a winter hike to kick off march break!

it’s march break here in canada! a week off from school, which actually makes my life a titch busier, but i am glad to have a break from the confines of school and the rigid structure it brings with it.

to really kick-off this break, the kids and i went for a hike in beautiful weather with friends. it was the most perfect day; the sun shone, the temperatures felt practically balmy and there was no wind. kinda perfect in every way!

we went to a local conservation area and explored this old mill. kids loved it. then we kept trekking along, enjoying the sights until we reached our destination…

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this awesome CAVE!

the kids all explored the various crevices, holes and rocks. every few seconds someone would exclaim “oh wow, look at this”! i just love to hear kids excited about things in nature and their environment. and, as the kids get older they really do know so much more about the world, than i give credit for.

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all explorers need to refuel after extensive research, so we had a cave picnic before heading home!

we nibbled on cheese n’ avocado wraps, apple slices, raisins, nuts, cheese and juice! yum! i find packing snacks is crucial to surviving any kind of outdoor experience with the kids. they’re blood sugar crashes so quickly!

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we were all exhausted after our exciting hike! but, it was that good kind of exhaustion, you know, when you feel inspired, energized and calm. this winter i have found my mental health teetering on the edge some days, but when i get outside and fill my lungs with fresh air, and especially get to soak up some priceless vitamin D from the glorious sun, it really helps soothe my mind.

what are you up to this march break?

xo, mama lola

a weekend getaway… without the kids!

HELLO OTTAWA!

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we were invited to a family wedding in our nations capital. after lots of humming and hawing, and figuring out how to do it all without the kids in tow, we came up with a rather exciting plan! the wedding also nicely landed a week after our 7th anniversary, so it was a great excuse to celebrate US! dear hubby and i decided to fly to ottawa on porter airlines, stay in a lovely hotel in the center of the city, celebrate the beginnings of a beautiful marriage, take in a few sights, and then hop on a train to come home. it was a great trip filled with delicious foods, lots of walking and a calm that is hard to find when the kids are around.

we climbed onto our wee plane at 9:30am in toronto and landed in ottawa at 10:15am! AMAZING! i barely had time to read my book!

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we arrived at our hotel early, but luckily we were able to check in early. lucky, because the finnish men’s hockey team was stomping all over the american team and ultimately won 5-0!!!! it meant bronze for my finn’s! then we had to rush to eat, as we had a wedding to get to!

and, this was our lunch. we found this awesome deli where the “bread” part was made of scones. i had this yummy salmon scone sandwich with a salad.

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unfortunately i have no pictures of dear hubby and i looking dapper at this wedding. but, boy did we look great! dear hubby wore his gorgeous black velvet blazer, which was perfect for this winter wedding setting! i wore a sparkly grey dress, but i was warm enough because, i wore the wrap my mum made me for our winter wedding on 2007. one side of it is a beautiful green/ purple silky material, but the other is a natural white wool where my mum embroidered the leaves all sorts of trees. it is unbelievably beautiful, and i was so happy to be able to use it again!

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it was a splendid wedding! lots of laughter, great stories and piles of love! congrats sarah & mike! xo

mello’s diner was an awesome breakfast spot for the morning after from the wedding! yummy food with fast and courteous service!

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once our bellies were full we started walking through ottawa. we soaked in the sun and enjoyed the seasonally warm temperatures. we walked from ottawa, ontario to the hull area of gatineau, quebec. look at that glorious sun!

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after walking we arrived at the canadian history museaum also known as the canadian museum of civilization. i have to admit this is one of the best museums i have ever experienced. everything about it was fantastic! please, go check it out if you can!

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this is the grand hall. and, WOW is it ever grand! it is a hall will enormous totem poles that were carved by strong, creative hands. the totem poles  stand proud holding onto the stories their makers wanted to share. they are breathtaking.

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at the far end of the grand hall has a set of curvy stairs. above the stairs high on the ceiling is a stunning mural “morning star” by alex janvier. the colours, the energy and the rhythm was exhilarating. it was impossible to get a good picture of it, but trsut me when i say, it was stunning!

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canada hall is one of the permanent exhibits at the museum. it is this fabulous meandering walk through the thousands of years of history our land holds. the layout is unbelievable, as you walk from one century to another, it feels as though you are outside walking along the streets of a prairie town during the 1900’s or strolling through a 60’s airport waiting lounge littered with ashtrays and funny payphones! it is great for people of all ages and i look forward to the day i can take my boys there!

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ottawa is a wonderful city. not too big, busy or overwhelming the way many big cities are. so much history, beautiful architecture and plenty to see.

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this is our parliament building. it’s where the big wigs make, um…. mostly terrible decisions on our behalf. haha! but, it is a beautiful building with lots of history.

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and, rideau canal.

daytime.

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nighttime.

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this was the hotel we stayed in. the lord elgin. it is in the center of town walking distance to the byward market, parliament hill, rideau canal and so much more! it was built during the war in 1941 and there are so many wonderful details left from that time period.

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on the morning of our departure, we went to the byward market to load up on delicious goodies like montreal style bagels, bearvertails, coffee, and lunch for our train ride back to toronto.

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this was our lunch on the train. a couple of different deli salads and some yummy grilled veggies with rice ‘n beans.

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on the train i was feeling super anxious about seeing the kids. i have never been away from them for so long and i was missing them deeply. this three day, two night separation felt like an eternity, but i know it was something we all needed. the kids had a wonderful time with my folks, which i knew they would!

here we are arriving at union station in toronto.

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on this mini-getaway we traveled by car, ferry, plane, city bus, taxi, train and subway! oh, and let’s not forget by foot as well! with our trusted pack from our worldly adventures from way before the kids were ever even thought of, we did what we do so well together. we traveled. it may not have been to another country, another continent, or anything super adventurous, but it was a trip where we arrived at our destination hand-in-hand with big smiles on our faces eager to explore. there were no strict schedules or time constraints, no kids begging for attention or melting down from low blood sugar. although, dear hubby was hit with a cold, we still had a great time just the two of us.

HAPPY 7th ANNIVERSARY to US!

xo, mama lola

good-bye 2013, hello 2014.

i realize my pictures late, but i wanted to share them anyway! we had a glorious new year’s up at the cottage with friends.

here is a montage of the fun…

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new years collage

we had so much fun with are amazing friends, tobogganing, playing in the snow, playing games, dancing, singing, and hanging out by the fire. it was very, very cold (-20c) which made trips to the outhouse exhilarating! haha!

xo, mama lola

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

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

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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