Three Words for 2017 #3words

3 words for 2017. #3words

For the past number of years, I have chosen three words to guide my year. Some of the words of the past have included creating, connect, cultivate, brave, trust, habit, choice, community, courage, and faith.  All helped guide my goals and aspirations for the year. This year I am choosing three words again: connect, health and gratitude.

CONNECT

I want to truly connect more in 2017. Relationships are important. The family is important. I hope to connect with mine in more meaningful ways in 2017. I also want to connect more with the blogging community and with my followers in ways that can have a positive impact on their lives.  I also want to connect more to grow business wise.

HEALTH

I will be making my health and our family’s health a priority in 2017. My daughter and I are committed to getting healthier physically, and you will be able to follow my journey on Instagram where I will be sharing my journey with the hashtag #healthyme. I will also share on this blog how to work on your financial health. You can follow my #cdnmoney hashtag to follow those posts.

GRATITUDE

Life is simply better when you are grateful. I want to record every day this year what I am thankful for. It helps me to enjoy the moments of the day. Again on Instagram, you can follow my gratitude or perhaps share your own with the hashtag #365gratitude.

Do you use guiding words? If you do, please share yours with me.

Teach Your Kids to Give Back This Holiday Season

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Chances are, your family has participated in countless fundraising events through school, church, and other groups. Your kids probably even have a few ideas of their own about how they can help out in their community.

The key to nurturing a passion for giving back is for your kids to feel a connection to their cause and the ability to make it meaningful.

Here are 5 great ways your child can learn to give back this holiday season:

1. Visit a retirement home to read books to the residents. Seniors at assisted living homes are often lonely. Their families don’t visit them often enough. They love having kids around to fill the air with laughter. Encourage your child to spend some time playing games or reading books to residents. Your child will enjoy making a new friend too.

2. Help out your local food pantry. Encourage your kids to start a food drive in your neighborhood. Or, let them volunteer at the local food bank. They can help stock shelves and pack meals. They can also volunteer at a local soup kitchen feeding the homeless.

4. For my friends in the US, send cards to members of the military. Through the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, kids can write and send cards to active service members and veterans. The Red Cross plans community events for making and addressing cards to members of the community. Get in touch with your local chapter for more information about participating. Here in Canada, we have a similar program but the deadline for sending cards in in October.

4. Create a special “pay it forward” day. Make it “Pay It Forward Sunday” and tell your child that they have to find a way to give back in their community or to someone who could use a little help every Sunday. This way they can choose for themselves what their good deed should be. And it will encourage them to keep thinking of new ideas.

5. Put together a care package for someone who is alone or sick. Is there someone in your neighborhood who could use some special attention? Possibly an elderly person who is sick or alone? Have your child put together a care package for them and hand deliver it. You can include small gifts like hot chocolate or tea, homemade goodies and magazines or a good book. Your child can even color a picture to add to the box.

Giving back can also mean giving their time or sharing a portion of their allowance for the causes they believe in. What others ideas can you and your child come up with to give back this holiday season?

Dear Hollie: A Letter Inspired by the Ladies of Netflix

Netflix

What would you write to your former self? What guidance would you give? This month Netflix challenged the #StreamTeam to write to our former selves while watching some of the great shows that have come out this month. From a Young Queen Elizabeth who gets thrown into a role she was not expecting to the strong leading ladies of the Gilmore Girls to even the diverse ladies from Orange is the New Black. There is much inspiration that can come from watching some of your favourite Netflix shows.

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So what would I write myself?

To the University Student Me- have fun, build relationships, yes grades matter but do good. You were born to lead.

To the Young Single Me- Travel is good, so is giving. Do both.

To the Young Step Mom- You can do this, love given always comes back.

To the Broken Young Mom- Have faith, it’s okay to ask for help. You’ve got this.

To the Single Mom- Never Doubt Your Instincts. Be the Momma Bear. Money is not everything. Cherish time with your girl.

To the Dating Mom- Don’t kiss too many frogs. Look for quality, not quantity.

The inspiration for the lives we live come from many sources including the shows we watch. It comes from what surrounds us. So what have you been watching and how does it inspire you?

5 Habits that Can Bring More Gratitude and Joy into Your Life

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Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. I have much to be thankful for and one of those things is knowing to have an attitude of gratitude every day. Every day of our lives we can.  It’s easy to have joy simply by being more grateful. Gratitude brings happiness, peace, and joy. I love this quote from Oprah Winfrey

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

How can you develop an attitude of gratitude? There are five simple habits that you can develop that will bring you more joy every day. I know in our family gratitude is one of the things we try and have every day. We are working on making these five habits part of our everyday lives.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Take a few minutes every day to write down what you are thankful for. I know my journal has often reminded me of what is important. For me doing this in the morning starts my day off right. It sets my heart at ease, and I have a better day.

2. Appreciate Others

How often do you say thank you? By letting others know you are grateful for them, you not only put a smile on their face, but you often pass on a feeling of warmth and joy. That is a good thing, right? Here is a challenge for you tell one person each day why you are grateful for them.

3. Go Screen Free

With so much bad news going on around us, it is easy to get caught up in the storms, the crimes, the election. When we spend hours on end online, we can get frustrated and upset. By going screen-free, you can be more present where you are. It allows you to simply enjoy moments and be able to express your joy for that moment.

4. Notice the Little Things

Sometimes life can be overwhelming and a struggle in the midst of a storm. When you are in the midst of a personal storm I have found it best to look for something small to be thankful for. It can even be a warm cup of tea, the kindness of a stranger and the list goes on.

5. Help Someone

One of the things that bring me the most gratitude and joy is helping others. You can volunteer to help a friend, call a friend who needs cheering up, visit someone who needs a visit. Again, the list goes on.

Let me know what you are thankful for today as we celebrate Thanksgiving. I am most thankful for my family and my friends.

 

Scheduling Fun and Family Time is So Important

It is September, and our lives here are getting rather busy. My teen is adapting to a new high school that she loves, and I have been busy dealing with the business side of CommonCentsMom. We have also had lots of invites and activities this month. If you follow me on my social channels, you may have seen some of these. With life getting so busy this year, we had to make a choice. We had to choose to schedule family time.All summer long my teen and I hung out together, we did lots of fun stuff and connected. As life got busy this month, I found myself craving family time, so we scheduled it. What did we decide we wanted to together? Nothing exciting? We didn’t even go out, we got out our favourite junk food, baked a couple of pizza and did a marathon of movies on Netflix while cuddling on the couch and getting caught up. Making time to simply enjoy each other’s company is so important.


So what have we been watching?

Well, I have a thing for Disney movies, so we did a night of those.

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First up was Zootopia which just came out on Netflix.  We had seen this movie in the theatre and just had to watch it again. I am in love with a certain sloth.

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After we had watched Zootopia, we got into the Pirates of the Caribbean Movies. We watched four of them. Yes, I have a thing for a certain Captain.

Both my teen and I love the assortment of Disney movies that are on Netflix. Have you checked them out yet?

We have also started watching a tv series together once or twice a week. There are some great choices on Netflix, where you can binge on a whole series. Currently, we are watching Breaking Bad which neither of us had seen. before. We have just started Season 2 and things are starting to get interesting.

Whenever we are relaxing and getting caught up though we have to have a snack? Is movie and tv time in your house snack time?  Here are a couple of recipes you might want to try for your next movie marathon.

First up are the Walking Tacos

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Second are the  Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwichs

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If you try them, send a photo to me. Let me know what are your favourite movie snacks and what are you currently watching on Netflix?

 

 

 

 

The School Lunch Debate and The Role Teachers Play

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This morning while watching Breakfast Television, there was a large online discussion about school lunches. It was also a featured story in the Toronto Star and well since I am a blogger with a kid with food issues I wanted to bring the discussion here. In the latest story out of Durham region, parents whose children have had food routinely confiscated spoke up to the Durham Region News. It was then republished yesterday in the Toronto Star and talked about on Breakfast TV this morning.

Can you imagine Goldfish crackers (the favourite snack of my daughter as a kid) are considered junk food? Granola bars that might have no nuts but a bit of chocolate no goes as well? Even string cheese has been confiscated. Let’s just say I am glad my daughter is in grade 12, and well there are no teachers to monitor her lunch choices now. You see my daughter was born with health issues that I am well aware. My daughter’s teachers knew her allergies but not her intolerances and what they did to her body.

The one day in grade 8, when teachers were making food choices for the kids in her class, my teen had a huge reaction. That reaction led to some mistakes on her part and a five-month suspension from school. Things happen.

Yes, I am for sending kids with a healthy lunch. Yes, I am for sending kids with a lunch and snacks that will fuel them for learning, but I am also a mom with a tight budget. I am a mom on a tight schedule as well. My budget, when Rachel was younger, was even tighter. Fresh food was not always available, which is why I was thankful for the morning snack program. I also had to cater her lunches to her dietary needs. I could not imagine what my reaction would have been if I got a not scolding my choices as a parent for my child.

Allowing teachers to become the food police takes away parental rights. We know our children better than their teachers. Yes, my daughter had McDonalds for lunch on occasion ( a treat meal), yes, she had pizza, yes she had banana bread and cookies in her lunches. So what. I knew what she would be taking in that day. She was a growing child, and I was doing the best for her that I could. I think as parents we all do the best we can.

The curriculum for grades 1-3 talk about healthy choices, and it was about grade 3, the teacher’s role is in the classroom not as the food police at lunch time.

I know my now teen has a healthy breakfast before she leaves, This morning it was waffles and an orange, yesterday it was eggs, toast, and juice, the day before oatmeal.  I know she may pack a couple of snacks (do to meds she takes at 8 am her appetite is suppressed for hours (something her teachers wouldn’t know). If teachers were all of a sudden taking away the bit of food, she could tolerate and give her something her body can’t handle I would be livid.

I think today; we are way too critical of each other and the choices we make. This criticalness brought into our classrooms and in the hands of our teachers can have dire consequences.  When food choices are picked apart, they can lead to issues like anxiety and worse especially if a child has any mental health issues. In other children, they will be embarrassed and perhaps left hungry as the “healthy food” often a piece of fruit is not enough to tide them over.  Let’s think twice before taking away provided foods. Let’s save those emergency lunches for kids who come to school hungry.

Right now we need to be supporting parental choices instead of policing one another. It’s a lunch after all and as long as by the end of the day and over the week there are healthy choices made that do help a child grow then parents be responsible for their children as they should be.

 

 

Celebrating National Coffee Day

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Ca you believe it’s September? I know my schedule is getting busier as we get into fall. There are the after school clubs, work and family events to keep track of. To keep us busy moms going, we turn to a certain caffeinated beverage that fuels our day – coffee. How often do you reach for your favourite cup of java?

On September 29th, embrace your vice and celebrate National Coffee Day with fellow coffee-loving moms. Did you know that Canadians consume an average of 2.8 cups a day?1

 Here are some other interesting statistics about coffee that will keep you brewing the beverage every morning:

·         Coffee is good for your memory. A study conducted in Maastricht, Holland found that coffee can combat the forgetfulness that often accompanies aging2.

·         Coffee helps fight the common cold. Coffee can help cold sufferers feel better faster by relieving the sluggish feeling colds leave behind3.

While a great cup of coffee is the perfect start to the day, sometimes our favourite morning ‘jolt’ can leave us wanting to hide under the covers. You know what I’m talking about!

·         Clothing stains. All it takes is a little drip from your mouth to land on your lap or your chest (the worst part is when you don’t even realize it happened). OxiClean™ Colour Shield Liquid Laundry Stain Remover features the power of OxiClean™ that reaches deep into fabric fibers to quickly and safely break up and remove stains and keeps colours looking their brightest.

·         Teeth stains. Our teeth probably hate us the most for our love of coffee. ARM & HAMMERTM Truly Radiant™  Spinbrush and ARM & HAMMERTM Truly Radiant™  Whitening & Enamel Strengthening Toothpaste are the perfect pair to fight coffee stains and get to a whiter, brighter smile in just 3 days. ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ Spinbrush removes 100% more plaque in those hard to reach areas*, and ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ Whitening & Enamel Strengthening Toothpaste removes stains, helps remineralize tooth enamel restoring its shine and smoothness.

What is your favourite way to enjoy your morning coffee? Let me know, right now as I right this I am enjoying a salted caramel mocha frappuccino. Yes, I drink my coffee cold sometimes.

Social Media Advice For Teachers in Ontario

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In our house, we have been using social media for years. Even my teen daughter has had several social media accounts Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are her favourites. Personally, I have been using social media as long as it has been around. I love connecting online with friends and family and also use it for business.

Now, when it comes to my daughter and school here in Ontario, there are social media rules that must be followed for her safety.  In fact, there are social media rules for both students and teachers in the province. Teachers are just as informed about the rules of using social media wisely as our kids are. For teachers, there is an advisory document on the appropriate use of social media put out by the Ontario College of Teachers. For my teen, there is the social media contract.

Why have all these rules? When it comes to being online, there are many risks and dangers for both student and teacher.  We live in an environment where boundaries could be crossed very easily. Having established guidelines and rules makes it easier on all.

Over the last few years, my teen has used e-communication and social media in several of her classes to get school work done.  Her teachers have used social media to help her follow an astronaut’s journey, to develop friendships with other students across the country, and even to create social media posts and videos as part of her homework.  These skills help her prepare for real life, and I am glad that her teachers have been great role models in how social media can be embraced in the school system.

One of the projects that she worked on was a public service announcement. I can remember her searching You Tube, talking on Messenger with classmates doing the same project, and even emailing back and forth with her teacher. Even when watching all these interactions happen there were things done to ensure my teen was using her social accounts wisely. There were constant reminders on all the assignment sheets.

The Social Media Advisory document offers teachers advice on numerous online topics from having the proper security settings to the exchange to private messages. Every year teachers have informed me when my teen is online using social media for school work as this too is part of the advisory document. Being informed is a good thing. This advice for teachers allows them to embrace social media in ways that help our children.

When it comes to teachers, they are expected to be great role models for our kids in all their actions. Even the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that teachers are role models and must act as such inside and outside of school hours. I feel safer knowing that teachers as well as students are reminded often of their responsibilities.  This is a huge responsibility and having been an early education teacher I know that teachers take it seriously.  Those that are role models have such an important part in our child’s lives.

teacher

Find a Teacher

Ever have a question about a teacher’s credentials? I know I did one year. There had been an incident at school, and I wanted more information about the teacher in question. You can use Find a Teacher to check out their qualifications and even if there has ever been a disciplinary action taken.   This information is public knowledge because there are laws in place to protect our kids.  It’s also great to check and see if your child’s teacher has completed any special programs or courses. This is great information to have especially for parents like me who have children on IEPs. My daughter has a dual designation which means a well-trained teacher who is keeping up on the current special needs trends and courses is an awesome thing for her. Having this information can definitely give you piece of mind.

Resources for Parents

Want more information about the Ontario College of Teachers and what they do? They have a section for the public on their website.  Check it out and if you are a parent, you will want to sign up for The Standard. It is a free newsletter for parents. The newsletter lets you know more about teachers’ qualifications, the work the College is doing to ensure high standards in education, trends in education and changes in educational legislation.  If you want to get the newsletter in French, you can do that as well.

You can also connect with the College on TwitterFacebook, and Youtube.

 

 

3 Tips to Help Teens Have a Healthy Smile this School Year

It’s that time of year, and we are busy getting our kids and teens back on schedule and making sure great habits are in place for the coming school year.  One of the things we had to concentrate on with my teen was dental health.  You see, like over 50% of teens, she was not brushing her teeth at least twice every day.  How can we get our teens brushing their teeth? How can we make sure our teens have a healthy smile for this school year?There are some simple things we can do as parents to get them brushing. For me, as a mom, it meant working within certain boundaries. My daughter has some sensory issues and is allergic to mint.

Here are some tips that I used with my teen, who is now brushing twice a day without being reminded. I count that a win for mom and my daughter’s teeth.

Sonicare

Less Junk Food

You can’t always control what they eat when out with friends, but you can control what you purchase. This summer I have been making sure there is less junk food in the house. Healthy snacks and beverages are vital for dental health.  I find my teen is now even ordering healthy options when we are out.

Compliment Them

I know my teen loves being told she looks good. Does yours? When we reinforce with a sincere compliment, we tend to have to remind them less. Let them know their new or improved dental habits are noticed.

 

Keep the Right Supplies on Hand

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When dealing with my teen’s sensory and allergy issues, I learned that having the right tools was so important if I wanted her to improve her dental health habits. She is allergic to mint. Do you know how many toothpastes have a mint flavour? We went shopping for a different flavour and, after checking with her dentist, found that even a flavoured kids toothpaste is fine to use as long as it had fluoride.  Nice to know if you have a kid like mine who reacts to mint. I also learned to have the right floss (unflavoured works for her) and the right toothbrush. Stock up on what works when they are on sale; that way you will have a small stockpile ready for the school year.

When it came time to find the right toothbrush, we chose the new Sonicare Series 2 Plaque Control Toothbrush from Philips. It retails for about $79.99.

Phillips Sonicare toothbrush

Why did we choose it? The toothbrush uses patented sonic technology to drive fluid deep between teeth and along the gumline for a super clean. After a recent visit to my dentist, I know how important that is. My teen says when she uses the Sonicare toothbrush it feels like she has just come home from the dentist. She loves how easy it is to use and how it makes her mouth feel.

I love knowing that it removes 6x more plaque than a manual toothbrush, which helps to reduce cavities. Thankfully, she has only ever had one. I also love that this toothbrush did not break the bank.My teen loves that hers is pink, though a variety of colours are available.

Have you ever had trouble getting your teens to brush their teeth? If you have, try my tips and let me know how they work. For my teen, changing these three things has helped her to develop some great dental health habits that will give her a great smile this school year.

Philips Sonicare uses dynamic cleaning action and patented sonic technology to gently and effectively reach deep between teeth for a superior clean you can see and feel.   Switch to Sonicare 2 Series and remove 6X more plaque than a manual toothbrush.

Sonicare Logo

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Philips via Mode Media Canada.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Philips.

 

 

The 10 Best Provincial Parks in Ontario for Camping With Your Family

Spring has finally arrived here in beautiful Ontario, Canada and camping enthusiasts like us are eagerly planning and booking their camping trips for the summer. We all know camping season begins with the May long weekend. Everyone has different requirements when they start searching for the perfect park to stay at, and parents camping with children know all too well how important it is to get a campground that will have enough going on to occupy their kids for the length of the stay. I took my little one on her first camping trip when she was four, and she has been on several since.  We both love to camp and are looking forward to getting away this summer.

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Finding that right campground can be a challenge when you are looking for the right activities and attractions. You work hard all year and your vacation time with your family is precious, so you want to make sure everything is researched, planned and perfect for your family. I know that is my desire when I make plans for us.  Check out what I consider the best 10 Ontario Provincial Park Campgrounds. I’m sure you will find your perfect summer family camping getaway amongst them.

Algonquin Provincial Park – 8 Campgrounds; 14 Trails; Each Campground and Picnic area has its own designated swimming areas; Birding; 3 Biking Trails; Boating; Canoeing; Fishing; Public Wolf Howl; Moose viewing along Hwy 60; Evening Outdoor Theatre Programs; Visitor Centre for Hour of Discovery with Games, Stories and Animals; Educational Guided Walks; Logging Museum & Art Centre.

My father first took me camping in this park when I was about ten years old. I still remember that trip. We spent a lot of time going for walks and swimming.

Arrowhead Provincial Park – 3 Sand Beaches; 5 Trails, Stubbs Falls; 2 Bike Trails; Birding; Canoeing; Fishing; Motor-Boat Free Lakes; Canoe, Kayak and Mountain Bike Rentals; Remains of Old Homesteads from 1870’s; Educational Programs for kids include Historical Walks, Evening Programs, Crafts & Games; 1 Hour drive to Algonquin Park.

The homesteads at this park remind me of my heritage. My family has been in Canada since well before Confederation. They were early farmers not far south of here.  This is where Rachel mastered the canoe.

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Bon Echo Provincial Park – 100 Metre High Mazinaw Rock with over 260 Aboriginal Pictographs; Interpretive Boat Tours on Mazinaw Lake over to Mazinaw Rock; 6 Hiking Trails; 3 Natural Sand Beaches; Educational Programs, Children’s Programs, Evening Shows; Biking; Birding; Boating; Canoeing; Fishing.

This campground was the very first one that I took my daughter too when she was little. She loved the evening programming and the educational programs. This is a great park with little ones.

 

Grundy Lake Provincial Park – 8 Natural Sand Beaches; 3 Hiking Trails; 9 Back Country Sites; Biking; Excellent Birding; Non-Motorized Lakes; Jumping Rocks; Canoeing & Kayak Rental nearby; Interactive Educational Programs, Guided Hikes, Campfires; ‘Art in the Park’ Program.

 

Killarney Provincial Park – 645 km of Backcountry Wilderness; 50 Lakes; 11 Canoe Routes; 6 Hiking Trails; 2 Beaches on Campground; Biking; Birding; Boating; Fishing; Georgian Bay Coast Line of Pink Granite & The La Cloche Mountains White Quartzite Ridges; Guided Hikes; Children’s Programs; Evening Programs; Art-In-The-Park & Artist-In-Residence Programs; Observatory hosting Guest Astronomers.

I have friends who live just outside the park, and it is one of their favourites. We camped here many years ago when I was younger.

 

Killbear Provincial Park – 6 Km of Biking Trails; 4 Hiking Trails; Birding; Boating; Canoeing; Fishing; Excellent Sailing & Windsurfing conditions; Cliff Jumping; Each Campground has its own designated Beach for Swimming; Children’s Programs; Guided Hikes; Evening Programs plus Musical Concerts by groups such as the Wakami Wailers.

This is a smaller park but a great getaway.

 

Long Point Provincial Park – 2 km of White Sandy Beach and Warm Lake Erie Water; 4th Oldest Provincial Park in Ontario (Est. 1921); One of the Largest Bird & Waterfowl Migration areas in North America with over 300 species; Biking; Boating; Canoeing; Programs throughout summer include ‘Reptiles at Risk’, ‘Creatures of the Night’, ‘Fowler’s Toad’

Everyone must camp here at least once. It truly is a wonderful park especially if your kids are into science and animals and migration.

Port Burwell Provincial Park – 2.5 km Sandy Beach with Shallow, Warm, Blue Water on Lake Erie; Excellent Play Area for kids; Biking; Boating; Canoeing; Fishing; 2 Hiking Trails; Birder’s Paradise with over 232 species; ‘Marvels of Migration’ Annual Autumn Hawk watching program; Interpretive & Recreational Programs include semi-weekly Children’s Crafts, Slide Show, Nature Theme Movies, Campfires, Skits & Conducted Hikes.

If you are a fall camper, it is a perfect time to hit this park.

 

Sandbanks Provincial Park – 3 Sandy Beaches with Shallow Water; World’s Largest Baymouth Barrier Dune Formation; Biking; Birding; Canoeing; Boating; Fishing; Explore 3 Hiking Trails with a Park Naturalist; Children’s Programs; Evening Campfire & Slide Shows.

One of our families favourite places to go is here. We love everything about this park.

 

The Pinery Provincial Park – 10 Km of Sand Beach on Lake Huron; Rolling Dunes; Rare and Fragile Oak Savanna & Coastal Dune Ecosystems with Extraordinary Biodiversity with over 800 Vascular Plants; Birding 318 Species; 10 Hiking Trails; 14 Km’s of Biking Trails; Fishing; Canoe, Hydro Bike, Paddleboat & Kayak Rentals; Programs Include – Bike Hikes, Evening Program, Conducted Walks, Children’s Nature Discovery-Stories & Animal Programs, ‘Ooze n’ Gooze’ Aquatic Discovery; National Geographic ranked Sunsets here among the “Top 10 Best in the World”.

If you love your sunsets like I love sunsets you want to go here.

Where ever you go, we are blessed to have some great provincial parks that we can get to this summer.

 

Honourable mentions: Awenda Provincial Park , Lake St. Peter Provincial Park, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Silent Lake Provincial Park