Archive for the ‘Outdoor Adventure’ Category

Kindness of Strangers and Highschool Reunions

After being delayed in LA due to a broken plane (another plane backed into ours and busted it up!) for two days, we finally arrived in New Zealand late Friday night (a mere ½ hour after the END of the South Africa vs. Samoa game to which we had tickets – bummer!). The second we landed on the ground in Auckland, our luck seemed to drastically change. We were picked up at the airport by a friendly couchsurfer ( named Carolyn who put us up in her home for the night. Saturday morning we picked up our campervan, our home for the next three weeks, ( and hit the road heading south with no real plans.

Our Spaceship

First hurdle was tackling driving on the left hand side of the road and figuring out how to drive a car where everything is the mirror image of what we are used to in Canada. Luckily, Noah has driven on the left hand side of the road before and quickly adjusted to the change. We drove straight down highway 1 heading for Wellington (the location of the Canada vs. New Zealand game) and were immediately amazed at the stunning landscape. Every 15 minutes the land changes quite drastically and every change seems to present scenery more stunning than the last.

Part way through our day on the road we decided we should really try and sort out a place to crash for the night. I had been in contact with Nicole, who was a few years behind me in highschool prior to coming over, and she offered me a ton of advice on what to see and do.  A last minute Facebook message to her resulted in her generous offer of putting us up for the night. We arrived in Palmerston North and to her home and just after we cracked our first beer, an old highschool friend named Scott showed up on her doorstep as well. Scott is currently living in Australia and was over in New Zealand traveling with his brother, sister, father and a friend and just happened to be passing through Palmerston that night as well. I hadn’t seen Scott in ages so not only was it great to catch up (in NZ of all places…) but I think all three of us enjoyed having a little taste of home!

Nicole, Scott and Jacqui

After a hot breakfast (Nicole is such a lovely host – seriously, such an amazing girl! Thank you for everything!!) in Palmerston we were getting ready to finish up the final leg of the trip down to Wellington when Nicole’s roommate’s Mom (follow?), who happened to be there due to the very unfortunate circumstance of her daughter  having been in a motorcycle crash, asked us where we were staying in Wellington. Turned out that she actually lives in Wellington and very generously offered us her flat if we were willing to help her out by finishing up her laundry that was stuck in the machine after her speedy departure a few days prior, and taking out the trash. Thanks to the incredible generosity of a stranger, we have had a fantastic home base for the past couple of days while we have explored the spectacular city of Wellington (and cheered on Canada as we were clobbered by the All Blacks and enjoyed our second highschool reunion of our first week here when we met up with a friend of Noah’s from highschool named Greig and his wife Justine with whom we will be staying when we head back to Auckland this coming weekend).

The most striking thing we have noticed since our arrival here is how truly amazing the people are. Kiwis are incredibly friendly, kind and helpful. We have been offered hot showers, warm meals and places to stay by so many people. We have received an offer to visit a family on their sheep farm and a promise to teach us how to sheer a sheep. We have received another offer to bring us hunting and fishing (I have contact information so I can bring Lee back to spend time with these amazing people – they made me promise I would bring him over and hand him over to them for at least a week of hunting and fishing adventures). We have a date for pints with a couple in Christchurch when we travel through there later on this month. We have places to stay all around the north island. The Kiwis offer a wonderful example of how we as global citizens should treat one another.

New Zealand Bound

I can’t believe it’s already here; the clock is mere moments away from ticking over to departure day. When I wake up, I will be on my way to New Zealand and the Rugby World Cup. Four weeks of travel around New Zealand and then six days in the Cook Islands to get a final dose of sunshine and heat before traveling back home. So excited!

Goodbye 2010. Hello 2011.

So like everyone else in the blogosphere and in real life, the start of a new year (and new decade at that) has me looking back on the past 12 months and thinking forward to the next 12. At first thought, I assumed I had not done much in the past year but upon further reflection, I realized how wrong I was. 2010 was a busy year for me! Some of the major events:


-traveled to the middle of the jungle in Costa Rica for a 10-day surfing adventure

-started a new job


-turned 27


-had some personal tragedy

-celebrated our first wedding anniversary

-joined Twitter


-traveled to Dominican Republic with one of my best girlfriends


-floated the Saugeen River on May 2-4 with 12 great friends (including my 9-month pregnant girlfriend!)


-went on a 4-day canoe trip into Algonquin Park with my hubby

-welcomed my second nephew into the world


-spent 2 weeks at a large international camp for Girl Guides that brought together young women from across the country and around the world to celebrate GGC’s 100th anniversary (I worked on this camp for 2.5 years before it happened and 6 months after it’s wrap-up. It was a huge commitment, a great test of my strength, tolerance and endurance and showed me how much stress and difficulty I can handle and (hopefully) pull it off with grace). I met some amazing women and some exceptional girls. I was disillusioned and then reminded again why I believe GGC to be such a great organization.

-went on a 3-day canoe trip into Algonquin Park with my hubby

-decided to start this blog

-celebrated Beef Fest in Paisley and met some amazing new friends!


-did something terrifying when I quit my job without another one lined up as I made a commitment to pursue work where I could actively learn and be challenged (but important to note that the company for whom I was working was great and the people amazing. It simply did not fit with my career goals)

-bought the most amazing canoe (two-tone 17’4 Kevlar Ultralite Langford Prospector with ash gunnels and cherry seats, thwarts and yoke bringing the total weight in somewhere around 46 lbs. LOVE!)

-spent a long weekend camping in Tobermory with some of my best girlfriends

-night floated the Saugeen River under a full moon (beautiful!)


-went on a 5-day canoe trip into Algonquin Park with my hubby

-after only 3 weeks out of work, was recruited for a new job off LinkedIn


-started a new job

-moved to Toronto

-attended an old friends gorgeous wedding in Quebec


-went Black Friday shopping with a girlfriend in Erie, PA, Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls, NY


-attended my first Twitter event (#HoHoTO)

-attended my second Twitter event (#ElectricXmas2) – I know you non-Twitter users will be laughing but listen up; I have met some really exceptional people via Twitter, have learned huge amounts and have opened more informative and useful (not to mention funny) links that I ever thought I would! Twitter is not what I thought it was and I guarantee it is more than you think it is!

-celebrated Christmas at home in Paisley with my hubby and pups

-rang in the new year with good friends in our home

So….turns out I did a helluva lot more in 2010 than I thought!!

And looking forward to 2012, I have some goals/a to-do list:

1.     Dedicate more time to learning (attend conferences, talks, etc.) and continue to challenge myself

2.     Read more non-fiction (I read a lot but should spend less time on fiction and more on non-fiction. I have a reading list and have purchased some of the books. I will get through them all and add more throughout the year)

3.     Travel somewhere new (French countryside? Bolivia? Panama? Finally get over to Scotland? Anywhere really!!)

4.     Re-do our kitchen (new counter tops, single French door onto a deck that will be built off the kitchen, new appliances and new finish on the existing cabinets and new paint on the walls)

5.     Finally paint our bedroom. 3.5 years in our house is long enough. Figure out the look I want and just do it!

6.     Be a better veggie gardener (ie. weed more than once every two weeks….lol)

7.     Really try yoga (not just a random class here and there…)

8.     Run more. Spin more. Box more. Lift more weights. Make this a priority and walk away from work, etc. to maintain my workout schedule. It makes me happy and reduces my stress.

9.     Find a way to spend more time in Paisley and less time in TO

Happy 2011 to you all!

I hope you have all accomplished some of your goals from 2010 and have set some new ones for 2011.

And remember that no matter what you are doing; laugh a lot, love wholeheartedly and be kind to others.

Sausage making and snowshoeing…

Lee harvested a doe with his bow last week. This weekend we butchered and made sausages.


Venison, pork belly (venison is so lean, we add a little pork fat to prevent the sausage from being too dry), local garlic, local honey (from a co-worker of Lee’s), crushed tomatoes from our garden, salt and pepper.


And we did lot’s of snowshoeing. We hit the Brandt track and were the only ones out there without a sign of anyone else having been down the trails in awhile. I love being the first one to break trail! The trees were all heavy with snow and it was beautiful!

Paisley looked so lovely this weekend (as always) -like a perfect little snowglobe!

Snowed in….

Well, today is day #2 of being snowed in in Paisley! All local roads are closed and the snow just keeps coming down! The biggest problem is the high winds which are causing white-out conditions and building giant drifts in the middle of the highways.

(*home from a snowshoe in the blizzard to the warmth of the fire in the barn with a nice cold beer!)

(*into the hot tub, still in the middle of the blizzard, still drinking cold beer)


Snowshoe pictures to come once I can get them off my neighbour’s camera – it was really beautiful being the first ones down the trail. Definitely looked like Christmas!

Paradise Found!

I’ve been thinking about what’s going on for New Years Eve this year and it has me reminiscing on last years NYE which was one for the books. On a last minute decision, Lee and I, along with another couple, flew from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale to San Jose, Costa Rica and finally to Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica.

(*The plane we took from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez via Nature Air)

Upon our arrival in Puerto Jimenez, we convinced a local to drive us out to our rented house and began the  hour+ drive down a rustic “road” (I’m not sure you can even really call it a road…) into the jungle…….

(*the road)

I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of the place. The Oso Peninsula in Costa Rica is the tropical paradise you are imagining, only better! I fell completely in love with the area and have been trying to convince Lee to pack up and move down there ever since. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like snakes so while he doesn’t mind visiting, actually living in the jungle is something he is not keen on…….

We chose this location for various reasons but the main one was that we found an amazing house for rent and decided it looked like the perfect spot to spend 10 days. We rented a private, open-air 3-bedroom home called Casa Vida Verde and I cannot imagine a more perfect crash pad for our adventure. From the moment we pulled up to the house, we felt as though we had found absolute paradise!

(*Casa Vida Verde)

The house was unbelievably gorgeous and I don’t think these pictures even begin to do it justice. We pulled up and walked around with our mouths agape. We were stunned at how cool it all was.  The furniture throughout the house was beautiful and unique and had been hand-crafted by John, who is also the caretaker of the home along with his wife Jamily (warmest, most friendly amazing people we’ve ever met on vacation. They moved there from NYC and gave us the grind. John builds furniture and surfboards. Jamily designs clothing and teaches yoga.) John crafted the dining room table from a single tree and it curves along with the contours of the tree and the base has been crafted from a piece of the trunk, cut lengthwise into three pieces so that it maintains the curvature of the tree – unbelievable craftsmanship!

(*I wish I could sleep in this bed every single night!)

The hammock room rocked the monkey (literally – BEST place to watch the monkeys put on their show!) and was a great spot to chill out and relax in the afternoon if the sun was just too much. Also great spot to lay and read a book while recovering from the evening/day before or to start into the blender drinks (since it’s steps to the kitchen!).

The kitchen was a cook’s dream! I loved it!

Our first morning, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to what I swore was King Kong coming to get us! The Howler Monkeys start as the sun starts to rise and they are SOOOOO loud!! They make a sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard and can’t even think of the proper words to describe it. It was a great wake up call every day though – got us down to the surf nice and early to catch the morning break and made sure we didn’t miss a moment of daylight. It gets dark early in the jungle (pitch black by 5:00 p.m.). The Oso Peninsula is only 8 degrees from the equator so you get exactly 12 hours of daylight. Whenever the waves were cooperating, we spent time out surfing. This was our first time surfing and it is something I had always wanted to learn how to do and I loved it. Another thing I wish I could do every day…..

(*this is one of the locals and what I aspire to be able to do!)

The beaches in the area are beautiful and deserted (the most people we ever had to share the beach with was probably 10!) and the water was so warm!

We saw monkeys everywhere along with tons of other interesting animals, reptiles and bugs!

We spent New Years Eve at Martina’s, the local bar. It was an hour and a bit walk up the road to get there but we managed to hitch a ride in the back of a truck at about the 45 min walking mark. Food was amazing, beer was cold and the atmosphere was electric! The place was packed by midnight and the beats were pumping, the beer and tequila was flowing and the party favours were in abundance. Definitely a night to remember!

(*these were taken EARLY in the night – the camera went away when the party really got started!)

Ok – looking through these pictures as I post them, I want to go back right now!!! I’m heading home to convince my hubby we need to go back!! Maybe I can convince him we should go for my birthday in February – that would be a great gift!! haha….

Other cool things not mentioned yet:

1- 3G wireless internet in the middle of the jungle (THIS was the big push behind me deciding we should live there – I could work from the beach in the middle of nowehere!!)

2-whole house is run via solar energy. There are panels up above the house on the ridge and water is heated by the sun as well.

3- banana trees, plantain trees, mango trees everywhere = love!

Sifted through the winds that blow, Down comes the soft and silent snow. White petals from the flowers that grow In the cold atmosphere.

I haven’t been home in over two weeks and I am homesick and missing my hubby and pups terribly. I am counting down the days until I get back there this weekend……only 3 more sleeps! In my time away, TONS of snow has fallen and I’ve missed it all! One of my favourite days of the year is when that first big snowfall occurs. I love watching the big flakes come down and blanket the world in white and transform our surroundings. I find it so beautiful and it gets me excited about all the fun winter activities that will soon be possible to partake in!

I’m also sad that I’m missing the first “snow day” of the year. While it can be frustrating to live where we do in the winter when you have plans to travel and the weather prevents you from being able to, it is the most amazing thing when so much snow is falling and blowing that you are forced to stay home. Since these are generally unplanned days off, snow days are an amazing chance to slow down, catch your breath and enjoy yourself. On these special days, we generally go snowshoeing or tobogganing and then curl up in front of the woodstove with boozey hot chocolate and our pups and engage in tense battles of Battleship.

I hope the pups and Lee are missing me today as much as I am missing them.

(**photo lovingly borrowed from Verena Rohner – a local Paisley-ite, friend and amazing photographer! This scene was captured last winter on one of our infamous snow days!)

On another note and before home time (and I am just as excited about this!), I get to make a trip to Grimsby tomorrow to visit my big cousin, his beautiful fiancee and my gorgeous baby nephew. The wee one grows so fast and every time I go more than a few weeks without seeing him, he is a completely different child! I can’t wait to snuggle with him and see how his little personality has continued to evolve and emerge! It also just so happens to be my cousin’s birthday on Wednesday so I intend to make him feel old throughout my visit – haha…….I can’t wait!