Our family of six recently spent a week in Essex County. Essex County was one of the first places to be settled in Ontario. It is still primarily rural and is known for very flat farmland and a lot of wind. Point Pelee, the southernmost point of land in Canada, is in the county. Expect hot summers and snowy winters.
The landscape is now peppered with windmills as far as the eye can see. Farmers receive approximately $8,000 per year from each installation. At night, the red lights put one in mind of an alien invasion and during the day, the arms look like spiders creeping across the landscape, rarely stopping. It is a unique sight and was one of the characteristics most noticeable about this part of the province.
I would recommend the following if you are heading to Essex County:
1. Stay in Lighthouse Cove.
Lighthouse Cove is built on a canal system feeding from the mouth of the Thames River into Lake St. Clair. Every home in the community backs onto the canal. This facilitates fishing from the backyard along with fire pits overlooking the water. The canal is always moving.
We stayed at a beach house with a five-hole putting green in the backyard. There was also kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. Walking around the community is interesting as the houses range from tiny cabins to massive mansions and everything in between.
Lake St. Clair is a very shallow lake, 21 feet at its lowest point except in the shipping channel that is dredged to 27 feet deep to facilitate Great Lakes shipping from Lake Huron to Lake Erie. It has sandy beaches, most notably at Belle River, and lots of sandbars.
2. Go to Point Pelee National Park.
Point Pelee is our second smallest National Park at the southernmost tip of Canada. It is also our most ecologically diverse, known for thousands of flocks of migratory birds in the Spring and Fall along with monarch butterflies. Originally a military base coveted for its red cedar for boat making, it is now maintained by the country’s parks system who do an excellent job of preservation and protection.
Our family visited in late June. We had a wonderful time at the very tip of the point, barefoot in the sand, wading into the water to our ankles, marveling at the tides and waves and how the Lake Erie water comes sloshing together there. We climbed to the top of the lookout point and were able to see Pelee Island. We also enjoyed the tram and some hiking. There is a boardwalk that takes you right over the top of the water where you can view barnyard sparrows and red-winged blackbirds close-up along with all manner of flora and fauna.
We spent a second day swimming in the beach on the west side, enjoying the sand bars and the waves. The water was fresh and the beach was long with multiple picnic tables for guests who didn’t want to swim. It is one of the nicest beaches in the county.
3. Golf at On the Green Mini Golf in Tecumseh.
On The Green Mini Golf is a 36-hole outdoor facility along with a 17,000 square foot indoor golf extravaganza. We played all 36 holes of pirate-themed outdoor mini golf. Animatronic buccaneers talk to you when you come in and there are multiple plates telling interesting pirate facts and tales as you move through the course. The holes are creative, fun and challenging. We had a marvelous time.
The indoor facility was closed due to COVID but looks fascinating with the ability to play any course in the world from the simulated indoor area. We ended with soft serve ice cream cones – vanilla and chocolate swirl - while we sat at the picnic table waiting for our ride. It was a pleasurable way to spend a few hours.
4. Go to Windsor to gaze across the Detroit River.
Go to Windsor and look across the relatively narrow Detroit River at the United States of America. The border runs right down the middle of the river. There is something neat about looking across at a totally different country and seeing Americans driving their cars along the water with the Stars and Stripes flying proud. Detroit used to be a bustling, busy, vibrant city. The infrastructure is still on full display when you gaze across the river. It is a most interesting experience.
Windsor has done a nice job of creating and maintaining multiple waterfront parks where you can play frisbee, swim, play on climbers, walk dogs, picnic and just enjoy some green space by the water. Many houses fronting the Detroit River are large and luxurious. The drive past the Ambassador Bridge is also engaging and there were some freighters in the river.
On the way back, we visited Stop 26 Ice Cream & More and ate some tasty ice cream. It was a nice drive.
5. Go Walleye Fishing on Lake Erie.
Lake Erie is known as the best place for walleye fishing in the world. Walleye, also called pickerel, is a white fish typically ranging in size from 19 to 24 inches in length. It makes for a delicious meal when cooked fresh.
We chartered a 28-foot boat captained by Chris Benn through Crooked Hook Charters. He had 12 fishing poles running alongside his radar system showing where the fish were. Our children each caught multiple fish, primarily walleye but also two sheepheads, a big trout, and a couple of baby perch. We ate the trout for dinner that night.
The boat ride on Lake Erie was magical, with the wind blowing through our hair and the water shining and shimmering. The day was sunny and warm with a breeze. Being half an hour out in the middle of the lake was most enthralling. Everyone had a grand time. Canada is extremely lucky to have all the freshwater lakes we do.
In Essex County, the weather was beautiful, the people friendly, and the landscape much different than what we were used to. Being on the water is always a luxurious pleasure and boating on the lakes makes you feel fortunate to live in Canada. Although the windmills everywhere you look took some getting used to, the week in Essex County was most relaxing, relatively affordable, and something I would recommend.
I was born and raised in Canada. I am an incredibly proud Canadian. It perplexes me to hear anyone suggest that we should "cancel" Canada Day. How the concept of cancelling Canada Day can help, in any capacity, the Indigenous children who died at residential schools is illogical in the extreme. Yes, in hindsight, Canada should never have set up residential schools. No sensible Canadian could argue any different. But does that somehow besmirch Canada as a whole and everything that is wonderful and worth celebrating about Canada? Absolutely not.
Canada deserves celebrating for countless reasons. It is a safe, happy, industrious and kind place to live. Canadians are known worldwide for being nice. We have some of the safest cities in the world. We have a low unemployment rate, offering everyone the opportunity to make something of themselves with hard work and sacrifice. We are a tolerant people, welcoming people of all races, religions and creeds. We have universal health care. We have the most beautiful topography in the world with our vast mountains, our low valleys, our wheat fields, our whale sightings, our craggy coastlines, our abundant Great Lakes, our shoreline, our fresh air and our abundant space. We produce the best hockey players in the world. And our walleye fishing is internationally renowned. And that is just the beginning...
No country is perfect, but ours comes damn close. One of my boys' Grade 9 teachers immigrated to Canada from Iran. Very few people in the civilized world would call Iran a good country. Yet that teacher had the gall to tell my boys that they should be ashamed of living in Canada because of our Indigenous history. That comment is offensive. Judging Canada based on one aspect of our history, namely how we treated our Indigenous people in the 1880s forward, is neither fair nor logical. No reasonable person would argue that residential schools were a good idea. But the decisions made then in that time were made when society was less enlightened and more prejudiced. They have to be looked at in the context of the time. Thankfully we in Canada have evolved since then. That is one of the reasons Canada is such a great country, because of our evolution and constant improvement. As a result, no reasonable Canadian today would suggest that we continue the residential school model for Indigenous people. We now know better.
The Cancel Culture that has developed lately is dangerous. Humans are not perfect. Far from it. To hold every person to the standard of perfection and to "cancel" that person if he or she says something that "the powers that be" deem offensive creates a superficial culture of automatons. Sanctimony is an ugly trait. I don't know one sanctimonious person that I like. Extreme political correctness creates a culture where everything on the surface is perfect yet underneath there is an ugly underbelly seething with resentment and anger at the hypocrisy on display. The reality is that everyone has prejudices. Everyone has biases. That is what makes humans different, unique and interesting. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone of a certain age has regrets. No one is perfect. If the sins of the mother are visited on the child, then I pity my children. I believe the key is to try to continually improve, to work on becoming kinder, more compassionate, and more helpful. Self-righteous people like to tell everyone else what is right and what is wrong. Those are not my kind of people. If you believe you are already perfect, then there is nothing to improve. I like the people that recognize they have many problems but work to improve themselves and resolve those problems without becoming smug.
I intend to celebrate Canada Day today and every July 1st. I intend to continue to be immensely proud of my country. I will encourage my children to celebrate Canada Day. Canada is the best country in the world. That being said, celebrating Canada Day doesn't mean I don't feel pity for the Indigenous children who died at residential schools. To the contrary. I embrace Desiderata. "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." Even though mistakes were made by past Canadians, Canada is still a beautiful country. Happy Canada Day!
As we enter into our second pandemic summer where travel is limited, I have enjoyed rediscovering Ontario and finding places in our own backyard to savour. Our kids need to get out of the city and enjoy themselves, and we could definitely use a change of scenery. Although there’s no telling exactly what will be open this summer, here are five activities for the family that can be added to your summer bucket list.
1. Hit the beach
Some people like to spend days at the beach sunbathing; others just like to walk on the sand in the morning or evening; and children tend to spend hours frolicking in the water. This is an obvious summer activity, so I have researched three new beaches to avoid your becoming bored of visiting the same ones. Ontario is home to over 250,000 lakes so there are so many beaches to explore that you could probably choose a new one each weekend of your life and still not cover all of them. I would recommend trying these three this summer:
2. Take a road trip
Our children always enjoy a road trip…as long as it doesn’t go on too long. While some kids might be antsy, with games and activities loaded into the car, you can keep them occupied until you reach the destination. Here are three interesting Ontario road trip ideas:
Depending on what’s open, there are many Ontario adventures to explore including:
4. Discover Bruce’s Peninsula
Arguably one of the province’s most cherished natural areas, Bruce’s Peninsula offers a wonderful place to explore. In hand with endless parks and trails, attractions include:
Ontario offers several opportunities to explore the dark, quiet world of caves. Some trips we are considering include:
Canada is 40th in the world in vaccination rollout and Ontario is in our third lockdown since the pandemic began. Clearly we are punching way below our weight in the fight against COVID.
Closing restaurants, health clubs, hair salons and small retailers is clearly not going to stem the increase in COVID infections. That decision is merely going to put those businesses closer and closer to the precipice of bankruptcy. Closing the entire province when the problem is in Toronto and Peel is also asinine. This punishes the entire province when the COVID problem is concentrated in two main regions.
We have protected our elderly and most vulnerable living in congregate settings through mass vaccinations where they live. Let's now focus on the sources of the current COVID problem: the mass outbreaks in essential service workplaces in the hot zones of Toronto and Peel. Let's immediately vaccinate all essential workers regardless of age, at their workplaces. This would include the Amazon warehouse workers, the Canada Post workers, the teachers and the meat packer workers. Let's also focus our current vaccines on Toronto and Peel because that is Ground Zero in Ontario. You solve the problem there, it reduces or eliminates the spread everywhere else.
I cannot fathom how frustrating a province wide shutdown must feel like in Sault Ste. Marie or Sarnia. Doesn't common sense dictate that we focus on the problem. My dad had an analogy. If Ford Motor Company had a problem in one factory, they would solve the problem in that factory. They would not close all the other factories until they figured out the solution for the one problem in the one factory.
Rather than close businesses that have nothing to do with increasing COVID outbreaks; rather than shut down a province where infection rates are low in most regions; rather than damage certain segments of the economy already teetering on the edge, why don't we just focus on the problem. First, immediately vaccinate all essential workers regardless of their age. Second, focus the vaccines available to vaccinate those living in Peel's and Toronto's highest risk neighbourhoods regardless of age. And re-open the province, for goodness' sake.
Those moves might at least demonstrate that we are still in the ring trying to knock out the foe using a modicum of common sense and a glimmer of intelligence. Imagine.
My children are smart but no one would call them keeners. They like to learn but rather than listen to their teacher, they prefer to play, either online or physically. Their favourite part of school is the social aspect. Needless to say the online model of learning is not working for them. My husband and I view it as a lost year of learning thus far, and we are not out of the woods yet.
Regular school gives my children so much to look forward to. They love to socialize; they look forward to playing school sports; they enjoy certain teachers; and they like learning new things in a classroom environment. When they are at school, they sometimes use their spare time with their friends to tackle homework so they have nothing to bring home whereas other times they play football or tag with friends. We are fortunate that none of our children has ever told us they hated school and refused to go.
Online school is a whole other ball game. Rather than refuse to go, they sign in then tune out. I cannot count the number of times I have come downstairs to see them with their headphones in listening to their teacher while a video game is being played on the screen. This is not an effective method of learning. I fear they are taking in next to nothing of what is being said or taught. The “new normal” is a misnomer…this is nowhere close to normal in either experience or outcome.
It will be interesting to see the impact of interrupted learning on this generation of COVID kids, whether they score lower as a group on IQ or aptitude tests later in life because of the disruption to their learning in their formative years. Face to face interaction with the teacher is critical to my children’s success. Face to face interaction between my children and their classmates is likely just as critical to their success. Both of those components are missing online.
The latest COVID numbers in Ontario are somewhat encouraging and the trend seems to be downward. I can only hope that in-school attendance will return soon. In the meantime, my children are becoming very adept at doing the bare minimum to survive their online school experience while actually learning bupkis.
Israel has vaccinated more than 1 million people since December 20th, surpassing its goal of 150,000 vaccinations per day. In stark contrast, Ontario started vaccinating almost a week earlier than Israel and has vaccinated a little more than 50,000 people in the same period. Yet Israel has a smaller population than the province of Ontario, with 8.8 million people to our 14.5.
Growing up, my father used to run the assembly line at Ford Motor Company in St. Thomas. He managed 1,100 people on the line who would produce 60 cars an hour over a ten hour shift. He is an engineer skilled at production, logistics and delivering solutions to problems…just the sort of person that Doug Ford needs to roll out an effective vaccination program for Ontarians.
Although I realize some people do not want to be vaccinated, the vast majority of Ontarians do. If we assume 80% of Ontarians want to be vaccinated and we target normal life resuming by September of 2021, we must vaccinate approximately 11.5 million people between now and then. By my calculations, that means we should be vaccinating about 1.5 million per month or 48,000 people per day. Right now we are vaccinating 8,000 on a good day.
COVID 19 has caused so much death, illness, mental health distress and overall destruction it is time for it to end…and the end is in sight.
Papa…when can you start?
Bruce Peninsula is located at the northern tip of Southern Ontario, separating Lake Huron from Georgian Bay. Tobermory is at the north end of Bruce Peninsula; Sauble Beach at the south. It is about three hours from Toronto. This is one of the prettiest parts of the province, with the largest nature reserves in Southern Ontario. Bears, rattlesnakes, loons, herons, and all manner of interesting animals can be found here.
Georgian Bay is known for its rugged landscape, clear cold water, and stone beaches. Lake Huron is clear, blue and sandy. Sauble Beach is the second longest freshwater beach in the world with 11 kilometres of sandy beach.
We recently spent five nights in the region and recommend five sights that are a must see when here:
1. Play on the sand and in the water at Sauble Beach.
Sauble Beach is the world's second longest freshwater beach, after Wasaga. We have such bounty in Ontario. Sauble Beach is known for fabulous sandbars stretching hundreds of feet out into the water. The water is crystal clear such that you can see your toes when you are walking in the lake. The beach strip is great for younger adults who want the beach vibe next to the strip but the north end of the beach is perfect for families who don't want to deal with the crowds. We swam every morning between 10 am and noon at the north end of the beach and pretty much had a good stretch of the beach to ourselves. We swam every evening between 6 and 8 pm and again pretty much had the beach to ourselves. The water in August is refreshing. I suspect it would have been a bit cold in June and July but our four children could not have cared less. Bring a football, a couple of frisbees, your beach toys, along with some inexpensive floaties. Your children will spend two hours in the lake playing and wave surfing without once asking for their electronics. And the sunsets are gorgeous! Sauble Beach is definitely a highlight of this part of the world.
2. Visit the Grotto.
The Grotto is an Ontario heritage site and is spectacular. There is no other word for it. You have to book your parking and access to the hiking trails well in advance, particularly in the summer and on long weekends. We instead rented a hard hulled Kodiak with boat operator from Divers Den in Tobermory for two hours. We docked a hundred yards away from the grotto and snorkeled in. This cost $400 plus tax and was money very well spent. The water is blue and green and clear clear clear. The rock formations and underground caverns and caves are breathtaking. The grotto itself is a treasure and feels like a magical secret cave when you are swimming in it. You can also jump off the large rocks into the clear water. This was a highlight of our trip. Our children begged to go back a second day but we could not afford to rent the boat again and had not booked access to the hiking trail...otherwise we would have been back at least two days in a row. This is a must see in this part of the world.
3. Go splunking.
There are a bounty of caves in this part of the world. We visited Bruce's Caves for our hike but there are many options from which to choose. After a bumpy drive into the parking area, we enjoyed an easy 15 minute walk into the caves. The vegetation around the caves was lush and mossy and green. The caves themselves were very interesting with strange rock formations, narrow passageways from one cave to the other, high steep rocks to climb, deep gulleys to explore, and in general very interesting rock formations that we had not seen before. The children were enchanted. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon.
4. Go see Flowerpot Island.
Whether you arrive by ferry boat or private charter, Flowerpot Island is something to see. Manitoulin Island is a three hour journey by ferry, but Flowerpot Island is a mere 25 minute journey from Tobermory. The island has lots of interesting stone formations and sights to explore. It is named for the one intact flowerpot rock in the lake along with one flowerpot that has partially fallen but remains interesting. The third flowerpot sunk into the lake a while ago. Just the unusual nature of the rock formations makes this visually curious. Spending time in nature exploring the island is a refreshing break from whatever you do every day for work. It will reset your priorities spending time in such an awe-inspiring environment.
5. Eat local.
There are many local eateries and small groceries that sell homemade goods. We loved the homemade cookies, fresh ice cream, and homemade burgers from North Sauble Meats N More. Sitting down to eat burgers off the barbecue with fresh corn was a pleasure. Kelsey's in Owen Sound, at the foot of Bruce Peninsula, was also just excellent. We visited three days in a row and their chicken with sweet and spicy Thai sauce was exceptional as were their quesadillas, broccoli and cheddar soup, and homemade biscuits. Everything we ate was fresh and delicious...a culinary delight. A good trip should involve good food and this one did not disappoint.
Bruce Peninsula is well worth seeing. You are guaranteed to come away with a deeper appreciation of the stunning beauty available to us in Ontario along with a plan to return someday real soon.
I predict that the price of houses in towns and cities that are within one to two hours of Toronto will skyrocket in value over the next two years, outpacing the average price appreciation for all residential real estate in Ontario. There are three reasons I make this prediction.
First, with the onset of COVID, a lot of employers have been forced to permit their employees to work from home. This is a trend that is here to stay. Even bankers and lawyers are working from home. That flexibility and the concept that you may only need to attend the office in person two to three days a week removes the need for people to live in or near the big city. Commuting a few days a week is not as onerous as commuting every single weekday. This provides flexibility and opens up a much larger radius around the city for purchasing a home. The smaller towns are far more affordable than Toronto. A colleague of mine recently bought a brand new home in Bracebridge for less than $500,000. That is an attractive metric for many people who currently live in the city.
Second, there are so many condominium dwellers and apartment dwellers who are sick of waiting 45 minutes or more for the elevator due to social distancing. They are also tired of heading up and down the emergency exit stairs trying to keep their distance. They are desperate to breathe the fresh air and spend some time outdoors given the state of emergency orders that have been in place. Many condominiums and apartments have no outdoor space. Those feelings of having been cooped up in a box will drive many of those condominium owners to sell their condominiums and purchase houses that they can afford…and those affordable communities are typically at least an hour outside of Toronto and often as far away as two hours away.
Finally, the price of houses in the city of Toronto remains incredibly high. The prices are completely unaffordable for most families. Anyone coming into the city from elsewhere in Canada cannot afford to buy in Toronto. That lack of access to affordable houses in the city will drive people who want a backyard and their own house further and further outside of the city limits.
Those three trends support my prediction that homes in the surrounding communities within one to two hours of Toronto will skyrocket over the next two years. We’ll see if the prediction comes to fruition.
I feel extremely lucky to be Canadian.
When I was growing up, there was a perception that being Canadian was second best to being American. No longer. Canada has truly come into its own as a country in the past 30 years.
I am proud of our peaceful welcoming personality; I am proud of our tolerance within reason; I am proud of our humanity and compassion; I am proud of our business acumen; I am proud of our intelligence; I am proud of our practical common sense; I am proud of our sense of fun; I am proud of our embracing of life; I am proud of our athletic achievements; I am proud to be Canadian.
Happy Canada Day!
Muskoka is known for many things...beautiful sunsets, sparkling lakes, muskoka chairs, docks, boats, cottages, fishing, and relaxation. Increasingly, though, it is becoming known for small business development.
In speaking with Matt Holmes, the Head Planner for the town of Bracebridge for the past decade, he indicated that for the first five years he was in the job, most development applications were for residential building. In the past five years, though, the preponderance of applications have been for commercial and industrial building. This should translate into jobs.
At Aspire Muskoka's building, there are 50 different tenants, most of whom are small businesses. Muskoka Futures and Contact North are both in the building and they foster and develop small businesses in Muskoka. Lake of Bays Brewery is growing and they have recently opened a brewpub in Huntsville. Sheerly Genius will be joining Aspire Muskoka in August and they are a new business in Muskoka. Premium Storage's lockers are full and they are currently building another 18 lockers to provide more capacity. Muskoka Contracting has recently opened.
David Grand of Muskoka Grown has started growing marijuana in his new building off Keith Road and has purchased expansion lands beside to build a larger building to grow more marijuana. There are two other marijuana groups that have bought property in town.
Muskoka Lumber has recently purchased a building by Highway 11 to begin constructing their own roof trusses, an expansion of their existing business. There are many more businesses opening and growing which will be the subject of future blogs.
Suffice it to say that doing business in Muskoka is a growing trend. Both the town and the government agencies in Muskoka are very supportive of this movement. The benefit of job growth in Muskoka is that those who come to call Muskoka home can enjoy the beautiful sunsets, sparkling lakes, muskoka chairs, docks, boats, cottages, fishing, and relaxation when they are not working. A true win-win.
Entrepreneur and mom to four amazing kids
Q: Why did the can crusher quit his job?
A: Because it was soda pressing.