Category: North America

Family Fun and Celebrity Sighting at Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Our walk near Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Our walk near Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Weather in Nova Scotia can be unpredictable, but this past weekend we lucked out!  We had planned a family trip to Rissers Beach area to stay in a family friend’s cottage.  It was a 3 bedroom, winterized cottage with views of the ocean and surrounded by farmland, walking trails (and this may sound creepy but…) a beautiful graveyard from the 1800’s.  We went with my husbands parents and his sister, her husband and their daughter.

In the evening before bed and early in the mornings, Nana and Papa took the girls for a walk to find deer and they spotted some each time.  They apples from the trees along the way and loved their time being wrapped up in blankets and carried on their little adventure.  Saturday was warm and sunny.  Warm enough that when we went to the beach, my little bug immediately wanted to get in the water.  She gleefully ran in and out of the waves as if she didn’t even notice that it was freezing cold water!  The first beach we went to was Crescent Beach with white sands that appear to go forever.  It is one of the few beaches in Nova Scotia that you are allowed to drive on.  A few cars were there, and a small plane flew by but didn’t land.  Later there were people horseback riding as well.  One of them looked exactly like Nicole Kidman, but I’ve googled this fact and can’t find any information that she may be visiting this weekend.

Not far down the road is Rissers Beach, with a campground that has sites right on the ocean.  Sites 21,22 are good ones, because they have trees for privacy but are also still on the ocean.  Washrooms are nearby.  In between beaches there are antique stores and a kayak adventure business.  Kayaking would be perfect for families with older children as there are many coves and islands nearby to explore.  A little futher down the road is Petite Riviere where we visited The Maritime Painted Saltbox which was a quaint barn housing paintings, folkart and furniture created by the owners of the property.  There is also a vineyard and a river for fishing in the area.  Green Bay is a road leading along the ocean again, with many cottages for rent.  It offers beautiful scenery and small sandy coves to sunbathe, swim and walk.  This is where we ran across local celebrities, ‘Ricki and Julien’ from the Trailor Park Boys television show and movies.  They were apparently there to celebrate a friends birthday that weekend, but this picturesque setting was far removed from the trailor park we see them in on T.V.!

Overall, I highly recommend this area of the province.  There is lots to do with the kids in nearby towns of Bridgewater and Lunenburg.  On the way home on Sunday, we took the Lahave Cable Ferry across the river and took the scenic lighthouse route back towards Lunenburg.  In October the leaves are brilliant colours of orange, yellow and red.  It is a great time of year if you enjoy hiking and outdoor activities.  Alternatively July and August would be great for a beach holiday.  If you want any more information about the area, feel free to post a comment!

Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach

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Open Farm Day in Nova Scotia

This past weekend, the government of Nova Scotia, Canada, hosted an event called Open Farm Day.

photo courtesy of Nova Scotia Agriculture website.

photo courtesy of Nova Scotia Agriculture website.

There were 52 farms across the province participating featuring all different types of farming and various activities planned at each site.  We chose to visit this one.

Farm: Sunni Knoll Farm
Type: Dairy
Host: van de Riet family
Civic Address: 234 Mill Village Road., Shubenacadie
County: Halifax East Hants
Directions: Take exit 10 from highway 102, come to 3 stop signs and turn right at each. Drive approximately 1 km down Mill Village Road until you reach civic number 234

There were lots of activities for the kids at Sunni Knoll Farm! It was a beautiful afternoon, bright sunny and not too hot, not too cold.   As we rounded the bend on approach to the farm, we were overlooking bright green pastures as two horses came bounding along pulling a wagon of laughing kids and parents up and down the rolling hills.  We parked and got out to meet our friends who had been there a few minutes.  A fellow Mom was quick to inform me that she wasn’t sure about the llama, but the farmer taking her around to the kids was worth a second look, so we headed in that direction first!  My daughter wasn’t so sure about petting the llama, but she really enjoyed saying the word over and over again.

Next we went to visit with a goat that a young girl was showing off to the guests.  We thought it must have been pretty cool to have your own goat, and she told us that she actually had 6 goats of her own (and was quite proud of that fact).  I had to make a quick escape from the goat because my ‘little bug’ became fascinated with its rear end and started trying to stick her finger there.  The other adults pretending not to notice as I quickly pulled her away.  Luckily the next area had a bottle of hand sanitizer for public use.

The cows were pretty exciting for all of the kids.  They fed them grass and moo’d back and forth.  The baby calves were also very sweet.  At 4pm they started to milk the cows and you could go in to watch the process.

The cows

The cows

I loved this whole experience but was a little disappointed with this because I thought we’d see a demonstration by hand.  I guess that is rarely done these days.  It was all done by machine.  I think the highlight for the kids was the display of antique tractors.  They got to sit on them and pretend to drive and none of them wanted to get off.  There were also chickens to visit and a really neat version of a sand box.  Instead of sand, the box was filled with dried corn (feed) and it had plenty of tractors and farm toys to use to dig around and play.There was some art for sale including traditional hooked rugs and painting exhibits and a BBQ provided by the local Shu-Mil 4-H Club as well.  The trails and the fields made for a beautiful place to take a stroll with some peace and quiet.

All and all it was one of the best afternoons we’ve had in a while.  I will definitely be taking our family to visit some more farms at next year’s event!  It has also inspired me to look into some more fall activities in Nova Scotia and I found a great website for U-pick farms and associated activites.  It lists farms in U.S., Canada and several other countries.  Check it out and let me know if you have any other suggestions for fun fall family outings!

Serious tractor driving going on!

Serious tractor driving going on!

The farm version of a sand box.

The farm version of a sand box.

O-O-Mexico!

This James Taylor theme song, keeps playing over and over in my head this week.  All this talk of Mexico and the ‘swine flu’ is really only making me reminisce about the lazy pre-parent week we spent on the Mayan Riviera.  It was the end of January 2007 and we were exhausted.  We usually pack our vacations with adventure and sight-seeing but this time all we wanted to do was lay on our beach bed and relax.  We went to the El Dorado Seaside Suites and loved every minute of it.  Our suite had a jacuzzi tub right in the room and our patio stepped out to a soaker pool that was sort of like a moat around the resort.  We were the second row in from the beach but could still see it from our patio.  It was only a 1 minute walk to the beachfront, 3 restaurants, bar and entertainment area and the resort had a very small and cozy appeal to it.  img_0175We loved the beach beds.  They were queen size mattresses that swung beneath a thatched roof that you could lounge on while watching the sun set.  Every nook and cranny had one of these beds, even in the bar area.  We watched the evening entertainment while laying back with a glass of wine one evening.  The food on the resort was excellent and you could order all meals a la carte if you wished.  They weren’t the slushy, high sugar drinks that you get at most all-inclusive resorts but the real thing, made for you personally by the bar tenders.  We developed a love of mojitos on this trip and the champagne and orange juice was served all day!  We walked the beach and explored some of the other mammoth resorts, but were always happy we’d chosen our smaller more intimate atmosphere.  We’d also got a great deal on this last minute trip using Selloffvacations.com so that didn’t hurt either.

It is unfortunate that the travel industry in Mexico is taking such a hit with the onset of the H1N1 flu virus.  Canadian and U.S. governments are now advising against any non-essential travel to Mexico and there are reports of cruises and flights being cancelled and many attractions and tourist destinations are closing.  Having said that, would I go to Mexico right now?  Probably not.  Now that I am a parent, I will be following advice and taking the travel advisories seriously.  Let’s hope that the international spread of the virus, will be slowed by this downturn in tourism and that those affected will have a speedy recovery.  In the meantime, everybody should be taking precautions to prevent the spread of infection by using good handwashing techniques, avoidance of coughing and being within 1 meter of those coughing in public and where known cases are occuring, those individuals will stay in isolation.  For those that are traveling through major international gateways, you will need to follow these guidelines carefully and some are even considering wearing N95 masks in these situations.  Individuals that are at high risk, such as young children, elderly and immunocomprimised individuals should avoid situations that could expose them to the virus.  More information can be found on the Canadian Government Website.

Do Snakes Eat People? A trip to Little Ray's Reptile Zoo

It’s always exciting when a zoo comes to you!  Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo is located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada but this weekend they were doing a show at Exhibition Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  So we gathered up the family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) and headed out in the freezing rain to see some snakes and alligators.  Our little ‘bug’ and her cousin, who are 12 and 11 months, weren’t quite sure what to make of all of the people.  There were kids and strollers and a lot of comotion, but every once and a while, the crowd would clear and there would be a turtle slowly making his way across the floor.  The $6 entry fee was more than worth the delight we had watching the surprised looks on their faces when they realized that this strange looking creature was moving towards them.  When the turtle lifted his head, you could hear little gasps escaping their mouths and then they’d turn to look us in amazement. 

 The snakes were out and about as well, but it was harder for them to grasp that there was a beginning and an end to these rope like structures around the  zoo keepers neck.  The older kids, however were completely amazed by the  African Rock Python.  The adults learned some interesting facts about snakes.  Do snakes eat people?  Well, pythons can swallow the largest prey of any snakes, but there have only been eight documented cases in history of people bein eaten.  Most of them were farmers or fisherman and they smelled of the prey of the snake.  Another important fact is that snakes are deaf, so if you come across one, there is no use begging for your life.  The snake can’t hear you anyway.  Lastly we discovered that snakes do have a bum and it is called a vent.  So the next time you are looking for a polite way to tell your kids to sit down, you can say, ‘Down on your vent’ and they’ll think this is hilarious. 

Bug had a fun time petting the alligator and watching the ferrets run around their cage.  For some reason she was also drawn to the hawk.  I think it was because it had a lot of expression in its face.  Nana, was brave enough to let the tarantula crawl on her hands, but I luckily missed out on this opportunity.  My only concern with the show, was that they did not have much signage to tell you the facts about the animals.  If we go again next year, I’ll have to brush up on my reptile knowledge before hand so I can answer the many questions I’m sure she’ll be asking by the time she’s two!  Overall, it was  a great way to spend a Sunday with our family!

Small town Mom hits Fashion Week

If somebody else were writing a story about the fact that I attended an event at Fashion Week in New York City, I suspect that is the headline they would use. I have never been anything even close to a fashionista. I could barely stand reading ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ because I thought the main character was absolutely ridiculous and it would infuriate me every time she bought another outrageously priced scarf despite the fact that she was broke. It’s not that I don’t appreciate fine clothing and accessories, it’s just that I am by nature much too cheap to indulge in any piece of clothing more than $100. ( disclaimer: I would however be willing to pay airfare to Asia, to then shop for inexpensive clothing)
Despite, my unwillingness to purchase high end clothing, I was still really excited to attend the Ports 1961 show at Fashion Week in NYC last week.  It was a totally unexpected bonus to our last minute trip to the city.  We stayed with my sister and her boyfriend, Dion Roy to celebrate his 30th birthday.   My sister managed to get tickets to the Ports show from Bob Bland, designer of Brooklyn Royalty clothing.  Thanks Bob!

The first thing we had to do was figure out what to wear to the show.  I hadn’t brought anything dressy with me, so I opted for a pair of black Mexx dress pants, a silky black and white top and a pair of $60 high heels that I bought the night before.  My sister loaned me a vintage purse that belonged to my grandmother and off we went.  When we arrived there was a crowd gathered outside the tents at Bryant Park.  We walked up the steps past the on-lookers and told security we were headed for the Ports show.  Inside there were cameras flashing left, right and center.  People were even coming up and taking pictures of my cheap shoes.  There were people dressed in everything from jeans to purple feather boas.  When it was time to go in, we again were ushered past crowds of people and found our seats.  We watched the photographers granted access snap photos of Olivia Palermo, from ‘The City’ seated a few rows away and facing us from the other side of the runway.  Anna Wintour, the alleged inspiration for the Devil Wears Prada, was also present, wearing large dark sunglasses.  Her expression didn’t change throughout the show and you could not see her eyes, so it was difficult to tell what she thought.

The show itself was short, as models walked the runway to a live band.  The clothes were of course beautiful.  Afterwards we went backstage and watched people talking with the designer, however we really didn’t have much to say so we just wandered around.  All and all, it was an experience, I wouldn’t miss!

Meals to Remember- The Best Food in the World

During this festive season, I’ve been doing a lot of eating and it seems that food begets food.  The more I eat, the more I think about what my next culinary delight is going to be, and so I have been reflecting on some of the best meals I’ve ever had and whether or not I could re-create them.  This is unlikely since, although I love to eat food, I have little time or patience for actually preparing it.  I guess that is why all of the meals on my list, are those that were cooked by someone else!

This will be one of the many posts I will have about food.  The following list is meant to get your taste buds watering.  They are not in any particular order, just the order in which I am recalling each feast.

1.  La Quebecoise, La Paz, Bolivia- On a dark, tree-lined street, where each quaint home, building and business has a wraught-iron fence and a bell to ring to be received at the front door.  It was my birthday, 2003, and we decided to try out this homey French Canadian restaurant, found so far away from home.  Regrettably, I don’t remember the exact name of the dish I had, but I remember it resembled cannelloni and was served with fresh baked bread and good wine.  This restaurant is highly recommended for a date night!

2.  Happy Campground, Rome, Italy- Home cooked meals prepared by the family that owns this campground, were served on a porch or at tables set in amidst the greenery.  Between my husband and I we tried most of the pastas on the menu and they were all so flavorful that we didn’t want to eat anywhere else.  Great place to take your kids as menu was mainly pastas and pizzas that they would enjoy.  The campground had a nice pool and provided transportation to the train station into the city.

3.  Forodhani Gardens ( Night Market ), Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania- This is the place that I learned to like seafood.  Every night the fishermen set up food stalls and charcoal grills ready to prepare their catch of the day.  The choices are endless.  I tried crab for the first time, and have never again tasted anything like it.  It was so fresh, and right off the boat.  I also had kebabs of flounder, swordfish and other delicacies of the sea.  I tried the Zanzibari pizza too.  I will put a disclaimer on this that I got sick following this meal, however none of my other 3 traveling companions did, even though we all ate the same thing.  Even though I paid for this meal after the fact, I am still putting it on my list because it was that good!  Oh, and it was also probably the cheapest feast I have ever had.

4.  Freeman’s on the Alley, New York City, USA –  My meal was a chicken dish that is no longer on the menu, however, my husband ordered the ‘Seared Filet Mignon’ which was to die for.  It was so simple, yet so tasty. It came with a whole roasted onion and a large dollop of horseradish cream.  I’m salivating just thinking of it.  It was also reasonably priced for NYC at $24.   We shared the restaurant with Mike Myers where I had to restrain myself from going to his table and reciting ‘Git in ma belly’ or that will cost ‘ One Million Dollars’.  Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) was also in the restaurant that evening.

5.  Bha Bha, A Persion Bistro, Naples, Florida- Located in a strip mall but elegantly decorated, this bistro was a delightful surprise!  I went with my family so was able to try a wide variety of fragrant dishes all served over saffron basmati rice.  I would recommend, Shireen Polo with Saffron poached chicken, Duck Fesenjune (a succulent orange braised duck with pomegranate and walnut sauce), and Lamb Bademjune ( done in tomato lemon sauce with eggplants and sour grapes ).  This restaurant was also very accomodating for our baby.

6.  The Press Gang, Halifax, NS, Canada- There are many restaurants in Halifax, I’d like to list but that will have to be a separate post.  For now, I’d like to highlight the Sweet Potato and Blackened Scallop Chowder and Flourless  Chocolate Espresso Cake I enjoyed at this cosy restaurant located in an historic building.

7.  Bar des Imagens/Costa do Castelo, Lisbon, Portugal-  The outdimg_1500oor patio has spawling views of the city and a casual relaxed atmosphere.  The food was prepared with such care.  Suprisingly my husband daughter and I had the restaurant to ourselves most of the evening as we dined.  I ordered a salad prepared with greens, beets, mixed vegies, goat cheese, garlic and oil.  The main course was a chicken dish and then we splurged on a chocolate dessert that melted in my mouth.  I wish we’d had another night so we could go back there!

I haven’t even started to share my favorite Asian cuisine but I think I’ll leave it at that for now.  I’m craving so many things I’m going to have to sign off, while I go make a snack.  I hope your holidays are filled with good food and good company.  Don’t forget to make a donation to your local food bank so that the less fortunate can also eat well this holiday season.  Bon Appetit!

Christmas at Disney World

When I was ten years old, my parents decided that we would break from our Christmas traditions and go to Florida for the holidays.  It was a great experience for us, so I thought I’d share it, in case there are some parents out there that are considering something like this for next year.

We live in Nova Scotia, Canada, so this was a very different  for us not to have cold weather and snow on Christmas day.  We are also a family that likes their traditions, so we tried to do a modified version of some of our annual Christmas festivities.

Most importantly, I have a younger brother and sister, who were quite concerned that Santa might not find us in Florida but please reassure your children that somehow he did!  I wasn’t too sure what it would be like to have Christmas without a tree, so I had the idea that we should take some lights with us, and I used them to make the outline of a tree on the hotel wall.  We still had stockings and left a snack out for Santa.  On Christmas day, we went to the Magic Kingdom but instead of watching the parade on television we were going to be able to see it in person!  It didn’t take us long to figure out that we could watch the parade next year on t.v. and instead took advantage of the lack of line-ups as we went on Splash Mountain, over and over again.  Everybody else lined the streets to watch the parade.  We always have a turkey dinner on Christmas Day and we were bound and determined that this year should be no different.  We headed over to Epcot center and went to the Canadian Pavilion  and sure enough they were serving turkey dinner :) 

I remember that it was a very festive atmosphere as there were beautiful Christmas decorations everywhere, huge trees and Disney characters that all had special Christmas outfits on.  There were performances all over the parks where carols were being sung and my personal favorite, was that all of the Epcot country pavilions  had something about holiday traditions in their countries.  I think it is a wonderful place to take your children any time of year but Christmas was particularly interesting.  I am all about traveling for cultural experiences with your children, but even the commercialism that is Disney can teach your kids about the world around them.  At the very least, they will have a blast, remember the experience forever and have a great sleep that night!

The Big Apple with a Medium Sized Stroller

New York City is a great walking city with ample parks and wide sidewalks that are easy to navigate with a stroller.  I traveled there recently with my 8 month old daughter and my mother.  My sister lives in Manhattan, and we plan to visit frequently in the upcoming years so I spent my days there keenly observing other tourists and locals with young children to get some tips for future trips as my daughter grows. 

 

The first lesson I learned is that a rain cover for your stroller is absolutely essential. I had it on my list to pack but somehow managed to leave it behind.  Of course it rained most of the time we were there!  Every other stroller we passed had one protecting their children from the rain, while I walked around with only blankets covering my child, sheepishly feeling like a negligent mother.  She didn’t get wet or sick (as I’m sure every other mother walking by was thinking) but a clear plastic cover would have still been much better.  Next time, I’ll also prepare for snow because you never know!  Snacks and stroller toys are also essential, although I did find that my daughter was easily amused just watching all the people go by.  Other considerations for your trip include Read more »


 

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