Natural Wonders Don’t Require Photoshop

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Friday Fan Photos July 11, 2014 Album

Throw back to that one time Australia.com featured our photo on their FB page! 2,400+ likes. Over 100 shares. Pretty neat. We almost took Uluru out of our travel itinerary for our time Down Under. So glad that we didn’t! An experience of a lifetime.

P.S. We thought it was hilarious that there was a comment stating that they thought this picture was photoshopped. Ha! This photo was taken by a point and shoot camera + we don’t know how to use photoshop 🙂

Hidden Gems of Prince Edward County: Milford and Little Bluff Conservation Area

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It’s summer time. Thousands of Ontarians (and even some Americans) flock to Prince Edward County to visit the Sandbanks and do some shopping in Picton’s quaint downtown. Some days the line to get into Sandbanks Provincial Park is just like the photo above. It can take forever just to get in and while you are at the beach it’s super crowded.  Maybe you’ve been to the Sandbanks before and are looking for something new to do. Or maybe you’ve got a couple of days to kill in the county and would like at least one of them to be away from the crowds and low-key. The following may be just what you’re looking for. Head to the other side of the county to discover some hidden gems!

A day in the county that doesn’t involve Sandbanks or Picton:

  1. Black River Cheese Factory in Milford. Stop in here for some cheese curds or ice cream and walk directly across the street to the Galloping Goat which is an unique gift shop in a beautiful/relaxing setting.
  2. Mariner’s Park Museum. Local maritime items & local history. My husband has been here but I have not. If you are on this side of the county anyways, it’s worth a visit.
  3. Little Bluff Conservation Area. This is a perfect place to relax. And it’s far from the crowds! Bring a lawn chair, a book, and practice your stone skipping skills. If you went on vacation to get away from it all – Little Bluff will give you just that.
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The above photos were taken in 2014 @ Little Bluff. We loved our time here! We plan to be back. My only hesitation in sharing this post is that I don’t want this hidden gem of the county to lose its tranquil state by becoming crowded with tourists. But when I find something truly beautiful, I have to share. I hope that you enjoy your time in Prince Edward County – whatever you decide to do, the county is truly wonderful.

How to see a celeb in LA or Nashville

In the last couple of years, we’ve traveled to Los Angeles and Nashville. Both are known as American hot spots for spotting a celebrity. In LA, you’ve got the musicians and movie stars. In Nashville, it’s mostly musicians. But some musicians are married to movie stars (ex: Keith Urban & Nicole Kidman).

Spotting a celeb in either city is not easy. Most vacationers to LA or Nashville never spot a star out and about. The two main reasons for this is that the celebs tend to stay away from tourist hot spots and they also dress to blend in rather than stand out.

In both LA and Nashville, we opted to not do one of those star bus tours. Instead, we read online where the stars like to go and hang out. We visited a few of those places. We figured it was a win-win: even if we never spotted a celeb, we were experiencing some unique places that a lot of tourists miss.

Here’s the thing: spotting or meeting a celeb mostly comes down to pure luck. Much like spotting wildlife – you can go to the right places, keep an eye out, but in the end it’s more about luck than anything else. Case in point; the celeb that we ended up seeing in LA lives in New York City! She just happened to be visiting people in LA that week. Go figure.

It was late afternoon in LA. We parked the car to find a popular local book store. Right by our parking spot was a restaurant with an outdoor patio. As we walked by, I happened to look in the restaurant and wondered if a celeb may eat there. Then I saw her. Meg Ryan was 6 feet away from me, facing the sidewalk! There was nothing between her and I but a line of shrubs. I waited until we passed the restaurant to tell hubby who I just saw. He didn’t believe me. So we decided to go back to the car for him to change his shoes! As we walked by, he confirmed that I was correct. It was Meg Ryan! So after having walked by her 3 times, we decided to cross the street on our way back and that’s when I went all paparazzi and took a photo. Just for memory sake! 🙂

untitledI feel kinda bad for taking a photo of Meg Ryan. Poor girl likely just wants her privacy. Unlike the paparazzi that were standing next to me when I took this photo, I promise, Meg, I’m not making any money off of this photo or post! 🙂

And for how my husband met a celeb in Nashville, see the following post with a photo of him with Keith Urban: https://pinkcanuck.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/that-one-time-my-husband-met-keith-urban/

While it is possible to spot or even meet a celeb in LA or Nashville, it will likely take a lot of luck and in some cases, being willing to get up at 4am and stand for hours in the pouring rain (see Nashville post). Most of all, enjoy your time in these unique cities and remember that celebs are people just like you and me. Only they are a lot richer and famous ;).

That one time my husband met Keith Urban

In November of 2014, we traveled to Nashville and attended the CMA awards. The morning of the awards, Keith Urban was scheduled to play outdoors for Good Morning America (Miranda Lambert and Tim Tebow were there as well). Even though Keith is my all-time most favourite country artist, Derek went on his own. It required a) getting up at 4am and b) standing in the pouring rain. Being pregnant, I already was worried about not being able to stay up to enjoy the CMA awards that evening. So Derek went to the Good Morning America event solo and got absolutely drenched. Good thing I wasn’t there because I would have wanted to leave as soon as the performance was over due to the rain. Instead, Derek stuck around and sure enough, Keith came out to meet his most loyal fans who a) waited to see him after the show and b) were cold and soaked. It can pay off to stick around after a concert or event. You can imagine my disbelief when I met up with Derek later that day and asked him how Good Morning America was. He casually said that it was good and that he met him. I laughed and said, “ya right!” He told me to take a look at our camera. Still not believing, I turned on the camera and this is what I saw:

indexThe first photo that Keith took of them was blurry, I’m so glad that he took two photos! And I couldn’t get over the fact that Keith Urban touched our camera 🙂 Even though I wasn’t there, we are both grateful for the memory.

How to afford to travel

I have people say to me that they would love to travel but don’t have the money for it. In many cases, if I can afford to travel, they certainly can! I am convinced that more people living in the 1st world could afford to travel if….. if it became a priority. My husband is a pastor and I am a social worker. Together, we have been to: Mexico, Northern Ireland, Puerto Rico, spent a month in Australia, California, Grand Cayman Island, and various other places in the US and Canada. I don’t say this to brag by any stretch but to demonstrate that it is possible to travel with average incomes and to do so without going into debt! Here’s how we’ve done it:

1. we bought a house with only one of our incomes (instead of getting a mortgage based on two incomes). we could have become house-rich and life (i.e. travel) poor by purchasing a home grander and bigger than we really need. instead, this decision has freed up some cash to put more money towards paying off debt and for travel.

2. we evaluated our priorities. for us, it is more important to be able to travel then to buy newer/better vehicles. we are happy driving our current vehicles as they are paid for in full. having one less bill frees up money to afford to travel.

3. we cut costs in little ways that add up over time. for example, I don’t pay for parking @ work. instead, I park for free and walk 10 minutes to my office. sure, it can be inconvenient in the cold, rain, and snow, but it saves us $50-60 dollars per month. we also don’t have internet or cable at home. small “sacrifices” for us that add up over time and helps there to be room in the budget for travel.

We’ve tried to live our life in balance. We are passionate about being debt-free and living within our means. We also realized that if we wait to have our mortgage paid off to travel, we could be waiting quite a while. We want to do some traveling as we are young and more energetic. So we’ve tried to strike a balance between paying off debt AND travel.

Maybe it’s snobby of me to assume that many people in the 1st world that want to travel but say that they can’t afford to really can. Besides the need to make it more of a priority with regard to budgeting, it also depends on where the person would like to travel. Certainly some places are out of reach for most. I still believe that many could travel debt-free if there was more planning and intentionality given to it. It also comes down to delayed gratification. What I want today (i.e. take out, a new outfit) is at war with what I want ultimately a year from now. For us, as long as we have our memory, we are grateful for making traveling a priority. There are times that we reflect on certain trips and experiences and its pure gold. We wouldn’t trade those experiences for any material possession.

If you are seriously thinking that you’d like to make some budget/lifestyle changes to help afford travel, I encourage you to sit down and plan, plan, plan. You may be surprised with what you are capable of with intention, desire and perseverance!

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Colonial America Vacation (travel review + tips)

This summer, we spent a week exploring “Colonial America”. My husband loves this time period and wanted to experience the major sights in the US. While we never got to Gettysburg on this trip, the following was our itinerary:

Day 1: Monticello (http://www.monticello.org/) for the morning. We were able to do the 9am house tour, 10am garden tour, and 11am slavery  tour. After lunch @ Monticello we drove to visit  and tour Monpelier (http://www.montpelier.org/). Afterwards, we drove to our hotel in Williamsburg and walked around Colonial Williamsburg that evening.

Day 2: Having had a “taste” of Colonial Williamburg the night before, we decided to switch our plans and spend the most of today at Historic Jamestowne (http://www.historicjamestowne.org/) instead. Do not be confused – there’s a museum that’s called “Jamestown Settlement” also in Jamestown. While the kids may like it, if you don’t experience “Historic Jamestowne” you will have missed walking where the first English settlement was. We loved, loved Historic Jamestown and the 11am Archeological tour was incredible!! Hubby also saw a bald eagle fly over-head with a fish in its claws while we were there (it’s a beautiful location).  Seriously, a trip to Colonial Williamsburg is NOT close to being complete without a morning spent at “Historic Jamestowne”. For our evening, we ate dinner at one of the Colonial Williamsburg taverns and walked the streets some more. Colonial Williamsburg was definitely a hot spot for children and families.

Day 3: On our way leaving Williamsburg and heading to DC, we stopped at Mount Vernon (http://www.mountvernon.org/). This was the only presidential house tour that I thought a child may enjoy as it seemed to have more for children to engage with. Then we went on to DC but didn’t see any sights this evening.

Day 4: Learning that Lincoln’s Cottage (http://lincolncottage.org/) tours were sold-out for the next day (Saturday), we decided to go first thing in the morning today. Having purchased a day pass for the public transit, we took the subway to as close to Lincoln’s cottage and then walked. I’d advise for people to drive this as there’s free parking, it’s an uphill walk from the subway station, and the neighbourhood was a little sketchy.  At Lincoln’s cottage, we got on the first tour @ 10am and spent some time reading and watching videos in their education room afterwards.  Back to DC where we not only saw the Capitol building from the outside, but took their free 45 minute tour. We weren’t planning on doing this but it was great!!  We then went to see the White House and joined a walking tour from 7-9pm where a guide told the story and took us to various significant places on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. This was free and totally worth the time.

Day 5: We spent this morning exploring “the mall” area in DC. What was most disappointing was how poorly marked at the Lincoln Monument was the Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a Dream” plaque. I literally walked over it without even knowing. Hundreds of tourists walked over it without looking down once to know where they were standing. Also, the new Martin Luther King Jr. monument is not connected to “the mall” area. You have to have a map to know where you are going (and cross a street) to find it. I found Martin Luther King Jr’s monument to be deeply moving and well worth finding. Lastly, before leaving DC and ending our historical vacation, we went to the Holocaust Museum. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get in to see the main exhibit until a time after we needed to be on the road. So we spent a good 2 hours exploring their other exhibits and spend some time speaking one of their holocaust survivor’s who work there.

To summarize:

1) Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon seemed to be the best places on our vacation for families with children.

2) While these were not originally on our to-do list, Historic Jamestowne and a tour inside the Capitol Building were some of our favourites and worth checking out.

3) While we did all of this in 5 days, stretching it to 7 days could allow more time for Colonial Williamsburg and an extra day to explore the many museums (all free) in DC.

Good things about the United States

This July 4th, I see it appropriate to reflect on what’s good about the Red, White and Blue.

1. They give us entertainment in the form of television, music, and movies.

2. Florida is Canada’s 11th province. They also have other nice + warm States that are fun to visit during Canada’s cold winter months.

3. Shopping is cheaper + better in the US. There’s also greater selection for good eats.

4. Some have great accents!

5. The best thing about the United States is that it gave me my honey, my best friend, my husband. And now many Canadians have a great American friend in him.

Happy July 4th!