Rosh Hashanah 5783

Shanah Tovah U’metukah! Happy Jewish New Year! As Rosh Hashanah comes to a close this evening, the Ten Days of Teschuvah begin (actually they start with Rosh Hashanah and then end at Yom Kippur). This period of time is a starting off point to reflection, growth, and returning to being the best that we can be. It’s a chance to jump start your growth and goodness for the year ahead. It’s a process that is meant to be continued year-round, but specifically these ten days are spent making right with relationships and our community. 

Last year’s post is really detailed about Rosh Hashanah and what we do, how we celebrate and what my thoughts were going into the past year- all of which you can read HERE. I’ll just add a little fun fact for this year. On Rosh Hashanah we wish each other a GOOD new year, whereas in the English New Year, you with a HAPPY New Year. This can serve as a reminder that by doing good, being “good”, happiness will follow. 

I normally post my Rosh Hashanah post prior to the holiday beginning, having spent the month of Elul (the last month on the Jewish Calendar, meant as a time of deep reflection and introspection) reflecting on the year, however this year I delayed. It’s been a bit of a weird time. Nothing truly major, nothing truly bad, just a forced time of reflection that had me…not really wanting to share things. I wanted to do some deep inner work and make things right in and with myself before I felt comfortable looking forward and turning outward. 

5782 was a year full of so many highs, a few lows, and a lot of…meh. Not meh necessarily, just a lot of stressful situations that, to be honest, I could have easily avoided or saw my way out of. And I should have. I let a lot of “out of my control” things affect my own self and that is not something that I really liked about myself. It’s not something that is directly in my nature, until I’ve been pushed to a point, and there were a couple of times that I was pushed to that point (and I shouldn’t have been). 

But I’m a deep believer in something higher than us, guiding our way, and placing things in/out of our lives to continue to guide and show us the way forward. And, while 5782 held both good and bad, I feel like I really deepened my own feelings and truths about my thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about relationships. And that is how I spent my month of Elul- deep in introspection over the prior year. I’m not going to be sharing too many of those thoughts, mostly because they are private and not something I want to put out into the world. 

All that being said, I was thinking and reflecting all the way up until Erev Rosh Hashanah. I was trying to figure out where I wanted this year to take me, it’s a year of change for us after all in so many ways, and I what I felt would be best for me, my family, and our community. And when I heard that Shofar Blast, that awakening to a new year, I felt those familiar shivers and goose bumps, and something locked into place for me. It’s a new year, a Shanah Tovah (a good year), and I’m READY. 

So, what does all this really mean???

Well, I’ve got a new…word for the year- really a new mindset. I’ve always been a “find the good” kind of person, but I found that in 5782 I struggled with it a bit more than I have in the past. That may not actually be fair to say…I’ll change that thought. I focused more of my time and intentions and energy on the negative, on the toxic, than I should have, than I normally would have. That’s more accurate. 

So, in 5783 I’m choosing הַכָּרַת הַטּוֹב (Hakarat ha’tov) or quite literally “recognize the good”. I’m also choosing שִׂמְחָה (simcha) or joy. It’s simple- there is no place in my life for the toxic, for the negative, for the bad energy. I recently read a quote that really just…resonated with me and fed into this feeling of needing this to lead my year- “At this big age, I’m only interested in progress and peace. Anything that costs either has to go”- We the Urban. If it does not serve my families progress or peace, if it does not feed our joy, our lives, then it has no place. 

Now, that does not mean that bad days do not come. It does not mean that we do not struggle. In fact, this year (5783) is going to be full of challenges for our family, but it means that either I will toss out of the negativity- treat it with a light laughter, turn it into something humorous, OR I will cling to the good moments when the bad come. 

None of this is really new to me- I’ve always been someone who tries to find the good, find the happiness, in fact this is something I touched on last year when my word was “mechaye” – something that gives great joy or life. This has always been who I am, but sometimes it can get a little lost in the everyday and this is my way of bringing it back to the forefront a little more. 

Beyond that – my goals for 5783 are in flux right now. I have things that I want to accomplish, as I do every year, and I feel like this year could really be a big year for those goals. Both boys are in school, so I have a bit more free time- though I’m rapidly filling it with commitments. However, I’m trying to keep an open mind to really welcome any new opportunities that knock on our day and find new ways that I can help those around me and in my community. 

So, with all those words said…I really just want to with everyone a Shana Tovah U’metukah- I hope 5783 is everything and more. 

A Weekend in A Camper

Over Labor Day weekend we decided it was time to take another camper trip. To be honest, I’ve been kind of itching to get back into a camper, get out into nature, and take some massive steps back from the world. There’s just something about being in a camper, disconnected, in nature that really just works for me. It gives me that much needed “silence the world” feeling. 

Now, last year when we did our camper trip it was in October to the Lake Placid area, and it was glorious- the beauty of Autumn in the Adirondacks is unparalleled and unreal. You can read that HERE. It was our first time in a camper, and we fell in love (if you can’t tell). 

This time we decided to go to another famed region of New York- Letchworth State Park. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” it is known to be one of the most “scenically magnificent areas” of the eastern part of the country. It is home to a lot of hiking, horseback riding, white water rafting and kayaking, hot air balloon rides, as well as a variety of lodging right within the park. 

We decided to stay outside of the park, mostly because most of the spots were already reserved when we looked (these spots, both, book up FAST). We chose a KOA campground on the southern end of the park and we’re actually very pleased with it! I know that in some instances KOA’s can get a bit of a bad rep, and sure being as close to neighbors isn’t like…great, but our experiences thus far have been great. We arrived in the afternoon on Friday and spent the first few hours getting settled in, unpacking, letting the kids run free and wild. 

The next morning dawned bright and clear so after breakfast we headed out to Letchworth State Park. Letchworth State Park follows the course of the Genesee River for about 17 miles as the river goes over a total of 3 waterfalls and cuts a gorge through the landscape. It crosses two counties as well as 5 cities. The park dates back to 1859 when William Pryor Letchworth started purchasing the land. He started with the land nearest to the Middle Falls, built his home and then started to look beyond. In the end by 1906 he had 1,000 acre’s that he bequeathed to the state of New York. The park contains three waterfalls, Upper, Middle, and Lower. Each are unique, each are located within the southern section of the park (yes there is a southern/northern line, and it is marked within the park-it is THAT big). Upper Falls has an active Railway arch bridge above it, creating quite the photo backdrop, but also historic as that railroad bridge path dates back to 1875. Middle Falls is the highest of the three waterfalls at 107-foot drop and is just the powerhouse you expect it to be. Lower Falls is exactly what you would think from the name, a lower “calmer” fall over several levels, with a stone bridge just below. There is one smaller, ribbon waterfall, however most of the time you are not able to truly see it. 

My initial thought was to hike the distance between the three waterfalls; HOWEVER, this is a 7-mile hike and is listed as a “moderate” level hike but has a steep incline/decline that we didn’t know about until we overheard some hikers speak about it. We decided at the middle falls that hiking the full way was not feasible with two little kids on an 80 something degree day. This is fine as not only can you drive the entire park, but you are also able to stop at more than enough spots to get out, take in the gorge, the river, and the falls. There are two parking lots for the falls, one located in between upper and middle, and then one close to lower falls. (To be honest- I was also ok with not hiking as most of the hike is above the river, rather than within the gorge.)

I think that the park itself is incredible and definitely worth a visit, and the amenities for camping or staying within the park are great, but if you are looking for river/waterfall/gorge hiking, I would recommend Watkins Glen State Park. Obviously, these are two VERY different parks and I hate to even put the comparison there, but I would definitely say I preferred that one to Letchworth if we are talking about water adjacent hikes/locations. 

We basically spent all day within the state park, as planned, and just decided that when we were done, we would head back to the campsite. The KOA campground had live music both nights right near our site, so we had an enjoyable evening next to the fire. 

We slept in a bit the next morning and it was a bit more overcast than Saturday. We knew there was a possibility of rain later in the day (hence the State Park on Saturday), so we decided to choose things a bit more…low key. We gave the kids an option of two activities, both geared towards their interests (but we would enjoy too). The first was a train ride that would span the countryside, the second being an animal safari. It was a tough decision, but they ultimately chose the animal safari. 

Now, let me say this first- I am always wary of the animal sanctuary/roadside zoo style places. I tend to…avoid or research the practices prior to visiting. I just wanted to share that before getting into this. I think, like anything else, there are good places and bad and it’s up to us to look into each place before we visit. 

So, we decided to spend a couple hours at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure. We opted to do the safari they offered, in their vehicles with a tour guide, rather than our own. We did a more mid-day tour time and our tour guide ended up being one of the animal care takers. So, we not only learned what the park was like, but the specifics in how they care for the animals and how they manage heards, relationships, and the like. Not to mention how they…simply maintain and provide the best for the animals. We were able to see quite a variety of animals, but I never felt like they were animals that were…inappropriate or overly exotic for the location. We did get to feed them which was cool, and the guide was incredible in passing along knowledge and letting us know when to step away. After the safari you are able to walk up to the petting zoo and feed the goats or down to the Koi Pond and feed the fish (or both really). It was a great couple hours.

Thankfully the rain held off until after we got back to camp and didn’t properly start coming down until later in the evening. We started up the fire to try and enjoy one last one, cooked up some dinner, and just relaxed. When it started to rain, the pitter patter created quite the perfect ambiance for us and the live band for the evening were great! 

That really wraps up our weekend. It was a much needed, very relaxed, leisurely weekend unplugged and away. One of my goals in the coming years is to make these Camper trips more than a once-a-year occasion. We really enjoy them and, eventually, want to get a camper of our own. 

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2022 – Kingston, Ontario

I went back and forth as to whether to write this final post on our summer trip. Kingston is incredibly close to where we live, we didn’t do much while we were there (except one really cool tour, which is why I decided to write this) and we were definitely at the end of our…travel excitement. However, I decided to write it to not only share the cool spot we toured, but also just a little insight into what our final day or two was like in Canada- because boy did things happen that made me think. 

As always, let’s start with a little history of the area. 

Kingston was originally named Cataraqui and inhabited by the Five Nations Iroquois (though the Wyandot People – of Huron origins- were the first occupants). The French arrived in 1615 and established Fort Cataraqui in 1673 to serve as a military and trade base. The fort itself was occupied on and off, would be destroyed and rebuilt several times over, until finally the British took possession in 1783. The renamed it Tete-de-Pont Barracks in 1787, then turned over to the Canadian military in 1870. It is still in use today; however, it is now named Fort Frontenac. 

Kingston played a bit of a role in the American Revolutionary War as a home location for Loyalists (those who were loyal to the British Crown and wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom). In order to make “space” for the Loyalists the British worked with the Mississaugas to purchase land. The Loyalists gave the settlement the name of “King’s Town” – which would eventually turn in to Kingston. 

One of the bigger military times for Kingston was the War of 1812. Kingston became a major military town and engaged in an arms race with the American Fleet stationed in Sackets Harbor. The base of Fort Henry, later known at Point Henry, was built to help protect the Canadian Fleet and garrisoned until 1871. It’s now a World Heritage Site. 

Once incorporated as a town, it held the largest population in Upper Canada until the 1840’s (it became a city in 1846). From what I can see- Kingston is really known in terms of cultural hot spots. They host several film festivals, music festivals, writer retreats, as well as Busker events (we’ll get in to that last one). A lot of musician and actors name Kingston as their birthplace, most notable being Dan Aykroyd (there are many more musicians that I could name as well). A final notable fact, the first high school in the province was established in Kingston in 1792 by a Loyalist! 

I’ve been to Kingston now twice, the first being a fun girlie day out where we wandered the streets of downtown, stopped in a local independent bookstore (spent some money…), and grabbed lunch at a great Tex-Mex spot, Lone Star Grill. The second time was this trip with both boys and my husband. 

We headed to Kingston from Toronto on the day where half the nation of Canada was crippled by a software glitch. The communication servers for about half of the country simply went down. This was horrifying on so many levels- people weren’t able to work, weren’t able to pay for products (it affected the banking lines, so no debit or electronic means of payments, BUT they could accept credit cards, not debit as credit, but actual credit cards), but people were not able to communicate via phones, the hospitals were impacted, emergency services. It really crippled that portion of the country for the entire day- I believe it started sometime in the wee hours of the morning and didn’t get fully restored until well past midnight. Thankfully it did get restored and everything returned to “normal”, but it did make you think…about a) how reliant we are on technology, and b) just how…dominating our technology/processing world is by very few companies that so much went down. 

Once we arrived in Kingston and we immediately went off to our single scheduled event- a tour of the Kingston Penitentiary. Kingston Penitentiary was a maximum-security prison that has only recently closed in 2013- actually at the time of closing it was one of the oldest prisons in continuous use in the world. Originally opened in 1835 as a provincial penitentiary, it was one of nine prisons in the area. The building site was selected due mostly to the ready access to water and abundant fine limestone. It first housed six inmates, though it could hold 564 inmates total by the time it closed (this does not include the treatment center within the prison I don’t believe). Across the street to the north is the Kingston Prison for Women which operated from 1934-2000 to allow for more space- women had previously simply been segregated in the main facility. 

This penitentiary has seen two riots, one in 1954 and another in 1971. In 1954 there was a two-hour riot (which at that point was the worst in history) involving almost 900 inmates. A breakout was attempted coinciding with the riot, however, was not successful. This particular riot started in the exercise yard, led to several fires in different buildings, 50 ringleaders going to solitary confinement, $2 million in damages, and the involvement of both the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The second riot was much worse. 

In 1971 there was a four-day riot within the prison that led to two inmates dying, six guards being held hostage, and much of the prison destroyed. The riot was instigated by concerns about future conditions at a separate prison transfer, lack of work/recreational time and other prisoner issues. Once the riot was quelled, an investigation was opened, and it found that the prisoners were not wrong in their complaints. A number of issues were noted, least of which being overcrowding and shortage of staff, but also prisoners who did not require maximum security, a lack of channels to deal with prisoner complaints and requests, as well as aged physical facilities. This riot led to committees being form and new jobs being created to help deal with these complaints and issues within the prison. 

There have been three escapes recorded from this maximum-security prison: 1923, 1947, and 1999. The first was Norman “Red” Ryan, who was an Irish Catholic Gangster. He escaped with several other inmates in September 1923 by setting a fire as a distraction, going over the wall, and stealing a car. However, he was caught again in Minnesota and brought back. Once back in prison he became a “model prisoner” and the poster child for prison/parole reform. He was released, went on to denounce his prior criminal activities and be a model citizen in public…all while going on an armed robbery spree. During one of these armed robberies the little gang he had formed ended up in a shootout of sorts. While Norman continued to present himself as the model citizen, even offering to help police and detectives figure out what happened, he was found out a few months later and died in a shootout with police at a liquor store. The second escape was fairly straightforward, 3 inmates went over the wall, 2 came back, 1 was never found. 

The third escape was by Ty Conn in 1999. Ty Conn was the first to evade capture for weeks and weeks since the last “successful” escape in 1958 (this is after 26+ attempts by inmates since 1836). Abandoned by both his parents, put up for adoption by his maternal grandparents he was adopted by a psychiatrist and his, alleged/described, mentally unstable wife. That only lasted about eight years before he was “returned” and placed in and out of foster and group homes, and youth detention facilities. As a young child in his adoptive family, he started stealing – first food then cars in his teenage years. By the time of his death, he was only “legally at large” (free) for 69 days (this is from age 13-death). After notifying prison guards at Millhaven Prison that several inmates were planning to escape, he was placed in protective custody and transferred to Kingston Penitentiary. His own escape utilized not only a rope ladder and grappling hook (that he made himself), but also cayenne pepper to throw the scent off to the dogs. He was found two weeks later in Toronto where he committed suicide, rather than go back to prison. 

I have to interject my personal opinion here for a moment because in listening to the tour guide speak about Ty Conn and the brief history I’ve learned about him- he really is one of those…cases for prison reform and slip through the crack’s instances. There is a book currently out by Theresa Burke and Linden MacIntyre, both have met and had interaction with Ty Conn, titled Who Killed Ty Conn. Together they paint a different picture and one that is worth understanding and knowing. It’s a book that I’ve added to my list to read at some point. 

From 1971-1981 Kingston Penitentiary also served as the Regions Reception Center. Every inmate in the prison system would come to Kingston Penitentiary first. It also held a Regional Treatment Centre within the prison which allowed up to 120 inmates who were in recovery. In 1990 Kingston Penitentiary was designated a National Historic Site and it was officially closed on September 30, 2013. A month or so later it was opened for tours- all of which are given by former guards and employees of the prison. 

 Kingston Penitentiary has seen it all and boy, if walls could talk. The tour was, quite honestly, incredible. Not only do you get to see how the prison changed throughout the long years it was used, but you also get to hear real experiences from employees and guards. It gives you a real insight in to not only these prisoners live within the prison, but also insight in to how the prison structure works/operates/could improve. The tour guides were not able to talk about the actual prisoners as it’s against Canadian privacy laws, but a quick search gives you an idea of some of the infamous prisoners housed in those walls. 

We stopped for a bite to eat after the tour (and a gas up- thankfully we found a station that was able to take credit cards!) at Montana’s BBQ & Bar- which was delicious and supplied quite the Long Island Iced Tea ;). 

The next morning, we headed more towards downtown to walk along the river and the store fronts. We were pleasantly greeted by a Busker Festival. If you don’t know, a busker is a street performer. So, the folks that you walk past that are performing on sidewalks or subway stations for donations and your enjoyment? Buskers. And Kingston had an entire weekend full of entertainment lined up. The streets were blocked off to allow several performers, with a good distance between, there was a stage set up at the water, as well as food, face paint, and a sidewalk chalk competition. 

Coinciding with that event, it was also the weekend of a boat race, so while we were walking along the water, we were treated with the site of these souped-up boats, with wonderful sounding engines pull in to dock for lunch. 

We did just a little walking and then, finally, headed back across the border to the states and back home. And that wraps up our Summer Holiday (finally!). Which was your favorite to hear about? NIAGARA, DETROIT, UPPER PENINSULA, SUDBURY, TORONTO, or Kingston? Have you added any to your to visit list? And if you haven’t- you HAVE to add Mackinac Island/Upper Peninsula straight away. Let me know!

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – August 2022

It’s September? Talk about a month flying by- I don’t even know if I truly know where the time went…truly, I’m not just saying that. I feel like we were all just excited about August and here we are school starting, leaves changing, crisp mornings (maybe, we’re still lagging a bit in that department). My reading was really good for the month of August- a total of 10 books and an average rating of 4.16. A great month! Lots to talk about, so I’m just going to jump right in…

The Tea Dragon Festival by Kay O’Neil 5 Stars Much like the first, these next two graphic novels are just the most feel good, quaint ones of the bunch. I just loved seeing our characters change and grow and learn more about the different tea dragons. 

The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Kay O’Neill 5 Stars In this one we found one of our characters really grow into who she is now, rather than living in the past of who she was and that was really special. 

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes 5 Stars This is easily one of those books that I could recommend to anyone (and everyone). It may be a science fiction thriller, but it doesn’t feel like science fiction. It is set in space, but atmospheric enough that the fact that it is set in space simply fades to the background. It’s definitely just one of those books that I love. 

Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay 3 Stars I’ll be honest…I’m drawing a blank with this book. I think it was just a standard cozy mystery.  

This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede 4 Stars Now this book I remember. I found the premise interesting, the execution well done, but a smidge predictable. It’s a good book and one that I enjoyed reading as you get to see characters fight against what they truly want, only to get it and it’s maybe not what they expected or needed. 

Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace NR This is a poetry collection, the first in a series that I enjoyed, but didn’t find groundbreaking. I’ll continue on though.

A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair 4 Stars Ah another Hades and Persephone retelling. I don’t know where this obsession has come from, but oooo do I love a good Hades and Persephone dark re-imagining. I’m definitely excited to see what comes next…

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare 3.5 Stars I started this on a whim after seeing someone do a “outfits inspired by”. I haven’t read a Cassandra Clare since ages ago when she was still doing the Infernal Devices series and I…petered out from those. However, this one I enjoyed. Something about it really struck a chord, whether it was the time period or the location I’m not sure, but I definitely preferred it. Might dip my toe back in to the world. 

The Game by Linsey Miller 4 Stars This is a, basically, novella about a game that high school seniors play at a prestigious school that turns deadly one year. Fast paced, good action, and just enough suspense to keep you on your toes, but short enough you won’t stop- this had it all. 

Jade War by Fonda Lee 4 Stars The second of three novels in this trilogy and while it was a bit slow to start (it started off veeeerrrrrryyyyy middle book in a trilogy), it quickly shed that and went to work on destroying my heart. I want to read the third…but I don’t want to read the third (in a good way).

And that is it! I’m about 2/3rds of the way through my current read as I’m typing this (8/31/2022) and it’s a good one too. What was a big hit for you in August?

As Summer Fades Into Autumn

Alternatively titled: Life Lately…

For me, Autumn starts on September 1. I’m not sure when/why I’ve picked this date, but it’s just always been there. It might have something to do with school schedules (and being on the East Coast where school does not start until after Labor Day has only solidified this) or it might be because no matter where we have lived, August has always been the worst with heat/humidity/bugs. Whatever the reason, for me “Autumn” begins tomorrow. And wow am I ready for Autumn. 

This Autumn marks a time of change, most notably that both my boys will be in school all day every day. I’ll have an empty house during the day for the first time in 6 years. It seems a bit surreal to me to be honest. Definitely a little bittersweet. As ready as we all are (and believe me, we are READY), it’s still a bit sad to think that my baby-est of boys, my little mama’s boy, is off to school. Luckily, I am volunteering within the PTO and school again so he won’t be far and the chances of me seeing him throughout the year and during the school day are high. He also attended the KinderCamp prior to school getting started and he did so well, loved every minute, and it very much added to his excitement of the start of school. 

In reality, there are a lot of other changes coming down the pipeline as Summer turns to Autumn, most of which I won’t be talking about, but it just feels like such a transition period- more so than in the past. 

I started out Summer with big plans- I wanted to journal with the kids every morning, we had an idea to our days, I had plans to only be here and there for little bits, while taking most of the time to really be present with the boys. And yet, while some of that happened, a lot of it didn’t. We went on our Summer Holiday, which was great and loved every minute, but then once we came back it was a rush to get back settled again, to get self imposed deadlines down, to re create those perfect day to days that I had dreamed, to then only throw them out the window- create playdates out of nowhere, and then strive to balance all the things I wanted to accomplish. It felt very…un summer like and definitely not like previous summers. I’m not sure what was so different, maybe it’s because this Autumn will be so different, but it just felt very short, very rushed, and very…unsatisfactory. But that’s life sometimes. 

Like Summer (you would think I would have learned, but no), I have big plans for Autumn and Winter. I’ve created a sort of overview of dates and timelines (again mostly self-imposed) that I’d like to meet and I feel like I’ll actually be able to do it. The big things are continuing regular blog posts (maybe some exciting new ones- anything you’d like to see more of?), starting up the podcast, and editing my book.

How was your Summer? What big plans do you have for the changing season?

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2022 – Toronto, Ontario

Ok, another preface to another travel blog post…actually two. So, first up, our time in Toronto was not utilized very well. We got late starts every morning we were there, and we didn’t really do any planning for our time there. What I’m going to do is talk about what we actually did, and then share a couple of the spots that I wish that we had gone to. 

A second preface regarding the Covid crossing. A basic reiteration as to what I said in my first post (and apologies for not including it in my Sudbury post- I forgot and it worked out as that post went a lot longer than I thought it would). These may or may not be up to date when you are reading this post (as they still change day to day), so I would recommend checking the Canada travel site HERE for the most up to date information. To enter Canada as an adult you must be fully vaccinated and fill out the Arrive CAN app on the phone (you can do this via we browser and print the certificate as well if that is easier for you, I believe). Kids aged 5 & up are required to be vaccinated unless they are traveling with fully vaccinated adults. For the vast majority of Ontario, we were not required to wear masks.

So, on to Toronto…

Toronto is the most populous city in Canada, the fourth most populous in the North America Region (it’s also the fastest growing city, and second fastest growing metro region in the North America’s). It’s location at the entrance of a route to the NW (one of the oldest there is) has been inhabited and used since the 1600’s by the Huron, Iroquois, and Ojibwe. In the 1660’s the Iroquois created two towns, but then they left the area after the Beaver Wars. In 1701 the Mississaugas took over the region and were there until 1750 when the French established Fort Rouille (they were still in the region, but the French started to cultivate the region). Once the Seven Years War ended the French left and the region became part of British Quebec. The American Revolution saw an influx in Loyalists escaping America and in 1787 Toronto officially became a British Territory with the Toronto Purchase. Toronto wasn’t always known as Toronto, in fact in 1793 it was the Town of York, and it became the capital of Upper Canada the same year. When slavery was banned in 1834, the newly renamed city of Toronto, became a refuge for former slaves and all people of color. Toronto has had two “Great Fires”, the Cathedral fire in 1849 which destroyed most of the Market district as well as St. James Cathedral, and the Great Fire in 1902 which destroyed more than 100 buildings and killed one person. A final fun fact for you: Toronto was once the largest alcohol distribution center- it specialized in spirits, and in the 1860’s Gooderham and Worts Distillery was the largest whisky factory in the world. 

The first night in Toronto we simply did a little walking, did a little eating, and settled into our hotel. We stayed in the Chelsea Hotel (the largest in Canada), and it was both a good hotel as well as a good local spot. We started at Old City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, then over to Toronto Eaton Centre, which is a massive, covered shopping mall. We then walked down to Yonge- Dundas Square, which is similar (but a bit smaller) to Times Square. Opened in 2002 it is central to Downtown Yonge’s entertainment and shopping. 

The next morning, we set out for our first “must see” of Toronto, the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is credited to James T. Sutherland who was involved in the sport. He believed the Hall of Fame should be located in Kingston as he saw that as the birthplace of Hockey. However, there were quite a few funding issues trying to create a permanent building (even after inductions began in 1945), and, in 1961, it was moved to Toronto. Initially the Hockey Hall of Fame shared space with the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, but in 1986 they ran out of space and in 1993 they moved to the current location inside Brookfield Place/Bank of Montreal Building. Within the museum you’ll find not only history pieces, trophies and rings, team memorabilia, and the like, but also an entire interactive zone where you can practice shooting pucks against a goalie, being a goalie, as well as learn how television broadcasting works. It was quite a way to spend the morning and we loved getting this deep dive into Hockey History. 

From there we wandered over to St. Lawrence Market. In the early 1800’s the governor recognized that the town needed to have a central market location, with specific dates and times that it would be operational. And so, St. Lawrence Market was opened. This heart of the town was not only a market, but also served as an auction space, a place of public punishment, and for a time, was the seat of the city council. A temporary structure was first introduced in 1814, with a permanent structure built in 1820. This led to a long road of construction, remodeling, destruction (it went down during the Cathedral Fire), and re building. The present St. Lawrence Market South Building dates back to 1845 (rebuilt in 1850 and remodeled in 1972). Originally there was two buildings, however the North building was demolished in 2015. It is full of just about any vendor you could think of, from food, to jewelry, stationary, clothes and beyond. It is a hectic, but fun stop to see. We wandered up and down the aisles of two floors and admired all the goodies being sold.  

From the market we wandered over to the “old district” which didn’t have much that we could see- we actually got a little bit confused over the whole thing. We did see Toronto’s First Post Office, the De La Salle Institute, and St. Andrew’s Church. We ended our day on the docks, watching the water.

The next morning, we headed out once again, this time over to Allan Gardens Conservatory. This was a stop mostly for me, as I wanted to see all the plants. The area dates back to 1858 when George Allan donated a small plot of land to the Horticultural Society. The city then approached him to purchase the surrounding land to expand, which George agreed to as long as they kept it publicly accessible free of charge. It originally opened in 1879 before a fire damaged it in 1902. The present gardens opened in 1910 with the domed Palm House, which were quickly added to in both the 1920’s as well as late 1950. It’s not large, and to be honest not entirely necessary to see, but it was nice to pop in to somewhere to be surrounded by plants for an hour. The boys stopped and played at the nearby playground for a little bit while we tried to figure out what else we wanted to do. At this point we only had half a day left in Toronto, which cut out a lot of things that we wanted to do (like I said- we didn’t plan this stop well at all). 

We decided to head over to Ripley’s Aquarium as the boys have never been to one and it would be a fun stop for everyone that was also nearby. The Aquarium is really known for its Sharks and Sting Rays (in my opinion), and they are also the most active of all the fish. We were able to see not only those, but also a very active octopus, sea turtles, and jelly fish. It was a decent stop and a good way to cool off. 

From there we headed across the street to the Roundhouse Park & Toronto Railway Museum. I’ll be honest…I don’t think this is really worth the stop, even if your kids are massively into trains. The roundhouse park is really cool, first built in 1929 and the last in downtown Toronto, it’s a 32-stall house featuring, at that time, the most modern of technology. It closed operations in 1982 and became a Canadian National Historic Site in 1990. The museum opened in 2010 and features quite a lot of history on the Canadian Pacific Railway, artifacts from bygone times, as well as the ability to drive a simulated train. The boys liked to drive the simulation, but beyond that they didn’t care about any of the rest of it. You are able to see all the 10 train cars featured in the museum on the outside (without going into the museum) as well as take the mini railway. I don’t normally say that a museum isn’t worth going to because I believe in history, in museums, and in learning about the past, but this is one that I don’t think you need to go to. 

And that really wraps up our time in Toronto…

Now, some of the things I actually wished we did were:

Spend a day on Toronto Islands. The Toronto Islands consist of 15 small islands just south of the mainland. You are able to take a boat ferry from Toronto over to the Island Park and, like Mackinac Island, the Islands are car-free. We could have biked through Toronto Island Park, the Centreville Amusement Park, as well as walked and relax on the beach. We actually thought about maybe going for half the day but didn’t think it wise to try and beat the rush at the amusement park and get back to the mainland. I didn’t want to be rushed. 

We thought about going over to Casa Loma, however it was a bit out of the way of the other ideas we had and to take a tour within the castle was a bit pricey. It’s one of those- we saw so many real, old, historic castles in Europe that we haven’t found one here in North America that “measures up” to what we’ve come to expect (yes, I really said that and cringed every word through). I do think it still would have been nice to experience though. 

And, finally, I think that going to the Toronto Botanical Gardens would have been nice. I would have probably preferred them to the Allen Garden Conservatory, but it just didn’t fit in to our schedule or route in any way. 

I do think the Hockey Hall of Fame and St. Lawrence Market are must visits during your time in Toronto. I would say most of the rest, if you walk past or through on a route is fine, but not necessarily worth going out of your way to see. 

So, there you have it. Our 3 nights in Toronto. Up next is our final stop on our Summer Holiday…

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2022 – Sudbury, Ontario

The next stop on our trip was a bit of an “place to stop on the way” kind of stop, but we were pleasantly surprised with the city of Sudbury. It has a lot of history, a lot of mining history, it was actually such a good spot to stay for a night or two. We learned so much not only about the city itself, but actually about mining, its history and its effects on our world, as well as what we can do to protect it. Whew, we might go a little deep in this post, but this city is such a…surprise.  

Quickly before we get too deep into the Sudbury history and stop, we did make a short stop at Onaping Falls.

So, the thought is that about 1.85 billion years ago a meteorite hit Earth and this crater, that has since been filled with all sorts of debris and formed and re shaped by nature, is where the A.Y. Jackson Lookout and Onaping Falls is. Sudbury City Center lies at the south, this lookout at the north. We started at the Lookout with a view of the Onaping River and High Falls- a drop of 46 meters of several falls. From there we hiked down through the rocky terrain (which I somehow did in my Birkenstocks- possible but not recommended) and up over to the bridge. The bridge is right on the rim of the crater and offers views of the river and falls. It was a great stop and a way to stretch our legs all while being right in the heart of both outside the planet and the nature of earth. 

From there we headed into Sudbury. So, a little history…

Similar to our previous stop in the region, Sudbury was initially inhabited by the Ojibwe of Algonquin People some 9,000 years ago. However, in 1850 they struck a deal with the British Crown (the Robinson Huron Treaty) that they would share the region with the Crown if they were paid a tax. The first French Jesuits established the Saint-Anne-des-Pins- coincidentally the patron Saint of minors. A little foreshadowing for the area possibly. 

During the excavation and paving for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883 high concentrations of nickel-copper ore were found in the rock that formed Murray Mine. Nickel-Sulphide Ore was also located in the region. This led to a boon of workers and opportunity both in the mines, but also for railway workers trying to establish and run the railway. Thomas Edison (visiting as a prospector) found an ore body in Falconbridge. Through this boon to the region, two companies emerged, Inco (1902) and Falconbridge (1928). They went on to become two of the largest employers of the region as well as two of the world’s leading producers of Nickel. 

Because the region was so rich, they were able to bounce back from the Great Depression much quicker than many other places in the world- in fact, the problems that they dealt with during the Great Depression ended up being a lack of infrastructure to meet the rapid growth of the city and industry. The Frood Mines produced 40% of all the nickel in Allied artillery production, as well as was a main supplier to the U.S. during the Cold War. It’s hard to make clear just what the impact of these mines were on the region- at one point Sudbury was the wealthiest and fastest growing city in the country. 

However, for all the wealth and good economic value the mines brought to Sudbury, they also completely destroyed the green life in the city. The slag heaps, open coke beds, and various logging caused almost all the natural plants to die. Not only that, but they experienced the left-over rocky outcroppings turn charcoal black and acid rain. An environmental crisis caused by the mines. 

Not to catastrophize, because this story has a “happy” ending in that the once the Inco Superstack was built (in 1972 to help disperse the the sulphuric acid further distances to cut down on the acid rain) they were able to bring in a team of environmentalists and ecologists to help find solutions. They started in the early 1970’s by putting lime on the charred soil, laying wild grass seed, and planting trees (9.2 million planted as of 2010). With that initial push completed, they went to work on the slag heaps- rehabilitating them with biosolids (basically compost), as well as grass seed and trees. In fact, we learned that the mines are the perfect greenhouses- but more on that a bit later. The city of Sudbury has actually been recognized by the United Nations for its regreening and improved mining practices. They have a long way to go though, there are still 74,000 acres of land still to be touched by rehabilitation. 

In 1978 there was a strike at Inco over production and employment cutbacks. This strike completely shuttered Sudbury’s economy and since then they’ve been trying to diversify the local economy…which is where we get into what we did in the city. 

One quick fun fact before we go, quite a bit of the famous Canadians come from Sudbury- like Alex Trebeck! Sudbury has also produced something like 81 National Hockey League players- the largest of any European City, and several NHL Hall of Famers. 

So, first off, we visited Dynamic Earth and the Big Nickel. Well…technically first we visited Bay Used Books, but I don’t think I really need to go into details on that- if you’re in the area give them a visit! 

Dynamic Earth is an Earth Sciences Museum opened in 2003 that focuses heavily on the geology and mining activities of the region. Not only were we able to tour an underground model mine that showed us the different forms mining took over the years (and it’s gone through A LOT of changes), but we were also able to learn about how the local city and mines are trying to repair the damage done to the environment and nature of the region. We learned about how a mine is actually the perfect greenhouse (with some light and such) for plants as it stays the same temperature year-round. So, the mines use unused tunnels as greenhouses in an effort to grow the number of trees to rehabilitate various parts of the grounds. Once you finish with the tour of the mine (which is an optional addition to the museum that I would recommend), you are able to walk through a short video presentation that goes through what happens after the rock is mined. This shows how they manipulate the rocks and get the nickel and other metals out and then, further, what those metals are used for. A very kid friendly, but good for adults too, style video. Within the museum you are also able to use the tools that would be available to miners, both for kids and adults. For the kids there is a soft play style playground that has everything an old mine would have, the carts, the belt up and down, as well as a variety of tools and “rocks”. The adults are able to manipulate an actual drill located deep within the model mine. You are also able to pan for gold, explore and learn about all sorts of different kinds of rocks and stones in the exhibits. One final piece of importance about Dynamic Earth- it was the first museum in Canadian history where a private enterprise and public education collaborated to provide on-site training. 

Inside the museum was easily my favorite part and I really enjoyed learning about mining, where it started, and what companies are realizing is harmful, but I couldn’t deny that the statue outside is one of the biggest draws to the area…The Big Nickel. 

The Big Nickel, a 9-meter replica of the 1951 Canadian Nickel, is a world-renowned landmark that turned Sudbury in to a tourist stop. The idea came from Ted Szilva when the city was soliciting for ideas to celebrate the Canadian Centennial. The city, of course, did not like his idea, but he persisted. His full idea was to have the nickel, a mining center, and an underground mind. He faced quite a bit of back and forth (and opposition from the city), but finally opened the Big Nickel for visitors in 1964. He picked the 1951 nickel for three reasons: commemorate the 200th anniversary of isolating nickel into a metal, show where Sudbury’s wealth came from, and to honor the mine workers of the region. His dream didn’t stop there as he had Maclsaac Mining and Tunneling Co build the very same mine we toured in 1965 (they then expanded it in 1969). 

His final dream was to form the Sudbury Science Centre – later known as Science North- though the city initially opposed that too as it was proposed to be a private enterprise. However, much like the Big Nickel, after some time and some fierce determination, he succeeded and now known as, Science North came to be. 

Science North is Northern Ontario’s most popular tourist attraction- an interactive science museum. And it deserves every bit of that hype as it is such a cool spot to spend some time. In fact, you could easily spend a whole day just within the complex. The complex consists of two buildings connected by an underground tunnel sitting on a geographic fault. The buildings were not initially built on this fault; however, it was discovered when they were building. The first portion features an IMAX theatre and planetarium, as well as a boat tour and board walk. The second building is the museum itself which consist of a wide variety of exhibits from the natural region of the area to more STEM related exhibits. Our favorites were easily the insect pavilion where you were able to see different varieties of insects with far too many legs (belaugh), the Animals of Lakes & Rivers, as well as Northern Forests which featured rehabilitated animals like a porcupine, turtles, snakes, and a beaver. We also highly enjoyed the BodyZone, which dealt with the body and all of its’ functions and wonders, as well as the Space Place which had a “fly your own plane” exhibit, as well as a mechanical arm where you could practice your grabbing skills. 

I think if you are going to these two places, start early early at Dynamic Earth and plan on spending ¾ of your day at Science North. Once we finished at both, we walked along the Boardwalk for a little way before getting dinner and heading to the hotel for a swim and bed. 

Which wraps up our time in Sudbury. As I already mentioned- this city was a surprise to both of us. We knew there were things to do, but we didn’t know how rich the history was of the city and how big a role Mining played.

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2022 – Upper Peninsula

The post I’ve been waiting on…. the top of all of our travels this Summer, the crème de la crème as it were…The Upper Peninsula. Where have we been so far? Well, we started in Niagara, Ontario, then headed over to Detroit, Michigan, before heading up North to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan…. a real gem of a spot. We spent two days (three nights) here and visited the not so hidden (but still kind of hidden) gem of Mackinac Island. Easily my favorite place of the entire trip. But more on that in the post. 

Before we begin, I want to say something really quickly (this seems to be how it always goes…). We visited three “cities”: St. Ignace, Mackinaw City, and Mackinac Island. Because the region is so close together (in a way, obviously all three are separated by water) most of the history of the cities are intertwined. In fact, there is quite a bit of movement and overlap in each town’s history. I’ll begin by talking about the shared history of the “region” and then narrow in as we visit each spot together. 

I also want to say- we stayed in St. Ignace at a Holiday Inn right on the lake. First off, I highly recommend St. Ignace as a “home base” of sorts. It’s less populated and much quieter. The ferry was a bit emptier (both ways) as not as many people are coming/going from that city. We also really liked our hotel. I know it’s a pricey region, but I recommend checking out St. Ignace as a place to stay. 

So, this region is vastly claimed by the Anishinaabe people, made up of the Ottawa (Odawa), Ojibwe (Chippewa), and Potawatomi. These three tribes made what is known as The Council of Three Fires and they ruled the region they called Michilimackinac. There is actually quite a fascinating history that we learned about more tribes beyond those when we were in St. Ignace, to include Seneca, Mishinemacki, Huron, Iroquois and more. The first Europeans traveled to the region in the 1630’s, with a Catholic Mission and a priest by the name of Claude Dablon. The mission started on the island of Michilimackinac (Ojibwe “Big Turtle”) but was moved to St. Ignace in 1671 and then turned over to Jacques Marquette. The mission remained active in St. Ignace until 1705 when it was abandoned. In 1679 the first “official” fur trading post, Fort de Baude, was created by Louis Hannepin and it was active until it closed and moved to Fort Detroit in 1697. In 1715 we see the first European settlement in Mackinaw City, Fort Michilimackinac, which is actually moved to Mackinac Island in 1781. 

There’s a “basic” overview of the early beginnings of the region. So much history in some of these places!

Our first day in the area we rose bright and early to catch one of the first ferries from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island to spend a day on the island. Before I get even into more history and what we did/saw/explored, I CANNOT stress enough that this is a place that HAS TO BE VISITED. You HAVE to explore the island and see it all. It’s incredible. Easily one of my top/favorite spots. Seriously. I will never not share about it; I will never shut up about it. Just incredible. Beautiful. 

So, the Anishinaabe people thought the island itself looked like a Big Turtle, which is a good creature in their history, so they named the island “Mitchimakinak” meaning…Big Turtle. When the French arrived in the 1630’s they turned the name into “Michilimackinac” and then the British (in 1780) shortened it to what we now know as Mackinac. During the French & Indian War the British took control of the Island and Fort, creating Fort Mackinac (remember- they moved Fort Michilimackinac from Mackinaw City). At the end of the War, the Island was given to the USA with the Treaty of Paris, but British continued to keep forces there until 1794. During the War of 1812, the British took back control of the War and held on to it through another battle before relinquishing it back to the US with the Treaty of Ghent in 1815. 

Around the mid 19th century, when the fur trade was starting to decline and sport fishing started to rise, Mackinac Island started to see a rise in tourism. Hotels started to be built (including the famed Grand Hotel) as well as summer “cottages”. Soon after stores and restaurants started to pop up on the main street to meet the demands. However, most of the island was still owned by the Federal Government and in 1875, thanks to lobbying by hometown senator Thomas Ferry, they declared that portion to become the second National Park (after Yellowstone). It only stayed a national park for 20 years when the land was transferred from Federal Ownership to State Ownership, and it became Michigan’s first state park. In 1898, after complaints by local residents over concerns to health and safety, all motor vehicles were BANNED from the island except for emergency services and snowmobiles. Only one other exception has been made, and that was Vice President Mike Pence’s motorcade. 

The island itself has a circumference of 4.35 miles and it’s about an 8-mile perimeter. You are able to walk or bike or hire a horse drawn carriage and explore the entire perimeter of the island on the M-185- the only state highway with no motor vehicles. The entire Island is designated a National Historic Landmark (as of 1960), but there are also 9 sites within the island that have the National Register of Historic Places designation. 

Ok, let’s talk logistics here…

We rented bikes to see the island. It only felt right- rent a couple bikes (plus a bike trailer for the boys) and just ride off into the sunset (except not really it was morning). There are several bike rental shops right off the ferry docks and they are all within the same, reasonable, price range. The real difference we saw was whether they included a bottle of water or other amenities or not. So, we picked our bikes up straight off the ferry and headed down Main Street. It is truly something to see- this whole village and not a single car of any sort. Sure, there was a golf cart or two transporting luggage or supplies from the dock to a hotel, but by and large you walked, took a horse taxi, or biked. 

We biked the perimeter, stopping a couple times to read the signs that tell the history of the island, or to climb up to Arch Rock, or dip down to the water and enjoy the view and peaceful moments. It really just felt so peaceful and incredible, even on Main Street or in the picnic area, which is packed with people. Once we finished our perimeter we stopped for a quick bite, then took our bikes up the mountain and to the interior of the island. Stopping to see the exterior of the Grand Hotel, the Carriage House, and then up and onward to the highest point on the island. It was a total of 13.6 miles by bike and just one of the best days. We were so happy and tired and overjoyed by the end of it that I just knew it was a special place. The pictures don’t even do it justice, you just need to go. I promise it is worth it.

So, day 2 in the Upper Peninsula region we started off by walking through St. Ignace. I’ve touched on the history of the city originally, but it is very much steeped in the French Catholic Missionaries coming to try and convert the Native Americans who lived here at the time. We visited the Museum of the Ojibwa Culture, which highlighted the history of the people and the region, as well as the problem with the missionaries AND touched on the history of residential schools- which were such a big part of the region and the cultures history. We went from there down along the water just taking in the beauty of walking along the water. 

Once we finished up, we hopped in the car and headed across the bridge to the northern tip of the “Lower Peninsula”, Mackinaw City. Fun fact, Mackinaw City serves as the terminus for the following: Dixie Highway, Mackinaw Trail, East Michigan Pike AND West Michigan Pike. Again, I’ve touched on some of the history, so let’s talk about the main attraction we visited, Fort Michilimackinac. After everything in the region (in terms of European colonization) disappeared in 1705, the French decided to reestablish a presence in 1713. They decided a fort was the right way to go and in 1715 Fort Michilimackinac was opened. They had a good fur trade, worked well with the tribes in the region, HOWEVER in 1761, after a loss in the French and Indian War, the British took control of the fort. The British kept the fort in place, but they stopped visiting and distributing gifts to the local tribes as the French had done. This led to the local tribes becoming resentful and angry at the British. Tensions rose until a full-on battle was waged called Pontiac’s War. Fort Michilimackinac had a small part to play in this war as there was a battle in June of 1763 in which a group of Ojibwe staged a game of baaga’adowe as a way to get into the fort, kill troops and take control. They succeeded and held the fort for almost a year before the British regained control (and kept it after starting to distribute gifts to the tribes once again). After the British decided to move the Fort to Mackinac Island, they moved several of the buildings that they wanted and then burned the rest of the fort to the ground. 

These days most of the buildings on the fort are reconstructions, though through them you can also see portions of the buildings as they stood. The entire fort is an excavation and archeological site- considered one of the most extensively excavated sites in the U.S. It was pretty incredible to walk through the fort and learn the history- we could pinpoint where skirmishes and battles occurred and what led to them.  The fort also did the really cool thing and highlighted a very important person…Ezekiel Solomon was one of the most active fur traders in the regions, but he was also the first Jewish Settler in Michigan. Originally from Berlin and having served in the British Army, he arrived at Fort Michilimackinac in 1761. He was in the fort during the battle with the Ojibwe in 1763, only narrowly missing execution. He often traveled to Montreal as part of the fur trade and became a member of Canada’s first Jewish Congregation before dying in 1808. Such a neat little historical fact and was really fun to not only learn about his life but see a recreation of his home!

And that really wrapped up our time in the Upper Peninsula! This was easily probably my favorite stop of our entire vacation (with Niagara a close second) as it was just so gorgeous. I highly, highly recommend it (if you couldn’t tell by now). It’s one of the most popular, prettiest areas for a reason.

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – July 2022

I feel like I say this every month now, but I can’t believe another month has come to an end. And this month I really just felt like got away from me in so many ways- that balance of life really took a tumble. With that life balance tumble, my reading was rocky. I read quite a few books, 10, BUT I either felt ambivalent or angry about them. It was a rough month- even looking back now and calculating the average rating of 3.25. I did DNF (did not finish) two books that I got enough of the way in that I’ll be including later in the post. Here’s to hoping that August goes better across the board!

Let’s just get in to the nitty/gritty of it all, shall we?

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen 3 Stars This was fine. It’s very reminiscent of Practical Magic (if you liked that you’ll like this), but calmer in so many ways. It’s a feel-good story that was nice and calming to read but didn’t extend beyond that. 

Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin 4 Stars Maybe? I’m still not sure I know entirely how I feel about this book, but man did it pull at a string in my mama heart. So much so, that I want to warn other mamas on reading this- it will tug your emotions and make you think things and question decisions. 

The Body in the Garden by Katherine Schellman 4 Stars Hello cozy mystery from the Victorian Era. A very low stakes (think Ellery Adams) fun mystery that our heroine suddenly finds herself embroiled in. I really enjoyed this one (and the second one that’s up next). It really is Ellery Adams, but Victorian. 

Silence in the Library by Katherine Schellman 4 Stars The second in this mystery series that I’ll definitely be continuing on found our heroine embroiled in another mystery, but the kind that helps her grow in herself and helps her find some suitors of a romantic nature. 

The Hunting Wives by May Cobb 2 Stars My biggest disappointment yet. I had high hopes after hearing such good things, but it not only fell flat for me, but the main character POV was obnoxious. Couldn’t stand any of this book and was actually quite glad it was over. It gets a second star for the fact that I didn’t entirely see the mystery ending the way it did until it was happening. 

Half A Soul by Olivia Atwater 3 Stars I was on the fence about this book, actually put it down and then picked it back up throughout the month, but I’ve settled on it being a “fine” book. The thing this has going for it is that it represents fae in their true sense, but there’s only a fraction of it in this entire book, so don’t let that be a reason for you to pick it up.

We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets, translated by Emma Rault 4 Stars I have to say, this is probably one of the best reads of my month. This gave me a lot to think about, a lot to consider in both my own personal social media and others. There’s a larger discussion to be had around this book and I look forward to being able to have it with others who have read it. 

Trouble on the Books by Essie Lang 2 Stars Another disappointment to really end the month with. To be bluntly honest, I found this to be the most unbelievable of cozy mysteries. It just…. none of it worked (in as much as our main characters doing as much as she was) and I found the main character POV to be…well just dumb. This book had me questioning my cozy small town mystery book shop vibe genre I had going on. 

I DNF’d:

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard – On its face this book probably had everything to be a fantastic found family, chosen one, save the world trope duology, BUT I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t care about any of it, except a side character or two, which were not present nearly enough to keep me going with it. 

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix Another one where the main character POV just really ruined the entire book for me. I could have probably continued on and enjoyed it, but I couldn’t get past the viewpoint that we were reading from. 

And that’s it! A lot to talk about, but also not a lot haha. I will say, with as lackluster as some of the month turned out to be in reading, I’ve been very grateful to utilize my library as much as I have been! Did you have a good reading month in July? Or was it lackluster?

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday – Detroit Michigan

Our next overnight stop on our Summer Holiday was Detroit Michigan, but before we crossed the border back to the States, we hit up Point Pelee, the southernmost tip of mainland Canada. A small National Park founded in 1918, this little area of the country has been occupied in some way since 700-900AD (that’s been documented). Initially a hunting area, the Europeans found it in 1670 and it’s been in dispute for a long while until it became a national park. You are able to camp and picnic in the park, even enjoy the waves on the beach front, but we headed further up to the small museum and bus ride out to the tip and then a walk on the marsh boardwalk. This spot is a boon for birdwatchers, and we saw several while we walked. It was a nice little stop and stretch your feet while being somewhere really cool. 

From there we did head straight through to Detroit. We stayed in the Financial District, close to the water and not far from the spots we really wanted to see- mostly on the auto factory side of things. We had one full day in the city, so we started off early the next morning by stopping in the GM headquarters (scoping out all the new and old vehicles on display as well as quite a few displays about what GM does beyond cars- it’s fascinating), then a short walk along the water- seeing both the statues and Canada across the way, before stopping in at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. 

Owned and operated by the Department of Natural Resources the Outdoor Adventure Center provides a variety of hands-on exhibits and activities meant to highlight the offerings of the region. Originally committed in the 1990’s, the museum and surrounding park area had quite the struggle to open up between funding issues and property ownership difficulties. However, in 2015 they were able to open up and logged 100,000 visitors in their first year. There is a little history, and a lot of nature information. The boys were able to “snowmobile”, ride an “atv”, practice “hunting”, as well as sit in an airplane, eagles’ nest, and learn about the environment of Michigan (which is a lot more than just Detroit). It was just as fun for us adults as it was for the kids. 

From there we headed back down the water and over to the tram for a ride to the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. Built in 1904 this was the second building of Ford’s, however the first purpose-built factory. BUT in order to understand the importance of Ford and his mind and motor company, let’s take a minute to quickly talk about Henry Ford. 

Henry Ford was really a pioneer of his time. He was, what I like to refer to, as a tinkerer with a brain that didn’t stop. In 1892 he built his first motor car (he was 29- so if you’re younger than that and still haven’t figured anything out or are just starting to figure things out at 29- you’re in good company!) after becoming an engineer at Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit. Yes, that Edison. In 1893 he became Chief Engineer and in 1899, cheered on by Edison and several others, he founded the Detroit Automobile Company. In 1901 it was dissolved. However, in late 1901 Henry Ford designed, built and raced an auto that got some attention and he, tried again, founded the Henry Ford Company towards the end of 1901. However, once again, it was not to last as once Henry Leland was brought in as a consultant, Ford left, and Leland then renamed it to Cadillac. 

Finally, in 1903 Ford Motor Company was founded, with the Dodge Brothers as investors (!) and then in 1908 the ever-popular Model T was debuted. It would sell that year for $825 with a price that would continue to drop year after year. Something that Henry Ford is known well for is forward thinking and in 1913 he introduced the concept of the moving assembly belt to his factories (though this could not be only attributed to Henry Ford- several employees helped design and produce this concept). Some interesting facts about Henry Ford to end this little side tangent…He was an early backer of the Indianapolis 500, he was a notorious anti-Semite (both Hitler and Himmler were big fans of Ford and some of his writings were combined and published in Nazi Germany- AND Ford is apparently mentioned TWICE in Mein Keimpf, but he didn’t financially donate to the party – I don’t know why that was such a distinction that needed to be made…), and while he introduced the $5 dollar wage, and 40/48 hr. work week, he HATED labor unions and fought fiercely against his workers unionizing. 

So, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. Built in 1904, this was the second location owned by the Ford Motor Company and produced the Models B, C, F, K, N, R, S and finally the Model T during its 5 years. Initially cars were manufactured with hand tools that would be carried to the vehicle and a single location. This plant is where the idea of a moving assembly line was created. Just before the Model T debut in 1908, employees experimented with the idea that the chassis of the car moved along to the workers, rather than the workers moving to the chassis. They continued experimenting by using a rolling option, instead of the previous rope maneuvering, before coming up with the initial moving assembly belt (a precursor to the one Henry Ford later put in place at the Rouge Facility). Now, once the Model T was completed and out in the world sales quickly skyrocketed. Demand became so much that the Piquette Plant closed for two months to help catch up and the plant itself quickly became too small. In 1909 Ford Motor Co started packing up to move over to the Highland Park Ford Plant to continue. The plant building itself went through a couple different owners and businesses before being sold in 2000 to the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex (after hearing that it was going to be torn down) and re purposed the building into a museum full of over 40 early automobiles. The plant was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and a National Historic Landmark in 2006. 

Finally, a few fun facts about the cars…most Model T’s (post assembly line introduction) were black due to the fact that it was the fastest drying of all the colors, when the production of the Model T concluded (in 1927), Ford had produced 15, 007, 034 cars. 

That about summed up our day in Detroit. Heading back towards the hotel, we stopped over at the Fox Theatre and Comerica Park just to take a little look and then stopped for some food. Our second day, on the way out of the city, we stopped over in Dearborn to see The Henry Ford. 

The Henry Ford is the massive complex that houses the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, and works in partnership with the Ford Rouge Factory (The Henry Ford is also known as the Edison Institute). It is the largest indoor/outdoor museum in the United States and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, with the National Historic Landmark label attached in 1981. Where to begin?

We started our day with the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. The Ford River Rouge Complex is well known in the auto industry. Construction beginning in 1917 (opened for production in 1927, completed in 1928) it is the largest integrated factory in the World. The concept was to have everything that was needed to manufacture vehicles right at your fingertips. With the docks, the interior railroad, electric plant, and steel mill, there was no need to wait on much to be delivered in order to complete a car. The complex itself is made up of 93 buildings with 16 million square feet of factory floor space and, while the first products produced were the WWI Eagle Boats, it currently produces all of the Ford F-150 and soon to be Ford F-150 Lightning trucks. The factory tour is really interesting, showing the history of Henry Ford and the current projects, as well as a look at the factory tour (this was not in action when we toured, but you can tour when it is in action). 

From there we headed into Greenfield Village. Greenfield Village is known as an Outdoor Living History Museum- the first in the nation and a model that many other “living history museums” follow. The village is made up of various homes and buildings that were upended from their original locations and moved to the property with the end goal of showing the history of living and working in America since its’ founding. The village is a total of 240 acres, with 90 being used by the village itself. Some of the notable homes are those of the Wright Brothers, Edison and Ford, as well as the courthouse where Lincoln practiced law and a covered bridge from Pennsylvania. There is also the Farris Mill- one of the oldest in America. As part of the admission, you can pay to ride in an authentic Model T (some of which are replicas, some of which are actual authentic – we were lucky to get an authentic Model T), as well as on the Weiser Railroad. 

Finally, we headed into the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Henry Ford was a bit obsessed with collecting and preserving historically interesting items that portrayed what the Industrial Revolution was like, both from an everyday life perspective (think items in the home, kitchen, toys, etc.) and from an industrial machine perspective. The museum is full of a variety of artifacts that range from massive steam and coal locomotives to presidential motorcade vehicles, to doll houses and tractors. There is also the Rosa Parks bus, the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile, a variety of engines, and restaurant signage. 

The museum itself was started as his personal collection on a 12-acre site. The building was designed with the Philadelphia Historical Park in mind (namely the Old City Hall, Independence Hall, & Congress Hall). Initially opened in 1929 as the Edison Institute, a private education site, it was later opened to the public in 1933. I will say that between all three (the village, the factory and the museum) we spent almost all day here and still didn’t see everything there was to see. We could have spent much longer if we hadn’t really needed to hit the road to make it to our next stop before bed time.

And with that we headed to my favorite spot on the entire trip…any guesses as to where that was? I’ll share it soon!