The Best of Summer

Can you believe it's August 31 already? [It's also the last day to take advantage of 50% OFF all ad space, with code CHEERS50.]

Another summer has come and gone. It flew by the in the blink of an eye. Who's with me on that one?

Maybe it was the less than average summer weather Mother Nature graced us southern Ontarioians with, or the fact that my work life took over, or potentially that this was the first summer that my job has not involved being outside. Maybe even all of the above.

But while summer flew by, we did manage to squeeze in some day, weekend and weeklong trips, all that very much involved being outdoors.

Here's the best of summer, according to t.o. & fro:

Top Posts:

Top Grams:
Box seats selfie.  Go Jays!  |  Work perks, box seats.  |  Midnight sun over Kachemak Bay.


Top Posts:

Top Grams:
Lap full of wolf pup  |  A day on the island  |  We're moving to ENGLAND!


Top Posts:

Top Grams:
  A beautiful day on the Toronto Islands  |  Hiking the Hoodoos in BC  |  #SharkWeek selfie


What are your favourite posts from the summer?

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Beautiful British Columbia

"A strange thing happens when you arrive in British Columbia... your senses awaken." 

Earlier this month I ventured to interior British Columbia with the fam jam to visit my little sister. Canada's westernmost province is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Have you ever been? I've been several times, including when we drove home from AK last summer, but this was the first time I had been to the Kootenay Valley area, where my gypsy sister is currently working. But, as a lover of the mountains I knew I wouldn't have any issues enjoying every. single. second. of the visit. 

I hope you like picture-heavy posts...


We flew into Calgary, AB and hit the Trans Canada Highway, driving approximately 3.5 hours west to Invermere, BC. Before crossing the AB/BC border, we had to make a pit stop in Banff. Travellers from all over the globe flock to Banff, home of the world's third oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


After a quick visit to the Banff Ave Brewing Co, we continued to drive deeper into the Rocky Mountains. We spotted evidence of lingering summer wildfires and loads of fireweed that was making the charred remains of the forests beautiful once again.


The week not complete without a few adventures...

1// We hiked the Hoodoos - tall, thin spires of sedimentary rock formed millions of years ago by glaciers. The view from the top was spectacular. The wildlife wasn't too shabby either.


2// With plans to visit a natural hot spring kiboshed due to wildfires in the area, we opted to learn about the history of the late 1800s mining town, Fort Steele. And while it was never a fort or involved in any type of battle, it was once home to the North West Mounted Police's first post west of the Rockies.


3// We took a drive down a narrow, and never-ending, logging road along Toby Creek, up to Jumbo Pass. Another gorgeous view with some not too shabby wildlife, including a black bear and plenty of deer. Fireweed was abundant, but the number of bright-pink blooms were few and far between. As I learned in Alaska, you can tell when summer is coming to an end when the fireweed blooms have almost reached the top. Tear.


4// We golfed. If it wasn't for the scenery on this course, I don't think I would have lasted the 13 holes that I did. (But, more to come on this adventure at a later date...)


5// And, last but not least, we relaxed at the top of the mountain, taking in the fresh air and most importantly, enjoying some quality family time.



Life in the mountains is so simple, and while I'm glad my sister is enjoying her experience, I miss it.


Have you ever been to British Columbia?




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Family Time

My sister and I are five years apart, my brother and I are three. Growing up, the age difference was apparent, and as the older sister, I didn't really want much to do with the youngens'. But, as we got older, there was a shift in our attitudes toward one another, and we began to grow closer and closer to the relationship we have today.

With age comes decisions and changes, including the decision to move away from home. After University, I was the first to go, venturing off to Alaska with my future husband. At the time, you don't really understand the effect moving such a far distance has on the rest of your family, including your siblings. You just see excitement, adventure, and change. 

As our adventure in Alaska ended and we moved home, we traded places with my sister in Toronto, as she ventured out to British Columbia. It's safe to say, our family has an affinity to the West Coast. 

In the past four years, I can count the number of times my brother, sister, mom, dad and I have been in the same room together on one hand. Sadly, it is few and far between. While my sister and I still remain close, her moving away was an awakening, showing me exactly the effects I had on my family when we made the split second decision to move to Alaska. 


Long story short, I cherish family time. It is no longer taken for granted, but snatched up at every possible opportunity. Including my most recent trip to visit my sister in interior BC.

Here's a quick sneak peak of my family time in the mountains...

Welcome to beautiful British Columbia!
Overlooking the Kootenay Valley
The lil' bro and I
Toby Creek
Lil' sis and I lounging at the top of Panorama.


It doesn't get much better.

More to come in the next couple of days.


What does family mean to you?

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simple, local & fresh 'sangria'

This is my absolute favourite time of the year - farmer's markets and grocery store shelves are loaded with seasonal and local produce. Simple. Local. Fresh. Food doesn't get much better.

Blueberry and raspberry season is in full swing, and during my recent visit to British Columbia,  I was inspired to create this simple, local and fresh 'sangria'. Niagara white wine with British Columbia berries. Yum. Being surrounded by the mountains as I sipped this summer treat made it that much better.

berry sangria recipe

Doesn't that picture just make you want to be there - sitting on the patio, in the mountains, with a glass of 'sangria' in hand? Ya, me too. I wish I could snap my fingers and go back.


I know traditional sangria typically contains red wine, fruit, sweetener and brandy. But, sometimes, you've gotta work with what you've got.

What you need:
+ handful of local berries (your choice - raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)
+ glass of local white wine (your choice - chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, riesling)
+ optional: sweetner

What to do:
+ add a handful of berries to a chilled glass of white wine
+ allow to sit for a few minutes
+ enjoy!

Simple, right? Also delicious.


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Denali's Big 5

Know that saying, "Everything's bigger in Texas?" Well, what about when you have a state that is twice the size of Texas? 

Alaska is known for many things - towering mountain ranges, stunning landscapes, vast wilderness, world-class fishing, and also its BIG wildlife. 

Denali National Park was the first national park created to protect wildlife. Scientists have documented 39 species of mammals in the park, ranging in size from the 1.5 gram tiny shrew to the 1200 plus pound moose. A goal for the thousands of visitors that flock to the park is to witness this wildlife in their natural environment, specifically the BIG 5: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, grey wolves and grizzly bear. 

Here are some of my favourite personal photos of Denali's Big 5, including some fun facts...

Moose
Moose are the largest members of the deer family, and are referred to as "elk" in Europe. Male moose have antlers, which are made of bone and shed every year during "rut", or breeding season, in the fall. 

denali's big 5 moose


Caribou
Like moose, caribou also have antlers. However, both male and female caribou have antlers. Males shed their antlers first in the fall, followed by pregnant females a few months later. This means that all of Santa's reindeer were female!

denali's big 5 caribou


Dall sheep
Unlike members of the deer family, Dall sheep have horns, not antlers. Horns are made of keratin, similar to our finger nails, and continuously grow throughout the life of the animal. You can actually tell a Dall sheep's age by the ring pattern on their horns. Both male and female Dall sheep have horns, but the males (rams) are large and spiralling, whereas the females' (ewes) are much smaller.

denali's big 5
Photo by John Gomes.

Grey wolf
Wolves are social animals and usually live in packs. The average pack size is six or seven animals, and pack members often includes a breeding pair (alpha male and female), some yearlings and other adults. Most adult male wolves weigh 85 to 115 lbs, and females tend to be about 10 to 15 lbs lighter.

denali's big 5


Grizzly bear
Did you know that a grizzly bear and a brown bear are the same species of bear? Their name just depends on where they are found. Grizzlies are found more inland and tend to be smaller because their diet consists of berries and other vegetation, whereas brown bears are coastal and tend to be larger because their diet is packed with protein from the fish they consume.

denali's big 5 grizzly bear

Please note, while all of the photographs above are my own, only the caribou and brown bear photos were taken in Denali National Park.


What wildlife sightings do you remember? I'd love to hear!




The Memories Will Last Forever

Thank you to everyone who entered my first ever giveaway! It was such a success, and I can't wait to hold more in the future.

Can you believe it is almost the end of August? In exactly 2 weeks the tourists will have gone home and kids will be back in school. My life at work will go back to business as usual. The weather hasn't been the best here in southern Ontario, but you don't need good weather to make good memories -  Two trips to the mountains (Alaska and British Columbia), a 1st anniversary, a canoe-camping trip, an [almost] move to Nottingham, England, a retirement and plenty of family time. While I'm sad to see it come to an end, this summer has been a memorable one. 

"The tan will fade, but the memories will last forever."

Here are some of my favourite summer 2014 memories, in photos...

Camping in Algonquin Provincial Park
Homer harbour, Alaska
Midnight sun setting over Kachamak Bay, Alaska
Rescued wolf pup at the Alaska Zoo
1st anniversary trip to Seattle
Family time in the mountain of British Columbia


What are your favourite memories from summer 2014?



What is The So-Called Homemaker about?
The So-Called Homemaker is a blog about life at home and beyond!  While I may be a stay-at-home-mom, I’m also a licensed realtor, and have plenty of interests besides!  My blog is everything from parenting tips to recipes, book reviews to random facts!  Stop by and say hi!

What is your favourite summer 2014 memory?
My favorite memory from this summer is the time we spent at Six Flags with our memberships there.  It was wonderful to see my daughter come out of her shell and really have a great time.  Plus, I love Monster Mansion!


Where to find Christine:
Blog  |  Bloglovin  |  Twitter  |  Facebook



What is aplovesdesign about?
ap loves design is a lifestyle blog. I share the things I enjoy most...family, food, and art. I live in an awesome neighborhood with my love and our dog Layla. Would love for you to follow along.

What is your favourite summer 2014 memory?
This summer we took a family vacay to the Outer Banks. To not have to worry about work, schedules, etc. was a wonderful thing :) We woke up when we wanted, ate when we wanted, and laid on the beach non stop. And to do this with the ones you love is pretty amazing.


Where to find Andi:
Blog  |  Shop  |  Twitter  |  Instagram




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