect. The cheerful lady at the cash looked thrilled to see us! Very well could have been the first customers of the day. When we turned down the accompanying french fries (let’s get real.. we were still too full to be even having another lobster roll), she happily offered us a different side and served us up each a dish of old-school creamy coleslaw.

Having travelled to Cavendish for summer vacation as a child and many weekend-getaways as a teen and early adolescent, I had never quite seen Cavendish like this. Quiet, deserted and slightly creepy? Enjoying our roll, we looked around amazed at our quiet surroundings in a place we’d only ever seen jam-packed¬†with tourists. The only other souls around were Islanders dragging in merchandise to their stores as they clearly began to prepare for the summer months ahead.

Roll 4.5/5
Experience 4/5

Where was the best lobster roll you ever ate? Do you have a family like our’s – with polar opposites for food choices?¬†

In Training for Cairo

So it just hit me.

This Cairo move might just require some practice.

So as I walk downtown in my town of 18 thousand people, I try to imagine a city of 17 million. So for every person I meet in my town, I need to add 944 people to that person.

Ok. That didn’t go so well.

I try to encourage people in my town to honk like crazy, ignore all traffic rules, and drive in multiple lanes going in every direction.

That didn’t work too well either.

I just read that flying ants and big butt spiders are par for the course in Cairo. Yuck!

But no polite request to my ant hill in my front yard results in any flying ants so I am out of luck there as well.

Apparently sand coats everything and constant sweeping is required to get rid of that gritty feeling on the floor.

I try to get my dog to bring in some dirt but she just looks me and goes back to sleep. So nope that didn’t work either.

In Cairo you haggle and bargain for a lot of goods such as fruit and veggies in the market.

I try to negotiate with the clerk at the grocery store and she looks at me like I have 3 heads. That didn’t go down too well.

I have read that I will need to lower my expectations when running errands. I guess one errand per day in Cairo is a lot.

Yay! Finally I meet with success. I am totally capable of running only one errand a day. That sounds just like me!

Oh? You say that one errand can take all day to complete and tons of patience? And maybe some Arabic thrown in? Darn! I knew there would be a catch.

So much for the training. I will be winging it I guess, along with the flying ants!

(On the bright side, Cairo has a delivery culture where almost everything can be delivered… so maybe we will just stay inside with the sand, the flying ants, the big butt spiders and have everyone come to us instead. That would make for a very exciting travel blog. NOT!) ūüôā

The Perfect Town Fair: Canada Style

An apple blossom festival with no apple blossoms is like an apple pie without apples. A bit odd but then odd can be interesting. Or so we told ourselves as we wandered around the Colborne Apple Blossom Tyme Festival, east of Toronto.

With all the pickings of a perfect town fair, we decided to rename the festival and explore it with fresh eyes.

So what makes a perfect town fair in Canada?

Well first and foremost, you must have tractors, trucks, old cars and a few old men sitting in lawn chairs. You can’t call yourself a fair without these!

And what says fair more than fried mars bars, fried pickles, sausages, and fries. But cheesecake and wood oven pizza? Foodies are taking over, even at the fair!

Remember when kids used to play with hula hoops instead of app buttons? And pony rides cost a dollar?

And when was the last time you saw such a quaint, make you want to walk in kind of law office, ever?

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Of course, fairs have ducklings but laser tag? I guess this is a town fair trying to get some teen buy-in.

Every perfect town fair has to have buskers, a ferris wheel, trinkets to buy, and a fire truck on display. We refrained from riding the ferris wheel when Chris deemed it a “no go” zone. Apparently the rust features didn’t scream rideability. But then again, Chris does do not rides…ever.

And it could never be a perfect town fair without a strong man competition. For those trying this at home, these are the steps to success.

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2015-05-30 10.41.532015-05-30 10.42.03And then for some light reading after the fair, you can pick up a free bible.

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Or go to the quaintest church that reminded me of those in Mexico. And off my mind goes… dreaming of somewhere else.

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I have to admit that being from the prairies, I am used to fairs with livestock, horse shows, 4H sewing and baking competitions, cowboy hats and of course, belt buckles! But we have hit the big leagues here in Ontario, so our criteria for judging the perfect town fair has changed. And this one was a winner.

What is your favourite part of a fair? MIne is the candy apple minus the apple!

2 Prince Edward Island Restaurants That Shocked Us

It started on Christmas Eve.

My father landed in the hospital, my mother was distraught and we were trying to make something out of nothing.

Dad, feeling guilty, suggested we find a place for supper to somehow salvage the Christmas spirit which was less than flowing in the hospital corridors. It was 7PM.

What would be open?

As we cruised the streets of Charlottetown, it looked dismal. Even the fast food restaurants had closed for the night. Then we saw it…the neon lights beckoning us in. Thank God for The Noodle House. From that moment on, The Noodle House became a symbol of a sad time rectified by a good meal and friendly service.

A few years later when my dad passed away accidentally, we were ¬†grieving and so we returned to our comfort place. After a yummy plate of Singapore noodles, we received our fortune cookies. The fortune cookies, those interesting little “add-ons” read without much thought, had never been my favourite. I didn’t like their taste and their sayings were usually ridiculous.

Until that day.

My dad always said in times of trouble –¬†Keep your chin up!¬†And those were the very words delivered in my fortune cookie that day.

Being more attentive to possible “signs”, The Kitchen Witch, another Island restaurant (image in header), known for its fortune-teller who reads tea leaves, was now on my eating radar. My husband had just received his dream job and was curious to know what the leaves would say. The restaurant, being quirky, quaint, and serving yummy food, drew us in. The tea leaf reader kept us hooked. We waited with bated breath. Then she opened her mouth and mine dropped. She hit all the nails on every head and off to Toronto Chris went.

So if you happen to be in Prince Edward Island and are seeking guidance, we strongly suggest these two restaurants which provide both delicious food and a nod in the right direction.

In the meantime, many fortune cookies later, I have to admit that only some actually “work”. I have become a selective believer.

Some of the fortune cookie messages that I believe! Others... I ignore:)

Some of the fortune cookie messages that I believe! Others… I ignore:)

Have you ever visited a fortune-teller? If so, what was your experience?