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I’d had this on my Life List for a while now and after a false start last year we finally managed to go this afternoon for an early Valentine’s Day outing. It was worth the wait. 🙂

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We arrived at the Omni King Edward hotel – took the train to downtown Toronto and walked a few blocks up to the hotel in the snow. We were greeted, shown to the coat check (complimentary), waited just a few minutes for the setup/room to be ready and were seated at a lovely table.

We were offered menus and tea boxes to sniff the various teas available. I selected the Rouge Provence (rooibos) and Chris took the Taj Spiced Chai Tea. We were each brought an amuse bouche – a yummy mushroom tartlet with tarragon creme fraiche, quickly followed by our respective teapots. Both the tartlet and the tea were delicious.

We each chose the Winter Tea which included sandwiches, scones and pastries. The sandwiches were brought first and everything was fresh and tasty:

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We each had our own plate with 5 finger sandwiches:

  • Peppered Beef with Watercress and Horseradish Cream
  • Free Range Egg Salad with Fresh Lemon and Dill
  • Smoked Salmon & Mango with Pickled Vegetables
  • Toasted Sesame & Wasabi Mayonnaise Chickpea Hummus with Lightly Curried Carrot, Raisins & Almonds
  • Chicken Waldorf with Crisp Apple & Celery

Delicious.

Next came the scones and pastries. It looked so good – I forgot to take a pic before we ate the scones! The scones came on the bottom plate (we each had 2 kinds):

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  • Currant & Cinnamon Scone
  • Classic Cream Scone
  • Served with Devonshire Cream, House Made Ontario Strawberry Jam and Apple Brandy Butter

Again, everything was fresh and tasted amazing. But there was more!

The pastries were next:

  • Blood Orange Posset with Cranberry Oat Biscotti
  • Chocolate Mint Macaron
  • Vanilla Bean & Berry Cream Tartlet
  • Layered Chocolate Chestnut Slice

It was just the right amount of food and each item was carefully prepared. Our server was polite and friendly and we were well taken care of throughout. It was a beautiful room and a very relaxed atmosphere.

It was a very enjoyable experience, one we would do again.

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Day 6:

We left Moncton and headed toward the Confederation bridge to make our way to PEI for the next leg of our trip. I was surprised at how long the bridge actually was! After arriving in Charlottetown, we had some lunch, then explored old town. We walked around the outside of Province House (closed for renos) then followed the path to the temporary exhibit of a reproduction at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. They also had a 20-minute movie about the Confederation which was actually quite good. After that we walked down to the waterfront and strolled along the boardwalk to shop and have some ice cream at Cows. 🙂 We checked into our Inn and had supper at another restaurant featured on the Food Network “You Gotta Eat Here” show called The Churchill Arms – they had some amazing curries! Didn’t take many pics today as it was a quiet day.

Approaching the bridge:

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Halfway there….lol

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There were lots of birds sitting on the railing and I managed to take a pic while we zoomed by – after many unsuccessful attempts. 🙂 I swear he’s mocking me (“Silly tourist…”) – you can see it in his eye!

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Day 7:

Today was one of my favourite days of the trip. We were touring the island of PEI and had several stops planned. The first was to drive up to the PEI National Park and visit the Greenwich Dunes. It was a rainy and windy day but we dressed appropriately and went for it – my research told me it would be worth it and boy, was it ever!

The trail to the dunes is varied including forest trail, a floating boardwalk (to protect the land / flora) which leads up to the best view I’ve had on a hiking trail ever – a beach! A deserted one at that. The boardwalk itself was very sturdy – at first I was nervous (I hate suspension bridges with a passion) but as soon as Chris told me it was floating on top of the water, that instantly put my mind at ease. We stopped for a bit to take pics (I literally took tons, these are the highlights) then made our way back. I was on cloud nine – how could the day get any better? It CAN – read on!!

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Forest part of the trail:

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The entry to the boardwalk part of the trail:

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Can you spot the bird in the photo below?

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Looking back once we reached the end of the boardwalk, which is at the bottom of a short hill over the dune:

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The hill to climb up is easy and very short:

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The reward is a view so stunning, pictures don’t do it justice:

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After this park, we stopped for lunch at Rick’s Fish & Chips (You Gotta Eat Here). Then we headed out for some exploring and stopped at the Great Canadian Soap Company which is a fantastic shop where they make and sell products made with goat milk. The goats are on site. It smelled heavenly as soon as you approached the door and they carried so many scents (and unscented!) – too numerous to name – soaps, lotions, bath salts, you name it. And they have an online store as well. Awesome!

We then drove around the north side of the island including Brackley Beach, North Rustico and Cavendish. We didn’t stop for any Anne of Green Gables visits (not huge fans but respect those who are). We stopped at the PEI Preserve Co and had to buy some after having a taste. Oh my.

Our final stop was for dinner at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers. We had heard good things from family members who had visited before and what is a trip to the Maritimes without a lobster supper?! I ordered the 1.5lb lobster, Chris had fish (not a shellfish person) and with all the dishes that are included with the meal (mussels, soup or chowder, bread, trio of salads (cole slaw, garden, potato) and dessert (homemade PIES!!!)), it was a dinner to remember. What a fabulous day!

Food List Items: Mussels, lobster, chowder

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Day 1:

We flew into Halifax late morning and were able to park at our hotel, popped out for lunch then checked into our room. Our plan for the afternoon was to visit the Citadel and the Public Gardens.

The Citadel was very interesting and we walked around and explored every nook and cranny. It was really an impenetrable fortress of a building and we learned a lot about the history of Canada and specifically the Maritimes in WW1 and WW2. My favourites things at the Citadel were the exhibit of a “trench” and how they used trenches to minimize damage (e.g. should a grenade be launched, the damage radius would be smaller than out in the open). The info about the Halifax Explosion was also quite good and one event that I didn’t know very much about. Seeing all the artillery, and the ambiance bits (bagpiper, change of the guard) added to the experience.

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After the Citadel we headed over to the Halifax Public Gardens to rest our feet on a bench and people- and nature-watch. We were amazed at their collection of dahlias – so many varieties, each one more dazzling than the last.

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After the gardens, we stopped for dinner at 2 Doors Down (featured on You Gotta Eat Here) and had an amazing dinner and we vowed to return before we left Halifax.

Food List Items: Fish and chips, Fresh fish (Arctic Char)

Day 2:

Today was our day trip to Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg (and a drive through Mahone Bay). We got an early start and were one of the first to arrive at the most iconic lighthouse in Canada (possibly North America?). It was a gorgeous sunny day and we were able to get some great photos. I went right up to the lighthouse (had to touch it!) and saw the ominous sign warning visitors to be safe and stay back from the rocks/water. It was easy to see how it could be dangerous on windy days when the sea was more turbulent.

Empty parking lot when we arrived:

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Lunenburg was a pretty fishing town and we had lunch overlooking the water. We got to see the Bluenose II – she was sailing and giving tours that day. Afterwards we strolled the streets of the town and shopped, stopped in a cafĂ© for a bite, then drove back through Mahone Bay and back to Halifax.

Since Day 3 weather was a bit iffy, we decided to explore the Halifax waterfront in the afternoon of Day 2 and walked all along the boardwalk in the sun. We had dinner at the Stubborn Goat near our hotel.

The drive in the morning was very scenic (and gave new meaning to a winding road – holy moly the twists and turns didn’t stop) with pretty water views at every turn. Really beautiful.

Food List Items: Lobster salad, scallops

Bluenose II coming in to dock:

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View from the restaurant patio (Dockside):

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Loved the door knocker:

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And the colorful houses:

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Day 3:

Today we explored Halifax some more and it was cloudy in the morning so we headed to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic down by the waterfront. We were both pleasantly surprised at how good the exhibits were from actual small craft boats to the huge number of model boats, to the Halifax explosion and Titanic exhibits – it was a great museum. If you visit one museum in Halifax, this should be it. We popped over to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery to visit the Titanic memorial as well and returned to 2 Doors Down for diner.

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A lot of good information about the Titanic including menus for the different class passengers, the passenger list (including who was/wasn’t saved) and the transcript of the communication that night. Very well done.

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At the cemetery, it was sad to see the large number of tombstones without a name. The inscription below was particularly moving, and he was only 20 years old…

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We noticed this one as well but it’s not the J. Dawson played by Leo in the movie Titanic, even if the name was the same.

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Food List Items: Lobster roll.

Tomorrow we are headed to New Brunswick!

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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!

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This year we had family down for Thanksgiving. Since it was only a couple of days, we made the most of our time together. The fam (sister and her two daughters, plus my brother and his wife) arrived Saturday in time for Thanksgiving lunch. My sister-in-law, her husband and their two kids who live nearby also arrived for lunch. We were 11 in all: 7 adults and 4 kiddos. I had my first kiddy table (and none of the kids are mine lol).

I cooked everything the day before (except the turkey). I started the turkey at 5am so it would be ready for lunchtime. I changed up the menu this year:

  • Ciabatta buns, butter
  • Wild mushroom medley (cremini, button, shitake mushrooms with shallots, garlic, parsley, sherry vinegar, olive oil)
  • Roasted red onions (olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh thyme)
  • Red and yellow baby potatoes with butter, thyme, salt and pepper
  • Maple-glazed carrots and rutabaga (glaze: maple syrup, butter, brown sugar)
  • Green beans with gremolata (lemon zest, salt, pepper, shallots, garlic, pine nuts)
  • Turkey (stuffed with lemons, thyme, salt & pepper)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Sweet gherkins
  • Pickled beets
  • Greek salad provided by sister-in-law/husband (thanks!)
  • Dessert: Lemon meringue pie, Apple pie, Cinnamon coffee cake
  • Wine: Thirty Bench 2010 Benchmark

Pics of the kiddy table and grown-up table:

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After lunch, we headed out to enjoy the fall colours and hiked from Webster Falls to Tews Falls and back in Hamilton (Ontario). The scenery was just beautiful. I was able to capture some great pics of fall foliage.

Gorgeous tree in the parking lot:

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Webster Falls:

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We got to enjoy all the colours of the fall rainbow including greens and yellows:

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Oranges:

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Reds:

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Even all of them together:

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Kiddos horsing around 🙂

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Lone red leaf

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The sun created a cool effect on this one at Tews Falls:

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Captured a couple at the top of the falls:

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Pretty trees:

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Surrounding area back at Websters Falls, reminds me of an English garden:

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Under a weeping willow:

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Sunday, we headed to Stonehaven Farm for farm goodies, picked our pumpkins and played in the hay maze. Uncle Mark and I played tag with the kids in the hay maze – fun! When we got home, we had leftover turkey and fixings for lunch then started decorating our pumpkins. We chose to do sugar skulls this year for a change – they turned out pretty good:

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Having fun at the pumpkin patch:

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I made my first rabbit for supper today and it turned out pretty good! Fresh rabbit was on sale at our grocer store so I took the opportunity to knock this item off my Life List. 🙂 The butcher cut the rabbit into 8 pieces (thankfully) and I found a recipe online for Lapin à la moutarde (Rabbit with mustard). I got out my Le Creuset dutch oven and went to town.

Here are the 8 pieces and a bowl of Dijon mustard. The recipe said to season the rabbit with salt and pepper, then to smear them with the Dijon. Anytime I can smear something is a good thing.

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Here they are again – smeared!  I like to use a silicone brush for my smearing activities.

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Searing the pieces.

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I seared them in two batches then moved them to a platter while I cooked the onions in wine. Then, added the pieces back to the pot along with  a bouquet garni (rosemary and sage).

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I roasted some parsnips in the oven and also added cremini mushrooms to the pot for the last 15 minutes of cooking. And then, dinner was served!

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Quite tasty! The house smelled amazing. The rabbit was great and the sauce was very yummy.

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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.

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