birthday getaway

May 23rd was my birthday and the following weekend my awesome possum boyfriend took me out of town on a secret trip!  I knew some things about where we were going but not a lot so I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  He also totally pulled the wool over my eyes when we stopped in Huntsville for dinner on Friday night and told me we still had three hours to drive to our destination, when in reality we were a mere 15 minutes away.  Sneaky sneaky.

Our final destination was Pow-Wow Point Lodge tucked away from the main road on Peninsula Lake in the gorgeous Muskoka Region in Northern Ontario.  This place is absolutely stunning.  The first thing I did when I got out of the car was take full deep gulps of the pine-scented fresh air.  The resort is composed of a number of small cottages, most of which are divided into units, many of which (like the one we had!  Wooooo Room #21) faced the lake.  The facilities include ping pong tables, pool, sauna, whirlpool, dining room, canoes, paddle boats, board games, shuffle board, horseshoes, and apparently an awesome water front fun area (complete with one of these) which unfortunately was not yet set up due to the flooding that had happened in that area.  I should also mention that the staff here really were the icing on the cake.  Everyone was super friendly and made us feel comfortable and at home pretty much as soon as we arrived.

Some of the highlights of the trip included playing Scruples (oh Scruples! – we played the 1980s version) in front of the [electric] fireplace in our room, visiting Algonquin Park  (specifically the Visitor’s Centre, Beaver Pond Trail, and the Old Railway Bike Trail), doing a little bit of fishing, Weber’s burgers on the way back home, and awesome quality time with the man I love.  It was an amazing weekend and a wonderful birthday present.  I am one lucky gal!

Some pics below!  Click on the first one to start the slideshow.

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listening to/dreaming about

I don’t know if I have ever posted my tumblr link on here.  I think I probably haven’t because I will admit that I got the tumblr account purely because I am a pack rat of digital images/information and Pinterest and the blog combined just weren’t doing it for me.  It is kind of silly I know, however it has been interesting for me to look through my tumblr from time to time to see what sorts of images I have been saving.  One theme I noticed this week is log cabins.  Apparently I have quite the fondness for them.  And while I was scrolling through all of the woodsy getaway destinations, I started to daydream about what it would be like to have one.

Here are some of my favorites along with some music I have been listening to which also reminds me of life beyond the city.

Living History Farms Des Moines Iowa - Ferme de 1850 by fernanc on Flickr.tumblr_mdc4eeharR1qj5toeo1_500 tumblr_mfg1sygaSw1qlwg31o1_1280

 

tumblr_mftietgwql1rsbdtmo1_1280 tumblr_mgldjhw1yd1rv2z4ro1_500 The Marcy Cabin at night under a starry sky at Mt. Van Hoevenberg Bed and Breakfast, Lake Placid NY.

 

tumblr_mhqnv03blk1r4gct3o1_1280 tumblr_mi2bfpIBVp1s4r82yo1_1280 tumblr_mi4vat3QvO1qgemvwo1_500

 

tumblr_mi6627JQ1D1s18hopo1_500 (FR) HOUSE RISTOMATI RATIA

nature + gifs

I like nature.

I like gifs.

Therefore, I am a big fan of Head Like an Orange.  Some pretty amazing gifs on here.  Here are some of my faves, but make sure to check out the tumblr for many many more!  All of these make me want to lie around all weekend watching nature shows and marveling at nature and its inhabitants.

chimp fruitim sorry whatmountain gorillaowl in the windpenguintigerwink

nature and junk

In the fourth year of my Psychology degree in university I had to complete research and write an Honors Thesis.  I chose to focus on the relationship between natural environments/natural elements and mental ability, specifically concentration and creativity.  The actual research phase of my thesis ended up being a bit of a joke as the conditions I was trying to produce ended up being fairly impossible (ahem…no budget) and I had to settle for some strung together DYI arrangements that did not work out as well as I had hoped.

I won’t get into the details of what I did because it is somewhat tedious to explain, but what my results showed wasn’t so much that the physical environment itself influenced how creative or concentrated the subjects were, but rather that there was a positive correlation between how favorably subjects rated the physical environment they were in and how well they scored on the concentration and creativity tasks.  And sure, once the data was ran through SSRS the correlation was not “significant”, but there was definitely a positive relationship and I suppose for an undergrad thesis that was good enough.  It was really more about the process of doing research anyway.

It was a very interesting experience to go through and I still sometimes think back to it and come up with ideas on how I could have improved my process and research methodology.  However, more often what I think about is the main theory I used to support my research.  A theory best outlined in this paper written by Stephen Kaplan for The Journal of Environmental Psychology, published in 1995.

The basis of it is that there are four basic tenants that must be present for any physical environment to be restorative.  Kaplan defines restorative as meaning a mental state which is active only in involuntary attention, versus direct attention.  When we do work, concentrate on a sports game, or even drive a car in the city, we are using direct attention. It is not necessarily straining or stressful, but it is also not relaxing per se.  Involuntary attention is best described as the state of mind one would have perched on top of a mountain looking out into the distance, or canoeing on a lake, or hiking through a forest…you get the idea.  You are not spacing out but there is no real effort going into concentration.  It is not necessary to be out in nature to experience this state of mind, but what Kaplan and others have argued is that nature is a naturally-occurring environment in which all four characteristics of a restorative environment exist…erm…naturally.  There are other studies, by the way, that have shown much smaller, but still significant positive influences of natural elements in work and home environments.  Things like live plants, exposed brick/stone, wood beams, and running water in fountains have all been linked to more productive and creativity-fostering work environments, for example.

So, what are the four tenants?

  1. Fascination – objects, patterns, movements that naturally capture attention in a “soft” way.  Basically without requiring a dramatic response or action.
  2. Being away – Kaplan emphasizes that this is more a conceptual and not necessarily a physical attribute.  One does not need to be in the middle of Algonquin Park to experience this aspect.  Think of being in a small down town park for example.  You may still hear city noises, but at the same time feel removed from them.
  3. Extent – Again, this is naturally found out in nature because one has a sense of it extending way beyond what the eye can see.  However, this can also be achieved in other ways.  The main idea is that one has the sense of a separate and full environment.
  4. Compatibility – Kaplan writes, “the setting must fit what one is trying to do and what one would like to do”.  One person might love fishing and find sitting in a boat on a lake all day to be a very restorative experience, for example.  If one does not like to fish, and does not enjoy the process, the same activity will not produce the same effects.  You get the idea.

Still with me?

The reason I wanted to write about this stuff is because it has been on my mind an awful lot this summer.  I thought about it while sitting in the woods at the Ontario Vipassana Centre, while spending time at the Toronto Islands, while sitting on the shore of Lake Ontario in Ashbridge’s Bay and Humber Bay Parks, and while enjoying the company of friends in city parks all summer.  And the reason it has come into my head again, and again, and again is because it is oh so darn important!  At least it is to me.  And also because I have been so lucky to enjoy these restorative environment experiences all summer.  It is interesting that not once have my friends and I ventured out to one of these locations this summer that one of us does not exclaim “I can’t believe this is RIGHT here!  We are still in Toronto, but it so doesn’t feel like it!”  Amen to that!

And now with winter sort of around the corner I am already starting to worry about where I will be finding these moments during the cold winter months.  Although, I am probably much more excited about apple farms, pumpkin patches, and foilage oooooh and aaaahing outings for now!

-The Postiliminary-

In a real “go out with a bang” kind of outing this weekend, my friend and I are biking 60k as part of the Tour de Greenbelt AND I AM SO EXCITED!!!!  Just read this description!  Just read it!

What began as a fresh air festival on wheels is now a fresh air festival on wheels or foot that allows you, along with your friends and family, to enjoy an at-your-own-pace marshaled bike ride, run, or guided hike through Rouge Park, a gem of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

Conveniently located close to downtown Toronto this year’s tour offers visually stunning routes, numerous fun and interesting stops along the way, which could include spotting ducks and frogs at a newly created wetland, cycling through Bob Hunter Memorial Park (which celebrates a Canadian environmental hero), stops for some freshly baked pie, and maybe even a detour to pick up some delicious local corn to take home. As always, there will be varying routes and lengths, so there’s something for everyone’s skill level.

I am so looking forward to Saturday and I will make sure to take lots of pics and write all about it next week.

Trees

Do you like trees?  Stupid question right?  That is pretty much like me asking, ‘so, you like oxygen’?  Maybe you don’t, I don’t know your life and I certainly don’t want to jump to any assumptions.

Well for the record, I am a big fan.  Of trees, that is.  One of my fondest childhood memories is lying in a hammock, eating some fresh peas that I had just picked in my grandparents’ garden and watching the tree tops above sway gently in the summer breeze.  Pretty much a perfect memory as far as I am concerned.  I also like peas and hammocks…but I digress.

One of the coolest things about trees is how freakin’ old they are!  When I was in California last year I really hoped to get to Sequoia National Park to see these HUGE trees, especially General Sherman.  This sequoia (world’s largest tree, don’t ya know) is over 80 meters in height and is between 2,300 and 2,700 years old!  That just completely blows my mind.  This tree was around when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it’s old, ok?  We’ll leave it at that.

Here is another oldie:

Say Fromage!

I have a really hard time just plain ol’ smiling for photos.  As anyone who has ever seen my photo roll on Facebook can attest to, I normally make all sorts of stupid faces instead.  When I was graduating university, the photographer for my grad photos was actually getting frustrated by my inability to just smile.  He kept having to make me laugh while he caught some decent pictures…yep, just like a baby at a Sears home-portrait studio.

I think it’s because I had braces for so long and was also so self-conscious before I got my jaw surgery.  Or got my “jaw did”.  I just don’t have all of the years of practice I guess.

But you know who does have a great smile?  This guy:

Isn’t that adorable?  Wildlife photographer David Slater left his camera and tri-pod unattended in an Indonesian national park and this is what happened!  I think these are some fantastic self-portraits and they definitely made my morning!  So sweet.

Cotttttttaaaaaaage!

I hope you all have fabulous plans for this long weekend!  I am lucky to have been invited to a cottage which, let’s face it, is the quintessential way to spend the May 2-4 weekend in Canada.  Although the weather may not be the best I am still hoping for a weekend of beer, relaxation and good company.  I have been told there is also a hot tub involved and while I am normally not a huge fan of this Jersey-Shore-like pastime, I feel like maybe hanging out in one in the cool air of northern Ontario may change my mind.

Have a good one everyone!

I assume my weekend will be a lot like this movie...including the time travel.

Bluebells!

And no, not blue bell bottom pants, I mean the flowers.  I am not sure if what we get in Canada are also Bluebell flowers, but when they erupt across hillsides in parks here it is a sure sign that spring has finally arrived.  In Southwestern Ontario they have come, and mostly gone by now, and I did not really have a chance to get out to see them in full bloom.  But even if I did, I am sure they would not have compared to scenes like below.  Wow!