Happy Campers

We made it, dear reader, the first long weekend of unofficial summer is here and with it an abundance of plans for backyard get-togethers, pool parties, beach hangouts, and of course camping.

Growing up in the country, our backyard was often the campground, as my parents would set up the tent, my brothers would build a fire, and I would search for roasting sticks. Spider dogs, smores, searching for constellations and sing-along songs would be our evening entertainment. Eventually, the kids would head to the tent for bed while my parents said good night and went back inside as the mattress was more comforting than the ground under our sleeping bags. As soon as the back door closed, the flashlights came on and the ghost stories shared. It was a favourite game to see who could tell the scariest story or who would be the first one to run inside for fear of monsters, ghosts and bogeymen.

In my tween and teen years, summer camping was often spent at camp where I would bunk with girls my age in musky row cabins where ghost stories became stories of crushes and grownup aspirations, and the days were carefree and full of childlike wonder. And then just like that, the days of camp life were over, and I became too cool for nature. Thankfully, that phase was short-lived, and a few years later, I tackled my first extreme camping trek and portaged through backcountry Algonquin.

These days, my camping trips are fairly easy with weekend stints at nearby provincial parks that are accessible by car and make packing a dream.

If you have never been camping, go and experience the outdoors. You will get dirty and there are bugs, but at night, when you look up and see a million stars staring back at you, you lose yourself and realize that the dirt is nothing compared to the beauty of nature.

To help with your planning, I’ve compiled a list of camping tips for a successful semi-wilderness adventure.

  1. Make a packing list, don’t over-pack on clothing, and socks are a must.
  2. If you use an air mattress, don’t forget a fitted sheet – they get very cold in the middle of the night.
  3. Plan easy meals, and pre-make what you can ahead of time.
  4. Use a Tupperware container for storing camping dishes (this will double as your sink).
  5. Bring a tablecloth for the picnic table – this will save eager eaters from unwanted splinters.
  6. Lawn chairs for fireside and the beach.
  7. Tiki torches or solar power string lights – creates a bit of ambiance at your campsite.
  8. Pack a hammock for ultimate campsite relaxation.
  9. String to use as a clothesline.
  10. Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray.
  11. Wet wipes are a lifesaver.
  12. For play, pack lawn games, cards and a book.
  13. Lastly, make sure you are aware of the campground rules, as some sites are quite zones. Also know that on long weekends, most campgrounds do not allow alcohol.

If sleeping in a tent on an air mattress is not your thing, then glamourize your camping experience and go glamping. The cost is a bit more, but for luxury, it is worth it. Happy camping, friends!

Camping at Two Jack Lakeside in Banff, Alberta (2015)

I heart NY

I recently visited New York City (my first time in the City that Never Sleeps!) with my mother- and sisters-in-law for a girls getaway and it was every bit as intoxicating and vibrant as I imagined. Like many, my NYC visions were based from Seinfeld, Sex and the City ,and Friends, but without the Tom’s Restaurant, Mr. Big and phalanges, and as promised by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, the big lights did indeed inspire me.
With five girls, a mile-long to-do list, and our eyes on the Big Apple prize, we flew out of Toronto and into New York City. The first hurdle to overcome, which may be easy-peasy for city-born dwellers but for a country bumpkin is terrifying, was the subway system. However, my fears quickly vanished with the purchase of a Presto Card and the help of the Google Maps Subway (lifesaver!). After mastering the subway system and gathering our bearings in the Big City, we set off to tackle our to-do list.

What follows is a lively litany of some our NYC stops.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
Originally, I was going to abandon the girls and do my own thing, but am so happy I tagged along, as this museum ended up being a highlight of the trip. Admission price is up to you, but the suggested cost is $25. Explore over 5,000 years of art and history through the galleries and exhibitions. Favourites were the panoramic painting of Versailles, the Temple of Dendup, a suit of armour King Henry VIII wore during a battle in 1544 and a collection of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh’s. If I lived in NYC, this place would be a frequently visited spot. IMG_5425Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Admission to the museum is free every Friday night from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m. which made this museum a must-do, and since it was originally on the list (I had to see the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”) we opted to save money and visit the museum with the crowds. Highlights were seeing Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Monet’s paintings.
IMG_5426Magnolia Bakery
Three words: It’s worth it! Wait in line, order the banana pudding, thank me later.

Times Square
Our hotel was in Times Square, which made visiting Times Square super accessible, and easy to escape once the crowds got to be too much. Insanity, sensory-overload, Naked Cowboy, just a few things you’ll experience at this must-see (at least once) vibrant attraction.
FullSizeRenderThe Strand Bookstore
A treasure trove for every book lover. This independent books store, established in 1927, is home to 18-miles of books. Here, you will find new books, used books, rare books, out of print books, and more.
IMG_5020Beauty & Essex
A restaurant oozing with 1930s glam. Beauty & Essex is all about exciting your senses, from the entrance (a hidden door in a pawnshop opens to a room with a two-storey chandelier and spiral staircase, where guests are greeted and then seated), to the impressive cocktail list and globetrotting menu. A peacock-themed dining room and a ladies room that serves pink champagne, this place will make you wish you packed a flapper dress and pearls.

New York Public Library
Because you have to! It’s a magnificent building guarded by two marble lions, Patience and Fortitude. Once inside the library, you are transcended into another world as the loud outside noise vanishes, and inside, peace ensues.
Seeing a play on Broadway was high on our to-do list, and when we heard that Aladdin was playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre, we quickly bought tickets and were swept away into a whole new world. The play, the actors, the venue, everything was phenomenal.

Central Park
Explore this park on bike – it’s massive! Comprised of 843 acres, Central Park is home to seven man-made lakes, numerous statues, bridges (no two bridges are alike), twenty-one playgrounds, a zoo, a carousel and more. Don’t forget to stop and admire the gardens, as well as shop the local souvenirs that decorate the Mall and Literary Pathway. Pro park tip: Find a park map, it’ll come in handy!
IMG_5188I could go on and on, but alas, this is a city one must experience on their own: It’s eclectic, energetic and everything you think it will be and more, way more!

Glamourous Glamping Getaway

I like to think of my partner and I as hardcore campers – a couple that favours weekends in the woods over five-star hotels and room service, but who am I kidding, I need plumbing, electricity and a comfy mattress to survive. So, to celebrate a special occasion with my wannabe-lumberjack hunk, I booked us a stay at Long Point Eco-Adventures where I knew I could experience the best of both worlds.

Located in Norfolk County and just around the corner from Turkey Point Provincial Park, Long Point Eco-Adventures is not just your average stay the night kind of place, this glamping getaway is for the adventure-seekers that want to do a bit more than just lounge by the fire pit. Activities range from zip-lining and axe throwing, to kayaking, fishing, romanc-[ing] under the stars, hiking and more, but don’t make the mistake we did, book your adventure at least one month in advance, as was instructed by one of the staff. However, we did manage to grab a couple of rental mountain bikes and tested out a few trails on and around Turkey Point. I’m not a pro mountain biker, I’m not even a good mountain biker, but you don’t have to be either – although the number of times I fell off of the bike and the four big purple-blue bruises that decorate my thighs beg to differ – the trails are marked as beginner, intermediate, advance, and expert to help you navigate your ride.

After spending your afternoon adventuring, walk across the street to Burning Kiln Winery for a wine tour and wine tasting. Known for their appassimento wines (fancy term for drying harvested grapes to concentrate the sugars and flavours) this winery is situated on a former tobacco tract that pays homage to its history.

Then, relax and unwind in your Wilderness Suite or Pod – these luxury glamping accommodations are unique to the area, and the Wilderness Suites are the only ones in Ontario. We opted to stay in a Wilderness Pod, fitted with a couch, table and two chairs, a bar fridge, a queen-size bed and private washroom. The Wilderness Pod was perfectly cozy for the two of us, but on our next stay, we are definitely staying in one of the Wilderness Suites.IMG_5246

Two ways to experience Costa Rica

Part One: Jungle life

It’s 12:30 p.m. and we are waiting in the customs line at the San Jose airport, the capital of Costa Rica. We are restless after sitting on a plane for five hours, growing even more restless as the customs line barely moves and our taxi plane taking us to our destination is schedule to depart at 2:00 p.m. With twenty minutes to spare, we finally make it through customs; we do a mad dash through the airport to check-in and go through security all over again, and then continue to run to our boarding gate. We are out of breath, but make it just in time. We hand out ticket the boarding agent, she smiles at us as we catch our breath, and says, “You made it! Pura Vida.”

This is not our first time in Costa Rica, so we know the Pura Vida saying, which simply translates to Pure Life, but said for everything. People greet one another by saying Pura Vida, they say it as a term of thanks, good luck, what’s up, and more. It is a phrase that is interchangeable.FullSizeRenderOur little 19-seat plane takes us to Quepos, a small tropical inlet backed by rainforest, where we meet my cousin and her partner for a tropical week in the jungle. We jump into the rebuilt 1991 Toyota Land Cruiser that is the pride of my cousin’s partner as we make our way up to the jungle. There is a bit of car talk, and the mention that 4x4s are a must in the jungle as we zoom by palm trees, a palm oil factory, homes, shops, restaurants, and hotels. “Look at the lines on the road” my cousin says; I look and they are just like ours – yellow on the outside, white dashes in the middle. Then she adds, “the lines on this road were recently painted, all by hand. Before, this road was dangerous. Cars would drive all over the road.”IMG_3058We enter the small town of Ojochal, where we say goodbye to paved roads, and hello to dirt. We slowly bump our way along the road: I see children playing soccer, chickens running on the side of the road, a mother feeding her baby on her front porch, and a man driving a young woman somewhere on the back of a little dirt bike. Shockingly, everyone that we pass smiles and waves – we are definitely not in Ontario anymore. We drive through a small river, ascend a scarily steep hill, descend another, and then climb one more before we get to the casa in the sky. Now I know why this truck brings my cousin’s partner so much happiness!IMG_2970Just after 5 a.m. the deep sound of howler monkeys stirs us from our slumber, as do the twittering birds, and the beginning of the sunrise, which turns out to be our alarm clock for the rest of the week. There is exactly 12.5 hours of sunlight in Costa Rica, no matter the time of year; the sun rises just after 5 a.m. and sets after 5:30 p.m. Left to our own devices we laze through the day by the pool with a book in one hand and a drink in the other. For dinner, our hosts take us to a nearby Italian restaurant, Mamma e Papa, where I enjoy the best homemade pasta I have ever tasted. The owners, born in Italy uprooted their lives and moved to Costa Rica to open a restaurant in the jungle. Seating is under a covered balcony, and part of the building serves as a hotel. During our meal, a tropical rainstorm entertains us and causes the electricity to flicker, which doesn’t bother our hosts as flickering lights is a norm during tropical monsoons.FullSizeRenderThe next day in 35° weather, we lace up our hiking shoes and venture to Cataratas Nauyaca. After a sweaty 4km uphill hike, with panoramic views that leave me breathless (that or being out of shape), we find what we are looking for: Nauyaca Waterfall, and to our surprise, two majestic waterfalls cascade in front of us. The Upper Falls is forty-five metres high, and the Lower Falls is twenty metres high with a tiered fall. After marveling at the indescribable beauty of the Upper Falls, we quickly rush to the Lower Falls, where swimming is a must. It’s an easy 4 km downhill hike back, where we replenish our electrolytes with coconut water straight out of coconuts that we purchase from a nearby fruit stand. A mother with her three children happily talk to us and laugh at how excited I get over the beautiful produce. We leave with a couple of bags bursting with fresh fruit and vegetables.IMG_3194Swimming in the pool no longer felt the same after that, so the following days we explore the land by ATV and go waterfall chasing! We find two incredible gems: A secret waterfall that is in someone’s backyard (visitors are welcome for a small fee), and Cascada El Pavon, a small but unique waterfall with a big rock in the middle. How did it get there?imageIMG_3388Because one must go dancing in the rainforest, we head to the Bamboo Room for dinner, drinks and dancing. The local entertainment keeps us boogieing until the early hours of morning – the smooth tequila also helps. Recently opened by a St.Catharines resident (I thought John looked familiar!) and well-known musician, the Bamboo Room is where tourists and locals go for their entertainment in the jungle.IMG_3316We spend a lazy day at a secluded beach, where hidden caves and a sand bar have us swimming, floating and exploring. Overhead, vibrant scarlet macaws freely fly from tree to tree, while unbeknownst to us, crocodiles were swimming in the marshy river 2 km away. One thing we quickly learned is to always watch where you are walking and to be aware of your surroundings – tourists (Gringos) walk with their head up high, where locals (Ticos) always watch where their next step will land.

And just like that, our week in Costa Rica ended, but not before buying a hammock to remember our week long siesta in the jungle.

Stay tuned for Part two: Resort life in Costa Rica.


Breakdown of costs for for two people:
Flights: $1,900
Car rental + gas: $300 + 200
House rental with pool (7 nights – enough room for two couples): $850
Food: $500
Day trips (includes a day of zip lining for 2): $250
Extra spending: $100
Exit tax: $29 USD per person

Total trip: $4,158

This trip is super doable, especially if you split rental and food costs with another couple.

Five reasons why you need to travel somewhere with your sister

Let’s be honest, travelling is probably the most exciting thing to do. We count down the days until our next vacation, we daydream of destinations to add to our bucket list, we buy calendars with tropical islands, and we decorate homes with souvenirs of happy memories from places new. Travelling suspends our reality for however long we are away and positions us in a different space. There really is nothing more thrilling than experiencing the world, especially if you are travelling with someone you like, like a lot, since you will be around this person a lot. This person can’t just be any person, this person is your confidant, your co-conspirator, your wingman, your breakfast, lunch and dinner date, your alarm clock, your budget-checker, your authoritative figure (“do we really need to do another shot?”), your entertainment, your photographer and your compass.

A couple of years back, which feels like forever ago, my sister and I swapped our parkas and boots for bikinis and sandals and headed to an all-inclusive beach resort in Cuba. The resort itself wasn’t much to write home about, but the memories that we made will forever be a part of our sisterhood narrative! That vacation was the first time we travelled together alone, without the added baggage of our parents and siblings (joking, we love you guys!), and it was a much-needed break during school stress and a personal heartache. That week, with its white sand, turquoise water, palm trees and warm breeze, not only gave us a new perspective on the world, it also brought us closer together as we confided in one another about our lives, our goals, dreams and aspirations. There were times on the trip when we both got annoyed with the other, but the beautiful scenery brought us back to the moment of what really mattered: we were experience something new together.

These are my five reasons why you should travel somewhere with you sister:
(Note: Replace sister with best friend if you are sans a sister)IMG_2132

5. You get to spend quality time together. My sister and I live in different cities, so spending a week together brought us closer together as sisters and as friends.

4. You learn a lot about each other. Even though we shared a room growing up, and now text regularly while living our separate lives, we still learned a lot about each other during our week away. I learned that she is a nurturer, who is brave, fierce, smart and crazy.

3. She will step out of her comfort zone for you, like go skinny-dipping in the ocean in the middle of the night then run from security.

2. She willingly will take hundreds of selfies with you just to get the perfect one, and she’ll be your personal photographer.

1. You both have each other’s back, travelling or not.

As I write this, my sister is on another trip of a lifetime with your boyfriend backpacking though Europe. Her fearlessness and desire for adventure never ceases to amaze me!

A road trip with a hip twist

Seen on Chic Darling

A rustic adventure awaits as you drive into the peaceful borough of Prince Edward County. Brick farmhouses and old wooden barns line the country roads; repurposed buildings house antique shops; and the locals are more than happy to share stories and visitor tips. Referred to as ‘The County,’ this historical gem has much to offer and lots to experience for an exciting weekend road trip.


Stay at the super-chic Angelines Inn in Bloomfield, where each room is perfectly curated by co-owner and second-generation innkeeper, Alexandre Fida. Book the master suite: outfitted with an antique chaise, freestanding soaker tub and down-filled pillow-top king bed. Dine at the Agrarian, walking distance from Angelines; pick up some local cheese and charcuterie at their cheese market before leaving. Breakfast is buffet-style in Angelines Hubb Eatery where you can eat inside or out on the patio. Grab your bike, or rent one at Bloomfield’s Bicycle Co. and cycle the Millenium Trail, a multi-purpose trail that was once a railway; keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Relax on the beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park or explore the famous sand dunes and boardwalk trails. Dinner round two is at the Drake Devonshire on Wharf Street in the township of Wellington. This uber-hip inn, restaurant and art gallery overlooks Lake Ontario and is a hot spot for locals and tourists. Treat yourself to a delectable dinner on the deck, and make sure to order a glass or bottle of the Vintner’s Daughter; a red and white wine blend made exclusively for the Drake by Rosehall Run Vineyards.

Norman HardieSpend your last day wine touring. Stop at Hinterland Wine Company for unique sparkling
wine. You’ll be greeted by the family dog who is more than happy to lead you straight to the tasting bar where Jonas, owner and winemaker, enthusiastically pours sample after sample for you to taste and enjoy. Leave with a bottle of bubbly to pop open for a special occasion. Head to Norman Hardie Winery for their wood-fired thin crust pizza paired with a glass of their county chardonnay. Last stop is at the Grange of Prince Edward, where this dynamic mother-daughter team, Caroline and Maggie, infuse tradition and innovation in their winemaking style. The winery is a converted 19th century wooden barn; thrifted-finds and handcrafted wares decorate this charming spot. Leave with a bottle of estate-grown pinot noir, and a picnic-basket full of local treats to snack on while driving home.

For one last sweet taste of county life, visit Slickers County Ice Cream for a double scoop of homemade ice before hopping onto the open country road.