What can you do on Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan?

Who knew there was so much to see in Michigan? Being from Southern Ontario, right next door to Michigan, we usually see it from the highway on our way to more Southern destinations. The highway doesn’t give the best perspective when judging what a place has to offer. Getting off the beaten path can prove to be a rewarding and surprising experience for the whole family.

We had planned a much longer trip to the Mid-West for this summer but life always throws curveballs. My husband ended up starting a new and exciting chapter in his work life but it meant we had to shorten the vacation and the purse strings to allow him to build his credibility and repertoire in his new position. There were some groans from the peanut gallery, aka my 10-year and 14-year old sons, when I mentioned the thought of vacationing closer to home in our neighbouring Michigan.  I knew from experience, when you pick a place to visit and keep an open mind, you can be surprised by the unexpected jewels that you find that you would otherwise never experience.  Once of those gems was Old Mission Peninsula.

I have to admit, I secretly had a selfish reasons for heading to Michigan.  I am a BIG fan of The Curse of Oak Island on the History channel.  If you are into anything Knights Templar, pirate treasure or lore you may have heard of it.  If not, I suggest you look up Oak Island on Google – there’s A TONNE of stuff.  Basically, it’s a 200 hundred year old hunt for treasure on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada.  Two brothers from Michigan, Rick and Marty Lagina, are invested in the search for this infamous treasure.  So much so, they are part of a reality series on the History Channel.  On the side, Marty and his son Alex, have a winery in North Western Michigan that I’ve been dying to visit since they aired an episode about it a couple seasons ago.  I love wine, I love Oak Island, I need a relatively close place to vacation ~BOOM ~ vineyard in Michigan owned by the Lagina’s heading up the Oak Island treasure-search.  I’m in.

Mari Vineyards, Old Mission Peninsula, Laginas, Michigan
Entering Mari Vineyards

Before reaching my destination of preference, we travelled to Traverse City, Michigan to spend the night.  I didn’t know what to expect in Michigan, except for the area around Birch Run as I have been known to frequent the Premium Outlets back when our dollar was much stronger.  I chose to stay at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa because it had a 4.9 star rating out of 5.  It certainly lived up to its rating.  There was an indoor water park for the kids, shopping, golf, restaurants and lots of other things to enjoy.  And we were only there for the night but we had a great time.  Not-to-mention there were breath-taking views and nature all around.  The kids wanted to have a longer stay but we had a full agenda and needed to move on.  I will certainly mark this beauty of a resort for future excursions.

Grand Travers Resort, Traverse City, Michigan

We hit our destination early on the second day and it was wasn’t quite open so we headed along Old Mission peninsula for a scenic drive to fill the time.  We ended up at the point and visited old “Mission Point Lighthouse“.   It was a perfect spot to stop with some parking, a heritage cabin, a  shallow beach and of course, the lighthouse itself.  This was our first opportunity to get up-close and personal with Lake Michigan.  It’s a marvel.  The water was crystal clear.  One of my “bucket-list” items is to set my feet in all 5 of the Great Lakes and I was able to mark this one off.  It was a bit cool for the morning but definitely would have been excellent for a dip in the heat of the early afternoon.  My youngest and I skipped some stones on the smooth water before heading up to check out the lighthouse itself.   I must also mention there is a cabin  These are the things that have the most impact for me.  Finding those little off-the-beaten-path treasures that end up finding a place in the memory bank of your mind.

Old Mission Peninsula, Mission Point Lighthouse

Cherry orchards are plentiful on Old Mission peninsula as well.  Where I come from, apple orchards are the norm so seeing so many trees with small red cherries as opposed to larger round apples, was a bit unique.  My husband is a cherry lover so we stopped at a road side stand and got some cherry juice and other cherry treats while there.

Cherries, Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan

Upon doing a little reading of one of the local tourism publications before heading out in the morning, my husband learned of a little craft brewery hidden away on Old Mission peninsula and suggested that since we were here we might as well check it out.  We stopped in the Jolly Pumpkin.  There were so many beers to try.  My husband had a couple of samples before deciding on a pint of a pale and citrusy ale.  Myself, I opted for more variety and went for a flight of their “sours”.  There were some darks, a red and a couple of others.  My favourite was a paler ale, much like the one my husband chose, with a sour but refreshing citrus after taste.  The kids got to enjoy a summer drink too!  They relished in some ice cold and fresh squeezed lemonade and learned a little about about the pub from the super-cool bartender.


By this point in the day, our destination of choice, Mari Vineyards, would be open and ready to accept visitors so off we went.  It was the highlight of my trip.  The grounds for the winery were magnificent.  It felt like it was right out of a Tuscan post card.  My husband and I tasted a few different varieties of wine while our boys enjoyed juice boxes outside on the patio.  Our wine expert was Debbie whose energy was contagious.  She (seemed to) shared my enthusiasm for the Oak Island adventure and mentioned that Alex was her General Manager.  I could hardly contain my excitement – I am such a celebrity geek (I even get excited meeting local radio dj’s – it totally embarrasses my kids and husband).  She showed us the chainmail tunic over the fireplace in the main lobby and said, “you must know all about our owner’s (Marty Lagina) enthusiasm for the Knight’s Templar and such”.  She didn’t have to complete the sentence, I was nodding my head wildly in acknowledgement.  We ended up leaving with 2 bottles of wine, a souvenir glass and 3 Oak Island T-shirts.  If I didn’t see anything else in Michigan, I would have been completely satisfied with this visit.  And here’s the thing, they have a whole tour of underground caves where they store the wine.  We didn’t even get to that because we had the kids with us.  Although they enjoyed their complimentary juice boxes  they weren’t nearly as impressed with the winery as my husband and I were.  They did enjoy the view and the Oak Island connection more than made up for it.

Mari Vineyards, Michigan, Old Mission Peninsula Mari Vineyards, Wine Tasting wine tasting, Mari Vineyards





In My Own Backyard

Ode to be Canadian…

The Ginger Genie

I was born, raised and live in Southwestern Ontario. You would think, with that much time spent in one area (over 40 years but under 42 years), I would be able to explain everything about it, right?.  And being Canadian, I could define the Canadian experience – right?  I’ll tell you, one can certainly have a Canadian foundation but really not know, nor understand, anything about what it is to a be a Canadian.  It wasn’t until I spent 4 months of my life living and travelling abroad, that I began to realize I needed to explore my roots and embrace my nationality.

View from the Glass Ceiling atop the CN Tower View from the Glass Ceiling atop the CN Tower

During university, I spent 4 months living, studying and travelling abroad.  I was based in London, England, but being in such close proximity to so many other countries, I used my weekends, school breaks and summer, to travel the UK and…

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There is More to Port Dover than Great Fish

Port Dover, hot dog, Norfolk County

Whether you live in Southwestern Ontario or are just visiting, a great place to hang out is Port Dover. Many come for fish at the popular Erie Beach Hotel or for a swim at the beach but I like to go for a footlong hot dog at The Arbor. It’s been close to 100 years (since 1919) serving its famous Schneiders footlongs. They are able to serve many people quickly because of their unique serving set-up. Hotdogs and burgers are ordered at one station, fresh-cut fries at another and ice cream cones at yet another. I usually go with my family and parents and we split up so that one group gets the hot dogs and the other, the fries. We get our food fast and we are eating before you know it even though the serving booths are packed with people. It’s great.  And of course, we don’t leave until we’ve had our amazing soft serve or hard ice cream cone to round out the meal.

They are also unique in the toppings available for hotdogs (or hamburgers if you’re not a “dog” person). There are hot peppers, cole slaw, pickles, radishes and I think, even pickled beets. I always joke with my mom: “Did you get a hot dog to go with your salad?” I’m a bit boring, only “ketchup” for me.

Footlong, The Arbor, Port Dover ON

I almost forgot to mention their Golden Glo. These are special fruit beverages that are only available at The Arbor. Even if you are just in the mood for something to quench your thirst, The Arbor is a place to be sought.

Valentine’s at The Barrel

The Barrel
The Barrel

Hands-down, my favourite restaurant is “The Barrel” in Simcoe, Ontario. First and foremost because since I can remember, my favourite food has been spaghetti and it is an Italian restaurant. Secondly, I have been going there since I was a teenager and the service has always been great.

For Valentine’s Day, my husband made reservations for there and it was the best choice he could have made. They had a special Valentine’s menu but I never like to stray from my spaghetti. And so, I ordered my 1/2 order of Spaghetti Bolognese. That’s right, a 1/2 order. I don’t know of too many places that offer that option. I’m not a big eater and I find that I eat more than I’m comfortable at most restaurants.  The added bonus with The Barrel, is that even though it’s a “half” order, you still get the soup or salad course. I always opt for the salad because the house “Balsamic” dressing is fantastic.

And I have to say that I have always had amazing service at The Barrel. Whether it is their hiring of great people or incredible training, or both, I have never been disappointed with the impeccable service. They were running a little behind on Valentine’s Day as they had a full complement of patrons. I had no complaints, however, the staff was so courteous and pleasant that I couldn’t possibly be upset. Besides, we’re only human and sometimes you just have to accept that good things come to those who wait.

By the way, they don’t just have spaghetti, they do a mean pizza and many other excellent Italian dishes.  I’m often stealing bites off my husband’s or kids’ plates.

These Little Piggies …

These little piggies stayed home…


Do these little guys not make your face squish up with delight?

Piggy Brothers
Piggy Brothers

Meet Levi and Olaf, the newest members of Frog Hollow Animal Sanctuary.

How Cute Am I?
How Cute Am I?


They were just born a few weeks ago to Mya, the Pot-bellied pig. There were 3 to begin but sadly, the first female of the litter, was not able to grasp life.

Cute Piggy Bums
Cute Piggy Bums

Her two brothers, however, took hold and have been having amazing adventures as they explore what this world has to offer.

I am Loved
I am Loved

After plenty of suggestions and lots of thoughts, Frog Hollow has settled on the names Olaf and Levi for the newest little piggies.

How can you stay mad at that face?

Please visit the Frog Hollow Sanctuary Facebook page. I can’t speak for everyone but I know my days certainly get an injection of sunshine when I see these cuties come across my screen.

Little Piggy
Little Piggy

WARNING: May be too cute for some who can only handle cuteness in small doses. Viewer discretion is advised. 🙂

Together We’re Bitter – Co-operative Brewing

Together We're Bitter - Co-operative Brewing
Together We’re Bitter – Co-operative Brewing

I want to tell you about a new craft beer brewing up in Kitchener-Waterloo and I haven’t even tried it yet. That’s right, haven’t tasted it, haven’t been to the brewery, haven’t even seen it in a glass. It’s what is behind this up-and-coming brew that has me excited. It’s called Together We’re Bitter and it’s not just a beer, it’s an experience. Together We’re Bitter is set to be the first co-operative brewery in the K-W region. What does that mean?

I went to a colleague of mine to answer this question, Rob Shorney. His is one of the pictures on the “Who We Are” page of the Together We’re Bitter web site.  His explanation of what he and his TWB teammates were working on, inspired me.  He explained that everyone on the team had an investment into the co-operative but it wasn’t about making money.  It was about creating something beyond just a good-tasting beer.  “Half the reason a beer tastes good is the atmosphere in which it is shared and we want to bring music, food, friends and beer together to create that”.  They are working towards a “brewpub” that will serve its own beer made on the premises, along with local musicians, great pub fare and of course lots of friendly and fun, beer enthusiasts.  He made it very clear that the brew vision was NOT about Lamborghinis and corporate “fat-cat” attitudes, it’s about the community and building something from the grass-roots.  Everyone who is a part of TWB is a “worker/owner” with most money earned going back into the brewpub.

The excitement about what he was embarking on was evident as he shared this collaborative endeavor.  I told him that it seemed more like it was about brewing passion than beer.  It’s a perfect vision for Kitchener, a city that has been revitalizing its downtown and celebrates diversity and creativity.  TWB is all about those ideals.  I love this quote that I took right from a promotional video:”Kitchener has a unique and vibrant history.  We’re growing and we’re diversifying.  Our beer should reflect that”.

TWB has a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for a fermenter, equipment and gear to help them with their launch.  If you’d like to learn more about the co-operative and even better, be a part of the campaign, check it out.  They can also be found at TWB, Facebook and Twitter.  I can’t wait to experience the whole package when it comes.  It is set to arrive in Kitchener summer 2015.  You can bet I will reserve my place in line.


Petrolia, Ontario: A Beautiful Town.


With my day job, I travel a lot around Southwestern Ontario.  The past few days, I have been around Lambton-Kent County which has included Chatham, Blenheim, Ridgetown, Forest and Petrolia.  I look forward to venturing into these oases every year because they are places I don’t get to very often in my everyday life.  They are truly treasures to visit especially in the fall with the background of the vibrant fall leaves.

Bridgeview Conservation Area, Petrolia, ON
Bridgeview Conservation Area, Petrolia, ON


These are also places that are rich with rural culture.  Farms, history, welcoming villagers and quaint  little shops or attractions await guests, each with their own energy and allure.  In Petrolia, I love the conservation area.  There is a lot of space and trees. During the week, when school is back in, it is serene.  I have down time in between appointments when I am travelling and I love to sit at the conservation area with my laptop and hear the peacefulness of the fall leaves sauntering to the ground.  This is just one of 12 parks situated throughout the town.

Victoria Hall, Petrolia, ON
Victoria Hall, Petrolia, ON

Petrolia is also full of beautiful architecture.  I took this picture of the Victoria Hall.  It is one of my favourite buildings.  I followed up with some research and learned that the building’s architect was George Durand of London.  His name is attached to many buildings in Southwestern, Ontario including churches, schools and residences.    Victoria Hall was built in 1889 during an oil boom.  Petrolia was one of the first oil “boom towns” in North America.  With the oil came money and with the money, came fantastic buildings like this one and many others that are still in existence today.

Although oil here is no longer considered “booming”, there are still active oil pumps .  I grabbed a shot of that too.  I’ve read about the “Petrolia Discovery” which is a historical site that takes visitors back to a 19th century oil experience. Having learned that, I think I just found an activity to take my family to next summer since it is a seasonal experience.  Can’t wait.  You might want to check it out too.

Oil Drill, Petrolia, ON 2014
Oil Drill, Petrolia, ON 2014

If you have ideas about other places to visit in Southwestern Ontario, please let me know.  I’m always up for a local adventure!






“Biographical Dictionary of  Architects in Canada 1800- 1950.”  Verity Griscti & Joshua Hull.  Accessed October 4, 2014.  http://www.dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/architects/view/1653 .

Eberspaecher,  Alex.  “Petrolia:  Ontario’s Black Gold Country.”  Good Life: Mississauga’s Fine Living Magazine.  Accessed October 4, 2014.   http://goodlifemississauga.com/archive_gl/2007gl/petrolia.html .

“Petrolia Discovery.”  Ontario Museum Association.  Accessed October 4, 2014.  http://www.museumsontario.com/en/58//88?searchFor=1696 .

“Petrolia, Ontario.”  Southern Ontario Tourism.  Accessed October 4, 2014.  http://www.soto.on.ca/canadas_most_southern_point/petrolia.html .

“Petrolia, Ontario.”  Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia.  Last modified October 1, 2014.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrolia,_Ontario .

Tausky, Nancy Z.  “George F. Durand.”  London Culture.  Accessed October 4, 2014.  http://www.londonculture.ca/things-we-do/culture-directory/historic-favourites/george-f-durand .

The Corporation of the Town of Petrolia.  “Victoria Hall.”  This is Petrolia.  2013. http://town.petrolia.on.ca/victoria-hall.html .