Outdoor

Travel: Grey County, Ontario – Day 2

As you may recall, last month, I had the opportunity to explore Grey County (see what I did on day 1). Day 1 ended at the Pretty River Valley Country Inn. And here’s where I’d like to continue to share my travel story with you.

My loft at the Pretty River Valley Country Inn was spacious and comfortable. I fell asleep listening to the crackling fire. When I woke up, the first thing that came to my mind was the incredibly deep sleep that I had just had. I could not believe it. Interestingly, during breakfast at the inn, I met a couple who said the exact same thing! We agreed that our deep sleeps were due to a combination of a very comfortable Tempurpedic mattress, the warmth of the fire, and the fresh country air.

Breakfast was served in the main house at the Inn, and everything was freshly made. I ate by the fireplace, naturally.

After breakfast, I took a little tour of the property and surrounding trails. The day was bright, and I loved who I met along my little stroll in the snow…reindeer and Icelandic horses! I had never seen reindeer in person. Have you? What an awesome treat! All the animals at the Pretty River Valley Country Inn are absolutely beautiful.

the reindeer at Pretty River Valley Country Inn

the horses at the Pretty River Valley Country Inn

After my trail walk and visits with all the animals, I loaded up my car and took a short drove to the sweet village of Kimberley. Here, met up with Amanda from Grey County Tourism for lunch at Justin’s Oven. This restaurant is full of charm! The wood decor reminded me of a Swiss chalet or in a Cabane à Sucre. The restaurant is open only a few days a week: Thursday pub night, Friday pizza, Saturday dining, and Sunday brunch. My breakfast crêpe was tasty and service was friendly. I would easily make a return trip for Friday pizza! And I can imagine how fun it would be it in the summer with the windows open!

at Justin’s Oven

Right next door to Justin’s Oven is the Kimberley General Store. Every nook of this store exudes charm. The products are carefully curated – many of them local, too! It’s a great spot for little gifts, chocolate, and fresh bread, too! I picked up some garlic (grown right on the property).

goodies at the Kimberley General Store

It was wonderful to chat with Stacey – owner of the Kimberley General Store – and the other staff. Everyone was friendly and proud of all that the area has to offer its residents and visitors.

From Kimberley, I took a quick drive to Blue Mountain for a few outdoor activities. I hadn’t been to Blue Mountain for decades! I’m not a skier, but I was up for trying other activities at the resort. The newest attraction is the mountain top skating trail. I had brought my skates to give this a try, but the weather affected the ice conditions, so the trail was closed during my visit. Instead, I braved the Ridge Runner – a 1km-long mountain coaster. Honestly, I was scared. I had control of the little cart, and I was safely buckled in, but I was still scared. All the kids around me though – not so much! Ha ha!

the Ridge Runner at Blue Mountain

I also walked over to the other side of the resort to do the Hike n’ Tube. The cheers and screams from people tubing down the hill were hilarious! After the Ridge Runner, though, I found the hike n’ tube so calm! I don’t think I uttered even one little scream as I slid down the hill in my donut tube! It was fun though. I probably would do both activities again.

After a couple of hours outside in the winter weather, I was ready to check-in to my hotel. On this second night in Grey County, I checked into the Westin Trillium House Blue Mountain. The hotel was so busy, but check-in was smooth. This hotel has all the amenities that anyone could want. I was booked into a great suite – a one bedroom plus den with a living room, kitchenette, large bathroom, and a balcony. Oh – and a fireplace, too. My room overlooked the village and icy pond (check out this day/night comparison). I took the opportunity to spread out all of my stuff and to dry all of my outdoor winter clothing.

I stopped in at Oliver & Bonacini – on the first floor of the Westin – for a quick dinner before I headed over to the Scandinave Spa.

I was curious about the Scandinave Spa in the winter. I have been several times before in warmer weather (see this post and this post), but outdoor baths in the winter? How was this going to turn out? Well, let me tell you. Although the baths routine is hot-cold-rest, there was no way that I was brave enough to plunge into anything cold in freezing cold winter weather. The warm baths, on the other hand, were absolutely enjoyable! I was so relaxed! And after a day of outdoor activity, being in the baths was perfection! And I wasn’t cold at all!

And this brings me to the end of my second day in Grey County. Can you tell that I really enjoyed myself? I definitely did!

All photos by Jordana.
Thanks to Grey County and Amanda P. for sponsoring my trip. All opinions are my own.

Travel: Grey County, Ontario – Day 1

Our Ontario licence plates are very encouraging aren’t they? For those of you haven’t seen them, our provincial licence plate slogan is “Ontario, Yours to Discover.” And a couple of weeks ago, I did just that! I drove north to explore the region of Grey County.

If you’re like me, you may associate this region with Collingwood and the Blue Mountains, but the county has much more to offer than ski hills. Over a series of blog posts, I’ll take you on a little 3-day tour of the region. If you’re looking for something to do this winter, take note!

Day 1

On day 1, I drove about 1.5 hours from Waterloo to the town of Flesherton. Here, I stopped in at The Bicycle Café for a cappuccino and a piece of apple pie. Folks, the pie! Get the pie!

at The Bicycle Café in Flesherton, Ontario

I needed the sweet energy boost before I headed out to Hogg’s Falls. The falls are just around the corner from the main intersection in Flesherton (at Hwy 4 and East Base Line). There is plenty of parking, and while you can spend a while hiking the trails, you don’t need to go too far at all to reach the falls. Follow the sounds, and you’ll find them within minutes of parking. I wasn’t certain I’d be too keen on hiking in the snow, but it was absolutely peaceful.

the trail and Hogg’s Falls

As I’m not an avid winter outdoors-woman, I appreciated that I could hike for as little or as long as I wanted. Listening to and seeing the falls felt really quite magical, and I was so appreciative of the natural beauty that surrounded me! Ontario is yours to discover, remember?

Grey County has 9 waterfalls that you can explore, and 7 of them are accessible in the winter. I’m sure each one has something special to offer, and since they’re not too far away from one another, you can take in a lot even on a short visit to the area.

getting caught in the sunlight

As for my outfit? Along with my scarf, hats, and mitts, I wore  this hiking outfit (I didn’t even include one piece of athletic wear!), my L.L.Bean Downtek, and Sorel boots. The boots were great. I wouldn’t recommend wearing light boots as if there is a lot of snow, you’ll need footwear with traction (and warmth).

After I had my fill of outdoor time, I drove to The Flying Chestnut Kitchen for dinner. This restaurant is worth the drive, let me tell you! I walked into the restaurant just as it was opening, and the staff was conversing about Saved By The Bell. So of course I joined in.  Remember the episode when Jessi Spano took the sleeping pills? Sure do! – There’s no time, never any time! – Ha ha. Does anyone remember this episode? People who remember episodes and lines from Saved By The Bell are my kind of people. All this to say that my intro to The Flying Chestnut Kitchen was great!

Not only did I enjoy chatting with the staff, but I also feasted on a delicious dinner at a leisurely I’m-on-vacation pace. The menu changes regularly depending on the local offerings. I began my meal with an amuse bouche – a sausage roll on a layer of mustard. For the main course, I opted for the evening’s special – duck confit. The first time I had duck confit, I was a 16 year old exchange student in France. Every time I order it, I remember that time period in my life! For dessert, I was treated to a delicious mousse. The quality of everything was superb.

The Flying Chestnut Kitchen is run by Chef Shawn Adler. He opened the restaurant in the Old General Store in 2010. The restaurant is quite small, seating about 25 people, so it’s wise to make a reservation. And bring cash since it’s a cash-only restaurant!

After just about rolling out of the restaurant, I drove about 30 minutes to the Pretty River Valley Country Inn.

Side note: Dark, country roads in the winter are a touch on the scary side. I went slow and used my high-beam lights for just about the whole commute. I was extra grateful for my TomTom since with it, I knew I wasn’t going to get lost, and I could see how windy the roads were via the image on my screen. Other reasons I was a touch nervous on these roads? Well, beyond the snow, I wasn’t even sure if there would be bears and such popping out of the trees. Are there bears in Grey County? Maybe it’s best that I don’t know. If you’re not used to winter driving, I would recommend that you take it slow and drive in daylight hours as much as possible. Oh – and I should also note that the next morning, I drove the same road in the daylight, and it was absolutely smooth and easy. It wasn’t scary at all! It’s amazing what darkness can do to a gal.

Now, to the Pretty River Valley Country Inn! The young staff at the inn helped me with my luggage and checked me into a cozy loft (they call them Crofts). My 600 square foot room had a main floor with a king bed, large bathroom, foyer, and seating area. And a wood-burning fireplace. Oh, the fireplace. So so good. My room also had a second floor with a pair of twin beds.

the Ben Nevis Croft at the Pretty River Valley Country Inn

I had a lazy evening in my Croft. The inn has great options for cozy nights in – popcorn and games are at the ready! I fell asleep to the sounds of the crackling fire, feeling happy for my first day of exploring Grey County.

All photos by Jordana.
Thanks to Grey County and Amanda P. for sponsoring my trip. All opinions are my own.

Travel: Georgian Hills Vineyards, Grey County

I recently had the opportunity to pick frozen grapes from the vines at Georgian Hills Vineyards in Blue Mountains, Ontario. Sounds a bit random, doesn’t it? I mean, who goes grape picking? And in the winter? I was originally set to visit the Georgian Hills Vineyards to enjoy a tasting and a snowshoe tour, but because the weather was just right for picking, I was able to join a group of about 30 volunteers to pick frozen grapes. I jumped at the opportunity!

The team of volunteers gathered around 9 am, and while we sipped on coffee and treats, we learned about the process for making Frozen on the Vine. This is Georgian Hills Vineyards’s brand of Icewine (the term “Icewine” is assigned and approved only to VQA-designated viticulture areas). Since the temperature had hovered consistently around -8 to -10 degrees Celcius for several days, the grapes were perfect for picking. Robert Ketchin, one of Georgian Hills Vineyards’s partners, explained that after the grapes were picked, they would be pressed right away to release all the sugar.

volunteers are ready to begin

grapes from Georgian Hills Vineyards’s Frozen on the Vine

Robert led us through the picking process. Each person was given cutters and a basket, and once our basket was full, we emptied it into a larger bin, which would then be carried away and emptied into massive blue bins by the Georgian Hills Vineyards’s staff. We worked side by side, moving along the rows, which resulted in a very social grape picking experience! I enjoyed meeting people from the area;  many of us were enthusiastic first-timers. Photos were snapped as we moved through the rows, and we were encouraged to try the grapes, too. Frozen grapes are such a sweet snack.

The green nets you see protect the grapes as they grow. We moved them aside, of course, to get at the grapes. We cut the grapes from the main stem and everything got dumped into the baskets. The grape press does not let the stems and leaves pass through, so we didn’t need to worry about being so perfect.

I wore many layers for this outdoor activity. I wore four top layers, wool leggings and snowpants, two pairs of gloves, my long L.L.Bean coat, big blanket scarf, and my trusty Sorel boots with two pairs of socks. I was warm. Better to be warm and happy than cranky from the cold when you’re out picking grapes!

We worked through rows of Vidal and Riesling grapes, and without noticing, the hours flew by. When we took a group break, we warmed up with cider, hot chocolate, and more treats. The Georgian Hills Vineyards’s team were gracious hosts and very appreciative of everyone’s time and energy.

massive blue bins of frozen grapes that are ready for the press

the press

winemaker Vanessa at work

the bladder (the black thing in the middle) pushes the grapes against the wood frame to release the sugary juice

the wood slats will come together as the bladder presses the grapes against them

This year’s sweet Frozen on the Vine will be bottled up and ready next year. I guess that means I need to make a return trip to Georgian Hills Vineyards to grab a bottle two of the sweet winter wine with the grapes that I picked this month.

Besides catching the “picking frozen grapes” day at Georgian Hills Vineyards, the winery is open year-round for visitors. Check out the range of winter experiences (e.g., snowshoe tour) and summer packages. (e.g., helicopter tour). In addition to the sweet winter Frozen on the Vine wine, Georgian Hills Vineyards offers white, red, and rosé wines as well as a variety of ciders.

another Georgian Hills Vineyards sweet dessert wine – Ida Red – made from frozen apples (available at the LCBO)

I have many words of thanks today. Thanks to the Georgian Hills Vineyards team for welcoming me to this grape picking party! Thanks to Allison Davies for taking my photos! Thanks to Amanda P. and Grey County Tourism for arranging my trip.
See more of my trip to Grey County at #WhiteCabanaGoestoGreyCounty.

Hotel to Home: Casa Cook Rhodes, Greece

I’m making note of the Casa Cook hotels now in case I ever make it to Greece in the future. Casa Cook – part of the Thomas Cook travel company – currently has two hotels in Greece. Casa Cook Kos is opening in July, and Casa Cook Rhodes has been open for about a year.

Both hotels look to be uber stylish, luxurious, and welcoming. I’m only showing you one of the outdoor spaces at Rhodes today, but I’m sure you’ll drool over the design of all the other spaces, too, if you have a browse through the gallery.

via Casa Cook Rhodes

If you have an outdoor space that you’d like to spruce up this summer, maybe give these items a try to recreate the ease of this gorgeous Greek hotel.

hammock, beach cover-up, pendant, butterfly chair, pillow, pillow, pillow, pillow

Furniture: Outdoor Patio Inspiration

With the arrival of summer weather, don’t you just want to spend every spare moment outdoors? I do! I keep pinning photos of outdoors spaces on my Pinterest boards, and large patios (overlooking water, ideally) can be so darn dreamy.

via Annette Nordstrom

via House & Home

via Margarita Wyld

via Kelly Nutt Design

via House & Home

If you’re looking to recreate a look like any of the above, here are a few furniture options to get you going.

wicker chair + ottoman set, $599 USD, West Elm

rocker, $329 USD, L.L.Bean

lounger, $399 USD, L.L.Bean

hammock, $199 USD, L.L.Bean

Mastholmen conversation set, $349 CAD, Ikea

Lollygagger chaise, Hauser

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The Friday Five: Spring Home Maintenance Update

Just two weeks ago, I shared an update about my spring home maintenance task list. I’m happy to report that I’m now able to cross two items off the list. Two! Yay! That’s major! I’ll be honest, it was fairly easy to do because I took advantage of Father’s Day sales! Yup. That’s right. This single lady loves everything that is currently marketed to dads…BBQs, tools, machines. Oh my goodness. It’s true! It’s totally true! I think I love power tools just as much as I love peonies…it’s all about balance, right?

So…here’s my updated home maintenance task list:

  1. Garage door opener
  2. BBQ
  3. Bathroom fans
  4. Closet organizer
  5. A hallway light

This list makes me very happy! I picked up this Chamberlain garage door opener when it was on sale (yay!) from Canadian Tire and paid for Canadian Tire’s third-party connection to install it. Done and done. So far, it’s working like a dream. And since it’s a belt opener, it’s much quieter than my old chain opener. Belt. Chain. Yeah, I learned about these things this month. Thanks, Dad.

I ordered this BBQ when it was on sale (yay!) from TSC – The Country Hardware Store. It’s getting shipped directly to the store, and I should be able to pick it up any day now. Then I’ll have to pull out my tools to put it together. Any advice?

Since I won a Home Depot gift card a little while ago via a Twitter party, I’m going to have a browse through the options for the other items on the list. You know, just making my way around all the hardware stores this month! Fun!

If your dad is anything like me, he may be interested in the following five items this Father’s Day.

extremely quiet ventilation fan, $107, Home Depot

ball pendant, $19.98, Home Depot

ClosetMaid closet organizer, $158, Home Depot

And for future home maintenance task lists…

Nest thermostat, $329

chrome shelf unit, $98.97

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! And Happy Father’s Day!

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The Friday Five: Outdoor Seating

I’m thinking about interesting pieces for the patio today. Care to join me in my day dreaming?

This egg hub would be an awesome poolside addition:

Nu-OVO-The-Eggcellent-Outdoor-Furniture-piece-1Nu-OVO designed by Paolo Maldotti, photo via Redesign Revolution

This bench with canopy would be great on my deck:

HSLN21659_largeMimi cuddle chair canopy by Hauser

This fun folding director’s chair is super for small spaces:

img8odirector’s chair, West Elm

This chaise (with added cushion) would be great for naps:

XVladimir Kagan “Capricorn” chaise lounge, 1st Dibs

And this peacock chair is perfect for when you really want to feel fancy:

il_570xN.709334352_j223white peacock chair, via Lea and Lani

So, tell me, what’s your perch of choice in the summertime?

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

The Friday Five: Summer Sports

I’m completely un-sporty. I’ve dabbled in things here and there, but I have never really excelled at anything sports-related. Maybe swimming. I love swimming, and I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor for a long time. In recent years, I took up running, and persisted through a couple of half-marathons, but then I stopped. I can’t remember why I stopped – it probably had something to do with winter. I took tennis lessons a couple of years ago, and I think I’d like it if I continued on with it. But then I moved, and I never looked into lessons here in Waterloo. A couple of weekends ago, I took for my first ever golf lesson. That was fun and harder than I thought it would be.

This rambling of my history with sports brings me to today’s post – summer sports. I’ve rounded up a collection of sports items. I’ll admit that I’m more into them for their design than for their actual purpose. (Hey, blogger honesty over here.)

bocce-setBocce set, $149.95, Crate & Barrel

ping-pongPortable ping pong set, $48, Shop Terrain

flag-football-game-setFlag football, $59.97, Crate & Barrel

scoop-ball-setScoop ball set, $59.95, Crate & Barrel

 

croquet-setcroquet set, $149.95, Crate & Barrel

What sport is keeping you active these days? Will you try anything new this summer?

Have a wonderful weekend!

DIY: Painting with CIL

If you’re a regular reader, then you know that my parents have helped me with just about every reno project I’ve done at my home. They are both very handy people. Dad’s great with electrical, plumbing, and BBQ cleaning projects, and mom is a genius sewer, stylist, gardener, and painter. I’d be dumb not to cash in on their talents. (Mom, Dad, I hope you’re amused by this introduction.)

So it goes without saying that if they have a project that needs me, I’m happy to help. Most of the time this means that I’m moving a piece of furniture. But recently, my help came in the form of painting. I worked with CIL and helped my parents paint their garage doors. The doors weren’t in terrible shape, but since my parents recently replaced all their outdoor eaves and trim, the existing door colour didn’t work.

We opted for this CIL exterior doors and trim paint:

CIL-Doors_trim-exterior-paint-101CIL Smart3 Triple Weather Protection Doors and Trim

I picked up the paint at my local Home Depot and had it colour matched to a piece of the eaves. Perfection!

My dad took the lead on the painting. Since this was an outdoor painting project, we waited for the weather report to call for a few days of warmth and sunshine. CIL suggested  (via Twitter) that the ideal temperature for exterior painting is 15°-20°C. (I’m pretty sure that those temps are good for the paint application and the painter’s fingers!)

We didn’t need to begin with a separate primer because the CIL Smart3 already has a built-in primer (cue the confetti!). Dad liked working with this paint; he reported that there were no bad smells, no splattering, and that the application was very smooth.

Here’s a look at the after:

White-Cabana-CIL-paint-exterior-garage doors102_1261The garage door is a taupe-grey-stone colour that is a perfect match to the eaves and trim. The colours of the whole house are now much more cohesive. It was an easy weekend project that made a big impact to the home’s exterior.

Thanks to CIL for sponsoring this post. Photos by Jordana and Dad.

Entertaining: Outdoor Must-Haves

On the Sunday of the long weekend, I had friends over for a BBQ. After a few dish casualties, I realized that melamine dishware and serving ware exists for a reason!

Here’s a round-up of some outdoor pieces that I’m considering for my summer patio:

Outdoor-entertaining-CB2-Ikeamelamine dinnerware, swirl acrylic glasses, pendant, melamine serving bowl, stacking acrylic wine glass, melamine tray, ground stake light, acrylic bowl, chair

The Friday Five: 5 Points about Scandinave Spa

Last weekend, Rox-Anne and I headed to Scandinave Spa at Blue Mountain (Ontario) for a day of rest and relaxation. I’ve never been a spa girl, but several friends convinced me that I should give Scandinave a chance.

White-Cabana-ScandinaveWhite-Cabana-Scandinave-1photos by Rox-Anne

Here are five things to share about my first Scandinave experience:

1. It’s not as cold as you might think even when the outdoor weather thermometer says it’s 2 degrees Celcius. I thought we’d have a relatively warm day at the end of April, but we didn’t. It was cold! Even though the heat was on in the car during our drive up, and I wore a coat and scarf, I was not actually cold during the spa bath rotation. It was magical, really! Things that kept me warm during the day experience at the baths: the heated stone patios inside and out, the gorgeous solariums with incredible views, the hot baths (obviously), the fireplace lounge area outside, and the sunshine!

forest baths winterphoto via Scandinave Spa

2. Go early to avoid a lengthy line-up. The baths hold a maximum number of people, and so when when they’re full, they’re full. I have heard wait times can be as long as 4 hours (!!!), so it’s best to arrive during a non-peak time (e.g., the morning) or day of the week (e.g., mid-week). That said, the spa has thought of everything and has several suggestions of things to do while you wait for entry into the baths (e.g., the Caves at Blue Mountain, a cheese shop).

steam room 2photo via Scandinave Spa

3. What to bring: Bring your bathing suit (or two if you do not want to wear a wet bathing suit while you lounge inside or eat a meal), a robe, flip flops, and a water bottle. You might also want to bring your sunglasses on a sunny day and sunscreen to protect yourself against the rays (I forgot both of these things). You can bring your camera for photos of the indoor spaces and the property, but you are advised to leave your camera and iPhone in your locker rather than take these gadgets to the baths. When you check in, you’ll be given two towels (save one in your locker, bring one with you) and a locker key. The showers are equipped with soap, shampoo, and conditioner, so you don’t need to bring these items with you.

spring 3photo via Scandinave Spa

4. Shhh…relax… Scandinave strongly encourages silence or a spa voice. A spa voice. I love it. Although this was a bit hard for me to get used to at the beginning of my visit, I respected the recommendation, and it really worked out. Honestly. The silence (or near-silence) helped clear my mind of distractions and noise. It was so peaceful. Rox-Anne and I did talk (we weren’t in a completely silent zone), but we kept our voices down so as to not disturb the other guests.

spring 1photo via Scandinave Spa

5. Hammocks are awesome. I discovered this last year after I won my very own hammock. I rediscovered this at Scandinave. The rotation at the baths goes something like this: 15 min in a hot bath, quick plunge in the cold bath, steam room or sauna, and then rest. There are several options for the rest portion including relaxing on an adirondack chair on the patio, sitting around a fire pit, lounging in a solarium, or lying on a hammock. Rox-Anne and I tried all of the above, but lounging around in the outdoor hammock looking up at the trees and sky might have been my favourite rest option. It was too cold to stay out there for too long, but on a slightly warmer day, it would have been just perfect.

White-Cabana-Scandinave-Spa-Blue MountainRox-Anne and I enjoying lunch in the indoor space, colour version right here

Many thanks to Mallory at Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain for arranging our visit.

Outdoor Living: Patio Loungers

Reading books and taking naps under the sunshine on my balcony is one of my favourite spring/summer past times. I usually set up a foldable portable lounger that I bought at Ikea years ago. It’s fine enough but I feel like it might be about time I upgrade to a real lounger.

cabana-sun-lounger

Cabana sun lounger, $299, CB2

miami-chaise-lounge

Miami chaise lounge, $465.99, DefySupply

dreamchair2_4

Dream Chair Chaise, $549, The Home Depot

chaise-lounge-Ikea

Enholmen chaise lounge, $139, Ikea

Casam lounge-Walmart

Casam lounge, $298, Walmart

Umah-chaise-lounge

Umah chaise lounge, $372.99, DefySupply

large_image_1268684675

Harrison chaise lounge, Andrew Richard Designs

Greenwich lounger-West Elm

Greenwich lounger, $295.64, West Elm