Natural Wonders Don’t Require Photoshop

Friday Fan Photos July 11, 2014 Album

Throw back to that one time 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


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.

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:

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!


Bucket List

For as long as I can remember, I have lived my life with an awareness that no one is guaranteed to live a certain # of days here on earth. I have never been one to assume that I will live to a ripe old age. Statistically, there may be evidence for me to assume I’ll see retirement. But can anyone guarantee that I’ll live to 80? No. As a result, I have often lived life like a woman on a mission.

I have a bucket list.  A “bucket list” is a saying for the things you’d like to experience before you die. Up until now, my bucket list has mostly been in my head. But I’ve been working on ticking off items whenever I can.

I have conflicting feelings with the whole concept of a bucket list.  Ultimately, it’s people rather than places and accomplishments that matter most in my life. Often, a bucket list is focused around self. I believe that the best way to live a fulfilling life is to be more others-focused than self-focused. So while this list seems so me, me, me, I firmly believe that I have been blessed to be a blessing.

The following is my bucket list:

Get certified as a lifeguard (this was a lesson I gave to myself on not giving up…when I returned to swimming lessons I was a lot older than those in my classes!).

Attend Roberts Wesleyan College (this was a dream of mine in high school. For some reason, I felt God leading me there…).

Get married (We met as a result of me going to Roberts Wesleyan College, even thought we never over-lapped while I was attending).

RD @ Roberts (I loved being a RA so much that I put on my bucket list being a RD).

Masters in Social Work (This became possible as a result of being a RD).

Work as a social worker in mental health  (Due to moving to Canada for Derek’s job, I was able to find a great job in mental health).

Pay off all student loan and consumer debt (including car payments) (Money was tight those first years of marriage while Derek was in seminary. As a couple, we worked hard and sacrificed for the ultimate goal of financial freedom. It took years but we are now debt free except for the mortgage. It’s the best gift we could have given each other and our marriage. It’s also the reason we were able to see Australia).

Keith Urban in concert (he’s my favourite country artist. Derek agreed to come and as a result, he was converted into a Keith fan).

Travel Australia  (Ever since I did a presentation on Australia in elementary school, my ultimate dream was to see Australia!).

See California (esp. bike the golden gate bridge) (This didn’t disappointment. One of our most favourite days ever was the day we biked in San Fransisco).

Loose weight (this wasn’t always on my bucket list but joined the list after weight gain. We’ll see if I can keep it off!).

Read often (started a book club to help this end).

See Nashville and Charleston

See professional figure skating in-person


Items left on my list:

See England (and maybe Wales and Scotland too).

Go on a cruise where we’d see Greece.

See Western US and Western Canada (drive out through the US and back through Canada).

Visit the Grand Canyon.

Go white water rafting!


Volunteer at local Children’s Aid Society.

Combat mental health stigma.

Help break the cycle of poverty for at least one person.

The last three are a little more complex. What exactly will these look like? I don’t know. But I can keep you posted.

Do you have a bucket list? Why or why not? If so, has your bucket list evolved over time? Are you actively plugging away at yours?

5 tips on how to pack lightly for a vacation

While in college, I decided that I was done with over-packing when traveling. I began to hate lugging around heavy suitcases when only 1/4 of the clothes were used by the end of vacation. Since then, I’ve developed a system to ensure that I don’t over-pack when going on vacation or traveling for other purposes. I now take pride when people comment, “is that all you brought with you?”. Here’s what has worked for me:

1. Pack outfits. This is the #1 tool to ensure that you aren’t over-packing. Most people can’t be bothered and just throw a bunch of shirts and pants/shorts in their suitcases. If you take a minute and match up pants/shorts with shirts, you will find that you end up eliminating some tops and bottoms that you otherwise would have packed but not worn on your trip. Disclaimer: I am not a person who plans my outfit the night before while at home. But when packing for vacation, I take the time to match up shirts/sweaters and bottoms. Seriously, this is the golden tip to not over-packing. Trust me on this one.

2. Count how many days that you will be away. Pack enough clothes for the days that you will be gone (ex: if you are away for 7 days then pack only 7 outfits) and then throw in 2 extra shirts and 2 extra pairs of underwear. You only need this amount of “extra” considering the fact that if your plane is delayed, you can wear a pair of jeans or shorts another day. Really! Also see #4 for why you don’t need more outfits than days you are gone.

3. In this day and age, the excuse “I didn’t know what the weather was like so I packed everything” doesn’t fly any longer. If you have access to internet then you can pack your suitcase according to the weather. Make sure to check current weather as well as historical weather (you can learn what the weather has been like over the last several years for the month that you will be away).

4. Remember that you will often wear clothes twice while on vacation (such as shorts or a sweater). And if you don’t already re-wear items while on vacation, I’d suggest trying it. The beauty about being on vacation is that people will likely never see you again. So wear your jeans multiple times, no one will care and you’ll save a bunch of space in your suitcase!

5. Try on your clothes before putting them in the suitcase. Doing this is especially important if there has been any weight loss or weight gain in recent months.  For example, while on vacation last week, hubby was frustrated because most of the shorts that he packed no longer fit him due to weight loss.  Also, this can go the opposite way. Sometimes the shorts that fit us in the summer time don’t fit quite as well when we go on vacation over the winter months. By trying on clothes before you leave you are likely to avoid packing clothing that doesn’t fit comfortably.

I encourage you to attempt to pack light for your next vacation. It is truly liberating. Happy travels!

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