Exploring Small Town Ontario, Summer Day Trip to Coldwater

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In the summer it’s fun to go on a few day trips in between vacation plans. I think of it as a mini vacation, a day to feel inspired, open your eyes to a new area and have a little adventure.

I’ve learned a thing or two about planning for these little trips. It’s good to have a light plan but looking too much up online about an area leaves little time to explore. With no expectations you leave room for the day to unfold as its intended. In the past I would plan out 4 or 5 stops thinking this left room for any spontaneous stops along the way. I always left a place feeling as though I didn’t see everything I had wanted. The research itself which leads to the ‘over- planning,’ is fun and can by justified by just wanting to make sure you have a good time. However this is the style of planning that takes away from the trip. Instead of pulling over to check out a nice fruit stand or roadside lookout area you are racing to some attraction that closes at a certain time.

To really explore, don’t make plans. Instead, figure out an area to visit, have a full tank of gas and some water bottles and just drive. I always like taking one route there and finding a different route home, even if one route takes longer. Make sure to have a car phone charger as google maps can drain a battery quickly and put someone in charge of directions. Often, by exploring streets adjacent to a main downtown strip, you will find great shops or local artisans that can’t yet afford rent on popular streets and are just starting out. If it’s hot outside pack swim gear to stop at a lake to get some time in the water. There’s always a boat launch or public beach area on a lake on the way home and nothing beats small-town Ontario’s fresh water on a hot summer’s day.

Love Coldwater’s knitted tree wraps lining the streets!

Just recently I went to Coldwater Ontario. It’s just north of Orillia. Coldwater can be done in a half day so it’s nice to finish the day in Orillia. Coldwater is a unique little town. Its location, size, beauty and hint of a steampunk community will have you scratching your head and wondering… why is this all here? That’s part of the mystique of small towns. Once you get there you start to get interested in the history. All over Ontario these teeny tiny towns exist and flourish in the summer tourism months. Coldwater is not the size of popular small town hot-spots such as Port Perry, Niagara-on-the Lake or Port Hope. It’s a fraction of the size and seemingly off the beaten path, yet thriving, cultural, artsy, historic and incredibly charming. Once you take a closer look and understand its incredibly rich history you begin to understand some of its uniqueness.

The Queen visiting Coldwater

When I got home I did a bit of research as the town left me wondering about its past. I knew it was once a logging community but digging further I found out Coldwater is the second oldest community in Ontario. More importantly Coldwater was named by the Chippewa ‘Gissinausebing,’ which in Ojibway means ‘cold water.’ The town has a rich First Nations history and directly describes what colonization and assimilation looked like centuries ago in Ontario. Learning the history of an area, although sad at times gives such a different perspective.


Cute shops, antiques, restaurants and cafe’s…Coldwater has it all



Amongst the many adorable gift and antique shops, one stop that is a must-see is ‘The Christmas Villager,’ shop. Its always fun going into a Christmas store off season. I also stopped in to see if I could find another ornament from Coldwater resident carver Marc DeGagne. I have one of his owls which are very popular, and this year I could not resist the hand carved beaver that made me think of Canada’s 150th. When I got home, I decided to look up the artist and found that you can actually visit his gallery (Northwoods Carvings) annually on the Coldwater Studio Tour.

You can buy this adorable owl ornament at The Christmas Villager in town!


This is the new ornament I bought to add to my collection! 


The Coldwater Grist Mill

Another must-stop in Coldwater is a cute little restaurant in the old mill that overlooks the river called Mill Street Bistro. Its a great spot to enjoy lunch or dinner on the patio or in their dining room.

Mill Street Bistro
The Mill Street Bistro patio with the sound of the river creates the perfect summer lunch atmosphere

Next time you are in the area, headed to a cottage up Highway 12, or looking for a nice day trip, consider visiting Coldwater. It really is a beautiful little town with lots of cute shops and a vivid history.

When I arrived back home I felt like I’d been gone for weeks. This is exactly why making a little day trip a priority in the summer is so worth it. There is much to be explored within driving distance and learning your local geography while making memories is so fulfilling.

I hope everyone is having a great summer!

Lv, Julie♥


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Maritime Beach Vacation

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As the weather warms up and everyone is making their summer plans I thought I’d share the trip we went on last year. It was planned very last minute, we wanted to go somewhere just to relax. All of our vacations have been ‘on-the go,’ trips packing in as many stops as possible to see the most we could. We had thought about going to Florida, looking forward to seeing palm trees and being at the beach. We had it roughly planned and last minute changed our mind. On a whim we decided to do a road trip ‘out east.’ Canadians always talk about ‘driving out west,’ or ‘driving out east,’ as a rite of passage.

The maritime provinces all have beautiful ocean side towns with miles of sandy beaches. There are so many experiences we’ve already had in Canada’s east coast such as visiting Green Gables, Signal Hill, Elephants Rock and visiting family. It was different and refreshing to think of going east to have a beach vacation. We only planned our hotels (since it was high season we barely found availability) and were really free to explore as we felt and have some spontaneous adventures.

I have a love for century old resorts and ‘travel history.’ I love to imagine all the people that have stayed before me, those who met in these majestic places, the weddings that have taken place and those who came back year after year as a tradition. When travelling I love to stay in these places, if just to soak in all of the architectural details and practice my photography skills. Even years ago when it wasn’t a budget-friendly option we found ways to have the experience. A particular memory was one summer years ago when we did the driving ‘out west,’ trip. I wanted to stay at the famous Banff Springs Hotel. I had already walked through it with a girlfriend on a previous trip and wanted to fully experience staying there. It was high season so I waited until the night before we left and got a great deal. To offset the cost we stayed at a camp site in Drumheller, Alberta the night before. It offered an inexpensive stay in one of their permanent teepees. This would have been great had we had any camping equipment besides a sheet set! We spent the night freezing away with little sleep under the glow of a ridiculously dim solar light. It was worth it when we rolled up the next day, groggy and out of sorts, onto the magical property of the Banff Springs Hotel.

If you want to travel somewhere or do anything there is always a way. Staying in nicer hotels and resorts can be made possible by going off-season, staying on weekdays or staying more than 2 nights to get a better rate. If it is completely out of the question take the time to walk through some of these old establishments or have lunch to take in the atmosphere. Often they have gallery walls of all of the famous people who have stayed before and photos of the property from years ago. Its fun to imagine what travelling was like years ago. Staying at any of these century old resorts have been some of the most amazing travel experiences of my life.

We started by driving to New Brunswick to stay in at the Algonquin Resort in St-Andrews-by the-Sea. Let’s face it, the hotel alone is an attraction! The town is surrounded by the Bay of Fundy and was completely picture perfect. When I got there I fell madly in love with the place. I could write an entire post about this hotel and town, it was dripping with history and absolutely gorgeous. I’ll never forget pulling up to the entrance of The Algonquin late after a day of driving and looking up at the front entrance and terrace with rows of glowing, sparkling glass french doors. You could hear crickets, soft music, and the crackling of a nearby fire pit where a group had gathered for some after dinner s’mores. We opened our car doors and a bellmen dressed in a kilt made from the New Brunswick tartan and a crisp white dress shirt swooped in to help us with our luggage. I was pretty stunned by the beauty of it and remember the moment soon after I saw our room where I turned to my husband and said ‘three days won’t be long enough, I just love it here and worry I don’t have enough time to really experience it.’ The next morning I had even more respect for the experience that is The Algonquin when they turned us down to stay an extra night. Of course they were fully booked, I’d almost be disappointed if they weren’t, that was as it should be.


The room…whomever was in charge of the restoration of this hotel did an amazing job. The mix of old and traditional with modern conveniences was amazing.

The view from one of the lookout towers…


The Algonquin has amazing views of the Bay of Fundy but isn’t right on the water. Just around the corner we had an amazing afternoon at Katy’s Cove, known for being the warmest saltwater swimming spot in the area! It had a beautiful beach area, picnic tables and beach side hiking trail.


Next we headed to Nova Scotia’s south shore to go to the White Point Beach Resort for a few days. We were looking forward to the 1 km long private sandy beach and getting our toes dipped into the Atlantic! The amenities were amazing with the resort also having a freshwater lake just opposite the ocean, where you could rent canoes and paddle boats! 


Walking the beach and taking in the stunning views of the Atlantic was relaxing. As well, there is so much to explore on the beach, which is located within the UNESCO Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve.


Our last stop on the trip was a unique spot called ‘Oceanstone Resort,’ in Indian Harbor, Nova Scotia. It’s just minutes away from Peggy’s Cove and is unlike anywhere we’d ever stayed. It was a small resort with a series of tiny cottages and buildings on a hill, all with views of the harbor, some being right on the water.


It was fun just to walk around the property. Each cottage is uniquely decorated in its own way with cute hand-painted name signs such as ‘The Pines,’ ‘Dovekey,’ ‘Grey Owl,’ and ‘Periwinkle.’ Waiting beside each cottage is a stack of chopped wood to use in either indoor wood-burning stoves or outdoor fire pits. All the cottages have their own set of brightly painted Muskoka chairs to watch the sunset.


Swimming in Nova Scotia is much colder In August than it is where we are from in Ontario. It becomes refreshing, you just have to jump in quick and eventually you adjust!


This was the view from out cottage! We spent so much time on this porch and were steps away from the beach. The sunsets at night were stunning.


The little restaurant on site was always packed as it’s a popular local spot. They use fresh locally-sourced ingredients and have a nice patio with spectacular views. They also offer delivery to the cottages if you didn’t feel like cooking one night. I liked that they had a little local artisan gift shop inside!


Visiting Peggy’s Cove, only a few minutes drive from Indian Harbor was an unforgettable experience. I had been before but hadn’t had a chance to take in the surrounding areas. We went twice just to see the many spots you can explore and hike in and around the area. As you drive along look for parked cars on the side of the road, there are lots of trails to explore, at one point I came within 20 feet of a deer! The scenery and rocks are just the same as right in Peggy’s Cove but you can really wander with fewer tourists and get some amazing photos!


I had never associated Eastern Canada as a spot for this style of trip but have since changed my perspective from the amazing trip we had. Next I want to check out Prince Edward Island’s beaches! For now I need to start making some plans for this summer!

Lv, Julie♥


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It’s Never Too Late to Become a Hockey Fan!

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If you’ve grown up in Canada like I have you’ve been exposed to hockey in some way, to say hockey is a religion in Canada is not an understatement. From as far back as I can remember I’ve always watched playoff games. I’ve witnessed the excitement and passion Canadians have for these high-octane, adrenaline filled finals, especially if a Canadian team has made the playoffs.

Most people that know me would be surprised that I have a new-found love for hockey. In the last year and a half I have become incredibly fascinated with the sport. I’ll admit watching the first two seasons of Hockey Wives helped! I became interested in their lives and what goes into becoming a star player, including their grueling schedule. I witnessed the ups and downs of the lifestyle and how psychology plays a huge role in their game. I’ve enjoyed learning about the players off-ice discipline and was surprised to learn about all of their pre-game rituals and superstitions.

Watching the wives on the show led me to looking up many of the players online and studying their bio’s. When my husband realized this interest was developing he would say “the game we’re watching tonight has one of the wive’s husbands on it.” Then of course, I could relate! Sometime last year in the spring he realized how into it I had gotten when he started my car and my radio had been stopped on AM 590 (yes AM!). This was as “un-Julie,” as I could get! In saying that, I’ll explain, I’ve always had a wide range of interests, I wouldn’t ever want anyone to stereotype me, but this new interest went beyond. As far as he knew organized sports weren’t my thing, unless of course it was through a more patriotic ‘Canadian,’ lense when the playoffs were on. I had never spent any time learning all of the intricacies, politics and history of the game. My response to my radio choice was “I had a long drive home, my free Sirius radio subscription ended and I got drawn in…but why don’t they talk more about hockey…they are so focused on Bautista!” I’m a person when I latch onto something I’m interested in I want to know as much as possible about it, and because this was so out of my wheelhouse, it was a huge learning curve that I found really fulfilling.

I’ve progressed even more, and a lot has changed since then. Now I’m told by my husband I’m a real fan. I’ve read the odd story of a favorite player on Sportsnet and have since asked millions of questions. We PVR the games so if we are out one night, I don’t miss an important game and of course this helps so I can hit ‘pause,’ to ask questions. It was funny one night when I was freaking out that Carey Price (my favorite) was (what I thought) randomly leaving the net in the middle of the game. I was thinking…is he hurt? Why is he leaving? No one blew a whistle…whats going on? That was the night I learned all about delayed penalties. I’ve learned all about the pre and post lockout rule changes, icing, and offside plays. I have started having opinions on great hockey debates such as to change the ‘size of the net,’ vs. ‘goalie pads,’ the player “size vs. skill,” debate and whether NHL players should go to the Olympics. My husband thought it was funny when in January I wanted to start a pool, knowing its something you do before the season. I decided I had never been a part of one and it would be fun so I designed one. The winner makes the other dinner! He’s happy to go along with how serious I take it because he feeds off of my rookie-fan enthusiasm and thinks it’s hilarious! I have my 12 forwards, 6 defense players, and 2 goalies all picked out. After tallying recently, I’m winning by 30 points!

I love hockey for so many reasons. I love watching the underdog of any game shine in unforeseen moments of greatness. I love watching the facial expressions of the coaches and players when the camera cuts to them in precarious situations, I love the excitement of any game and competitive nature. I love to watch teammates treat each other like family, look out for rookies and protect their goalies. I love that there is a line of respect, carved out over decades that cuts through even the toughest of games. There are unspoken and unwritten rules that veteran and seasoned players have come to know. When a line is crossed a quick check into the boards or a verbal reminder ensures those rules and ‘knowns,’ are protected and immortalized. Traditions are valued and upheld while new notions of play are welcomed. When you watch hockey it’s a great metaphor for what I believe in. I love having traditions to look forward to all while being open to new ideas and the changes that will allow me to grow.

I can’t ever fast forward the anthem-that’s the best part. The looks on the players faces, imagining how loud a Canadian arena gets when the crowd sings along (pretty sure it’s the loudest in Montreal). I just enjoy the patriotic start as a reminder of what the game means to teams, fans, cities and countries.

I’ve only been to 3 games in my life, all in Toronto. Now it helps to actually know who the players are and a bit more about the game. It makes the experience all the more valuable.

Hockey Night in Canada


Going early is a must to see the players up close! Auston Matthews!!!


Tons of entertainment between periods, the whole experience is so much fun from start to finish!

I’m still a fan in training but am surprised by my own obsession over the game.  It’s so rewarding and empowering when you open your mind and push yourself to develop new interests.

Hope this inspires you to explore something new!

Lv, Julie ♥

P.S. There were two articles that I looked up when I started this journey and they really enforced my new found love of the game. One that you can read here was “Breaking barriers all in a day’s work for Maple Leafs’ Soshnikov.” Its all about rookie player Nikita Soshnikov, who came from Russia to join one of Canada’s beloved teams. The other article which can be read here is “Seven more years of Jagr? He thinks he can do it.” It details how Florida Panthers Jaromir Jagr, a legend of a hockey player, wants to play to the age of 50. Both articles look past the locker room and into the lives of players, hooking you into the story of their struggles, work ethic and determination to succeed.

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Ontario Studio Tours

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A few weekends ago we ventured out to the Haliburton Studio Tour. I have always loved a good studio tour and try to go to one every few years. For those new to a studio tour, it’s a self-guided tour to the homes of local artists. They can be found in many communities and take place mostly in the fall over one or two weekends. I’ve been to the Haliburton, Muskoka, Coldwater, Stouffville & Orillia (all in Ontario, Canada) studio tours. Not only do you get the chance to see the artist’s work, you can meet the artist and have a chat in the very studio where they create their masterpieces. I always download a map of the tour and choose a spot to start. At that location I pick up a colour brochure that I use to map the rest. There are often dozens of artists to see on a tour so I usually narrow it down to the 7-10 stops I find most intriguing.

Mapping out the tour

I had two favourite stops this year! One was artist Kevin Dunlop, “The Marquetry Man,” who makes wood pictorials. I left there stunned by how he shades his pieces using different wood techniques. He was truly inspiring and opened my eyes to a new, but old art form.

Photo Credit: (www.themarquetryman.com)

I also thoroughly enjoyed visiting Blackbird Pottery. Here we met April Gates who had the most unique style of pottery I had seen in a long time. I bought a beautiful cup which I will use as a vase. My vision is to incorporate it into a “Canadiana,” tablescape in the future!

My studio tour purchase!

The fun of a studio tour involves much more than the tour itself! They usually take place in smaller communities so you can explore local shops, restaurants and attractions along the way. Going to a fall tour out of town is a great way to see the fall leaves and have a fun road trip! The Haliburton Studio tour wouldn’t have been complete without a hike through beautiful Buttermilk Falls or a trip to the Minden Panoramic Park (look-out) to take photos of the gorgeous fall leaves.

Buttermilk Falls

We also chose to take a picnic as the tour was meaningful for us, seeing my husband proposed on the tour in 2013! For the proposal he surprised me by popping the question as a stop on the tour and had a picnic for us. It was special as it was the area where my childhood cottage was!

Two antique plates & glass flutes made this picnic like the proposal! Making memories a priority involves only a bit of extra effort!

Look up a local studio tour in your area and make it part your plans this year for a little weekend getaway!

Lv, Julie ♥

P.S. Can`t believe I just finished my first post!


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