Side-tracked By A Day Trip

To avoid boring you to death, this will be my last post in a three-part series about our Disney World adventures. This isn’t actually about Disney at all, but instead I will thrill and excite you with details of a day trip away from the swirling fun that is Disney. Alright, I’m certain this isn’t thrill worthy stuff but it made for a unique day all around. In the last week or so before flying off from reality, my sister and I worked out where we would like to explore. My son had one request…go to the ocean. My kids had never been to the ocean and I was determined to grant this wish. We live on one of North America’s  Great Lakes so a large body of water is part of the daily scenery. However, nothing compares to the ocean! We verbally went back and forth between the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted the Atlantic Ocean and my big sis wanted the Gulf. Who won the battle of debate? Keep reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Didn’t it figure that the day we had rented a car to head to the beach ended up being overcast, rainy and windy. I had also thought that it would be the perfect day to wear a dress. I’m brilliant, I know. Life goes on and so we headed off for a day of adventure!

 

 

bridges to the beach

bridges to the beach

There were brief pockets of sunshine throughout the day but the wind was a bit of a nuisance. As to be expected, the closer we got to the ocean the windier it got. While driving along this strip of highway that seemed to be mostly bridges connected by islands I couldn’t help but think how terrifying this would be should there be a hurricane. Evacuation route signs were everywhere. My sister and I came to the conclusion that neither of us would ever live in a location that needed evacuation route signage. If you live in such a place, you are braver than us. Or you simply enjoy life being peppered with severe risk. Your call.
Cruise ships

Cruise ships

There is something so odd about cruise ships along the side of the freeway.

Beach, here we come!
Beach, here we come!

Now you see who’s debate skills are superior.  Maybe it was the 3:1 that was the clincher.

Cocoa Beach from afar

Cocoa Beach from afar

After a bit of driving back and forth along the main stretch of road looking for signs to the beach, I finally rolled down my car window and leaned out to get the attention of a city worker. He was very helpful, and friendly I might add, and pointed us in the right direction  which of course we had already passed. As we walked over to the beach the sound of the pounding surf permeated all else. There is no other sound in nature that contains such a combination of force and serenity simultaneously. It instantly transports the Spirit to a happy place. THIS must be the reason people choose to live in evacuation areas!

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach

Although it looks bright and sunny in this photo, don’t be fooled. It was grey and windy which made me ponder the decision for all of these people to try to catch some sun. Humans are interesting creatures.

See the red flag on the beach?

This indicates that there were rip currents and swimming was not recommended although many people were in the water. We walked in briefly and were almost knocked over by the huge, powerful waves.

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach

Another danger on the beach was the massive amount of jellyfish. They were everywhere and I was just about to step on one coming out of the water when I was warned with a holler. Talk about freaking a person out!

My son just couldn’t get enough of the jellyfish. He spent most of his time getting up close and personal (too close for my comfort) to watch them pulsate. Moments such as these are wonderful teaching opportunities and allow children to gain a better understanding of all the incredible creatures we share this planet with. I’m certain this will be a memory that last a lifetime for him.

jellyfish

beach grasses and railing

The sound of the surf and the mysterious sea life captured our attention but it was the windblown sand that lovingly cradled the beach grasses that made me swoon for the beach.

The way the elements distress wooden structures such as these stairs was, to me, the epitome of coastal scenery that I carry in my mind’s eye.

sandy steps

sandy steps

Next stop…Cape Canaveral.

Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle

I was pretty excited to visit Cape Canaveral and the NASA museum. According to the website there are tours that shuttle visitors out to the launch pad and infiltrate your brain with all things space related.

This could have gone either way, I figured. I was hoping for new knowledge but was on guard for the nerd alert to sound. Well, upon further inspection we decided not to do the tour. At $50 U.S. per person it was a bit steep for an experience my kids were only going along with for my sake. Oh well.

 

NASA museum

NASA museum

After a day of sand, surf and shuttles we made tracks back to Disney. It was a supremely glorious day spent making memories.

“A life-long blessing for children is to fill them with warm memories of times together.

Happy memories become treasures in the heart to pull out on the tough days of adulthood.”  

– Charlotte Kasl

 

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I Dream of Gardens

 

 

I am in a gardening frame of mind at present. I eat, breathe and sleep gardens during the summer months. Yes, I even dream of plants in my slumber. I am always grateful to get dirty and breathe fresh air.

 

 

Last weekend I felt the urge to get out into a garden that I could savor its beauty with no strings attached. To walk among the greenery, stop to smell whatever flower caught my eye, and sit still and let my senses lap up all that was on offer.  I figured that the best location to do this was at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden that is about a fifteen minute drive on the highway from my house. I hadn’t been in this particular garden for a few years so I thought it was high time I check it out again. I am never disappointed by the gorgeous planters and urns that dot the walkways. They are a symphony of colour and textures that are pleasing to behold. Despite the plethora of planters, my timing was not great since many of the show gardens, the rose garden in particular, had just finished blooming and had been recently dead-headed. The Parks had planned well and planted adjacent flower beds with eye-popping colour in hopes of detracting away from the blah vista of non-blooming rose bushes. Candy-coloured annuals distracted me from disappointment.

 

 

There is one area in particular in this 100 acre property that calls to me through the treetops and beckons me to make a beeline directly into its inner sanctum – the herb garden. This garden is walled by cedar hedges that were planted in the 1940’s and still stand, perfectly manicured to create not only a mini micro-climate but also creates the feel of an outdoor room that quite honestly, I would be more than happy to stay in for hours.

Herb Garden

Herb Garden

 

 

 

After the herb garden, a nice stroll through the arboretum was in order. Don’t you just love the cool shade beneath the trees? My inner child wants to run from one shady spot to the next by the feel of the shades’ coolness alone while the sun shines in my eyes.

 

 

arboretum

arboretum

 

If you plan on visiting the Niagara Region, I highly recommend both the Butterfly Conservatory and the Botanical Gardens on your list of places to see.  Who knows, you may even bump into me taking in the gardens in every season!

For more info on the botanical gardens, visit this link.

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

 

 

I bid you farewell and many enjoyable hours in the sunshine!

“When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.”
– Minnie Aumonier 

Sunscreen Dilemma

Lately, I have been thinking a LOT about sunscreen. To wear, or not to wear…that is the question.

 

 

The scale inside my brain is balancing slightly to the side of “not to wear”. Here is my logic as to why there is some confusion. My entire life I have not had a great track record of gorgeous tanned skin. A few folk refer to me as Ghost Girl because I have an extremely pale skin tone. I scare even myself in fluorescent lit change rooms with the blinding whiteness that is not my arms, neck and face. Fluorescent lighting is extremely unforgiving. As you have probably gathered, I am a rather health conscious individual that questions every product I allow into my home or on my body. Of course, I make a few exceptions here and there but only after knowing what I am dealing with. I am not paranoid but I choose to be informed. I question why sunscreen usage increases while skin cancer rates continue to climb. Should the outcome not be that skin cancer rates drop as sunscreen use increases? Therefore, sunscreen and all its pros and cons weighs heavily on my radar.

 

 

 

I am not interested in dealing with skin cancer. Let this be known. I knew someone when I was a teen that had part of both ears removed due to skin cancer and this really scared the ever-loving out of me. It made me aware of the risk factors that I am dealing with as a pasty, white girl who historically turns lobster red after 30 minutes in the sun. I slathered on sunscreen like nobody’s business through my 20’s, making myself even whiter than I’m naturally predisposed. Not a good look.

 

 

 

Unluckily for me, I am in a medium to high risk group for skin cancer.

 

Fair Skin  Having less melanin in my skin gives me less protection from UV radiation. Not only do I have fair skin, I also have light blue eyes, freckle easily, and burn easily. Strike one.

 

 

History of Sunburns  Childhood sunburns that resulted in severe burning and blistering. Yup, had a few of those. Strike two.

 

 

Excessive Sun Exposure  I spend a considerable amount of my time outdoors in the sun at work. I do try to find shady spots whenever possible but that isn’t always an option. Strike three.

 

 

Sunny and/or High Altitude Climate  I can scratch this off my risk list. Phew! Yes, it is sunny here in southern Ontario but not like it is closer to the equator that’s for sure.

 

 

Moles  I have my fair share of freckles but no moles. Another all-clear.

 

 

Family History  Another risk factor bites the dust.

 

 

Weakened Immune System  I work hard at keeping my immune system strong through healthy eating, stress relieving meditation, fresh air and supplementation.

 

 

Exposure to Certain Substances  Substances such as arsenic and certain pesticides. These aren’t always as easy to avoid as we would like. Even being vigilant within my own home, there are still those in our communities that don’t take these risks seriously and put everyone else at risk.  This risk factor is a tricky one.

 

 

How do you rate on the risk factor list? Do you take the risk of skin cancer seriously?

 

 

Now that risk for skin cancer has been determined I find myself reaching for a 50+ UVA/UVB sunscreen only to stop mid-reach to question the efficacy of such products.

 

I question the ingredients in each sunscreen. Yes, there are harmful ingredients in many sunscreens on the market. Just because it is on the store shelf does NOT make it unquestionably safe. It is when we start to question the safety of ingredients that the world of hidden substances starts to become apparent. Think back a few years to when it became a talked about subject that oxybenzone in sunscreen may mimic estrogen. While both sides of this argument have a valid point, I always cringe when I hear the FDA or medical community say “there is no solid proof to suggest it is not safe.” Um, I am curious where the solid proof to suggest its complete safety is then. Another questionable ingredient is retinyl palmitate. This is used as a stabilizer and has anti-aging qualities but can make skin more sensitive to the sun and may actually promote skin cancer. Like other consumers, I find this confusing and frankly, quite maddening. Isn’t the whole point of sunscreen to protect?

 

 

What about the fact that some researchers say sunscreens with octinoxate, oxybenzone, parabens, or camphor derivatives are killing hard corals which could negatively impact biodiversity and reef ecosystems? I don’t want to inadvertently cause damage to marine life while trying to protect my skin! There has to be a better way.

 

 

 

26 seconds

 

 

 

UVA/UVB Issue  UVA rays are present all year round. While UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, UVA radiation damages the underlying skin cells to cause premature aging, sun spots, and that leathery looking skin that honestly, who would want? So although sunburns are no treat (and I know from numerous experiences), premature aging due to cell damage is very unpalatable as well.

 

 

Chemicals + Heat = baked in exposure! Not only does everything you put on your body’s largest organ (that’s right, your skin) get absorbed within seconds but combine that with the heat treatment from the sun and we are literally basting ourselves with chemicals or unknown substances.

 

 

Skin Function  Our skin is an amazing organ. I am curious as to how well it performs its job of heating/cooling effectively, ridding our body of toxins and being receptive to detecting threats such as pain or insects and other assaults due to numbing our sensors (hair and follicle reception of unwanted things) while slathered in goop and the hair stuck to the skin.

 

 

Discomfort  I can withstand some discomfort in the name of safety and wellness but seriously, try to slather on a second (or third) application of sunscreen to skin covered in grass clipping, dirt, and mulch bits and sweat.

 

 

 

I continue on my quest for the perfect solution to the sunscreen debate. I now wear coconut oil on my face mixed with a tinted moisturizer made with organic ingredients. This keeps my face from drying out and/or becoming seriously sunburned. As for the rest of my exposed flesh I struggle with the idea of slapping on a product that I am uncomfortable with. I go between a few sunscreens that I am alright with but I still question long-term safety. I will always be on the lookout for an optimal skin protection regime and question, question, question everything I come across. It’s in my nature, I can’t help it.

“I was raised with the notion that it is OK to ask questions, and it was OK to say, I’m not sure.” – Peter Jennings

Garden Goddess Strikes Again

It’s that time of year again! The annual planting of my veggie garden. My green thumbs are twitching and I’m ready to get dirty…again.

 

 

 

Last weekend, I made the trek to the “local” heirloom plant sale and stocked up. There were a few things that I couldn’t get my hands on like kale, so I am still on the hunt for a few items. Fingers crossed that I’ll find good quality heirloom plants. The garden centres seem to be either picked over, sold out, or they lost mass amounts of plants due to the frost we had last week. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.

 

 

 

In order to prep the garden, I needed a rototiller. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to ask the neighbour that helped me last year. This year I wanted to do it myself. It looked like to fun of an opportunity to pass up. Who doesn’t like crazy, loud engines attached to tines that clutch hungrily at the soil? I just couldn’t resist the temptation. The last time I used a rototiller was in Horticulture college. It was not a positive experience, although I did laugh like crazy when a friend of mine wanted to be the first to take a crack at it. Having no clue what she was doing she quickly lost control and was dragged along behind it. I seem to remember that being the last time I ever saw my beautiful, off-white fisherman sweater…she had borrowed it. This year’s garden prep was the perfect opportunity for me to have at it. Luckily, I have a fan-flippin’-tastic boss that just happened to have a rototiller I could borrow. I was in luck! This machine kicks butt! I seriously need one!

 

 

 

The Machine That Won My Heart

The Machine That Won My Heart

*if you look to the right of the rototiller you can see my new spade mentioned in a previous post (that I did not dance late into the night with).

 

 

 

The only problem with me having a rototiller of my own would be that I would feel the need to dig up every bit of unused space on my property. Plus, I’d like to be less petrol-dependent so this would be seriously counter-productive.

 

 

 

Let me just say that the time I spent rototilling the garden has been the most fun I’ve had all week. And I’ve had a good week so far. Is that sad?

 

 

 

I worked up a serious sweat working in this crazy heat we’ve been having. It’s been above 32 degrees Celsius the last couple days. I thought it would be great to go with  breezy, wavy beach hair this morning which was not well thought out. My hair is super thick as it is so this made it even thicker feeling. Looked great before I started gardening though. I tried an easy  beach wave spray recipe that uses sea salt, coconut oil, water and hair gel. Oh…my…gosh. Why this is a good idea while hot out I won’t ever understand. It made me even hotter. I will not be hanging out on a beach after spraying my hair with this concoction, let me tell you. Mind you, I don’t normally hang out on beaches anyway since sand in my bathing suit makes me cranky.  This hair technique must be reserved for days when I will be trying to sport a carefree look while in air conditioning.

 

 

 

Soft soil after rototilling

Soft soil after rototilling

 

 

 

 

It took me all of about 15 seconds to figure out proper tilling technique and get serious. The soil in the garden is now so fluffy that it is simply dreamy. I was able to smooth it flat(ish) with a leaf rake afterward. That’s how soft it is. This is temporary since soon enough it will be tamped down by rain, walking around in it, and settling. I must get my vegetable plants in the ground when the soil is perfect. Not only does it make my life easier but the plants get a great start at getting their roots going with as little resistance as possible. I guess you know what I’ll be doing later this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”  ~Mirabel Osler

Born To Be Alive

I feel so alive! I’m not sure whether it is the extreme exhaustion of five 8-9 hour days of landscaping/gardening/mowing at work or the sudden warm weather of 16-20 degree Celsius and burning sun that we have been enjoying over the last week. Perhaps it was the crazy dancing that took place last night after a hard day at work until almost 1 a.m. Or just maybe it was the impulse purchases I made today. Whatever the cause, I am bursting with exuberance.

I am thrilled with my first purchase of the day which was a new spade. Yes, I am easy to please it seems. I bought myself the same type of spade I use at work since mine somehow went MIA somewhere along the line. A girl needs to dig sometimes and needs the right tool to do so. Almost as soon as I got home with my new spade I put it to use edging my veggie garden in preparation for rototilling. I am as giddy as can be about prepping the garden for planting. Seeing a growing veggie garden is like a mini Utopia in my own backyard.

Then I went a bit wacky and bought something that I honestly never thought I would own…a leather jacket. Gasp! I am struggling with this a bit, I must be honest. I very seldom purchase leather items as it seems so very wrong to me to wear another animals’ hide. However, this was a pre-owned jacket that I don’t think has ever been worn so buying leather seems a bit easier for my conscience to swallow. This insanely gorgeous jacket nearly jumped off the rack into my arms, I tell you! I wouldn’t bend for any old jacket though. This beauty is lime green and says “purrrrrr”. It really does. As soon as I slipped it on it was mine.

We all need to do the things that make us feel alive. Live life the way we dream in our mind’s eye. There is nothing that fills the Soul with the presence of Life like throwing back your head and laughing until your stomach muscles hurt, letting the wind whip your hair as it so pleases, and feeling Life force make you glow so others notice.  Life is to be lived, not to watch it pass you by.

“Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, ‘This is the real me,’

and when you have found that attitude, follow it.”  – James Truslow Adams

Be Like Sunshine

 

Photo: www.photo-blog.ca - credit to James Wheeler

Photo: http://www.photo-blog.ca – credit to James Wheeler

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.”

-Lord Byron

I think that this is one of my favourite quotes. I smile every time I think of it or my eyes fall upon it.

We all know someone that can clear the clouds away just by being present or having them in our thoughts.

I only hope that I can be this for someone else when they need a bit of sunshine.  That in itself would bring me great joy and fulfillment.

Winter at the Beach

lighthouse

Today the sun was shining brightly and the temperature  a cool 4 degrees celsius. My body was longing to be in the fresh, cool air so I set out for a walk. My feet took me to the beach. The beach on a sunny winter’s day is miraculous. The biting breeze off the water was invigorating and the beach was still. I noticed that the sound of the beach in the winter is totally different from in the summer. It was incredible.

There were a few other people around but the stillness was peaceful. A few men were fishing along the pier and there were a handful of other walkers but no one else ventured onto the beach other than myself and a lady running with her dog. An older couple was feeding bread to the seagulls.

Tucked Away for the Winter

Tucked Away for the Winter

The marina was quiet with all of the boats tucked away snuggly for their winter slumber.

looking down the pier

looking down the pier

On  one side of the pier the water was still and the sun shone off of it as though it were ice. The other side of the pier the water was rough with ice chunks and waves. It seemed as though the water had a dual personality.

The icy, rough water was hypnotizing and calming. The sound of the water on the rocks soothing.

 

 

 

 

Looking from the pier toward the beach, the breaking ice reminded me of shaved ice in a glass. If it wasn’t so cold it would have tempted me to have a margarita!

The sound of the ice chunks bobbing around and clinking against one another was like music. Sweet, tiny chimes playing an enchanted song for whoever would take a moment to slow down and listen.

melting ice

 

 

 

Snow-Ice-Water

Snow-Ice-Water

The snow on the beach, the icy bits and the open water of the lake created distinct layers that intrigued me.

Beach in the Winter

Ah.. the beach all to myself.

I see a strong resemblance to Gumby. Minus the head shape. Mine seems to be the size of a pea from this perspective.

Windswept Sand

Windswept Sand

The sand. Windswept and beautiful.

Remnants of Summer

Remnants of Summer

 

 

 

Seagulls

Being in the fresh, wintry air by the water was invigorating. I felt the rosy glow on my cheeks from the breeze and the warmth of the winter sun on my face.

Turning for home, I looked forward to getting back to my kitchen where it was warm.

The apples and squash on my kitchen counter were awaiting my arrival.

“What nature delivers to us is never stale. Because what nature creates has eternity in it.”  – Isaac Bashevis Singer

Clearing the Cobwebs

creek

In my last blog post, I mentioned heading out for a walk to clear the cobwebs before getting busy with my holiday baking. Along the way I stopped often to enjoy my surroundings, the fabulous weather, and to take a few photos. Join me on my walk, won’t you?

The water in the creek was very clear. It was wonderful to just stand on the bridge and watch  the water as it gently made its way through the rocks.

burr

There is something so incredible about burrs. They are nature’s little hitchhiker. Most of us were first introduced to them as children when they were stuck in our hair and clothes. Although I have spent countless hours plucking them from my children’s and my own clothes I still find them fascinating. The natural world is so full of wondrous specimens.

pear tree

There are a grouping of old gnarly pear trees along my route. I am always drawn to these trees. They have so much character. Over the last few years a few of them have died off and been removed by city workers. This is one of the few left standing. I stood under this tree for a few minutes to enjoy the visual contrast between the rough, dark texture of the bark against the velvety blue sky as the clouds drifted past.

path

Occasionally while I am walking I tear my eyes from the plant-life around me long enough to look up ahead to where my feet are leading me.

up we go

Almost to the top of the hill! There was a refreshing breeze here that made my hair dance around me. Such a great feeling to have the wind in my hair – so rejuvenating.

looking ahead

I love the way the sun was creating pockets of warmth…the temptation makes me step a bit quicker.

fallen tree

The cycle of Life always amazes me.

oddity

Surprisingly, I have never noticed this particular tree before.

dry docks

I had no set destination in mind. The warm, fresh air was so welcoming I wasn’t ready to turn for home yet. So I kept walking…and walking…and walking. I stopped for a few minutes to check out the happenings at the dry docks.

Canadian Coast Guard at the dry docks

At the moment there is a Canadian Coast Guard ship docked here.

canal and reservoir

On this day the reservoir beside the canal is full. During the summer months it was as dry as a bone. The sun was shining so bright that I couldn’t see to take this pic. I was squinting like crazy at this exact moment while a man walking his dog stood behind me watching while I took pictures. No idea why but, oh well.

anchor

While leaning on the fence, I noticed the anchors built into the design. A nice touch, in my opinion.

the road ahead

With the sun beating brightly down, warming my Soul and my face, I head for home.

” Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” 

– John Lubbock