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Hello 40!!!

40th birthday

Looks like I made it! :)

There was never any doubt that I would make it to my 40th birthday. If you had asked me when I was a kid if I would have reached this milestone with so many experiences and accomplishments under my belt, I probably would have laughed. Laughed unabashedly and really loud like I always do – because life is too short to be quiet.

So, to properly review these past 40 years, I looked at my Life List. My first reaction was “Holy crap, when did I find the time to do all that?!??” Especially with everything else going on in my life like school, marriage, career, family and friends, staying healthy, enjoying hobbies and day to day life and responsibilities. As of today, I have completed 273 items of 432 on my ever-growing list.

I’ve visited 17 countries. I’ve visited 6 provinces and 11 states. I’ve taken 8 cruises and too many trips to count.

I’ve celebrated 11 years of marriage. I’ve owned 6 different cars. I’ve lived in 5 different places I could call my own (2 apartments, 3 houses). I’ve lived in 3 different provinces in my lifetime and 6 different cities. So far.

I’ve worked at the same company for 18 and a half years and have held 5 different jobs there.

I’ve learned lots of skills and tried many new things. I’ve enjoyed numerous activities:

…from the amazing (ziplining in the rainforest in St. Kitts, cave tubing in Belize, attending a luau in Hawaii, a salmon bake in Alaska) to the fun (learning ballroom dancing, participating in a flash mob, learning the Thriller dance, going to a rave, singing in a talent show) to the cultural (the Louvre, the d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon, Old Town Rhodes) to the food-related (wine tasting in Niagara on the Lake, whiskey tasting in Ireland, having a meal at a chef’s table, eating shark / ostrich / escargot / duck / rabbit / caviar / venison / wild boar…) to the vehicular (ride in/on a limo, segway, catamaran, cruise ship, sailboat, go-kart, double decker bus, canoe, horse)…and so many more!

Life truly is a journey and it’s really what you make of it. Dreams are to be achieved; goals are to be attained. At 40, I don’t think I’m halfway through life yet and I’m looking forward to many more adventures, travels and learning experiences. I’m really excited for what’s to come. :)

forty

 

 

Adventure: Albion Falls

This morning we visited Albion Falls and hiked in the surrounding area to enjoy the fall foliage. It was a cool day and partially cloudy. It took us about 20-25 minutes to drive there and there are a few parking lots in the area (free) with signs to the viewing platforms. It was very scenic and the colours of the leaves are pretty close to their peak right now. Great morning!

View from the bridge on Mountain Brow Rd – you can hear the falls from here.

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View from the viewing platform on the opposite side:

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You can actually see our parked car in the distance, just above the falls in the pic and to the right – ours is he white one :)

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On the trail…

 

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Ok, I nudged the yellow leaf closer to the red and green ones but the contrast was really too great to pass up. :)

 

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There’s a short staircase (maybe 15 steps) and a dirt path down the other side of the falls:

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We had the troops down to visit this weekend. My sister and her two girls as well as my brother and his wife all came down from Montreal for the weekend. We had a packed schedule of fall activities planned and thankfully the weather didn’t disappoint!

Saturday we headed out to Stonehaven Farm to visit the pumpkin patch, get lost in the corn maze (life list item crossed off!!) and pick up some farm fresh pies. Our next stop was Crawford Lake to visit the reconstructed Iroquois village (one of my nieces has a school project to build a longhouse so this was a perfect stop as she got to see one up close); we also hiked the trail around the lake (1.4km, easy boardwalk path). The views were really nice. Then we returned home to carve the pumpkins and enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. :)

Sunday we walked around our neighborhood, stopped at some local parks, walked a local trail then back home for lunch. In the afternoon we went over to Springridge Farm for the Harvest Festival and the kids had fun on the Fun Farm. They played with the animals, ran around in the hay bales, slid down the slides, watched the puppet show, navigated the little corn path… A fun afternoon at the farm. :) We picked up some kettle corn and other goodies at the market and headed back home for supper (and Maddie’s birthday cupcakes!) and to watch Harry Potter 2 (Chamber of Secrets). We couldn’t stay awake for the whole movie – we were all pooped – so we’ll watch the second half today. :)

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In the longhouse at Crawford Lake, listening to lore and watching a fire starting demonstration – which was pretty awesome!

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On the hike around the lake:

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Thanksgiving dinner!

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Animals at Springridge Farm:

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Maddie’s birthday ghoulie cupcakes:

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This morning we headed to Rattlesnake Point, another conservation area in the Milton, ON area hoping to enjoy some early fall foliage. Although the drive there was a sight to behold with some trees sporting bright yellow, fiery orange and deep red leaves, there was still quite a bit of green and very little along the trails in the park. The next couple of weeks should be showstopping.

We followed two trails. The Vista Adventure trail (red) and the Buffalo Craig trail (yellow), a total of about 4.5 km. It was quite busy for a Sunday morning with lots of families on the trails. We also saw several people rock climbing which is an activity offered here.

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For the past couple of years, Chris and I have been learning about food and the importance of eating healthy, organic and/or food that was grown locally. It hadn’t really hit home until I started reading the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingslover. Barbara tells the story of how their family moved to a farm in Virginia and decided to grown their own food, raise their own livestock and support the local farming community. She also explained some of the issues with the food industry which really opened our eyes to real problems with the way things currently are.

As a result of learning about these issues and the consequences that come with them, Chris and I have decided to be much more proactive about where our food comes from. Some of our biggest concerns include:

  • Some of the food that you see in your supermarket’s produce section has travelled thousands of kilometers to get there. They’ve been treated with chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics to make them hearty enough for long distance travel, usually at the cost of taste and nutrients. Along with that are the transportation emissions produced to get food across the country to your table. (What for?? So you can have a pineapple in January? It’s just not worth it.)
  • Making and transporting the chemicals requires more energy and produces more greenhouse gases.
  • Growing livestock for food in some large production facilities are cause for concern. Things like stacks of cages crammed full of chickens with nowhere to go, sitting in their own feces – because that many chickens in such close quarters have to poop somewhere. Feeding livestock certain foods to fatten them up that their species were never meant to eat in the first place. Feeding them grain because it costs less but requires so much energy to produce.

What we want to do going forward:

  • Support local farms by buying local. The food is fresher, tastes better, contains fewer/no chemicals, generates fewer transportation emissions and supports the local economy.
  • Grow some of our own food. I’m already planning for next spring’s garden and will start learning how to preserve food to have local produce through the winter months (freezing, canning, drying).
  • Buy organic where possible.
  • Buy closest to home: For us, that’s Ontario. If that’s not possible, buy as close to home as possible; at a minimum, buy Canadian.

We know there will be some items that are just not available locally, like coffee. For those we’ll commit to educating ourselves and choosing a source that has ethical practices.

We had our first grocery trip this morning and we did pretty well! Most of the produce we purchased was from Ontario, the rest was Canadian. All local, some organic. We bought strawberries, pears, lettuce, red peppers, butternut squash, acorn squash, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes and basil.

Other items we purchased were also either from Ontario or Quebec: Yogurt, cheese, organic chicken, organic pork.

Some items that were difficult to find any Canadian source for were: beans/legumes and quinoa. We’ll have to do some research for those. :)

And the cool thing? We ended up spending the same amount as our usual weekly grocery trip.

We feel good about our choices and are excited about doing the right thing. The right thing for us, for our health, for our local farms and for our local economy. It’s a win-win all around.

Today we headed over to Hilton Falls and followed the yellow trail (Hilton Falls trail). I’m eager for the colorful fall foliage but there’s still a lot of green; just a bit of yellow and once in a while a hint of red. Not quite there yet but it’s coming soon. It was a warm day, 20C degrees and sunny. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the summer season with the green grass, warm weather and long days. But I feel most alive in the fall, when the air changes and I can smell the leaves, the colors change with yellow, oranges and red, and all I want to eat are apples, cider, squash and Thanksgiving dinner. :) Aaaah, bliss.

Anyhoo – I digress.

What I should have started this post with was: Yes, we saw a snake!

I teeny tiny one, and I was too slow to take a picture but we enjoyed several seconds’ worth of watching him pause in his tracks (probably wondering why the crazy humans went off the beaten path and dared disrupt his midday stroll) then slither away through the forest.

But, back to the beginning of the trail first… Most of the trail was packed dirt and quite wide. Very easy and very flat, lots of shade.

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There was a lot of moss – that was pretty cool.

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As always, looking up provides a different perspective on things. I kept peeking for any sign of the leaves changing color but all I saw was green, and occasionally some yellow. Soon, soon.

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Pretty… A bumblebee (top) happily buzzing around…

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Surprised to see a ripe raspberry still around – you’d think they’d all be munched up by now.

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As we approached the area where the falls were, there was a fire going (that smelled amazing!!!) with lots of seating, picnic tables and rocks. There are a few viewing areas – we visited them all. This pic was taken from the path approaching the fire area:

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The view at the top of the falls – I could sit here for hours, just listening to the water…

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The water was super clear. The view straight ahead to the other side:

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The view upstream:

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We followed a short trail (that connected to the Bruce trail) along the water to get a better view of the mill ruins. We had to climb some pretty steep rock to get up there and it was along this path that we met our snake friend. He was small – maybe a foot and a half in length, black with a yellow stripe.

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I Googled snakes commonly found in southeastern Ontario and we think it was an Eastern Garter snake, like this guy:

Photo by Joe Crowley

Photo by Joe Crowley

We were still giggly from our snake encounter as we made our way back to the fire area and headed to the cairn, another viewing area.

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View of the opening where the mill wheel would have been:

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View upstream from this vantage point:

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We made our way down the stairs to the lower viewing area.

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Good view of the falls from here:

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More mill ruins…

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Cool trees and cliff near the stairs:

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We then headed back on the yellow trail…

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Saw some cool lichen too – I had to ask Chris what it was since it looked like ice but at 20C degrees, clearly couldn’t be. Neat eh?

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That was our hike! An easy one – it was about 4km and took us about 1.25 hours including the time spent at the falls.

Adventure: Christie Lake

This morning we ventured out to Christie Lake in the Hamilton Conservation Area. It was a beautiful morning – and after a 25 minute drive West on Dundas St, we got to the lake at about 10:30am and it was 18C, sunny and dry – a perfect late summer day.

We wanted to hike the “Round the Lake” trail since it was listed as 5.6km for the loop and we likely hit 6km with the initial back and forth we did trying to find the trail head. :) At a leisurely pace, it took us about 2 hours.

The trail goes over grass in some areas and mostly packed dirt paths through the forest areas. There are a few hills but nothing very difficult. Once on the trail, the markings were clear for the trail we were on as well as several other walking and mountain bike trails crossing it.

The scenery was very diverse as you’ll see from the photos – and I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the fall once the leaves start to change color.

Right after we parked the car (near the marina area) and headed out to find the trail head, we spied this heron perched in the sun. He was quite large.

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He let us get pretty close then flew to a nearby post – what a graceful bird. I’d never seen a heron fly before – he was huge!

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The lake was serene and beautiful. Our hike took us on a full loop around the lake.

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There were lots of wildflowers and butterflies darting around. I was lucky to catch this guy:

 

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We also saw what we believe is a loon. He jumped into the water as he saw us walking by.

 

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Crossing to the south side of the lake:

 

 

 

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This side of the trail was mostly forest and the trees offered some shade.

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It was cool to see the trees lush and green on one side of the path but very dry on the other, except at the very top where they grew leaves:

 

 

 

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Here’s a good shot of dry on one side and lush on the other:

 

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One of the trail markers (showing a picture of the lake):

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You can see the lake on the left through the foliage:

 

 

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The trail brought us to the Darnley Dam which was pretty cool.

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Approaching from the north side, right before you cross the pedestrian bridge, there’s a trail on the right to go down and see the Darnley Cascade waterfall – there was a small walking path to do down further as well.

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This path also brought you to the old Darnley Grist Mill:

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After that, we headed back up to the pedestrian bridge to cross it and head back towards where we parked the car. Posted on the side of the pedestrian bridge:

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On the bridge, facing Christie Lake:

 

 

 

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On the bridge facing the other side:

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On the bridge, facing Spencer Creek. On the other side of the bridge is where the “Spencer Adventure” links to the trail that would bring you to Webster’s Falls (a must see).

 

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It was a great hike with lots to see and lots of different terrain. Christie Lake has a ton of activities too: You can rent boats (canoes and row boats – we saw some), fish, swim (they rent tubes), play disc golf, enjoy a picnic and/or barbecue, not to mention lots of trails for walkers or mountain bikers. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy nature.

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