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

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

summer beach day in kincardine.

if you have never been to kincardine, ontario, you should try to make it a destination for a day trip or longer vacation. we try to visit kincardine once a summer, which is a tradition that started way before we ever had kids.


the beaches are amazing. on one side of the main pier it is sandy and soft, the other it is rocky and pebbly. the waves that crash the shores are always cool as the water in lake huron never gets too warm!

the main strip in town has a variety of stores and chip stands, so there’s yummy grub for all! we left home in a hurry that morning, and i forgot to pack the kids’ bathing suits (duh! slaps palm to forehead) sowe had to stop at a box store to buy new bathers for the kids! haha! 


the kids love kincardine. it is small and during the busiest of times, it was still pretty calm. there is enough to keep them busy and happy for the day. even dear hubby got to work on his new thing, his strength training. which is lots of jumping without a running start. he’s getting pretty good at it!


we played at the different beaches, ate picnics on the different beaches, found a playground with lots of other kids for the boys to play with, we drove around the town a little so lion could nap and bear could have some quiet. we left just before sunset.


it was a completely nearly perfect day.
you see lion sh#t in his brand new swim trunks at one point! hence the naked bum. it’s all good, these things happen even on the best of days!
haha!

these are my instagram pics.
to follow me there CLICK HERE!


can’t wait to do it all over again next summer!

xo, mama lola

learning to be bear wise.

i am scared of bears.

i live in a country and a province that has bear. black bears, to be specific.
we’ve been at the cottage and i have seen several on the property on a couple of different occasions in the last 5 years. once, when bear was about 9 months old, he and i were playing in front of the cottage when i felt like someone was staring at us, and bam, when i turned around i made eye contact with a black bear up a hill, in and among the forest about 50 metres away!

this is my sweet little guy moments before i saw the bear.


immediately i grabbed my wee baby, ran inside, ran to the window and saw the bear sniffing the ground we had just been standing on. with my adrenalin kicking i tried to find my camera to get a picture, but my hands were shaking so much and my heart was pounding in my chest… it was hard and scary…

this was the picture i got of the bear making it’s way up the driveway. my dad gave a s#it for even trying to get a photo of a bear. you see, i stepped out of the cottage, just a little to snap this photo.


i have always been slightly nervous about bears.
at treeplanting we had bears visit our camp all the time. some people even had their tents ripped open by bears, but luckily this happened when they themselves were out in the clearcut working! ha! at treeplanting there are lots of rules about how and where to keep your items with scent, because shampoo’s and even a tiny lip balm container can attract bears. their noses are so incredibly efficient and curious!

a black bear.

 [ source : government of yukon pages ]


this summer the boys, dear hubby and i are driving north in ontario for our summer road trip. we are heading up to thunder bay to where dear hubby and i met and fell in love! we plan on camping a bit, and i can honestly say that i am already a little worried. so, i did a little bit of research on google about bears.
i found this map.

source ]

it’s pretty good i think, doesn’t really make me feel better, but at least it’s a clear visual of what i should expect. and, i should expect bears.
sigh.

dear hubby bought be a book “bear attacks; their causes and avoidance” after one of my bear sightings at the cottage. i read the book cover to cover, and really came to the conclusion that there isn’t much you can do to avoid a bear, or a black bear specifically. if they are hungry, or feel threatened they may attack. bears do not typically eat people, but again, if they are hungry enough they sure will. what really worries me is the realization that it is difficult to get away from a bear, especially when with kids; bears are fast runners and excellent climbers. where do we go to get away?

plus that whole making noise to deter bears, well, it doesn’t necessarily work either. it can make the bears curious and draw them TO YOU, instead of scaring them and deterring them AWAY FROM YOU. that day at the cottage when bear was a babe and we saw the bear, i was actually singing super loudly and clapping in the hopes of scaring the furry beasts, as a few months earlier i had seen another bear sniffing the baby stroller we left outside!

clearly i have not shared my concerns with the kids. they know there are bears in the woods, because it comes up in conversation, the way the habitats of all sorts of animals do. but, i will not share my fears with them either, especially since my 5YO bear, is quite anxious at times already. hopefully we will not see any bears or evidence of them, but that being said… any night we sleep in a tent i will be laying there eyes wide open listening closely to each creak and tweet in the forest. 

wish me luck!!!

xo, mama lola

themed thursday: road trip activities & games! (part 3)

keeping kids content, quite and busy is an important part of the SANITY piece for parents road tripping with kids. it is super important to plan ahead a bit and to know what kinds of activities will keep your kids happy, especially for those long hauls!

we don’t have DVD players in our car (by choice) and don’t have tablets, so we rely on the kids to entertain themselves and each other.


FELT GAMES: 

  • felt boards are super fun and a wonderful way to get the kids’ imaginations going. they are basically story boards for kids to create worlds with, where all sorts of adventures can take place.


MAGNET BOARDS:

  • last year i used cookie sheets as the board, this year i stumbled upon these adorable magnet boards at chapters. they come with magnets, but we will bring along our super, awesome 3D dinosaur magnets, which you can learn how to make HERE.
  • i also found a bag of magnet letters at value village for 99 cents.

these are the magnets i made last year for a road trip. kids LOVED them and they are still in circulation!
we made other magnets as well, which are still in use on our fridge! CLICK HERE and it will take you to how to make these awesome toys!


SCAVENGER HUNT:

  • i love the idea of pictorial scavenger hunts. since my kids will be 3 and 5 years old, they won’t be able to read a long list of words. but, one with pictures is right up their alley! here’s one by the bird feed NYC, which is great, so i will use their concept, but will gear the lists towards our trip more, using specific road signs i know we will see, wildlife, sites and things. the kids can work together, which i love!
[ source ]


SONGS:

  • what’s a road trip without family sing-a-longs? here’s a few that my boys really love, “old mcdonald had a farm“, “ABC“, “the wheels on the bus“, “the ants go marching“, “
  • we do also have a stack of CD’s, MP3’s and sirius radio to choose from for when we need to give our vocal chords a rest. i love to mix it up as well, playing classical, bluegrass or top 40, but sometimes it’s also good to just drive in silence.


GAMES:

  • my kids, especially bear, loves to play eye-spy when in the car. we still play the colour instead of the spelling version of the game! counting games are also great! sometimes we just count all the red cars we see, or all the transport trucks and so on.
  • other classic faves are (found HERE at MSN): 20 questions, license plate bingo, word chain and more!
  • older kids may like mad-libs.

TOYS TO PACK:
  • each boy brings his fave stuffed animal.
  • we bring about 10 books and just cycle through them. sometimes along the way i will buy a new book as a souvenir for the kids. 
  • markers, paper, colouring books, activity books and a few stickers.
  • small toys like cars, animals, people so the kids can create little imaginary worlds.
  • buckets n’ shovels.
  • deck of cards, UNO, other small travel sized games.


here’s what our dudes looked like last summer on our trip to the canadian maritimes. each had a plastic basket for toys at arms reach, a bin of books in the middle and it worked great. 

OTHER TIPS:

  • and parents, don’t forget to pack some extra creativity, flexibility and patience. keeping kids peaceful in the back can be tricky at times, and sometimes when the volume of the screaming increases, it’s worth it to stop and get out for a bit. i realize this makes the trip longer, but that’s where being flexible comes into play.
  • on our longer stretches of driving, we actually would start after dinner. kids would play, have stories and would eventually fall asleep and we would drive until midnight or so. until we found a motel. it was a great way to make good time!
  • before getting in the car to drive we made sure the kids had a chance to run some beans out. whether at a motel or camp site. and we made sure the first leg of driving was short, as it’s not a very fun way to start the day. but, truth be told, maintaining any real schedule was impossible. all bedtimes and nap times flew out the window and we just had to let the kids sleep when they were tired!

SAFE DRIVING! SAFE TRAVELLING! HAVE FUN!
what are some of your family’s favourite songs and games to play?


xo, mama lola

theme thursday: roadtrip tips [part 1]


PART 1 : ROAD TRIP SERIES!

as with any adventure, i walked away from our summer road trip last year with twenty/twenty hindsight. (read here, PART 1, PART 2) we camped and motelled our way from southern ontario to the eastern coast of canada. there we drove through quebec, new brunswick, prince edward island and nova scotia! from that big trip i learned what we should have packed, what we needed and i thought i would share my insights now that road trip season is almost here!


  • depending on your departure time, pre-packing your car as much as possible the night before is always a good thing, such a HUGE time saver, plus so much easier without the kids hanging around “helping”. 
  • clean your house before leaving. that includes cleaning out your fridge and changing the sheets on your bed. when we came home exhausted from our trips i was quite pleased with myself for cleaning the day of our departure. 
  • clean your car too. yes it gets super yucky on a big trip, but there’s something nice about starting out clean, inside and out. 
  • don’t forget to write down your odometer pre/ post trip so you can see how many kilometres you actually clocked!
  • don’t forget to really psyche yourself up for being flexible and bring some extra patience too!




    • when travelling with kids always have food accessible, and not just crackers and chips, but also fruits. i had little tupperware containers for the kids that i would make snacks for them in and then pass them back. it prevented some messes, but unfortunately not all!
    • keep wipes, hand cleaner, toilet paper or paper towels handy too! spills happen, as do boogers, pee accidents or puke!
    • always have toys, activity books, markers, and books available and accessible for the kids. i had a bin of books in between the two boys (propped on top of sleeping bags) and then each boy had their own basket of cars or animals or whatever. 
    • have a flashlight accessible up front in the car.
    • have a fully stocked first aid kit. make sure nothing is expired!
    • jars for collecting treasures is helpful. this tip was given by another mama, and boy am i glad i listened. for all the crab legs and stones and cones we collected the jars ensured safe travels for the treasures!
    • a toy/ treat stash that you can pull new books or activities from, to help keep the kids happy during the long drives.
    • laundry soap. on nice mornings, i always washed a few pieces of clothing and hung them to dry on our camp site for the day. 
    • access to a variety of music to fit all kinds of moods and times of day. books on CD are fun too!



    • pack clothes by person and by need. i had the kids clothes in one bag, but each kid had a  side, so when i needed a clean t-shirt for lion, i knew exactly where to look.
    • do not over pack clothes. remember, it is easy to wash items by hand, and on a summer road trip kids end up spending a lot of time in their bathing suits!
    • for things like rain gear, coats, sneakers and clothes that were not as needed, we kept in a bin with other items that we only needed so often. having things in bins makes it easy to see what’s inside and also easier to pack, at least in a minivan.
    • i had a “kitchen” box with all of our plates, cutlery, cups, cooking pans, mini cutting board, matches, olive oil, dish soap (i brought some from home and just put it in a jar) in it. so when it was time to prepare a meal, i just pulled the kitchen box out and set to work. 
    • we had another big rubbermaid bin with all the camping stuff; tent, air matters & pump, rope, and tarps. this way when it was time to set up camp everything was together, or when it was time to take camp down, the kids were able to help by putting everything in the right bin.
    • go easy on towels. you don’t actually need one for everyone. they are big, take up an enormous amount of space in the bag and take forever to dry! sarongs work great and the kids love ’em! they dry quickly, are tiny when folded up and can used for a variety of reasons, as towels, blankets, scarves, skirts, toga’s, sunshade… you get the idea.
    • i had an administrative basket that sat in between the front seats, which contained important items like phone and camera chargers, pens, paper, adult pain killers, extra change, vitamins, extra hair ties, and other important odds and ends.


    so….
    what did i miss?
    what are some of your road trip tips or tricks?
    where are you heading to this summer?


    this summer is in fact our third major road trip. we will be driving north to thunder bay, the city where dear hubby and i fell in love! we also drove to NYC with the boys that fateful halloween weekend when the nor-easter landed full steam in 2011! you can read about that trip here PART 1, PART 2, PART 3.

    UPCOMING:
    – games and activities for while driving, camping and at the beach
    – quick, easy and fun snacks and foods to make while on the road and camping
    – tips for camping with kids  
    – what to stock in your first aid kit


      xo, mama lola

      two requests, with a side of sangria.

      i have TWO requests of you, my readers…


      1. the brain tumour association of canada is still accepting donations for their spring sprint campaign. if you are interested in sponsoring me, please follow this link. the event already took place, but brain tumour research needs funding, trust me i know.


      2. i have been reading cornerblog for a while and loving all of tiffanie’s pictures and tales. today, she has a serious request for a little friend of hers who is looking for bone marrow donor in the states. please, please, please read her blog, sign up as a donor or at least pass jake’s story along so that he can receive the help he needs to get strong and healthy again. no child should have to suffer.


      ****
      last night we had a lovely, boozy night in our backyard with friends. 



      we started the evening with wine sangria and ended it with potent vodka sangria! i made some fancy ice cubes inspired by tiffanie at cornerblog: lemonade, blueberries, lemon wedges, yum!



      we ate burritos and devoured ice cream sandwiches. summer fun!



      it was a night filled with non-stop conversation, laughter and the sharing of lives. for a change, us adults talked more about our own lives than the kids’. we chatted for hours about travelling and it was the kind of talk that made me want to run inside, pack a pack and head straight to the airport, buy a ticket and just go. just go somewhere new and exciting with my family and live out an adventure.


      one funny travel coincidence that revealed itself in our boozy haze… can you believe we stayed at the same absurdly tiny and freaky hotel (chunking mansions) and ate at the same aussie restaurant in hong kong? our visits were only a year or so a part and long before we had kids or were friends. but, what the odds?



      the big kids played and played and played. when the sun set and it got dark, we gave them flashlights and the boys turned into avid owl explorers. it was the funniest and funnest game to watch. the littler kids crashed out; one up in bed, the other with his mama.



      but, instead of buying a plane tickets, today dear hubby bought us a sofa. sigh. 
      so it goes, i suppose.


      pictures of the sofa chaos to follow. 
      lotsa boxes and giggling little dudes!

      xo, mama lola

      summer vacations can bring on stress, for bear!

      about a year ago, almost to the day, dear hubby lost his job. it was a shocking blow, which shook the ground we were standing on, but we both decided it meant bigger and better things were coming. unfortunately, it also meant we had to cancel our family road trip out to the east coast with friends. we were literally hours from sending a deposit for a cottage we were going share on the eastern shores of canada.

      [ bear five months after his first swim at the cottage. ]

      well, lucky for us we are back on the planning wagon and looking forward to heading out east to the maritimes this summer. we won’t be going with our friends unfortunately. i am looking forward to camping next to the ocean and listening to the waves; i am excited to go whale watching with my guys and feel the excitement of seeing those majestic mammals in real life again. i am eager to see more of this grand country that i have lived in for over 20 years, and i am grateful i can share these adventures with my kids and dear hubby.

      [ lion two weeks old here. his second trip to the beach. ]

      but, when i mentioned our summer plans to bear at dinner the other night, his throat closed immediately and his chin went skrintchy and as he was desperately fighting back tears, he said “i don’t want to go. i want to stay home.” WHAT? augh, his friggin’ little anxious self had taken over, instilling fear into his mind about the family vacation. i tried to explain that we would all be together, as a family, as this is something that is very important to him. but, no matter what i said or explained he just continued to repeat his desire to stay home.


      it’s distressing, heart breaking and agonizing to see him get so upset about our summer vacation! 


      what’s a mama to do?













      xo, mama lola
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