In February, when $Dayjob’s new fiscal year starts, it also means my new bank of time off days starts. I have an excellent combination of actual-vacation days, personal days, and “emergency” days (which are like sick days, but don’t have to be). I take them all. Every one of them. I’m in the fortunate place to get a raise every year that is at least equal to a week off pay, so I even take the bonus-week of unpaid emergency days. You can call them mental health days, or vacation or whatever you want, but I take them all. ALL of them. I leave nothing on the table.
On or around about the 4th of February, I sit, dutifully, with a calendar of the year in front of me. I like to take long weekends every week of the summer, so I mark those off. And I certainly want a bit of extra me-time in December, so I mark every Friday in December.
I hold a few days in reserve so that if I actually get sick enough that my work-from-home self-isolation isn’t sufficient, I can take time to actually heal. Most of my allotment of time off days are booked as mental health preservation days (so I require fewer mental health life-preserver days).
But thrice a year, I take a week off, tacked onto a long weekend. Conveniently, every 4ish months on the calendar, there just happens to be a long weekend for me to bump up against. The spring week leads into Easter Weekend (with Good Friday as my free-square). In the summer, it’s around Canada Day, and usually means an actual vacation to a beach. In the fall, it’s the week after Canadian Thanksgiving.
And that friends, is where I was last week – on my fall vacation adventure shenanigan-za. Every day last week I did something fun, and that is also where Grati-Tuesday begins.
My vacation week started with a trip to Stratford to see an excellent staging of Hamlet. I’m thankful that the festival is so close that I can visit often. I’m grateful for The Arts in general and I’m a patron as often as I can be. But Amaka Umeh’s portrayal of Prince Hamlet’s descent into mental illness was unparalleled. And Peter Pasyk’s direction was stunning. I’m grateful for everyone whose life’s vocations are to the arts.
Since we had our Thanksgiving feast on Sunday, my gentleman associate and I had Monday evening free to drive the half-ish hour to Elora for a mid-Monster-Month visit to the Twilight Zoo. I’d been wanting to visit for several years (thanks COVID) and I’m delighted with what we saw.
They also had a really fun sounding Murder of Crows Scavenger hunt, but as we went when the shops were closed, we did not participate in that. That said, the crows painted on most of the shop windows were fun. I’m grateful that there are small towns near me who come together to do these kinds of fun activities in the fall.
My gentleman associate and I both happened to be off at the same time last week (which almost never happens), so we decided to have a mini-getaway. We’d been given some money for our 25th anniversary in the summer with the instructions to use it to go away together to celebrate. We both looked for fun weekend getaways, but nothing really spoke to us, until my gentleman associate found the Muskoka Beer Spa. The trip from here to there is about three hours, so we made the trip part of the fun. We decided to stop at several places along the way, mostly antique markets, which we both enjoy for the wild spectacle of them. We didn’t re-home any of the wares, but Cookstown Antiques Market, Antiques on 11, and Currie’s Music and Antiques were a fun diversion along the way. I’m grateful for the folks who’s things end up in places like these, and the opportunity for gawking that it allows my GA and I to do together.
The Beer Spa was a whirlwind visit full of hot pools, delivered snacks (in the evening) and pastries (in the morning) and a lovely getaway in the woods. It was raining and kind of chilly while we were there, so I didn’t get on the lake in a kayak, but I’m grateful for the things we were able to do. And, yaknow, that we visited after the bitey-bugs are bedded down in the forest for the winter.
On the way home, we first went a little further north to Bala, where we did a wagon ride around one of the flooded (and two of the not-flooded) cranberry bogs at Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery. They were midway through the yearly cranberry harvest, which was serendipitous timing for us. I mean, I know it’s around now, but it was fun to be able to see what that meant. I know what cherry and strawberry and even blueberry harvests look like – I’ve often gone the pick-your-own route. I’m grateful that the land around me is so fertile with so diverse crops. And in the interests of the locovore in me, I bought a Very Large bag of freshly picked cranberries.
Friday, I made a reservation for my mom and I to go to high tea together. This isn’t always an easy thing, as I’ve got a wheat intolerance, and tea, rife with cucumber sandwiches and quiche and scones and petit fours, is not always friendly for the wheat-free patron. But I found one, relatively close to my parents’ house, that offers regular tea, or vegan or gluten-free options. So I picked up my Ma, and off we went to The Watering Can Flower Market’s Garden Tea. Friends, truly, this was a lovely experience. The tea is hosted in a small café in the corner of a flower market full of lovely lush greenery and flowers. And the food was a delight! I had chicken salad and cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches (with the crusts cut off my gluten-free bread); noodle salad (my mom had quiche); a little green salad; pumpkin and chive and cheddar scones (served with whipped butter, berry compote, and cream); and a pumpkin and chocolate mini muffin. The top tier of our three tier serving plate was full of sweets. I had a coconut raspberry square, a brownie, chocolate cups full of raspberry mocha cream. Ma had a cheesecake square, a chocolate ball of something, the same raspberry mocha cream on a cookie crust. And there were two macarons. Would definitely visit again. The menu was pretty pumpkin heavy (which I enjoyed) , so I’m excited to see how that changes over the year. My dad always wonders how I find these things. When we had Paella-palooza a few weeks ago, he said that *his* area doesn’t do those kinds of things. And I keep showing him that they do. So I’m grateful for all the amazing experiences that I’ve been able to have courtesy of the magic of internet search results – in his region, and mine, and anywhere else I find myself.
And lastly, we ended the week with a visit to Pumpkins after Dark. We attended this a few years (pre-Covid) ago, and I really enjoyed it. In the meanwhile, they offered a drive-through option, which I was not interested in. So when the news came that we were back to a walking route, I snapped up my tickets lickety split! The carvings range from Disney princesses to dead rock stars (like Hendrix and Amy Winehouse and Jim Morrison), to Jurassic Park to hockey players. So good. I’m grateful for the team of people that are behind the scenes to make these kinds of spectacles happen.
I hope y’all have some opportunities to find places to be inspired and recharge yourself. And if you can choose to be anything this week, be grateful.