St. Andrews, NB:  Starfish, Seals and Seaside Fun!

It was the end of July and we were deep into the dog days of summer. Our original summer plans were rescheduled and we were getting antsy to strike out and find some adventure.  I pulled out the Google box and started to search for somewhere to explore with the kids.  I came across the town of St. Andrews in New Brunswick which billed itself as “Canada’s Premier Seaside Resort”. After perusing their site I quickly decided that this is where we would go.  It was only 13 hours from our door and seemed super family friendly.

The activities we decided on were The Huntsman Aquarium, beach combing and whale watching aboard the tall ship “The Jolly Breeze”.  Finding last minute accommodations in St. Andrews was a totally different story.  We were however, finally able to secure a room at the Greenside Motel.

We struck out early on a Wednesday morning and after making a few extra stops along the way, arrived in town around 9:30 that night.  We checked in and received the key-yes, an actual key-to our room.  New owners took over a couple years ago and the amount of work they’ve done is evident.  I think in another year or two this place will be great little spot.  There was a kitchenette complete with pots, pans, coffee maker, microwave, mini fridge, hot plate and toaster oven.  We found a queen size bed waiting for us.  We snuggled in and fell asleep.  We were up early and ready to roll.  As I was packing up our stuff I heard a loud “POP”!  I ran to the kitchen and found that Maddie had somehow managed to microwave our toothpaste.  Yup.  That happened.  We narrowly averted an emergency, packed the car and skedaddled outta there.

Bonus:  The Motel gave the kids both a full size pack of gum upon checkout.
Bonus Bonus:  They ate it and didn’t stick it to the car seats or in their hair.

The first stop was of course the Tim Hortons across the road.  They scarfed down their breakfast and I adequately caffeinated.  We headed over to the Huntsman Aquarium.  The road leading into it is currently under construction.  I asked one of the guys directing traffic which way to the aquarium.  He looked at me strangely and pointed to the giant building, literally right in front of us.  Whoops.  We arrived just in time to see the seal feeding.  There was a small crowd though, so we couldn’t really get a good view.  We watched a few minutes then went to check out the giant touch tanks.  This, my friends, was a huge win!  Both kids loved every second of it.  Isaac was full of questions and the ladies working there were so kind to him and answered every single question in a way that he could understand.  The water is pumped into the tanks from the bay and has a 95% recycle rate.  There were starfish, sand dollars, lobsters, skate fish, urchins, crabs, flounder, sea cucumbers, clams and I’m sure there were more that I didn’t see.  With each creature we picked up we discussed what they felt like, what they looked like, what they ate and what ate them.  The skate fish were really interesting.  We could feel them as they’d glide by.  They’d also stick themselves to the glass and their underside looks like a smiley face.  If you go, please remember not to pick them up.  Staff had to tell the same 3 people about 5 times to stop.  Downstairs we found lots of other fish including my personal favourite, sea horses.  There were wall-sized aquariums with schools of fish swimming around and lots of other creatures.  There are also lots of games and a model fishing boat that the kids can play in.  There is a secret area behind a door to go see other sea animals that aren’t on exhibit.  There was an additional fee for this though and since I wasn’t 100% sure whether it would be worth it we didn’t venture in.  We will next time, because there will certainly be a next time.  As soon as we drove away they were asking when we could come back.

We went for a drive downtown to find something to grab for lunch.  We wandered into Olde Tyme Pizza and ordered some giant slices and drinks.  I drove to a rock beach with picnic tables to enjoy our slices.  I then let the kids loose on the beach to look for treasure.  Isaac is convinced that he found a dinosaur head fossil and Maddie filled my pockets with shells and stones.

They played, ran and treasure hunted until it was time to go whale watching.  We’d been excited for this since we booked it.

I’m going to save that and our awesome surprise bonus night at the Algonquin Resort for the next post though…

I’d go back to St. Andrews tomorrow with my kids.  The whole town seemed family friendly and oh so charming.  I’ll definitely plan to stay at least 3 nights as there is so much to see and do.

Cape D’Or: Rugged and Unplugged

We were able to sneak away for a last minute escape to Lockeport, Nova Scotia this Spring.  On our way back home to Ontario, we had the chance to make a couple of stops.

Like every 5 year old I’ve ever known, my little guy loves all things dinosaur, so we headed to the Fundy Geological Museum and Joggins Cliffs Fossil Centre.  While looking for a place to stay in between the two, a few spots popped up including the Cape D’Or Lighthouse in Advocate Harbour.  I’m a certified lighthouse junkie and staying at a lighthouse has long been on my bucket list.  I knew that it would be a thrill for my little people, too.  The tourist season hadn’t officially started yet so most of the touristy type spots were still closed for another couple weeks.  I took a chance though and sent an email to the manager.  To my delight, he called me that evening.  They weren’t truly open yet but he was going to see if he could make it work.  The next day he called to say that everything would be ready.  I told the kids that we were going to stay at a lighthouse but we knew nothing of the adventure we were about to embark upon.

We spent the day driving and checking out the Geological Museum where they learned about the formation of rock and the different dinos that have been discovered in the area.  We then started our journey to the lighthouse.  Google Maps told me that the drive would be 52 minutes.  That, my friends, may be true in theory but certainly not in practice.  We turned off the paved, Parrsboro Shore Road onto one of the twistiest, hilliest road I’ve ever been on.  The transmission in my trusty Camry was in a near constant state of confusion as we drove up, down and twisted around.  Just as soon as I started to wonder what I’d gotten us into or if Google maps was hacked, the tippy top of a lighthouse appeared.  Phew!  It was the little, replica lighthouse in the parking lot at Cape D’Or.  We got out and took in the view.  Breathtaking!  The scenery was straight off of a postcard.  With a wee bit of intimidation and a whole lot of determination we stared down the hill we were to hike down to the lighthouse.  We gathered our belongings for the night and began the trek down.  This took longer than I had anticipated.  After being at the Geological Museum earlier, the kids were very interested in the gravel we were walking on and picked up and examined many of the colourful stones on the way down.  With our pockets lined with rocks, we made it to the bottom.  It was worth every minute of the adventure thus far.  We ran over to check out the lighthouse and…what was that little thing in front of the lighthouse?  A Foghorn!  Isaac was very excited about this. We explored all we could until the rain began.  Isaac and Maddie played pirates, pretended to be lobster fishermen and played baseball with the buoys.  The daffodils had just emerged and were a glorious shot of colour when the skies turned grey.

Once the rain started we headed into the “Light Keepers Guest House”.  It’s a shared type of accommodation.  Upon entering, there was a sitting area with two couches, a sink, dishes, coffee maker with coffee, bar fridge, bookshelf full of books and a table and chairs with some of the fresh cut daffodils in a vase.  The kids, of course, were most excited to check out their rooms.  We had the two rooms at the back with a bathroom to use at the end of the hallway.  One room had a queen bed and the other two twins.  Isaac decided on his bed right away and staked his claim.  Maddie ended up with me that night so he had the room to himself.

We dug out our supper, devoured it and headed back outside where we found some rabbits!  Maddie was in love with them.  They ran and played until dusk.  As we were headed inside, the fog horn sounded for the first time.  It was as loud as expected and startled all of us.  Maddie covered her ears and Isaac shouted “Whooooa! That’s so cool, Mom!”.  Back in the house the noise was substantially muffled, but still loud.  I was concerned that the horn going off, 3 times a minute, would keep them awake.  And it did, but not much later than usual and Isaac thought it was just so cool.  Maddie didn’t share his interest in it but it didn’t seem to bother her too much.  Isaac played lighthouse keeper until bedtime.  There isn’t any tv or wifi which for the most part was a welcome break from the world but at the witching hour before bed I like the little break that tv offers me.  I plugged in my computer and prayed that the temperamental DVD player in it would work.  I popped in The Lorax and waited.  The opening credits popped up.  Yay!  Isaac snuggled up in a blanket on the couch and watched.  Maddie wasn’t into the movie so instead hopped like one of the bunnies up and down the hallway.  I was super grateful to have the place to ourselves because keeping these two secluded to one room would have been a little like herding cats at that moment. We all got ready for bed, read our stories and let the sound of the waves (and fog horn) send us to sleep.  Early in the morning- so, so early- Isaac came bounding into the room excited that the fog horn was still sounding.  We were up and outside to investigate in 5 minutes flat.  The sun was peaking through the clouds and the bunnies were watching us from the bushes.  We explored and hiked around the area and they played pirates for a couple hours.  The restaurant onsite wasn’t open yet for the season so we munched on the snacks we had left and I drank a pot of coffee.  We did the dishes, packed up our stuff, closed up and readied ourselves for the trek back up to the car.  Again, with pockets full of colourful stones and some sticks for good measure, we made it to the car.  It was at this moment that I realized just how out of shape I was and committed to get back running and biking again upon our return home.

This is a one-of-a-kind spot that is worth the twisty roads and hills to find.  This was far and away the most secluded and rugged spot I have stayed with the kids.  The unplugged nature of it was relaxing.  I love watching imaginations come to life in the absence of screens.  I’ve heard great things of the restaurant but we didn’t get to test it out ourselves.  The manager, Darcy, is kind and as unique as the location itself.  He’s accommodating and I’m sure, given some notice would be able to give you a ride up and down the hill if you aren’t able to hike it.  This is a functioning lighthouse with a light and a fog horn when it’s foggy.   Do not come with 5 star resort expectations.  This is not the Marriot Harbourfront.  You will not find a spa, wifi, jacuzzi or sauna.  You will however have an authentic, rugged and memorable Nova Scotia experience.

Springtime in PEI: Province of Endless Imagination

“It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?”
– L.M.  Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

We were able to make a last minute escape to Nova Scotia this past April and since the opportunity was there I wanted to make a couple of stops on the way back home to Ontario.  I was on the fence about making the detour to Prince Edward Island but I am so grateful that we did.

I took a leap and booked a room at Dalvay-by-the Sea.  It’s long been a dream of mine to be a guest at the “White Sands”.  As a child our family watched Road to Avonlea regularly and I know Anne of Green Gables word for word.  We checked it out many years ago but in the middle of August it was fully booked.  My husband and I drove to Dalvay a few years ago as well but it was in April, before their season starts.

I’d shown Isaac a picture of the hotel online and he was most excited about…the chairs.  We crossed the Confederation Bridge and the first thing that stood out for me was how tidy the island is and the pride that people take in their homes and properties.  The yards were neatly manicured and the houses were colourful and well maintained.  After an hour or so of driving, we pulled into Dalvay.  I still couldn’t believe that we were staying here and completely geeked out.

We checked in and were given our key – yes folks, and actual key- to room number 9.  I’d recommend requesting this room if you can. We found a plate of cookies waiting and milk was delivered shortly after.  There were 2 super comfy queen beds, two wing back chairs, coat closet, bathroom, little balcony and stunning views.  They had a pack-n-play set up in the room for Maddie which was helpful.  There were also two bottles of raspberry cordial on the table.  Isaac was a little heavy handed with the bottle, got a little wild and broke a glass. Whoops!  That cordial will get you every time.

We headed to the dining room for dinner.  They had a kids menu and maybe more importantly, ketchup.  The kids enjoyed their grilled cheese and chicken fingers.  They came with a side of fried potato slices.  These had a taste and crunch similar to Miss Vickie’s chips but better somehow.  I had the scallops.  My goodness, these scallops.  We very rarely enjoy fine dining so I treated myself.  I have no words for how delectable it was.  I’ll attach a picture, which won’t do justice.  Admittedly, I was nervous dining with my kids at such an upscale place but they were pretty well behaved and it was so sweet to watch them practice their “fancy manners”.

After dinner we went to the lawn to burn off some energy.  The kids ran and ran.  They pretended to fish, to be on a safari and had jumping races.  They were getting tired and I’d already seen bedtime tick by.  This is where things get equally frustrating and sweet.

Along our journey I had managed to misplace my credit card.  I had assumed it was under my car seat because well, that’s just the kind of person I am.  When we were checking in I still couldn’t put my hands on it but we were able to get checked in and up to our room.  Small panic.  After checking out the room I tore through my car trying to spot it.  Slightly more panic.  Maybe, just maybe it was in our suitcase.  I emptied out our bags.  No luck.  By now I had enlisted my son as our detective and made it a game.  Still nothing.  We were done playing on the lawn, it was now dark and I was dragging the kids out to the car one last time to look.  Leah, who was working the front desk mentioned that she would watch them for a few minutes while I ran out.  Normally I would have said “No, that’s fine” but I was only a few minutes and I was just outside the door.  There were no more nooks or crannies that the card could be hiding in so I had decided to call and cancel the card after the kids were asleep.  Bummer.  As I come back through the doors, I found Leah along with both kids, sitting on the sofa in front of the fire reading an Anne of Green Gables storybook.  My heart almost burst.  My kids, on PEI being introduced to Anne of Green Gables at The White Sands Dalvay-by-the-Sea.  All the moment needed was Gus Pike playing the fiddle outside the door and Simon Tremain stomping through.  We went back up to our room and as I tucked the kids in to bed Isaac spotted it.   There lay the card under the bed, camouflaged as it was the exact same colour as the carpet.  All in all a great end to the day.

For breakfast Maddie wore her fanciest dress and hat, along with her rubber boots of course. The kids were made special pancakes which they devoured.  The coffee was just right.  It’d been quite a while since I’d had a really good cup of coffee so I doubled down, had another and grabbed one for the road.

We checked out and on the advice of the Manager, Joel, we headed to Brackley Beach which, along with Dalvay is located inside PEI National Park.  Despite the wind which didn’t even faze the kids, we played for an hour and then struck out for Green Gables.

We toured the house.  Since the kids don’t totally get the Anne thing we made it into an education on how people lived at the turn of the century.  We discussed things like cooking on a wood stove and life without a refrigerator.  We hiked the trail behind the house.  This was the “Haunted Woods”.  The trail was well maintained and an easy walk for the kids.  Isaac was a little freaked out by the “Haunted” bit but after explaining that it was “enchanted” he decided to grab a stick and become a magician.

Then, just like that our Island escape was over.  On the drive to the bridge we spotted a water park, go carts, toy factory, COWS ice cream shops and so many other places to check out once the summer season starts up.  Traveling during shoulder season means many attractions are still closed but the crowds are non-existent and there wasn’t a tour bus in sight, which is highly prized for us.  I can’t wait to go back to the Island for a longer stay in the summer time.  In the meantime I’ll keep watching the new Anne series and keep an eye out for the White Sands.

The Beauty and the Brrrr: 5 Niagara Falls Attractions for Your Family This Winter

My name is Allison and I unintentionally lie to my husband and children every November, without fail.

Allow me to set the scene.  It’s mid-November, the leaves have all fallen off of the trees, the days are shorter and getting greyer by the second.  I grab my giant cup of coffee and proudly announce that this-this is the year I am going to enjoy winter!  We’re going to learn to snowshoe and cross-country ski and enjoy all of the parks that are open around us.  Then, before I know it it’s mid-January and I’m spending my spare moments wrapped in my Snuggie, Continue reading “The Beauty and the Brrrr: 5 Niagara Falls Attractions for Your Family This Winter”

OH CANADA! 7 Reasons For You To Explore The Great White North

Canada is truly free.  That’s not just a word that we throw around, it really is the true north, strong and free!  Canada was actually named the “Most Free Country on Earth” in 2015.  One of the reasons was because 94% of Canadians believe they have the freedom to choose the course of their own lives.  The current Canadian Cabinet members are equally divided between men and women, along with many different cultures because we see the value of each group of citizens being represented. Our previous Governor General, Michaëlle Jean was not only a woman, she was a Haitian refugee. Our Minister of Defense is Sikh.  Many Members of Parliament are immigrants from countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, India, the United States, England and Switzerland. Immigrants are encouraged to share the traditions and stories from their homeland.  This leads to great understanding and compassion along with yummy food and festivals.  There are so many other reasons to list as well including the fact that Continue reading “OH CANADA! 7 Reasons For You To Explore The Great White North”

PUMPKINFEST! Fun on the Farm for the Entire Family!

Buckhorn & Lakefield, Ontario:

PUMPKINFEST!  Two Words:  Pumpkin.  Cannon.

About 40 minutes North-ish of Peterborough, Ontario lies the itsy bitsy village of Buckhorn.  We’ve been to the area several times to eat delectable Chinese food at the Cody Inn, inhale a Kawartha Hoagie at Mainsreet Landing or to Pizza Alloro for the most interesting and mouthwatering pizza I’ve ever had. Continue reading “PUMPKINFEST! Fun on the Farm for the Entire Family!”

The Best Laid Plans (of a Cloth Diapering Mama) Often Go Awry

Dear Drought of 2016:  You win.


Cloth Diapers

We cloth diaper.  There, I said it.  Now that it’s out there I’ll explain a little bit why.  We love the Earth and try to conserve resources where we can, but are not environmental activists by any stretch of the imagination.  I try to buy organic fruits and veggies, but only Continue reading “The Best Laid Plans (of a Cloth Diapering Mama) Often Go Awry”