Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Tourist Day in Western New Brunswick

Sometimes there is no need to shop (or no shopping available), so what better to do with your almost 10 month old little dude?! Have a Tourist Day!

Last week we found ourselves in western New Brunswick. The Mr. was there for work and we were his chauffeur to/from leaving us with the full day (8am to 5pm) to be tourists. For those of you who follow me on Instagram you had the chance to follow us that day on Instagram Stories - here are all the details and some of the videos from that day as well as pictures to capture our western New Brunswick Tourist Day. Watch the videos to get my 10 second "real time" narratives!

Naturally, I started to think of what we should do and the first thing that came to mind was to go buy some Covered Bridge Potato Chips from their hometown of Hartland. So off we went...but before going to the Chip Factory it seemed fitting that we stop by the covered bridge itself and walk through it. That didn't go so well however...
This bridge is the longest covered bridge in the world at 1282 feet (891 meters) and was designated a National Historic Site in 1980. It is situated in the heart of Hartland, a town I have visited twice before (once to play volleyball in middle school and the second time for business meetings) but have never taken the time to learn anything about the bridge and its significance. 
Although not one of my favourite selfies in the world, we have one... so at least we could move on to the next stop with proof we were there in hand (aka in my phone). My little dude had some time to stretch, get a bum change, play with a water bottle (the cause of a meltdown later on... wait for it) and we were off to the next stop.
Side Note: I had never thought of using my trunk earlier in my little dude's life (probably because it was winter) but ever since I have discovered that I can easily change him in the trunk of my SUV it has made our lives a lot easier! To those of you still looking for pubic bathrooms with change tables - give it a try! Your little one doesn't care where they are changed so long as they have a clean bum for the rest of the day!
 Oh yeah, if you're wondering what its like to drive through the bridge... have a look!
Like I said, the real reason we were in Hartland was to visit the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory. Side Note #2: I LOVE the show Food Factory on the Food Network. Any of the How it's made type shows get me every time and this visit felt like a chance to host the show via Instagram Stories. Side Note #3: It is getting increasingly more difficult to take pictures of my little dude since he wants to be on the move ALL THE TIME! As you can see, one of his new favourite things is sticking out his tongue.
The tour is self guided and cost $5. So two things: 1) I would have preferred a tour guide just because I find it fun to hear from someone that works at the place and get the "real" story, but 2) with a soon to be 10 month old baby a self guided tour was the way to go! We went at our own pace, learned about the parts that interested "us" the most and spent as much time as we wanted watching the potatoes being cooked and moving through the process.
Watching these videos again I now realize my voice sounds WAY less enthusiastic than what I really was at the time... I am 100% sure this is because there were other people watching as I filmed and narrated these clips... not only did they think I watched for a VERY long time, but they also had expressions which indicated they thought I was losing my mind for videoing/narrating this experience. So, don't be fooled - I was having a blast but trying to be subtle, haha.
I am trying not to hype up this tour too much, because I realize this kind of thing is not for everyone. BUT, then we were told we were going to get a bag of kettle chips fresh off the factory line. My always hyper little dude somehow seemed to know that this would be his first taste of a chip! Since they were fresh off the line, and not salted, I figured he could give his new teeth a try and enjoy a bite with me.
The chips didn't disappoint - They were delicious!

To top things off, at the end of the tour there was a line of spices to add to the chips we were given. Luckily I had quite a few left and was able to sample a few of the flavours. My favourite spice was the brown sugar cinnamon. It made me feel like I was eating a beaver tail... delicious!
We bought a few bags of chips and then we were off to our next stop.

Since this was a Tourist Day, I decided to take the "old road" and not the double lane highway to drive from Hartland to Woodstock. It was a great choice! The road was in great condition with very little traffic and had some spectacular views. Since my passenger fell asleep along the drive I stopped in the middle of the road to take this picture. I have to admit, being in places like these where it is possible to do things like stop in the middle the road to take a picture doesn't happen to many people very often. So when you find yourself on a back road or not so busy main road as this happened to be - take advantage and enjoy being in a place where this is possible!

We arrived in Woodstock in time for lunch. I chose Walter's Table Family Restaurant - all in all it was good. I think my expectations were a little high... when I saw "family restaurant" I was expecting something like what my grandmother would cook for me. Although it was very good, it was nothing like my grandmother's cooking... but really, I'm not sure they serve that kind of food anywhere but her house!

We spent the next hour or so walking around main street and trying see all the historic buildings as suggested by the Town of Woodstock's website as well as learning a bit about New Brunswick's first town. I am still not 100% sure, but there were several law firms and buildings named after lawyers so I am assuming this has some significance... what I am not sure, but likely something.
Just as our picture perfect day was winding down it happened... not 1, not 2, but 3 little dude meltdowns. I should have known that things were going WAY to well considering he woke up earlier than normal that morning, and had about a 30 minute nap in total throughout the day (he usually naps at least an hour just in the morning...) So with an hour left to go before picking up the Mr. I decided to feed my little dude his dinner. Since he is super mobile these days I thought leaving him in his car seat would be a good idea... it wasn't! On the second bite he hit my hand launching baby food all over the place including in his eye. He freaked out (I assume it was stinging...) as I tried to wash out his eye and clean up the food all around him. It's amazing how far 1 spoonful of baby food can go, haha. THEN, he was not cooperating to eat and was still upset about his eye so I decide to give him a bottle. After all he loves his bottle...well, usually. Remember him playing with the water bottle earlier and loving it?! Well he spotted it while I was trying to feed him his bottle in the front seat and kept turning to get it. When I moved it so he couldn't reach it he freaked out yet again. This time louder than the first time. In fact, I am chalking this one up as his first temper tantrum! I was proud of myself for not giving in, but was thankful we were not in a public place during this whole episode. And the last meltdown I cannot even remember what the cause was... 

The lesson for a crazy mama like me: He is a baby and quite possibly doesn't think an 8 hour Tourist Day with little time for napping allowed is a great idea! I have to admit that although I realize he is a baby I often have to step back and remind myself that he doesn't keep the same busy on-the-go pace I am used to... he likes to be on the go, but not for 8 hours.
Thankfully, he slept the whole drive back to Fredericton and we ended the Tourist Day on a peaceful note. I have to say, even though I am supposed to learn from the meltdowns and "get" that he is a baby, it was a great day and we will definitely be having another Tourist Day in the future!

Don't forget, even as a tourist, take time to enjoy the little things!

My shoes for that: The shoes I wore that day and have worn for many touring days - Madrid Birkenstock sandals in patent navy with red soles (purchased on a trip to Antwerp, Belgium)

Monday, August 29, 2016

DIY button magnets

What do you do with the extra buttons that come with shirts, suits, etc. when you buy them? I put them in a jar thinking one day when I need that button I can look through the jar, find it and replace it. Well, that was my plan until one day I actually needed one of those buttons - I sorted through the button jar, found the one I needed and then realized I don't have a needle and thread nor do I have any desire to put a new button on this old shirt of mine. Knowing I was not going to use these buttons for their actual purpose I began brainstorming ideas... there was no way I was going to throw out a bunch of perfectly good buttons after-all.

And so, the button magnet idea was born!
This is likely the simplest DIY you will ever do, but they look awesome when they are done.

You will need: buttons (quantity is up to you), magnets (I would suggest keeping ones off of a fridge notepad when it runs out or using a thin fridge magnet you already have but don't mind "losing" to the project), scissors and a hot glue gun with hot glue.
An added bonus to this project is it won't cost you anything unless you decide to buy magnet strips!

Find a few buttons that you can layer together. One you have your patterns in place, use the hot glue gun to gel the buttons together.
Lastly, cut the magnet to a size that will fit on the back of your buttons and glue the magnet on the back.

And, voila! You have a button magnet.
For more variations you can always paint your buttons, add materials etc. I choose to stick with the buttons I had on hand to keep this project as simple as possible. I was really pleased with the decorative result now displayed on my fridge.

My shoes for that: Edwardian Boots

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Finka Las Moras Pinot Grigio

Name: Finka Las Moras
Varietal: Pinot Grigio
Country: Argentina
Vintage: 2015
Price: $10.50

Why did I decide to try this wine? I like the red version of this wine so figured I would give the white a chance. You can check out my review on the red here - I much prefer the red!

Would I prefer one glass or indulge in the bottle? Glass. It is not terrible considering the price of the bottle, but you can find much better at this price point!

What shoes would I wear drinking this wine? I hate to choose shoes for this wine since I didn't really like it. So, I am going with shoes that although I love on other people (including the Mr., my soon to be sister-in-law V and the list goes on) I cannot seem to wear them without feeling like an elf.  Those shoes that I want to love but just can't wear are Classic Toms.

How would I describe the wine? I am allergic to apples and for some reason thats what I could smell while drinking this wine. A weird coincidence? Possibly... Also, I thought the taste had some "zip" to it with more flavours of a chardonnay than pinot grigio. All in all, not my cup of tea (or bottle of wine for that matter).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Where to get the best lunch in Bathurst, NB

Lunch is the "weirdest" meal of the day, well for me it is... I am starving by lunch time, need something filling to get me through the day, but now that I am not going to work everyday my lunch planning has seriously suffered! 

Since it is the meal when I never know what to eat I have tried to take advantage of not going to work everyday to try some restaurants I wouldn't be able to get to from my workplace during lunch hour. That brought my little dude, his Nanny and I to Jobie's Mobile Kitchen.

Joel Aubie is the Chef and Owner of Jobie's Mobile Kitchen. A native of Bathurst, Joel's successes include being a contestant on the Food Network's Top Chef Canada, Season 2. 

Where to get the best lunch in Bathurst, NB
You can find this bright red food truck parked on the picturesque water front in Bathurst (on the causeway) on most every sunny day from noon to 2pm. Don't be intimidated by the short timeframe... we arrived exactly at noon (we actually followed the truck to its parking place) and there was about 15 people waiting to order! I thought it would take forever, but since we weren't in a rush we decided to stick it out. Thank goodness we did! Our order was taken very quickly and our food ready shortly after. This food truck is a well oiled machine (pun intended, haha).

I ordered the salmon burger with arancini as the side. The arancini was AMAZING! In fact, if you are hungry but just want a small snack - order this. I would go to Bathurst specifically to eat this, yes... it was that good!

They "serve gourmet street food with locally sourced products and globally inspired flavours" quoted from their website. This line was too well written not to repeat in this blog post!
Where to get the best lunch in Bathurst, NB
I was totally shocked (in a very happy way) when I opened my salmon burger to find an actual filet of grilled salmon. I expected some type of processed salmon made into a pattie - this was WAY better. It also made me appreciate the rice a lot more. Considering what I received for the price I paid I think it was an excellent value.
Where to get the best lunch in Bathurst, NB
Besides the fact that I am proud to say someone from my high school was on Top Chef Canada - the food here is really amazing. It truly is a gourmet culinary experience that you would not expect from a food truck parked on a causeway in northern New Brunswick. It is another one of the gems of the Chaleur region that makes this area so unique and "chaleureux" for all of its residents and visitors alike.

Bon Appétit!

My shoes for that: KED's sneakers, in red to match the truck!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cross Stitch & Colouring Books

Have you ever tried to focus on something and your mind will simply not allow it because of everything else you have to do? This is my brain... all the time. I start one thing, get easily distracted, start something else and the cycle keeps continues. Finally, I look at my to-do list and realize I have started everything but have completed nothing. There is nothing worse (really there are many worse things, but humour me) than feeling as though you were busy busy busy all day but have accomplished nothing - leaving you (well, me for sure...) feeling stressed, overwhelmed and unmotivated.

I have been a bit scatter-brained since as long as I can remember and have ALWAYS tried to take on more than I should. My first realization of this was in High School. I was a good student and making sure to maintain my grades in order to get into whatever University I wanted to; I was on the volleyball team; I was on the swim team; I was taking drivers education sessions; I was working part time at a cinema; and, I was working part time teaching swimming lessons. Quite a load for a 16 year old. You might think this sounds like good focus and not scatter brained at all, but it was really just a 16 year old trying to take over the world one activity at a time. It was the recipe for my first panic attack/melt down.

When faced with the decision of what to give up and what to keep on doing my parents suggested I go to a phycologist to help with some stress relieving techniques. Looking back I am thankful they didn't make me quit everything, instead they treated the situation as though I were an adult that needed to learn to juggle many things at once, deal with stress and ultimately live a very full life. I reluctantly went to the phycologist with the preconceived notion he would teach me nothing and that since I wasn't crazy this was a complete waste of time. Fortunately, I was wrong. I went only once, but I received advice that helps me to this day - the phycologist suggested that I find something that takes my full attention and do it. The idea is that while you are doing this activity you cannot think of anything else and if your mind sways, you mess up the activity and have to fix something due to a lack of attention. The activity can be anything... cooking, wood work, running, tetris, whatever works for you.

My activity was Cross Stitch. Although, cross stitch is known to be done by grandmothers etc. here I was at 16 cross stitching to keep me sane and stress free.
Today we are lucky that adult colouring has become so popular and a socially acceptable way for anyone to spend an evening. The phycological benefits of colouring (or doing cross stitch) are amazing... not to mention you get something pretty nice looking when you're done!

The next time you have a really bad day at work, have listened to your baby crying for hours on end or just feel like its time for a mental refresher - get out the colouring book, choose a very intricate pattern, concentrate and colour.

My shoes for that: UGG Moccasin Slippers (Ansley)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Skyline Trail - Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

This trail is my favourite hike along the Cabot Trail and features stunning views.

In order to do this hike properly, in my opinion, your first stop should be the Dancing Goat Café in Margaree. It is usually pretty busy, so call ahead and order your sandwiches so they are ready for pick up on your way through. This trip I ordered the Avocado & Bacon sandwich while the Mr. ordered the Chicken sandwich - both on homemade multi grain bread. As usual, they were amazing! We each had half before the hike and then indulged in the other half after the hike was over.
Also, if you want to use the bathroom (with running water) or get any final supplies, stop in Chéticamp before making the final stretch to the beginning of the Skyline trail.

And now, the main event!

The Skyline Trail is one of 27 hiking trails through Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada (#7 on the map). It is a 7.5km round trip that is a pretty easy walk... There is a bit of a descent as you make you way out to the view of French Mountain, the Ocean and Chéticamp in the distance making the return trip on a bit of an incline. Not to worry though, there are many rest stops along the way as well as animals and vegetation to admire.

This trip we were lucky and saw a family of partridge and two moose. Being terrified of birds, the partridge gave me more of a fright than the moose... I'm weird, I know... Seeing a moose this close up and not on the side of a highway is a real treat! Be mindful that they are wild animals, get a picture, and then keep on hiking.
The hike in its entirety took us 2 hours. There were many families and people of all ages on the trail - it can be done by most but be sure to adjust your timing accordingly... Also, be sure to take a few minutes and enjoy the smell of Christmas (pine trees) as you approach the amazing views near the end of the trail. Since it's August right now I was thrilled to smell Christmas (my all time favourite holiday)!
With a baby, this hike is VERY do-able. We opted to carry our little dude in his MEC carrier, however there were many strollers along the trail. We should have brought warmer shoes (or any for that matter) for our little dude however... keep in mind that the babies aren't actually moving and warming up during the hike! In the end, he faired out just fine...was a little cold, but in good cheer throughout the excursion.

On the way back to Baddeck we stopped at the Dancing Goat Café yet again. This time for treats. We bought maple shortbread cookies among other things... This was my first time trying them, and they didn't disappoint - the maple flavour was very subtle, but paired with the buttery goodness of a shortbread cookie, they were the perfect reward after our hike.

Happy hiking!

My shoes for that: The Mr.'s new Reebok sneakers

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Caipirinha - A "Must Try" Brazilian Cocktail

I like cocktails, but I typically prefer wine. UNLESS someone is serving Caipirinhas! While visiting Brazil in 2010 I was introduced to this cocktail and it was love at first taste. What I loved about it is that it was sweet with the perfect amount of sour, there was no obvious "alcohol" taste and it was served very cold. I would describe it as "delightfully refreshing".

Here is the recipe:
Picture From: http://www.businessinsider.com/best-caipirinha-recipe-2014-6 via Pinterest
I bought Cachaca and have tried to make this at home, but it was not the same at all. So, my recommendation is to keep your eye out for this cocktail to be offered at a restaurant and order one as soon as you find a place that offers this delightful beverage.


My shoes for that: Mr. Cat Blue ballerina scalloped flats - if I was going to Brazil right now, these would be the shoes I would buy to walk around and tour the cities while sipping on Caipirinhas

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rio de Janeiro

I visited Brazil on a business mission trip two days after getting engaged in the early spring of 2010. I was travelling with a group of 14 (or so) business people to several cities where we were promoting our respective businesses and making relationships with Brazilian companies to develop partnerships. That being said, my trip was not exactly that of a tourist... I took absolutely no pictures, I didn't get to any of the major tourist attractions and we didn't spend days at the beach etc. 

Ipanema Beach - photo fr: http://www.travelchannel.com
Being in Rio de Janeiro was the highlight of the trip for me as our hotel was located right next to Ipanema beach. The view alone made me feel as though this were a luxurious vacation and not a business trip. Here were my highlights from Rio de Janeiro (all business meetings, Consulate visits, etc. aside):

  1. Brazilian BBQ - When a meal consists of nearly all you can eat meats (of all varieties) complemented by a variety of salads, I am one happy girl!
  2. The Market - I love going to markets in general, but in South America the markets are that much more vibrant and exotic than in any other places I have travelled to. I purchased a dress (which I still have) and a few other souvenir items.
  3. Mr. Cat Shoes - One of my colleagues on the mission trip had been to Brazil before and was raving about Mr. Cat shoes. Having the opportunity to go to the actual store, try on a few pairs and actually buy a pair was a dream come true. To see the shoes I bought have a look at my Olympic post, August 2/16.
  4. Chicken Caesar Salad - There was a small pub next to the hotel where we ate lunch three days in a row. I ordered the Chicken Caesar Salad on the first day (thankfully!) and it was (and still is) the best I have ever had. It was so good, there is no way it was actually a healthy choice, but if I ever go back to Rio I will eat it everyday for lunch again!
  5. Rio de Janeiro - photo fr: http://ygenmag.com
  6. The Views - Like I mentioned, unfortunately I didn't get a chance to go to "Christ the Redeemer", but since our hotel was located so close to Ipanema beach we did get to walk along the beach a few times. Also, simply by driving from meeting to meeting and sometimes taking the scenic route on purpose I had the chance to see Sugarloaf Mountain (a little different than the Sugarloaf Mountain I am used to in Campbellton, New Brunswick) and Copacabana beach.

To all of the athletes gathering in Rio de Janeiro this month, I wish you a safe and happy visit - don't forget to take a moment just to look around you and soak up the breathtaking views!

My shoes for that: Havaiana men's sandals I purchased for my fiancé (now my husband) at the time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Olympics... so much more than a sporting event

"Parler vous Olympics???" - quoted from one of my all time favourite movies "The Cutting Edge" when [spoiler alert!] Kate and Doug, who are pair figure skaters, find out they made the Olympic team. Doug is over the moon excited and jumping for joy while Kate stands there stunned in disbelief that after everything they have been through they actually made it!

I LOVE the Olympics! They are so much more than a sporting event to me - I love to watch the athletes overcome by emotion as their years of training come down to one moment where they have the opportunity to carefully and precisely execute their craft while representing their country. I cannot even imagine trying to contain myself, let alone doing something well enough to win. These athletes represent everything one can achieve with hard work, determination and an ultimate form of patriotism. 

OlympicsMy athletic "career" was nothing near an Olympic experience, but the beginnings were likely the same as some of the athletes that made it all that way. I was put in sports from a young age, but being the cautious and careful type I didn't really excel (I am being nice... I was pretty bad) at any of the sports I had tried. Then I went to middle school where there were new sports that I had never tried before. I wanted to try out for the volleyball team, but had a pretty good feeling that I wouldn't actually make the team. So even though it looked like fun and something I would love to learn I decided not to try out. After-all, I was at a new school, with all new kids, I didn't need to be embarrassed the first week.

Then came along Liz. Liz was one of the volleyball coaches and happened to be my next door neighbour at the time. She asked me why I wasn't going to try out - I explained why and she convinced me that if I gave up on something because I thought I was going to fail before even trying I was going to miss out on almost everything in life. Long story short - I tried out, I made the team, and I am forever grateful to Liz.

I played volleyball until the end of high school, was MVP several years and won the "Coaches award" (being the most coachable player and leading the team) several times as well. I don't think my coaches will ever really realize how much these awards meant to me and how shocked I was to receive them each time. Even though I knew I was improving I never saw myself as one of the best players; I always saw myself as the worst player on the team that was given the opportunity to play a lot. I know, it makes no sense, but that is what I thought. To A. Hayes, D. McKay & A. Mann - you have no idea the impact you have had on my life and how sport has helped me to gain confidence to try new things I think I might not be very good at and to attack life head on. Now, as a mom, I cannot wait for my little dude to start playing sports and I can only hope that he has coaches along the way that can have such a positive impact on him. 

I saw Clara Hughes (one of my favourite athletes, Canadians and people) speak in Moncton, New Brunswick a few years ago. She described in front of a large crowd how she felt when she was watching to 1988 Calgary Olympics and saw Gaetan Boucher skating in his speed skating race. She said that she watched him in awe and thought that his strides were so beautiful. From that moment she wanted to "skate beautifully". As Clara described this I had goose bumps and almost started to cry - I was so happy for her and proud that she ended up a champion speed skater by wanting to skate beautifully. Not by wanting to win the olympics, not by being the fastest skater in the world, but by simply skating beautifully. I am now reading Clara's book "Open Heart, Open Mind" where she also talks about this experience as well as her life and journey. I am really enjoying the book... and if you know me, I don't read books very often, so for me to enjoy it, it has to be good! 

Finally, Mandy Bujold will be competing for Canada in Rio. And why is this athlete special in particular? Well, Mandy might not remember me, but her grandfather and my grandmother married each other when we were both young (in fact Mandy may not have been born yet). I am so proud to have a "family" member competing for Canada on sports'
largest stage. To Mandy and all of the Canadian athletes in Rio: I wish you the very best experience!

It all comes down to this - make your moment count. Go CANADA Go!

My shoes for that: Mr. CAT heels purchased during my visit to Rio in 2010