Casual Friday + NS Adventures

How many weeks can I complain about feeling unsettled by our current lack of routine? Apparently at least two.

This was yet another week that felt off-kilter as we hover between the routines of spring and summer. I had a small epiphany at one point – I think the main reason I find these in-between phases so challenging is that I am a Finisher. I get immense satisfaction from finishing a task, a bottle of shampoo, a long hike, a good book. And despite having many irons in the fire, almost everything is stuck at the In Progress stage. I had a series of work tasks that were 75% completed…but now require waiting on feedback from colleagues. School is still in session…but every day has a different event that requires unique planning (send sunscreen and extra water for field day; don’t forget the pancake breakfast on Friday). Packing for vacation can’t happen until right before we leave…but toiletry bags are sitting half-filled on my dresser.

Nothing is finished.

It also rained at unfortunate times. I was scheduled to attend a (free!) introductory tennis lesson on Monday. Postponed. Soccer practices were canceled. Our narrow window for some renovation work was eclipsed by damp weather (yet another item stuck on the In Progress list). So we twiddled our thumbs (proverbially), knowing in a few weeks life is going to be hectic and full to the brim.

Oh well – it can’t all be sunshine and daisies (and finishing tasks). But we did in fact enjoy plenty of sunshine and…er, rhododendrons…over the last week.

Let’s do some Nova Scotia #joyfinding. This province never fails to provide a beautiful backdrop for adventure-seekers!

duncan’s cove

Early in the pandemic we ventured out to Chebucto Head Lighthouse and happened to discover an adjacent nature reserve and trail. Since we weren’t planning on a long family hike that day, we opted to turn back at the halfway point (it was late afternoon, we had no snacks in the backpack…and Levi was 5).

Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to return (it was actually an unmet goal of mine from 2021). When the kids had a day off school on Friday, we decided to seize the day.

It’s not an easy walk – lots of quasi-treacherous cliff terrain and other areas with waist-high brush and boggy puddles. But it was a lot of fun and the kids love this sort of interactive hiking experience.

It was only about 6 km roundtrip, but it took a long time to avoid puddles and navigate the rocks carefully!

There are a number of anti-submarine bunkers from WWII stationed along the hike and, at the end of the trail, you can see Sambro Island Lighthouse (circled in red) – the oldest operational lighthouse in the Americas (circa 1758).

After that adventure, we came home to make cookies. We are, ironically enough, a family of nicknames. Each child has a number of random nicknames to which they will answer and further to that, both kids have developed specific nicknames for each other. Abby, for instance, has a nickname she assumes when she is pretending to be Levi’s pet dog who, it turns out, was celebrating a birthday last weekend. Who knew?

Cue the requests for a party.

If you hadn’t guessed, I’m not the “let’s do a party for a make-believe human-dog” sort of Mom. But Abby wisely tempered the request by asking for cookies instead of a cake. We made said cookies together because she isn’t, it turns out, a dog turning 3 years old but has opposable thumbs and knows how to operate an electric mixer.

Somehow candles made their way into the event; it was fun and delicious, but I drew the line at organizing party games and gifts (yes there were requests for both).

I’m awarding myself a sheet of gold stars for this one.

FLOWERS + cherry cheesecake

Saturday morning was unusually configured. I did an early-morning grocery run and then we went to a local community-wide yardsale (shuttered for 2 years due to COVID, this used to be a huge event in our local area). Abby bought two things for a total of $.75, so no big spending from our family.

From there, both kids had been invited to the same birthday party, a rare occurance! While the kids were playing games and eating cupcakes with other pint-sized humans, John and I ran a few errands and picked up some (quite good, relatively speaking) grocery store sushi for an impromptu lunch date at a local agriculture research area known for its impressive collection of rhododendrons. We enjoyed a quick stroll of the grounds. The kids would have been bored, so it was nice to fit this in without any grumbling.

The detail on this variety was stunning.

By the time we got home in the early afternoon, I felt exhausted. I relaxed with a steaming cup of coffee and thoroughly enjoyed 2 hours of solitude while the kids did “Quiet Time” in their rooms for the first time in what feels like forever. Levi told me afterward he had done 200 situps during his quiet time. I guess that’s one way to spend two hours in your room?

I was feeling restless (shocking) and a friend of mine was available for a walk. Because of divergent vacation plans, we won’t see each other for almost a month, so it was great to fit in some time together.

When I arrived home all the shoes in the entryway (under renovation and in a constant state of chaos) were completely organized. I almost cried from sheer happiness and relief. And THEN I looked up and saw a cherry cheesecake on the counter.

My birthday was low-key since we were in the US. John asked what he could do for a belated celebration at home and I said: “I just want a cherry cheesecake.” We bought ingredients together, but I left the timing up to him and I was NOT expecting him to complete the whole process in the hour or so I was away on my walk.

Coming home to this – and the kids + John singing Happy Birthday – was delightful and I’ve enjoyed every single bite of that cheesecake (I shared the bare minimum I felt was required of me as a decent human being and slightly resented even those meager offerings).

the lake + the OCEAn

Sunday was one of those perfect June days. Hot and sunny, but still technically spring so it feels rebellious to be out doing summery things.

After church we came home for a quick lunch, tossed towels and some food into the car and headed out.

Despite living in Nova Scotia for almost 15 years, I had never visited our area’s most popular public lake. It wasn’t officially open (so no lifeguarding), which meant the crowd was small. We spent a few hours playing in the water (I never went past my knees – it was COLD); the kids befriended another girl and they chatted and splashed in the water and played fetch with a friendly Chocolate Lab.

From the lake we headed to the ocean and one of our favourite local lighthouses – Margaretsville. This time we didn’t even go to the lighthouse but headed right to the shoreline where friends had organized a going-away-beach-bonfire for mutual friends who are moving across Canada. There were about 15 of us in total and it was great fun to roast hotdogs over an open fire while all the kids roamed the beach and generally had a great time. We came home tired and smelling like sunscreen and wood smoke.

one last (solo) sabbatical hike

John and I wanted to fit in one final solo hike before the kids get out of school. Yesterday morning we made it happen. Cape Blomidon is one of our favourite local destinations and it has a great trail system. Hard to believe this view is only about 30 minutes from our house (it does require hiking 1 km straight up the side of a cliff, but it’s so worth it)! We did about 12 km which helped offset my restlessness a bit.

In other news:

  • Levi got a haircut. It always makes me sad when he loses his golden locks but they grow back fast. Also, a sweet bonus: he is a dream client for our hairdresser and sits stoically and/or talks seriously about whatever topic the hairdresser brings up. It melts my heart every time.
  • We spent an hour reading picture books one night. The kids resisted at first and I felt like my reading life was passing before my eyes. As in this is it – my kids are officially done with being read to. But then I started reading (despite complaints) and they kept asking for more and more and more. Our favourites were these two: Corduroy is a classic but I hadn’t read it in years, and they both really enjoyed Put Yourself in My Shoes (the illustrations/characters reminded me a lot of James and the Giant Peach).
  • We’re all happy (and relieved) to see the end of the school year – it’s time for a break! – but it’s also bittersweet. Our morning walks have felt extra special; the kids are growing so fast and these commutes to school have a limited shelf life in our family routine…

Your turn. Anyone else struggling with the “Hurry Up and Wait” stage of spring/summer limbo? Did you walk to school when you were a kid? Have you gone on any fun local adventures lately?

Destination Nova Scotia: Cabot Trail + Cape Breton

Around this time last year our family completed a trek around the Cabot Trail – a 300 km highway that winds through the Cape Breton Highlands offering stunning views of the ocean, woodlands, and other-worldly rock formations.

There are countless itineraries put forward by travel bloggers and Tourism Nova Scotia. This is not going to be of that sort of caliber. I didn’t actually research very much. We were traveling close to the Thanksgiving/fall foliage peak season (even during COVID conditions) and accommodation choices were limited. We didn’t book a whale-watching excursion or eat fresh seafood or overnight in a yurt. But it was a great family trip, nonetheless.

Before we even got out the door, our trip hit a major snag. Somehow, despite it being a last-minute vacation, we managed to book all our accommodations for the WRONG weekend. A few days after booking, John woke one morning with the vague sense something was wrong and quickly realized we had selected the wrong dates! Aside from one of our accommodations, we were able to maintain accommodations at the same locations…although that one change ended up being quite memorable (and not for the best of reasons). 

day ONE

We picked the kids up from school at lunchtime on a Thursday and started the trek toward Cape Breton. The kids were phenomenal in the car. We ate lunch in the car en route (I packed a bento-style, self-contained lunch for each of the kids) and then we stopped for a picnic supper at a lighthouse along the way, before heading off to our final stop of the day: Sydney.

I did not get them to pose like this; not sure what inspired them to adopt this stance, but I think it’s adorable, even if it does look staged!

We ended up arriving in Sydney around 6:00 pm. After checking in at our hotel, we decided to explore the waterfront boardwalk and visit the World’s Largest Fiddle, which we could see from our hotel window.

On our way to collect warm coats from the car, Levi tripped in the parking lot, getting some nasty abrasions on his hand with various rock shards embedded for good measure. Poor fella. We got First Aid supplies from the front desk and John and Abby headed off alone while I tended to the walking wounded. Levi made a speedy recovery, though his hand was a bit sore the rest of the weekend.

One of the main reasons we selected our hotel was because of its advertised waterslide. Our kids, like most others, love hotel waterslides. Because of COVID restrictions, we had to book a pool time, and they were elated when our allotted time finally arrived. Enthusiasm waned quickly; the pool was cold, the waterslide was cordoned off, and the hot tub was drained. Hmmm. Win some, lose some. We stayed for 15 minutes – long enough that everyone was freezing and soaked – and then piled back into our hotel room for hot showers and an early evening of popcorn and a movie, which is often the highlight of these trips for our kids anyway.

DAY two

Friday morning we woke early, tried again to visit the giant fiddle as a family (this time with success), and spent the rest of the morning at Louisbourg.

After Peggy’s Cove, Louisbourg’s is likely the second most iconic lighthouse in Nova Scotia.

The lighthouse was stunning and gave great views of the fortress across the harbour. There were rocks for climbing (basically all that is required for our kids to have a good time), and a pile of rubble from the original lighthouse – the first in North America to be constructed with fireproof building materials.

While COVID had forced the staff of Louisbourg to stop many of their regular demonstrations, we were impressed with the scale of the fortress and had a fun time exploring the grounds.

Next up was Ingonish. In my quick-and-dirty research leading up to our trip – and given our family’s penchant for lighthouses – I thought I had found a winning ticket. A lighthouse converted into ice cream parlour. Yes, please! It required a detour (40 minutes round trip) and I had been unable to get confirmation the site was still open for the 2020 season. We decided to go for it.

It was closed. Whomp, whomp.

We made up for that disappointment with a great hike that started on the perimeter of the famous Keltic Lodge (Middle Head Trail). We randomly found a geocache, which the kids were delighted about, and it felt good to stretch our legs after lots of car time.

It was interesting how few locations there were for eating/sleeping on the Cabot Trail itself. Finding a place open/available (we found a spot that had incredible reviews online, but it was over an hour wait just to get a table!) for supper was more challenging than we imagined, but we finally managed to get some takeout pizza (I ate food we’d brought from home, see below) and retreated to our hotel room for a movie and supper. 

This was the motel we had switched to when we were forced to rebook after realizing our date error (originally, we were slated to stay at well-reviewed cabins).

There was a reason there was an opening at this motel. From water stains in the bathroom to bugs on the floor to doors that didn’t close properly, this location didn’t instill much confidence. But there was nowhere else to go and really, how bad could it be?

We woke in the night to people socializing – loudly – outside our window. When I finally got back to sleep, I woke up to the sound of torrential rain. It wasn’t a great night of sleep. I was relieved when morning arrived, and we had positive attitudes – looking forward to moving on. And then we started the shower. Within a few minutes, the entire hotel room floor was flooded in water. We could see where they had patched the plumbing and it was easy to identify the source of the leak. When John went to check out and informed the front desk of the issue, he said they didn’t even act surprised. Needless to say, we did not stay for the free breakfast and will not be returning to that location again!

day Three

Saturday was the “big” day as we had eyes on hiking the Skyline Trail, which has arguably the most famous view along the Cabot Trail. I’ve already written an entire post about this adventure. We hiked the whole loop, which was about 8 km, and the views were stunning.

We’d had some drizzle and fog earlier in the day, but with the tremendous views, we couldn’t have been happier. We also timed it right. When we arrived about 10:30, the parking lot was mostly empty. When we returned it was absolutely jammed with cars!

We stopped in Cheticamp and found some lighthouses, including one with a built-in slide. The kids absolutely LOVED this and spent a happy half-hour sliding and climbing. John and I each went down the slide and once was enough. Phew, it was much steeper and faster than it looked (I actually had bruises from it), but the kids knew no fear!

We walked along the Inverness Boardwalk, drove through Margaree Harbour and ended up in Port Hawkesbury for the night. We were all tired, so McDonalds across the street was our fancy supper (we took food along for at least 1 picnic meal/day). After a good night’s sleep, we hummed and hawed about going to the pool. After the disappointment of the previous hotel pool (and all the effort that goes into getting dressed, going down, and then promptly getting out), none of us was convinced. Well…we went and it was wonderful. It was warm and we had it entirely to ourselves. Levi practiced swimming from side to side, Abby did flips and tricks and we all left happy.

From there it was back to Wolfville. A fun long weekend. Lots of driving, but the kids were phenomenal (we let them watch downloaded videos on some of the longer stints, but they were mostly contented to watch the views most of the way).

A quick note about food

I was in the middle of an elimination diet (no gluten, no peanut butter, no coffee, no soy, no dairy), so I was already planning to bring along lots of food items. But, as a great way to save, we also packed food appropriate for daily picnics.

This was the main launch point for our PB&J summer – I took a package of brioche buns, a bottle of peanut butter, and a bottle of jam. We took ice, so the first day had tuna filling, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and gluten-free crackers. I also brought along things like apples and carrot sticks; we had mini-fridges at night, but these items were okay to be in the cool, but not cold, environment of the trunk. We also took nuts/seeds, dried fruit, granola bars, crackers, and tinned sardines/smoked oysters (both of which our kids love). We ate breakfast and supper out each day (I would often just piece together fruit/proteins we brought from home for myself), but ate lunches/snacks on the go which made our travel more efficient and cheaper!

Destination Nova Scotia: Cape Breton’s Skyline Trail

Despite growing up in Nova Scotia I’ll shamefully admit, at one point, I didn’t realize Cape Breton was actually a part of my home province. Separated from the mainland by a causeway, that short stretch of rock and asphalt marks a dramatic shift in topography.

With my geographic ignorance remedied, I traveled to numerous other provinces – and outside Canadian borders – long before I found my way to Cape Breton.

It was worth the wait.

My first experience on Cape Breton soil was a whirlwind trip as a newlywed. In the throes of busy work and graduate schedules, my husband and I spent a single night on the island, driving the entire Cabot Trail in less than a day, with only a few pit stops en route. It was Thanksgiving, a popular time to wind along the coast of Cape Breton, known for its stunning fall foliage.

Fast forward a decade and it felt like we were past due for a return trip. We made the decision quickly – pulling kids from school on a Thursday afternoon, taking a day of vacation, and booking three nights on the Trail (with mixed success; stay tuned).

Once again we made our trek in fall, this time pre-Thanksgiving so the colours weren’t yet in full display but it was lovely nevertheless.

Of the various iconic stops along the Cabot Trail, the Skyline Trail rises to the top. A well-maintained loop measuring about 7 km, the views are dramatic and panoramic.

It was an easy walk for the kids and the main trail is accessible by stroller. The viewing platforms are not – there are many, many stairs that could be quite treacherous if conditions were wet or windy. We arrived on a cool, damp day and were all very glad to have warm coats and ear protection and I kept a close eye on the kids at all times.

It really was a view of a lifetime, and I’d love to return for a sunset someday. From what I’ve seen, they are spectacular. But even on a drizzly, chilly day, the view we were rewarded with wasn’t half bad at all, especially when two cute kiddos filled up part of the frame.

*As you can deduce from the photos, this is rugged terrain. There is very little development, aside from roadways, and it is a place known for wildlife. It is not uncommon to encounter moose and bear. Very sadly, in 2009, there was a fatal coyote attack on the Skyline Trail (at the time, the only fatal coyote attack recorded in Canada). Numerous measures have been taken to mitigate the issue, but this is home to many animals – a fact that must always be respected not only for their survival but also for our safety. It’s always wise to hike with others, avoid consuming food on the trail, and always carry a walking stick and a whistle or other noise-making device.

Snippets of Life Lately: iPhone Dump

I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone. I hate that it has a tendency to distract me – I try really hard, not always successfully, to keep my screentime around 1 hr/day. It’s easy to get sucked into text loops (which can be a good thing) or newsfeeds (almost always a bad thing).

I also appreciate all the good it brings. A calculator and alarm, music to amp me up during a workout, a GPS when I’m lost. But mostly, I love always having a camera handy. I make a giant photobook every year and appreciate that we (John takes more and better photos) can capture so many spontaneous moments – moments we never would have recorded if we were still lugging around a heavy camera, worrying about how much space we had left on a roll of film or needing to avoid getting sand in the lens (I’ve had two cameras destroyed this way).

Here’s a quick phone dump from life lately.

Final fire at the lake.
The last night of fishing on Grand Lake 2021. A treasure trove of great memories this year.
Someone was cavity-free – always a relief.
A trip to our beloved Peggy’s Cove.
A return trip to Belliveau’s Cove, complete with a new breakwater.
On a Sunday afternoon family hike we happened upon a random quarry. Love this action shot of Abby exploring the grounds (we did NOT let the kids climb on the sand pile, but it was fun to have a look from all angles).
Our little town officially has its own boxcar. One of our favourite books is “The Boxcar Children”, so this was beyond cool (also, it’s located behind the town library – this was meant to be).
After we got the climbing out of our system, we turned to rock jumping! The kids love to get serious air off this local boulder on the waterfront.
One last summer hurrah with my parents (visiting so they could babysit the kids while we were away at White Point) – Margaretsville Lighthouse. It’s such a great place to explore. Mom and I sat on a bench near the beach and watched the waves while John took the kids exploring further up the shore.
This one even dipped her toes in…

Destination Nova Scotia: White Point

Living in Nova Scotia for over a decade, I feel like we’ve covered most of the highlights. We’ve visited Peggy’s Cove (a dozen times), seen the Bluenose II in port, and even tested our sea legs for an authentic Maritime island experience. We’ve driven the world-famous Cabot Trail, spotted whales in the wild, and climbed atop rock formations that look like something straight out of Tatooine.

Then we spent two magical days at White Point Beach Resort and grabbed our bright yellow highlighter.

While this post isn’t sponsored, we did win the trip. My husband (photographer extraordinaire) won the grand prize in the 2021 Saltscapes Amateur Photography contest. His prize? A 2-night Seascape Getaway Package at White Point.

It did not disappoint.

First, let’s state the obvious: going anywhere without the kids for two days was going to feel glorious. It had been over 18 months since we’d been away together overnight, so a leaky shanty would have felt akin to paradise.

White Point delivered. With no leaks.

The resort

Built in 1928, White Point has been a staple on Nova Scotia’s South Shore for almost a century. Our next-door neighbours have been visiting for 50+ years, hosting an annual 5-day reunion onsite with people crisscrossing the country to reach this sandy oasis.

When you arrive a sign reads: Welcome…now relax and enjoy. And it really does feel like, somehow, the salt air and crashing surf just pushes the stress right out of you.

The redesigned main lodge (destroyed by fire in 2011 and rebuilt in 2012) has loads of character. I think it’s best described as upscale rustic. Mis-matched, brightly painted wooden chairs surround the tables; a moose antler light fixture hangs above a giant stone fireplace, and cutlery comes wrapped in gingham napkins. Things are colourful and inviting, but not so busy you feel claustrophobic. There are modern elements – stone fireplaces, exposed metal girders; then you look up and see the requisite pairs of crossed snowshoes (open year-round, they can get away with it). It feels like life at the beach – nothing pretentious and no fine china – but elevated in the best of ways.

And then there are the bunnies.

When we checked in we each received a little brown bag of bunny food. It was so fun to walk around the property and glance up to see bunnies hopping contentedly on the lawn beside you. It’s not overrun, just enough bunnies that you can almost always spot one. They’re friendly and content and likely help cut down on lawnmowing costs each summer.

And, to commemorate our stay, I may have succumbed to the siren call of the gift shop and come home with a bunny mug. It had to be done. And may I say my tea tastes especially delicious this morning.

The beach

The beach was lovely; smaller than I imagined and might feel more crowded in the summer when all the facilities are maxed out.

On our only full day on-site it rained much of the day. We managed to squeeze in an early morning stroll on the beach which was wonderful, but for much of the day – between rain and fog – we couldn’t even see the waves (sure could hear them though)!

The lawn is covered in bright Adirondack chairs, and the rocky shoreline is dotted with wooden benches that provide a great place to contemplate the ocean.

The accommodations

Our package included an ocean-front cottage. I woke up both nights thinking there were hurricane-force winds blowing outside. It was just the constant roar of the ocean. Nature’s white noise. It was lovely and so relaxing, but definitely takes some getting used to!

The cottage was great. Wood floors with one tiny braided rug, perfectly designed for sandy feet. There was a propane fireplace which was lovely after coming in from the rain (Day #2). The bed was comfortable.

I have relatively low demands in terms of accommodations other than cleanliness and safety/quiet and this spot checked all the boxes. It felt like a cottage by the ocean, which is exactly what it was.

They have a range of newer cottages and even houses to rent with more modern amenities, but I liked how I didn’t feel like I needed to worry about sandy feet and wet towels, which is the perfect environment for relaxing at the beach.

The people

We couldn’t believe how many young families were on-site. Everywhere you looked parents were trailing behind curious toddlers. Pets are also welcome, and from our elevated perch in the lounge at lunchtime we enjoyed a birds-eye view of a couple interacting with their very young, very adorable German shepherd puppy.

We know lots of families from the local area that go to White Point; there were also lots of retirees and the resort caters to corporate groups with meeting facilities and large rental spaces (entire homes on-site). It really has something for just about everyone.

You can curl up with a book in the lounge, play games on the beach, rent a paddleboard for the lake, hike local trails, paint rocks with an instructor, or roast s’mores over a firepit.

The food

Lemon tart-in-a-jar; delicious, but not as good as the lobster poutine!

Again – upscale rustic. The food was good; hearty portions, well cooked. No Michelin stars, but I’m not fussy like that. The waitresses were friendly and the ambiance was relaxed.

As mentioned above, the bar was set shockingly low: there is something inherently lovely about eating a meal without children bickering, throwing food at each other, or getting up and down a dozen times to use the washroom, perform cartwheels, and then go to the bathroom again. During our final breakfast, I watched a very competent, patient mother tackle breakfast with two small children (both of whom were incredibly well behaved). I kept watching the happy little scene until one of them, no more than three years old, dissolved into tears complaining there was too much milk in her cereal and then she started gagging and crying while her younger brother happily batted away at his apple slice in the highchair. I looked at the mother with both sympathy and admiration. Then I returned to my very hot, very tasty breakfast which I enjoyed without a single complaint from my own offspring.

Highlights: the lobster poutine. I am a French-fry naturalist. I like French fries. With ketchup (obviously). Full stop. The thought of adding cheese curd and gravy just feels like blasphemy. But take French fries (delicious) add cheese (also delicious) a cream sauce (tasty) and huge chunks of lobster (very, very delicious) and I have to admit you’ve found yourself a really great meal. It was the first thing I had eaten since 10 am and we had just hiked + run for about 13 km in the sun. Delicious is an understatement. It was so good we re-ordered it a second time during the trip.

Honourable mentions: the Country Breakfast, Sticky Toffee Pudding, the Chorizo sausage in their gnocchi dish, and the Chocolate Mocha cake.

Sticky toffee pudding.
Chocolate cake with creamy coffee ganache; you can catch a glimpse of the casual, but cozy, beachfront dining room.

local attractions

The South Shore of Nova Scotia is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s my completely biased opinion, but it’s an unavoidable truth. Gorgeous, long sandy beaches, historic buildings, and lighthouses around every corner.

Carter’s Beach, ranked one of the most beautiful beaches in Canada, is less than 20 minutes from White Point. We happened to visit in the middle of a downpour this time, but have great memories from drier visits in the past.

Summerville Beach – 10 minutes away from White Point – played host to our giant leap of faith from last summer.

The Keji Seaside Adjunct provides a nice hiking trail and the opportunity to spot moose and bear (we didn’t, much to my relief).

We took a quick spin through Liverpool and on a whim visited Astor Theatre; we picked up a lovely watercolour postcard from a local artist in the giftshop for the kiddos, wandered through various art exhibits (somehow we always find art along the way), and ended up touring the theatre.

Built in the early 1900’s and originially known as the Liverpool Opera House, it’s a lovely theatre that played war newsreels in the 40’s and now brings classics like Arsenic and Old Lace and The Mousetrap to life. I definitely want to go back and take in a live show.

While we love traveling with our family, it was nice to escape the rat race of juggling work and extracurriculars for a few days.

But as always happens when we’re away from the kids, we talk about them constantly. We must have said a dozen times “Wouldn’t the kids love it here.”

They would, we did and sometime in the not-so-distant future I’m sure we’ll find ourselves winding along those back-country roads on the South Shore again. And when we pull up and see the order to “…relax and enjoy…” we’ll plan on doing just that.

Casual Friday + More Clutter Q&A

  • Where I live, Tuesday marked the first day back to school. Despite an original forecast of rain, it ended up being hot and sunny all day long. What a great way to launch the academic term (we walked of course)!
  • John and I managed to sneak away this week to use his grand-prize win – a trip to White Point Beach Resort. It has been wonderful, and the kids were thrilled to have Grammie and Grampie come to babysit – complete with homemade Mac n’ Cheese and meatballs, two of their favourite meals. Stay tuned for a recap!

Until then, here is a bit more decluttering Q&A.

do you use storage containers? Don’t minimalists discourage this?

I LOVE storage containers. For most things my go-to’s are: KIS brand Omni storage boxes (the lids go on easily, they’re clear, stack well, and have been very very durable; I tend to use these for larger items like clothes and bulky toys). For everything else I use the inexpensive plastic shoe boxes from Home Depot.

  • I use these shoe boxes (without lids) inside my kid’s dresser drawers – lots of them. I/they can fold up their leggings, shorts, pants, and PJ’s and they fit right in.
  • I use them to store travel toiletries under the bathroom sink.
  • I use them to organize facecloths in my linen closet.
  • I keep my (pathetically small) sewing stash in a single box – needles, thread, hemming tape, and random buttons.
  • We’ve also used them to organize our LEGO!
LEGO, organized by colour. The shoe boxes can fit two deep and two high in this IKEA Kallax; a good thing as we have lots of LEGO! And no, it doesn’t always look this neat! Bins are typically scattered all over the foam tiles; my husband just happened to ask the kids to pick it up the morning I took this picture, coincidentally. The large white bins (also from IKEA) hold miscellaneous toys. Inside one there are – wait for it – more shoe boxes that contain play food and tea set paraphernalia. NERF guns and darts find a home in one; laser tag in another.

Where/how do you store everything?

I’m just going to go through a few pictures as it is likely easier to visualize our storage systems.

I’m a big fan of furniture with closed doors. Also, baskets for the win!

We store games, photobooks/albums + all things related to the gaming console and TV/audio accessories in this IKEA unit. I love the glazed doors which do a great job of hiding the contents. The electronics are all my husband – I’d still be using a 13″ TV with the built-in sound. Gold star to him!
Also in the basement family room – we store all our blankets in a basket. No need for folding to make things look neat. The coffee table has a bottom shelf where we keep remotes, coasters, etc. when not in use.
Our dining room + living room + front entryway are all one long space. The little metal basket by the armchair holds all our current library books. The IKEA hutch does all the heavy lifting.
More games (the ones we usually play with the kids – the others are downstairs) + the drawers hold all the colouring/workbooks, though the kids each keep a set of markers in their room and prefer to just create things on blank paper most of the time.
Another IKEA purchase – this desk is wonderful for our 10-year-old’s room. Lots of storage space.
And then we organize the drawer contents with an IKEA divider. And no, her desk does not always look quite this clean. To get ready for school she’s been keen to get her living space tidied up – she actually LOVES organizing…as long as I’m alongside her for the process.

What about food? Do you stockpile?

My husband and I have a long-standing debate. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE an empty fridge and pantry. He prefers to see them bursting at the seams.

Having a whole bunch of raw materials for meals always leaves me feeling anxious. I know I need to use ingredients before they spoil, and I know it will take time and energy to do this. It all feels a bit like a ticking time bomb.

As much as I love cooking, this is often how I feel.

Fun fact: our 1970’s kitchen is currently configured for an apartment-sized fridge, so space is limited! I try very hard to only buy items we need/will consume and prefer to shop several times a week so I get items fresh without having to store them for long periods.

The pictures below are actually after a huge (to me) grocery order, but it usually looks fuller than this. We had just gotten home from a week away and things were already pretty sparse. All the veggies go in the crisper drawers. I try to get rid of condiments we no longer need/use as we don’t have much door storage.

I’m so glad we have this storage space in our basement. I organize things in totes and/or by product. We do have a small pantry in the kitchen (not walk-in), but I store most excess items downstairs, out of sight.

you like decluttering, but my house is a mess? Where do I start?

This depends. Some people do best tackling a single space – say the shelves in a linen closet. Others do better tackling a single category – say all the clothes in a closet or a bin full of Christmas decorations. Some people like to clean everything at once – blitzing the house in a matter of days. Some people prefer to pick away at it, tackling one space or category a week.

Regardless of your personality type and penchant for decluttering, I’d say the safest launch point is to pick something small. Start with a relatively neutral space – a sock drawer or your bathroom vanity – something that won’t take a lot of time to get through and likely already contains categorized items (that don’t come with a lot of emotional attachments).

Clear this space. Assess how it feels to downsize, repurpose, and organize. If items are out of place, find them an appropriate home. If cosmetics or medications are expired or if socks are uncomfortable/missing mates/have holes – GET RID OF THEM! By tackling doable spaces first, it can help build momentum to carry your efforts through your entire living space.

Finally, there is no finish line. At some point it becomes more an issue of maintenance, but there will always be new messes, new paraphernalia that enters your home and it’s a natural part of life. You don’t start once, complete a task, and declare victory. It’s a lifestyle and something you’ll return to over and over again (with varying levels of enthusiasm)!

Destination Nova Scotia: Castle Rock

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon; church was finished for the day and the sunshine beckoned.

My ever-spontaneous husband suggested we hop in the car and meander toward the gorgeous South Shore. A beach seemed like the safe option. En route, we dithered about where to go before finally settling on one of our favourites, but I could tell no one was committed to the idea. A quick Google search string later (“Trails near Bayswater Beach”) and it didn’t take much convincing to turn the car around and check out the nearby Castle Rock hiking trail.

We went in blind. With nothing but a trailhead location, we grabbed our water bottle, a few granola bars, and headed out.

And guess what – Castle Rock delivered.

This was a fair trek, about 10 km out-and-back, but most of the trail was flat and well-groomed. We saw lots of families biking to the base of Castle Rock before the ~2 km hike up the “mountain,” which would dramatically expedite the adventure timeline.

The reward for our physical efforts: a panoramic view of the Chester Basin.

A great family hike and another hidden gem in Nova Scotia’s glistening crown. Not bad for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon in July.

Destination Nova Scotia: Cape Split

There are a handful of hikes in Nova Scotia that attract special attention and Cape Split tops the list. I always get a little thrill when I’m driving out-of-province and spot an “I Hiked Cape Split” bumper sticker ahead of me in traffic.

Cape Split brings together hikers of all shapes, sizes, and skill levels. The distance and elevation change is enough to make reaching the end a satisfying accomplishment, while remaining doable for a wide range of fitness capabilities (I know people well into their 70’s that have made the trek). The views from the summit are iconic and make it worth braving mosquitos and a few muddy puddles along the way.

A lesser-known fact: Cape Split provided the backdrop for a battle in the American Revolution. What now?! Though many tides have come and gone since privateers faced off in the Minas Basin, it has an undeniable air of intrigue.

About 13 km roundtrip, the hike requires sturdy footwear (every time I hike this trail I see people heading out in bright white sneakers – they won’t be white on the return trip – or, worse yet, flip-flops) and a good attitude. Originally an out-and-back trail, 2021 has seen the addition of a new loop that allows hikers to follow the coastline for a portion of the walk.

These cliffs and famous “split” have played host to weddings, overnight camping adventures, and many, many picnics. We’ve hiked this with kids in a backpack*, and played hooky on the final day of school with our then 8-year old so she could hike it for the first time. People snowshoe and ski the trail in winter conditions, so it’s accessible year-round, adjusting gear according to temperature and precipitation.

*While friends of ours have taken a stroller out the whole way, I would not consider this trail to be stroller friendly. Also, there are actively eroding cliffs and no railings of any sort. Basically, I would never want to take any child still requiring a stroller into this sort of environment – or certain 6-year old boys who will not be named.

Don’t forget to bring lots of water, some sunscreen, and bug spray (depending on the season) – and always look before you set out on your return trip. We’ve heard horror stories of people leaving their car keys at their picnic site, remembering their oversight after arriving back at the parking lot. I love hiking Cape Split…but not twice in a day.

Expect to sleep well. Bonus points if you swing by Pirate’s Cove on your way home. Double bonus points if you seek out some local ice cream as a refreshing exclamation point to cap off the day.