Enjoying Staycationing before Vacationing at Oceanstone Seaside Resort

Enjoying Staycationing before Vacationing at Oceanstone Seaside Resort

Thirty six hours since I left my amazing weekend at Oceanstone and I think I am still in ultra Zen mode. Actually I know that I am. Honestly, I am going to run you through the awesomeness that was this weekend, but in all the places we have EVER travelled, we can not recall EVER having been as relaxed as we were this weekend. I have always loved Oceanstone, from the first time I photographed a wedding there, and through the many that followed. I also held my first charity event there, my first photography workshop, and it’s where we will be holding this year’s Awesome Life Retreat. Alex and I are going to be apart for over a month and I will be with the kiddos all day everyday. We wanted to rock a winter Staycation locally and to me there was no better choice than Oceanstone Seaside Resort.
The team on site really makes you able to relax and unwind by taking care of everything. We knew we wanted to enjoy some meals at Rhubarb, but we also wanted to stay in our sweats all day and eat in our cottage. Chef Steve stocked our fridge with “Chili and some fixings” and it was a complete feast!

Oceanstone Seaside Resort

When we arrived on Friday night we came into the lobby and were greeted by the smell of warm cider, a crackling fire and friendly faces. We got checked in quickly and found our way to our cottage. Ok, it wasn’t that difficult for me to find, being as I have photographed people getting ready for their weddings in almost every Cottage on site… BUT almost all of the cottages are directly overlooking the water, so finding your totally awesome spot is not hard to do!

Our little cottage was stocked up with some treats (You can arrange to have things left in your room! They now carry some great local craft beers (ok I am ASSUMING that they carry them because they are great, we all know I don’t drink beers!) and their Chef often puts together special packages (for example you can pre order chocolate covered strawberries or a creatively curated stay in snack basket for Valentines day!) I haven’t tested their limits, but I am pretty sure that you could make any reasonable request and they could probably make it happen! I couldn’t have been happier that I had a mixed box of LURE Caramel Co. chocolates waiting for me. I had already fallen in love with their Chocolate Covered Sea Salt Caramels but when I tried “Wunderful” well that’s just, well, ah-ma-zing. I think I would have purchased another box just of those if they had had any left up at Rhubarb (so it’s probably better for my waistline that they didn’t!)

Most cottages are fully equipped with kitchens, so you can also bring your own stuff with you. We totally brought our favorite ice cream and stuck it in the freezer. Now it held no candle to the homemade CREAM CHEESE ice cream that was served with our dessert at Rhubarb, but we enjoyed it on our night in.

Sunset at Oceanstone Seaside Resort Nova Scotia

Oh gosh, I’m not even to dinner on Friday night! Ok let’s get to it. We arrived just before sunset so we unloaded our stuff and went down by the water to see the sunset. Well that was the intention. But there were something like 90km an hour winds, and I didn’t have socks on with my flats, so we grabbed some pictures and headed back inside. We found the beautiful deck upstairs and I kept sneaking outside to grab some shots as the sun went down and the sky turned all kinds of vibrant hues of orange and pink. It was STUNNING. I can totally picture sitting out there with a drink and a book pretty much anytime other than right now! We chilled and chatted and headed up to Rhubarb for dinner.

Rhubarb Resturaunt at Oceanstone Nova Scotia

Rhubarb was already pretty full when we got there just before seven and the musicians were getting set up to play music. We were right next to the stage area and we were a bit concerned that it might be too loud, but it wasn’t! Andrew Gillis played the harmonica and sang and Mike Lee played the stand up bass. The tone of the music was wonderful, the fire was warm next to us and the food was full of flavour, our server was fabulous so all in all it was a win win win! It was busy, but we were never without water. Honestly it doesn’t sound like a huge thing, but we drink a lot of water (I say as I finish my third tall glass of water since I started this post!) and it just means that she was present, she didn’t hover or intrude, but made sure we had everything we needed, and kept us up to date on what was happening. We decided to both start with the soup of the day which was a maple squash. It was a perfect blend of sweet and savoury. I have made a few carrot soups and squash soups, but this blend was rich and light. Alex said had he known how good it was he would have just ordered a large bowl and another biscuit, but I am glad that he didn’t know because we got to share two meals. This is now a rarity for us. Much like Joey on friends Alex’s usual mantra is “Alex doesn’t share food”. When he was trying to woo me when we were dating we would share meals often, only once we were married I learned that it was something he despised doing, he likes to know that the food set before him is his, and his alone! BUT we both we enticed by the homemade pizza dough made with Canada Dry Ginger Ale (the only ginger ale worth drinking IMO) and the chef’s specialty pasta of the evening was a Chicken Alfredo with fresh tossed Tomatoes. We hadn’t had a real alfredo style pasta out in AGES so we decided to share both. Yay!

We didn’t want to leave because the music was fabulous, and it was so cozy. I am not often enticed by desert when I’m already full. I am usually a “I’ll come back JUST for dessert another time” type gal (and I do!) but their pastry chef Kate (who also makes the LURE chocolates!) makes all of the desserts and when one of the owners, Diane, told me about the Beet & Carrot Cake with the homemade Cream Cheese ICE CREAM, well we just HAD to try it. Alex and I had carrot cake for our wedding 10 years ago, so it holds a special place in our hearts… and this most certainly did not disappoint. Now, I hate the word, but this cake was moist! Yet light, and there was no icing on it, so you ate the cream cheese ice cream with it, and it disappeared before the end of the song!

Breakfast in Bed, Oceanstone Staycation

We drove back to our cottage, (Yes I felt lazy but it was stinkin COLD out!) Alex got a fire on, the heat filled the room and drifted wonderfully up the stairs making the bedroom extra cozy! We chatted while sitting by the fire (actually we were motivated to look at houses, because this cozy little cottage made us firmly believe we could LIVE in a smaller home, so we started re-exploring that option). Our full bellies and the warm fire made going to sleep early a non negotiable for us, and honestly when we woke up the next morning I thought we could be in a resort in the south. It was still warm and toasty in our room, and the sun was shining in the windows. The room was light and bright and with some reclaimed wood features, it just felt so homey. We slept until almost 8am, and started a fire again before heading over to the lobby to grab some items from the continental breakfast. They have some tables set up if you want to eat in the main building but I wanted to have breakfast in bed (because I have only ever done it twice before and it seemed like the perfect opportunity) so we brought our breakfast back to the cottage. Alex boiled a couple of eggs that we had brought because he needs to start his day with some protein, and before I knew it it was 11:30 in the morning. The wind had died down some so Alex convinced me to dress all cozy warm and go outside. Oceanstone had a left a little sheet with some local walks and hikes for us so we checked it out. We had done Polly’s Cove before and I didn’t know if I wanted to commit to that long of a hike by the water so we decided to explore the Whaleback trails. “Informal trails” is how they were described and that was definitely a good note to have, some of them were pretty difficult to follow. We only walked about a kilometer but it took us an hour and a half because I kept wanting to stop and take pictures (or hide from the wind behind the rocks) and Alex wanted to keep breaking the ice. Not going to lie, I definitely got in on that action! After our adventure we grabbed a quick burger at the finer diner, then headed back to the our little Crow’s Nest cottage.

Whalesaback Exploration Peggy's Cove

The fire embers were still glowing so we fired that back up again. I left the bathroom door open to warm it up and had a bath, it was so QUIET! Since we COULD, we had a nap at about 4pm. Such an odd time for nap but we really couldn’t help ourselves. I woke up just in time to snap a few sunset shots again, and then we got prepped for supper. It was pretty tough…we had to put the chili pot on the stove and then take the fixins out of the fridge. Honestly I need to explore some of the local options for meals that you can take and cook at home (Rhubarb was actually doing this with Chicken Pot Pie on Sunday, but Alex doesn’t like it, so it was a no go on that one!) Because it was FABULOUS. We got to stay in, be cozy, and lazy but have an amazing meal! It’s amazing what “fixins” can do to a relatively simple meal! Totally motivated to do a chili bar for friends sometime soon!

We watched some of the most recent Jim Gaffigan special on my laptop, I laughed until I cried but then I saw alex dozing off next to me. He went up to bed and I spent a few hours working on my website (I hope you like the changes, it’s still a work in progres, don’t worry…I know!) and then I stoked the fire and went up to bed. We may have gone a little overboard on the fire because it was HOT up there, but I didn’t mind!

Sunday morning I grabbed some photos around, and then we went up to Rhubarb for brunch. We were the first ones there (I had actually gone in before they were officially open to grab some shots) but it filled up pretty quickly! Definitely worth making a reservation if you’re going to be going around eleven or twelve. Apparently Alex and I were carbo loading because he got pancakes and I got french toast, both came with bacon (for the win!) and I mine also came with roasted potatoes. I didn’t used to like breakfast foods at all, my poor dad and the creative ways he tried to make breakfast interesting for me! But a lot of it came down to texture, so I am always a little leary of french toast, because when it’s not cooked properly it just ends up being a soggy mushy mess….but this was PERFECT. It was one THICK slice of homemade bread, I’m talking a few inches thick! So the egg mixture was cooked on the outside and the fresh bread was perfect on the inside. Served with a blueberry compote and creme fraiche and a side of maple syrup, with a light dusting of cinnamon somewhere….it was lovely. Having the savory bacon and potatoes with it was a great mix. I love variety so this meal choice meant Alex didn’t have to share with me (although I did steal some of his maple butter to try! TASTY) Neither of us really drink coffee, but I did see some pretty good looking lattes going out. I also had a glass of OJ, I forgot to ask if it was fresh squeezed, but if it wasn’t, it certainly tasted like it was! They offered dessert, and honestly I was so tempted to have more Beet Carrot Cake, but my breakfast had been pretty much dessert, so I couldn’t justify it!

We went back to our cottage and packed up so we could pick up our kiddos from our very generous parents who had watched them for the weekend.

Lure Chocolates, Rhubarb Restaurant and Gallery
Brunch at Rhubarb

We loved everything about the weekend, but what I have to say was the best part was the feeling like we didn’t NEED to do anything, that it was OK to just relax. In the winter this is much easier for me, and I think that we really needed it. The atmosphere made it possible for us to really relax, which lead to lots of authentic and much needed conversation about what we want for our family and for our year. I know that may sound crazy, but our lives are a bit helter skelter, and though we are being much more intentional about time together, it’s often at the end of a day when we are tired, and we have to deal with real life logistics (Like you know, you need to pick up the kids from daycare, and don’t freak out when you get home and the TV is gone, I took it for my workshop) So often the big stuff just doesn’t get covered.


So although the food was AMAZING and the fire was cozy and comforting, the real gift to us was the ATMOSPHERE that was created by the entire weekend that gave us this relaxing time together.  

Oceanstone & Rhubarb (and of course LURE Caramel Co.) we can’t wait to be back! Counting down the days until the Awesome Life Retreat (May 7-9)

Give yourself or someone you love the gift of going to Oceanstone, or rock it with the gift of going to Oceanstone AND our retreat (a win win win! Food & accommodations included!) You seriously will NOT regret it!

This post was partially sponsored by Oceanstone and Rhubarb. As always all opinions are mine and are honestly how I feel! I love this place! All images are Copyright This is Photography 2017 Please do not use without permission. 

Weight Watchers – Two Lies and a Truth

Weight Watchers – Two Lies and a Truth

Weight Watchers. It works. As I am sure a lot of other things work, it’s all about balance and consistency. I am sure if you consistently do Beachbody, or Aitkins or whatever you decide, it will work. But what I love about Weight Watchers is the ability to treat yourself. It means that most of the time I don’t feel deprived. It means I can create fun foods I like and work on recipes using point math (yes, I actually enjoy this, except when I calculate that the cake I want is 200 pts and I only have 3 left for the day…)

I sit at my desk writing this post, way too late and hungry. Looking at these pictures I cannot imagine why on earth today I have been not wanting to stick to this. The food looks great. And it WAS great. But today I was having a little “I want to eat all the things” pity party. Maybe it is all the Gilmore Girls trivia studying and party planning. How do those beautiful women eat all of the bad foods and look so good. Oh RIGHT, its TV, not real life!

But here are some of my favorite finds in my first 4 weeks back on the Weight Watchers train (and down 10.4 lbs, YAY)

I haven’t eaten any of my FIT POINTS to date, but I have a goal of earning 100 points knowing that I will want some extra treats at the gilmore girls viewing party this Friday (stay tuned for more!!)

On week one back on track I really wanted to go to Darrell’s  (if you haven’t eaten there before…you should try it! Consistently tasty, never dissapoints. Wraps, burgers and the most amazing Darrel Fries!) But on week one I was feeling very “stay on track” and so I decided to make my own diner-esque meal.

I made burgers from extra lean ground beef. Weighed them and added SO MANY VEGGIES, a thin cheese slice and sauted mushrooms (with just a tiny spray of non stick spray) I used a sprouted grain english muffin as the bun and just a tad of BBQ sauce, ketchup and mustard. The sweet potato fries I made with only a TSP of extra virgin olive oil. The key to these turning out well is my pampered chef baking stone cookie sheets! Awesome! But the REAL winner is the garlic curry “aoili”.  2 TBSP non fat plain greek yogurt, a pinch of sea salt, curry powder and Epicure garlic aoili spice. Stir and let sit in the fridge 10 minutes or more. 0 spts – maybe 1. But when I put it in it was 0. The sweet potato fries are somewhere between 4-6pts. I have plugged it in on the app a few different ways, but it lands somewhere there.

All together, Burger fries and aioli a 16pt dinner. Well worth it for the tasty diner inspired meal.

I promise I will always be honest with my weight watchers/healthy meals and their quality/taste. I remember when I did weight watcher many moons ago and I had one friend who SWORE that cocoa powder and cottage cheese blended up tasted JUST like chocolate mousse. LIES I tell you. LIES.

I have been trying new things, experimenting with flavors , trying to health up some recipes and I can tell you that cauliflower pizza crust is NOT the same same as regular crust. I can also tell you that frozen banana whip is NOT the same as ice cream, it’s actually not bad if you are looking for a sweet treat.

But so far my win has been spaghetti squash. Now, it’s not the exact same as pasta, because well to do that it would have to actually be pasta! But if you add flavour or sauce it seems just like angel hair! And best part of all…. its NO POINTS. Zip Zilch Nadda! I have it almost every other day. WIth sauted chicken veggies and garlic, a “Creamy” alfredo style sauce or homemade marinara (Also no points!) and meatballs. So many options for a pasta lover for me!

The quickest way to get perfect spaghetti squash is to cut it in half the long way, then cut out the seeds and “innerds”. Place flat side down on a plate and pour some water on it (about a quarter of a cup) and microwave 12-14 minutes. Take out and shred the squash with a fork. Maybe I’ll do a step by step next time!

Which “pasta” recipe would you like to have first?

Holiday Hot Chocolate Bar – A Fun Simple Set – Up

Holiday Hot Chocolate Bar – A Fun Simple Set – Up

I really enjoy Hot Chocolate, and now that I have found the very dangerous salted-caramel-white-hot-chocolate, watch out winter! I’ll be going sledding and playing outside just to get cold enough to have the excuse for hot chocolate!

I LOVE hosting people all the time, but ESPECIALLY at Christmas. The entire Holiday season is a big celebration for me and I like to always have something “at the ready” so there can be something festive and fun if people come by! Not that we get a tonne of drop-ins but life is busy, and often we invite people over on the fly, so its nice to have cookies in the freezer (hello Cookie exchange!) and this fun Hot Chocolate Bar that can now be set up in less than 5 Minutes.

Almost everything I had on hand, but presenting it in a fun way is what makes it feel so special! I hand lettered the “Baby its Cold Outside sign.” and grabbed a few of the decorative Christmas trees we had around the house. I made a tree tower of cups  and then got out the good stuff. I chose to use mason jars for the tasty treats so I could seal them back up and put them in the cupboard, and the next time I set up, its just taking the lids off! Caramel and chocolate sauce went into little plastic squeeze bottles I picked up at Bulk Barn. (I have seen them at Michael’s as well) Labels were Christmas tags I picked up at Dollarama and I just covered the can of whipped cream in scrapbook paper so it would look a little fancier.

Marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles, crushed candy cane, sea salt and mini chocolate chips make a nice variety of options. I got white hot chocolate mix at Bulk Barn as well (I did have trouble finding it in the grocery store) and then went for classic milk chocolate a second base. I was going to make dark chocolate as well, but since there were only six of us, I thought it might be a bit of overkill.

Of course the salted-caramel-white-hot-chocolate was my favorites, but peppermint-marshmallow-milk-chocolate or triple-chocolate-chocolate-chip are great options as well! You can add as many toppings or mix in’s as you like but this makes it super simple with some great flavor options!

A simple set up, easy to replicate and do over and over, and who doesn’t love hot chocolate!

Happy hot chocolate creating! (and enjoying!)

Always Time for Tea – A Collaborative Outdoor Tea Party

Always Time for Tea – A Collaborative Outdoor Tea Party

You may have guessed by the title, but we had a tea party! The last one I had was a baby shower for my beautiful friend Naphtali something like 4 years ago and I was itching for another, and who better to do that with than friends who love to create pretty things!

I absolutely adore the gals at Duly Noted. I love the little shop too. (Well I guess it’s not so little now, they recently moved!)  It’s a great little shop in Halifax with stationary and pens and other lovely local find!  You should check them out at their new location on Doyle Street in Halifax!

Rebecca rocks invitation and graphic design at Duly but also has her own beautiful line of cards called Paper Chain and does design work of her own!  Lisa consults with all the couples (or families etc) on what they’re looking for in invitations and is so artistically talented it’s incredible. She used to be an art teacher and currently launched a website for her beautiful calligraphy work!

This summer…well September…we joined forces to set up a special outdoor tea party! We all used our skills and contributed treats to a tasty tea! Rebecca made the baked goods and beautiful naked cake, her amazing neighbor volunteered her backyard and we carted almost all of the contents of Rebecca’s apartment across the road and up the hill to create the outdoor design. Lisa made cucumber canapés and beautiful calligraphy pieces. I brought the fixings for a charcuterie board and sparkling lemonade to round out the feast.

I just have to say, it’s pretty awesome to find like minded people who enjoy the same things that you do. And if you don’t have those people in your life yet, I recommend trying it out! I know it sounds silly, but putting it out there and trying to connect with people in a new way, it doesn’t always work out the way that you wanted, but it is certainly worth it when you make a connection and find common ground! (If you didn’t catch that ladies…I am thankful for you!)

We brought a collection of furniture, blankets, pillows, candles, linens, and other “odds and sods” in laundry baskets and Rubbermaid totes over to the neighbor’s backyard. I think that we must have taken at least twenty trips for set up and another twenty for tear down… but  I didn’t actually count! The first thing we did was set up our blankets and tables. Using a variety of Rebecca’s books we propped up the tables to make them flat (or so we thought… the falling candlesticks all day may have proved us wrong on that) to provide our low table so we could sit on the ground in our sea of pretty pillows.

We used the clothesline to hang a variety of sheets, curtains and tablecloths to create a kind of boho background and added a little glass jar banner from Rebecca’s. Lisa cut some greenery from The Flower Shop and gingerly placed them in the jars. It was glorious to push the clothesline and have the flowing linens become the backdrop for our table. ***swoon***

We placed the beautiful centerpiece in the middle of the large square table we created and then set up dainty table settings using Rebecca’s china (she is the tea party master and has all the essentials). We also used my mom’s crystal glasses to have sparkling lemonade and berries, a simple touch that added some glam to the glasses! We brought over the food. grabbed a couple of photographs and sat down together to enjoy the spoils of our hard work. The ONLY downside to this endeavor was the swarm of wasps who were eager to be close to all the sweets, and Addy who had recently been stung being extremely scared and screaming every thirty seconds or so. Thank you ladies for having tea with me, and thank you for being amazing and letting my Addy girl join in!

I’ll share some tripod taken photos of us girls enjoying our tea but for now I hope you enjoy the beautiful set up we put together!

 

Halifax Flowers Tea Party

Come. Let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.

Chaim Potok