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After yesterday’s upside down weather day (a yoyo of a day with sun, rain, clouds, pouring, sun), and seeing the clear and gorgeous summer weather predicted for today, we headed over to Mount Nemo Conservation Area for a hike.

We had only gone once before and it was great, nicer than we remembered with some pretty spots to look out at the turkey vultures and the surrounding farms and landscapes. We did a bit of the yellow trail and the whole orange trail which coincides with the Bruce Trail and makes for a more challenging and interesting hike. It was relatively short – about 3km.

The terrain is varied with roots and rocks, cliffs and some steep climbs (both up and down). Lots of birds, chipmunks, a snake (Chris saw him, I was too slow and/or blind to see him), the most turkey vultures we’ve ever seen soaring along the cliffs, even a herd of cows in the distance.:)

Me and the view (in my Gryffindor cap):

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Chris and the view:)  (the sun wasn’t in a good spot..created a bit of glare/shade)

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In the faaaaar away distance, you can see a herd of cows in the field , just off to the right of the two black spots in the centre of the pic.

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With my awesome zoom, I was able to get a close up of the cows:

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Those are some huge mushrooms!

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Berries! They look so delicate…a nice pop of colour in the greenery.

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Chris ran to the top of this hill – you can see him all the way up there:

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No running for me (That’s probably why I’m still smiling):

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The beginnings of the raspberries – these were still tiny, only about a quarter inch in size:

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The chipmunk spy – I think he was more curious about us then we were of him. Cutie:

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We opted to vacation in Canada this year because of the weak Canadian dollar (why sped money when you don’t need to right?) and decided on the Maritimes. We were torn between the Maritimes and Banff/Lake Louise and chose the Maritimes mainly because for the Alberta trip we want to take a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer and that would take our budget over what we were hoping to spend this year. Secondly, the idea of a road trip around the different Maritime provinces sounded like a lot of fun. So, once the decision was made, I got to planning all the details (aka my happy place).

We’ll be going for 13 days and will fly from TO to Halifax, pick up our rental car at the airport and tackle our awesome itinerary:

Day 1: Halifax, NS: Visit the Citadel, walk around downtown to scope out the area.

Day 2: Halifax, NS: Drive down to visit Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Peggy’s Cove.

Day 3: Halifax, NS: Sightseeing in Halifax.

Day 4: Drive to Moncton, NB (perhaps through Annapolis Valley – depends on the tides), visit Hopewell Rocks, possible hike in Bay of Fundy National Park.

Day 5: Alma, NB: Half day kayak tour, possible hike in Bay of Fundy National Park.

Day 6: Drive to Charlottetown, PEI: Walking tour (Heritage walk) of Old Charlottetown, Victoria Row, Victoria Park.

Day 7: Touring in PEI including Greenwich PEI National Park, Central Coast Drive, dinner at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.

Day 8: Take ferry from Woods Island to Caribou and drive to Baddeck, NS.

Day 9: Explore the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton – Baddeck to Cape North. Hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Possible trails: Middle Head, Coastal).

Day 10: Explore the Cabot Trail – Cape North to Margaree Valley. Hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Skyline Trail).

Day 11: Drive to Sydney, NS: Cape Breton Miners’ Museum.

Day 12: Sydney, NS: Visit the Fortress of Louisbourg.

Day 13: Depart. Return rental car at Sydney airport, fly from Sydney to TO.

I’m looking forward to the seafood, the scenery, the hiking, exploring Cape Breton, pretty much everything.

We’ve flagged some restaurants to visit in each city if time and logistics fit. We should be able to get some good hiking in with lots of photo ops and lots of opportunities to relax, enjoy the scenery and eat all the seafood we can fit in our tummies.:)

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All our accommodations are booked as well as the car rental, flights and ferry. All we have to do is show up and ENJOY!:)

2016 Garden Update

Last year was my first attempt at square foot gardening. I had grown tomatoes and herbs in containers before, successfully,but wanted to try my hand at something new with a larger footprint. SFG was right up my alley, and it worked out well. So well that I wanted to increase my garden this year.

I started planning in January and February, making plans for my garden (Excel is awesome), researching companion planting, reading everything I could about what grew successfully in my neck of the woods. Ordered my seeds. Got my jiffy pods organized and sowed the seeds in March to start them early indoors. For the others that grew very quickly, my plan was to direct sow into my garden in May.

Pods and my Excel Garden plan plus my jiffy pod plan to keep track of what I put where:

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My list of seeds included: three kinds of cherry tomatoes (2 plants each), green peppers, Swiss chard, beets, leaf lettuce, onion sets (red, yellow,white), bush beans, basil, thyme, lavender, parsley, acorn squash, golden zucchini and marigolds to keep the bugs away. Here is the progress, each set of pics about a week apart:

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Mid-April:

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Late April:

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Early May:

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Some of my starter seeds did better than others and come May, it was time to transplant them outside. I used Triple Mix for the soil with a few bags of compost (mix of sheep and cow), plus I added plant food.

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Two of my tomato plants didn’t make it. After suffering from a bit of transplant shock and recovering nicely (I had to tie 2 of them to stakes to keep them as they were falling over), the other four are doing awesome, I bought another two at the nursery. One pepper survived, and I replaced another one. The parsley and marigolds did good but I needed more so I bought some extras. The basil and thyme didn’t make it – bought seedlings of Genovese and lemon basil at the nursery. They are thriving. I also bought two strawberry plants to have a first go at fruit. The lavender sprouted but never grew past a wisp of a stem so I bought two perennial lavender plants at the nursery.

I showed the beans, lettuce, onions, Swiss chard, beets and squashes directly in the ground and they are all doing great thankfully. So far we’ve been able to harvest the basil, parsley, onions and lettuce. Lots of little green tomatoes, small peppers and green strawberries. The beans are flowering. Life in the garden seems to be a happy one.:)

As I pick the onions, I’m planting more so I’ll keep a steady supply over the summer and fall.

Late May:

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June 17:

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This is one of the lavender plants (small one in front of pic) planted next to our hydrangeas. Smells so good when you brush the leaves.:)

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Just a few days ago (sorry about the sun glare):

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I’m happy with how things are progressing.:)

It’s been a long time since we had an April snow but we got one today – and in an El Nino year no less! It started at dinner time and we had gone out to eat and watched the fat snowflakes falling all through our meal, covering everything in a heavy wet blanket of white. On the drive home, we were mesmerized by the snow-covered trees with each little branch clearly defined like little veins. As soon as we got home, we picked up the camera and headed out to the trail near the house to snap some photos. After all, this might be the last snowfall of the season.:) What we found was a magical wintry wonderland.

Welcome to Narnia:

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Oscar 2016 Predictions

It’s Oscar day! As in the past, I’ve tried my best to watch all the nominated films and performances (at least in the major categories) and I’ve listed my picks below in bold. There were some great films this year and some really memorable performances. The Revenant, The Big Short and Spotlight were my favorite films of those nominated. There were things done in Mad Max: Fury Road that should have been impossible – I think it’ll pick up several of the technical awards. The one category I’m not sure about is supporting actor – I picked Stallone for the nostalgia factor but both Tom Hardy and Mark Ruffalo gave great performances – it could go either way.

Good luck!

Oscars

BEST PICTURE

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

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ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

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ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

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ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Anomalisa

Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

=============================

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

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COSTUME DESIGN

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

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DIRECTING

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

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DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

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DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Body Team 12

Chau, beyond the Lines

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

Last Day of Freedom

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FILM EDITING

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

=============================

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Embrace of the Serpent

Mustang

Son of Saul

Theeb

A War

=============================

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

=============================

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Bridge of Spies

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

=============================

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction

“Simple Song #3,” Youth

“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground

“Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre

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PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

=============================

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Bear Story

Prologue

Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

=============================

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Ave Maria

Day One

Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

Shok

Stutterer

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SOUND EDITING

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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SOUND MIXING

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

=============================

VISUAL EFFECTS

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

=============================

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room

=============================

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

My husband and I had booked this weekend getaway a couple of months before Christmas knowing we wouldn’t be visiting family in Montreal or having anyone over due to wonky schedules over the holidays. It was a nice, relaxing and long overdue escape. We loaded up the car, dropped the cat off at the kitty motel and headed north for a weekend of snowshoeing, good eats, exploration and hot chocolate by the fireplace in our room. Luckily for us, there was more snow up there than we have back home in southern Ontario – otherwise our snowshoeing would have become muddy hikes real quick.

Since checkin was only at 4pm, we stopped in Thornbury for lunch at a great place that got great reviews and was featured on the TV show “You Gotta Eat Here” called The Dam Pub. Touted as a gastro-pub, it’s set in a cozy old house and the menu was filled with traditional yet elevated pub fare – both of our meals were delicious! I had the bangers and mash and Chris had the Shepherd’s pie (with lamb). We both had the carrot cake for dessert – it was fabulous. We were sitting next to a window and relaxed while the snow fell in fat snowflakes – something we had yet to see this winter at home. I’d go back in a second. Our next stop was just down the street at The Cheese Gallery, a great shop that sells baked goods, a TON of different cheeses and various other products that pair well with cheese or makes for an otherwise yummy snack. We stocked up on several items that we’d have for dinner that night: baguette, saucisson, four types of cheese (Gruyere, St. Andre, smoked cheddar and honey cheddar), a lemon bar and 2 butter tarts. Needless to say dinner was fabulous paired with a Thirty Bench Cab Franc we brought with us from home.:)

We finally got to Blue Mountain and stayed at the Mosaic in  bachelor suite (with kitchenette and fireplace, overlooking the village). It was warm and cozy and perfect for our weekend getaway. After unpacking, we explored the village and stopped at the Christmas store since we still hadn’t found our Xmas ornament for 2015 (slackers).  Every year we buy an ornament that best represents the year; it can be about a trip, an activity, a funny incident, anything. Typically when we see the ornament, we KNOW it’s the one. And sure enough, after scouring the whole store, Chris spotted it – it was perfect! In 2015 we did a lot of hiking so finding a little hiker as our ornament was fitting. We named him Bruce after the Bruce Trail.:) We swung by the village market to pick up a few more things for breakfasts and snacks, enjoyed the xmas lights still up in the village, then took it easy and enjoyed our dinner and wine by the fire.

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On Saturday, we had breakfast then headed out to rent our snowshoes and join the guided Columbia snowshoe hike. We ere a small group of 7 people and our guide was great. We ended up trekking in the area called the Orchard, which is essentially a wooded area alongside the beginner ski hill. Snowshoeing on its own is quite the workout, but add in the uphill climb and it’s quite the cardio session. It was great to get to the top, got a couple of pics, then headed back down (much easier lol). It was mild (3-4 deg C) so we removed layers and hats/gloves as we went.

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Took some pics of the village:

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We had lunch at the Firehall Pizza Co. restaurant (me: Caesar salad + penne al a vodka, Chris: chicken club), then went exploring a bit more to scope out the other snowshoe trails in the area which were around the golf course but with the wind, all the snow was blown away.

More pics of the village and one of the ski hills from afar:

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We had a repeat of last night’s dinner (crackers, cheese, wine), fire, coziness and stretching out my sore leg muscles after this morning’s trek. I also did some research in the area for more snowshoeing opportunities – and found a great alternative.:)

On Sunday we had breakfast then headed over to the Scenic Caves Nordic Centre. We had visited in the summer and explored the caves but I discovered last night that they also have 10km worth of snowshoe trails plus trails dedicated to cross-country skiing. What a find!!  We picked up our snowshoes and a trail map from the cabin and off we went. We ended up completing three trails totalling about 3.5-4.0 km: Lookout, Nature and Wild West. This was more scenic than yesterday’s trek and there was no one there! Granted we got there shortly after 9am when everyone else is probably still sleeping or eating breakfast. We saw maybe one skier in the forest but for the rest of our trek it was just Chris and I, the birds chirping and the streams rippling. Bliss.

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It was warm again so the layers came off pretty quickly.

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Nice area on the Nature trail with a little stream passing under a snowy bridge.

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Pretty – all the mossy rocks reminded me of the family of trolls in Frozen.:)

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Action shots!

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We went back to the room to freshen up before lunch, and headed to the Firehall again (me: Old faithful burger with Caesar salad, Chris: Chicken cutlet sandwich with Caesar salad). Then off to Collingwood to visit a store I had read about and couldn’t wait to visit: The Collingwood Olive Oil Co. They offer tastings of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, and in so many delicious combinations – the flavours were just mind-blowing. We must have sampled 8-10 of each, some in combinations, others on their own. We had a fantastic time discovering all the great products and ended up buying 7 bottles: Herbes de Provence olive oil to pair with Cranberry Pear white balsamic for a delicious salad dressing. Chipotle olive oil to pair with Maple dark balsamic for an amazing salmon marinade or glaze. Harissa olive oil (for Chris to put on everything), Blood orange olive oil (for me to put on everything) and Neapolitan dark balsamic (great for roasted veggies). I can’t wait to start cooking with them. Cheryl and Alex were so friendly and knowledgeable, they really made the experience special and memorable – I’d go back in a second. Highly recommended to anyone in the area. We were so stuffed from the day that we ended up having a smoothie at Booster Juice for dinner with Doritos (can you say healthy? pfft). Watched the All Star game and went to bed early – we were pooped!

Checked out on Monday morning, stopped for groceries and picked up the cat before getting back home. It was a great weekend!

Chris and I had been missing our hikes and decided to head out this morning to enjoy the winter landscape at Hilton Falls. It turned into one of my favourite hikes yet – you’ll see why in a second. There hasn’t been much snow on the ground yet this winter but there’s snow on the grass as well as on the trails.

We arrived at about 11am and there were quite a few cars parked in the lot but not many people on the trails. Walking by the visitors centre we encountered some birds munching on seeds (available at the visitors cabin):

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We headed out to the yellow trail to the falls. The first hill is the steepest part, it was packed snow all the way to the falls, very easy to navigate. It was our first time hiking in winter and we really enjoyed the fact that without all the foliage you can see so far into the forest – it was very cool. And we heard a TON of birds chirping.:)

The hill at the beginning of the trail:

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Chris with his winter beard keeping him warm.

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Me in my first pair of adult snow pants:)

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We kept walking and came across a nice gentleman who comes by and feeds the birds every weekend. He explained that we could pick up some seeds at the visitors centre and they pack 2,000 little bags every year. Birds are his hobby and he was nice enough to share some great information about the birds in the area. He then gave me some seeds and the chickadees landed on me and ate seeds out of my hand! There were dozens of them in the area. It was really great!

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Closeup of a chickadee eating out of my hand:

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We stayed there for a good 10-15 minutes, feeding the birds and chatting with the gentleman. Highlight of the hike!:) We’ll definitely be coming back.

We continued to the falls and smelled the campfire as we approached – so nice. Then we saw the scenery around the area – wow! It was really magical:

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Wood stacked next to the campfire:

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The falls – it doesn’t show in the pic but the water was falling amidst the frozen areas – really pretty:

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On our way back from the falls:

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Heading back to the car:

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We’ll definitely be heading out for more winter hiking. And remember: There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. Dress appropriately and you’ll have a great time!

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