March Break Day Out: An Artsy Aunt on a Budget

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Zoey roaring in front of some pretty wall art!

March break is coming to an end, but you still have tomorrow or next year to plan for!

My niece, Zoey, is approximately seven and a half years old and was off school this week for March Break. I decided that I would take her on an afternoon outing in town. If you are also able to have the time off, there are plenty of things that you can do with your young ones for a very low cost in Oshawa. Today we went to the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG), our local art gallery that is a favourite of mine.

Budget Breakdown:
-Two 80 page sketchbooks and a pack of crayons = $10.75
-Wendy’s lunch for two = $11.74
-Downtown parking = $1.75
-Suggested art gallery donation = $5.00

Total afternoon adventure = $29.24
(Keep in mind if you already have sketch materials and pack your own lunch the day could be $6.75!)

I don’t entirely remember my first RMG visit (I think I was a preteen), but you can never start appreciating art too early. Zoey has always shown an interest in art, we have coloured and drawn together since she was able to hold a crayon. Now that she’s in grade two, art is her favourite subject in school and I love that we can share experiences together in Oshawa’s artistic community.

collage 1To start our adventure, we needed some fuel so we stopped at Wendy’s for lunch! Kids are easy when it comes to food and taking them somewhere fancy will likely only lead to them not liking what they have to eat (although I must say I was impressed with the newly renovated modern decor, Wendy’s is classier than I remember). We talked about what was happening in school and Zoey danced in her seat to the popular songs playing on the radio that I didn’t know. Zoey had assured me that she could finish a small vanilla frosty after her happy meal and I didn’t tell her “I told you so” when it was still 4/5ths full at the end of it all.

Some Wendy’s Wisdom:
At one point, a group of teenagers were having an odd amount of fun near the Wendy’s trash cans and I asked, “What are these kids laughing at?” to which Zoey replied, “They’re teenagers, that’s just what they do… they laugh at nothing” – she is wise beyond her age.

collage 2After we parked, we took photos with my favourite statue that sits just outside of the gallery. Zoey was really excited to go in and as she ran up the outdoor ramp I told her about some art gallery etiquette. She was delightfully well behaved the whole time with no running, touching, or yelling and she compared gallery etiquette to rules in libraries. The RMG is technically free, but they suggest a $5.00 donation which Zoey happily inserted into the contribution box in the lobby. Steve, the security guard, was friendly as usual and we began our self guided tour.

I was so happy that the Durham Reach exhibition was still installed so that I could show Zoey works of art by local artists including pieces created by a handful of people that I Photo 2017-03-16, 12 42 01 PMknow personally. As we moved from piece to piece in the first room (Alexandra Luke I Gallery), I admired that Zoey already seems to have a definitive idea of what she does and doesn’t like in terms of art style. She tended to like paintings that used bright colours, were pretty, fun, interactive, and she also liked the sculptures that suspended from the ceiling. She did surprise me in how broadly her taste extended with certain pieces that I didn’t think that she’d appreciate, but she’d say “oooh I like this one.”

In the second room (Alexandra Luke II Gallery), we decided to get out our brand-new dollar store sketch books and try to draw a multimedia statue that was set up. We each drew different characters in the piece and I really loved her drawings. I had seen the upcycled structure a few times before, collage 3but had only noticed that they all had erect penises when we were drawing all the details – Zoey thought it was funny, but it didn’t bother her. The same room showcased an interactive wooden triangle installation that Zoey really wanted to play with. I made a dog and she made a fish, we both loved all the colours.

Zoey wanted to draw a piece made up of stacked painting studies and a ceramic globe in the third gallery space (Isabel McLaughlin Gallery). As we were drawing, a large group of kids in the gallery’s March Break day-camp came through and were running, touching, and making a lot of noise. Zoey commented on how bad they were being and I counted myself lucky that she was sitting, drawing, and having a good time being calm!

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Photo 2017-03-16, 1 43 11 PMWe went downstairs to look at Gallery A and were lucky enough to meet an in-house artist who was working on casts to make pots for a new project. She explained the process to Zoey and even took a look at some of her drawings that she had done upstairs. We climbed the steps once more and headed into the last room of our tour (R. S. McLaughlin Foundation Gallery). She liked the metal salmon that had a working crank that made the body move as if it was swimming. Zoey also found many of the pieces in the room to be a bit scary and we quickly moved on to those that were less dark. Zoey enjoyed her time at the RMG so much that she didn’t really want to leave. We stayed in the activity room near the back of the gallery for another half hour or so, drawing and enjoying the sunlight.

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We eventually collected our things and headed to the car. It had been a quiet and art-filled afternoon that was good for us both.

I saw my niece smile a lot today… and that means the world to me.

Our Art:

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Travelling Together: My Top 3 Dream Destinations

Occasionally my husband and I buy a lottery ticket, then we talk about living out our dreams stress-free and smile about all the what ifs.

Some of those aspirations are to:

  • old-friends-fb
    Screenshot of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary’s Facebook page.

    build our ideal home on a waterfront property somewhere in Canada

  • open a senior dog sanctuary similar to Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Tennessee
  • have all the time in the world to work on our hobbies
  • travel together

Seeing new parts of the world seems to be a common thing on people’s bucket lists, but maybe an explorative nature comes with the personality of someone who creates things like bucket lists.

Photo of Chris and I in Barcelona.

Chris and I come from very different vacation backgrounds, but we generally have similar interests in destinations. Chris travels for work, but it isn’t the same as vacationing. He often visits places that aren’t exactly being raved about on a top ten guide, he’s currently in Guwahati, India. He also grew up travelling to parts of Europe to visit family whereas we drove 17-19 hours to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to see grandparents and cousins. Chris’ total countries visited adds up to a number over 50 vs. my total of 3 (Canada, the United States, and our honeymoon destination in Spain). Although our travel experiences are very different, our destination dreams line up: explore together, have fun, and create lasting memories.

So where do I want to travel to?

Here are my current top 3 dream destinations:

New Zealand

Photo from Natural Habitat Adventures and WWF

Things to do: LOTR fan fun; visit the toothbrush fence; Zorbing
Things to consider: Flights are expensive; it takes a long time to get there; don’t rush

I have wanted to travel to New Zealand since The Lord of The Rings (LOTR): The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001. Amazingly, I had just started reading the series (my dad’s copies from the 1970s) article-1302835-0ac849a2000005dc-845_634x338when Peter Jackson announced the plans to the film the trilogy. I was over the moon excited to see the hobbits, wizards, dwarves, elves, and orcs come to life on screen (I definitely fell in love with Legolas immediately since he was basically a real-life Link from Zelda). Even at the young age of eleven I recognized the beauty of Middle Earth – the beauty of New Zealand. I can’t wait to see the rolling hills, snowy mountains, and the sheep that inhabit former hobbit homes in person someday.17211534

When I met Chris, he introduced me to his favourite television program Flight of the Conchords. This comedy show only heightened my interest in all things New Zealand as the main characters hailed from the country and the show poked fun of New Zealand’s innocence with parodic posters. Chris has yet to travel there and we’d both love to take a looksee at the famous toothbrush fence in between LOTR/nature walks and other Wellywood adventures.


Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR)

Photo from Nomadic Expeditions

Things to do: Enjoy the views; stop to smell the metaphorical Russian roses; make friends
Things to consider: Plan A LOT; get the right visas; do your homework; lack of privacy

This one is on the list largely for my husband, he has absolutely convinced me that this would be an amazing trip, but it is one that is a huge commitment. The Man in Seat 61 recently wrote a very detailed post about transsib-train-dirk-_0.jpgeverything you need to know if you want to plan you TSR adventure – you should definitely check it out! You need to be prepared to sit a lot, to enjoy the view, and to pack light. Getting off the train is an important part to enjoying and actually experiencing the different places that you are passing, but there are periods of time where you may be on the train for up to 24 hours or more.

It’s not known for its romantic atmosphere, but more so for its accomplishment in going the distance – the Trans-Siberian Railway spans across ten time zones and continues through Russia, Mongolia, and China. This is an adventure for a low maintenance traveler looking to complete an impressive goal in life.

Suggested articles:
Trans-Siberian Railway: Best Cities to Visit
Everything you need to know about booking a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway
Surviving the Trans-Siberian Railway




Things to do: Soak in the Blue Lagoon; walk in black sand; camp under the Northern Lights
Things to consider: Cheap flights, but expensive once there; cute hostels; time of the year

Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa with a bar to swim up to and everything!

It is only within these last several years that Iceland has become a dream destination for me, Chris and I have been talking about going there for almost four years now. Chris has technically been to Iceland on a few separate occasions for work stopovers, but he really wants to take me there. He told me about the Blue Lagoon/natural hot springs that are said to be good for aches and pains, then Google did the rest of the convincing: Northern Lights, if you go at the right time of the year); black volcanic sand; Icelandic ponies; puffins; and towns that are fit to be picturesque jigsaw puzzles. The country’s natural beauty is of the same level as New Zealand, but it’s much closer to Canada which is a bonus in terms of flight costs and travel time.

Atlas of Wonders goes over where Star Wars: Rogue One was filmed, noting that the fictional planet Eadu is actually a southern Icelandic landscape.

If you’re a pop culture buff like me, then you’ll also love that many popular film and television productions have used the land for filming locations. The long list includes personal favourites of mine such as Star Wars: Rogue One and Game of Thrones. Attracting fantasy and science fiction genre productions is another of Iceland’s similarities to New Zealand, I believe that this is because their beauty is surreal and fanciful. I look forward to the day where we can live it up in Reykjavik before renting a vehicle and camping across the country (our almost honeymoon choice before we decided on Barcelona).

PS. Watch one of my favourite documentaries, The Final Member, and maybe you’ll also want to visit The Icelandic Phallological Museum!

Where are some of the best places that you’ve travelled to? Where are some places that you want to go? Let me know some of your thoughts and maybe you’ll convince me to add it to my own travel-to-do list.