In this day and age, everyone I know is busy. Busy with work, busy with family, busy with responsibilities. Mike and I are no different, and have certainly fallen into the busy trap, especially with our home renovation. Every weekend is scheduled with tasks to bring us one step closer to moving in, but it has also brought us closer and closer to burning out. Mike quickly realized that we needed a weekend away to completely recharge, and spend a little time just us two (and Emma, of course). One day he came home, and asked if I had anything planned on a weekend in early November, and I reluctantly said no, and then quickly typed “House Renos” into our shared google calendar for that weekend. I had safely assumed that was what he meant…but I was wrong, and better yet, pleasantly surprised! Mike had contacted this lovely woman, Lucy, who owned a beautiful log cabin in Val-des-Monts, Quebec, only 30 minutes from downtown Ottawa, and had booked us a weekend stay. Once Mike had told me what he actually had planned, I was beyond excited and quickly became obsessed with looking at pictures and reading about the cabin online!
Out of all the outdoor activities one can do, hiking is my absolute favourite. My love for the activity started when I was very young. My dads side of the family would spend Thanksgiving weekend together in the Thousand Islands, and as a huge group we would hike up to the top of Blue Mountain. Enjoying the glorious fall colours all while climbing to the top of the mountain to take in the spectacular view was always a huge treat for me, and truly stemmed my love for hiking. My feelings grew tenfold when I moved out to Vancouver, Canada and was able to take part some of the most spectacular hikes out there. Having since moved back to my home city I am always looking for another great hiking adventure near by, and last weekend a few of us set out to Gatineau Park to do just that.
Though cold, and quite snow covered, the sun was blazing as we set out to the Willson Ruins. Mike and I had been to this particular spot before, but we wanted to show Kayla the truly beautiful treasure since she had never even been to Gatineau Park before. The three of us (and Emma) marched through the snowy trails to the site of the ruins, and since we had only been there once before in the fall it was incredible to see the flowing water surrounded by cascading icicles.
After visiting the ruins we headed back to the parking lot to meet some of Kayla’s friends, and check out another trail. We decided on a quick loop around the Sugar Bush Trail, which is a beautifully treed hike by the river. Since it was still pretty chilly out the trail was very quiet, and we were able to stop and take some photos before the sun started to go down.
Photography by Marguerite Belanger Photography
We all had an amazing time checking out some of the many trails in Gatineau Park, and given the recent change in weather, I can guarantee it won’t be long until we’re hitting the trails again soon!
Until next time,
Despite the fact that this winter has been particularly less colossal than years past, once March hits all Ottawa folk seem to be a little more desperate for some warmer weather. Lucky for us, Mother Nature decided to gift us some for Easter, and it was much appreciated.
Since Mike was out of town, Emma and I took advantage of that spring sunshine, and hit the nearby trails with my dad and furry blonde brother, Bailey. It was amazing to get outside in a light jacket, and breathe in that fresh spring air! The four of us set out on different trails Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and it was exactly what we needed after a recent bout of terribly cold weather. Although my dad and I walk the dogs together often after work, it was especially nice spend some quality time on extra long walks in the warm daylight.
The rest of the weekend was filled with loads of family and friend time. A barbecue with my best friend’s family, a girls night out to catch the hockey game, Easter lunch at my grandparents, and an epic hunt with my cousins for enough Tim Horton’s Nutella filled cookies to feed our big Italian family occupied my weekend, and made it fly by. Usually I wish for long weekend’s to slow down, and stretch out as long as possible, but this time was a little different. Mike was gone to Revelstoke, British Columbia to snowmobile in the immense Rocky Mountain terrain during prime avalanche time (of course :-|), and therefore, I really appreciated the swiftness of this holiday weekend. Every evening I waited for the mandatory “I’m alive!” text, and I could breathe easy again until the next morning. That said, it was all worth it to see Mike’s beaming face in a few breathtaking photos throughout the trip. It was a lifelong dream for him, and I couldn’t be happier that he was able to experience that with some of his closest friends.
Now that Mike has returned home safely, I am very much looking forward to getting back into our normal routine. Given the recent change in temperature, I see a few cottage weekends, long hikes with Emma, and swims in my grandparents pool on our upcoming agenda!
Hope you’re enjoying the warm sunshine as much as I am!
If you’ve ever visited the Thousand Islands, you’d know it’s an absolutely breathtaking place. The impressively huge St. Lawrence River littered with islands of all sizes is surely a site to see. About ten years ago now my parents bought a piece of land on Howe Island. Howe Island is one of the larger masses, accessible by two ferries, straight across from Wolfe Island, which is the largest of all the islands in the area. It is very quiet with just over 500 year round residents, but in the summer months it is a HUGE hot spot for locals, and tourists looking to enjoy the sparkling open waters. My parents are absolutely in love with their little slice of paradise that, in my opinion, boasts the most beautiful view in the area. They started out building their deck/dock and boat slip, and eventually built their gorgeous house. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but they did it, and it’s absolutely amazing.
So when faced with the mid-winter blues, and the province of Ontario so kindly gives you a long weekend in February, you take it and run to a place that brings a smile to your face, and for our family, it’s the island. Mike, Kayla and I packed up the car Friday after work and made the very stormy drive to Kingston to pick up Yanik, Kayla’s boyfriend, who trained in from Toronto. The four of us (and Emma!) made our way to Howe Island from there, totally ready to start our long weekend. We woke up Saturday morning to the most gorgeous view over the water. It was so cold that there was a thick rolling cloud over the St. Lawrence, and the blazing sun made absolutely everything sparkle. Before the crew woke up, I ran down to the dock to grab a few photos before heading back to the house to start brunch. There is literally nothing better than a good coffee and a view; we were all in heavenly relaxation mode.
My parents showed up just after lunch, and once they arrived we grabbed our warmest snow gear to hit the trails. It was freezing (-40 degrees Celsius), but we were dressed so well that we all managed to work up a sweat on our 5km hike around the island. My dad was thrilled to give everyone the tour of the Howe Island trails. The rest of the weekend was filled with lounging, binge watching some of our favourite TV series’, playing scattegories, and an awesome pancake and mimosa Valentine’s Day brunch. It was a great weekend, and I can’t wait to make our way to Howe Island again soon…hopefully when the weather is a little warmer, and we can make good use of that epic dock!
My urge to travel only seems to be growing stronger as I get older. The more places I see, the more I want to see. No travel bug is ever cured, in my opinion, it just keeps coming back to bite you, and it’s always stronger than the last time.
As 2015 came to a close, I found myself daydreaming of the places we could see in 2016, and all the places that have already been checked off the long list of must sees so far! In the last few years I have been incredibly lucky, and was able to travel quite a bit. I decided to share some of my past travel memories on the blog, starting with my all time favourite…
Western Canada is and always will be my favourite place on earth. Two summers ago Mike and I planned an incredible adventure hitting up Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, Banff, Jasper, and Edmonton…not to mention all the little towns, and villages we passed along the way. In Vancouver, we hiked Cypress and enjoyed a few pints at the top, splurged on a rooftop dinner in Yaletown, strolled along the beach in Kitsilano, and woke up to the glorious mountain view in my amazing friend, Kristina’s, beach front apartment. Kristina is the gorgeous gal I moved out west with a few years back. She is beautiful, smart and driven, and I’ve always been infatuated by her ability to excel in everything she puts her mind to. Kristina is still living the life in Vancouver soaking in that fresh mountain air for me. I miss her everyday, and cannot wait to pay her another visit soon.
After Vancouver, we drove the stunning Sea-to-Sky highway to Squamish, and Whistler where we rode the Gondola and walked the suspension bridge, watched brave kite surfers soar over the open waters, dipped our toes in a few gorgeous rivers and lakes, and picnicked in Whistler Village. We were fortunate enough to stay with my incredible friends, Niki and Dave, their adorable daughter, Callie, and their amazing pup, Audi. Niki is the reason I decided to make the leap and move to Vancouver in the first place. Niki and I met in University where we both worked at The Keg Steakhouse (Kristina worked there too!). After graduating she moved back to BC, and a few years down the road convinced me to make the big move out west. Although I wasn’t in Vancouver long, I will forever be thankful for the way Niki and Dave took me in and treated me like family right away (obviously we coined ourselves the Modern Family because, well, who wouldn’t?!). More importantly, I am beyond grateful for Niki’s enthusiasm and ability to show me British Columbia through her eyes…and on this particular holiday, showing Mike as well. She is an unbelievably inspiring person, and I am so fortunate to be a part of her life. My anxiousness for another Modern Family reunion grows stronger everyday, and it’s only a matter of time before our hikers are packed, and we’re all blazing the trails together again.
Three days in BC, a lot of tears, and too many goodbyes later, Mike and I set out to make the drive to Alberta. This is something we’ve both always wanted to do, and it surpassed our expectations by a landslide. Each passing mountain seemed bigger than the last, and there was not a spare moment during that drive where we weren’t squealing about the view. By the end of our twelve hour car ride, our faces were sore from smiling so much, and we were still beaming with excitement from everything we had witnessed that day. This was also in part due to the fact that on one of our many highway pull overs, along one of the most incredible stretches of mountains and flowing glacier water, Mike got down on one knee and proposed as the sun was setting. It was an incredible day that neither of us will ever forget.
Mike and I camped during our time in Alberta, and it was the most relaxing, nature filled experience. The campsites were surrounded by mountains and wildlife (especially in Jasper!), which completely fulfilled our nature craving nearing the end of the summer. In Banff, we visited Lake Louise and hiked to the Teahouse, strolled along Morraine Lake, ventured to Johnston Canyon, and witnessed the stunning view of Peyto Lake…they were all so beautiful it was hard to believe they were even real.
The same can be said for Jasper. Wild elk came right up to us at the campsite, and the fresh mountain air was truly indescribable. While in Jasper, we toured the Columbia Icefield Glacier and walked about it, hiked through Maligne Gorge, and then slowly made our way to Edmonton where we splurged on a beautiful hotel room for the final night of our vacation. We were lucky enough to close out our vacation swimming in the hotel pool, lounging in the amazing hot tub, and visiting with Mike’s good buddy, Pat, who was working out that way. This holiday was one of the most spectacular I’ve experienced to date, and I can’t wait to visit those mountains again someday soon.
Here are some of our favourite photos from this spectacular holiday!
Thanks for stopping by!
Mike, being from Northern Ontario, is a huge winter fan. He dreams of blizzards all year long, and squeals with excitement when the weather starts to cool. Even the slightest sign of snow fall sets him off, and gets him obsessing about taking his once hibernating skidoo out for the first rip of the season. A typical night in the Sousa household is one where I nod off to the powerful sound of a sled’s braap in a youtube video.
Unfortunately for my sweet snow obsessed husband, this winter, even in the Great White North, was unlike any other. We drove up with little to no signs of fresh powder, leaving poor Mike with a sad realization that his beloved sled wouldn’t even get a chance to leave the trailer we towed 1000 kms from Ottawa. To make matters worse, Ottawa got hit with a whopping 30 cms of snow a few days after we left, and Hearst was still sporting icy trails with grass poking through. My parents, god love them, took this as an opportunity to torment their son-in-law by calling him Wrong Direction… Although my dad has no clue who One Direction is he couldn’t help but chuckle over his son-in-law’s misfortune and my mom’s goofy sense of humour.
Although the sledding conditions were subpar, the trails were just packed enough to enjoy a nice brisk snowshoe! I’ve been able to set out twice so far, and it has been fantastic. Both days were chilly, but not not too cold, and the trails were just snow covered enough to set the perfect, scenic walk in the woods.
Looking forward to another snowy adventure back home soon!
Bye for now!
Usually December in Ottawa is freezing, and buried by about 5ft of snow already. This year, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, we are experiencing the strangest winter weather yet! Every day has been mild (about 2-15 degrees Celsius) with a mix of sunshine, cloud and rain. I certainly can’t complain since it’s been easier commuting back and forth to the hospital without piles of snow and ice, BUT I really do love a white Christmas … and that is definitely not happening this year. Needless to say, rain or shine, snow or sleet, Mike and I are big outdoors fans, and we always try to spend the majority of our time off enjoying the fresh air. This past weekend was no exception.
Lucky for us, my boss gives us a free day off every year before the holidays (#bestbossever), and both Mike and I decided Friday would be the day, giving ourselves a nice long weekend. Since the weather has been so mild, and we desperately needed a day of relaxation, we decided to enjoy our awesome wedding gift from Mike’s sister, Kayla. She bought us a gift certificate to a beautiful Nordic spa in Chelsea, Quebec, which you can check it out here! Le Nordik is an incredible oasis nestled in the Gatineau Hills. It boasts gorgeous hot and cold pools, waterfalls, saunas, steam baths, fire pits, and incredible food and wine. With all of that to look forward to, Mike and I took to the road after breakfast, and made our way to the spa which is a short 30 minute drive from home. We spent most of the day there, and it was worth every minute. Between the warm pools and outdoor fireplaces we were in heaven.
Although I was hoping to snap a few photos of the spa in the day light, we ended up getting carried away with our full on relaxing day off and sadly let our photo op fall to the wayside. Fortunately, I was able to grab my phone and grab a few shots on our way out!
After our incredibly chill Friday, and a hospital visit planned for Saturday evening, Mike and I wanted to get a few things done around the house Saturday morning. After tacking some chores, we decided to take the pups (Emma and my parents dog, Bailey) for a long walk before heading downtown to see my grandpa. We were lucky enough to stumble upon some absolutely gorgeous trails about 10 minutes walking distance from our place. A few photos are posted below!
By Sunday, Mike and I were in full on outdoorsy mode after taking advantage of the weather both Friday and Saturday, so we had to close out with a weekend hat trick of outdoor activities. On our very first date, Mike took me to a property he owned in the country to enjoy a bonfire and pizza outside the rustic log cabin he built on his own…you heard correct… he built an entire log cabin with his bare hands! Totally impressive, right?! Although he eventually sold the property along with the log cabin, the new owner allows us to visit the land from time to time, and that is exactly what we did on Sunday afternoon. Along with two of our good friends, we enjoyed some four wheeler rides, and a toasty campfire until the sun was setting and the rain started up.
All in all, we had a fantastic weekend with a lot of fresh air! Hopefully that will tide us over until next weekend!
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I'm Jessie, and welcome to Cool, Calm & Cozy!
This space is an outlet for me to connect with my creative side and keep long lasting memories with my family. Writing and making videos of our adventures together is a passion of mine, which I hope brings joy to my whole family presently and in the future!
Hope you enjoy Cool, Calm & Cozy, and thanks for following along!