costa rica : our family vacation

we went on an absolutely magnificent family vacation to costa rica in october.

it was a long time in the making, we had been talking about a vacation for a while, but life just seemed to get in the way. DH changed jobs several times in the last couple of years, we sold and bought a house; big things that make vacationing a little tricky!

> WARNING : this blog post contains millions of family vacation photo’s <<<

waiting before the sun had even risen for our flight at the airport.

not much to do or look at as shops and cafes were just opening up. i did enjoy a tiny cappuccino for $5! yikes!

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the view from our room! not bad at all!

looking at this scenery each day helped calm our everyday nerves, recharge our batteries and helped us really enjoy each other’s company.

dreams las mareas costa rica

but, this october we finally hopped on a plane, flew south to the HOT and HUMID lush land of sloths and volcanoes! we stayed at a beautiful all-inclusive resort called dreams las mareas. we have never stayed at one before so we had nothing to compare the experience to, but regardless… IT WAS AMAZING!!!

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our room was big and bright, with an amazing balcony with a hot tub! we never used the tub, except to dry our wet bathing suits on it! every afternoon after spending the morning on the beach and poolside we would have a siesta during the heat of the day. and, boy-o-boy was it hot!!!

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the resort had a lovely beach on the pacific ocean.

we would head down daily after our delicious breakfast, with towels and books under our arms. at 10am bar service started and the lovely waiters would bring us all sorts of drinks to the beach!

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there were dogs at the beach. they were super social wanting to lounge with you. often they would crawl under various people’s chairs to hide from the sun and rest in the cool sand. they never barked, were threatening, begged for food… they just chilled with the tourists!

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the waves were big, strong and fun! the boys would jump into the waves for hours and hours. there were little fish all along the shallow shores and massive grey pelicans would dive-bomb into the water to catch them. it was impossible to get a picture of this, but it was wonderfully entertaining to watch.

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did i mention how beautiful and lovely our resort was!?

it was designed in a way with lots of lush greenery to create an intimate feel, separating various pools and restaurants. it was so easy to relax as we had nothing to worry about. our biggest concerns were when and where to eat!

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and the plants. the flowers. the trees. the foliage.

i couldn’t stop admiring it all. they were planted in a way to break-up sight lines, so it was easy to forget you were at a resort.

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this was one of the outdoor seafood restaurants we enjoyed for lunch. it’s hard to tell from the photo, but we were all dripping in sweat, kids included. but, it was fun to sit outside with the birds and lizards eating our yummy food. DH and i enjoyed all sorts of fancy alcoholic drinks, below i am devouring a strawberry daiquiri! 

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did i mention the beautiful fauna in costa rica?

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we went on one day trip. it was one of the funnest days we have ever had. the four of us were joined by two newly-wed couples who had just married 4 days before!!! it was so great listening their stories of their wedding days, how they had met, their future plans and so on. it gave me much clarity and reassurance on how far my sweet DH and i have come in our ten years of marriage.

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our day trip included zip lining!

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the kids were the first ones to go! lion went with a guide as he is so tiny still, but bear went on his own.

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it was super hard to take videos and pictures while ziplining! in fact i was the only one brave (stupid) enough to bring my camera and phone with me. because, i didn’t drop anything i am so glad i did!

there were 9 separate lines that whizzed along. we went over waterfall, rivers, jungle, fields with cows… it was completely unreal! i could be heard over the hills screaming with fear and excitement!

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earlier we zipped over this incredible waterfalls. we came here to swim, cool off and relax. we even walked under the falls, which was a loud, slippery but another amazing experience. even the kids ventured under there with us!

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we saw a sloth! and it moved! and it was much faster than we imagined! it was pretty high up in the tree, so getting a reasonable picture was impossible, but i took the one below for proof.

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below DH and lion can be seen relaxing in the volcanic hot spring. the water was very hot, but after ziplining it felt really good.

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after our long, adventurous day we had quiet ride back to the resort. quiet as in people slept, but the bumps were loud. they call the bumpy roads a costa rican massage! during our drive we saw lots of new infrastructure being built, things like more windmills and many improvements to the roads. the northern part of the country, where we were, is not as developed or touristy.

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thanks andre &  melanie and eric & kristy for spending the day with us and filling it with all your newly-wed love!  our new big nickle and georgia peach friends… how cute are they?

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this giant chessboard was a huge hit with our family, night n’ day!

the kids loved playing against their dad!

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on one day we decided to head up the hills to the nearest town. we were told that a local bus came by the resort. well, something got lost in the conversation between DH and a hotel employee, and the four of ended up running to try to catch the bus at the main gate of the resort. unfortunately the main gate was about a kilometer from the actual hotel, so we decided to run in the hopes to catch the bus we had missed t the hotel.

even though it was nine in the morning, it was already super hot n’ humid. 

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we ran and ran down this tiny road… that wee speck just passed the blue sign in the photo is DH, who ran ahead in the hopes to hold the bus for us. but, we still missed it. we walked back to the hotel, very disappointed and sweaty.

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after some discussion and problem solving we decided to splurge and took a taxi into town.

the road was windy and bumpy, but i was a lovely way to see the country. our driver was chatty, speaking english well telling us all sorts of things about his country. we were winding up the hills and mountains up, up, up.

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look at that view!

takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

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one of the first things we discovered while in town was a skate park! how cool?!dsc_0145 dsc_0151

the town was small. we were there to find souvenirs, which we didn’t find. but, we did buy some local coffee from the grocery store, which i have been savoring here at home.

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we found the kids these fun safari-style hats that said costa rica on them!

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back at the hotel we decided to have japanese for dinner.

we called it our family date night. first we went to the special lounge in teh main building that only privileged customers were allowed into. we’re still not quite clear how we managed to get those perks, but we did and we enjoyed them. the bartenders were hilarious showing all sorts of tricks to the kids and making fancy drinks for them.

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the chef below was learning the fancy tricks of the teppanyaki style of japanese cooking. it was pretty fun! 

oh and the sky. 

always beautiful.

always different.

always full of surprises!

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time to go.

after of week of relaxation, good food, swimming, sun and epic thunderstorms we were ready to say good-bye to the lovely people of costa rica and head home. we all missed our kitty-cats, our own beds and the cool breezes of october in ontario!

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HELLO TORONTO!

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if you have ever considered going to costa rica, GO! 

so much to see and do. a very beautiful country with lovely people.

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xo, mama lola

camping killarney!


i gotta say this was one of our most successful camping trips ever. 

killarney provincial park is a stunning place in northern ontario. we camped there for 3 nights and 4 days, but we could have stayed longer!

this was the view we saw when we first arrived on our site.

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it felt as though we had found perfection. the ultimate camping spot with the kids!

 

lion received a fishing rod for his birthday, which he loves. and, bear made one of his own so the kids fished from the rock for what felt like hours! they never did catch anything, but they sure did keep at it.

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the weather was hot during the day, but the nights were cool. this meant we filled our days with hikes and swimming AND ICE CREAM!

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we hiked the granite ridge trail, which was so fun. we started low in the forest and then started to climb up the rock. the trail meandered through the woods, over rock, passed a funny old rusted car, all the way up to the summit where the views were breathtaking. we snacked on our food and nibbled on the blueberries growing in their bushes.

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we visited the old town of killarney, which has a wee population of 500. there isn’t much there, a few stores, a marina and of course… ICE CREAM! but, it was nice to visit.

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check out the new tent we bought! it’s from MEC and is the 4 person wanderer. it’s perfect for the 4 of us!

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we rented a canoe for a day. it was DH’s favourite day of the trip. we packed a lunch and headed out on george lake. we paddled so different spots, stopping to explore, picnic and rest. we must have done about 3 km’s. nothing intense, but it sure was fun and by the time we returned my arms were quite tired. we had been paddling into the wind for a lot of the day!

killarney collage

i adore camping with my family. now that the kids are old enough to do more for themselves (like walk to the s*itters) and because they don’t require constant entertainment and supervision from us, we all get a chance to relax. DH and i enjoyed ourselves immensely, and we really had a great time as a family without it feeling like forced quality time.

in the evenings we all snuggled up in our own sleeping bags and listened as DH read to us from his kobo. he had downloaded some kids chapter books on to it, which were perfect for all of us to enjoy. it also made bedtime easier for us. our 7 year old bear often has a hard time falling asleep, which if DH and i were sitting outside the tent would find very frustrating, but because we were all relaxed together, tired and listening to the story, we all nodded off one by one.

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we have two more weekend camping trips to enjoy this summer!

the kids are thrilled. so am i!

xo, mama lola

cottage in may.

we were at the cottage in mid may and i am only now sharing pictures from that fun weekend.

we were there to open the cottage for another successful season of relaxation and nature.

the kids painted water colour paintings on the dock, because being in nature is a great place to get artistic. i think the calm and peace brings different inspiration than our messy art room! haha! plus, painting outside means you can get as messy as you like! 

a large tree had fallen last fall. so, DH sharpened the ol’chainsaw and started to cut it up. he was pretty happy about that job!

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the children love being at the cottage. they have lots of freedom to play and run around without parental involvement. there are rules about how close to water they can go and luckily they follow them well. we canoed around the bay, listening for birds and chipmunks. 

it was wonderful, cold, but wonderful!

do you have a cottage or camp you like to take your family to? i’d love to hear about it on the comments!

 

xo, mama lola

down by the river.

it sure was a fantastic weekend! the sun was shining, it was hot and everyone seemed to be in a great mood. it’s amazing how the weather can impact a whole cities mood and feel.

on sunday we decided to jump on our bikes and bike down to the river. i just love that the kids are old enough to do this kind of thing. lion is almost 5yrs, so his stamina isn’t as great, but man, that kid pedaled his heart out. i was so proud of him! bear had a brand new bicycle to try and he was a little apprehensive at first. this new bike has hand breaks and gears! but, he too got into the groove!

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when we arrived at the river we heard frogs, which seemed strange as it was the middle of the afternoon and super hot in the sun. as we looked closer we saw frogs all over the place, many of them in pairs… then we clued in. it’s mating season!!! the croaking sound was unbelievably loud, but also exciting, because it started some great conversations with the kids!
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the geese were hanging out in pairs. there were some pretty aggressive fights between some of the pairings. they too must be mating and preparing to nest.

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the boys made boats out of bark and sticks.

such simple fun. no plastic toys. no batteries.

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bear did actually end up in the water! the branch he was balancing on suddenly snapped and SPLASH! luckily for him the water wasn’t too cold and the air was warm! we all had a big laugh about it though!

 

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it is so wonderful that spring has arrived and we have a taste of warm, hot weather. 

hope you had a lovely weekend too!

 

xo, mama lola

earth day craft round-up!


 

earth day is coming up…. april 22 to be exact. easy to remember, because at our house that also happens to be DH’s birthday!

i gathered some fun, creative, inspiring and beautiful crafts to help everyone get in the spirit of earth day. i think these crafts are a great way to talk to kids about nature, the environment and the cycle of life. getting crafty is also a great way to connect to the natural world around us, the one we so often take for granted, especially in this age of screens!  

earth day crafts, eco crafts

 

i don’t think there are any gender restrictions or age limits with these crafts. let your kids experience the process of creating as much as the outcome. as parents and caregivers i think we often forget how much fun just sitting and making something is!

ok, in no particular order, here we go!

stamping with food, kids crafts, nature crafts, earth day crafts

stamping with natural treasures from bear & lion

earth day crafts, natural crafts, floral crafts

scented nature sculpture from sunhats & wellie boots

earth day crafts for kids, floral crown, nature crafts, eco crafts

nature crowns and cuffs from maya made

earth day crafts, leaf bugs, nature crafts, eco crafts

nature bugs from modern parents messy kids

earth day crafts, eco crafts, recycled material crafts

eco-friendly beads from planet forward

earth day crafts, shell mobile, kids eco crafts

how to make a shell mobile from nurture store

treasures 2

 wind catcher from bear & lion

earth day crafts, painted sticks, eco crafts for kids

painted sticks from little wonders’ days

weaving with flowers, nature crafts, earth day crafts

nature weaving from craftiments

 

i love the weaving idea, and may make something with that inspiration in mind. not many flowers will be blooming in late april here in southern, ontario, but i will try to think outside the box a little.

mobiles are great too. hanging stuff is great for front porches or back decks, or by a big sunny window!

enjoy earth day! and remember, earth day is not just one day of the year, it should be every day! 

xo, mama lola

spring hike.


the boys and i  went for a hike on a warm march break afternoon with some good friends. it was officially the last day of winter, but it sure felt like spring. the sun was out in full force melting snow creating glorious mud for the kids to roll in. us mum’s didn’t mind though, at least all the boys were out enjoying the woods.

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spring hike,

chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee!

chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee!

this particular trail is known for it’s friendly chickadee’s so i made sure to pack a small bag of bird see with us. 

we put some seed into our hands and waited very quietly. sure enough, a few brave birds flew right onto our hands to nibble on the treats we were holding. it was quite the delight!
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i told the kids there was treasure chest in this tree stump! haha!

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it’s completely impossible to get a nice picture of our four boys all together. there were too many giggles and sillies trapped inside of them, even after all of the running!

oh well, they’re all cute non-the-less with their goofy faces and tongues sticking out!
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for the hike i had stuffed my driver’s license into an unusual pocket for “safe keeping”. well, hours after we got home from our romp in the woods i realized to my horror that it was missing! immediately panic set in! DH and i decided to drive back to the parking lot of the trail just in case it had fallen out around the parked car. well, i didn’t see it, but then last minute i decided to check the map board at the base of the trail and there it was! someone had found my license and attached it to the board!!!

i could not believe my luck! oh, you should have seen my high kicks as i danced my happy dance!!! a huge thanks to this kind stranger! 

xo, mama lola

forest school fun!


 

i often feel like the public school system here in ontario lacks a natural component to it’s curriculum. yes, they talk about the environment and spend time outside even on some pretty cold days, but i wish there was more time spent in nature, exploring the natural world around them. so when i found out a high school friend of mine, brandy, was starting a forest school i jumped at the opportunity to sign my lion up! because it’s in another city he only goes for one afternoon a week (instead of the two afternoon’s currently offered).

this smiling beauty below is brandy.

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the kids are all between the ages of 3 and 5. the group meets and then walks along some lovely trails to their designated site. the trail is shared with dog walkers and cross country skiers.

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below is a picture of a quick stop for a story during our walk. here brandy introduced that days theme to the kids, as they all sat on a fallen tree and listened. none of the kids complained about stopping, about being cold, or about carrying their own backpacks. AMAZING!

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the “classroom” site is amazing! there are several teepee/ wigwam style forts that were already built in the forest. there are beautiful tall trees as far as the eye can see. the kids are allowed to climb the forts and explore the nearby area. the kids enjoyed snack, had another story and discussed various elements of that days theme.

i love watching the kids enjoying the natural world. they were so involved in it without any effort or encouragement from adults. they recognized things differently from us grown-ups creating interesting discussions about why things are the way they are.

kids are so open and free.

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on the day i was volunteering we focused on our senses;  we listened for birds, tasted snow, touched sticks and looked for interesting things in our environment. brandy encourages the kids to explore, question and get right into things. she follows the kids’ lead on things making the learning about them and not about what she assumes they might be interested in. so awesome!

the peace and calm of the forest school is what i really noticed. classrooms in buildings are full of posters, art, colours, shapes… there are almost no blank walls, everything is covered with some kind of stimulus. here in the woods the stimulus is not garish in colour or forced down the children’s throats. the natural world invites them in, gently stimulating their senses and enticing them for deeper learning. even though the kids explore the same forts, the subtle changes that occur over time is what makes outdoor learning so amazing.

below are pictures of the ice experiments the kids had created the previous thursday. they poured water in containers with some acorns and leaves to see what would happen. we hung them in the trees so the sun could catch them. so lovely!

forest school fun, winter expriment forest school fun

if you’re curious and interested in brandy’s beautiful school, wildflowers forest school, check out her facebook page HERE. there are lots more pictures and tales of the adventures they get into! currently, there is no website, but it’s in the works!

xo, mama lola

holiday update: better late than never, right?!

christmas feels like it was a million years ago, but i want to share a few pictures with you anyway.

we had such a wonderful time. it was busy, but fun!

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below is a picture of the beautiful piparkakkutalo or gingerbread house my mum made. there is a little tea light in the front that’s the skating rink, plus there’s a ladder on the side there! love it! my mum is so creative!

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the kids got twister from DH’s sister and her mister. of course we had to crack it open immediately and give it a go!

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for new years, we hit the cottage up in muskoka! there was no snow upon arrival, but withiun 12 hours heaps and heaps had fallen, and just kept coming! the forest around the cottage turned into a magical winter wonderland. this year the temperatures weren’t that cold even, so hitting the outhouse wasn’t that bad! haha!

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as soon as we arrive it’s important to get the cottage warm. so we get the fire roaring and slowly start to unpeel all of the layers we have on. our friends brought some yummy lasagna’s for dinner. aren’t the beautiful?!

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on the 31st we walked down to the lake and watched as papaD put on an amazing firework display. we all sat in the snow oohing and aahing at the gorgeous colours flashing in the sky! the it was time for sparklers up at the cottage!

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after fireworks we enjoyed some glöggi while DH read stories to all the kids. the cottage becomes a cozy nest for all of us. the christmas lights we bring up for extra fun. we re-arrange the furniture to better suit the large number of people that are there. it’s nice to have the couch in front of the fire.

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once the kids were tucked into their beds, us adults played some fun games of our own and enjoyed a few drinks!

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the following morning it was time for more tobogganing!

what a great way to start 2015!!!

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happy day to you and yours!

next week i’ll be sharing pictures from lion’s forest school, check back!

don’t forget to come and like bear & lion on facebook!

 

xo, mama lola

cottage thanksgiving.

cottage

we enjoyed a beautiful weekend at the cottage for thanksgiving.  it’s taken me a while to organize pictures and edit them, as our reno at the house has forced me to stay away from our home all day for a few days! bah! but, better late than never right?!

 

the weather was awesome! sunny, with a few misty moments and crisp fresh air. the leaves were a beautiful array of bright colours.  we got a lot of work done, including rearranging the wood shed, piling wood from wettest to driest. it’s very physical job, but there was 4 adults doing it,so it went well. the chipmunks were just as busy as us, running around with their wee cheeks full of grub to last them through the winter.

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with two vegans, four vegetarians and three carnivores our dinner was super delicious! we had all kinds of yummy, healthy foods that we were all so very grateful for, including tofu and bok choy sauteed in pineapple sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing (veg and not), baked squash, roasted chicken and shrimp n’ scallops sauteed in lime juice and cilantro. our bellies were too satisfied, hahaha!

 

thanksgiving table

 

my MIL found an old SUPER COOL hockey table under one of the beds. it’s wooden and dear hubby used to play against his grandfather back during his childhood. the kids loved playing this for hours and hours, so much so in fact that bear started a family tournament. he made a list with everyone’s names and then various family members played against each other. it was a lot of fun!

 

cottage hockey tournament

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there was a huge rain storm a few weeks back that washed out a lot of roads in and around the cottage. the top of the cottage driveway happens to to be located at the bottom of two hills, and there was a lot of damage. there have been issues for years and the county is always promising to fix the problems. so when we arrived on friday afternoon we found these huge boulders at the entrance of the driveway, massive diggers sitting on rocks and culverts dug out again. quite shocking and depressing, because these huge gouges are very damaging to the wildlife in the area.

 

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the portage down to the lake that runs from the road next to the cottage property line, was seriously damaged during the rain storm as well. this was a big concern to me, purely for selfish reasons as that’s where we do best tobogganing in the winter! we’ll have to wait and see what the construction ends up looking like.

 

hope you had a lovely weekend with whatever fun you got into on the long weekend!

xo, mama lola

ottawa, our last summer hurrah!

the last week of august is always a bit of a weird week, summer is coming to a  fast end and the anticipation for school to start is thick in the air. to fill our summer to the max, we decided to drive to ottawa for one last summer hurrah!

 

we drove passed toronto and stopped in on some family for lunch and a swim. then we continued until kingston to visit more family. we stayed the night with my sister-in-law, her mister and my sweet wee niece. they have three chickens in their backyard who our boys were quite taken with. oh, lily, robin and blackie, such a lovely feathered trio!

backyard chickens backyard chickens

there was a super awesome splash pad in kingston!

splash pad

splash pad

from kingston we drove to the sandbanks for one last night of summer camping! along the way the kids both fell asleep in the car, and they both slept through a ferry ride! we drove through the picturesque town of picton en route to the sandpbanks provincial park.

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ferry to picton

the day had been hot, so our plan was to find our campsite, get changed into our bathing suits and go hang-out at the beach! but, things didn’t quite go as expected… when we arrived at the beach there were these huge, dark storm clouds sitting in the distance. the wind was picking up, but we all braved the weather and went for a swim anyway. it felt like we were swimming in the ocean! the waves were big and stormy as we bounced in them, and then they would continue on crashing onto the shore. we did get cold quickly so we headed back to camp!

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camp cooking

the next day, we tried the beach again. we packed up our campsite, put on our swimming gear, the sun was bright, but again, as soon as we arrived things took a turn. the wind picked up and the warm sun got hidden behind big cloud masses.

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the kids refused to go swimming, instead they opted to bury dear hubby in the sand, but first giving him a nice set of breasts!

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playing in the sand

so, we decided to leave the sandbanks and just drive to ottawa.

 

in ottawa we stayed at the beautiful delta. we looked pretty rough around the edges as we arrived via the underground parking into the sparkly and clean hotel lobby.

delta ottawa

we washed off the sandbanks camping grub and slept well in our comfy beds! the next day we were off to the canadian museum of history, where we explored the children’s museum with great enthusiasm. the kids were given adorable passports, which enabled us to travel from country to country experiencing all sorts of cultural activities!

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canadian museum of history
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canadian museum of history

canadian museum of history

we lunched at the byward market, strolled passed the parliament buildings, the boys got their hair cut at a fancy downtown barber, and we enjoyed our days to the max. but, even though it was all lovely we decided cut our mini-road trip short, as we were feeling pretty burnt out. our summer had been  busy and fun, but we all needed some extra time at home before kicking off another school year!

byward market ottawa

we really love ottawa. it’s a great place to visit with kids, with a dynamic downtown that is walkable even for littler feet. there are lots of yummy restaurants and the byward market is so great at meal times! in the above picture we all had something different to eat from all sorts of worldly places!

 

but, we were so glad to get home!

i got all of laundry done, groceries for the following week and a few good sleeps before having to set the alarm for our early school day mornings! bah!

 

i have a back-to-school-starting-school post in the pipeline! this new life of two kids in school has been a big transition in our family, and somehow i have less time to blog…

 

xo, mama lola
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