Mom’s 60th Birthday and BRCA results!

Hey everyone,

Hope the first week of February is treating you well? Although we’ve received a couple dumps of snow, here in Ottawa, the weather has been milder and so enjoyable. #grateful for this week’s weather and being able to enjoy some fresh air!

Last weekend, we celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday. As most of you now know, it’s been just over a year since she was diagnosed and underwent her debulking surgery 2 days before her 59th birthday. I remember her saying that she just wanted to be able to make it to her 60th. Well, I’m SO happy to report that she did, that she is doing SO well and was eager to celebrate her big day. Her 60th Birthday!

My sister and I decided to throw her a surprise party and invite her childhood friends. Some of whom she sees regularly, others only a few times a year. Little did we know, most of them had already set the day aside for her.

Chels and I made dinner reservations at the Big Rig Brewery, as per her request, and our immediate family kicked-off the evening by doing our first escape room at Jigsaw located in the Byward Market. If you haven’t been to Jigsaw, you totally have to check them out. The venue is really nice offering lots of seating with board games and they even have a bar.

As for dinner with her friends, we had asked her guests to bring an old photo of mom and to let us know which song best reminds them of her so that we could put both in a journal for her to read afterward.

Have you ever thrown a surprise party? If so, you know it presents some challenges but if not, *WARNING* it is not easy to do lol My mom is by nature a total control freak (as are we). She has always been the caregiver, planner, organizer etc and she likes to be kept in the loop about everything…and I mean everything, so planning this party was no easy task. A month before, she started asking a million questions. Are we going to big rig, will it just be the 6 of us, what time should I be ready for etc etc etc She absolutely hated not knowing what the plan was and not being in control.

Before getting into the evening itself, I thought I’d share with you a couple of the gifts we bought for her. As previously mentioned, we bought her this beautiful black Journal from Chapters that says “she was one of the rare ones: so effortlessly herself and the whole world loved her for it.” For those who know mom, you KNOW that she is totally one of a kind. The amount of quality friends that she has and the love that they all have for her is amazing and shows how incredible she is.

I also knew that I wanted to pick up a tacky gift, making fun of the fact that she was turning 60, so when I saw the cane in the picture below, I had to have it lol The cane came equipped with glasses, a horn, fan (for heat flashes), a pill container and a caution old lady crossing sign lol so funny, right!

You’ll also notice that I picked up a small pink book entitled “what I love about you and me.” It’s 50 pages long and you have to fill in the blank spaces and note 50 reasons why you love that person. For example: “I like the way….when you…” or “if we were a ….. we would … ” and “I’d love to … with you.” This was such a fun gift and got me thinking about some of my favorite childhood memories. We also treated her to a beautiful bottle of Cognac, the game, cupcakes, board games (her fav) etc.

As for the evening, it was so much fun. We met downtown in the Ottawa Byward Market and surprised her with an escape room. We choose the cabin and it was amazing. I knew that we had to find our way out but I didn’t think that it would be as hard as it was. These games are clearly well thought out. The cabin was a tough one. We all started in handcuffs and the room was almost pitch black. Although we worked hard and really well together, to bust our way out, we didn’t 😦 Apparently we were very close to winning but unfortunately couldn’t crack the last few clues. For those who are looking for a challenging escape room, I highly recommend this one as it has a 15% success rate.

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Jigsaw

Next up was dinner at the Big Rig. We walked in shortly after 7pm and everyone was already there, waiting for her. Watching mom walk in was priceless. She had no idea that we had planned to have her childhood friends there and, although she was pleasantly surprised, I think she was totally shocked. We spent the evening going through childhood pictures, listening to stories of her in her teens and enjoyed a good meal. Below is a pic of mom and her friends. How lucky is she to have friends that she has known for over 50 years.

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Overall, mom had a wonderful 60th birthday. Not only did she have a great time celebrating with her childhood friends and family, she was and is feeling healthy again. What better gift to receive for her 60th bday than the gift of feeling healthy 🙂 I’m so grateful for this and for her 🙂 Happy birthday Moomoo!

BRCA 2 results:

In a previous post, I shared with you that I would be undergoing BRCA 2 genetic testing for breast/ovarian cancer. After a 3 month wait, I’m happy and relieved to report that I do not carry the genetic mutation and, as a result, neither do my children. This news was and is such a huge relief for my family and I. The results showed that I’m not considered high risk. The general population’s risk of having breast cancer is 11% and mine has been calculated at 18%. As a result, and lucky for me, rather than waiting until the age of 50 to be screened, I will start annual mammography at the age of 37. For this, I’m also grateful.

For anyone with a close family history of breast and ovarian cancer, I highly recommend undergoing genetic testing. It isn’t for everyone but for those who woukd prefer to know and like to have control, like myself, I say go for it. These results have brought me much comfort knowing that my children and I aren’t at high risk and has allowed me to put in place the necessary steps to ensure that I will be properly screened.

For those who have undergone similar testing and would like to share about it, please feel free to leave a comment. Otherwise, I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend and I thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog and read my posts. I truly appreciate your support.

Remember to “look for something positive in every day, even if some days you have to look a little harder.” Life is great :)!!!

Talk soon,

Ash

January finds!!!

Hey everyone!

How’s your wardrobe doing? Could it use a pick me up? If so, I hope that you’ve signed up to receive email promos from Reitmans and Banana Republic because they have some pretty awesome deals going on right now :).

Like most parents, I don’t have much time to spend wandering malls. The malls in Ottawa have received major facelifts in the last few years, which I would have loved in my teens, but now that I have little ones, I don’t have the time to wander through them. Instead, I’m a big fan of online shopping or running out to the mall for an hour or so when I need something specific or when I get the occasional email advertising an epic sale.

I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the sales that are going on right now? If not, and if you need a few new pieces, now’s the time to go out and get them. Today, I’m going to share with you some recent purchases that I picked in January for next to nothing.

Recently, I’ve had the desire to wear blazers at work. I love to dress up for work but I’ve never been one to wear blazers but one can always change 😉 Last week, mom offered to pick the kids up with me. Before doing so, we stopped by the mall to pick up a few groceries and ran into Reitmans. Earlier in the day, I received an email advertising that their clearance was an additional 70% off. It couldn’t hurt to pop in and check things out…right! Well, within ten minutes we found just what my wardrobe was missing. Three new blazers :)!!! Check these fun pieces out:

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This blazer is too comfy! It literally feels like I’m wearing a sweater. The cool thing about all three is that none of them feel restrictive. They have some give to them but are still cinched at the waist, so they feel as though they’re tailored but without the price tag. #win!

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This one is black with what looks like polka dots but they’re tiny hearts! Too cute right 🙂 Unfortunately, you can’t tell in this picture but I plan on posting a close up this week on my Instagram account at lovelylife.xo. This one is a little more form-fitting, than the one above, and has a more formal feel to it but the baby hearts keep it stylish and playful.

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This last one is the comfiest of the three and has some pretty cool details. It’s long, cinched at the waist and the arms are 3/4 length and bunchy. Even better,  it’s soft AND the colour is a dark denim #love!.

So, how much did these three blazers, from Reitmans, cost me??? Are you sitting? If not, you should be. I found all three, in the clearance section, and paid $90 for them. Amazing right!? The sale was buy one get two free….YES, I will buy one and get two free lol I’m telling ya, if you need any new pants, skirts or blazers you should definitely stop by Reitmans this weekend.

As for the cute salmon coloured pants, in the pics above, I picked them up this week from the Banana Republic outlet for 40% off! They’re Banana’s Sloan pant. If you haven’t tried them yet, you totally should. They’re the perfect work pant. They’re comfy and come in sooo many different colours and patterns. Here they are below with a pair of shoes that I bought in January for $20 from Zara. A colleague of mine calls them my Cinderella shoes 🙂 love them!

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The same night that I picked these salmon pants up from the outlets, I bought these super fun black pants up from J.Crew at 50% off:

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Whats cool about these is that they zip up along the side and they have an awesome and original pattern at the bottom of the pant.

Last, but not least, are these adorable shoes from Zara:

Julien calls them my care bear shoes lol they’re a light pink and super fuzzy. When I showed them to my sister, she asked me if I got them for free lol. We are polar opposites…What do they know 😉 As soon as I saw these, I needed them. I probably wouldn’t have bought them at full price but for $19 I couldn’t resist them. They’re too original and very fun. I literally can’t wait to wear them this spring/summer.

So, that’s what I’ve found this month. As you can tell, I LOVE a great deal! I almost never purchase anything at full price (unless I need it and don’t have time to wait) and nothing feels better than buying a beautiful piece on sale.

If you need a few and fun pieces for your wardrobe, I highly recommend that you pop by Reitmas, Banana Republic or J. Crew this weekend. If you’re looking for some original and affordable shoes, as usual, I recommend Zara.

Do you enjoy a good deal? Where do you like to shop? Have you found any amazing deals lately? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend! We will be celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday 🙂 So grateful that she is feeling healthy and excited to celebrate HER! Remember friends to be positive, stay kind and smile. Life is great!

Love,

Ash xo

Some of my favourite makeup products

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Hey everyone,

I thought I would kick off 2018 by sharing with you some of my favourite makeup products that I discovered in 2017. I swear by ALL of these and hope that, for those who try them out, you love them as well! First up is Vichy’s idealia’s Night peeling care:

Vichy’s Idealia Night Peeling care

I’ve been using the same prescribed product to treat my sensitive skin on my face for years now but about 3 months ago, it went on back order and my pharmacy hasn’t had it available since. This was probably a blessing in disguise since the product I was using wasn’t very healthy but it worked.

Because I have sensitive skin, I’m unfortunately unable to use just anything on my face. As a result of the back order, I had to find a replacement. Lucky for me, the women that work at the shoppers Drug Mart by our house are very knowledgeable about their products and often give me great advice about makeup and facial products, so I naturally went to them and begged for their help.

One of the girls, who helps me most of the time, recommended the Vichy Laboratories Idealia Peeling care. I had previously used a couple of Vichy’s products and wasn’t the biggest fan but I figured I’d give this one a try since I was desperate. I’ve been using Vichy’s Idealia Night Peeling care off and on now for about two months now and it isn’t bad. It’s a night peeling serum with glycolic acid intended to create an even and radiant complexion. I like it because it definetly improves my complexion by morning however my blemishes are still there. I think that the glycolic acid helps reduce the inflammation but, unlike my prescription, it doesn’t take the pimples away. Another pro is that it contains fermented black tea and blueberries, leaving your face smelling delicious before bed #yum! If anyone opts to try this out, you just need to make sure that you use a good SPF on your face in the morning. Overall, I give this product a 6 or 7 out of 10.

For those of you who have sensitive skin, I would LOVE to hear about what you use to treat your blemishes. Please feel free to leave a comment below!

Lise Watier CC creme colour corrector AND multi perfecting moisturizer

Ok ladies, this product is a MUST! I swear that if you use this product you WILL fall in love with it. It’s a CC cream, therefore it evens your skin tone and adjusts to your pigmentation. At first, I was skeptical about how well this would work but I LOVE it and give it a 10/10. Why do I give it a 10/10, well because it goes on smoothly and blends in very well with my skin tone. I don’t wear it daily since I tend not to wear much makeup to work, but I love to use it on the weekends or if we are going out to dinner or a party. It’s also SUPER moisturizing so for people with naturally dry skin, like myself, it leaves your skin feeling hydrated. Another bonus is that it has an SPF 25 so it provides some protection from the sun. I definitely give this product an A+!!! If you’d like to purchase it you can pick it up at Shoppers.

Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream with SPF 15

This product is yet another must. I’m on my third bottle of this stuff and for anyone who struggles with dark circles under their eyes or always look tired you should definitely pick this up. I use this product under my eyes daily. It has an awesome coverage and is also lightweight. My girlfriends bought this for me for my birthday a couple of years ago and I’m SO grateful to them for it 😉 Thanks, ladies! I NEVER had bags under my eyes until…we had our lovely and totally worth it 😉 kids. It may also be because I’m approaching my mid-thirties but I tell ya, those bags have arrived and I don’t think that they’re going anywhere anytime soon lol Honestly, this product makes my eyes look alive and awake as soon as I apply it. Even better, it’s super affordable selling for around $25-30. I give this affordable and eye brightening BB eye cream a definite 10/10.

MAC’s pro longwear paint pod

This product is another staple in my makeup bag. I always purchase Mac’s paint pod called Bare Study. I’ve literally been using it since we were married 6 years ago. It goes on like a creamy eyeshadow but acts like a primer. You can also wear it on its own. The benefit of Bare Study, is that it has a shimmer and shine to it so you can wear it on its own. If worn as a primer, I find that it really brings out the colour of the shadow that you apply over top.

Although I love MAc’s products, I had to stop using them, except for this paint pod, since they make my skin breakout. I give Mac’s Bare Study an A+ since I’ve been using it for years and it never disappoints. Even better, it’s also super affordable selling for approximately $26.

Maybelline’s Lash Sensational Luscious Washable Mascara

I don’t know about you but if I could only wear one piece of makeup it would be mascare. I love mascara and this one has it all! It both lenghtens and thickens your lashes. Like most of you, I’m sure, I’ve tried tons of different mascaras at different price points, trying to find the one that gives me what I’m looking for. Well, this mascara gives me what I’m looking for which is thick and long lashes. Once applied, I look like I’m wearing very natural, fake eyelashes but I can wash it off at the end of the day 🙂 I like to use the blackest black but Maybelline offers other colours as well. As for cost, this costs less than $14. Again, I rate this 10/10 for its effect and price point.

Jane Iredale’s In touch cream blush

Have you heard of this product? I hadn’t until a couple of years ago. I saw it for the first time at a spa. I use Jane’s powder daily but only started using her blush last March. What I like about this product is that I can apply it with my fingers and it’s super hydrating, leaving my skin feeling moisturized. The one I use is called “clarity” and it sells for about $33. What I love about this blush is that it offers a really nice pink glow and lasts all day. Even better, its intended to hydrate and soothe and I’ve never broken out after using it, which is a bonus ;).

Benefits Goof Proof Brow Pencil

Last, but not least, is Benefit’s Goof Proof Brow Pencil. Prior to this summer, I had never used a brow pencil until mom and I decided to treat ourselves to a few new products to makes us feel good. As usual, we went to Shoppers and asked the ladies to helps us find a natural brow pencil and they showed us this one. I wish I could say that I’m good with makeup but I’m not lol I’ve really only recently found the products that work for me and this is one of them. Even if I’m not going out, I like to use this brow pencil since it makes such an impact. I’ve always been a lover of full and thick eyebrows 🙂 so I tend to keep mine that way. The only thing is that I felt as though they could be bolder and this product addresses this need. It literally adds seconds to my makeup routine but makes a big impact. I absolutely LOVE this brow pencil and highly recommend it. It sells for about $32 and is worth every dollar.

So, there are a few of my favourite products that I’ve fallen in love with recently and that I plan on purchasing and using in the coming months. If you’ve used any of these products, I would love to hear what you think of them. If not, I would love to hear about any of your favourite makeup products. Often, we stumble upon awesome products by accident or they are recommended to us so I would love to hear from you.

Well, that is all for now. Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend and I will check in again next week.

Love,

Ash

 

 

 

 

Alpine Social – Fairmont Lake Louise

Happy New Year!!!

I can’t believe that a year has gone by already…Can you!? Before diving into this week’s post, I’d like to wish you all a healthy and happy 2018. You only get to live once so enjoy your time and make 2018 count!

This week I would like to talk to you about our dinner at Alpine Social, a restaurant at the Fairmont Lake Louise that you do not want to miss out on if you’re ever travel out that way. In December 2017, we spent two amazing nights at the Fairmont Lake Lousie and enjoyed all of our meals at the hotel. They were fabulous!!!

The hotel offers six restaurants, a deli, in-room service and afternoon tea. The cool thing about Alpine Social is that a friend of Julien’s started working there a few years back and runs both Alpine Social and Poppy Brasserie so of course, we had to pop in and say hi. We probably hadn’t seen Jamie in over 10 years, since Julien last coached his basketball team, so it was nice to catch up and see him in his element. He created the fabulous menu at Alpine Social which is both delicious and decadent.

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Unfortunately, when we arrived at the Fairmont Lake Louise, Julien had a full-fledged head cold but we made the best of it. We still went out to dinner, although earlier than planned ;). When we arrived at Alpin, we were so pleased with the atmosphere. It has a cool and laid back feel to it but still very beautiful. It also offers touches of the outdoors with its woodsy winter decor and live trees.

Jamie came to see us, as soon as we were seated, and kindly explained his delicious menu. Knowing that we liked meat, he took charge and suggested a few of dishes he knew we’d enjoy.

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Lucky for us, he treated us to the Crispy Pork Ribs which were to die for! Julien is a major rib lover and I think that he’s officially turned me into one as well 😉 these were insane. Crunchy on the outside and super flavourful and tender on the inside. They were served with a delicious coleslaw which paired perfectly with the meat. At the same time, we were served the seared scallops. Check these out. I think they were the best scallops I have EVER eaten:

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They were served on a curried cauliflower puree with a bacon jam, crispy leeks (OMG) charred cauliflower and chicharron! AMAZING!

Next were our mains courses: tenderloin and striploin. Each of the main courses are served with a blend of Canadian grains and a choice of two additional sides. Yep, I said two! We choose the sauteed rapini and maple glazed heirloom carrots:

I was never a huge fan of rapini, when I was younger, but I’ve really grown to love it. For those who haven’t tried it yet, it looks a bit like broccoli but it has a bitter taste. Also, the mashed potatoes that accompanied my beef were literally the best I’ve EVER eaten in my entire life and I like to think that we eat well. Jamie, I have no idea how you achieved the flavour and consistency but it was 100% on point. If you read this, please send me the recipe if you’re willing to share ;).

I’d also like to note that our waitress (whose name I, unfortunately, cannot remember) was fabulous. She was super sweet but also very knowledgeable about the menu and the wines offered at the restaurant. We loved her so much that Julien requested to be seated in her area the following evening. Why mess with a great thing, right!

Of course, our evening had to end with dessert. Unfortunately, Julien wasn’t feeling the hottest by the end of the meal so Jamie had dessert sent to our room. We got ready for bed, made some peppermint tea and our dessert arrived just as we got into our comfies. Jamie prepared a beautiful creme brulee for us. I never had a chance to ask him but I believe that it was prepared with quite a bit of lemon which made it unique. I was also surprised to find out, the next evening, that it was a cheesecake creme brulee. Why is this important, well because I HATE cheesecake…of course, Julien loved this 😉 this just shows you how good it was!

Dining at Alpine Social was a unique and tasty experience. The atmosphere, including a live band, was so relaxing and cozy and the food is exquisite. For those of you who are planning on heading to the Fairmont Lake Louise this year, I highly recommend that you stop by Alpine Social and taste some of the beautiful dishes on Jamie’s menu. You won’t regret it.

Have you stayed at the Fairmont Lake Louise? If so, what did you think? Did you have a favourite restaurant?

That’s all for now. Hope you have a fabulous weekend and for those of you who live in Ottawa, stay warm.

Ciao,

xo

 

 

 

Our first two nights in Banff – Rim Rock Resort Hotel

Hi everyone,

I hope you had a VERY merry Christmas with your friends and families and that you were able to relax a but during the holidays.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram at lovelylife.xo, you already know that Julien and I recently traveled to Banff and had a fabulous time. 2017 was both a great and challenging year and after not having traveled just the two of us in a few years, we decided to treat ourselves to a 4 night trip to Banff and it was worth every dollar and minute spent away. Yes, we missed the kids but it was SO nice to spend a chunk of time just the two of us. I’d like to start by saying a big thank you to our parents who kindly agreed to watch the kids while we were away. This trip wouldn’t have been possible with ya and we are so grateful for your help.

This trip was my first time traveling to Banff and I can’t wait to return, espcially with the kids. We had a direct flight to Calgary and then drove to Banff. The drive was stunning. Seeing the Rockies from afar was beautiful but driving towards and through them was quite the experience. Of course, you know that they are enormous but it’s totally different when you’re driving, hiking and/or climbing them.

We spent the first two nights at the Rim Rock Resort Hotel in Banff. Pulling up to the hotel it looked just ok but once we entered, we were really happy with the hotel. Their foyer opens onto a stunning living space with a large fireplace, cozy Christmas decor and floor to ceiling windows looking onto the Rockies. Needless to say, we were impressed from the start. On top of this, the resort’s service was impeccable and the staff were so nice. Our stay was amazing!

After getting our room keys, we made our way to our room which was breathtaking. It was a very large room with a beautiful view which we never grew sick of it. During the two days we were there, we often stood right in front of the windows, gazing in awe at the beauty that was outside.

After digesting the view, we noticed that the hotel had left us a card and chocolate covered strawberries as an anniversary gift. A big thank you to the Rim Rock for this sweet touch. It was greatly appreciated :).

We spent the next two days, relaxing, sleeping, eating, hot tubbing and touring around Banff. The first night we walked through Banff and I was pleasantly surprised by how small it is The town is quaint and the streets are covered in cute stores and restaurants. #love.

Our first dinner was at Saltlik. If you like steak and you’re going to Banff soon, I highly recommend that you eat here! The restaurant has two floors. The first is more laid back and cozy and the second floor has more of a fine dining experience. We were in a cozy mood so we opted for eating on the first floor. It had a beautiful fireplace, cozy booths and was beautifully decorated for Christmas. As for the food, it was delicious!!! Our tuna tartar was by far the best I’ve EVER eaten and it was beautifully presented. How gorgeous is this plate:

As for the steak, Julien ordered the 8oz Chipotle Prime Sirloin and I ordered the hanger steak. They were both delicious but the hanger steak was the best of the two. It was served with a jus and a balsamic sauce. Both paired extremely well with the meat. #delicious!

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After dinner, we were full and exhausted from our travel day so we took the local bus up to our hotel and crashed early.

We spent the next day exploring Banff. We hiked from our hotel to the Fairmont and took in some of the hotel’s history and architecture. What a beautiful hotel.

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We then hiked into a Banff and stopped at Bear Street Tavern for lunch. We were seated about 10 minutes before their lunch rush and what a rush it was. This restaurant was packed with people and it’s obviously because they offer amazing pizzas. I ordered the Viva La Pizza and Julien had their special. Good news fellow GF eaters, their GF pizza was the best I’ve ever had at a restaurant. It may be because it was covered in delicious toppings and then dipped in their house-made garlic chili oil mixed with honey (YES, this sauce was UNREAL). Either way, I loved it! For those who know me, pizza is by far one of my favourite foods so it was nice to enjoy a GF pizza with a delicious crust.

When we left the restaurant, it was snowing lightly which was both beautiful and romantic. We spent the rest of our afternoon in the hot tub and resting after our day spent outdoors. We didn’t even leave the hotel for dinner. We decided to stay in and try Eden, the hotel’s five-diamond restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t love our experience at Eden. Although the service was good, the food was just ok. The meals we had eaten in town were much better. The dishes were beautifully presented though. Here are a few pics of some of the courses:

Overall, our experience at the Rim Rock hotel was fabulous. So much so that we missed it once we checked in at the Fairmont Lake Louise. Our hotel room was awesome, the views were stunning and the service was fabulous. They even went above and beyond and gave me bear spray for our hike since I have an irrational fear of bears 😉 silly, I know lol.

The next day, we checked out of the Rim Rock hotel as we were heading to the Fairmont Lake Louise for the last two nights. Before heading there though, we took the Banff gondola up Sulphur Mountain. Julien had already experienced this and said that it was an absolute must and he was right! The tickets cost about $100 and they were totally worth it. We spent over two hours walking along the ridgetop boardwalk and checking out the exhibits.

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We also enjoyed a well-deserved soup at Sky Bistro, a restaurant at the top of Sulphur Mountain, which offered affordable and hearty dishes with a view.

Guys, this trip was amazing! Every day brought new and exciting meals, views and experiences but, most importantly, it was very relaxing and so much fun to experience just the two of us. This trip was exactly what I was looking for as I was able to recharge. It was also an awesome way to kick start the holiday season.

Banff is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve traveled to yet. Have you been? If so, what was your favourite part of your trip? and what would you recommend that we try next time?

As previously mentioned, our last two nights were spent at the Fairmont Lake Louise. Make sure to stop by the blog next Friday to see what we got up to there.

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Ciao,

Ash

 

Last minute Christmas dessert ideas

Hey everyone,

My apologies for not posting last week. I had promised myself that I would never miss a post but it just wasn’t in the cards last week. For those who follow me on Instagram (lovelylife.xo), you already know that Julien and I were away in Banff for four nights last week, so the beginning of the week was spent preparing for our trip. i.e. wrapping things up at work, getting things in order at home, and ensuring that the kids were packed for their time spent with their grandparents. The good news is that I plan on dedicating next week’s post to our time spent in Banff. It should be a fun post so please do check it out.

Missing five days before Christmas meant that I had to get most of my baking, shopping and meal planning done ahead of time which I sort of managed to do…sort of lol 😉 Although I had done most of my baking, I still had a couple fun and easy dessert recipes to make. My son and I managed to make them last night, just in time for their last day at daycare. For those of you who are late with your holiday baking or simply looking for a quick and easy recipe to make before Christmas, I highly recommend trying these out.

First up is a recipe for bark. I don’t know about you, but I always thought that bark would be difficult to make. The truth is is that it’s one of the easiest recipes to make.

White Chocolate and Cranberry Bark
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 cup of pistachios, shelled

Method:

  1. Put your chopped white chocolate in a microwavable bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at a time. After 30 seconds, stir chocolate and repeat until fully melted.
  2. Once melted, stir in your dried cranberries and shelled pistachios. (note: feel free to add whichever  nuts or dried fruits that you like).
  3. Pour mixture onto foil-lined (or Silpat lined) baking sheet and spread to desired thickness.
  4. Freeze until solid and then break into pieces.
  5. Store in an airtight container and freeze.

Martha Stewart’s Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Method:

1. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

2. Divide the dough in half and flatten into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and freeze ( or refrigerate) until firm, at least 20 minutes.

3. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Line your baking sheet with a Silpat or aluminum foil. Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out to desired thickness between two sheets of floured parchment paper. Dust dough with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to a prepared baking sheet. (If dough gets soft, chill for 10 minutes).

4. Bake, rotating halfway through until edges are golden (approx.10 to 18 minutes) depending on their size. Cool completely on wire racks.

5. For the icing, sift icing sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in 4 tbs’s of milk until icing is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If too thin, whisk in more sugar; if too thick, add more milk.

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6. If you want to make coloured icing, separate icing into a few bowls and add desired food colouring to each and mix.

7. Ice cookies and decorate as you like using sprinkles or candies.

As previously mentioned, whether I’m making cookies, brownies or bark, I like to freeze them and take one out at a time when I’m craving something sweet.

Christmas is only a few days away now so I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas with your friends and families. To those who have been following my blog regularly, I thank you for all of your support during the last 6 months and I hope that you continue to check out my weekly posts. Please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what you like to see on the blog, as I would like to focus on topics that interest you.

Merry Christmas!!!

Ash

 

 

 

Our favourite Christmas dessert recipes!

Hi everyone,

Today, I’m going to share with you a few recipes of our favourtie Christmas desserts that we’ve been making annually for about 5 years now.

I’ll start with my favourite recipe, Martha Stewart’s Mint-Chocolate Brownies. OMG this recipe is to die for and they are a chocolate lovers dream. I don’t know what it is about Martha but all of her dessert recipes are the best!

Mint-Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients:

  • One stick of unsalted butter (8 tbs)
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bitter sweet chocolate, whichever you prefer
  • One cup of sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 25 small peppermint patties (these MAKE this recipe)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line your 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and then butter the parchment paper.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir for about 4-5 mins until chocolate is melted.
  3. Remove from the heat and whisk in your sugar and salt until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in eggs and then gently whisk in flour and cocoa powder until smooth.
  4. Spread 1/3 of your batter in your pan. Place peppermint patties on top of the batter in a single layer, making sure to leave a border on all sides. Note: I can never find the mini peppermint patties so I use the large ones.
  5. Top the peppermint patties with the remaining batter and smooth the surface.
  6. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Approximately 35-40 minutes.
  7. Cool the brownies completely before cutting brownies.

Yields: 16 delicious brownies

My second favourite recipe is a cookie recipe by Trisha Yearwood that I found on the Food Network’s website. WARNING: they are super sweet so this recipe is good for those who have a real sweet tooth.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate hips
  • 3/4 cup macadamia nuts

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.
  2. Using your electric mixer, cream the butter with both sugars until smooth. Add your vanilla and egg, making sure to mix well.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking soda. Spoon the flour mixture into the creamed sugar mixture.
  4. Stir in your cranberries, white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.
  5. Drop large spoonfuls, about 2 tbs, of dough on prepared baking sheets and bake one sheet at a time for 12-15 minutes.
  6. Note: we aren’t the biggest fans of macadamia nuts but they go very well in this recipe.

Yields: 24 cookies

Last, but not least, is a recipe for bark brought to you by the blog browneyedbaker. The fun thing about bark is that you can put whatever ingredients you want in them, so you should totally try modifying this recipe and using your favourite nuts or dried fruit.

 

Pistachio and Cranberry White Chocolate Bark 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2lb white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method:

  1. Line your baking sheet with your silpat or parchment.
  2. Melt your chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwavable bowl for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave.
  3. Once the chocolate has melted, remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add pistachios and cranberries and stir to combine.
  5. Spread the chocolate mixture onto your prepared pan and place in the fridge for at least 20 mins, until set, and then cute into pieces. (Note: I prefer freezing it and then cutting/breaking the bark into pieces).

The great thing about all of these recipes is that you can freeze them and take them out when you feel like a treat or when you’re hosting. We plan on baking each of these this weekend. Make sure to stop by my Instagram account, lovelylife.xo to see pics.

If you decide to try one of these out, please let me know what you think of them by leaving a comment below. I’d also love to hear about your favourite Christmas dessert recipes, if you have any 🙂 .

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Talk soon,

Ash

Le Baccara – What a treat!

Hey guys,

Hope you’re having a great week! Can you believe that it’s December already! I don’t know about you but I’m ready and excited for the last month of the year. Along with December, comes Christmas and Christmas outings. The following is just one of many.

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of joining our friends, George and Chels for dinner at Le Baccara, a 5 diamond restaurant located in the Casino Lac-Leamy and what an experience it was. I had been to the Casino several times before but it had been at least 10 years and I definitely didn’t experience it like this.

As soon as we pulled up, I was in awe at how beautifully decorated the hotel and lobby were for the Christmas season. The grandeur of all of the decorations and trees was breathtaking.

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We started our evening at the Bacchus bar equipped with fabulous glass tables, large leather seats and an impressive, to say the least, fireplace. It was the perfect spot to sit and catch up over a cocktail. We sipped on a bottle of Champagne and caught up on our weeks. Not a bad way to end a busy week and kick start the evening right ;).

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Next stop was dinner at Le Baccara. We walked though the casino and past this beautiful tree.

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Isn’t it breathtaking? WOW.

The experience was fabulous from the start. As soon as we arrived, we were promptly escorted to our tables and within a matter of minutes, we were served champagne. We spent the next 45 mins sipping on it, in large comfy chairs knowing that we had a delicious meal ahead of us.

As for the meal, we enjoyed a six course meal. Each course was beautifully presented and paired with the perfect glass of wine. The service was fabulous and our sommelier, Danielle Dupont, was impeccable. She was able to describe our wines beautifully and was extremely knowledgeable which was great for Julien and George who love to ask plenty of questions about what they’re eating and drinking ;).

Our first course was by far my favourite. It was a beef carpaccio that was to die for. It was like no other. As you can see, it offered many elements, including sliced truffles. #yum

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Our second dish was a lobster tail, with tete fromagee (my apologies for the missing accents. I need to figure out how to use them on my new Chromebook).

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What I love about these dinning experiences, is that I get try foods I wouldn’t necessarily try or cook myself. Although I am not a picky eater, I enjoyed the lobster tail but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the tete fromagee (made with pigs feet). Maybe it’s an acquired taste ;)? Although it wasn’t my favourite part of the meal, I have to say that it was beautifully presented and very flavourful.

Next was a foie gras poele. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the actual foie gras lol but it’s because I was so blown away by its presentation as it arrived at the table :).

 

It was served with a glass of Sauterne. As you can see, Chels and I approved ;).

Next on the menu was a seared scallop with octopus. This scallop was cooked to perfection and delicious!!! Although I love scallops, I haven’t been brave enough to cook them myself. I find that there’s a fine line when cooking them. If you sear them too long, they’re chewy but if you don’t cook them enough they’re slimy. As for the octopus, it looked beautiful but I wasn’t a fan. Perhaps it too will grow on me ;).

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Second to last was pheasant with a potato puree and a baked apple stuffed with raisins. This dish was my second favourite. I had never had pheasant before and it was delicious. I highly recommend it for those who haven’t yet tried it. The veggies and potato puree were lovely but the stuffed apple offered a unique touch. It was sweet, almost like a dessert, and paired beautifully with the pheasant. Original and super tasty.

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Last, but not least, was dessert. By then, we were full and I forgot to take a picture. Yep, I’m totally regretting having not taken a picture but I’ve learned from my mistake 😉 and won’t forget next time we’re out. It was a baked apple served on top of a homemade cookie.

Overall, this evening was spectacular from start until finish. Le Baccara is definitely worth the 5 starts that it’s earned and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to celebrate an important milestone such as a birthday or anniversary. On top of all of this, they were very understanding of my gluten allergy and ensured that each of my dishes were GF. Merci Le Baccara!

For those who have been to Le Baccara, what did you think of this restaurant and what was your favourite dish?

That’s all for now! Hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Talk soon xo

The best ever chocolate chip cookies!

Hey fellow chocolate and cookie lovers!

Do you have a favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe? Either way, you HAVE to try this recipe out! I wish I could say that I came up with it myself but I didn’t 😉 I owe a big thank you to Martha Stewart for this one. Like most of her baked goods, this one is insanely good.

I’ve been making this recipe for 7 years now and, even though I am GF, I will continue to make them for my family since they’re their favourite. I have challenged myself though to try to find a GF alternative. It hasn’t happened yet but if and when it does, I will make sure to share it with you.

So here’s my secret/not so secret recipe for Martha Stewart’s soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup brown sugar…I know, it’s a lot. I usually use 3/4cup of brown sugar max but it’s up to you and how sweet you like your cookies
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (although I love chocolate, I find 2 cups a little much so I usually add a little over one cup)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda and set aside
  3. In a bowl with an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars
  4. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy
  5. Reduce speed to low, add the salt, vanilla, and eggs
  6. Beat until well mixed (about one minute)
  7. Add flour mixture, mix until just combined
  8. Make tbs size balls of dough and place them on your baking sheets

 

9. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges (approx 8-10 minutes)

 

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*Note: this recipe makes approx. 3 dozen cookies.

Of course, my little helper helped baked these sweet treats. We happened to make them last Sunday after the snowfall so we, of course, made hot chocolate and enjoyed it while the cookies were cooking in the oven.

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Hope you guys enjoy this recipe. If you try it out, please let me know what you think and if you have any favourite recipes, especially GF ones, I would love to know about them so please leave a comment or msg me.

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

xo

 

“Winter is coming” – Are you ready?

Hey guys,

November has arrived, along with its cooler weather, brrr! Are you ready for winter? Lucky for me, having little ones means that I have to get my butt in gear and make sure that they are well dressed for the cooler weather but, like most parents, that doesn’t mean that I’m ready.

After wearing the same Tommy Hilfiger jacket for 7 years, and through two pregnancies, I finally decided to splurge and buy myself a new coat. Afterall, I’m going to Banff next month and “need” a new coat to keep warm 😉 The only thing is that I didn’t have the time to endlessly browse through the malls to find the perfect jacket, until this week… For those who follow my Instagram account, lovelylifexo, you already know about this but, for those who don’t, Julien and I were supposed to go to Le Nordik Monday but weren’t able to because it was packed. Rather than spending the day at the spa doing nothing but relaxing, we ended up doing some Christmas shopping and Julien convinced me to look around for a winter jacket and, of course, we found one.

We stopped at Bayshore to check out what they had to offer. Don’t you find that shopping for a practical winter jacket is like jean shopping? The shopping experience can be long and painful but once you find the right pair or coat it’s unbelievably satisfying. Especially when your husband is the one encouraging you to make the purchase 😉 thanks babe.

Our first stop was the Bay. Do you know how many jackets they have there? Tons but most of them were the same style and not what I was looking for. Like most purchases, I was trying to find something a little different and unique. Our next stop was the Coat co, Reitmans and, of course, my favourite store Zara but none offered an affordable, warm and stylish coat. It wasn’t until we went to Aritzia that I found “the one.”

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I was hoping to buy a maroon coloured jacket and managed to find one. I know that Aritzia’s winter jackets are super popular but I had never tried them on. Until this year 😉 Exciting news is that they are offering new styles and they are fabulous!!!

After trying on a few, I ended up buying the Babton Harrison parka brought to you by Aritzia! How fabulous is this jacket :)!? It provides warmth until minus 30 and literally feels like you’re wearing a duvet when you put this jacket on.

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It’s the details that make this jacket amazing:

  • It’s 100% responsibly sourced goose down;
  • It’s made of both water and windproof exterior fabric;
  • It has a real faux fur hood lining and trim and is made of luxe vegan fur with an authentic look and feel; and
  • The pockets are fleece-lined and so warm and cozy.

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The only con I see with this jacket is that it is almost too warm. I haven’t been able to wear it yet but I look forward to doing so during our trip to Banff next month. I think it will be perfect for the wintery occasion. An added bonus is that this jacket is stunning and is offered in both black and maroon.

So, if you are looking for a new winter jacket I suggest you stop by Aritzia to see what they have to offer this year. They have their traditional style but a few new ones as well. The only thing I have left to buy are some new and warm gloves. If you have any suggestions on where I can find some, please let me know.

For those who live in Ottawa, I hope that you’re ready for winter since it’s supposed to feel like minus 10 Friday morning and we’re supposed to get snow over the weekend. Stay warm!!!

Talk soon,

Ash xo