Nova Scotia! A week exploring Canada’s Ocean Playground

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Last summer, Chris and I were given the opportunity to plan an epic kid-free vacation. My dad and step-mom offered to take our boys for a week where they would go to a Summer Camp and spend some time with their grandparents. We decided to use this week to go on an adventure to someplace new.

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After weeks of Pinterest research and Googling fun destinations, we finally decided to book a trip to Nova Scotia. Neither of us had ever even dreamed of going there, and we didn’t know anyone else who had gone, but everything we saw online looked like a dream. My impression from what I gathered online was that it was going to be like Maine, on steroids. And since we had always talked about a New England trip, but wanted something even more unique, we settled upon Nova Scotia- otherwise known as Canada’s Ocean Playground.

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We quickly realized that we could easily spend a month exploring all that Nova Scotia has to offer. We had to be choosy and try to fit in as much as possible in our one week. We decided to focus on the capital city of Halifax (and nearby day trips surrounding Halifax) and then a road trip up to Cape Breton to explore the world famous Cabot Trail.

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We started our trip by spending two nights in Halifax. We stayed at the Hilton Double Tree Halifax hotel and loved being right in the heart of downtown. We explored Irish pubs and yummy coffee shops. Cabin Coffee was the most adorable/delicious place to start our first day.

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Still dreaming of these cinnamon rolls….

20190623_09111420190623_092000On day one we drove 50 minutes from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove. Every blog I read before planning our trip, said Peggy’s Cove was a must see. Yes, it is a very popular tourist attraction, but this small town was everything I hoped it would be. From fresh lobster rolls, to a local bagpiper greeting us with music, it was more quaint and colorful than I could have dreamed up.

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Windy, y’all. Pro tip: wear a hat when visiting Peggy’s Cove.

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After Peggy’s Cove and all the amazingness, we set out on the hour and 15 minute drive to Lunenburg. The drive itself was gorgeous, but the destination was well worth the trip!

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Chris and Karen after a flight of rum samples at IronWorks Distillery-Canadian buzz!

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The next day we left for the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island. There is much debate online whether you should do the trail clockwise or counterclock wise. We decided to do it clockwise with our first stop being in Cheticamp, NS. Again, even the drive there (about 4 hours) was entertaining and beautiful.

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We stayed at Air BnB’s while visiting Cape Breton. Our first one was a log cabin in Cheticamp. Our hosts were so sweet and we had our own private space. They cooked an amazing breakfast for us and filled us in on all sorts of Canadian/Nova Scotia info.

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After checking in we set out to explore the Gypsum Mines. This was another spot that I had seen so many gorgeous pictures of on Instagram and knew we needed to check out. It was a fairly easy hike, but I had to conquer a fear of heights to get the best view. In the summer this is a popular swimming hole and in the winter it is often used for ice skating. When we were there (late June), temperatures were in the 40’s and people were swimming!

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It happened to be our anniversary, so we decided to splurge for a nice dinner out. The Harbour Restaurant in Cheticamp harbor was the perfect place to celebrate 13 years of marriage.

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We still talk about this seafood pasta…

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The next day we hit the Cabot Trail. We parked and hiked the Skyline Trail in Cabot Trail HIghlands National park. We took in spectacular views and even saw a moose!

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I regret not buying this at the park gift shop…

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As we continued our journey clockwise around the Cabot Trail, we discovered waterfalls and beautiful scenery.

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Our trip took us to our next Air Bnb in Ingonish Beach. We had a wonderful host who was a professional chef and made us the most delicious breakfast of our lives! The beach at the Air BnB was full of sea glass.

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The next day we set out to finish the Cabot Trail. We stopped for more hiking at the Smokey Trail and saw some whales in the distance. I chickened out halfway through one of our hikes thanks to all of the danger/warning signs! We also stopped at the most delicious restaurant, Clucking Hen Cafe & Bakery. The blueberry pie…omg!

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Our 3rd night in Cape Breton was supposed to be at another Air Bnb that was described as a cute farmhouse. The reviews of the property and host were great. We…were not impressed. Picture driving to the middle of no where, down a dirt road, and being greeted by this horror show. Thankfully no one came out to greet us and so we peaced out without ever checking in. We made a quick decision to cut our losses on this reservation and head back to the city of Halifax- where our chances of being murdered were less. If you are interested in nightmares, I can give you the deets for this place!

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The look of fear as we pulled up…

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Let’s GTFO

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I was more than happy to return to Halifax. There is so much to explore there! From the amazing food/brewery scene, to their commitment to eco friendly causes, to their rich history and architecture…I was smitten. Here are some of the highlights of the end of our trip in Halifax.

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And I would be remiss if I did not mention two of my favorite things about Canada… Tim Horton’s and a healthy sense of humor about their neighbor to the south’s president!

We love love loved Nova Scotia! It was more beautiful than we could have dreamed and the people were the kindest I have ever encountered. I would go back in a heartbeat because there is still so much more to explore. Thanks for the memories, Canada! Can’t wait to see you again.

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ChriSMITH 2019

We started our Christmas season early by buying our Christmas tree before Thanksgiving this year! We almost lost our tree on the way home, but thankfully Chris held on tight- LOL!

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Our Elf, Pixie came back and was sillier than ever!

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We love how our house looks at Christmas time. The kids are more into helping decorate now.

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We had lots of fun at our annual family Christmas party!

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The kids are at a fun age for celebrating Christmas and we are savoring these years where they believe in magic and love everything about the holiday season.

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We had a memorable Christmas for sure!

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Halloween Fun 2019!

Here’s a recap of all our Halloween activities this year!

Picking out the perfect pumpkin in downtown St. Augustine…

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Brady had to inspect each and every pumpkin before picking the best one.

Decorating a haunted house…

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Carving Pumpkins…

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Spooky lunches…

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Nolan’s class Halloween Party…

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Halloween night…the Super Smiths!

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Smith Summer 2019!

We had a heck of a summer break this year. One of the best perks of my job as a teacher is getting to have summers off to spend with our boys. The school year is so structured and busy, so the lazy days of summer are so refreshing. This summer we had a nice balance of days spent relaxing and playing around the house and travel days on the go.

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We started the summer with a Memorial Day weekend in Georgia. The boys got to visit with their great-grandparents and see their new baby horse. Brady was beyond smitten!

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We then headed to Savannah for a quick visit on our way home.

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We are always busy celebrating birthdays every summer. This year we celebrated Brady’s with a trip to Disney to live out his Star Wars dreams. We also had a family party at Aunt Claudia’s.

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Chris and I both celebrated birthdays this summer as well. We never have a shortage of food on our birthdays!

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We had lots of days that consisted of making giant messes in the house or going to the pool/beach/splash park/movies.

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In July we had our annual Christmas in July day. We didn’t tell the kids we were planning it, so it was fun to see their reaction in the morning when they woke up to a Christmas tree in the dining room in the middle of summer!

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The boys got to do a few camp weeks during summer as well. They did Vacation Bible School, an Art STEM class, and sports camp when they were staying with Grandpa and Nana.

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They had a nice visit with Grandpa and Nana while Chris and I went to Nova Scotia (blog post on that soon!)

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We did our yearly trip to Aunt Claudia’s in Daytona while Chris was at his sales meeting in Seattle. We always have fun at the beach and visiting the Marine Science center.

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One of our other fun trips was a stay in Merritt Island with our college friends. The boys had a blast visiting with the other kids and Brady checked off one of his bucket list items by going to Kennedy Space Center.

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While I am usually happy to get back to the structure of work and school, it is always sad to see summer end. I so love this time with my boys…until next summer!

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Brady-boo is 8!

Today we celebrate 8 awesome years of having Brady in the world. He is truly one of a kind and brings happiness and curiosity wherever he goes. Brady is always looking up and studying the world around him. He is fascinated with the way things work and questions everything. His go-to phrases are “I have an idea!” and “I wonder…” His gears are always turning and his creativity blows us away. Every teacher he’s ever had has remarked on his positive outlook and joyful heart. He is quick to forgive and quicker to apologize if he feels he’s done something wrong. He marches to the beat of his own drum and never goes out of his way to “fit in” or be like anyone else. He’s the kind of kid who could entertain himself for hours with a piece of paper or a stick. In fact he loves searching for the perfect stick, rock or leaf! He’s smart in a way that can’t be measured by standardized tests. He loves to please and is harder on himself than we ever could be. He challenges us with his one track mind that often has a hard time turning off. He is your stereotypical gifted kid who is desperately lacking in the common sense department. He will find life on Mars before he will figure out whether you’re supposed to push or pull a door to open it.  We love his quirky personality but we love his enthusiasm for life even more. He is as special as they come.

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Happy birthday Brady-boo! We love you to the deepest part of space and back!

The Smiths Do Disney!

We have lived back in Florida for about 3 years now and our kids have yet to go to Disney. The last time we had gone was when they were 4 and 2 so they barely even remembered it. We decided that instead of big birthday parties this year, we would buy a 3 day Disney pass. The fun part was that we didn’t tell them! We got up super early one morning and put the boys in the car, still in their jammies. We told them that we were going to a surprise place. As we approached Orlando, one of them guessed, “Are we in Michigan?!”

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Um, no. But they finally got it as we started seeing more signs!

For our first day of our passes, for Nolan’s birthday, we went to Magic Kingdom. Chris’s Aunt and Uncle joined us as well. The boys were not sure what to think of Disney. It was a lot to take in! We ended up having so much fun and realized what a roller coaster junkie Brady is. He loved Space Mountain! Nolan loved the more low key rides like Pirates of the Caribbean. He also loved all of the snacks and goodies all around the park.

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For our next two days of our passes, for Brady’s birthday, we went to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. It was SO hot and SO crowed (hello June!), but we made the most of it. I really liked the animals at Animal Kingdom and Brady really liked riding Everest. One of the coolest parts was the Dino Dig area. I got completely soaked on the Rapids ride so that helped keep me cool in the afternoon!

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Cooling towels and fans were our saviors!

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We went to Hollywood Studios to let Brady live out his dream of doing Jedi Training. It was so cute to see how seriously he took it! And the best part was when Darth Vader told Brady that he could tell the force was strong in him!

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Disney was the perfect place to celebrate the boys’ birthdays this year- and more fun for me than planning a party! Maybe we’ll convince them to do this again next year!

2018-2019 School Year (K&2)

Another school year has flown by. Nolan completed his first year of Elementary School and Brady finished his last year of primary grades. Next year Nolie will be a big 1st grader and Brady will be entering a new world of Standardized tests and real letter grades in 3rd. Both boys had a positive school year and came more out of their shells. Brady really embraced his love for reading and writing (swoon!) and Nolan became obsessed with all things math. They developed sweet friendships and grew in confidence. And, as evidenced by these pictures, they both grew like weeds!

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Brady said his favorite part of second grade was “Market Day” and art class and Nolan said his favorite part of Kindergarten was P.E. and recess (shocker!) Here are some special moments from the school year…

 

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First day riding the school bus!

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Brady received the “Leader of the Pack” award for the 3rd year in a row. This year his classmates voted for him.

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Tacky tourist day!

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Habitat Day- Brady’s Alligator presentation. (Go Gators!)

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Art Show

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Almost the end of the school year…Nolan was SO ready for summer!

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End of Kindergarten celebration

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Dino Dig!

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Paleontologist Nolan at his Dino Dig

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Nolan with friends at lunch

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I was so happy that both boys had the same lunch time so I could visit with each of them when I went to their school.

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Nolan and his teacher, Mrs. Ryan.

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Brady and his teacher, Ms. Marlow.

Now time to enjoy summer!!!

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First and last day of Kindergarten and Second Grade!