lake life

Not every lake dreams to be an ocean. Blessed are the ones who are happy with whom they are. ~ Mehmet Murat ildan

When given the choice between ocean or lake I have always been adamant that my choice is the ocean. There is something about the sea salt in the air and the taste as it kisses your lips. It is calming, and cooling, and it just feels fantastic. My husband on the other hand, when given the choice between ocean and lake has always chosen the lake. He loves lake life, the quiet feel of the water in the morning with the backdrop of trees and wooded area, and easy access to fresh water fishing. When we dream of retirement, it is always about building a house on the water, with me pushing for ocean frontage, and my husband pushing for a lakefront property. It is a fun back and forth game we play, always trying to sway the other over to our own personal preference.

When we left Nova Scotia and moved to Manitoba we soon realized that even though we gave up the fantastic ocean views we were now living in lake heaven. Endless lake possibilities and we have spent many days exploring them. I have enjoyed them all immensely, but I struggle to give up my feelings that oceans are still number one in my books. The last two springs my husband has headed north to The Pas for a boys only fishing trip. Both times he has come home with incredible stories of having fantastic fishing, great camping, and beautiful scenery, insisting that I simply must go see it for myself. Both times he has claimed that Clearwater Lake is one of the best lakes he has ever seen, his favourite lake in all of Manitoba, and that it might just be the lake to push me over the edge to becoming less of an ocean preference person. In the words of Barney Stinson from the tv show How I Met Your Mother - "Challenged accepted!".

Last week we road tripped north to Clearwater Lake Provincial Park so I could experience it for myself. My husband’s hunch that Clearwater lake could help sway me from ocean to lake was so very correct. Clearwater Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen, and I absolutely loved every single minute of it. From the cute yurts at Campers Cove, to the hiking trail simply called "The Caves" with nice look-offs and deep caverns into the earth, to the beautiful views from Sunset Beach, it truly is a remarkable place. Definitely a Manitoba gem, a place to relax and refresh, and a lake every Manitoban should check out for themselves. 


Sitting at Clearwater Lake on a dock at Campers Cove, the realization that I love lake life just as much as the ocean finally hit me and sunk in. Lake life is not better or worse than the ocean. It is equally as beautiful, as calming, and as wonderful, and now I consider myself not only an ocean girl but a lake girl too. In that one precise moment while sitting in a chair reading my book, I took a moment to glance up at the lake and soak in all the glory. As the waves gently hit the dock I couldn’t help but whisper to myself "life is better at the lake". Clearwater Lake taught me to open up my heart and make room for two favourites - the ocean and the lake. The decision of where to retire - ocean frontage or lakefront property - is now such a difficult decision. If I am lucky enough to end up with either one of them in retirement I will be truly happy and content.

For more information on Clearwater Lake Provincial Park please visit http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/popular_parks/northwest/clearwater.html.

pin & winnipeg

Fantastic contest alert! As my blog readers all know, I am a big fan of exploring everything in Manitoba. I love sharing my experiences and suggestions with my readers, and I love hearing about various attractions and adventures available in Manitoba that others have discovered. Recently I learned of a fantastic contest called Pin & Winnipeg sponsored by Tourism Winnipeg. The winner receives an amazing trip to Winnipeg to explore this great city firsthand. Airfare, hotel, and car rental are all included in the prize, and the winner chooses eight awesome adventures from a list of twenty four possibilities to create their own personalized Winnipeg trip itinerary. The personalized options range from food and wine, historic adventures, arts and culture, outdoor adventures, and sports and entertainment.


I have experienced many of these contest options personally and they are such great choices! From the Exchange District Food Tour to Fort Whyte Alive, The Manitoba Museum to the Assiniboine Park & Zoo, and to The Forks, I love them all and routinely recommend them to people who ask me about some of my favorite Winnipeg attractions. There are lots of choices that I haven’t tried out yet which are on my personal wish list such as Prairie 360, Hermetic Code Tour, Ten Spa, Adrenaline Adventures, Quatro Riel, and Thermea by Nordik Spa-Nature. I hope to experience these attractions in the very near future as they all sound so fantastic. The great thing about this contest is that it offers something for everyone as you get to customize your own Winnipeg vacation to suit your tastes and desires.

To enter the contest visit http://www.tourismwinnipeg.com/pin-and-winnipeg for details and then create your customized Winnipeg vacation on Pinterest. But hurry, contest is only open until June 30, 2014. If you like it then you’d better put a pin on it!

Thank you to Tourism Winnipeg for alerting me of this great contest and for sponsoring this blog post. The opinions expressed are my own.

love shack

The whole shack shimmies when everybody’s movin' around and around and around and around! Everybody’s movin', everybody’s groovin' baby, folks lining up outside just to get down! Everybody’s movin', everybody’s groovin' baby, funky little shack, funky little shack! ~ Love Shack by The B-52s

As I lean over the railing peering into Den #3 the song Love Shack by The B-52s starts playing in my head. I am at the Narcisse Snake Dens north of Winnipeg, Manitoba and I am bearing witness to one of nature’s craziest mating rituals - thousands of red-sided garter snakes all meeting up in holes attempting to reproduce. The snakes are everywhere, all shaking and gyrating, hissing and slithering, you can hear the dens humming before you even get to the viewing points. There are snakes in the grass making their way to the den, kids running around holding snakes that accidentally slithered onto the viewing deck, and people staring into the snake dens in astonishment and disbelief. There is this strong feeling of snake love in the air, a true spring fling for the snakes all searching for a mate. It is one of the most berserk yet intriguing and fascinating things I have ever seen.

The Narcisse Snake Dens is the world’s largest concentration of snakes, and provides an excellent resource for snake research teams. Every spring carloads of people road trip to Narcisse to watch as tens of thousands of snakes emerge into the dens and start courting one another. It is an easy Manitoba day trip, located approximately one hour from Winnipeg, and is the perfect place for a nice stroll and picnic on a sunny day as you meander from one snake den to the next viewing this phenomenon. 

While the song Love Shack was silently running through my head as I watched the snakes, my husband’s mind was wandering to Indiana Jones, who is notorious for having a fear of snakes. “Why did it have to be snakes?”, my husband says grinning, quoting a famous Indiana Jones line. We both smile and nod in agreement that Indiana Jones probably wouldn't like this place. But we sure do. There is something hypnotic about watching the snakes in the dens, similar to watching a campfire flicker. They are mesmerizing and soothing, yet slightly creepy at the same time, certainly a sight to behold and one of Manitoba's most unique tourist attractions. I am glad we made the trip to see these snakes in their love shacks with our own eyes. It was quite the experience!

For more information on the Narcisse Snake Dens click here.

 

peas & carrots

If a friendship lasts longer than seven years, psychologists say it will last a lifetime. ~ Unknown

In 1998 I was invited to a dinner party. A tall, blond, pretty 20 something girl from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia stood in her kitchen and cooked for me while we drank wine and talked about food, restaurants and music. She made a spicy chicken tomato pasta dish and it was fantastic and we became best friends. Her name is Kelly. We are like Oprah and Gayle, or Thelma and Louise, and as Forrest Gump would say “we go together like peas and carrots”. Over the next decade we ate lots of food and tried new things at a variety of restaurants. We visited farmers markets and specialty stores, and roasted local Larsen wieners over bonfires. We talked about life, and hopes, and dreams, all while sharing appetizers and desserts. Heck, she was there laughing her head off when I accidentally split my pants at a fancy restaurant in downtown Halifax! Kelly helped to shape my Halifax life, and in 2007 (seven years ago this month!) when I moved to rural Manitoba with my now husband, I was a bit worried that our friendship might slowly slip away, and leave nothing but a distant memory.  

All that worrying was for nothing. Facebook and Twitter appeared. Texting and Facetime gained popularity, and most importantly, Kelly started blogging. Her blog posts at www.kellyneil.com provided a glimpse into her every day life even if I couldn’t be back home in Nova Scotia. I was able to see her blossom into a well respected food stylist and food photographer. It kept us close even though we were provinces apart. Kelly began to encourage me to blog too, and to start sharing my Manitoba experiences so Nova Scotians could learn about Manitoba. In March 2011, Little Gray Bird was created, and I have been sharing my Manitoba thoughts ever since. Through my blog Kelly has started to view Manitoba differently - my stories and experiences have opened her eyes to Manitoba being a foodie destination - a place where two best friends could hit the road and go on an ultimate food road trip. We have talked about it many times, but we haven’t been able to make it happen quite yet, but some day we will take a Manitoba road trip and I will officially introduce Kelly to my new home province. We will eat lots of local Manitoba foods, discover the foodie culture, and most likely gain 10 pounds from all the amazing Manitoba experiences. It will be fantastic.

So in the spirit of friendship and food, and in hopes of someday taking a Manitoba road trip with my Nova Scotia best friend who has never been to the prairies, I have put together a list of Manitoba foodie adventures I think she would enjoy. Some I have already experienced personally, and others are still on my to do list. These are restaurants and places that I believe friends who love food and exploring would enjoy and would help create long lasting Manitoba memories. So why not grab your best friend, hit the road, and set out to discover a few of these Manitoba foodie adventures. Be sure to make a toast to friendship!

Ultimate Manitoba Foodie Adventures

Prairie Oils & Vinegars. Manitoba’s first oil and vinegar tasting room. Located in Steinbach. Pass me the bread and let’s start dipping! For more information click here.

Parkland Flavour Trail. The perfect way to explore The Parkland area of Manitoba with lots of foodie stops, including a stop at one of my personal favourite Manitoba restaurants, Foxtail Cafe. How about dinner aboard the Martese ship as you cruise around Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park? Lots of options to choose from! For more information click here.

Pizza from Foxtail Cafe in Onanole, Manitoba, part of the Parkland Flavour TrailFusion Grill. Listed as one of Canada’s Top Ten Restaurants by the Globe and Mail (2011), this restaurant offers truffle perogies with duck sausage and walnut cream sauce, chips and cheeks (pickerel), local Arctic Char, and many more with a regional flair. For more information click here

Half Pints Brewing Co. Manitoba beer! Free brewery tour every Saturday at 1:00 pm in Winnipeg. For more information click here

Chocolatier Constance Popp. Artisan chocolates made in Winnipeg using local products. Options include the beautiful Manitobar, Manitoba birch bark chocolate, and Manitoba beer chocolates. So many fantastic choices! For more information click here.

Country Corner Cafe. Located in the tiny rural community of Ninga, this restaurant is like a warm visit to you grandmother’s house. Small menu serving only a few sandwiches, soups, and pies, this cafe is a hidden gem, and has a devote customer base. For more information phone 204-534-2373.

Prairie 360. A Revolving restaurant with fantastic views in the heart of Winnipeg, it boasts an interesting menu with choices such as venison, elk, bison, and their own smoked Berkshire bacon. For more information click here.

Savour The Flavour Culinary Experience. Learn to make easter bread, and eat perogies, sausages, cabbage rolls, borscht, and beet leaf rolls made by Ukrainian Babas in Dauphin. For more information click here.  

Borscht made by Ukrainian Babas in Dauphin, ManitobaThe Wilderness Gourmet Canoeing Trip. Combining the beautiful Manitoba boreal forest experience with gourmet food, Northern Soul provides the ultimate rustic foodie adventure. No need to sacrifice good food just because you are eating around a campfire. For more information click here

Supper In The Field. A festive meal celebrating local Manitoba foods and recipes held every year in The Parkland. For more information click here

Bothwell Cheese. Manitoba’s locally made cheese located just a short drive from Winnipeg. You can visit the factory shop and choose a few cheese favorites to take home. For more information click here

Foraging And Fast Water at Moon Gate B&B. This adventure combines foraging for Manitoba edibles, learning to make your own preserves, and delicious food with the B&B experience. For more information click here

Devour The District Food Tour. Wonderful walking tour through the Exchange District in Winnipeg where you sample foods from some of the best restaurants in the city. For more information click here.

Tourtiere at Peasant Cookery, one of the restaurants on the Devour The District Tour in Winnipeg, ManitobaHoney, Garlic & Maple Syrup Festival. A taste of the Pembina Valley, featuring displays, food vendors, and a large buffet supper. For more information click here.

Kurbis Country Market. Manitoba farm offering locally grown vegetables, pickles, preserves, homemade baking, eggs, free range meats, and Cornell Creme ice cream. For more information click here.

Cinnamon Bun Trail. 41 different stops across rural Manitoba to sample cinnamon buns! Wowza! For more information click here

Baking 101 Retreat at Thistle Lane B&B. Learn to bake delicious treats in a farmhouse kitchen. Perfect for friends who want to share a unique rural foodie experience. For more information click here.

Sausages & Spankings Restaurant. With a name like that it is just begging for a road trip to Fannystelle! Should we order the sausages or the spankings?!? Currently open on Sundays only, it is best to call ahead to confirm before heading out. For more information phone 204-803-5731.

Bridge Drive-In. Described by many as the ultimate Winnipeg ice cream treat, the BDI is one of my favourite food discoveries in Winnipeg. I recommend the cantaberry, the goog special, or the sleeping beauty, followed by a stroll along the bridge. For more information click here.

The Cantaberry at Bridge Drive-In in Winnipeg, ManitobaMorden Corn & Apple Festival. With a variety of activities celebrating the locally grown corn and apples, including free hot buttered corn and ice cold cider, this is a festival designed perfectly for foodies friends. For more information click here.

Friends & Lovers Package At Calder House B&B. Combining time at Stonelane Orchard with a relaxing stay at a beautiful bed & breakfast, you will help pick delicious vegetables straight from the garden and assist with preparing them for your evening meal. For more information click here.

Grazing In The Field. You are transported by motor coach to a local dairy farm where you are treated to a farm tour and have the opportunity to connect with local dairy producers. Afterwards you experience a delicious meal under an open air tent. For more information click here.

St. Norbert’s Farmers Market. The largest farm market in Manitoba, offering a wide range of local  products including saskatoon berries, honey, bison, vegetables, and various baked goods. For more information click here.

Rural Roots Food Cooperative. A small store located in beautiful Boissevain which carries a variety of local Manitoba food products. How about picking up some Naosap Harvest Manitoba wild rice from Cranberry Portage, or Rocky Lake Birchworks syrup from The Pas? For more information click here.

Pizza Night at Integrity Foods. Specialty made pizza is baked in a stone oven in the middle of the yard while you walk around and meet the farmer, visit with the chickens, and enjoy the gardens. When the pizza is ready you sit and enjoy it picnic style. For more information click here

Pizza oven at Integrity Foods near Riverton, ManitobaNeechi Foods. Located in Winnipeg, this Aboriginal grocery sells delicious bannock, Manitoba caught fish, and a variety of local fruits and vegetables. For more information click here

Livery Barn Restaurant. Located at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, this restaurant serves Russian Mennonite traditional cuisine. For more information click here.

Reykavik Cafe. Located in Gimli, and specializing in Icelandic baked goods, this is the perfect place to sample vinetarta or other Icelandic treats. For more information phone 204-642-7598.

So there you have it, my starting list for if/when my Nova Scotia foodie friend finally makes it out to Manitoba to visit. Do you have any suggestions for things we should add to our list? Any great foodie adventures in Manitoba that we should definitely check out? If so, I would love for you to share!

For more information on food photographer/food stylist/food blogger Kelly Neil, and to see her recent honey maple bread recipe using Manitoba products that I sent to her in a care package, please visit click here.

snow angels and snuggling

So, Dad, I planned out our whole day. First we'll make snow angels for two hours, and then we'll go ice skating, and then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we'll snuggle. ~ Buddy The Elf

Doesn’t Buddy The Elf have the absolutely perfect winter plan? Doesn’t it sound like a great way to spend a cold winter’s day with a loved one? It sure does to me, and although Buddy The Elf is from a Christmas movie and all about Christmas cheer and the north pole, I have a sneaky suspicion with his interests and agenda he might also really enjoy a winter break in rural Manitoba. I know the perfect place for Buddy to make snow angels, go ice skating, eat sweet treats and snuggle. It’s Lakeview Hecla Resort in Hecla Provincial Park which is located approximately 200 km north of Winnipeg.

I first discovered Lakeview Hecla Resort in August 2013. You can read all about my amazing Hecla summer vacation by clicking here, but the short version is I loved my summer experience at Lakeview Hecla Resort and I knew I wanted to return. I was absolutely thrilled when I was invited to attend a Travel Manitoba media trip with some bloggers and writers to discover Lakeview Hecla Resort in the winter. I had an amazing time and I fully recommend Lakeview Hecla Resort for a great Manitoba getaway. The entire experience from start to finish was relaxing, refreshing and I left feeling energized. It was just what my soul needed for a winter pick-me-up.

 

During my trip it became very clear to me that winter possibilities at Lakeview Hecla Resort are endless, and there is something for everyone. Outdoor activities such as ice skating, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and fun times around a bonfire, all offer hours of family fun and are a great way to connect with nature and loved ones. Rentals for equipment such as snowshoes, cross country skis and toboggans are available onsite. If you prefer indoor activities you can play board games (lots to choose from at the front desk!), hang out at the vast array of indoor pools and hot tubs, and snuggle up and watch free movies in your beautiful room. If food is your thing, check out Seagull’s Restaurant, the onsite full service restaurant, and its delicious menu filled with great options (try the pickerel tacos they are awesome!), or grab a stool at the bar and order up a few Caesars to help numb the winter cold.

With very affordable prices (take a look at the current Cabin Fever package - it includes so many things and starts at $89 per night!), and being only two hours from Winnipeg, it is a fantastic option for a Manitoba winter getaway. The entire resort is updated with beautiful modern rooms and common areas with an Icelandic flare, and it is one of my absolute favorite spots to stay so far in all of Manitoba. This is a resort I will return to again and again and again.

So if you are looking for a great local Manitoba winter experience that won’t break the bank - stop looking - Lakeview Hecla Resort is it. It is the ultimate spot to enjoy Manitoba in the winter. While you are there, remember Buddy The Elf’s perfect winter agenda and be sure to make a few snow angels and take time to snuggle. You won’t be disapointed.

A huge thank to you Travel Manitoba for my great winter experience. For more information on Travel Manitoba please visit http://www.travelmanitoba.com/.

A huge thank you to Lakeview Hecla Resort for my great winter experience. For more information on Lakeview Hecla Resort please visit http://www.lakeviewhotels.com/hotels/hecla/.