Interview with Al Capo of Canadian band: Stuck on Planet Earth

Interviews

Written by Monica Ng


Get in touch with Stuck on Planet Earth

www.stuckonplanetearth.com
Instagram: @stuckonplanetearth
Facebook: Stuck on Planet Earth

!!!ALERT: STUCK ON PLANET EARTH’S DEBUT ALBUM RELEASE DATE IS JUNE 26, 2020!!!

Photo credit: Stuck on Planet Earth

Phoenix Theatre

November 22, 2019.  That was the day I was first exposed to Canadian band, Stuck on Planet Earth. Stuck on Planet Earth was Moist’s supporting band. I have been a fan of Moist since I was about 18 years old and I am a huge supporter of Canadian music.  It’s always great to discover new artists and music. I even picked up a free nifty Stuck on Planet Earth logo sticker at the merch table. Recently, I took the sticker on my forest run. Pictures from the photo shoot are pictured above. I thought it would be suitable for this post, as it would appear that the astronaut was indeed stuck on planet earth!

I was just polishing up my interview with Neon Dreams when I caught one of Stuck on Planet Earth’s live streams on Instagram. It was a lot of fun because Adam and Al had the chance to answer all of my questions during the stream. I decided to reach out to Al about participating in my blog interview. I was totally honest with Al and wrote that I was just discovering their band and would need to do some research in order to prepare my interview.  Further, I told him that I am not a professional writer but write for the love of it. So no pressure right? Nah.

About

Stuck on Planet Earth is an alternative rock band based in Toronto.  The band is made up of three members – Al Capo (vocals, songwriter and bass), Adam Bianchi (vocals and guitar) and Andrew Testa on drums.  The “3As” band! The band has been playing together since 2007.

Anthem Records recently signed up them up for a record deal.  The record label represents bands like Rush and Big Wreck. Stuck on Planet Earth will be releasing their first album titled, Beautiful Nowhere on June 26, 2020. Prior to this album, they mostly released singles. Their repertoire of songs includes: Higher than the Drugs, Rising, Permanent, I Want it Now, Just to Have You, Gone, Another, Lights So Low, Stay Away, Alive and so many more…

Stuck on Planet Earth
Photo credit: Stuck on Planet Earth

Interview

Me: Al, you are a singer, songwriter and bass player. I find this very impressive – as I cannot sing, write songs, or play any instruments. I am so honoured to have a chance to interview you.  From what I gather so far, you are super-charismatic and a “straight-to-the-point” kind of person.  Adam and Andrew – you guys are very talented as well! You guys are all so well-spoken – I am enjoying your live streams/chats. Al, I appreciate and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to participate in my interview.

What I remember most about your band from the concert was your enthusiasm.  You guys were genuinely excited to be on stage and there was definitely a positive vibe. The one bad thing was the quality of the sound at Phoenix Theatre.  A friend warned me about the issue.  The vibration of the music made it difficult to hear any lyrics and the guitar and drum sounds were a bit muddled for both yours and Moist’s performance.  I basically had to stand near the back to have better sound. That might be the reason that I wasn’t completely hooked on your music already.

Al, thanks for directing me to a Podcast your band did with Michael McDonnell (@allaboutthesong – Episode #68). You told Michael that at the start of your band’s musical career, people were telling you that you sung/played out of tune. But you guys practiced and persisted. Music is obviously a passion for you guys and you have been playing since high school.  Because becoming a musician is not a traditional path, I ask you the following question – what was the “defining” moment when you knew that you wanted to pursue a career as a musician and did anyone encourage or try to discourage you?

Al: I’m not so sure there was a defining moment. I think it was just the passion and desire to create, write songs, and perform live… once I really delved into it, I knew that no matter what, I always wanted music to play a big part in my life. Like in anything, once our band started to make a name for itself- it was like “oh okay, maybe we can actually do this”. Of course along the way there have been people who have not favoured my career path, but to be honest, I’m not the type of person who really ever cared what others thought of me. I truly believe in life you’re supposed to carve out your own path. 

Me: I love your don’t care attitude and totally agree about finding ones own path in life. Any advice for those considering pursuing a career as a musician?

Al:  I usually don’t like to give advice, because there isn’t a rule book that tells you how to pursue a career in music. However, I think one has to be willing to get knocked down, and have really thick skin. I also think staying true to your authentic self is very important. If you can remain true to who you are, while creating your art – that to me, is more important than any accolades. 

Me: I have to ask because I am curious and cannot find the information anywhere – how did you guys decide on your band name? To be honest, when I first heard your band’s name, it took me a long time to remember it – I just knew it was something about planet Earth. But, when I think about your name now, I am reminded that so much happens in our lives and this planet called Earth, so to be “stuck” here may be a bad thing?!

Al: We wanted our band name to be a statement. A name that could make someone feel something, whether that’s a curious feeling, or an understanding. Also, given the chaotic ridden times we’re currently living in – it seems our band name because it’s more relevant as each day passes. 

Me:  Yes, I remember you mentioned in one of your live streams that the astronaut in your Higher Than The Drugs video was roaming around in a deserted place – which is similar to our empty streets post-COVID-19. The pandemic has definitely taken a toll on the world.  You were probably performing a lot before then. Shortly after the Moist concert, I saw that you guys were playing at The Drake. I wanted to catch your SOLD-OUT show but didn’t get a chance. What is a typical COVID-day for you? How has COVID-19 impacted your life?

Al: Before the pandemic we were either in the studio recording, or touring and playing shows. Although all of our summer touring plans have been cancelled, the positive out of the situation is that it’s really allowed us to focus on our social media presence, and given us the opportunity to connect with our supporters and fans. 

Me: Just to get to know you a bit better – aside from music, what are some other hobbies/interests?

Al: I like to make art @kid_capo, [Instagram account], I love basketball, hiking, and love hanging out with my family and close friends. 

Me: That’s amazing! You recently mentioned your artistic talents in a live stream. I can’t say that I’m surprised that you have more talents. I will definitely check out your art. Generally speaking, what drives you and keeps you going both in life and your music career?

Al: To me, I’ve always been driven by the notion that we can’t take anything with us when we leave this place. Making music and art is my imprint on the world, and I love that sentiment – as morbid or beautiful as that is, depending on how you choose to look at it. 

Me: As I am getting older, I too have come to the same realization -that we can’t leave earth with any physical possessions, so I am all about life experiences versus material items. I would much rather go hiking or kayaking and surround myself with nature than drive around in a fancy car. How do you manage your stress day-to-day and when touring?

Al: Haha, I’m not that great at stress management. I’m a bit of a control freak with a lot of OCD tendencies. Luckily, Stuck has a great team around us who help us manage all the stresses that come along with the lifestyle. 

Me: I believe that what music people listen to can provide a lot of insight into who they are, so I ask this question of everyone. I know that I asked you guys this during your live stream, but I have to admit that I was only half-listening because I was working at the same time –oops sorry! Who are your top 3 favourite musicians/bands?

Al: I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to just 3 – but I can tell you some of my big musical inspirations: The Police, Cage The Elephant, Nirvana, Jimmy Eat World, Killing Joke, The Raconteurs, the Gypsy Kings … the list could go on. 

Me: I haven’t heard of one-third of those musicians and will definitely check out some of their music. I’m sure the life of a musician is exciting.  What is the craziest thing a fan ever did for you?

Al: I don’t know about crazy – but when we first started touring the US, we had a rough go on a few dates, and a fan decided to put us up in a hotel, where we could get some real rest and recovery time from all the floors we had been sleeping on. So not crazy, but nicest thing. Very grateful to that fan to this day. 

Me: In the Podcast with Michael McDonnell, you talked about your band working together and being on the same page; and being straight when working towards your common goal. Whereas, other bands often break apart possibly due to resentment of one member (ex. one person does all the work).  Did you ever have conflict with Adam and Andrew, where you couldn’t agree on a particular direction for your music? And if so, how did you overcome the obstacle?

Al: We love like brothers, and at times fight like brothers. I think over time, we have just learned our individual roles in this band, so we don’t step on each other too much. We usually overcome conflict by talking very openly and honestly and don’t hold anything back.

Me: That’s great that you can be open with each other and not let anger manifest itself. On that note, you are known for writing and singing about the raw blunt truth of life. Your band plays songs about topics that most people would shy away from – like in your song, Another. It’s actually one of my favourite songs. The lyrics go, “I am thinking about another when I’m with you.”

I studied sociology and psychology in university and mostly explored concepts of human nature.  While it may be normal to think of someone else while being with another, no one vocalizes it.  Correction – no one except you guys! What type of feedback have you received from friends, family, or fans about your lyrics in general? Has anyone told you that you are singing about their life?

Al: A lot of people have told us that our lyrics really resonate with them in many different ways emotionally. That’s why we do this, to connect with people through our music – we’re very grateful for the privilege of being able to communicate through our music. 

Me: From what I gather –  over the years you have been releasing singles for budgetary reasons as well as allowing people to enjoy one song at a time.  You also mentioned that when albums are produced, some songs get lost on an album. How do you feel now that your first album is about to be released? Do you think that some of the songs will ‘get lost’?

Al: I think we’re at a point now where our style and sound is very focused. We know which direction we’re headed sonically, and all we can hope, is that it doesn’t get lost. 

Me: Can you give your fans a hint of what “vibe” your overall album will have?

Al: Beautiful Nowhere is a very dynamic record – it’s all rooted in alternative rock; it’s vibey, dancey, and anthemic. 

Me:  I’m so glad that I stumbled onto your Instagram live stream because I had a chance to re-visit your music. I am hooked now and can’t get enough. Seriously looking forward to listening to the new songs on your album and catching you guys in concert.  I have already pre-ordered your digital album 🙂 I wish you the best of luck with your new album.  Thank you again for agreeing to this interview and your time.

Everyone out there – check out Stuck on Planet Earth’s music. They are Canadian and TOTALLY rockin’!!! Before wrapping up this interview, do you have anything else that you wish to share with your fans?

Al: Our debut album Beautiful Nowhere is our everywhere on June 26th! 

—End—

Here are a few of my favourite songs:

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Discovering my backyard: Ontario

Ontario Adventures

Written by Monica Ng

A review of Ontario parks, conservation areas, forests, trails, falls and places that I have visited. More to come…but recently friends have been asking me where to go. Thought it would be better to post sooner than later. Happy and safe travels!

Because the places are not listed in alphabetical order in the body of the post, here is a list of the places that are reviewed in this post in alphabetical order (then if you have a keyboard you can do a CTRL F to find the place you want to read about):
Awenda Provincial Park, Bass Lake Provincial Park, Beaver Creek trail, Blue Mountain, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Bond Lake, Bracebridge Falls, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Darlington Provincial Park, Earl Rowe Provincial Park, Emily Provincial Park, Ferris Provincial Park, Flowerpot Island, Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, Hilton Falls Conservation Area, Hockley Valley Nature Preserve, Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve, J. B. Tudhope Memorial Park, Jefferson Forest, Joker’s Hill, Killbear Provincial Park, Limehouse Conservation Area, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, Niagara Falls, Nokaiida Trail, Phyllis Rawlinson park, Point Pelee National Park, Ponoma Mills Park, Rattlesnake Conservation Area, Rattray Marsh Conservation Area (combined with Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario), Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Richmond Green park, Rouge National Urban Park, Sandbanks Provincial Park, Scout Tract -York Regional Forest, Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area, Sherman Falls, Sibbald Point Provincial Park, Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, Sugarbush Heritage Trail, Thornton Bales Conservation Area, Thousand Islands Provincial Park, Tom Taylor Trail, Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve, Uxbridge Rail Trail, Webster’s Falls/Spencer Gorge, Wilcox (Lake), Wilson’s Falls.

Beautiful Ontario

Canada is such a beautiful country with so much to offer in terms of the great outdoors. However, since I live in Ontario, I will explore my backyard in this post. I plan to expand this post as I check out new places, so check back frequently for more adventures. I will just add each new location to the top of this post.

I spend a lot of time deciding where to go by searching online for photos, comments and reviews posted by others – so now is my time to give back. I thought it would be helpful to indicate the location with the name of each place so you can quickly zone in on an area that you want to visit based on the location. The reality is that our lives are busy and some days we only have time for a local trip. I definitely spent a lot of time digging up my photos and putting together this post, but sharing my love of the outdoors and my adventures was my goal. It is also a great chance for me to scrapbook my adventures. I hope you will find time to check out some of these places. Keep me posted on your adventures!

Some background: when I do my research for place to go, my preference is an area with different landscape such as water, covered forest and challenging trails. Usually, I start by typing in “Ontario parks near me” and go from there. Last year, I committed myself to exploring as many provincial parks as I could. Unfortunately I started this a bit late in the season, but still managed to squeeze in about 11 parks before the end of October.

***Of course, now COVID-19 has affected the use of the parks – so check online before venturing out regarding any restrictions. Some parking lots are closed, and most of the facilities including washrooms are closed at this time***

General Notes / Tips / What to Expect before you go

1) I will not comment on the camping / trailer parking facilities, as I used the parks for day-use only. I confess that I don’t really enjoy camping. Glamping is A-OK with me!
2) I may not have hiked all the trails in a given location so can only comment on where I went.
3) Where I comment on equipment rental, I only indicate the equipment that I can remember them having.
4) I read that most of Ontario’s provincial parks allow for dogs (but they must be leashed). There are some areas (typically beaches) that do not allow dogs so it’s best to research ahead.
5) Where water is involved – if you have room in your vehicle, I highly recommend that you bring your own Personal Flotation Device (life jacket). If rentals are available, they are kinda slimy.
6) Where I refer to “admission cost”, often it’s just a parking fee.
7) I put an “M” next to my very favourite places.
8) “BYOK” – bring your own kayak (or whatever else equipment you like to use).
9) “Plumbing” – I generally mean outhouses.
10) Some places have very limited parking, so I would suggest starting out early to get a spot.
11) When I mention “covered forest”, I mean that you are shaded by the trees and not completely in the open.
12) In case you have kids, I made a note under my rating system if the place is “kid-friendly”. And by kid-friendly I mean not so many complaints.
13) Remember to respect the environment. Leave no trace behind. This means to take your garbage home with you.

My tip about an inflatable kayak

For those of you who are not hard-core kayakers, I highly recommend that you buy an inflatable kayak. I totally love mine. I only paid about $200 for it and bought through Amazon. Mine is a two-person Intex kayak which inflates and deflates really quickly and folds into a bag with handles. It is my second season using my kayak. The kayak is very stable and glides through the water with ease. It’s convenient to store during the winter months for those who love kayaking but don’t have space to store a full kayak or have car racks to transport them. I just pop my bag in my trunk (takes up half a trunk) and I am good to go! Another bonus – if there’s no area near your car to launch your kayak, you can just carry the bag closer to the beach area and then blow it up!

My rating system: 1 – 5 stars. 5 being the best!

*Thornton Bales Conservation Area (King City)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably because it’s a 20 minute drive for me.
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/thornton-bales

Location: Located in King City. About 50 minutes drive from Toronto.
Highlights: “99 steps”, forest and lots of pretty moths flying around.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: I always thought this forest was part of Joker’s Hill. The first time I got “disoriented” at Joker’s Hill, I found the stairs. This time around I began my hike at the stairs. Forest is covered and nice. I just love inhaling the fresh forest air. Some elevated parts – which make for great calf-burning exercise. There are a few very sloped areas so you have to be careful – especially people wearing regular footwear. I think I was huffing and puffing the very first time I climbed the stairs, but since I have been hiking a lot – it is not a problem anymore. It’s amazing the benefits of regular exercise. Get out there and move!

*J. B. Tudhope Memorial Park (Orillia)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe if I happen to be in the area.
Kid-friendly.
https://www.orillia.ca/modules/facilities/Detail.aspx?CategoryIds=&FacilityTypeIds=&Keywords=&Page=4&CloseMap=false&Scroll=true&id=33733888-55d5-4396-b36e-7388a26f0e0a#

Location: Located in Orillia. About a 1.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Lake Couchiching and beach.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Equipment: No.
Plumbing: Yes.

My comments: I tried to go to McCrae Provincial Park but they were full to capacity for day-use. Then tried Mara Provincial Park just minutes away from McCrae PP, no luck either. Staff at McCrae suggested the public beaches in the area – so tried J.B. Tudhope Memorial Park. There is a lot to do at the park – they have a splash pad area, a beach, open space for BBQs and of course Lake Couchiching for swimming and kayaking, etc. Beach has coarse sand and is pretty clean. For non-vegans, there is a hot dog and an ice cream trailer on-site for buying snacks.

*Ferris Provincial Park (Campbellford)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
http://www.ontarioparks.com/park/ferris

Location: Located in Campbellford. About a 2 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Suspension bridge, falls, Trent River.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Equipment: I saw some kayaks but not sure if they are rentals or belong to campers. I highly recommend an inflatable kayak (see my note above under tips section).
Plumbing: I didn’t notice any.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails: Only hiked one part (which was easy) – so not sure. The Drumlin Trail is apparently more challenging.

My comments: I really enjoyed myself. Spent about four hours at the park. At the falls section, you could walk out onto the massive sheets of rock (but not sure if you are really supposed to). On top of the rock you can see a very thin flow of water at certain parts (see two bottom left photos). When standing on the rock, I didn’t realize that it was part of the falls until seeing the actual falls from a distance from a trail. The suspension bridge was cool. But I have so say that the best part of this trip was kayaking on the river underneath the bridge and right next to the falls. The falls were way more incredible experiencing them by kayak. There is a boat launching area where you can launch your kayak. Couldn’t have been so close to the falls without my kayak. Don’t leave home without one 🙂

*Rattray Marsh Conversation Area -combined with Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario (Port Credit)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Kid-friendly.
https://cvc.ca/enjoy-the-outdoors/conservation-areas/rattray-marsh-conservation-area/

Rattray Marsh Conservation Area photos pictured above. And pictured below – photos from the Waterfront Trail leading to the marsh conservation area.

Location: Located in Port Credit. About a 30-minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Beach, Lake Ontario, rock formations along the shore, marsh boardwalk.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails: Easy. The Waterfront Trail is paved and there is an extensive wooden marsh boardwalk.

My comments: I haven’t been to a nice beach lately, nor one that has gorgeous rock formations along the shore, so this was a treat! It was like a two-in-one adventure – a lake and marsh in one trip. You can bring your own equipment (kayak, etc.) – problem is that you have to carry it from wherever you parked. There are several small beach sections along the Waterfront Trail. Sand is not too coarse and beach areas are pretty clean (except for a used tampon I found – yuck!). From the shore, you get a great view of the CN Tower across Lake Ontario (pictured above – the second photo from the left). Just watch out for bikes on the trail as the Waterfront Trail is a shared path. Luckily no bikes are allowed in the Conservation Area – I assume because it has a narrow boardwalk. The whole area around the Waterfront Trail is for hanging out and chilling (picnics, playgrounds, etc.). You just follow the signs along the waterfront trail which leads to the Rattray Marsh Conservation Area. You have to walk about fifteen minutes from the parking area to get to it. It’s quite interesting to see Lake Ontario then the marsh area right near the lake. Also, there is an off-leash dog park right near the entrance of the park. My only recommendation is to go early. There is not a lot of parking for the number of people who go there. I was lucky to get the second to last spot when arriving at 10:30 in the morning. Felt good to soak in some sun by the water.

*Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve (Muskoka)* – M

Rating: 5.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/things-to-do/hiking-trails/torrance-barrens/

torrance barrrens dark sky preserve

Location: Located in Muskoka. About a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Bedrock formations, wetland, beautiful sunset, fireflies and starry sky.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: No. Easy, but trails are not well marked.
Camping: Apparently there is no designated camping, but you can set up a tent.

My comments: I definitely understand why there were flocks of people. The night sky is breathtaking and incredible. I dreamed of a star-filled sky since I went to Point Pelee in 2017 (and saw the star-filled sky) and planned to visit this preserve since then. Lucky I finally got around to it. I went to the preserve around 6pm so was able to secure a good parking spot – otherwise you just have to park along the street. I was told by the hotel staff (where I stayed) that the city doesn’t not ticket people who park along the street, but I did see some OPP monitoring the crowds. The trails are nice – part of the Canadian Shield. Lots of dried up vegetation on the rocks. What’s not nice are the deer flies (at least I was told by a local that they are deer flies). Man! They were driving me nuts buzzing around my ears. I had to wrap my sweater around my head like a bonnet to protect my head. Buzzzzzz….

Deet does not repel these deer flies and apparently they bite. It’s funny (and of course good) because around 7pm they suddenly disappeared. Maybe they start to focus on wildlife at that hour lol. Then bonus – mosquitos start to swarm after the deer flies are gone. The sunset was stunning. What is the MOST amazing thing that I have ever seen – a real life firefly. When it got dark, I saw these little specks of red/orange light that lit up then disappeared – like a light show. I felt as though I was in a fantasy dream. On the day I went, the sky got really dark around 11pm and you could see the whole sky full of stars around 11:30pm. Even if you don’t spend the night there, I highly recommend bringing and setting up a tent. It’s a great place just to chill and staying clear of pesky mosquitos while you wait for pure darkness. It would be even better to set up your tent away from the main area (probably on the other side of the wetland) to reduce light pollution from the other visitors. The only issue with setting up farther is that you have to walk farther to get out of the area – in complete darkness. There are lots of people with their lights on, so that part sucked. That’s called light pollution. And like I read in many reviews on Google, people play loud music and talk really loud – so true relaxation is not possible in the main area. I was told that the area is bear country, so be warned. Other than snacks and food, what I suggest that you bring with you: flashlight, tent, sleeping bag to sit on inside tent and if you have a portable chair – bring it.

Food for thought: Ontario should designate one day a year where every single light goes off and we can all enjoy the galaxy of stars from home without driving anywhere. Earth Day is not enough.

*Wilson’s Falls (Bracebridge)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Definitely yes.
https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/things-to-do/hiking-trails/wilsons-falls/

Location: Located in Bracebridge near the Bracebridge Falls. About a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Waterfalls, river and rock formations.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Only hiked part of the trail, which was easy. But there is a sign at the trailhead showing hiking level is DIFFICULT – totally almost 5,000 steps. And this trail is part of “The Great Trail” (Trans Canada Trail).

My comments: Such an incredible place. I am huge on rocks, water and covered forest, so for me this is a must-go-to place. The falls are just a short five minute walk from the parking lot and there is a lovely covered forest trail to the other side of the river, but unfortunately I only hiked a small portion of the trail. Generally speaking, my absolute favourite thing to do is walk on rocks. The magnitude of the rocks is truly something to experience. Walking across huge pieces of rock at Wilson’s Falls reminds me of being at Peggy’s Cove – but on a much smaller scale. BTW – Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia is a must go (photos do not justify the magnitude of the rocks). I saw people bathing in the calmer areas near the falls and people kayaking on the other side of the river (pictured on the top right photo in the section behind the rock). If you want to bathe in the river, be careful because the rocks are slippery. I enjoyed really relaxing sitting on the rock and putting my feet in the water, letting the current gush around them.

*Bracebridge Falls (Bracebridge)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/things-to-do/waterfalls/

Location: Located in Bracebridge. About a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Waterfalls, rock formations and train track across river.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Not really any trails.

My comments: The rock formations are really nice and the gush of water from the dam is incredible. The falls are not situated in a very natural environment so less enjoyable – buildings all around and a man-made dam. It’s just a different place to check out. If you happen to be in Bracebridge, you should stop by. I am fascinated by train tracks spanning across rivers – as such I did enjoy that part of it.

*Emily Provincial Park (Omemee)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/emily

Location: Located in Omemee. About 1.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Lake, fishing for those who enjoy it and praying mantis.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.
Equipment: Canoes and paddle boards.
Challenging trails: Didn’t notice any trails.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: I love lakes and beaches but the beaches at Emily have coarse sand are not very clean (even the water itself). I wasn’t very tempted to go into the water. Plus motorboats are allowed in the lake, so 1) they make huge currents while passing and 2) definitely some safety issues when they are passing close to people in canoes. Having motorboats around added stress to normally relaxing canoe rides. But I did try padde boarding for the first time. I was happy to see a praying mantis (picture above centre) because I haven’t seen one since I was young. The park offers free fishing rod rentals and plastic bait. You can buy fresh worms from the park store. Of course you will never catch me fishing. Subliminal message: go vegan!

*Richmond Green Park (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes. The park has a bit of everything and its local for me.
Kid-friendly.
https://www.richmondhill.ca/en/things-to-do/Richmond-Green-Sports-Centre-and-Park.aspx

Location: Located in Richmond Hill.
Highlights: Man-made waterfall, pond, gazebo, beautiful landscaping/flower gardens, skating trail, geese and herons.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes, but only in skate trail area/Sports centre.
Challenging trails: Paved walking area – wouldn’t really call it a trail.

My comments: This is a really nice place. The section near the waterfall is a local hotspot for wedding photography. The park is really well maintained and landscaped. Lots of events take place at this park including fireworks, Canada Day festivities/concerts (Ria Mae performed on stage there for a free concert in 2019 on Canada Day). There is a splash pad and a couple of playgrounds (can’t say the sandy playgrounds are very nice though). The park has an amazing concrete paved trail for rollerblading, biking and ice skating (in the winter). Just remember to bring your own protective gear (helmets, pads, etc.) – I see so many people not wearing helmets. Our brains are like jelly. Put on some gear too! Accidents can happen. I saw one skateboarder with skin scraped off the whole length of one leg. She was seriously suffering.

*Six Mile Lake Provincial Park (Muskoka)*

Rating: 2.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/sixmilelake

Location: Located in Muskoka off the 400N.
Highlights: Lake, a tiny glimpse of Georgian Bay rock formations and dragonflies.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Equipment: Kayaks, peddle boat, canoes and paddleboards.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails: Didn’t go as there weren’t any obvious trails.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: There are trails according to the park’s website, but not too obvious where they are. Beaches are fairly clean, but have some goose poop. Too many houses along the lake and motor boats are allowed, so you don’t really feel like you are in the great outdoors. One plus: it’s convenient to park near the lake and carry inflatable kayak. It’s worth it to drive the extra hour to Killbear Provincial Park.

*Beaver Creek Trail (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.

Location: Located in Richmond Hill. One trail entrance is right on Major Mackenzie Drive East, between Boake Trail and Spadina Road.
Highlights: Beaver Creek and small bridge (picture above right) over the creek.
Parking: No. Residential street parking, or there is a section of the trail on Boake Trail where there is parking for a park.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: No. Paved trail.

My comments: Nothing special about forest, but it’s nice to be near the creek. Good trail for local residents – for walking and biking.

*Limehouse Conservation Area (Limehouse)*

Rating: 5.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://cvc.ca/enjoy-the-outdoors/conservation-areas/limehouse-conservation-area/

Location: Located in Limehouse. About 1 hour from Toronto. 
Highlights: “Hole in the Wall” section, rapids and old historic ruin area.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Easy but definitely more challenging around the rocks. Caution should be taken near them.

My comments: I love this place. Being part of the Niagara Escarpment has the benefits of the incredible rock formations. In the historical area (circa 1850s), you will find a couple of huge kilns and a storage building that was once used for storing explosives and gunpowder.

*Uxbridge Rail Trail (Uxbridge)*

Rating: 2.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
Can’t find a specific website for this.

Location: Located in Uxbridge. About 1 hour from Toronto. 
Highlights: Heritage train trestle and birch trees.
Parking: No. You have to find residential street parking in areas without any “no parking” signs. The trail starts on Main Street right off a sidewalk.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Easy.

My comments: Because the trail begins on Main Street, there is no parking close by. You have to drive down a big street and park on the side streets. Tresle bridge is super-short or maybe I didn’t walk far enough to see the tresle (from the picture on the top left, bridge looks really long). Disappointing since I drove an hour to get there. Super-tall and skinny birch trees are beautiful. On second thought I might have to go again to confirm about the trestle!

*Nokaiida Trail (East Gwillimbury)*

Rating: 2.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
http://www.eastgwillimbury.ca/About_Us/Public_Notices/Projects/New_Parks_and_Trails/Nokiidaa_Trail_Upgrades.htm

Location: Located in East Gwillimbury. About 45min drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Holland River.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Easy.

My comments: Bridge across Holland River is nice. Trails are open and boring. But is a nice trail for locals to go for a quick walk.

*Phyllis Rawlison (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 1.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.richmondhill.ca/en/things-to-do/Phyllis-Rawlinson-Park.aspx

Location: Located in Richmond Hill.
Highlights: Off leash dog area.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Not that I am aware.
Challenging trails: Easy.

My comments: I went to this park twice – once just to check it out because it’s not far from my house, and once when I found out they have an off leash dog area. The hiking area is too open for my liking and not particularly nice. Maybe I am just too spoiled 🙂 Looks like people like to picnic at this park.

*Presqu’ile Provincial Park (Northumberland County)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/presquile

Location: Located in Northumberland. About a 1h 45min hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Lighthouse, marsh boardwalk and unique horse-like trees.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails: Easy.

My comments: Not very exciting trails, but the trees are really cool. Walk on boardwalk is nice. Lighthouse is a nice feature but the walk to it is just that.

*Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area (Aurora)*

Rating: 1.5 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/sheppards-bush

Location: Located in Aurora. About a 45 minute drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? No. Easy.

My comments: Nothing special about the forest – just a place to walk. If I recall correctly, they have some weird outdoor exercise equipment along the trail.

*Blue Mountain (Collingwood)*

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Kid-friendly
https://www.bluemountain.ca/

Location: Collingwood. About a 2 hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Mountain and village.
Parking: Yes, but limited (if you stay at hotel you can have parking added to your stay).
Admission/parking cost: I believe so if you are parking in the general parking lot.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Yes, especially when you go straight up and down. Mountain for winter skiing.
Equipment: Yes. Peddle boats.

My comments: I stayed at the resort to maximize R + R (rest and relaxation) time. It was worth the stay because you can hang out in the beautiful village. Hotels are booked up fast at Blue Mountain – book ahead. The mountain is very steep, but you get a good workout if you can make it up without falling backward. There is a gondola as well that you can pay to take up to the top of the mountain, but that would be too easy!

*Bass Lake Provincial Park (Orillia)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/basslake

Location: Orillia. About 1.5 hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Lake.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? No. Pretty flat trail.
Equipment: No. BYOK (bring your own kayak)
Camping: Yes.

My comments: The parking area is close enough to carry my inflatable kayak to the water. Nice kayak ride. Water and beach area is clean. Was cold when I went so getting wet was uncomfortable. Looks like a nice place for a picnic. I saw a motor boat launch area as well. Forest not very exciting.

*Jefferson Forest (Richmond Hill)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes.
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/jefferson-forest-bridgewater-dr/

Location: Bayview Avenue and Stouffville Road in Richmond Hill. 
Highlights: Majestic covered forest, trilliums, special trails and ramps for mountain biking, and unique happy faces carved onto the ends of fallen tree trunks to be found throughout the forest.
Parking: Yes, but limited. Parking is mainly on Bridgewater Drive off Stouffville Road.
Admission/parking cost: No, but you may get a $30-$40 ticket if you park in the wrong spot. Beware – there is NO parking allowed on the parking pads directly in front of the two trailheads, despite not having any “no parking” signs.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Some calf burning and breath-shortage sections.

My comments: I call this forest my second home, as I am there almost every day. I cannot get enough of the smell of the deep forest and the areas with more challenging terrain. I love the calf-burning sensation of ripping through the numerous trails in the forest. This forest is dense and covered. While the biking trails are more narrow, it’s not always easy to tell a foot trail from a bike trail. Just watch out for bikers – they come fast and don’t ring their bells.

*Sandbanks Provincial Park (Prince Edward County)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 100% yes.
Kid-friendly
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/sandbanks

Location: Prince Edward County. About 2.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Incredible stretch of natural beach with fine sand (Outlet Beach), sand dunes and Outlet River for canoeing/kayaking.
Parking: Yes, but parking lot gets full very quickly in the summer.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, fee varies, but I paid about $22.
Rental equipment: Canoes and kayaks.
Food: Yes, there is a restaurant serving hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken strips, etc. Vegans, bring your own food as usual.
Plumbing: Yes, with flushing toilets and sinks.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: I love Sandbanks even though I don’t spend much time burning in the sun because of the depleting ozone layer. There are a few beach areas, but I highly recommend the main beach (Outlet Beach) where the sand and water are clean. The sand dunes (basically a sand covered hill) are cool and can be found at a different section (you have to drive to it), but the beach there is sketchy (mostly more algae and little fish swimming all over).

*Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area(Milton)*

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://conservationhalton.ca/park-details?park=rattlesnake-point

Location: Located in Milton. About 45 minutes drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Lookout sections at the top and massive rock formations.
Parking: Yes, but parking lot gets full very quickly.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with the park.
Plumbing: Can’t recall but don’t think so.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate, some parts more challenging.

My comments: I was talking to a friend about my love of hiking. I told him I wanted to see rocks (like the Georgian Bay rocks) without driving too far. He recommended Rattlesnake Point to me. Rattlesnake Point is part of the Niagara Escarpment.  You can hike, rock climb and discover many beautiful trails, including the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail. The view from the lookout point(s) are amazing.

*Awenda Provincial Park (Tiny Township)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Definitely yes.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/awenda

Location: Located in Tiny Township. About 2 hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Majestic trees, Kettle Lake, beach areas.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Equipment rental: Canoes (but be warned – only campers can rent them).
Plumbing: Outhouses. No sinks.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy. Very flat.

My comments: The park itself seems a bit disorganized.  It took some time to figure out where everything was. For example, you can canoe on Kettle Lake and there are canoes right at the lakeside, but you have to drive to the other end of the park to rent the canoes.  And although the website shows that you can rent a canoe, it does not specify that you must have reserved a campsite in order to rent them. Of course, I drove about 2 hours from Toronto so was very disappointed that canoes were available but not allowed to rent them. B.Y.O.K. – bring your own kayak (or canoe or paddle board)! For canoeing, there is parking right next to Kettle Lake, so it’s convenient to carrying your equipment to the lake.

Aside from this, there is just something special about this park. I went three times since I discovered it. It could be the density of the looming beech tree forest, the serenity of Kettle Lake, or the four beach areas along the  Georgian Bay (one is designated for pet use – yet the rest of the park on the way to that beach is not designated for pets – let me know if you figure this out!). Note, this part of the Georgian Bay does not have the amazing rock formations that other parks like Killbear Provincial Park have). The trail to the beach areas are quite long – making it less kid-friendly.

*Point Pelee National Park (Essex County)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes.
Kid-friendly
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/pelee

Location: Located in Essex County near Windsor. About a 3.5 hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Marsh, marsh boardwalk, the “Tip” (the southern-most tip of Canada (Lake Erie) where Canada shares a border with USA, bird watching and for kids – a exciting ride on the shuttle bus to the tip. And best of all, if you are lucky, you can see the zillion stars in the dark sky.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Equipment rental: Canoes and kayaks.
Plumbing: Outhouses. No sinks.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails? Don’t know. I didn’t have a chance to hike, but the land seems pretty flat in the area.

My comments: I have visited Point Pelee twice already. Point Pelee is featured under P in my book, My Great Canadian Adventures. I dream of the night stars still. It was really cool standing at the tip of the southern most part of Canada, looking into Lake Erie. The tip can be accessed by taking a shuttle bus from a parking area, then hike a couple of kilometres to the tip. You can also hike to the tip from the main parking – I believe it’s a distance of 3.5 km one way. The tide is extremely strong at the tip and you cannot safely go into the water.  There are many stories of tragic deaths arising from people ignoring the “DANGER!” sign and being pulled under the tide. 

My favourite hotel to stay at is the Best Western Plus Hotel and Conference Centre located on the same street as the park and just a five minute drive to the park. It is a great hotel for families with young children because there is an indoor water park and a central indoor area for playing table tennis, basketball and has a playground for kids. The beauty of the location of the hotel is that you can drive out near the park (without entering the park) to admire the starry sky. This is a consideration because the park is only open until midnight on certain dates, otherwise I believe they close the gates at 10pm.

There are not a lot of restaurants near the hotel (but there’s a Pizza Hut and another restaurant called Freddy’s). Note about Freddy’s – they claim to have vegan options – but by the time you ask what’s in each component of the dish (for example a falafel wrap), you are reduced to having falafel with carrot sticks because the wrap contains egg etc. Needless to say I like to bring some easy to make food and my portable electric cooktop. The hotel has a restaurant inside, but it closes early. The resto serves breakfast too.

*Hilton Falls Conservation Area (Campbellville)*

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Definitely yes.
https://conservationhalton.ca/park-details?park=hilton-falls

Location: Located in Campbellville. About 45 minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Falls, part of Niagara Escarpment.
Parking: Yes, but limited. When I went there was a lot full sign at the entrance and only one car could go in after one came out.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Some calf-burning sections but mostly flat.

My comments: The first thing that struck me was the expanse of the entire area. There are a lot of open areas for walking and hiking. The trails are mostly flat and not very challenging. The forest area near the falls along the river is quite spectacular, but I couldn’t safely take the trail due to the icy conditions the day I went.

*Killbear Provincial Park (Parry Sound)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/killbear

Location: Located in Parry Sound. About a 3 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: The Georgian Bay and famous leaning trees painted by the Group of Seven.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Equipment rental: No.
Plumbing: Outhouse with flushing toilet and water pump sink.
Hiking: Yes.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate – depends which section.

My comments: I am in love with Killbear Provincial Park. The Georgian Bay rock formations are absolutely perfect and incredible. There are some beautiful trails as well. My photo doesn’t do justice to the vastness of the rocks. I bring my inflatable kayak. There is a parking area near a small beach where you can carry your equipment to. The drive itself to the park from Toronto is a worthwhile. Around Muskoka there are really majestic bedrock along the highway and inukshuks placed on top of the rocks along the way. Fun for kids to count how many inukshuks they can find.

*Darlington Provincial Park (Courtice)*

Rating: 2.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes, but only for Lake Ontario.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/darlington

Location: Located in Courtice. About a 45 minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Lake Ontario.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Equipment rental: No.
Plumbing: No.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy, very flat.

My comments: Being next to Lake Ontario is amazing, especially in the fall when the current is high. I didn’t really enjoy the hike along the trails because the terrain is flat and not the nicest forest. Some of the trees near the water are mutated – maybe from the nuclear waste?

*Pomona Mills Park (Markham)* – M

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Yes, definitely.
http://www.thornhillwardone.com/pomona.shtml

Location: Located in Markham.
Highlights: East Don River, a couple of bridges, a tunnel (overpass) and meditation offerings posted along the trail (for example, a sign suggesting that you close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature).
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Easy, very flat.

My comments: There is just something about walking next to a river and listening to the sounds. I visited this trail many times because it is just a 15 minute drive from my house. A great place for a quickie hike.

*Earl Rowe Provincial Park (Alliston)*

Rating: 0 stars
Would I go again? Never.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/earlrowe

Location: Located in Alliston near Tangers Outlet in Cookstown. About 1 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Lots of geese if you like geese and frogs.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Equipment rental: Canoes, but you may need to book them ahead of time.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy, very flat.

My comments: Avoid this park. Honestly, I can’t understand why this is a provincial park. I went there thinking it would be nice to go for a canoe ride. But then I saw the water. The lake looks nice from afar, but the water is slimy and murky with thick gooey things around the beach area. You cannot pay me to put my feet in the water. From what I heard, it was not possible to control the water quality at this park. The Ontario Parks website indicates that there is a beach, but the beach has coarse sand and full of goose droppings. Be warned: there are tons of geese all over. Sadly, the frogs I saw were squashed on the trails 😦

*Bon Echo Provincial Park (Cloyne)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? Definitely.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/bonecho

Location: Located in Cloyne. About a 3 hour drive from Toronto (towards Montreal).
Highlights: Mazinaw Lake, Indigenous pictographs on rocks.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Equipment rental: Canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and paddle boards.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy, trails are pretty flat.

My comments: Canoeing in the big lake was very exciting because of the currents. The photo (above centre) does no justice for the rock formations in real life. Next to the rock, you feel completely insignificant. There is something special about this park.

*Sugarbush Heritage Trail (Vaughan)*

Rating: 1 star
Would I go again? No.
vaughan.ca/services/recreation/GreatWalks/Pages/Sugarbush-Walk.aspx

Location: Located in Vaughan.
Highlights: Trail is central to local residents, yellow trilliums.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Very flat.

My comments: The forest is very thin as you can see from the centre photo above. Good place for locals to go for a quick walk.

*Tom Taylor Trail (Newmarket)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe if I move to Newmarket and looking for a local trail.
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/newmarket-noliidaa-trail-mulock-dr-st-johns-sdrd-cane-pkwy/

Location: Located in Newmarket.
Highlights: Holland River, wooden sculptures in certain spots along the trail.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is paved.

My comments: The trail is long if you are going for a stroll, but I don’t like walking on pavement and open areas. Great trail for locals though.

*Sherman Falls and section of Bruce Trail (Hamilton)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://tourismhamilton.com/sherman-falls

Location: Located in Hamilton. About 1 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Falls on privately owned property and section of the Bruce Trail just minutes away from falls.
Parking: Not right at the falls (some people parked on the street), but there is a small parking lot near the Bruce Trail. Limited parking.
Admission/parking cost: Ticket machine -$5 parking.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is pretty flat.

My comments: Falls are beautiful. They are on private property, but the owners generously allow visitors onto the property to enjoy the falls. The Bruce Trail is just a short walk away from the falls. The trail is very wide but the first stretch is rather boring (flat and open).

*Rouge National Urban Park (Markham section)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/rouge/visit/se-rendre-get-there/markham

Location: One section is located in Markham.
Highlights: Rouge River, wishing well.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is pretty flat.

My comments: Not a very exciting trail. The area is too open. They have a sign indicating presence of coyotes – so beware!

*Forks of the Credit Provincial Park (Caledon)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/forksofthecredit

Location: Located in Caledon. About a 1 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Falls, Credit River, train track across river, Kettle Lake and a pond, covered forest section closer to the falls.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Ticket machine (rates based on time selected). I believe I paid $8 for 3 hours.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Most parts are flat, but there is a challenging part on the closer to the falls.

My comments: I went to this park three times already. Most of the park is open area, except the forest area closer to the falls. I quite like that section as it is steep and fun to go down (going up is good exercise) and the forest is covered. There is not much indication as to the distance from the parking area to the falls, so it felt like a long walk the first time I went (note about this – not very “kid-friendly”). On my first visit I took the trail toward Credit River. From there you will get to a bridge overlooking the river and see the train tracks. Due to heavy rain on my first visit, and trying to find a faster way back to the car, I stumbled upon Forks of the Credit Inn on Cataract Road. It’s a beautiful Inn if you ever get a chance to head that way – stay a night.

*Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve (East Gwillimbury)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/hollandlandingprairie

Location: Located in East Gwillimbury.
Highlights: One section of the forest (pictured top left) is magical with the glow of the sun. The trees were planted so they form a perfect converging path.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is pretty flat.

My comments: I went in February when there was still snow on the ground. The snow was perfect that day making the hike enjoyable and the forest looked beautiful. What I found out of place in the park was that the open area near the parking with hydro transmission towers. For obvious reasons I didn’t like that. The magical path made it worth the visit.

*Scout Tract – York Regional Forest (Stouffville)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably.
www.york.ca

Location: Located in Stouffville.
Highlights: Pond, forest.
Parking: Along McCowan Road.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is pretty flat.

My comments: I went twice. It’s a nice big covered forest with a long trails, but unfortunately the trail is shared with horses (if you catch my drift!).

*Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Reserve (Mono)*

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Probably.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/hockleyvalley

Location: Located in Mono. About a 1h 15min drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest. Look-out to open field.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate.

My comments: There are no “unique” trees in this forest and the trees are spaced apart (not great for emergency washroom break lol). Nonetheless, the forest is beautiful and huge, and the trails are well-marked. I was amazed to see the widespread growth of ferns – which makes the forest seem almost like a tropical forest.

*Lake Wilcox (Oakridges)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes. It’s close to home.
Kid-friendly
https://www.richmondhill.ca/en/things-to-do/Lake-Wilcox-Park.aspx

Location: Located in Oakridges.
Highlights: Lake, playground and splash pad.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes, but I don’t think that the washrooms are always open.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Just a paved trail around the lake.

My comments: In addition to the lake, there is a really nice outdoor playground for children and a Splash Pad area. People go there for BBQs as well. Park is always really busy so hard to find parking. I believe you can launch your own canoe near the canoe club that operates near the lake. Just north of the main parking area, there is a separate gravel parking lot closer to the canoe club. This is a really great place for kids.

* Joker’s Hill (King City)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://ksr.utoronto.ca/

Location: Located at Mulock Road and Bathurst in King City. About 1 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate.

My comments: This forest is owned by the University of Toronto for scientific research. It used to be my go-to (before I discovered Jefferson Forest) because I like the covered forest. One parking area is off of Bathurst – you have to watch carefully for a tiny sign across from the entrance. Blink and you will miss it. There is another entrance to the forest, but I have never been to it. Just stumbled upon it once when I got lost.

*Bond Lake (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/jefferson-forest-oak-ridges-community-centre/

Location: Located in Richmond Hill.
Highlights: Forest and lake.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy.

My comments: The forest area near Bond Lake is nice, but other than that -nothing special.

*Bruce Peninsula National Park* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes.
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/bruce

Location: Located on part of the Niagara Escarpment on the Bruce Peninsula. About 3.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Peninsula, rock formations and the Grotto.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Moderate. The section near the water is covered in rocks so caution is needed.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: I fell in love with Bruce Peninsula three years ago when I visited for the first time. The stunning shades and tones of blue water are breathtaking and inspired my whole writing career. After I visited Bruce Peninsula and Point Pelee, my brain was on fire and I wrote my first children’s book, My Great Canadian Adventures. There is nothing more exciting that balancing oneself on the rocks underfoot to get closer to the water. I stayed in a Yurt (for the first time ever) at Cypress Hill.

*Fathom Five National Marine Park – Flowerpot Island* -M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 100% yes, but would be 150% if it didn’t involve a boat ride!
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/amnc-nmca/on/fathomfive

Location: Located in Tobermory. About 3h 45min drive from Toronto. The town/village is located just a short drive away from Bruce Peninsula.
Highlights: Flowerpot Island, boat ride across the Georgian Bay.
Parking: Yes, in the town – but limited.
Admission/parking cost: Not that I recall, but I paid for the cruise from the town to Flowerpot Island.
Plumbing: You have to work to locate the washroom in the town/village. There is an outhouse on the island.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate.
Camping: No.

My comments: Access to Flowerpot Island is by water only. From Tobermory, you need to book a cruise and take a boat ride across the Georgian Bay. It’s absolutely incredible how many bodies of the water we have in Canada. For those who are motion sick like me, take your meds before getting on the boat. I was ill and desperately looking for a bucket on the boat. The hike on the island was not that exciting, but it was really cool to see the dolemite rock formations shaped like flowerpots.

*Niagara Falls (Niagara Falls)*

Rating: 3.5 – 4 stars
Would I go again? Not anytime soon.
https://niagarafalls.ca/

Location: Located in Niagara Falls. About 2.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Falls, tulips in the springtime, city life.
Parking: Yes, in the town – but limited.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, parking fee if you park in a parking lot (about $20 last time I parked near the falls).
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Not applicable.
Camping: No. Hotel life, yes!

My comments: I think that I have been to Niagara Falls too many times in my life to find it exciting. But last time I booked a spot on the Maid of the Mist (the boat pictured top right) which takes you right near the falls. The force of the water from the falls is incredible and in my opinion, worth the wait time and money. You will get wet! If you are staying in a hotel, there is a public transport (bus) that takes you down to the falls. Maybe I am being too tough – I am sure the falls are spectacular if it’s your first time there. It’s very beautiful when they light up the falls area at night.

*Spencer Gorge/Webster’s Falls Conservation Area (Hamilton)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://conservationhamilton.ca/spencer-gorgewebsters-falls/

Location: Located in Hamilton.
Highlights: Falls and rock formations.
Parking: Yes, but very limited.
Admission/parking cost: I can’t remember there being a parking fee, but there was an entry fee per person to Webster’s Falls.
Plumbing: Not that I can recall.
Challenging trails? No. Easy.

My comments: The falls are beautiful but the finding parking in the area is stressful. But when the main lots are full, there is an area where you could park and pay to take a schoolbus (if I recall correctly) to the falls area.

*Mono Cliffs Provincial Park(Mono)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/monocliffs

Location: Located in Mono.
Highlights: Rock formations.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Not that I can recall.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate.

*Thousand Islands National Park*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/1000

Location: Located in Mallorytown. About a 3 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: The islands.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: I didn’t notice any.
Equipment rental: I don’t think so. Bring your own.
Challenging trails? No. Easy.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: Nothing really notable or interesting about the section that I went to. If fact, I completely forgot that I hiked a trail there!

*Sibbald Point Provincial Park (Sutton West)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/sibbaldpoint

Location: Located in Sutton West. On Lake Simcoe.
Highlights: The point.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.
Equipment rental: I don’t think so. Bring your own.
Challenging trails? Didn’t get a chance to check out trails.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: Looks like a nice place to have a picnic. The currents were rough when I went late fall. Couldn’t really kayak. Saw some windsurfers though. The point is really cool. Some rocks are slippery so be careful when walking. Coarse sand beach.

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Interview with Canadian Band: Neon Dreams

Interviews

Written by Monica Ng

neon dreams logo
PHOTO CREDIT: NEON DREAMS

This post is dedicated to Lauren (IG: @neon_dreams_lover), who I met through Instagram because of our shared love of Neon Dreams.  I don’t know Lauren personally, but I could tell by her posts that her life is profoundly affected by Neon Dreams’ music and her interaction with them. Plus she reminds me of a younger version of myself.

Get in touch with Neon Dreams

www.neondreams.ca
Instagram: @neondreams
Facebook: Neon Dreams

Love at first concert

If you have been following my other posts, you would know that I only discovered Neon Dreams in October, 2019, after I saw their name listed as one of Tyler Shaw’s opening acts. When I searched for their music on YouTube the night before the concert, I started dancing the moment the smooth and catchy rhythm of About You played.

Long story short, Neon Dreams played at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. I enjoyed their performance so much that immediately following the concert, I bought their album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams. I was really lucky to have a chance to meet Neon Dreams’ dynamic duo in person at the Meet and Greet following the show. I told Frank and Adrian that they have a new HUGE fan.  I just had to see them again as I was hooked. For the first time ever, I bought tickets to a concert for the opening/supporting act and not the main performer. Sadly, the Strumbellas concert was cancelled due to a health issue of one of their members. Neon Dreams and Frank Kadillac have already inspired a couple of my blog posts (Dreamin’ of Neon Dreams and Pure Happiness) which are posted on my site. If you are curious about the meaning behind their vibrant orange and white logo, you can read about it on Neon Dreams’ Instagram account and Facebook page.

neon dreams
PHOTO CREDIT: NEON DREAMS

About Neon Dreams

Canadian talent alert! Neon Dreams is made up of Frank Kadillac (Vocalist and Ukulele player) and Adrian Morris on drums and guitar. Frank and Adrian are from Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Neon Dreams released their album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams in 2019 and was touring in Canada and the United States up to the time the Coronavirus (now known as COVID-19) began its spread across the world. Neon Dreams is currently working on a new album, which will include the three songs they released this year, Turn Back Now, Walk Away and most recently released – Sick of Feeling Useless. Did you know that Neon Dreams was also nominated for the 2020 Juno Awards?! Also, the super-creative guys created their own stop motion video for Sick of Feeling Useless (see YouTube video below the interview).

Interview

Me: Frank, you rock. Adrian, you rock.  I have nothing more to say. Just kidding! I always have more to say. 

Frank, you command the stage with your constant movement and jumping off speakers – and of course, your vocals are incredible. Adrian, I am totally mesmerized by your drumming. You are the most amazing drummer I have ever seen perform.

You guys make it look so easy performing on stage – a true indication of the hard work and dedication that goes into your music and performances. How much time would you estimate that you put into the preparation for your concerts? And how do you handle the stress of touring?

Frank/Adrian:  Since we were kids we’ve dreamed of being on stage, played in so many bands and watched so many YouTube videos of our favourite acts crush it live… I feel like we have been preparing for each show since grade 10 haha. To this day I’m watching Linkin Park at Rock am Ring on YouTube hoping that one day we can do that!

Me: Frank, I read on your Instagram post that you have to do a lot of cardio to maintain your energy on stage.  What else do you do to keep in shape both physically and mentally? 

Frank: Reading self help books to get different perspectives of life usually helps my mental health a lot. Before doing this I was a wreck… I don’t know why “reading books”  was an uncool thing to do when I was growing up. After reading the books I’ve read, I gained this knowledge I can never forget that just adds to my armour.

Me: Frank, I can totally appreciate your comments about reading books. I didn’t go out much as a kid and spent my time with my nose in a book. My love of reading lives on. You can visit a whole other world through a book.

Adrian, I ask you the same question – how do you keep in shape both physically and mentally? Also, I saw from your posts that you are a movie buff. What are your top 3 favourite movies of all time?

Adrian: I find it pretty hard to keep up with working out when we’re on the road (although moving all the gear counts right?!), but when I’m home I make sure to run and hit the gym as much as I can. I try to run 5 km every other day or so. Mentally I try to explore and enjoy everywhere we go as much as possible even if that’s just taking a walk in the town or city we’re in or checking out some locally fave spots. I’m usually the one on the road trying to find all the good food spots. 

Top 3 movies!

  1. Lord of The Rings Trilogy
  2. Entire Star Wars Collection
  3. Tarintino Films

I couldn’t just pick three so I went with collections.

Me: It’s great you work to stay in shape. About food – I totally get you – I love food too! Adrian, your drumming is crazy amazing. I mentioned to you before that I tried to do your drumming move where you effortlessly cross your arms over to hit the cymbals. I admit that I was struggling! Frank mentioned somewhere that when he was initially looking for a drummer you were able to play his songs immediately. When we were chatting at the Meet and Greet, you talked about your talent for playing many instruments.  It’s obvious to me that music is in your blood. How long have you been drumming and playing guitar? And what other instruments do you play?

Adrian:  I’ve been playing drums since I was about 13! I started off on piano before that. I didn’t have a lot of friends that took music as seriously as I did so I had learn as many instruments as I could, so I could record demos on my own without having to rely on anyone else. But then I met Frank! 

Me: Adrian, it’s really interesting that you learned how to play instruments so as not to rely on anyone. You have such a gift. Wish I had musical talent.

I know you guys must be disappointed that your tours are postponed for now because of the pandemic, but it’s amazing that you guys have been going live on Instagram during this time. It’s so kind of you to chat with the world and share your music.  What are your thoughts about how the pandemic has changed the world?

Adrian:  We try to find the positive or upsides to every situation no matter how hard or blindsiding it may be. We’re actually really excited to have this time to work on our new music and live show. It’s like a video game, you can’t make it to the next level without training your skills first.

Me: I am really excited about your new album. What are you thinking about for a theme for your album?

Frank/Adrian: All I can say is that its going to feel like the soundtrack to a coming of age movie from early 2000s!

Me: Can’t wait! I am curious how you guys co-ordinate to work on your album with Frank living in Arizona?

Frank: I don’t live there – just there from time to time between seasons! Me and Adrian are always together.

Me: Awww…you guys are the sweetest! Based on your fans’ posts on Instagram and your own posts, you guys really have a way of connecting with people. You mentioned that people tell you their own personal stories about their lives and how your music may have changed things for them. Frank, you have shared your deepest secrets about your life with the world. Your message is constantly one of staying positive and love. What is the message that you would like to share here?

Frank: I told this once in an interview because I can only express things that are deep with people that seem like they care but I feel like you do. I tried to harm myself and it didn’t really work thankfully, but before that I had an ex share with me a book – she said I was gonna need it someday (she was very spiritual) and of course the book was right there when my darkest night came around. It taught me how to meditate and find my purpose. Over thinkers like me that don’t have a purpose can get lost in a fog of thoughts that lead to one thing “why am I here?” but I found my purpose through meditation. I’m just here to help people find their true selves. I used to try and be person that helps people one on one and fix problems they bring to me but I was bad at that and realized I have the power of music, so I’m just building this sanctuary for all the misfit toys that were lost like me. 

Me:
 Frank, I really appreciate you sharing something so personal with me and your fans. I know you have been through a lot growing up, and I am happy that you have found your “path”. Your story is very inspirational.

Adrian, what is your vision for the music that Neon Dreams produces?

Adrian:  It has to feel good when played live! We have so many genre influences and we incorporate all of them into our music but the one thing about all the artists we love in all these different genres is their music ALWAYS feels massive in a live show and makes the crowd move. 

Me:
 Do you guys have any tips for people who want to pursue a career as a musician?

Frank: 
Listen to people that live the life and have the career you’re working towards.

Me: “I had a dream, you were a red lush maple leaf, losing its identity…I wish there was a little flood, a little flood just to carry you…” (Lyrics from About You).  Those are probably one of my favourite lyrics so far. I spent a long time learning the lyrics and belting out the song with my then five-year-old.  He is one of your big fans too. We had About You on auto-repeat for about two months straight. What I love about your music is the vibe and energy. Your songs are upbeat compared to other sad songs out there. I also like that some of your songs begin with a certain rhythm then changes in the middle to a different style at together – like your song, If Not Now, When?

What is/are your favourite song(s) on your album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams?

Frank: Sweet Dreams till Sunbeams and Life Without Fantasies!

Adrian: If Not Now, When? We Were Kings and About You.

Me: Adrian, those are my favourites as well. Frank, I like Life Without Fantasies too. When I am out hiking, I think how amazing a place is and fantasize about all sorts of things. I think of your lyrics, “what is life without fantasies” and it’s true – life is nothing without some fantasies. Fantasies keep us going. You have no idea how many times I have sung, About You, in the forest – usually when I am alone lol. Thinking about your red lush maple leaf! I just did a whistle version video!

I believe that the type of music someone listens gives a lot of insight into that person. Most of my favourites are Canadian – you guys, Matthew Good, Moist/David Usher, Ria Mae and Craig Stickland. Who are your top 3 favourite musicians?

Frank: 
Funny you say that. That’s what I say all the time. When someone tells me their favourite song I know instantly who they could possibly be. If I was rating it off of which artist I can listen to every single song and love, it would be Linkin Park, Coldplay and The Fray.

Adrian: I feel through music instrumentally first then lyrically usually. I need to feel emotion through what’s going on through the instruments. Blink 182, Sum 41 are the only artists I probably know their entire discography and I return to the most. Bring Me The Horizon’s album AMO ignited a whole new sense of inspiration for me.

Me: On a topic unrelated to music (directly at least): I love tattoos. I currently have three of my own. One of them says, “This Thing Called Life”, which is the title of my personal blog site.  It represents my journey through life and its ups and downs, and my love of writing. I notice that you guys have a lot of interesting tattoos, so here’s a more personal question that I hope you don’t mind answering. What is the symbol of one of your tattoos and the meaning behind it/reason why you got it?

Frank: I have 3 hearts on my hand from the game Zelda. Only one half of one heart is filled in to remind me when I’m at my lowest I’m still alive I still have a heart beat and the game is not finished yet.

Adrian:  I’m Algonquin of Pikwakanagan and I have my tribes emblem tattooed on my arm. My grandmother was forced into residential schooling in the 1950’s and after that some of my family hid our indigenous blood. I can understand why that may be. But it’s important for me to show proudly who I am.

Me: Very cool Adrian. Great story behind your tattoo. Your arm tattoos are beautiful. Frank, after you returned this interview to me, I wrote back to you about how I got chills reading about the symbolism behind your hearts. I can relate to how you feel when you are down to just one ‘life’ in video games – same thing for real life.

It’s been great learning more about both of you. I have been wanting to chat with you guys for a while. When you agreed to do this interview, I had to sit and think long and hard about the questions that I wanted to ask you. There’s just something magical about you guys and trying to capture the essence is not an easy feat.  Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.  It means so much to me and probably your fans out there.  I am really looking forward to hearing new music from you guys and seeing you in concert again.  Also, your friend, Alex Gayoso (IG: @alexgayoso_) has done some amazing videos for you guys! I enjoy all of your videos. Everyone out there – check out Neon Dreams’ music. They rock!

Is there anything else you would like to share with your fans?

Frank: Look out for each other this is your family you guys built this – we just provide the music.

Adrian: Take care of each other, meet each other, become friends with each other because like Frank said – you guys created this and we’re a community together. 

–End–

Check out the cool stop motion video for Sick of Feeling Useless:

A few of my favourite Neon Dreams tunes

In this thing called life, really “connecting” with others is a truly an amazing experience.

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The ring.

Life

Written by Monica Ng

ring

I dedicate this post to an old friend, Kevin. Kevin went to a different high school. Way back then, I met him through a couple of my high school friends and we used to hang out for some underage drinking in the park.

This post coincides with my 100th post and what better way to celebrate than write about a real-life mystery?

The ring

Here’s the story of the ring. It’s not just a regular ring, but a graduation ring.

When I moved to Toronto, I realized that I left Montreal with two guys’ graduation rings. One belonged to my close gay friend, Chris and the other I thought was Kevin’s (because it has Kevin etched into the ring and had the diamond gem for April birth month). Chris wanted me to hold onto his ring, so I kept it. But Kevin – I had no idea why I had his ring and wanted to return it. I messaged him on Facebook and asked if I could send back his ring. He gave me his address, but I hesitated to send it in case the ring got lost in the mail. I continued to hold onto it.

A few years later, I chatted on Facebook with Mike (Kevin and my mutual friend) and told him about Kevin’s ring. He said the he could return it to Kevin the next time he saw him. Then I mentioned it to my BFF and she told me that she occasionally saw Mike. I live in Toronto, my BFF lives in Ottawa and Mike lived in Brockville – so picture this: When my BFF visited Toronto, I passed on the ring to her. Then we got very sad news about our friend Mike’s sudden passing. The next time my BFF visited Toronto, I asked her to return the ring to me and I would figure out how to get the ring back to Kevin.

So, I was stuck with the ring again.

I was in touch with Kevin recently through Facebook chatting about his education and asked if was ok I just finally delivered the ring to him in person. Luckily he doesn’t live far away. When I was driving away from his house, he called to tell me that the ring wasn’t his. I drove back to get it.

So, I am stuck with the ring again.

Well then…if it’s not that Kevin’s ring- who the hell is Kevin?!

Too many guys lol (kidding)! It was a total coincidence that Kevin lost his ring and I happened to have a ring with the name Kevin on it. Plus the ring had the April diamond. I can’t say I took a good look at the ring all these years so I didn’t notice it had a different school name on it.

I only know a handful of Kevins, so I had no idea who it could be. I had to dig really really deep into my memory, but finally remembered that Chris collected a ring from some guy he was interested in. Not sure why I had that ring too. Sadly, I lost touch with my friend Chris. I might never find out the owner of the ring.

Silver lining

While Kevin did actually lose his ring and I am stuck with an unknown person’s ring – a plus side is that I had a chance to meet Kevin’s lovely family after all these years. I very much enjoyed his kids’ show-and-tell from the porch (social distancing!).

Mystery? Case not solved.

In this thing called life, you never know where life will take you. Go with the flow!

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Super-moist VEGAN banana choco chip cake recipe

Vegan recipes
banana cake
This recipe post is dedicated to my friend, Sharon Holden – my interior design teacher who became a good friend. Sharon helped me find my school placement position as well as my dream job in a kitchen design/manufacturing company. Sadly, I lost touch with Sharon for many years, but recently reconnected – thanks to Facebook. Sharon graciously agreed to risk her waistline for trying my cake!

If you don’t already know:

1) I love to eat. Sweets are my weakness. However, I don’t like to buy the store-bought sweets, because they are full of artificial ingredients with names that I cannot decipher. I actually do not really enjoy baking either. It could be a lack of patience for perfect measuring, or simply the dislike of cleaning up the dishes after baking.

2) I am vegan. Since November, 2018.

3) I am working on a vegan cookbook. Recipes will be super-fast and healthy, and mostly made with every day ingredients. Did I mention the preparation of all recipes will have no more than 10 steps. Who has time to cook anyway? With my cookbook, there is no excuse for not making a healthy meal.

Issues

Ok. So now I have a few issues. I love to eat sweets, I don’t like “fake” cakes and don’t really enjoy baking (a rather lazy baker), and I am vegan. The solution: bake quickly with as few dishes to wash as possible.

Hope you enjoy this recipe. It will be featured in my upcoming vegan cookbook. Besides the amazing taste, no animals were harmed in the process. You might think to yourself – can I really just dump all the ingredients in the bowl? Yes, you can!

ONE BOWL WONDER

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: about 55 minutes depending on your oven

You will need: 1 large mixing bowl, 1 small plate or bowl and fork (to smash banana), 1 whisk, measuring cups and spoons, a tube pan (the one with a tube in the middle), 2 medium sized plates (only if you use tube pan) and 1 spatula or butter knife (only if you use tube pan) and a kettle or pot to boil water. If you don’t have a tube pan, you can also use an aluminum 9″ circular baking pan.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup raw cane sugar (can use brown sugar)
1/3 cup light tasting olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened oat milk (can use soy milk)
1 cup of boiled water
4 medium size bananas (smashed into chunks)
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips + a couple of tablespoons to sprinkle on top

Steps

1

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2

In large bowl, combine and mix all dry ingredients with a whisk.

3

In the same bowl, add olive oil, oat milk and boiled water. Mix to combine with fork. Note: no need to overmix, just mix until you don’t see anymore dry ingredients.

4

In the same bowl add banana and chocolate chips. Mix to combine with fork.

5

Spray some cooking oil or use a bit of flour in the tube pan to prevent sticking.

6

Pour batter into tube pan.

7

Sprinkle chocolate chips on the top of the batter and put into oven.

8

I read that you should use a toothpick to poke into the cake to make sure it is cooked. But if you are like me, I use a wooden chopstick lol. Remove from oven when ready.

9

When cake is a bit cool, use a spatula or butter knife to loosen the cake around the edges. Let cool, then use one plate to flip the cake upside down, then the second plate to flip it upside up. If you use the 9″ circular pan, it’s even easier – you don’t need to flip anything.

Recipe made possible by Enjoy Life brand vegan chocolate chips.

A quick note: beware of sugars. Not all sugars are vegan. Cow bone char may be used in its processing for filtering and bleaching.

It’s that easy…Bon appetit!

How did your cake turn out? Would love to hear from you!

Food for thought:

In this thing called life, we can eat delicious food without the cruelty.

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2020 Moving Walls Tour – Matthew Good

Events/Shows, Uncategorized

Moving Walls Tour


COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) cancellation?

Ticket in hand, I was on standby. Hearing about a lot of other cancellations and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure if Matthew Good’s March 12, 2020 concert would be cancelled. Of course, part of me could ABSOLUTELY NOT wait for the show, but the other part of me was dreading the exposure to public transportation and a crowded concert hall.

Concert a go!

The concert was on. I said goodbye to my family as they bid me safe travels.

Meridian Hall, Toronto

I always try to arrive in time for the opening acts because it’s a great chance to discover new music. The supporting bands that evening were Ellevator (Instagram: @ellevatorband) and Born Ruffians (Instagram: @bornruffiansmusic). I never heard of either band, but was really impressed with the unique music style of both. Also, the singer of each band have really fresh unique voices.

Ellevator

autographed Ellevator CD

Ellevator is based in Hamilton, Ontario. The band’s singer, Nabi, is a soft-spoken person on the mic, but man – when she started to sing, her vocals blew me away. She occasionally sat down on the stage during her songs, commanding the audience in a different way. When they first came on stage, I was reminded of old high school band days (maybe because they look young). But be warned – they do not play “elevator music”.

I had a chance to chat with Nabi briefly at the merch table after the concert. I asked her when she first started to sing and she said since she was very little. Nabi has this really amazing aura surrounding her. I have been enjoying my new CD for the past few days. Check out their music!

Instagram: @ellevatorband

Born Ruffians

Instagram: @bornruffiansmusic

Our very own Torontonian band! The guitarists are absolutely wild and a pleasure to watch. Luke, the lead singer, has a powerful and very fresh voice, and was super-animated on stage. I don’t know if he ever found his glasses that he dropped while jamming on the guitar…Check out their music too!

Matthew Good

Instagram: @matthewgoodgram

There are no words to describe the moment MG comes on stage and delivers his first vocals. It happens at every concert of his that I attend. BAM! A chill runs a mile a minute through my body and I am like “OMG”! Short for Oh my gosh or Oh Matthew Good!

Matt’s performance was beyond incredible as always. His music has been part of my life for about 20 years. Where has the time gone? Did I mention that he’s Canadian? I love Canadian music. In fact, most of my favourite artists are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams, Ria Mae and newly added, Craig Stickland.

Matt recently launched his album, Moving Walls, which includes songs such as One of Them Years, A Momentary Truth, Beauty, Sicily and The Heights. It was amazing to see him perform songs from this album in concert. The songs have a whole new meaning to me now.

Matt is a lyrical genius, sings like a male angel and is talented to the max. He’s a songwriter, singer and guitarist. He also speaks publicly about mental health and his own bipolar disorder and battle with depression.

Yes…Matt, this, Matt, that…I just love him!

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to his music, I hope you find some time.

Rest of Tour Postponed

Right after the show, Matt posted on Instagram that the rest of the tour would be cancelled due to the virus. He wrote that people DM’d him with anger that he irresponsibly did not cancel that evening’s concert. It must have been a really tough decision for Matt not to cancel, considering the circumstances. But on that note, I feel like I caught the last train. If I die, I will die happy.

Other songs

Matt also played one of my favourite songs from his album, Something Like a Storm. It’s called Something Like a Storm. It was wild on the stage.

Here are a few of my favs from Moving Walls: Selling You My Heart and A Momentary Truth

Of course one of his classics: Load Me Up. The crowd went crazy for this!

In this thing called life, music transcends life. Not sure if that makes sense – but it sounds good 🙂

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Interview with Canadian Musician, Craig Stickland

Interviews
Craig Stickland musician
Photo credit: Craig Stickland
https://www.instagram.com/craigstickland/

How Craig came into my life

To be honest, I never heard of Craig Stickland until October, 2019, when the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts announced his name together with Neon Dreams (as opening acts for Tyler Shaw).  That evening, all of the artists put on an awesome show and later came out for an amazing meet and greet. I find that meet and greets are the ultimate part of a concert experience – as it’s a chance to make a connection between the music you listen to and the musician(s). Some artists are particularly interactive when it comes to social media as well. From my personal experience, Craig and Neon Dreams take the time to interact with their fans, which makes them really down-to-earth and personable.

Typical me, when my writing bug comes out, I write about everything new that I experience. However, it took me some time to write an Instagram post about Craig’s performance after I first saw him in concert, because I needed time to digest it. During his performance he played mostly rock songs that I couldn’t really relate to, but I was blown away by his last song, Break Every Rule. That song really showcased his powerful and soulful voice.

Craig has this intangible quality to him – a certain vulnerability and old soul wrapped into a rugged yet sexy “stereotypical” rocker (wink, long hair, goatee, t-shirt, black jeans and black leather jacket). Craig left me wanting more. I was so happy when he announced that he had an album in the works.

Release of Starlit Afternoon

Photo credit: Craig Stickland

Craig just recently launched his album titled, Starlit Afternoon, on February 28, 2020

I listened to his album the morning it was released.  My favourites so far are: Starlit Afternoon, Break Every Rule, Good Love and Stop at Nothing. If I were to take a stab at Craig’s album music style, I would say it’s a mix of alternative rock, with a touch of country, jazz, blues and soul.

About Craig

Photo credit: Craig Stickland

Canadian talent!

Craig was born in Vancouver then moved to Toronto when he was 3 years old. He is currently living in Los Angeles where he continues his modelling and singing career. Craig discovered his passion for music when he was about 16 years old. He picked up his first guitar when he was 16 years old and was the singer in his high school band. Finally, after finding his true passion in life, he released his first EP titled, Leave me to the Wild, which includes songs such as Break Every Rule and Tears in the Rain.

Craig has toured with some amazing Canadian talent. To name a few: Tyler Shaw, Alessia Cara and Matthew Good.

Interview

Me: Craig – I am so excited and honoured that you agreed to an interview with me. Thank you for taking the time for me and your fans.

Congratulations! You just released your new album titled, Starlit Afternoon on February 28, 2020.  I read that the last song, Good Love, on your album took about five years to write. What part of the process took the longest? And how did you finally “let go” and decide that it is complete?

Craig: The part of the process that took the longest was finding the right production to match each song. When a song is written it can be produced any number of ways, and the experimentation until I was satisfied is what took so long. There’s a gut feeling when you know something is done. You also need to trust your friends and collaborators. 

Me:  I only recently discovered that you are multi-talented.  You are a songwriter, singer, guitar player, piano player, actor and model! Do you have any other interests/talents? Being a musician is quite different from modelling – what would you say was the “turning point” in your life, where you decided to become a musician?

Craig: I decided I wanted to be a musician in high school when there was a band that needed a singer. I auditioned, got the role and was hooked. Recently I’ve been very into designing and making furniture as well. I started a studio furniture company with a close friend called @callusandco

Me: I love that you are so real. In one your Instagram post’s you mentioned renting out your apartment as an Airbnb, so that you could afford to keep touring/working on your music career.  I messaged you if that was the life of a musician, and you replied, for some.  With this in mind, do you have any tips or words of advice for people who are considering becoming a musician?

Craig: Everybody’s path is different, but I’d say there’s no substitute for hard work and dedication to your craft. Unless you get incredibly lucky very early on, you’ll have to make sacrifices in order to continue pursuing your dreams. My journey is coming up on a decade and a half, and I just put out my first album. 

Me: Your white van seems to be a huge part of your life. You coined some of your songs as part of the “The Van Sessions” (Very creative by the way!). For some reason your van reminds me of the one in Scooby Doo!  I enjoyed watching your YouTube video (see video below) where you were building the interior of your van to make it liveable and Canadian winter-proof. I am sorry to say that I was chuckling when you were cursing in your video 😊 What is it like to live out of a van? Do you ever feel claustrophobic?

Craig: I really like living out of the van and I do feel claustrophobic at times, but only when my van isn’t clean. It’s taught me a lot about living simply, focusing on minimalism and being organized. 

VIDEO OF CRAIG BUILDING HIS VAN

Me: I know that life inspires your music. What was your inspiration for Starlit Afternoon?

Craig: I’m always inspired by my personal experiences, feelings and emotions. The daily things I go through in life, that we all experience in some form or another. I try to find the best expression of that and create it into a song. 

Me: Other than meditation, how do you manage all the stress that you are going through?  It couldn’t have been easy touring and trying to finish your album at the same time.

Craig: If I don’t center my day with a workout, I feel stressed. I’ve been really into daily journaling as well and making furniture keeps me in a very present mindset. 

Me: Please also finish this sentence (lyric from Phil Collins’ song, Groovy Kinda Love):

Craig:  “When I’m feeling blue…all I have to do is sing a tune.” 

Me: Very cool. I wish I could sing. Is there anything else that inspires your music? 

Craig: Other music, or often times a powerful film or documentary. 

Me: So many of my favourite musicians are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams and Ria Mae. I love my music like crazy! But I recently discovered that I had no idea what type of music my family and friends listened to.  I find that knowing what type of music people listen to is enlightening and tells a lot about that person. Who/which bands are your top 3?

Craig: I’ve recently been incredibly into Frank Ocean. Coldplay is one of my favorites especially after touring with them and seeing them live every night, and John Mayer was a huge influence when I was coming up. 

Me: I am really enjoying your new album. I think you would be happy to hear this:  My daughter always shuts down my music the moment I start the music in the car.  When I was playing your album for the first time, I told her I could sing Break Every Rule. Suddenly she turned off the music. I was like What the hell?! -thinking she was shutting me down again. Turns out she was waiting for me to continue singing your song. Then she actually turned the music back on.  But of course, that now that she’s heard your album once – it’s turned off again.

When will you be touring again?

Craig: I’m pretty much always on the road at some point or another, although I don’t have a tour booked at the moment, I’m sure something will come through with the release of my album! 

Me: Is there anything else you would like your fans to know about you and/or your music?

Craig:  I think you covered it all, thank you! 

Me: On that note: Craig, you can sing to me any time.  I hope to catch one of your Toronto shows soon.  Thank you again for being so open to this interview and your time.  You are super-talented and not to mention – gorgeous! I hope everyone discovers your music soon. Best of luck with your new album.

***** END *****

A few of my favourite tunes

In this thing called life, you never know what could happen when you just ask. Like this interview!

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Pure Happiness

Life, Uncategorized

This post is dedicated to Frank Kadillac of Neon Dreams (www.neondreams.ca), as it was inspired by him.

What is pure happiness? What is innocent happiness?

Do such things exist? If yes, do they still exist? I sure like to think so.

A short while ago, I wrote an Instagram story about the days of innocent happiness (as a child) (pictured top left). You can’t tell from the photo (me on the left), but I was carrying my favourite small pillow in the fabric carrier tied around my chest. I can actually remember that moment. I was happy. No other care in the world.

After I created my IG story (pictured top right), the creative juices started to flow and I knew I had to get off the couch and write a post.

Here’s the story…

Ever since I met Frank Kadillac and Adrian Morris of Neon Dreams at Tyler Shaw’s concert (they were the opening act) back in October, 2019, I have been listening to and digging their tracks. Check out the video of one (among many) of my favourite songs, “If not now, when”:

Anyways, in this song, one of the lyrics go “I wanna make you smile like in CPH”. It was driving me crazy what CPH meant. Was I that old that I didn’t know that acronym – OMG! LOL! I Googled it, thinking that maybe it was a drug. Finally, I decided to send Neon Dreams a DM.

Frank explained that it was a place where he was happy. I won’t reveal this place in case he wants to keep it private. Of course, I then start to think about myself…was there a place where I was truly happy?

I couldn’t come up with any specific place, but thought that maybe certain events would stand out. Often happiness is paired with other emotions, so our happiness becomes muddled. Pure happiness is something special. The best I could come up with was my recent trip to Killbear Provincial Park. I have an inflatable two- person kayak. When I got in my kayak and left the shore, I could feel the sun shining on me. My kayak supported by the waters of the Georgian Bay. The majestic Georgian Bay rock formations stretching in the distance on my right. My destination was a small island not far from the shore. I was so excited. With every paddle towards my private island, I was smiling. I was so happy. Nothing could bring me down.

Life jades us

Not being able to quickly recollect a “pure happiness” moment makes me a bit sad. Life really jades us. Think of our daily grind. Work, work, work, pay bills, eat, exercise, sleep… I know you are feeling stressed now! Unfortunately, life consists of good and bad things – seems like more bad things sometimes, don’t it? Like how my car broke down when I was about to go to the gym…

Take home message

I think the goal is to make every happy moment count. Dream about your happy moments often. And even better…create more happy ones!

In this thing called life, it’s important to cherish the happy moments and like Frank – remember that there are happy moments. Cheers!

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Attention: First-time novel writers

Life, Self-Publishing (books), Uncategorized

10 handy things to keep in mind when writing

handwritten text
Yes, handwriting does still exist!

My first attempt at novel writing

For as long as I can remember (probably since high school), I wanted to write and publish a fiction novel. More than ten years ago, I started writing one. I never made it past page 35. Why not? Well, my storyline and characters were not developed enough and I couldn’t figure out how to go further. In my head it was a great suspenseful book!

Children’s Books

In 2017 (the year Canada celebrated its 150th), I was inspired to write and illustrate childrens’ books about Canada. In 2018 and 2019, I published three: My Great Canadian Adventures and my series – Winter Moose Visits Montreal and Winter Moose Visits Alberta. Check out: www.CanadianAdventureBooksbyMonica.com

I loved that experience and will continue to work on my Winter Moose series, but I still long to publish a novel.

Ding! An idea.

I knew I wanted to write a fiction book based on my parents’ lives, because their stories are so crazy and unreal. But again, the problem was, I didn’t have my “catchline” to get me going. Suddenly when I was driving one night in February 2019, I had my “Eureka” moment – the first sentence of my book. That first sentence was all it took to start the brain gears turning. I am more than half-way through my manuscript now.

While I knew my general story line, spinning a whole story out of it would be a challenge. I realized that I had to breakdown the task, by brainstorming and jotting down my preliminary ideas down on paper. The writing process can be overwhelming and daunting – but rewarding too. If you ever read, David Usher’s “Let the Elephants Run” (a great read by the way) – when faced with writer’s block, David recommends that you just start writing. In my interview with my friend, Tony Wong (writer for the Toronto Star), he suggests the same thing: “My advice is just to start writing. Get something down on paper. It might not be your best stuff, but good writing is really in the re-writing.”

Is reading the same as writing?

I don’t think so. Even though I have read so many books, I found that writing is something different altogether. When I was trying to organize my chapters, I realized that I had no idea how to do it effectively.

Online surfing

I am by no means an expert writer, but I did some research online about novel writing. Here are a few things that I found really useful to keep in mind when writing my own novel.

10 things that I keep in mind when writing

  1. Draft an outline for your book. Spend some time jotting down some rough notes about your storyline, story setting, mood and characters. When I read the first short chapter of my book to my 6 year-old, he asked me to stop because it was “too scary”. That means that I was successful in setting the “mood” through the choice of my words. You can update your outline when you feel you need to build your story more.
  2. Don’t be over-wordy. Unless you really need to be wordy, keep your sentences as concise as possible. Example: The spring flowers looked really lovely with the sun shining brightly on them. Try: The sun shone brightly on the lovely spring flowers.
  3. Keep sentences short. Run-on sentences like the example above are not only hard to read, but are hard to follow as well. When reading books with long and overly detailed sentences, I find myself needing to re-read. Often I set aside those books because I can’t get past the first chapter.
  4. Work on catchlines. English is a great language as each word means something and can convey a deep message. Here’s a line from one of my poems titled, A Whisper: “time is like the steam rushing to escape the kettle…only to be left with none.”
  5. Create cliff-hangers. Cliff-hangers are not only for the end of a book in a book series. Make your reader want to flip the pages quickly by creating suspense at the end of each chapter.
  6. Develop your characters. Write down as many characteristics for each person as possible. Think about their temperament, passions, weaknesses, etc. It could be helpful to write down a description of what your character looks like physically and to explore their nervous habits or movement (such as jerkiness).
  7. Chapter character revelations. Your protagonist can go through ups and downs every chapter. Maybe at the beginning of a chapter you think they are succeeding, then at the end, there could be a set-back – or vice versa. For example, a shy girl is overjoyed as she overcomes her stage-fright during the rehearsal, but then she finds out that she is cast out of the play.
  8. Create a suitable environment for writing. Find your own space. Pick a time of day that you can channel your creative juices.
  9. Copy edit. You can ask a trusted friend to read your finished manuscript. You may not want to do this too early in the process, as the expectations may be too high. There are professional copy editors as well, who for a fee, can provide you with a lot of excellent feedback. I found that copy edit was a very important part of my childrens’ book publication process. My grammar is not as good as I thought!
  10. Don’t beat yourself up. If you haven’t written as much as you hoped for, or get stuck – just give yourself some space. Find some inspiration. Then get back to work.

In this thing called life, an idea may strike – but it’s the hard work that produces your final written piece.

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This Thing Called Life

Life, Uncategorized

Well…hello 2020!

Wishing you all a successful and happy year! Don’t forget to pursue your dreams 🙂

Almost every year, I watch the countdown (except one where I fell asleep before midnight) to cheer in the new year.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3…2…1… Happy New Year!

Sure, it might be happy. A set date for a fresh start. New resolve to join the gym, start a new career..or simply to put the negative things from the past behind you. But you probably feel the same way as I do…another year and in this case, a year plus a decade gone by in the blink of an eye. That’s life. There is NO turning back the clock.

My blog

I have been writing entries for my blog for over a year now. It has been a great forum for me to communicate and express myself. For me, writing is therapeutic. Plus I enjoy sharing things that I learn from life. Thank you so much to those of you who took the time to read my musings. I appreciate the support.

Why I titled my blog “This Thing Called Life”

I titled my blog “This Thing Called Life“, because life is just there. Everything can happen in this thing called life. Life is constantly changing and throwing things at us. Parts of it we can control, while others we cannot. We just have to deal with life as it comes. I was so inspired by my tag-line that I tattooed it on my leg last year. No matter what crap happens in life, I can sum it up as something that happens in this thing called life. So, it’s ok. I can move on.

In this thing called life, perfection cannot always be achieved. It’s your determination and effort that count.

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