Category Archives: Partnership Posts

Family Getaway Fun At Viamede Resort aka My First Cottage Experience

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At the beginning of 2016, I had my heart set on taking a grand trip somewhere. Anywhere. I was in desperate need of a change of scenery, and I needed it fast. Unfortunately, life’s obligations had other plans, and my getaway wishes got pushed further and further down my list of priorities.

I thought all hopes for a family vacation this calendar year were dashed – until I learned about Viamede Resort.

Nestled on the shores of Stoney Lake in Ontario’s Kawarthas, Viamede is a rustic resort that has actually been around since 1885. In 2010, Ben Samann purchased the resort and transformed it into a delightful space for people who desire a getaway off the beaten path – literally.

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On a Friday evening in early November, HomieLuva, Little Magician, and I packed up our car and headed east to Viamede. At a mere 2 hour drive from Toronto, escaping the city isn’t that difficult – and the drive was actually a beautiful one for this chick who hasn’t been further east than Durham Region. Driving at night made us lose the effect of seeing the gorgeous fall foliage along the way, but there would be much more time for that through the weekend.

We arrived at Viamede, a large resort area consisting of a main building (housing the reception, individual hotel rooms, fitness area, and common lounge space called Club 1885), cottages, Boathouse Restaurant, and the jewel of the resort, the Mount Julian Inn. Upon check in, we drove back to our cottage – and I held my breath at the door.

Full disclosure – I’ve never been camping, never stayed in a cottage, and “rustic” is me sitting on my back deck overlooking my little grassy backyard. I didn’t know what to expect with our Viamede cottage – but I opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief. It was clean! And quaint! And cute! And comfy!

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We quickly settled into our 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom cottage (complete with living room, dining area, full kitchen and wrap-around porch), and welcomed our friends and their toddler daughter to enjoy the space with us.

What to do:

I figured that Viamede would be poppin’ in the summertime, but wondered what we’d be able to do in the latter part of fall. The little ones (and us big ones) had a ton of fun hiking, watching grasshoppers, and jumping in piles of leaves, and we spent a LOT of time doing just that.

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We got to kick back and relax with complimentary snacks and drinks at Club 1885, splash around in the indoor pool (connected to an outdoor hot tub), skip rocks into Stoney Lake, explore the nature trails, and had way too much fun on the outdoor playground (I still can’t do monkey bars).

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Back in our cottage, the 6 of us had more than enough space to allow the little ones to play, and allow us big ones to kick back with a drink or two once they went to bed. And when it was time for us to turn in? The rooms were spacious and the beds were deliciously comfortable. Wins all around.

What to eat:

Eating is one of my favourite pastimes, and Viamede didn’t let me down. Our first meal was at the homestyle Boathouse Pub, where we were treated to delicious burgers, fresh-cut fries, wings, salads, pizza, pasta, and more. The staff were extremely accommodating to my groups’ nut allergy and gluten-free needs, and the food hit the spot.

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The breakfast buffet (included in each guests’ stay) was probably one of the best resort/hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had. Incredibly fresh sausages, crispy bacon, grilled tomatoes, scrambled eggs, breads of all kinds, hash browns, yogurt, cereal, you name it. It was the kind of breakfast that you wish you could start every day with, and eating while looking out onto Stoney Lake set the perfect vibe each morning.

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For HomieLuva and I’s exquisite dinner at the prestigious Mount Julian Inn, we were taken care of by none other than Ben Samann, General Manager and owner of Viamede. We sat down to an utterly delicious 5 course meal (we could have also chose a 7- or 9-course meal, were it not for toddler time constraints) with fresh cuisine and accompanying wine pairings. And when I say fresh, I mean fresh. Mount Julian Inn and the other eateries on the resort make a point to utilize ingredients sourced right on site to create their delicious meals. From the fish to the Cornish hen to the asparagus to the quinoa bread to the poppyseed butter and hempseed hummus – pretty much everything you eat comes from Viamede’s farms. Our meal at Mount Julian Inn was intimate (only 9 tables in the whole place!), romantic, absolutely delicious, and complete with a little happy buzz from all the wine. A definite highlight of our stay.

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How to relax:

One of the things I was most motivated to do during my weekend at Viamede was to unplug and relax.

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I meditated each morning on the porch overlooking the green space and the lake, and wished I could recreate a bit of that peace and serenity back home. I was initially annoyed by the lack of WiFi in our cottage (don’t worry – you can easily get internet access at the main building) – but I eventually grew thankful for the opportunity to really disconnect. The TV had one sports channel, but a combination of our favourite DVDs, dope adult conversation,  and hilarious childhood imagination kept us well entertained.

Walking the grounds and nature trails really brought me back to a space of not having to rush, not having any time restrictions, not having to be anywhere I didn’t want to be – and instead just re-learning how to be present in the moment.  Also, traveling with children reminded us about the wonders of seeing things with new eyes – the magic of red, yellow, and orange leaves was renewed for me through them, and it was a pleasant, necessary shift.

Final verdict:

Viamede was the perfect getaway for us, at the perfect time. A place that can satisfy adults and toddlers isn’t easy to find, but we found it here. If you’re considering a family trip to Viamede, there are some things to keep in mind. Since Mount Julian Inn isn’t really a kid-friendly venue, we’re lucky we had friends with us, or we wouldn’t have been able to partake. And when we thought of our older tween goddaughter, we figured she might not enjoy a visit to Viamede in the fall – summer yes, but without the added water activities and ability to enjoy the sun and warmth, older kids might get a bit bored. All that to say, if kids are in the mix, timing is an important factor. We met people who were there to attend a wedding, a raucous girl’s group, and couples who were there for a romantic weekend – so Viamede definitely offers something for almost everyone.

Small details and areas for improvement caught my eye – making sure utensils and mugs are pristine in the common areas, extending the windows for lunch and dinner availability, perhaps working on the WiFi in cottages (or maybe not – there are pros and cons as I found), and closing off the opening between the indoor pool and outdoor hot tub during the cold months (the pool was a tad chilly indoors). Minor yet notable things that could have made a fabulous experience even better, but nothing that drastically took away from the weekend.

All in all, we had a wonderful time at Viamede. Our curiosity is tingling with thoughts of what a summer weekend stay would look like (access to the water? Bonfires at night? Seeing even more of the grounds?) so we may very well be back! But don’t let the time of year discourage you from planning a city escape – Viamede is open all year round, so you’ll be able to enjoy yourself no matter the season! If you go – let ’em know Bee sent you!

All in all – I might be willing to choose a cottage over a cushy luxe hotel from time to time, so I thank Viamede for introducing this city girl to country life.

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This post was sponsored by Viamede Resort, but all opinions are authentically mine. Special thanks to Ben, Laura, Deanna, and the Viamede staff! 

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.

Canon Canada #BabyMoments Pt. 2

Just so ya know: This post was created in partnership with Canon Camera. 

I’ve been having so much fun playing with Little Magician and my Canon Rebel SL1!  I’ve also been loving the updated Baby Moments Facebook app – revamped this week with tons more baby picture-takin’ fun!

Our photo shoot continued with some great shots using tips from Stephanie Robin – the award-winning baby photographer who assisted with the creation of the app:

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Airborne: Grandma helped me out with this shot, hoisting LM up for an aerial shot. Make sure you have a toy on hand or you sing a song to keep baby’s eyes on yours for a great picture.

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Sleeping: A simple shot, but get different views by taking it from different angles and playing with the camera settings.

I’ve been addicted to the Canon SL1 since I received it. Discovering menu settings for creative filters like black & white and fish eye views have given me bang for my photo buck. I’ve been able to toss my camera in my purse and head out for the day, capturing great shots on the go.  I learn a new skill or trick every time I shoot with it, and can’t wait to see what other special moments I’m able to document! Speaking of special moments, I took some photos during LM’s first snow day! Here’s a shot:

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She was so confused by the snowflakes falling on her face – adorable!

The Baby Moments app added some cool features – you can now create personalized magazine covers with your little one, and also make beautiful birth announcement posters! Check out my little ‘Famous Baby’:

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Some photography tips I’ve learned:

  • Lighting is everything. Adjust your positioning around your light source and see how bright/shadowy your photos come out.
  • Toys are a photoshoot savior! Have them to keep your baby focused, or let them play and get some cute candids.
  • Get in and get out. I’m not sure about your little one, but LM isn’t a fan of doing any one thing for too long. Keep it fun and fresh, but keep your photoshoots short.

If you have a baby or know a baby, definitely check out Canon’s Baby Moments Facebook app – from the novice to the photography expert, you’ll find something there to help you create beautiful and fun photos of the special little human.

Now – what you all have been waiting for: the winner of the Selphy CP900 Wireless Compact Photo printer! There were so many great comments on last week’s post and lots of people chiming in on Twitter. It was a tough decision, but congrats to Sophia Campbell-Johnson! Please email me at bee[at]thebrownsugamama[dot]com to discuss details!

Thanks again to everyone who entered, and thank you to Canon Canada for the #BabyMoments fun!

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.

Capturing #BabyMoments With The Help Of Canon Canada [+ Giveaway!]

Just so ya know: This post was created in partnership with Canon Camera. 

Photo taken with the Canon SL1
Photo taken with the Canon SL1

If you’re ever lucky enough to pay a visit to my Mom’s house, it’s an inevitable fact that at some point in your stay, she’ll pull out a photo album and start sharing pics of yours truly – the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I loved being her photography muse, I never really understood the joys of snapping a zillion pics of one sole subject until my Little Magician came along. With the help of my trusty iPhone and Instagram filters, I’ve been able to capture some pretty cute shots – but thanks to the good folks at Canon Canada, LM and I are taking our photo sessions up a notch!

I recently received the new Canon SL1 camera kit (complete with 40mm and 18-55mm lenses and other goodies) and was introduced to Baby Moments – Canon’s new Facebook app. Created with the assistance of Stephanie Robin – an award-winning baby photographer – Baby Moments offers awesome photography tips to help you capture your baby in the best light! Dividing baby’s first year into quarters, Baby Moments gives you a variety of pose options and clear, simple steps to help you get professional-looking pics of your little one.

Could the SL1 really make this self-professed smartphone addict choose it over the instant gratification of my trusty iPhone? In short, YES.

The SL1 is a compact and common-sense camera – I’ve played with other similar models and found them too bulky or too complex to really enjoy. It’s easy to toss into a bag and go, which I really like. I also love the numerous shot settings, touch screen capabilities, and guidebooks that came with the kit, which helped me to navigate the camera quite easily.

After tinkering around with the camera and choosing looks from Baby Moments (Little Magician straddled the 0-3 and 4-6 month categories), I had fun capturing some awesome shots:

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In Your Arms: LM and I (aka Puppy Baby and Afro Kitty) posed for a series of Hallowe’en shots and had photoshoot fun in between the handing out of candy.

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Tiny Details: This girl has hair. LOTS of hair. Her grandma went to town putting in cute little comb twists, and I had to catch a pic!

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Baby Portrait: Umm. She’s cute. I know all parents say that about their babies, but…she’s mad cute. Tummy time sessions often end in tears, but this time it ended like this!

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Favourite Toy: Sophie the Giraffe is the Beyonce of LM’s world. Seriously – she cannot get enough.

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Big Smile: When her belly is full, her diaper is clean, and her nap has been had, Little Magician has smiles and laughs for days.  I also took some quick video of her with the SL1 to capture her giggles – there’s absolutely nothing like that sound.

Now, I’m no professional and I’m still learning how to work my way around getting even better shots – but I’m loving the results with the SL1! My smartphone is awesome, but the quality of the Canon can’t be beat. There’s something I love about holding the camera in my hands, adjusting the lens, and capturing the essence of Little Magician in high resolution. If it’s true that we become our parents, I’m well on my way to becoming that mom who pulls out the photo album when LM’s friends come to visit.

Canon’s really done a great job with the specs of the SL1 and with the creation of the Baby Moments app, but they didn’t stop there! Digital copies of photos are wonderful, but there’s something to be said about the value of tangible copies of those memories. Canon has given me a Selphy CP910 Wireless Compact Photo printer to give away, and I’m so excited!

via Canon Canada
via Canon Canada

Simply put, the Selphy allows you to print beautiful photos from your smartphone or tablet (compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows RT mobile devices) wirelessly! Printing photos in the comfort of your own home – or anywhere, since the Selphy is so lightweight and compact – has never been easier!

To win the Selphy printer (open to readers in Canada and the U.S.):

1. Comment below and tell me why you want to win the Selphy

OR

2. Click to tweet this message: “#CanonCanada & @BeeSince83 are giving away a Selphy wireless photo printer! Visit thebrownsugamama.com for details! #BabyMoments”

Want a bonus entry? Comment AND tweet!

I’ll announce the winner next week – good luck!

Canon Canada’s website

Canon’s Facebook page

Canon’s Pinterest board

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Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.