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Summer

Today’s the day… ten years since I first became a Canadian immigrant and permanent resident! So in honour of that momentous day, I thought I’d share some of the most memorable moments of my life in Canada to date.

Welcome to Canada!
I became a Canadian permanent resident in July 2005. My husband and I landed at Pearson airport and were amazed at how quickly all the formalities were dispensed with. The immigration officials were more interested in the fact that we were moving to Sudbury rather than anything else!

My first glimpse of Canadian wildlife
If only I’d had my camera with me… not long after we moved into our Canadian house we took a walk up the bank behind the house that leads to a rocky ridge. From there we watched transfixed as we saw a bear lumbering around  in the bush below. Then just when we thought the show was over, a pair of moose galloped by. On a smaller scale, here’s Charles the chipmunk, a constant visitor during our first Canadian summer.

Sir Charles

Sir Charles

Corvette fun
We’ve had some fantastic road trips in our Corvette and met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. But the moment that will always remain with me is seeing the look on my husband’s face when he took finally possession of his dream car in the winter of 2007. Yes, that’s right… winter…

1991 ZR-1 Corvette

My wedding!
My  husband and I were married in a gazebo overlooking Ramsey Lake in Sudbury. It had been a really wet September that year, but amazingly the sun came out to make it the perfect day. My Dad, bridesmaids, and I were driven to the park in a 1960s Chevy Impala, and our own classic car had to get in on the action too. Once we’d said “I do,” the nerves disappeared and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.

Wedding day in Bell Park

Camping in March!
2010 was the only year since I’ve been here that we’ve ever been able to camp so early. Killarney Provincial Park was taken by surprise too. The shower block wasn’t even open when we first arrived, but due to popular demand they opened it up earlier than normal.  Being able to enjoy breakfast by George Lake in complete peace and quiet was a magical experience and definitely one of my best camping memories.

George Lake, Killarney Park

George Lake, Killarney Park

 

Some Superior moments…

Introducing three generations of the Kelly family to camping at Lake Superior Park
At various times we’ve camped at Rabbit Blanket campground with my husband’s siblings, nieces, and his Mum.  Superior was my Mum-in-law’s first ever camping holiday and she was a bit apprehensive about the bears, so she was given the luxury berth in the camper van. It was really special to be able to share the Superior experience with them.

Swimming in Lake Superior for Thanksgiving…
When I returned to work after the Thanksgiving long weekend in 2011, people couldn’t believe I’d swum in Superior in October! It was a really warm fall that year following a very hot summer, so the water temperature really wasn’t too bad. The six-foot waves were an added bonus!

…and getting drenched on the Towab Trail
On one of our May camping trips to Superior, we hiked part of the Towab Trail as far as Burnt Rock Pool. We heard the thunder before we arrived there, but didn’t want to turn back. Burnt Rock Pool is a really picturesque spot on the Agawa River surrounded by towering cliffs. Sitting there on the rocks while the storm broke around us was an amazing experience. After that, it was a very long, wet walk back!

Becoming a Canadian citizen
Oh Canada! It was a really proud and emotional moment back in the summer of 2010 when my husband and I took the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Sudbury.  We’d had to wait for this for several months after passing the citizenship test; apparently the citizenship judges don’t like coming up north too often :)

Summer in the screen room
I posted recently about our wonderful new screen room. Let’s just say the novelty hasn’t yet worn off and I’ll be spending as much time as I can in there this summer. And it’s fairly safe to say that tonight I’ll be sitting in there, raising a glass to the last ten years–and to the next ten. Here’s hoping they’re even better!

Bug free!

Bug free!

 

Hard to believe that a month and a half ago there was still ice on the lakes. Here’s a shot of Ramsey Lake taken from Moonlight Beach near Sudbury on April 24th.

Ice on Ramsay Lake

Ice on Ramsay Lake

Since then we’ve already had temperatures in the low 20s giving us a very welcome taste of summer. So it was very timely to see some tips on sun protection in the current (June 2015) edition of Canadian Living. It helpfully answered some of the questions that have always confused me:

Exactly how much sunscreen should you use per application?
Answer: 2 tablespoons, including 1 teaspoon for the face.

Which comes first? Sunscreen or bug spray?
Answer: sunscreen, followed 15-30 minutes later by bug spray.

Thank you, Canadian Living! And speaking of canadian living, what could be more Canadian than lounging on your deck all summer long with a beer or two?

I’ve posted before about our screen room adventures. For this year we’d decided to try and resurrect our temporary gazebo, crossing our fingers that we still had all the bits we needed and that everything would still fit together after not using it for several years. But then we got to thinking… what if we bit the bullet and saved ourselves all that work… what if we went back to the idea of having a permanent screen room and hiring someone to build it for us?

And… here it is! Proudly presenting the Kelly family permanent screen room! Thank you to Mike Huzij of Aries Construction, who did a fantastic job for us. Bring on summer!

Bug free!

Bug free!

As I explained in my previous post, back in 2002 I fell in love with Canada and with the cottage experience. This summer I was able to return to where it all began: Wawanaisa Resort on Georgian Bay. Twelve years on, I was curious to see what — if anything — had changed there and whether this trip could measure up to those amazing memories of my first Canadian vacation.

I was pleased to discover that the resort was much as I remembered it. The Wiltman family, originally from Germany, is still running the resort and Peter and Dorte are just as kind and hospitable as ever. It was fun to catch up after so long.

This time around we stayed in Owl Cottage, one of several 2-bedroom cottages available at the resort. We really appreciated the baseboard heat (even though it was August, the nights were quite chilly) along with the ample cupboard space and big fridge-freezer. As well as the huge amount of food we took with us, I also had way too much fun shopping at Sobey’s in Parry Sound (we don’t have one in Sudbury) and took even more food back to the cottage. Note to Jamie Oliver fans: he–or at least his product range–is available in Parry Sound!

Owl Cottage

Owl Cottage

Peter now helpfully sends out a cottage inventory to renters, so you can easily see which essentials you need to pack. In addition to the items provided in the kitchen, we brought our small grill so I could easily cook my veggie burgers while the guys were barbecuing.

Supper on the deck

Supper on the deck

Wireless internet is now available at the park office if you  feel the need to connect to the outside world. And thanks to some creative cell phone “tethering,” it was also available in Owl Cottage during our stay. I’m not too sure what happened to the TV service though. The only time I switched it on, there were 3 channels all showing exactly the same thing: an England vs. Germany football match! We figured that Peter must have arranged this specially :-)

You can now pay for a boat ahead of time as part of a cottage/boat package, which was what we did. Sadly we didn’t manage to take advantage of it as we were busy doing other things on the one day of really reliable good weather. But the package is a good option for the many families who go there to fish and take their boat out very day.

Evening stroll on the dock

Evening stroll on the dock

We enjoyed some strenuous hiking during the holiday and must have hiked every trail at Killbear Park. We’ve camped there in the intervening years between cottage visits and also experienced a not-so-memorable winter trip which involved lots too much wading in very deep snow. The little convenience store close to the park where I found my spring roll supper is sadly no longer there, but there’s still an assortment of businesses in operation along the road leading to the park. One of my favourites is the Bread and Butter Cafe offering all day breakfast and cold beer. Perhaps not at the same time though…

And what about Parry Sound? We’ve been regular visitors over the years and with the gradual four-laning of Highway 69, it’s now an even quicker option for a summer day trip from Sudbury. Thankfully the town hasn’t changed too much, although the new construction on Bowes Street with all the usual suspects like Walmart and Home Depot coming in seems to have badly affected other businesses. The mall at the other end of town, which used to be a hub of activity, now seems to be almost completely empty.

There used to be plentiful free parking at the waterfront, but options are much more limited now. A huge area has been designated for the use of Island Queen customers only, so everyone else has to squash in where they can. Not a good first impression for tourists. That said, the waterfront is still incredibly beautiful. I love the scenic walk along the fitness trail to the town beach.

Our old lunchtime haunt, the Bay Street Café, is still there, but facing competition from an unattractive Boston Pizza just along the road. A better addition to the waterfront is Bistro on the Bay. I’ve not yet eaten there, but based on its many positive reviews, it’s definitely on the list. And while on the topic of restaurants, I can also recommend Lill’s place on Seguin Street, great for unpretentious home-cooked food and obviously a popular spot for locals as it’s been in business for decades.

Our week at Wawanaisa was so relaxing and just the sort of escape I was hoping for. It definitely proved to be a worthy successor to our previous visit. I hope to be back there someday.

Peace & tranquility

Peace & tranquility

Lake view

Lake view

This summer, my brother-in-law visited from England. During his last stay we took him tent camping at Lake Superior, so this time we thought we’d give him the “luxury camping” experience: a cottage. Planning our cottage trip brought back memories of my first ever holiday in Canada.

It was September 2002 and my first visit here. My husband had stayed at Killbear Park several years before and liked the idea of returning to this area, so we decided to search for accommodation close to the park.  Back then, not so many tourist businesses had their own web sites, but we were lucky enough to find information on a place called Wawanaisa Resort. A small, family-run cottage resort on Georgian Bay, just outside Parry Sound, it sounded perfect for the sort the vacation we were planning.

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort



The weather for those two weeks was just beautiful  – warm, sunny days in the low 20s. Canadians thought we were crazy to swim in those temperatures, but for us, more used to grey, damp British weather, this was perfect.

It was also perfect weather for getting on the water as well as in it. One of the highlights of the trip was taking a motor boat out to Franklin Island –I still have the map of the route, all shriveled up from water damage. The idea of using sun block somehow completely passed us by that day, so we finished our little expedition in triumphant mood, but bright red and very sore.

We also took in some of Parry Sound’s more well known tourist attractions. I enjoyed the leisurely tour of Georgian Bay on Parry Sound’s “big boat” – the Island Queen. I was amazed to see so many tiny trees clinging precariously to the rocks and even more amazed to see that some people had built little cottages on them. The Parry Sound Museum offered an interesting insight into just how difficult life was for the early pioneers, sold on a promise of fertile farmland, only to encounter a very different, harsh landscape.

Parry Sound Museum: Who's stealing the pie?

Parry Sound Museum: Who’s stealing the pie?

In fact, we made many trips into Parry Sound. We were so badly organised (this always seems to be a theme of our camping/cottage trips) and had to head there almost every day for yet more provisions. We became regular lunchtime customers at the Bay Street Café, right on the waterfront–a beautiful spot.

Meal of the holiday was stopping off for fish and chips along the road to Killbear Park and getting a surprise veggie special thrown into the deal. The store owner apologised for not having any veggie options–he didn’t get much call for them he said–but he did manage to produce some spring rolls direct from his home freezer. So I hope I didn’t steal his supper that night! We picniced on the rocks at Killbear and watched the indescribably beautiful sunset.

Sunset at Killbear Park

Sunset at Killbear Park

We certainly put plenty of kilometres on our hired mini-van during that trip. Instead of the planned visit to Algonquin Park, we changed course at the suggestion of Peter, the resort’s owner, and headed north to Killarney Park: definitely good advice. This also led us to explore Sudbury and North Bay–quite the North-Eastern Ontario tour.

We also made many trips into Parry Sound. We were so badly organized (this always seems to be a theme of our camping/cottage trips) and had to head there almost every day for yet more provisions. We became regular lunchtime customers at the Bay Street Café, right on the waterfront–a beautiful spot.

Beautiful Killarney Park

Beautiful Killarney Park

I completely fell in love with Canada and the whole cottage experience during my visit and cried when we had to go back to England. Twelve years later, now a Canadian citizen, I was lucky enough to re-visit the same resort this summer. Did the magic still exist? Wait for part 2 to find out!

 

 

 

 

How has your summer been so far?

I visited the wolves

Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre

Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre

DSCF7273 DSCF7282


Hiked to the top of a mountain

Top of Willisville Mountain

Top of Willisville Mountain


Took in some track time

Canadian Motorsports Park near Bowmanville

Canadian Motorsports Park near Bowmanville


Sampled some culture

Girl Crazy at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.

Girl Crazy at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.


And enjoyed some cottage time and lots of hiking!

Wawanaisa Resort near Parry Sound

Wawanaisa Resort near Parry Sound

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Killarney Provincial Park

Hiking at Killarney Provincial Park

Here’s to a long, warm fall before winter sets in!

Picture the scene… It’s a Friday night in the middle of summer, time to collapse on the deck with a beer and a huge bowl of chips. You’ve just settled down in one of your comfortable patio chairs, reached for your drink, then you hear it–the noise you dread. The mosquitos are out….again… So you grab everything and retreat into the dark, cool basement leaving the bugs– and the sunshine–behind.

This was the weekly scenario at my house for several years. We just couldn’t sit outside at all because of the bugs. As for all those new, “innovative” anti-bug products, we must have tested them all and they just didn’t live up to their claims. It was time to tackle the situation and properly reclaim our deck.

Our first purchase was an 8 x 12 canvas-topped screen room bought from Sears.ca. This attached to the side of our house and allowed us to walk from the kitchen straight into the screen room. As usual, the installation instructions were terrible, but my husband and a friend nonetheless managed to set everything up within a day. Then we just had to buy some outdoor carpet for the deck, to stop the bugs coming up between the planks of wood.

This solution worked really well for several years and allowed us to sit out late into the night bug free. However, we couldn’t leave the screen room up over winter because the canvas roof wouldn’t cope with the snow load. Plus, every year the frame deteriorated a little more and we’d find ourselves with more and more little gaps that needing stuffing with foam. We decided that what we really wanted was something we could install and just forget about, something which would cope with winter conditions and which was going to last.

After some research on the web, we came across this option at Costco. With a polycarbonate roof and PVC panels, it could function as a 3-season room plus we could leave it up over winter. I talked with a work colleague who owned a free-standing model in the same range. She was really pleased with hers. I also read a great detailed review from someone in London, Ontario who was similarly happy.

However, I also came across some very mixed reviews on the Costo.com site. Comments referred to terrible installation instructions (“Took 4 of us 6 hours to assemble and a case of beer. ..trust me , your gonna need beer….”), leaking roof, damage from hail stones and the possibility of having to clear snow from the roof–which was something we definitely didn’t want. I was also concerned that it might get too hot inside the screenroom to be able to use it in summer. That side of our deck is a real sun trap.

We then went to talk to a local company that manufactures sun rooms and gazebos. They suggested the idea of a custom screen room with a permanent insulated roof. This would be a structure we could leave up in winter with no worries, but having screens instead of panels would keep the area cooler and more usable in summer. We could also get a skylight fitted which would help to let in more light to the adjoining kitchen in the winter. Plus if we ever changed our minds and wanted to go for the three-season option, it would be straightforward to switch out the screen for panels.

So someone came to take some measurements and said they would get back to us with a quote. I was really excited and all ready to sign up for this option if the price came back at a reasonable level. However… when we finally heard from them over a month later, the rough in-store estimate had magically doubled in price. I guess they really didn’t want our business. So we’re now considering building something ourselves. And for now, it’s back to the basement!

After such a long, cold winter, the blackflies and mosquitos arrived later in Northern Ontario this year. But they’ve certainly been making up for lost time. If you’re in an urban area, beating the bugs won’t be too much of a concern. However, if you’re heading to the country or the lake, you’ll want to try and protect yourself.

Various brands of repellent are available in all the stores. Look for those which carry a government-assigned PCP number as they offer the best protection. Chemical repellents are–unfortunately–the most effective. Check the instructions carefully and make sure you apply only to clothes, not your skin. My product of choice is OFF! Deep Woods for Sportsmen and I always carry some with me when I’m out hiking.

If you prefer something more gentle (and less smelly!), you can buy natural remedies made of essential oils, or make your own. I can’t vouch for their success, but they’re got to be worth trying, especially for children, or if you suffer from any skin allergies.  They will need reapplying more frequently than the chemical repellents. Lightweight bug jackets are also a good alternative. I wear one when cutting my grass, although it does make me feel a bit like a pest exterminator.

If you’re relaxing on your deck in the evening, you definitely don’t want to be pestered by bugs. You can burn citronella candles or try some of the clip-on repellents. These claim to repel bugs for “up to 11 hours,” although they were no match for the bugs around my house. If you’re willing to go up in budget, you could invest in some of the heavy-duty “mosquito control” products available at stores like Canadian Tire, although they often receive mixed reviews.

Other tips for when you’re out and about in the summer: Avoid strongly scented shampoos and body lotions and  opt for light -coloured clothing. Believe it or not, mosquitoes are more likely to hone in on dark clothing. They apparently also prefer nervous and fidgety people, so stay calm and you’ll be less of a target. Try and avoid heading outside during dawn and dusk. These are likely to be the worst times for mosquitoes. Blackflies strike during early morning and late afternoon. And watch our for full moons! One study found that mosquito flight activity increased by as much as 500% during a full moon.

Make sure you stock up on supplies of the anti-itch solution, After-Bite (my lifesaver), or make your own with a paste of baking soda and water. The good news is that the longer you’re in Canada, the more immunity you’ll build up and bites won’t affect you so badly. But what if you’ve tried all of these suggestions but you still can’t sit outside in comfort in the summer? In part 2, I’ll be looking at more permanent solutions for beating the bugs and ways to enjoy your deck time completely bug-free!