How I had Winter Fun up North, when the Pandemic took away travel options..

Everybody who knows me, knows I can’t stand the cold. I am not a winter person. Even as a born and raised Canadian, I can’t skate, ski, or play hockey….all of the things that would make winter worthwhile. Without an interest in winter sports, all I have to look forward to as an urbanite in Toronto winters are slushy dirty snow, traffic accidents, public transit delays, a sun that sets at 5pm, and the depression constant darkness brings. It’s a season that gives me nothing, other than a gut from over eating out of boredom, and the lack of the ability to get outside for fear of being frozen. So for travel ideas if given a chance to chose in a non-pandemic travel world, one would find me on a white sand beach, or walking down big city streets, or soaking up culture in the finest museums internationally.

With the start of this year’s holiday season, it was also the start of another variant of Covid, and again the usual patterns of hibernating, being bored at home was all too tempting. But having time off work put pressure on me to think outside the box. Avoiding the stress from all the international travel restrictions, I instead planned a trip up North to a small cottage town called Bracebridge in Muskoka, a very picturesque area of Ontario that I never explored before. And thus launched the idea that maybe I could have fun this winter. Think trees, a lovely winding river and quietness. My son and I enjoyed days in with a magnificent view and cozy comfort food at the Inn’s pub. What I learned was winter could be beautiful and starting the New Year seemed positive. Travelling to remote areas in the winter has it’s perks, and while it’s no tropical paradise, it was relaxing and replenished me somehow.

On a hill with a bridge. Overlooking the river, my inn was just in the buildings behind.

Why Leaving the City for a Northern Getaway Worked:

  1. Traveling out of the city to a remote small town meant I didn’t have to get on a plane to go somewhere new and unexplored. And while Muskoka area was not too different from Toronto climate (albeit much colder), just the fact that getting there didn’t rely on delays, stress and customs at an airport, made it enjoyable. A two hour bus ride was all it took.
  2. I was by the beautiful Muskoka river and it was quiet and serene: Toronto doesn’t have big areas of peaceful water. It’s busy and hectic to get down to the harbour front and cold and windy to be near Lake Ontario during the winter. It’s hard to enjoy winter in the city. But it was pristine up North.
  3. “Baby it’s cold outside”: Just like the Christmas song implies, I didn’t need to be outside to have fun up North. I invested in a gorgeous suite that overlooked the river on a ravine. It was cold outside so after an afternoon of hiking around outside, I could return to my suite and just hibernate all night by the faux fireplace while enjoying Netflix and the view. Being inside and aiming to isolate never felt so right.
  4. The locals up north were friendly: Toronto is a grumpy city. Forget that we are supposed to be “nice Canadians” we just aren’t. So when I get random “happy new years” greetings from locals and staff it’s actually really nice.
  5. Because small towns are less populated, there is less adherence to strict Covid methods, such as I was barely screened for vaccination when dining, and there was just a calmer outlook when in public.

All in all I had fun up North in the small town of Bracebridge and that surprised me, considering I going somewhere colder and more remote based on pandemic restrictions. But this trip proved that sometimes being in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter can be fun.

On a steel bridge in Bracebridge feeling the small town charm, forgetting the cold!

A tattoo is a skin wound that takes 3 weeks to heal…

I recently added some new designs and details to an existing tattoo. Working with a trusted tattoo artist, I let her carve into me some extra sea imagery to my Venus goddess tattoo. For those not familiar with the process, a tattoo is thousands of little holes punched into the inner layer of the skin with an electric needle tool. The holes are filled with pigment and allowed to heal. As a result, it will hold whatever image is placed under the skin permanently. It’s an artform that is truly transformative and meaningful. But it requires the skin to be broken, hurt and maimed. But after some time, it’s an art piece that is painless and wonderful to look at. There are no scars but for the colourful pigments left behind.

This is the original tattoo. Simple and pretty, but not reminiscent of the way Venus was “born of the sea”. I wanted some more water imagery. The artist preps me by shaving the area.

There are other physically painful things that take time for the body to physically recover but the outcomes are so amazing. Childbirth for example. A woman’s body is pushed and stretched beyond comfortable proportions. Labour is very traumatic to experience. Intense contractions, and a human being having to exit a small space, it’s actually pretty violent. But the rewards are very real. A tiny bundle of joy awaits, and it makes the ordeal all worth it. My own experience giving birth to my son had taken me a year to heal before I felt physically like myself again. Ballet dancers are another example. They put their bodies and feet into demanding, often debilitating routines. And the outcome is an artful elegant dance that looks effortless…

My finished creation: I love how the artist made the water so flowy and fluid looking. She looks like a goddess born of the sea now!

During my most recent tattoo session, I was personally going through a break-up of immense emotional pain, walking out of a one sided relationship scenario. I confided this to my tattoo artist and she was sympathetic. She advised me that I should and would find somebody better. I’m always skeptical about the idea that I will find true emotional/spiritual recovery after a break-up, since my heart is actually wounded and it doesn’t seem to have a heal date confirmed. A injured heart doesn’t seem to have a simple, or guaranteed healing timeline the way a new tattoo does. But I figure I will have to take care of my wounds during this time, and believe it can pass. It can be and opportunity for transformation. Skin that has been tattooed on takes 3 weeks to fully heal, my tattoo artist said….but I’m wondering now how long will it take for my heart to heal? I don’t know, but I’m hoping it will also be in 3 weeks time.

Yay, I’m loving it…this is week one of healing this tattoo. Can’t wait till it’s done. Still sensitive.

How Ice Cream can solve everything

Words of wisdom on the wall of the ice cream parlour in pink neon. yaas.

The summer is hot this year in Toronto…and I am currently observing how things are re opening here. Restaurants now have inviting patios, shops are allowing people inside to browse again, and there is a bustling, busy fun feeling in the air. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my low days. Those are days where something that is not in my control, has gotten me anxious or worried, and I just don’t know what to do about it. I wrote an article a while back about mental health and how to handle feeling depressed and sad. Check it out HERE. But this article is more about how ti use ice cream to sometimes cope with theworries, and persistent problems in my mood that can not be solved immediately, or even completely solved. It can drive me mad when I dwell on things I shouldn’t be.

This is the ice cream parlour I went to in Toronto. Super fashionable, modern, no? They specialize in asian flavour inspired soft serve icecream!

Think about it: in movies, tv shows, in songs…the most satisfying treat for a unrested mind or broken mood is ice cream. It’s the reward often given to children for being “good”. It’s the familiar remedy for emotional pain post break-up…it comes in so many flavours that there is no excuse to not like at least one flavour of ice cream! So ya, grab a couple of scoops whenever stressful situations arise and then desert the worries they present by enjoying this dessert. What better way to “solve” unsolvable problems than with a few scoops of decadent, sweet, cooling, ice cream! For me, even just forgetting a problem for a moment in time can be a way of solving it (kinda). Just enjoy things for the pleasurable moment it offers and feel like everything is okay in the world. Let’s be kind to ourselves and watch our problems melt away–just the problems that is, not the ice cream.

What flavour did I end up getting? This is the black charcoal icecream that has a mild coconut flavour with ube flavour (light purple) Ube is a purple Asian yam with a delicate flavour often used in desserts.