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A couple of months ago, I had submitted our entry for the Christmas Town Lottery and received our date/time for our visit to Christmas Town at the Mountsberg Conservation Area. Every year, Mountsberg puts on a Santa’s Village type Christmas Town with related activities and it’s awesome. And today was the day! Which was perfect since the forecast was calling for snow and there had been some flurries in the past coupe of days in the area.

Chris and I met up with his sister (also my bestie) and her family and we headed to the park. We arrived and checked into the Visitor’s Centre, where they confirmed the names of the kids attending. We still had a little under an hour before our wagon ride to Christmas Town so we explored the play barn, animal farm (in the new barn), a visit with a local owl Octavius and the Elf Academy where the kids (both big and small) enjoyed some fun activities. The owl was a beautiful bird:

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When it was time for our wagon ride, our guide Christine gathered the troops from the Elf Academy and led us to the wagon ride where we got to sing Jingle Bells on our way to Santa.

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Right before our arrival, we passed the “Temporary North Pole”. 🙂

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In the town were Santa’s Workshop where you could hear the elves working on toys. (When you can’t hear anything it means they’re likely working on stuffed animals :)).

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The reindeer flight academy…

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And Parcel Pickup where the elves drop off the toys for the naughty and nice lists.

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There were nice touches everywhere to add to the festive ambiance:

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We were greeted by Mrs. Claus and invited into Santa’s cabin:

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Our niece and nephew got to tell Santa what they would like for Christmas and received candy canes from Santa and an ornament from Mrs. Claus.

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We got to sample Mrs. Claus’ cookies and hot chocolate too. The kids got to decorate their cookie. 🙂

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We took some pics with the town props too…

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Then headed over for a closer look at the Reindeer Flight Academy – which was equipped with flight simulator and all!

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It was a great day and the occasional flurry just added to the magic of the holidays. 🙂

Well done Mountsberg!!

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We’re on vacation this week and my sister and her two daughters spent 5 days with us. On Thursday night, we went to Red Lobster for the traditional supper. The gang spent the day shopping on Friday since Chris and I were working, then we picked them up, did the groceries and watched Harry Potter 5 – the girls are going through the HP phase and are obsessed with everything to do with Harry Potter. Since the party, it’s been a HP whirlwind. So, for the movie viewing, we decorated with all sorts of HP paraphernalia including props we had fun with at the party: the Sorting hat, McGonagall’s hat, Dumbledore’s wand, a HP themed magazine, candies, a rememberall, a crystal ball… You get the picture.

Saturday we had a farm day planned. We started out at Andrew’s Scenic Acres and visited the farm animals and picked up some berries and baked goods (apple pie, butter tarts). We headed over to Springridge Farm for lunch and shopping where I ended up buying a gorgeous wrap (getting ready for fall a bit early).  After that, we went to Terre Bleu, a lavender farm – our first time and it was amazing! We took the guided tour and learned about lavender, visited the distillery and the apiary, enjoyed some lavender lemonade and bought some goodies in the boutique (lavender essential oil, massage oil and honey). It was a great place and we look forward to returning.

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Lavender drying in the distillery:

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The bee hives:

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Friends on the farm:

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After this, we went home to prepare for dinner and our Hippie Beach BBQ party, the theme of the day. 🙂 I made grilled salmon and pork chops, antipasto skewers and corn on the cob.

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For dessert, I made quasi-smore-skewers with strawberries, marshmallows and mini brownies, with marshmallow ballerinas and flip flop cookies (on a bed of brown sugar):

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After dinner, we waited for the sun to go down to go out and play glow-in-the-dark ring toss – which was awesome!

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On Sunday we packed a picnic lunch and headed over to Hilton Falls Conservation area for a hike to the falls and campfire area. It was really nice – the weather was variably cloudy and not too humid. We headed to a nearby park that had a cool splash pad for the kids, then headed downtown to the Taste of the Danforth Greek festival – had dinner at Christina’s, an amazing restaurant, and the kids enjoyed some of the fair rides.

Monday we headed up to Collingwood for a short visit and lunch at Blue Mountain village then went to the Scenic Caves which was AMAZING. It was pretty physical and some of the caves were pretty cramped quarters, but it was a fantastic experience with beautiful scenery. The girls absolutely loved it. At the same place, we visited a suspension bridge (well, everyone except me – I just can’t do suspension bridges) and the girls panned for gems. It started raining in the middle of the afternoon but that didn’t deter us! We stopped by a local Italian restaurant for dinner and started watching Harry Potter 6 (got through about half before we hit the sack – we finished Tuesday morning).

Pictures at the Caves:

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Chris and the girls were the only ones who braved passing through this one, the widest point was 36 cm!!

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The girls enjoying a Beaver Tail at Blue Mountain village:

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We dropped the troops off at the airport Tuesday after lunch.

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For Valentine’s Day, Chris and I wanted to do something different. What could be better than trying something new at one of our favourite vineyards: Thirty Bench in Beamsville! We’re wine club members and received an invite for a special Valentine’s Day event – snowshoeing in the vineyards followed by lunch at the winery prepared by The Good Earth with wine pairings. We signed up ASAP!

We arrived at the winery and enjoyed a glass of their amazing Winemakers’ Riesling while we waited for everyone to arrive to head outside. The rear room was setup beautifully for lunch:

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The view was beautiful:

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It was a cold overcast day and as we started out to put our snowshoes on, it was snowing lightly. We trekked up a small incline to one corner of the vineyard, right by the Wood Post Riesling section.  We enjoyed a wine tasting (I believe it was the Wood Post Riesling) and some very informative commentary from Emma the winemaker. It was still lightly snowing as we continued our snowshoe trek.

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At the next stop we enjoyed another tasting (this time was red, don’t recall which one unfortunately). This is where the snow and wind picked up. We had the choice of continuing to the next and final stop at the far corner of the vineyard or return to the winery to thaw and prep for lunch. Since it was quite windy and almost blizzarding at this point, most of the group we were with opted to return to the winery.

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Lunch was delicious and each course / pairing presented by Therese from the Good Earth and Emma (Thirty Bench winemaker). We started with a tomato chipotle soup paired with a Gewürztraminer. Next was the winter salad paired with a rosee. Then the main course – a modern take on beef bourguignon paired with a pinot noir and a merlot. And a savoury cheesecake for dessert paired with the Benchmark red. Plus a chocolate truffle to take home (which never made it home – we ate it right away!). Everything was delicious and the pairings were spot on. Great job to The Good Earth and Thirty Bench for putting together a great day and superb lunch.

After picking up a few of our favourite bottles from the store, we sadly headed home.

We’ll definitely do this again next year!

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My sister Sue and her girls arrived on Thursday night. After picking up some groceries we got back home and watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (first movie) in preparation for the party on Saturday. But before then, we had a full day on Friday.

In the morning we headed out to Andrew’s Scenic Acres, a local farm in Milton, Ontario. It was my first time going and we had an amazing time. We spent some time picking raspberries and blueberries, enough to fill 4 small baskets, then did some shopping in the shop (picked up fresh apple pie, butter tarts and homemade jams). We had hot dogs at the BBQ area and the girls played in the small playground and fed the goats. Before we headed to our next stop, we enjoyed a yummy fruit ice cream cone. A perfect summer day:

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After swinging by home to drop off our purchases, we headed to the train station to head downtown to Ripley’s Aquarium. Since we got there at around 6pm, there was no line to speak of (they closed at 11pm). I was so impressed with everything here  from the gorgeous displays to the interactive activities to the amazing Dangerous Lagoon. A must-see for anyone in the area – fabulous.

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My favourite things were the jelly fish, the anemones and the Dangerous Lagoon – it was so freaky to be on the slow-moving walkway going through a tunnel inside the tank and seeing sharks swimming above us. Awesome!!!

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Hamster Love

I don’t know what it is about this commercial. I can’t believe I’m going to say this out loud but I find the hamsters at the end of this commercial sexy.

There. I said it.

There’s just something in their swagger as they start their strut up the red carpet. Maybe it’s the way their Ray Bans sit jauntily on their noses… (snouts?) Or the suave way he brushed his hair. Or the confident way he gives his fans one last look over his shoulder as he enters the building.

Either way. Hotties.

 

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We’re back home after 2 amazing weeks in Hawaii. Pardon the photo overload in advance. 🙂

We explored quite a bit of the island. Kauai was enchanting, with a lush landscape everywhere you looked. It was a peaceful place where the trees, flowers and surrounding ocean all contributed to its rugged beauty. Tourism hasn’t yet taken over the island and Kauai retains most of its untouched appeal. One thing we found entertaining were the number of wild roosters walking about, everywhere you looked. They don’t have any natural predators so they roam the land freely, sometimes with a hen or two for company. Dogs and cats were very few (maybe saw 3-4 the whole week) but roosters? Dozens by the side of the roads.

We visited the Wailua Falls, the Menehune Fish Pond, the Kilauea Light House and Wildlife Refuge, Spouting Horn, the Kauai Coffee plantation and much more. We attempted the drive to Waimea Canyon but got fogged out so had to turn back. We took a boat tour to the Napali coast but had to end it short after a few hours due to a broken fuel line. On the boat ride, we also enjoyed some snorkelling and the scenery up until the time we turned back was nice so it wasn’t a total loss. We got to see dolphins and whales also. 🙂 It was whale season (they come down from Alaska to have their babies) and we saw lots of them from our balcony. We drove up to Princeville and Hanalei where we had lunch and enjoyed the coastal scenic drive. Gorgeous scenery with a very laid back vibe.

We spent time enjoying the sun but had several days of clouds and showers (which we spent shopping and sightseeing). We went to a luau (Luau Kalamaku) that had a more theatrical show than the traditional ones and it was really fantastic! That’s where I received a fresh flower lei! The story, dancing and fire show were very entertaining.

On one of the drizzly days, we stopped by Hilo Hattie (THE store for all things Hawaiian) and it was a very productive trip – we loaded up on lots of souvenirs for the fam and picked up a few things for us too.

We ate lots of great food at Keoki’s Paradise, Gaylord’s and the Beach House. The ambience of open air dining, with the ocean breezes and the sound of the waves, the torches providing firelight and the delicious food and wine made our stay in Kauai really special.

Now for the pics!!

Kauai Coffee plantation where we enjoyed free samples and took a tour of the grounds

Kauai Coffee plantation where we enjoyed free samples and took a tour of the grounds

Local wildlife :)  This was taken at a lookout point.

Local wildlife 🙂 This was taken at a lookout point.

Lonely palm trees on a golf course

Lonely palm trees on a golf course

Wailua Falls where a local craft vendor enjoyed driving golf balls into the water while waiting to make his next sale

Wailua Falls where a local craft vendor enjoyed driving golf balls into the water while waiting to make his next sale

Coast near our hotel where sea turtles came to play daily

Coast near our hotel where sea turtles came to play daily

The biggest snail I've ever seen.

The biggest snail I’ve ever seen.

Kilohana Plantation where we attended the luau

Kilohana Plantation where we attended the luau

The pork has arrived!

The pork has arrived!

Tree outside the plantation

Tree outside the plantation

Hula dancers

Hula dancers

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Fire dancing

Fire dancing

Dolphins on our boat/snorkeling tour to the Napali coast

Dolphins on our boat/snorkeling tour to the Napali coast

...a whale too! We saw dozens of humpback whales during our stay. More in Maui than Kauai. We saw lots of pectoral slaps, fins, tails and even breaching whales and babies. It was great!

…a whale too! We saw dozens of humpback whales during our stay. More in Maui than Kauai. We saw lots of pectoral slaps, fins, tails and even breaching whales and babies. It was great!

Dinner at Keoki's Paradise - gorgeous place with amazing food!

Dinner at Keoki’s Paradise – gorgeous place with amazing food!

There were so many beautiful sunsets too:

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Back to sightseeing pics:

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Near the Light House

Near the Light House

Scenery during a walk near our hotel

Scenery during a walk near our hotel

We enjoyed Kauai for its peacefulness, slow pace (perfect for vacation) and lush landscape.

Life List items achieved in Kauai:

  • Travel to Hawaii
  • Get lei’d in Hawaii
  • Attend a luau
  • Ride a catamaran

Now off to Maui!

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My mom, my sister and my two nieces came to visit from June 29 to July 2nd. We spent one day at Canada’s Wonderland, a couple of days in Niagara Falls and had a fun pool day at home.

The trip started off with a streak of bad luck with some flight cancellations and delays and a late arrival, with an additional trip to the airport to retrieve the luggage (which was there, thank goodness) but the family finally made it safe and sound.

We went to Wonderland on Saturday. The forecast was calling for showers and we think that’s why it wasn’t busy at the park. It was a lot of fun – the girls are getting tall so they can go on a lot more rides now.

Sienna and Maddie at Victoria Falls at Wonderland!

Sienna and Maddie at Victoria Falls at Wonderland!

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Sue and the girls about to get drenched

Sue and the girls about to get drenched

SPLASH!!!

SPLASH!!!

It was funny seeing the girls going on a mix of rides (kiddie rides and adult rides) and they were bored on the kiddie rides. Hehehe Those days are over. We had a good day, ate some pizza before going home and had fun in the pool.

The next morning, we were planning to head to Niagara Falls for some sightseeing, fireworks and an overnight stay. The bad luck continued when we discovered our rear driver’s side tire had a slow leak. It was definitely not a good idea to go to Niagara Falls and back on that tire in case we got stranded. So, plan B kicked in: We put air in the tire and kept our car in the garage, rented an SUV (it was red for Canada Day!) and headed out on the highway – crisis averted! Traffic was horrible on the way there but we had some great music playing and checked into the hotel in early afternoon. Our first stop? One of my favourite places:

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Everything is better with a margarita. :)

Everything is better with a margarita. 🙂

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After a late lunch, we walked around to take our first peek at the Falls…

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The Maid of the Mist (we’re doing that tomorrow):

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Then we walked to Clifton Hill and hopped on the Sky Wheel to get a great view of the Falls and surrounding area:

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Pic of the golf course

Pic of the golf course

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Ice cream!

Ice cream!

We went on this 4D movie ride which was really fun, we did a glow in the dark ride and had to shoot a laser gun at monsters… Good times! At night, we watched the fireworks before returning to the hotel to rest up for the next day’s activities.

On Day 2 at the Falls, we did some souvenir shopping, did the Journey Behind the Falls, did the Maid of the Mist and played mini golf at a cool Dinosaur course.

View of the falls at the end of a tunnel

View of the falls at the end of a tunnel

Sue and the girls in the tunnel

Sue and the girls in the tunnel

Close o the falls!

Close o the falls!

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Chris and I at the Journey Behind the Falls

Chris and I at the Journey Behind the Falls

Chris and the girls on the Maid of the Mist boat ride

Chris and the girls on the Maid of the Mist boat ride

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Beautiful! 🙂

Day 3 was a relaxing pool day followed by our Louisiana Seafood Feast with jazz/blues music, feather boas, masks and yummy food (mussels, shrimp, salad, corn on the cob and cupcakes for dessert).

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Sienna doing somersaults

Sienna doing somersaults

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Sneak attack is imminent!

Sneak attack is imminent!

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Chris took a pic of all the girls :)  No, he was not wearing feathers.

Chris took a pic of all the girls 🙂 No, he was not wearing feathers.

 

Dance party conga line!

Dance party conga line!

 

Day 4 was another pool day in the morning then off to the airport for the fam’s return flight!

Phew!

Life List item crossed off:

– Updated “Drink a margarita in 5 different Margaritaville locations” – 2 to go!

 

 

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