I’m Mildly Obsessed With Watching This Bear Cam

15 July 2016 | 0 Comments

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Okay, I know this is really random, but in the last few days I’ve been watching a bear cam. It’s a live webcam of Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Alaska, where brown bears feast on the largest Sockeye Salmon run in the world. If you turn on your speakers you can hear the sound of the waterfall, or just leave ’em off and watch the bears try to catch fish. There are often mama bears and cubs, and I find it strangely soothing. I’ll do a bit of work, and then check on the bear cam for a couple minutes, then back to work, and repeat.

Would You Have a Book Club With Your Spouse?

7 July 2016 | 0 Comments

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Ian used to be in a book club and really enjoyed it, but members moved away from the city and the club eventually disbanded. Since then he doesn’t read non-fiction much, and while I love novels, it can take me months to make my way through a book.

So when I recently saw a review in The Guardian calling The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes his masterpiece, I perked up. Ian and I had both previously read (and enjoyed) Sense of an Ending by Barnes, so I asked Ian if he’d read The Noise of Time with me and we could chat about it. You know… kind of like a book club.

He reluctantly agreed after I sent him The Guardian review, so I quickly downloaded the book to our Kobo e-readers. We’ll see how it goes. This could either be a royal mistake, or the beginning of a fun new activity to do together.

The Plan For Our Upcoming 10th Anniversary Trip

19 June 2016 | 2 Comments

Avery and Ian in Scotland, 2007

Our 10th Anniversary Trip is now less than a month away, and I’m getting so excited. We’ve been planning our adventure since January, when I saw this cabin rental in remote Scotland and booked it on a whim. Here’s hour our plans are shaping up:

A *daytime* transatlantic flight
Most overseas flights departing from Toronto are at night. You get on the plane at 8 or 9pm, and fly for 7 hours. When you land, it’s morning in your arrival city, but only 3am in your gut. You’re tired, and you have to force yourself to stay awake. If you can sleep on the plane, this isn’t so bad… but Ian can never sleep on planes (even with the help of a mild sedative). So when he arrives, he’s not just jet-lagged, he’s also sleep deprived. Not a great way to start a holiday.

So for this trip, we’re flying on points and had the option of doing a daytime flight (normally more expensive, but points made it possible). We leave Toronto at 9am, and get to London at 9pm local time. It will feel like 4pm in our guts, so we’ll stay up a bit and then sleep in the next morning. Jet lag, yes. But sleep deprivation… here’s hoping not.

Four nights in London
We’ve travelled a fair bit and seen a lot of wonderful places, but never been to London (a layover at Heathrow doesn’t count). We booked an Airbnb in hip Shoreditch to use as our home base while we walk our feet off exploring the city. I learned a long time ago to pace myself while travelling, and not try to see too much – that results in exhaustion, overwhelm and frustration. Instead I’m looking forward to checking out a few sights (Westminster Abbey, the Churchill War Rooms, the British Museum and the Tate Modern are high on our list), doing some shopping, maybe seeing some theatre, and eating and drinking well.

A cheap-o flight to Edinburgh
We booked a ridiculously cheap flight from London to Edinburgh on Ryanair. Ian and I toured Scotland on our honeymoon, and spent two nights in Edinburgh then. It’s a gorgeous city and we’re looking forward to being back for a night. I’ve booked us in at the design-y Tigerlily Hotel for something fun and different.

(Hopefully scenic) train ride from Edinburgh to Inverness
We need to get to Inverness to rent a car and stock up on supplies before heading to our cabin, and figured it would be cool to take the train from Edinburgh to Inverness. The trip a little less than 4 hours, and goes right through the Cairngorns. I’m hoping for some gorgeous scenery.

The main event: a week in the remote Scottish Highlands
After we pick up our car rental in Inverness, we head a few hours west to the Applecross Peninsula and the tiny town of Ardheslaig to stay at this jaw-droppingly beautiful cabin for a week. We’re looking forward to relaxing, hiking, driving the Bealach na Bà and other insane mountain roads, visiting white sand beaches, eating well on the Isle of Skye, taking a boat tour of the lochs, and drinking all the single malts I can handle.

There’s a reason why filmmakers, artists, photographers, writers, and poets are captivated by the Highlands. It sounds beyond cornball, but there really is something mystic and magical about the ruggedness of the landscape, the fog hanging in the mountain valleys, the weather that blows in with no notice, the spectacular cliffs and deep lakes, and the wonderful people of Scotland. It’s one of my favourite places on the planet and I cannot wait to go back and soak it all in.

And then home again
After a week in Scotland, and almost two weeks since we will have left Canada, we’ll be returning to Inverness to drop off our car rental and fly from Inverness to London, and then London to Toronto. I’m sure I’ll be sad to head home, but happy to see Clara and Isabel the dog.

Photo above of us on our first visit to Scotland, almost 10 years ago. We look like babies! See the rest of the photos here.

Gather North Registration Opens Tomorrow

29 April 2016 | 0 Comments

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Registration opens tomorrow for Gather North, the conference I co-organize. Gather North is a professional getaway for women who make the web. You may remember the event we had last November at the Drake Devonshire Inn in Prince Edward County. We’re doing another event this fall (November 11-13, 2016 to be specific) at the Millcroft Inn and Spa. Learn more about Gather North and register your spot tomorrow. We sold out last time and are sure to sell out again.

My Latest Wanderlust Fix: Instagram

8 April 2016 | 1 Comment

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Are you on Instagram? I use it myself to post random things from my daily life, and to stay in touch with friends. I also love following travel and tourism accounts on Instagram, so I can see beautiful photos of places I want to visit.

In anticipation of our trip to England and Scotland this July, I recently started following the Visit Scotland account, plus The Highland Collective and Scottish photographer Ali Horne.  On Ali Horne’s account I found my way to GermanRoamers and Visit Faroe Islands, and now I’m following them all. Add in Great North Collective and Modern Outdoors, and my Instagram feed is full of gorgeous northern scenery of mountains, forests, waterfalls, cliff-tops, rugged shorelines and cozy cabins. Dreamy.

(images above from top to bottom: Faroe Islands photo by Ali Horne, cabin photo by Rob Strok on the Modern Outdoors account, Iceland countryside by Mike Seehagel on the Great North Collective account, stag photo by Patrick of GermanRoamers on the Modern Outdoors account, Wester Ross (Scotland) coastline photo by George Turner on the VisitScotland account)

A Craft I Can Do: Marbled Nail Polish Easter Eggs

12 March 2016 | 0 Comments

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I suck at crafts. I have great ambitions to create gorgeous things, but I’m almost always disappointed with the end result. Doesn’t stop me from trying though, so after seeing marbled Easter eggs created with nail polish in a magazine, I thought I’d give it a whirl. I raided my nail polish supply (silver was the best), bought a dozen white eggs and got to work.

This short YouTube tutorial video teaches you everything you need to know to make nail polish marbled Easter eggs. It’s pretty darn easy, and Clara helped me for a bit (until she inevitably lost interest and I finished the craft without her). For once I’m pleased with the final results of a craft session – I think these eggs look so good!

We Booked the Most Spectacular Holiday Rental Property

31 January 2016 | 6 Comments

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Ian and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in 2016, and we wanted to take a special trip to mark the occasion. We looked into a number of destinations, but kept coming back to Scotland, where we spent our honeymoon. It’s kind of romantic, right?

A few weeks ago I stumbled across this holiday rental property in a remote location in the Highlands of Scotland. It only took one look at that first photo above, with the fireplace and modern decor and the giant windows looking out over the loch, for me to immediately put down a deposit for a week’s stay in July. Can’t you just imagine sitting there after a day of hiking, savouring a fine single malt, curled up watching a storm come in? Dreamy. July can’t come fast enough.

 

The Best Christmas Gift I Gave Clara This Year

27 December 2015 | 0 Comments

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Clara, age 4.5, received a few great Christmas presents this year. But the one I was most excited about is Buck, her Toymail toy. Buck looks like a cartoon deer crossed with a mailbox, and she connects to WiFi and “delivers mail” (aka voice messages) to Clara from family members who have the Toymail app installed on their phones (and are approved by me, of course… no strangers can send Clara messages).

Buck only has two buttons – one to receive messages, and one to reply to messages, so she’s really easy to use. I installed the free Toymail app on my phone, Ian’s phone, my Dad’s phone, and my sister’s phone. Everyone loves sending Clara messages. Buck checks for messages throughout the day, and makes a sound when she has a message. Clara can respond by pressing a button to record a reply message, and it’s sent out for her. She loves sending messages to her family.

Toymail was made by two female entrepreneurs who wanted to create cool technology for kids that doesn’t put them in front of another screen. This family totally approves!

(I got Buck at the AGO store where I get a discount by being a gallery member, but you can get one on the Toymail website or Amazon if you want). 

2015 Year in Review

23 December 2015 | 8 Comments

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I’ve enjoyed reading a few of my colleague’s “year in review” blog posts recently, so I decided to spend a rare quiet afternoon writing my own. It’s a great exercise for reflection, before setting new year goals (a process I’ve resisted for a long time, but now I see the value in it). Note – this is fairly long and navel-gazing and all me-me-me. If that makes you want to barf, don’t click “read more” below. Consider yourself warned.

[Read more…]

Brick Works’ Winter Village Beats the Distillery

20 December 2015 | 0 Comments

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The Winter Village at the Brick Works has all the good stuff of the Distillery Christmas market (lovely holiday ambiance, great food, spiked holiday drinks, artisan shopping, fires to warm up by, live music) without any of the nonsense (insane parking, admission fee, massive crowds, gross sponsored areas). We went to the Brick Works this afternoon and loved it. Ian and Clara had JK Frites and I had this kooky “chimney” thing with cinnamon, sugar, dough and apple pie topping. Mmmmmm.

Insider Toronto tip – skip the Distillery. Head to the Brick Works instead.