Sunday, December 20

Winter Events in Muskoka & Almaguin

There's always plenty happening in and around Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands each winter.

Here are some of the organized events open to the public. Check back regularly for the latest updates. If you know about an event happening in or around Huntsville, Algonquin Park, or the Almaguin Highlands, let me know and I'll add it.

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Olympic Torch Community Celebration
As one of the celebration venues for the Olympic Torch Relay, Huntsville will be welcoming the torch on Dec 30. Watch it arrive to light the cauldron in River Mill Park in downtown Huntsville. Music, entertainment, interactive displays and giveaways. Free shuttle buses from the commerce park at Hwys 11 & 60 to downtown for the festivities.
Dec 30, 12:00 - 2:30 pm

Burk's Falls Winterfest
Burk's Falls
The 15th annual festival celebrates winter with small-town charm. Games, dancing, tobogganing, a bonfire and more.
Jan 16 & 17

Algonquin Outfitters again brings the Banff Mount Film Festival World Tour to Huntsville's Algonquin Theatre. Two nights of screenings feature a collection of the most inspiring and thought-provoking action, environmental, and adventure mountain films, taking you from remote landscapes and cultures to up close and personal with adrenaline-packed action sports.
Jan 19 & 20

Muskoka Loppet
Arrowhead Provincial Park, Huntsville
Arrowhead Nordic Ski Club invites your to Arrowhead Provincial Park for a day of competition and fun. Serious racers as well as recreational skiers, snowshoers and fitness enthusiasts can enjoy the scenic beauty of Arrowhead Park in its winter splendour. Races include classic skiing 30km, 15km, 5km social course; snowshoe 3km and 9km; and youth races.
Jan 24

Billed as the largest pond hockey event, and growing larger every year. Two weekends of national playoffs, plus additional weekends of regionals. All on the frozen surface of Huntsville's Peninsula Lake.
Jan 29 - 31; Feb 5 - 7

Two days of races, plus plenty of activities, games, displays, food and entertainment. Races include 4-mile, 6-mile, 40-mile and ski-joring. New this year is a 120-mile unassisted mid-distance race (a qualifier for such famous races as the Iditarod).
Feb 5 - 7

Family Day Long Weekend
A long weekend just to get out of town and have fun with the people you love! This statutory holiday on the 3rd Monday of February makes for a nice long weekend just when you're feeling the mid-winter blahs. Book early as this weekend always fills up.
Feb 12 - 15

Oxtongue Lake
Algonquin Outfitters annual fun (and mostly free!) days of great outdoor winter activities. Find out why we love winter so much! Nordic ski touring and lessons, snowshoe hiking, winter camping demos, games, giveaways, and bonfire. Barbeque lunch and dog sled tours are reasonably priced. Great sales in store.
Feb 20 & 21

Athletes from around the province will be converging on local towns as Muskoka hosts the 2010 Ontario Winter Games. Huntsville area venues will be showcasing: Cross-Country Skiing, Women's Hockey, Table Tennis, Wrestling, Figure Skating, Judo and Gymnastics.
Mar 4 - 7

Tuesday, December 15

Holiday gift shopping can be as easy and relaxing as a visit to Fern Glen Inn

Gift Certificates are available for one-night stays, two-night stays, packaged getaways, or any dollar amount.

Certificates can be mailed to you in time for Christmas giving; or mailed directly to the special people on your gift list. For last-minute shopping, we can email you the Gift Certificate to print out yourself.

How does it work?
You choose the number of nights or one of our packages (such as the Sweet Retreat Romantic Getaway) when you purchase the Gift Certificate. Tell us who the gift is for and the brief message to print on it (such as Merry Christmas Joe & Jane from Rover & Fluffy).

The Gift Certificate is valid for any room in the Coach House for 1 year from the time of purchase. When the recipients are ready to use their certificate, they make their reservation like any other guest: choosing the room, season and dates they want based on availability. They can reserve by phone, email, or online, using the gift certificate as method of payment.

They get a relaxing or adventurous experience at a time that suits them. You get to conquer your shopping list without braving the stores and malls. And we get to share our little patch of paradise with the special people in your life.

Call or email to order your Gift Certificates. 1-866-311-8519.

Or if you're dropping hints for your own wish list, make sure Santa sees this blog!

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Give the gift of Fresh Air, Warm Hospitality and Fine Country Cooking

Friday, December 11

Happy (Stress-free, Relaxing) Holidays

Enjoy the holiday season without the holiday mayhem

For many people, the holiday season is a whirlwind of commitments and responsibilities... shopping, decorating, wrapping; parties, crowded stores, full parking lots; gift exchanges, high expectations, cooking and baking enough to feed a small nation, an over-packed schedule of things to do and places to go... It's exhausting just thinking about it!

For some, this hectic pace defines the holidays. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without high blood pressure and a tension headache! I used to get sick with a cold or flu every Christmas, likely due to too much stress and not enough sleep.

I've since wised up and simplified my version of what the holidays should be—and it's not about glitz and gifts! The only glitter here comes from the moonlight shining on crystalline snowflakes. We leave the tree-decorating up to Jack Frost and Mother Nature, who generously dress every bough and branch in the forest. Festivities are in the form of old-fashioned fun (think tobogganing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides and dog sledding) or low-key relaxing (think cuddles by the fire). And oh boy, are our nights silent!

Holidays now are about unplugging, slowing down, and enjoying the turn of the calendar as one year winds down and a new one begins. If that sounds like your idea of the perfect holidays, then there's room at the inn for you!

We're open and welcoming guests every day throughout the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Holiday rates are in effect from December 24th through January 2nd. Dinners are available with advance notice, or we can tell you which restaurants are open in town.

We can also help you with reservations for guided dog sledding and horse-drawn sleigh rides; or recommend places to go tubing, skiing, winter hiking and skating. Snowshoes are complimentary for guests to use on our private 10km trail system.

Call us at 1-866-311-8519 or visit Fern Glen Inn to reserve your holiday season getaway.

Friday, November 20

Screaming Heads

The Almaguin Highlands is rich with artists and artisans—potters, sculptors, wood-crafters, glass-workers, and painters of every medium and style. All are interesting individuals, but one in particular stands out when it comes to sheer scale of size.

Artist Peter Camani has created an immense, surreal artscape of huge cast-concrete sculptures throughout his 310-acre property. Locally referred to as Screaming Heads, the property serves as the artist's home as well as his canvas.
Visitors are welcome to wander the trails that wind through meadows, past woods and ponds, to get up close to—or even walk through—his artwork.

When there, don't forget to take a closer look at Mr. Camani's house, surrounded by thick walls and adorned by a two-headed dragon and a warrior princess. The giant head on the back of the building houses the artist's studio. At least one of the wall towers is a shelter for the many resident peacocks.

Some people find a visit to Screaming Heads eerie, others find it intriguing. I, for one, relish the chance to put myself inside another's artistic vision and step away from the everyday. If nothing else, everyone can agree that it's a unique and impressive piece of work

If you go: You'll find Screaming Heads on Midlothian Road, near the town of Burk's Falls. It's an easy outing from here at Fern Glen Inn, and
popular with many of our guests. There is a parking lot beside the house, and a donation box in case you feel the art is worth supporting. Since it is a private home as well as an art exhibit, if the gate to the parking lot is closed, please just enjoy the view from the road.

Click here to see more photos of the Screaming Heads at the peak of the fall colours.

Monday, November 9

Self-Indulgent Season

Some call it the slow season. Others refer to the low season, shoulder season, or quiet season. But I like to think of it as the Self-Indulgent Season. And I mean that in a good way.

The season I'm talking about is this un-season between fall and winter. At first glance there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of "indulgence" going on. The colourful leaves have fallen from the trees but the snow hasn't come yet (at least not enough to play in) and—thank goodness—it's too soon for the "happy holidays" mayhem to start. It's too late for swimming and paddling but too early for dog sledding and snowshoeing. The crowds that converge on Muskoka in the summer and fall have emptied out of the restaurants, shops and parks.

A getaway now is a getaway "just because". It's a chance to indulge yourself in a slower pace away from the hectic demands of your daily routine. For some, that means indulging in a few days of much-needed solitude with a solo retreat; for others it means nurturing important friendships and relationships overdue for attention (think romantic hideaway or girlfriends' getaway).

Many of us are sooo used to a go-go-go pace—always doing something, always trying to cross something off our list—that we don't know what to do with ourselves when we actually stop moving. Sure, there are plenty of activities to fill your time during a November/December visit to the inn... trail hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing, exploring Algonquin Park among others. But if you let it, it can be as simple as lying low and not planning to do anything at all.

So how might you pass your time on a quiet getaway, whether you're on your own or with a companion? Lose yourself in a book (bring your own, peruse our eclectic collection, or ask us about our favourite lazy-day bookstore). Treat yourself to an afternoon nap and recover from the sleep deficit most of us carry. Take a long, slow amble through the woods or sit by a waterfall with a sketch pad or journal.

If you feel like splurging on some extra indulgences, we can book a massage for you with a registered massage therapist, or even arrange for a tarot card reading.

We certainly hope to see you here at the inn this un-season for our special blend of R&R, but whereever you are, don't forget to slow down and indulge in whatever it is that replenishes your self.

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There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. ~Ruth Stout

Saturday, October 24

Pumpkin Cookies

At this time of year, as we revel in the Golden Encore, the world around us echoes the colours of autumn gourds—think deep-hued orange pumpkins, tawny butternut and bright yellow spaghetti squash.

These delicious seasonal vegetables frequently star at our dinner table, but they are also wonderfully suited to baked treats.

This recipe for Pumpkin Cookies is one of my childhood favourites, copied from the well-worn card in my mom's recipe box. I love them as they are, fresh from the oven and still a little warm, but you can also turn them into Pumpkin Whoopie Pies by sandwiching them with a tangy-sweet cream cheese filling.

Using canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumkin pie filling!), these are quick and easy to whip together. You can make them at any time of year, but with Halloween around the corner, is there a better time than now?

Pumpkin Cookies
These cookies have a fine crumb and moist, cake-like texture. I like them best on the same day they are baked, but they will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for a few days.
Makes about 30 cookies

2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, walnuts, raisins, crystallized ginger, or chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, spices and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using handheld electric beater) cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and pale in colour, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract.

Add about half the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until almost combined. Switch to a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and gently stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Stir in nuts, fruit or chocolate chips if using. For the cookies pictured here, I divided the dough into two bowls and added pecans & raisins to one and chocolate chips to the other. Crystallized ginger and white chocolate chips would've been a great combination, too.

Drop the batter by heaping tablespoon onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing about 1 1/2" apart. Bake until the top looks dry and springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the top should come out clean or with moist crumbs attached. About 12-14 minutes.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Make the pumpkin cookies as above, but use the back of the spoon to smooth out and slightly flatten the dough mounds after dropping onto the cookie sheet. Bake and cool.

Make filling: With an electric mixer, beat together 16 oz (450g or two bricks) of cream cheese, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 cup of icing sugar until smooth. Taste and add more sugar if you like it sweeter or to thicken. If the consistency is too thick for spreading, beat in a bit of cream.

Slather a thick layer of filling on the bottom of a cookie, then sandwich with another cookie. Repeat until you use up all the filling or all the cookies. Take a bite and say "whoopie!".

Wednesday, October 14

Country Roads

Nothing beckons quite like a country road in Autumn.

Some of our guests on the recent Thanksgiving weekend brought their bicycles and rode 'around the block'—which, here, is a good 32 km trip. They had a great time and came back raving about the colours, the road, the route. So much so that Jim and I took a little break and took a drive up our road for a little eye candy.

We were treated to some sunny spells and patches of blue sky, which always sets off the fall foliage so nicely, but even under clouds, the view was spellbounding.

Round Lake is just a few clicks up from us on Fern Glen Road. The auburn hills with their green conifer skirts cut a colourful swathe between the water and sky. There are not a lot of houses and not much activity on this lake, which makes it a great choice for a short paddle if you bring your canoe or kayak.

These winding country roads, though, offer a wonderful way to see the season. Whether on a bike, in a car, or strolling on foot, the colour surrounds you. The curves and surface of the road make you take your time, take it all in. In places, the crowns of the trees overhead stitch together to form a canopy of colour and light. And every now and then, where the road widens a bit, you just have to pull over, get out, and say Wow.

Wednesday, September 30

Fall Colours!

It's that time of year again! The time when I can barely drive down a country road or walk along a forest trail because I'm too busy looking up and around, trying to take in this stunning visual art show known as the Fall Colours.

The season started with a string of bright, sunny days and cool, frosty nights... the perfect combination for bringing out the most brilliant colours in the maple leaves.

Right now the forest is a great bouquet, a patchwork quilt, a mosaic. The colours range from soft pastels to deep hues, from peach to persimmon to paprika. The reds are deep and cool in burgundy and oxblood; or bright and sassy like a harlot's dime-store lipstick.

Words just don't do it justice. Unfortunately, nor do photographs. At least, not the ones I take with my camera and skill set. The pictures here were taken on our trails and along the Seguin Trail up to the little lake. They show what I saw, but they don't capture the essence of the season.

They don't let you hear the rustle of the fallen leaves underfoot, or smell the aroma of earth and autumn that kicks up as you walk. They don't make your cheeks rosy in a nippy breeze, or shower you with a confetti of leaves when a gust blows through the trees. You really do have to experience it first hand. And I hope you do!

Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, September 22

Dyer Memorial

Autumn is perhaps the favourite season for visiting Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands. When the air is crisp and the leaves are glorious, countless visitors flock to the area to hike the trails, drive the country roads and marvel at nature's fiery colour palette.

At this time of year, some of the most popular parks and attractions of the area can be busy and crowded, which is why we have a few out-of-the-way places to share with our guests. These are the hidden gems and under-hyped scenic spots that don't draw quite as many tourists but are well worth a visit.

One of these spots is the Dyer Memorial. Located deep in the woods on the outskirts of Huntsville, the Dyer Memorial was once a beautifully maintained botanical garden requiring the services of a full-time seasonal gardener. It has long since lost the funding needed for such maintenance, but it is still a public park and, to my mind anyway, quite lovely in its naturalized state.

The memorial itself is a large stone monument "erected in fond memory", as the plaque explains, "of Betsy Browne Dyer, 1884 - 1956, by her husband Clifton G. Dyer, 1885 - 1959". The rest of the plaque is a sweet sentiment of appreciation for what must have been a fulfilling marriage.

The monument stands on a hill and overlooks gentle slopes of grass and overgrown flower beds spilling over stone paths. A few wooden bridges span the Big East River which winds through the park. Willows, birches, maples and pines create the backdrop.

It's an idyllic picnic spot, especially at this time of year. You might expect it to be a busy stop for sight-seers, but it's a little off the beaten path, and down a road that doesn't quite live up to the term 'road'.

The pictures here were taken late one October, after the maples and birches shed their leaves and the forest was getting ready for its winter sleep. A visit at the peak of the fall colours is sure to reward you with a stunning sight—and very likely few people to share it with.

Tuesday, September 15

Critter-sitting for the neighbours

Jim & I are not farmers. While we're proud of all we've learned about country living since we left the city nearly 5 years ago, we're really 'woods' and not 'pasture' kind of country folk.

But nevertheless, when our neighbours asked us to critter-sit for them while they took a September vacation, we said sure, no problem. So for nearly a week, we trotted up the road twice a day to do our chores.

We fed pigs (definitely a two-person job; I acted as rodeo clown while Jim got the trough right-side-up); fed dogs; watered chickens and collected their eggs; and let the horse and pony out to graze.

Our neighbours had warned us that the pony, Buddy, is a little Houdini, but we didn't realize that Mocha, the horse, also had aspirations to wander the neighbourhood while
her people were away.

Twice they decided to take themselves for a walk down Fern Glen Road. We discovered that convincing one pregnant horse and one stubborn pony that it's time to go home requires some skills in equine negotiation that we haven't quite mastered. With some help from a horse-friendly guest (thanks Murray!) and another neighbour (thanks Bob!), we managed to corral our little herd.

Aside from some rather unnerving moments -- an angry dog, food-frenzied pigs, hens trying to fly the coop, the pony stepping on my foot (owch!) -- we had fun! If our neighbours ask again, we'll say sure, no problem. That's what we country folk do.

Friday, August 28

Paddle to Ragged Falls


A popular activity for our guests is the paddle from Oxtongue Lake to the base of Ragged Falls. It's not just fun for visitors, though, Jim and I took an afternoon off this week and did the paddle ourselves. We had a great time!

Starting out from the inn, we stopped in Huntsville to pick up some requisite trail mix and snacks from the Bulk Barn before taking Hwy 60 to Algonquin Outfitters Oxtongue Lake store. They offer both canoe and kayak rentals, which included the life jackets and paddles as well as a map of the route from the store dock to the falls..

The helpful fella manning the equipment office made sure we were all set on the water. Jim and I have paddled extensively so didn't need any instruction, but if you're new to paddling, be sure to tell the staff and they'll spend a few minutes covering the basics before sending you off.

It took us about an hour to paddle from the store dock, cutting across a corner of Oxtongue Lake then up the Oxtongue River, to the base of Ragged Falls. In the calm water below the falls, we pulled our canoe up onto the rocks and then hiked up to the top of the falls. It's a lovely spot and has been a favourite stop of ours for many years. If you want to see the falls without the paddling, it's very easy to get to by car and just a 5-minute walk from the parking lot to the river.

After touring the falls, we got back in the canoe and retraced our route back to the store. On the way home we stopped at Dwight Beach for a swim (okay, Jim swam and I beach-bummed). It's a gorgeous, sandy, shallow beach on Lake of Bays and worth the stop.

We definitely recommend the paddle to Ragged Falls, suitable for both novice and experienced paddlers. This and other local paddling options are a great way to spend a summer or early-fall afternoon during a visit to the inn.

Thursday, August 20

Autumn Events

Autumn is a busy and beautiful season in Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands. Here are some of the organized events and weekly activities in the region. Check back again as we update the list as we hear about new happenings.

Wednesday Kayak
Join a guided flatwater kayak tour from the riverside dock in downtown Huntsville, along the Muskoka River to the mouth of Lake Vernon. Hosted by Algonquin Outfitters, this 2-hour paddle is great for new and experienced paddlers to enjoy an evening on the water. Just $15/person includes kayak, paddle and pfd. Meet at the store before 6pm, registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Every Wednesday until September 9
Huntsville Farmers' Market
Selection of vendors, located in the Canadian Tire parking lot in Huntsville.
Every Thursday until October 29, from 9am-2pm

Commerce Park Huntsville Farmers' Market
Selection of vendors, located beside Robinson's Independent Grocer in Huntsville's Commerce Park.
Every Friday until September 4, from 9am-2pm

Muskoka Cruise Night
Hosted by the Historical Automotive Society of Canada, with prizes and a 50/50 draw with proceeds going to local charities. At the Canadian Tire parking lot in Huntsville.
Every Wednesday evening until October 28

Antique & Collectables Market
A variety of vendors will be offering their wares at Fern Glen Garden Centre just up the road from us.
Every Saturday in September, from 10am - 3pm

Magnetawan Farmers' Market
Held at the Magnetawan Community Pavilion, with a range of goods including fresh produce; smoked, dried and frozen meats; specialty cheeses; flowers; baked goods; jewelry; antiques; knitting; sewing; wood carving; homemade jams.
Every Saturday until September 5

Muskoka Nights Cruise-In
Antique cars, hot rods, tuners, motorcycles and vehicles of special interest. Door prizes and a 50/50 draw raising funds for the Huntsville Animal Shelter. At the Canadian Tire parking lot in Huntsville.
Every Saturday evening until October 10

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Burk's Falls Fall Fair
Three days of fun, featuring live music, art shows, midway rides and games, sheep displays, horse shows, cotton candy and more. At the Burk's Falls fair grounds.
September 5, 6 & 7

Stisted Fall Fair
A day of old-fashioned family fun. Off Yearly Rd., north-west of Huntsville's Lake Vernon.
September 12

Muskoka Ironman 70.3
The region's largest athletic event is slated to attract over 1,500 international athletes. The race course will incorporate many of Muskoka's most picturesque areas, including a 1.2 mile swim in bracing Peninsula Lake; a 56 mile bike ride through Lake of Bays including the hamlets of Dwight, Dorset and Baysville; followed by a 13.1 mile run. Come and cheer the athletes along their race. Visit Muskoka Ironman 70.3 for details.
September 13

Antique, Classic and Custom Car Show
The Downtown Huntsville BIA presents the Annual Shades of Autumn Antique, Classic and Custom Car Show. Exhibits will be up and down the main drag. plus trophies and door prizes. This is one automotive competition that you can take in on two feet.
September 19

Canadian Improv Showcase
Canada's premiere touring improv company comes to Huntsville's Algonquin Theatre. Specializing in unscripted, interactive comedy with a Canadian twist, it's never the same show twice and totally hilarious! Tickets are $22. Visit the Algonquin Theatre for details.
September 19, 8pm

Chocolate and Dessert Fantasy
The Huntsville Hospital Auxiliary invites you to spend an hour or two tasting delicious desserts and finger foods created by many local resorts and restaurants. Live piano music plus silent auction items. Tickets are $15, available at The Clothes Closet, Treasures and Trophies, and Branches Hospital Gift Shop. Proceeds support the Auxiliary's $250,000 commitment to the new Mammography Suite.
At Partner's Hall on the main floor of the Algonquin Theatre.
September 20, 2pm-5pm

Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour
Witness the artistic process at work through demonstrations and displays in the studios of Muskoka's diversely talented artists. Free self-guided tour. For printable map, brochure and more information, visit Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour.
September 26 & 27
October 3 & 4

Fall Colour Peak
The hardwood forests are ablaze in autumn colours, painted from a palette of sunny golds, fiery oranges and brilliant reds. Whether you hike the trails, drive the country roads or tour the parks, you're sure to enjoy this spectacular natural show. The peak can last a few days or a few weeks, and usually falls between late-September and mid-October. Even if you don't hit the peak, it's still a lovely and unique experience.
Estimated October 1-15

Thanksgiving Long Weekend
The last long weekend of the season to get out of the city and breath some fresh country air.
October 9-12

Golden Encore
Following the peak of the Fall Colours, after the famous red and orange maple leaves have fallen from the branches, mother nature has one more song to sing before the show ends. That's when the tamaracks, birches and poplars take the stage and grace us with a golden encore.
Generally late October into November

Huntsville's Girlfriends' Getaway Weekend
The shops, boutiques,
cafés and restaurants of Downtown Huntsville are catering to the ladies with a great weekend of shopping, sales, gifts, demos and pampering. It's a great chance to get your holiday shopping started (or even finished!) and to treat yourself to a little 'girl time' too. Free passports are available here at the inn.
Some ticketed events are on the weekend schedule: Fashion Show hosted by Davide Clemmer & Bruce Turner of 'Style by Jury'; cooking demonstrations by celebrity chef Jeff Suddaby; Chantal Kreviazuk on stage. Visit Huntsville's Girlfriends' Getaway Weekend for details.
Stay 2 nights at Fern Glen Inn this weekend and get $25 off your stay (mention Huntsville's Girlfriends' Getaway at time of booking).
November 13-15

Soapstones' Holiday Designer Soap Workshops
Make your own holiday soaps to give as gifts this season. Hands-on workshops take place at Soapstones in downtown Huntsville. Learn the techniques and tools and take home what you make. Kits available to purchase as well. Workshops are $20/person and limited to 8 people per class. Visit Soapstones workshops for details and to register.
Every other Wednesday until Christmas; 6:00-8:00 pm
(Oct 21, Nov 4 & 18, Dec 2 & 16)

Soapstones' Bath Bombs, Bath Teas, and Tub Butter Workshops

Make your own special bath products (they make great stocking stuffers!). Hands-on workshops take place at Soapstones in downtown Huntsville. Learn the techniques and tools and take home what you make. Kits available to purchase as well. Workshops are $20/person and limited to 8 people per class. Visit Soapstones workshops for details and to register.
Every other Sunday until Christmas; 2:00-4:00 pm
(Nov 1, 15 & 29, Dec 13)

Tuesday, August 11

Creme Blanc and the Zen of Berry Picking

Right now the wild raspberry bushes and blueberry shrubs are laden with beautiful, ripe berries just waiting to be picked and savoured. I can't go for a walk (not even to the mailbox!) without stopping along the way and plucking some bright ruby or deep blue jewels and popping them in my mouth.

When I take a container and set out to gather, Jim knows he won't see me for a while. I love berry picking. I get lost in it. I hear the siren call of the raspberries and they lure me further and further into their dense, leafy patch. It makes me feel productive without feeling busy, at rest while in motion. I call it the zen of berry picking. And all the while my little bucket of treasure is steadily filling. Ah, it's a good life!

A couple weeks ago, when the raspberries and blueberries were just starting to ripen, I set out to pick some to use in a guest dessert. It was still too early for a good haul (not enough for, say, a pie or shortcake) but I couldn't let these first berries of the season go to waste and I wanted to share them with our guests. So I came up with a lovely little dessert that let my handful of berries shine. You don't have to pick your own to enjoy these rich little desserts.

Berry Creme Blanc

Sweet-tart berries, white chocolate and vanilla custard play off each other in these rich little individual desserts. Easy to make and great for entertaining as they should be baked ahead of time in order to chill. Easily adaptable to seasonal ingredients and personal tastes.

Serves 4. Recipe can be doubled or halved.

  • butter for custard cups or ramekins
  • 1/2 cup (or more) fresh berries such as raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla vodka or framboise (raspberry liqueur) or other liquid such as Grand Marnier, brandy, cran-raspberry juice, or water

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup light cream or evaporated milk (unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 oz (85 grams) good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 egg yolks
  • small pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Butter 4 6-oz (1/2 cup capacity) custard cups or ramekins. Divide the berries among the cups. Heat the raspberry jam and liqueur until warm and liquid. Drizzle evenly over the berries. Set custard cups aside.

In a medium pot, whisk together the heavy cream, light cream or evaporated milk, sugar and white chocolate. Whisk or stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl or 8-cup glass measure, whisk the egg yolks and salt until smooth. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture. Carefully pour this custard mixture over the berries in the custard cups, dividing evenly.

Line a cake pan with a clean dishtowel and place the custard cups on top. The dishtowel keeps the cups from sliding around. Fill the cake pan with hot water to come half-way up the side of the cups.

Carefully slide the pan into the oven and bake until just about set. They will still jiggle a bit (but not wave) but they will set up as they cool. The tops will turn toasty brown. Carefully remove the custard cups from the water bath and set on a rack to cool to room temperature. Cover the cups with plastic wrap then refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours or even overnight.

Before serving, top with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, a mint leaf and a sprinkle of fresh berries.

If you want to guild the lily, take these one step further and make creme brule. Before serving, coat the tops of the cremes with a layer of sugar. Caramelize the sugar using a kitchen torch or placing them briefly under a hot broiler.


Monday, July 27

5-Night/6-Day Itinerary

Located within a 3-hour drive (or less) from many urban centres, our naturally beautiful region is great for short weekend getaways. But there is so much to see and do (and not do) that a longer stay is a true escape from the pressures of daily life.

Some of our guests come to just relax and de-stress, others to get out and experience activities and adventures. Then there are those who can carve out enough time in their busy lives for a bit of both. For these folks, we suggest the itinerary below. It's highly adaptable to individual interests. Just ask us for alternate suggestions.

5-Night/6-Day Great Escape

Day 1: Huntsville & Check-in
  • Pack up the car and hit the road. Don't forget tunes for the car and a stop at Tim's for coffee and road snacks.
  • Depending on the time (if it's before 3pm), stop in Huntsville and explore the charming downtown shops, boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Have lunch at a restaurant patio or carry some take-out down to the riverside park. Did you forget to bring sunscreen, a hat or other getaway gear? Pick them up in town.
  • Rent a canoe or kayaks from Algonquin Outfitters on Main Street and take a paddle up the Muskoka River and back.
  • From downtown, drive up to Lion's Lookout Park for a view over the lakes, river and hills of Huntsville.
  • After 3pm, head on up to Fern Glen Inn to check in. We'll show you around the property, give you maps of the area and printed information about things to see and do, plus a directory of restaurants.
  • Get settled in your room, stretch your legs with a short stroll, or enjoy the fresh air and green views from the gazebo or one of the decks. Relax, unwind, decompress.
  • Dinner in Burk's Falls or Huntsville, or here at the inn with advance notice.
  • Star gaze from the hot tub before turning in for a great night's sleep.
Day 2: Algonquin Park
  • Hearty, wholesome breakfast (you choose the time between 8:00 and 9:30). Ask us about favourite trails and spots in the park, or to clarify directions.
  • Head over to Algonquin Park's day-use corridor. Hike a selection of trails, check out the interpretive displays in the Visitor Centre. Break for lunch at the cafe in the centre or at the Portage Store restaurant. Didn't get a chance to canoe yesterday? Then rent a canoe from one of the in-park outfitters for a short paddle or try some more of the gorgeous trails.
  • On your way back from Algonquin stop at Ragged Falls Park, just off Hwy 60. It's a short walk from the parking lot to the top of the falls. Have fun but be careful clambering over the boulders as you get right in there for some great shots.
  • Stop for dinner at 3 Guys and a Stove or one of the other great restaurants in Huntsville.
  • Return to the inn for an evening fire. Soak your tired muscles in the hot tub or in a nice warm bath before sinking into bed.
Day 3: Almaguin Highlands
  • Wake up to another great breakfast!
  • Gather up your maps and list of things to see and do then head out to explore the region. In the summer months, don't forget to bring your bathing suits, beach towels, sunscreen, hat.
  • Tour the sights, towns, trails and lakes of the Almaguin Highlands. Some you might want to include are: Long Lake for a swim; Birch Beach on Doe Lake for swimming or lounging; Brook's Falls (waterfall, swimming, short trail); the town of Burk's Falls for shopping and dining; Screaming Heads (bizarre outdoor artscape); the town of Magnetawan for swimming, viewing the locks, or just a pretty country drive; the town of Kearney (light meals, canoe & kayak rentals); search for Seguin Falls; hike the Forgotten Trails; visit local galleries, studios and shops.
  • Care to see a lovely patch of the Highlands on horseback? Ask us about booking a private trail ride at a local farm.
  • End your outing with a great dinner at Danny's Justa Pasta or bring take-out back to the inn for an al fresco meal on the deck.
  • Back at the inn, enjoy a campfire under the stars and a comfy bed.
Day 4: Lazy Day (or not)
  • Sleep in and have the later breakfast time.
  • Walk the private trails through our 120 acre property or stroll down the Seguin Trail a short while to see a pretty little lake. Depending on the season, pick wild blueberries or raspberries along the way.
  • Feeling ambitious? Hike the Seguin Trail from the inn to the town of Sprucedale. It should take you 3-4 hours to travel the 13km distance at a comfortable pace. Call us from town and we'll come pick you up. In the meantime, enjoy a well-earned lunch at the diner in the General Store.
  • Stretch out on the deck loungers and read a book (we have lots if you didn't bring one) or practice the fine art of the afternoon nap.
  • Raid our supply of lawn games and board games: play a match of bocce ball or croquet, Trivial Pursuit or chinese checkers.
  • On a sunny afternoon, toss the beach towels in the car and make the short drive to Long Lake or Doe Lake for a swim.
  • Have dinner at the inn (with advance notice). Or order in pizza delivery. Or for that summer beach feeling, pick up some fish & chips from one of the many chip trucks gracing the local towns.
Day 5: Parry Sound
  • Breakfast awaits!
  • Pick up a map and Parry Sound brochure from our reception area. Take the lovely, winding drive west to the town of Parry Sound on Georgian Bay.
  • Cruise the Thirty Thousand Islands of Georgian Bay on the Island Queen ship. The morning cruise tours the inner islands while the afternoon cruise tours the wilderness of the outer islands. Call ahead for reservations to avoid disappointment.
  • Hike through lovely Killbear Provincial Park, just north of town.
  • Climb the Fire Tower high on the hill overlooking the town and bay. Visit the museum by the base of the tower.
  • Have dinner in Parry Sound or head back eastward for a local meal.
  • Last night to marvel at the dark, starry sky and be mesmerized by the embers of a campfire.
Day 6: Check-out and the journey home
  • Yet another great breakfast to start your day!
  • Walk around the property and take some photos before packing up and checking out.
  • If you didn't get a chance to stroll the shops of downtown Huntsville yet, this is a good time to swing by.
  • If you're not in a hurry to get home, we'll recommend some additional stops and detours on your way, such as: Arrowhead Provincial Park, the Dyer Memorial; and the Dorset Fire Tower.
  • Back home in the real world... enjoy your photos and memories from a great escape to Fern Glen Inn!