Travel Series: Niagara Fall and Niagara-On-The-Lake

Flat Rock Cellars

We are freshly back from out first little kid-free getaway in Niagara Falls and Niagara-On-The-Lake and I don’t think I have felt this well rested in a long time. Our recent trip to the cottage in Calabogie was relaxing, yes, but we definitely didn’t have a good catch up on sleep while we were there. This was our one and only night since being parents that we had no responsibility of waking up through the night and absolutely no alarm clock in the morning. It was fantastic. 

Niagara Falls is fairly close to where we live so we do get to go quite often. We normally go for our anniversary in November but between Baby T and Covid it’s been a while since we’ve been able to go. Of course it was very different this time around and seemed very empty compared to normal, which was sad considering the area is usually bursting with tourists, but we still made the best of our one night there. 

We stayed at the Embassy Suites right on the falls and got a great deal through Groupon that included some vouchers for nearby restaurants. The Keg is right inside the restaurant but since we took this trip so last minute we didn’t have reservations and they are allowed very limited seating so we decided to do a take-out order and enjoy it in our room. We weren’t too disappointed, as we had a feeling this would be the case. They did such a great job with the take-out, the food all tasted exactly the same and was so fresh. 

There of course wasn’t really anything we could do after dinner but we were well prepared with some wine to share, a Toronto Maple Leafs Game on the TV (a book for me) and some chocolate for dessert. We had a great sleep and an even better sleep in! 

After leaving the hotel we took a drive around the Falls, like I said we live fairly close and have seen them so many times growing up but they’re still amazing to see. If you’ve never been to see them I definitely recommend it, no amount of pictures can do it justice. From there we headed to Niagara-On-The-Lake to visit a couple of wineries. 

Our first stop was Wayne Gretzky Distillery and Winery. It was a very cool place, especially for hockey fans; it even had a spot for an outdoor skating rink in the winter. The drinks were good (especially the Salted Caramel Cream), however our experience in general there was kind of ruined by our bartender. The nice thing about tastings is learning about what you’re tasting and learning about their process, and I guess we looked a little too young to care because she didn’t bother talking to us about anything (she did explain everything to the other more mature couples in the room so I guess we did kind of get the information secondhand). 

Anyway, leaving her behind, and really needing to have a happier ending to our trip we made our way to Flat Rock Cellars. Our experience there was amazing. We each were allowed four choices, and when I asked Tate (our bartender/wine expert) for his recommendations, he said he could actually give us all eight of the wines on the menu and then we could each share them and taste all of them. He then continued to check in with us as we were making our way through the wines and took the time to answer questions we had and explain to us their process for the wines (including the fact that they are one of only thirteen sustainable wineries in all of Ontario). The wine’s were so delicious we tried to pick only two to buy afterwards but ended up picking three. This was the wine tasting experience we needed to really top off the end to a great time away. 

I will leave links to all of these places down below. This post is not sponsored by any of these businesses at all we paid for the whole trip ourselves. However, if any of them want to send me some free wine, as usual I would not complain. 

Link to Embassy Suites

Link to Wayne Gretzky Estates

Link to Flat Rock Cellars

Travel Series: Myrtle Beach

My parents started going to Myrtle Beach when I was in high school. I went with them for two or three years and then after I got married I didn’t go with them for about five years. Once we could afford to take a couple of trips a year we decided to go with them every other year and in the time that I missed it felt like it hadn’t changed at all. It is still one of my favourite places to go back to over and over again. 

With that said, I’m a creature of habit, so for me going to the same places, eating at the same restaurants and sitting at the same spot on the beach year after year is a dream come true (I get it from my Dad). 

We always stay at the Anderson Ocean Club with my parents when we go, it’s right on the ocean and close to the best shopping and restaurants. There’s not a lot of nightlife but the beach is where we spend most of our days and the mixture of sun and fresh air usually makes me ready for bed at 9:00 pm anyway. 

It’s probably the most relaxing and unwinding vacation you can take. The people we go with, including my parents, are very laid back and easy going. Everyone makes their way to the beach on their own time schedule (the husbands golf most mornings and make their way down in the afternoons) and if everyone feels like eating at the same place they go together, if they don’t, they go separately and no one is worried. When I think of Myrtle Beach I think of sitting on a beach chair, music playing, staring out at the ocean and thinking of absolutely nothing at all. 

A big part of our trip is the restaurants, and to me, it’s some of the best food I’ve ever had. My husband and I have found a couple of low-key places that we love, like the burgers at River City Cafe and the giant margaritas and burritos at Banditos Cantina, both within walking distance of our hotel. We always visit Carrabbas, Gordon Biersch and Greg Norman’s (I know a couple of those are chain restaurants but they’re not ones that we have in Canada so to us they’re a Myrtle Beach specialty). One year, one of the couples that go every year took us to Margaritas Mexican Restaurant which looks like an 80’s diner from the outside but we were assured it was home to some really good authentic Mexican food. It was amazing Mexican food and amazing gold tequila and true to its name amazing margaritas. 

It might not seem like the most special or exciting place in the world, but everything seems to slow down when we’re there and isn’t a break like that something we all need sometimes? To me it’s good beaches, good food and drinks, amazing people and one of my favourite places. 

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

How’s It Going?

We are just over three weeks into our lockdown here in Ontario, it was supposed to be ending January 23rd but they gave lockdown a new name (Stay At Home Order) and from that point extended it until at least February 11th. How’s that going, you ask?

At the beginning of lockdown I had plans of how to get through it and stay positive but that’s not always easy to do. You don’t realize you’ve taken for granted so much in your life until it’s all considered illegal activity and after a while it does start to get to you no matter how hard you try. Through lockdown I’ve learned to take every day one at a time, even though almost every day seems exactly the same. If one day is worse than the others I try to wake up the next morning and start fresh, finding something to smile about first thing in the morning like breakfast with Baby T and sharing tea and coffee with my husband before we start our day. 

At work, I can tell that the lockdown is getting to everyone, employees and customers. I work in a very small branch and with new policies and procedures that include screening customers at the front door it’s obvious that there is a new tension in the environment. As someone who stays as far away from conflict as possible, I find some of my days are very uneasy trying to avoid bothering people.

I consider myself lucky to be able to go to work part time at this point because at least it gets me out of the house and interacting with a handful of people, stay at home moms have it the hardest right now I think with no play groups to go to and no stores to go walk your baby around in. Even the two days I’m by myself with Baby T, I struggle to find things in the house to entertain her and with no where to go except for maybe a walk if you feel like bundling up in 5, and under, degree weather.

It feels like it puts more pressure on me to be more creative with activities for her but that’s hard when you’re not really a crafty or creative person. Sometimes I can sense that she’s as bored sitting at home as I am. 

All in all, I know this is a pretty down and depressing blog but also probably one I’ve needed to write for a while. It’s hard to put into verbal words sometimes how I’m feeling but putting them out there in writing is always very therapeutic. If you’re feeling the same way and need to put it down in writing feel free to put it in the comments, no judgements here. Also, have a look at my previous blog of getting through a second lockdown for a refresher of ideas and motivation to be positive, I might do the same myself. I will leave it linked below.

Speaking of writing being therapeutic, since I switched to only posting once a week I haven’t been writing as often as I’d like to. I have lots of content prepared for the next few weeks and I am already writing into posts for the end of February, so I have decided I would like to try posting twice a week… Monday’s and Thursday’s at 5 pm. That’s a bit exciting isn’t it? You get to hear more from me, hopefully less depressing!

Thanks for reading and keep your chin up (telling myself the very same thing in the mirror). 

https://evangelyntavares.ca/2020/12/27/lockdown-number-two/

What to Expect from My Blog

I wanted to give a little update of my plans for my blog, we’re coming up on almost seven months of blogging which is honestly more than I even thought I would do. I appreciate the likes, comments and subscribers so much! It’s been such a fun passion project for me and I have every intention of keeping it going for as long as I’m able to! 

Blog Schedule

In order to keep the blog going I though it would be good to make more of a schedule for posting, so starting with my next post (next week) I will be posting once a week on Thursdays at 8 pm. I’m a working mom now and I want to make sure that I keep my time organized to make the most of time with my family as well as my hobbies (and keep on top of the house work).

Pinterest

All of my posts will now also be posted on my Pinterest page which you can also follow here > www.pinterest.com/evangelyntavaresca if you would like or by clicking the Pinterest symbol on this page. 

Blog Topics

I will still be covering a variety of topics including Mom-blogs, Parenting Tips, Travel Series and continuing my blog challenge. I’d also like to introduce an Affordable Fixes Series for Home Decor and Fashion where I will share my finds for affordable items in these categories. 

Again, I want to say a big thank you to those of you who have been with me since the beginning and such a good support and welcome to newer ones! I hope my blog continues to give you new ideas to try and most importantly, makes you smile! 

Travel Series: Destin, Florida

This month’s travel series feature is a place that I now hold dear in my heart for two reasons. The first being, it was our first trip that we took with Baby T, she was six months old and we flew there (with connecting flights and yes, we survived). The second is that this was our last trip before COVID-19 became a household name and took over everyone’s lives which sounds dramatic but we all know it’s the truth.

We took this trip at the very end of February 2020 with our family, our close friends, who have a baby boy the same age as Baby T, and their families. How did we fit 14 people in one place? Rent a beach mansion, which is surprisingly affordable when there are that many people going and it’s offseason. I will post a photo of the house below so you can see just how big it was. It was right across from Destin Beach which has gorgeous powder white sand (also pictured below) and while it wasn’t quite the warm beach vacation we thought it was going to be, the chill kept the crowds away and most days if we went for a walk on the beach we were the only ones around. It was mostly the breeze that was making it cooler so we spent most of our time in the pool at the house which was more sheltered from the wind.

When we weren’t by the pool we would go shopping, play games or explore the harbour fronts. It was a very relaxed group to go with which is always a good thing. As for restaurants, we only ate out once or twice but our absolute favourite was Whale’s Tails. It was a five-minute walk down the street and right on the beach but we only discovered it on the last day of our trip so we went for lunch and dinner. The tacos were amazing and even though we completely filled the indoor seating for our dinner, we had the best time (and more tacos).

We all wholeheartedly agreed that we wanted to go back next year to the same place, but by the time we got home COVID-19 was quickly spreading and within a couple of weeks all travel was stopped and we were on our way to lockdown. Even though we headed home to tough times the memories we made there stuck with us and we know that one day, once it’s safe, we will go back and do it all again.

Beach Mansion
White Sand Beaches

Travel Series: NYC

In October of 2018 I went to New York City with my mom for a long weekend and to this day it’s one of my favourite trips (sorry to my husband but it’s really not his kind of trip). Let me start with what made me want to go to New York so badly. Three words: Frozen.. On.. Broadway. The ultimate dream of any Frozen fan was to see it on Broadway in New York with Caissie Levy and Patti Murin as Elsa and Anna. If you’ve been to good Broadway shows you know they can take something good on screen and make it next level, like with The Lion King.

So I was dying to go to New York to see it but like I said it’s not really a trip my husband was interested in taking especially considering how expensive it can be for two people. That was when my mom stepped in and said she would go with me, thereby splitting the cost in half. My mom and I are big planners so we had everything planned out for each day way ahead of time and this was our first girls weekend together since I got married so we were pretty excited.

We flew in from Toronto and got an Uber to our hotel, the Hilton in Times Square which was the perfect location for everything we planned. The first night we had made reservations at this little Italian Place within walking distance so we walked right through bustling Times Square on our way there. It was already nighttime but the lights from the screens made it seem like it was daytime. It was packed with people and we were trying to quickly get to the restaurant while also taking it all in for the first time.

The restaurant we had chosen was one of the top-rated (affordable) Italian restaurants online called Patsy’s Italian Restaraunt and it has been owned and operated by the Scognamillo Family since 1944 (information thanks to a quick google search). We were so pleasantly surprised to be in this little cozy spot for our first night in New York. I ordered the Chicken Parmigiana and oh my goodness I think I still dream about that meal, I have never had authentic Italian chicken parmigiana and it changed my life. It sounds dramatic but I dare you to try it and have a different reaction. After our dinner, we took our dessert to go and took a more leisurely walk through Times Square on our way back to the hotel.

For our second day, we had booked a tour at the Metropolitan Museum. It was booked for later in the morning so we made plans to walk to the Museum through Central Park and picked a few spots along the way that we wanted to stop and see like the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain and basically all of the other places you’ve seen on Gossip Girl. Once we got to the MET we started our tour which was three hours long but also seriously fascinating. I don’t know about you but when I’m walking around a museum looking at artifacts I would read the plaque about it and think “oh cool” then move on, but with the tour, the guide went into so much detail and pointed out how different things in different sections went together to create a story from history.

That evening was our biggest plan of the weekend; seeing Frozen on Broadway. I was way too excited to eat a big meal so we ate light and went to the theatre to get settled into our seats in plenty of time before the show started. I had seen a couple of YouTube videos from American Breakfast TV shows showing ‘Let It Go’ and ‘For The First Time in Forever’ but seeing it all together live was incredible. The actors were so talented and by the time it was over I could have sat down again and watched it all the way through a second time.

The rest of the weekend we spent exploring as much of the city as we could; we walked down to see the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, the Financial District, SoHo, Brooklyn Bridge and Rockefeller Centre. We walked 15km every day for three days and even though I had bought new memory foam shoes special for this trip, my feet still felt like they were going to fall off. For two mornings in a row we went to the same New York Bagel place (Liberty Bagels) and split a bagel breakfast sandwich that was right up there with the Chicken Parmigiana which is the reason we went the second time. By the last night, we were too tired to go out for dinner so we ordered room service and a bottle of wine to share while we watched a movie on TV (The Greatest Showman if I recall correctly). It was sad when it was over, we always talked about when we were going to go back maybe the following year which obviously didn’t happen since I was 8 months pregnant in October 2019, but that was okay because it was the perfect trip and to this day one of my favourite weekends spent with my mom.

Bethesda Terrace
Times Square
Liberty Bagels
Frozen On Broadway

Travel Series: Portugal 1&2

Another month, another travel destination. This month we’re revisiting Portugal, twice!

Wine, beaches and sardines. We’ve been to Portugal twice now since we’ve been married. My Father-in-Law (hereby named FIL) is from a small town near Porto. The first time we went was in 2014 as part of our mini Europe tour. We went to Furadouro where my FIL’s brothers live. We spent a few days there visiting them and his father, who was in his late 90’s at the time. One day we took him for a drive into the mountains nearby and even though it seemed like our giant van wasn’t going to make it up the small winding roads (cliffs at some points), we could tell he loved it. You don’t need to speak the same language to tell someone is having a good time when they’re laughing and cheering all the way up. From the top, we saw some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.

We also visited the Castelo de Santa Maria da Feira which my FIL had visited as a kid for school trips. It was so cool to have him show us where he grew up, his childhood memories and even the house he grew up in. His brothers and their families were nothing but kind and hospitable to us, again regardless of the language barrier.

The second half of the trip we spent in Albufeira which is in the Algarve. The Algarve is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Our hotel was in the middle of a steep hill; at the bottom was the beach and beachside restaurants and at the top was restaurants and bars that did everything they could to get you inside. One night this included literally lifting one of the guys and carrying him inside. It is also home to a Portuguese specialty that we craved long after leaving; chicken piri piri.

The next time we visited in 2019, I was four months pregnant with Baby T. We stayed in Ovar in the north which is a small fishing village still close to my FIL’s family. Sadly, his father passed away a couple of months before our trip, but again his brothers showed us the best hospitality. We went to a Porto soccer game and if you ever get the chance to go to a soccer game in Europe, it’s like a hockey game on steroids. We were also introduced to “Fire Water” by Uncle Titu which is not recommended for lightweight drinkers or pregnant women. We visited the city of Porto and even though it felt like you were walking uphill through the whole city, it did live up to European city expectations with the beautiful architecture you can’t find in North America.

Portugal also treats pregnant women like royalty. You get your own short lineups to skip the long ones and priority security and boarding at airports. Again, I was only four months pregnant at the time so I might have had to stick my belly out a little for them to realize why I was taking advantage of these things. One night we went to a very fancy seafood restaurant. I obviously couldn’t eat the seafood but tried to ask the waiter if any of the Portuguese words on the menu meant ‘chicken’. Once he realized why I was asking he said (rubbing his belly), “We will find you chicken, because of your condition”. Let me just say, that was some of the best chicken I’ve ever had at a restaurant.

We spent the second half of our visit in our same spot in Albufeira. Even though the bars didn’t have the same appeal when you’re not able to drink, there was still plenty of good food to have. The beach was still beautiful and hot but after having little to no shade the first day, my husband took me to the market to buy a cheap beach chair and umbrella to make me more comfortable. I wasn’t lying when I said he was a smart man.

Even though we don’t know when our next trip to Portugal will be, it will always be a repeat spot for us. We’re looking forward to taking Baby T and whatever other children we have by then along with us. As long as by then I can enjoy the €8 bottle of wine we get at every dinner I’ll be happy.

Castelo de Santa Maria da Feira
Golden Beach – Albufeira
Golden Beach – Albufeira
Golden Beach – Albufeira
Praia de Benagil
FC Porto Soccer Game
City of Porto

Travel Series: Ireland


Has it been a month already? Here’s my second Travel Series Feature; Ireland.

Ireland has a special place in my heart. Ten years before taking this trip I fell in love with Ireland. I loved how green everything looked and it seemed like a place that felt like home to me, it still does. So finally I had made it to Ireland and was ready to fulfill as many dreams as I could in a four-day window. The first stop was the Ashford Castle. Flashback again about ten years I got my hands on a travel book for Ireland that sold tours, one of which was a tour where you took a bus across parts of Ireland and spent one night in a castle. One of these was the Ashford Castle and I fell in love with it. Well, I finally made it there for a day visit and guess what, you can’t go look inside unless you’re staying in the hotel (which I believe would cost €800 per night which was just a tiny bit over our very small budget). We had driven an hour to go see it and I was trying not to be heartbroken about it. The good news was, you were free to explore the grounds which ended up being endless little secret gardens that we spent hours exploring and to this day is still one of my favourite memories.

From there we drove to Galway which was exactly what you would imagine an Irish city to be like. Music on the streets and lined with pubs and happy drinkers. We took a day trip while we were there to go see the Aran Islands. We had to drive early in the morning to catch the first ferry to Innismore (the largest of the three islands) and then we rented bikes to ride from one end to the other and back. We visited Dun Aengus and stood on the cliffs watching the ocean below and then we went to my all-time favourite place in the world. The Worm Hole. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. It’s incredible. We had the area all to ourselves since it was fairly tricky to get to and sat on the rocks right next to the ocean to take it all in.

Driving back to Galway from the ferry we got lost and it’s the best wrong turn we ever made. We ended up on a winding little road in between mountains with a perfect little creek running down the middle and herds of sheep walking all over the place. It was picture perfect.

Following Galway we went back to Dublin where we had flown into and spent the last few days exploring the city and going to as many pubs as possible on Friday and Saturday night in Temple Bar. Because it was springtime all the pubs had their windows open so you could walk the streets and go into whichever one had the best music.

Ireland still has a special place in my heart and I don’t know when but one day I will take Baby T there and show her all these places that are now so special to me.

View From Dun Aengus
Gardens at the Ashford Castle
The Ashford Castle
The Aran Islands
Guinness Brewery
Temple Bar, Dublin

Travel Series: England

This will be the first of a mini travel series highlighting some of the places I’ve been and any little things I recommend doing if you get the chance to go (once travel is a part of normal life again). These will be posted once a month for the foreseeable future. First stop, England!

Good old England. We travelled here in 2014 with my husband’s family for a 20 day Europe trip which included England, Ireland and Portugal. This was our first stop on a very exciting trip. We stayed about an hour train ride outside of London and rode in every day to tackle as much as we could in three days. Some of my top memories are riding the tube and learning all of the routes, walking around the streets just taking in all of the beautiful architecture, the Tower Bridge (people actually say to walk on another bridge to get a good view of the tower bridge but I would say if you have the time, do BOTH) and Victoria Sponge Cake. There was a little Cafe we stopped at along the river, the Embankment Cafe if I remember correctly and I at down and had the best Victoria Sponge Cake ever, and I tried as many as I could while we were there.

Funny story if you’re a fan of the Beatles, we took off on the tube headed towards Abbey Road stop hoping to see the iconic crosswalk from the Abbey Road Album. This was one of the last stops on the track and it took us almost an hour to get to it. We stepped off the tube and were greeted by a big sign saying something along the lines of ‘if you’re looking for the Abbey Road crosswalk on the front of the album this isn’t it’. Turns out Abbey Road in this case wasn’t actually Abbey Road. The real Abbey Road was all the way back in London in St Johns Wood. So that was fun.

We also took a bus tour to see Stone Henge, the Roman Baths and Windsor Castle. Our tour guide was a graduate of Oxford (as we were told the entire day) and he told us all of his theories on Stone Henge according to what he learned at ‘Oxford School of Logic’. His words, not mine. Regardless he gave us a good laugh for the day and did actually have some very good facts to share with us.

We visited where my mother in law grew up and went to a pub that she went to when she was a teenager, The Ballot Box. Turns out it has the best roast dinner you can find in all of England. It was so good, we went there twice.

Where I live we don’t have a history like they do in England so being there and having all that history around us was incredible. I would definitely go back and do it again.

The Guards at Windsor Castle
The Tower Bridge
Piccadilly Circus (not actually a circus)
The Gates at Buckingham Palace