the final leg of our summer road trip!

i realize summer is a distant memory at this point, but i just wanted to share some photo’s from the last leg of our trip.

to read about the first part go HERE.
to read about the second part go HERE.
to read about the third part go HERE.

so, after a quick play at a park and a picnic lunch it was time to head to manitoulin island from sault saint marie.

with the pedal to the metal within speed limit restrictions, of course, we drove down and east along the trans-canada highway. it was an easy drive without any traffic problems. we arrived at the bridge leading on to the island. and, we had to wait. the bridge swings open once an hour to allow boats through.

we arrived in the town of little current, and scrambled to find accommodations. eventually we found a hotel looking over the harbour, which was fine, but the bar downstairs had a band playing till the wee hours of the morning! the kids and dear hubby slept through the cover bands renditions of sweet child o’mine among other 80’s hits!

we walked down to the marina checked out the boats and ate ice cream, cuz that’s what you do in the summer, right?

manitoulin island hosts a large pow wow each summer. it was a hot day, but we enjoyed the performances and dancing fully. look at these awesome headdresses and regalia worn by people from various nations and tribes.



we savoured time with our friends, friends who came all the way from germany! the kids played and played and laughed and laughed. we roasted marshmallows, drank some boozy drinks, chatted about kids, world politics and everything in between! we camped with them at a funny little private trailer park for a couple of nights. 



this is how i will remember manitoulin island. bright blue skies, rolling fields and peace.


we found a fun flea market.


we found a wonderful, tiny museum on a rainy afternoon.



before leaving the island, we found a funny little beach and went for one last road trip swim. we explored the reeds and enjoyed a picnic lunch.


and then the finale… the chi-chee! the chi cheemaun was the perfect way to end our epic summer road trip! the chi cheemaun is a ferry that goes from manitoulin island to the tip of the bruce peninsula and docks in owen sound. it’s about a two hour trip each way. we arrived early for the ferry; first we parked the van to line up for the ferry, then we went walking around the area, exploring a lighthouse, having lunch and just savouring the last hours of our trip together.


i was feeling quite nostalgic on our last day of traveling. returning home, meant dear hubby would return back to work, it meant that summer was that much closer to ending and it meant a return to some kind of routine. 
even though the trip had been super fun, it had been exhausting and stressful, as well. the four of us had been together the entire time, which again, was wonderful, but also exhausting.


road tripping is a great way to connect to a place, a province, a country and with your family. after experiencing our first full year of school as a family, and after feeling all those hours of separation take a toll on us, a summer road trip was a great way for us to re-connect. i felt the bond between all of my guys deepen; dear hubby and i had some of those great conversations you only have in the car. the kids played together so well (most of the time) and i saw their relationship grow tremendously. and, it was so wonderful to witness the kids spend all that uninterrupted time with their dad. we all benefited greatly from this trip.

now that we are in full swing with school and work, and rigid schedule they bring, i can really appreciate the importance of that family time we enjoyed this summer. 


now, we are already planning for our next destination!

xo, mama lola

more road trip shenanigans; heading back south!

this is part three of out epic summer road trip!

we left thunder bay proper in the peeing rain, and headed to the sleeping giant provincial park where we hoped to camp for a few nights. on our way we stopped at ouimet canyon as per a recommendation from a friend. we layered up and headed to the canyon.

the scientists and other experts aren’t actually sure how this amazing canyon was made; there are several hypothesis out there, but nothing is completely agreed upon. it is stunning, breathtaking and frightening! we were so high up looking down at the canyon floor, and i had to remind myself a million times we were safe up on the look-out platform.

the rain finally tapered off just as we arrived at our camp site on the sleeping giant. we were right by the water, which entertained the kids for hours!

apparently the sleeping giant peninsula is highly populated with, um, skunks! we found this out the first night we were there. just as dusk was settling in, i decided to head to the bathroom one last time. as i arrived i thought i saw something out of the corner of y eye and so i shone my flashlight at the shaking grass and to my horror a skunk looked right back at me! i ran! i ran and giggled nervously to myself. i arrived at camp to tell dear hubby my funny story, but then to my horror, again, i saw another skunk… ON OUR CAMPSITE! my nervous giggle returned as i tried to keep my flashlight directed at the skunk. the skunk who was sniffing around under our picnic table and the slowly made its way towards our tent! AAAHHH!!! the kids were fast asleep in the tent, completely oblivious to the stinky dangers creeping around outside. my imagination was running wild with all of the possible ways a skunk could spray a person, their car and belongings, and the unimaginable outcome of this horrifying meeting. then, more skunks arrived. they were sniffing around at our campsite, our neighbours and all over. apparently, that’s the norm there!!!! how did we not know this?!?!

anyhow, after about 30 minutes of following the skunks with my flashlight and giggling nervously, dear hubby decided we needed to just get in our tent and go to sleep. clearly the skunks were used to people and not scared of us, and unlikely to spray us. i thought he was mad, but also right. so, that’s what we did! i lay there wide awake for a while listening to my family sleep soundly, half expecting to be sprayed by critters outside.

we survived the sleeping giant without ever being sprayed by the skunks! woohoo, what a relief!

after a two nights of skunks, a day at the beach, several deer sightings it was time to head south again on the trans-canada highway. we still had a long trip ahead of us and we were excited for more adventures.

our next stop was neys provincial park. this was by far my favourite beach. it was stunning with the driftwood, rock, grass and trees. the kids played and played, but it was too cold for a real swim! we enjoyed a beautiful evening at our campsite, it was calm and quiet. dear hubby checked the weather report and to our dismay heavy rain and thunderstorms were coming our way. so, we packed up as much as we could, got some clothes ready for the following day, and hoped we at least would have a dry night.

the next morning i woke up suddenly to rumbling thunder in the distance. i elbowed dear hubby awake and we got to work. we quickly changed the kids and ourselves into slightly warmer clothes, plonked the boys into the car and raced to pack up our sleeping bags and tent before the rain started. just as we were shoving the last things into the car the downpour came. it was only 7am and we hadn’t had breakfast. so, we decided to drive to the closets town, which was marathon, to see what we could find to eat.

we found a hilarious place called robin’s. it looked like it was stuck in time, like 1975! the orange and brown decor was overwhelming so early in the morning, but we were happy to eat something warm in a dry place!

the weather continued to be wet and cold. we drove in the downpour trying to come with a plan. we stopped in wawa for lunch and a pee. the kids were feeling the long drive, so we needed to stop for a while. the day was still early, so we decided to drive straight to sault saint marie, stay in a hotel and then drive to manitoulin island the following day. i am surprised how well the kids managed on this leg of the drive. because the weather was wet, we couldn’t just stop and have a quick game of tag at a rest area.

eventually, we found an awesome hotel in the soo, with comfy beds, a nice restaurant and a POOL! it was a great way to end the day letting off some steam, playing in the pool, especially since it was still raining really hard outside!

the following morning was bright and sunny!
we headed straight to manitoulin island! more pictures and stories from the final leg of our trip coming up soon!


xo, mama lola

heading further north: from pancake bay to wawa and beyond!

our road trip continued up along the trans-canada heading north from pancake bay to wawa and then to marathon. 



in wawa we stopped at the famous young’s general store and saw henrietta the moose. we had a photo opp with the big goose as well!


in white river we bought the worst veggie burgers ever from A&W for dinner, although their sweet potato fries were delicious! we stopped at the iconic winnie the pooh statue. the black bear that winne the pooh is based on is oroginally from the forests of white river, onatrio. learn more HERE.  


then we kept driving. we had hoped to camp close to marathon, but then we saw a real black bear on the side of the road sniffing some garbage and i lost my nerve. but, finding a motel in marathon proved to be surprisingly difficult; we declined a smoking room in town and opted for a non-smoking room, but it was at a motel next to the highway. so it goes, you win some, you lose some!

breakfast at the motel.


the next day it was a rainy drive, with essential stops at timmie’s for my double-double coffee’s and pee breaks. the kids were tired and eager to get to the much talked about city of thunder bay! i don’t like driving long stretches in the rain, because it’s not as easy to stop quickly to check out a water fall, or some tiny musuem, or have a quick picnic. you’re stuck in the car or inside restaurants. booo!


just outside of thunder bay we stopped at the terry fox memorial statue. before we arrived dear hubby was explaining to bear why terry fox is an important part of our recent history. explaining cancer, amputation and death to a five year old is tricky stuff, especially when you’re talking about a young man. i was unable to participate in the conversation, as i was quietly crying thinking about terry’s amazing marathon of hope, but mostly i was crying because i was thinking of terry’s courageous mama and the unimaginable pain and pride she must have felt. 

thank you terry.


thunder bay is not a beautiful city. it has a roughness and sullen feel about it’s. the grey, rainy days probably exaggerated these qualities but, my heart has a fondness for good ol’ t-bay. it’s where i met my lovely husband and the city has lots of finnish culture there! as soon as we drove into town our first stop was a restaurant known fondly as the scan. it’s the scandinavian home and they make awesome finnish food there. we had finnish pancakes/ crepes called lettut with finnish style strawberry sauce and whipped cream. it was divine!


the sleeping giant. 


we visited fort william, in the rain. the kids loved it and the rain mostly held off. although it was cool, as you can tell by the toques, jackets, fleeces and turtlenecks we’re all wearing! it was shockingly cold up in t-bay!


these are handmade birch bark canoes!
the tools below were used for tooth extractions. yikes!


while in thunder bay we rented a student townhouse at the local university, instead of staying at a hotel. we had our own four bedroom house, with a living room, kitchen and an outdoor space for two nights. it was perfect for our rainy t-bay visit!


the kids some flowers to press.


we had deer come and visit us. i took this photo through a window.


kakabeka water falls just outside thunder bay.


more pictures to come!
there are more pictures from thunder bay and then manitoulin island!
like i said there are a gazillion of them!

to read about the first leg of our trip go HERE.

xo, mama lola

the first leg of our epic summer road trip!

and so our second annual family summer road trip started with a weekend at the cottage with dear friends. we left home on a stormy friday afternoon and arrived at the cozy cottage where the weather was calm and beautiful. so, we decided to get our bathing suits on and jump in the lake! it was a great way to start the weekend!
our weekend was fun in the sun; we swam, chatted about everything under the sun, sat by the fire, roasted marshmallows, drank various drinks, the kids played and played… it was glorious!


we left the cottage on a hot sunday afternoon and headed north on highway 400. our first stop was french river. it is a beautiful spot, perfect for a picnic and stretching your legs. we did both!

our first night of camping was fine. dear hubby and i were a bit out of sync, but seeing as it was our first night on the road, we allowed ourselves the learning opportunity to figure it all out. it took a lot re-organizing to get things into good order. for example, packing up my camping kitchen, i just tossed things into my bin at home, but here at camp i organized it as now i knew what i needed first when starting a meal. 

we bought the kids their own camping chairs and surprised them at our first campfire. they seriously believed us when we told them the forest fairies brought them! it was so sweet!


our first morning at fairbank provincial park and this is what the crater created lake looked like. kinda unbelievable!


then we hit science north in sudbury! (a shout out to all the sudbury peeps, YO!) man, it was fun, awesome and did i mention fun? if you’re even by the big nickel, hanging out on the rock go check this place out!

this big guy here, was the tallest man alive once-upon-a-time. he too had some issues with his pituitary gland, different from mine, but i felt a bond with this freakish moving robot man!


then it was time to hit the road. the kids were quiet and sleepy after such a busy morning, which made for easy driving. we did get stuck behind the road painting truck, which was super frustrating and hilarious at the same time!


and then we saw this sign (see below photograph). we passed the english version before i could snap a photo, but here is the french version (canada is billingual).  the sign reads “please do not feed the bears”. then on the brown part “bears are dangerous”. um yeah they are! they have massive claws and teeth, which are not there just for looks! and, here i thought there is no way in hell anyone in their right mind would want to get near an actual bear, never mind feed it. clearly i am naive!


we drove to sault saint marie, arrived after dinner time so the kids were grumpy and had a hard time finding a good place to eat. eventually, we decided to get a room at the motel 8 and get some grocery store sushi, cheeses, baguette and fruit. kids loved it, i loved it, and dear hubby loved. it was easy and delicious!

the next morning we piled into the car and headed for the famous canal locks. we arrived just in time to see an american tourist boat experience the strange wonder of the locks. the boat started out at one water level and then slowly was lowered to another water level. it’s actually super cool, but also scary!


we visited the bush plane museum in the soo. it was very well organized, and even though it’s a small museum, there is a lot to see and do. the boys of course loved it!


after the soo, we headed along the trans-canada highway north to camp at a provincial park.

that was when we discovered the wonder that is pancake bay.


as we set up camp we could hear a deep rhythmic pounding in the distance. so, we walked over the soft, sandy dunes and saw this.
a breathtaking view of sand and water and sky and forest.

dear hubby and i sat and watched as the kids played in the water, becoming more and more soaked as the waves kept crashing into the shore, and as the kids kept running into them. the boys were not bothered at all by the frigid temperatures of lake superior, or the cool wind that was blowing over the lake; they laughed while running and playing! it was perfect.


then, evening came. dear hubby put the kids to bed, i hooped…


and then this happened. wow.


more pictures and tales to come later from our epic road trip!

xo, mama lola

yochi yochi shoes: a product review.

my little lion woke up one morning, stumbled down the stairs in his groggy state and found these super adorable frog shoes waiting for him on the table! 

“for me?” he asked.
“for you. try them on” i replied.

he slipped the shoes on easily, and as soon as he landed his first step the shoe made a silly squeak. then he landed another step and another, and the shoes kept squeaking away! the smile on my three year old’s face was priceless, as he repeated “rib-bit, rib-bit” jumping around the kitchen pretending to be a frog, as his shoes squeaked away!


these adorable shoes are by yochi yochi. they have four different designs you can pick from: lady bug, panda, skull n’ cross bone and of course these frogs! check out their website HERE. they also sell adorable socks that rattle with each movement. the socks are meant for babes.


the silly squeak is not only fun for kids, but also a great way to keep track of your independent toddler at a busy grocery store, for example. the sizes go from 4-10. the shoes are light weight, with easy to use velcro straps and a handy tab at the heel to help pull the shoes on. my lion loves to do up his own shoes and these shoes are no exception.

these adorable yochi yochi shoes are a perfect gift for any little person!



HAPPY SQUEAKING!

[ i was compensated in exchange for writing a product review for yochi yochi shoes, but the views and opinions are my own.]

xo, mama lola

ontario, the beautiful.

my family and i went on an epic road trip this summer. just over two weeks of driving, camping with a few pit stops in m/hotels. i say this trip was epic, because although we drove a similar distance last summer when we drove all the way out east to the maritimes of canada, on this trip we headed north. north to where life is rougher, the temperatures much cooler and for us the trip felt more challenging, mirroring the way of life.


we live in south western ontario, which is mostly farm country, with pockets of lush forest. everything down here is flat. once you’re about 5 hours north of toronto, you start to kind of notice the rock, the rougher landscape, but just after sault saint marie, which is about 8 hours north west of toronto you really, really notice the rock cliffs, the trees fighting to survive and the lush green of the south is long forgotten and replaced with a scragglier, rougher landscape. 


dear hubby and i met 12 years ago in those scraggly forests just outside of thunder bay, while treeplanting. this vacation was really a trip down memory lane and a way for us to re-experience all of those fun new-relationship places we got to know each other at all those years ago! we’ve had a tough year of marriage and life, and even though the kids were with us, this vacation felt like dear hubby and i were reconnecting in all the right ways! so great!



the raw feel of the landscape along lake superior really affected me. i grew up in finland, which has a very similar look and feel, so i was feeling quite nostalgic. the rocky cliffs lining the shores of the great lake are capped with moss, thin spruce trees, the odd birch tree and some berry bushes. you can imagine the freezing cold wind blowing up from the lake, creating incredibly cold conditions. we camped at a few provincial parks along the shores of lake superior and were surprised at the fine sand beaches we found, with awesome crashing waves. felt like we were in the caribbean without the crowds of tourists and palm trees, oh and the salt water!


we truly live in a beautiful province, one that i think most people take for granted. it is so easy to forget to look at the beauty that surrounds us, to acknowledge the wonder that is in our own backyard. i am proud to share the awesome adventures ontario has to offer with my kids; it doesn’t sound like a very exotic place, this good ol’ ontario, but we saw and experienced some awesome things. it isn’t a coincidence that our car license plates here say “yours to discover”!


i have a million pictures to sort and edit, stories to organize in my brain and many details to write down! i will be sharing vacation pics and tales in spurts!
keep checking back!

xo, mama lola

pressing flowers with kids.

pressing flowers, summer crafts

i remember as a little girl collecting all sorts of flowers and leaves and stuffing our old school, massive phone books with them. those old phone books were ideal for pressing flowers, as you could fill them with quite a collection and the paper was perfect. plus, at our house anyway we had a huge stack of yellow pages and white pages.

redtedart has a great tutorial on how to press flowers. it’s really not hard and you don’t need any special equipment, except maybe some patience as the flowers take a few weeks to press and dry properly. 

when travelling, i have picked a flower and placed them into the book i have with me. sometimes i have forgotten about them and rediscovered them a while later. what a lovely way to reminisce about an exciting adventure! 

the dainty squid pressed other wonderful natural finds, like mushrooms! 
go check out more of her beautiful pictures HERE!

this summer i will get the kids to collect and press a few leaves or flowers from our road trip. once we get back home, we can make something out of them!
 
xo, mama lola

our road trip bucket list!

we made a list of all the things we hope to see and do during this year’s summer road trip! our plan is to head north and stop where it’s practical or necessary!

  • see the big canada goose at the general store in wawa
  • visit the terry fox memorial in thunder bay
  • eat lots of smores
  • watch the sunset over lake superior
  • visit science north in sudbury
  • go canoeing
  • collect rocks
  • have sauna in thunder bay at kanga’s
  • dance at the pow wow on manitoulin island
  • collect feathers
  • swim like fishes
  • send post cards
  • go on many hikes
  • climb a tree
  • go to beaches
  • read books
  • visit the bushplane museum
  • eat viili at hoito
let’s hope we get to cross off most of what’son here!!!
xo, mama lola
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