Chateau Laurier: Ottawa's Most Luxurious Hotel Celebrates Winter With A Wildly Winterlude Package

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I love exploring luxurious hotels in every city I visit–it's one of my favourite thing to do. Some people aren't hotel people; I'm not one of those people. I even love staying in hotels in the city I live in. Staycations are fun, and a great way to re-discover things about your city all over again. Sometimes, a staycation is all you need to feel like you're on vacation.

Chateau Laurier is Ottawa's most luxurious hotel located minutes from Parliament Hill, Rideau Centre, the Byward Market and Rideau Canal, and it's one place I love visiting. It holds a special place in my heart because it's where my husband and I stayed after our wedding, before we left for our honeymoon to Aruba, and it's where my sister got married. We also love spending summer evenings on the Wilfrid's patio, taking in the glorious sunset while drinking champagne.



I had the pleasure of staying at the Chateau Laurier last month, to experience and review the property's multi-million dollar guest room renovations. We stayed on the Fairmont Gold floor, which was quite impressive, with private check-in on the 4th floor and personalized service. We enjoyed the complimentary breakfast and the Nespresso bar (along with fresh fruit, nuts, candies, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages available for Fairmont Gold guests throughout the day). From 5 to 7 p.m., Fairmont Gold guests can also enjoy the delicious and complimentary appetizers and desserts. The Fairmont Gold experience–often described as a 'hotel within a hotel'–was fabulous and made our stay that much more memorable.

My husband and I had the chance to go to Zoe's, an Ottawa hot-spot, for cocktails and appetizers, and I loved the ambiance–from the great service to the gorgeous views overlooking the downtown core, it's become one of my favourite places to grab drinks at night.




With Winterlude around the corner, you can check-in to Chateau Laurier and experience their Wildly Winterlude Package, taking place from February 1st to the 17th. You'll be steps away from the world's largest skating rink, and you can take in the ice carvings and snow sculptures. Once you're finished Winterlude-ing, head back to Chateau Laurier to warm up with some hot chocolate and dinner at Wilfrid's. The Wildy Winterlude Package includes weekend accommodation and complimentary coupons for BeaverTails and hot chocolate. (After all, it's not Winterlude without BeaverTails!).

Fairmont Chateau Laurier is the place to stay if you're looking for luxury accommodations, a romantic weekend getaway, or a fun family adventure. This charming and historic hotel is a beautiful landmark in Ottawa and a vital part of Canadian history.

Thank you, Chateau Laurier, for treating us to a fabulous staycation. We can't wait to come back!
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Making An Impact With Campaign Monitor

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Whether you're new to blogging or online marketing, there is always something new to learn, and there are always ways you can improve your reach and engagement with your audience. I believe what you deliver to your readers is always important, and should always be authentic; I only write about things I'm passionate about; parenting, style, travel, and beauty—and I'm always honest with my reviews and opinions. I've been blogging since 2007 and I love that I've been able to turn my hobby into a business—one I continue to try to improve on every day. We are often inundated with information on a daily basis, across all social media platforms, so it's important to stand out, by continuing to provide timely and relevant content to your readers, and by doing something different—that's guaranteed to increase readers to your site, as long as you remain true to your own voice.

Whether you're just starting out or looking to grow your already established audience base, using a resource like Campaign Monitor can help immensely.

Campaign Monitor is a global technology company that provides an email marketing platform that is easy to use yet extremely powerful. Campaign Monitor provides more than 250,000 customers the tools they need to make lasting impressions on their audiences through the use of email.

As a content creator, I never gave much thought to sending out email newsletters like many of my friends in the blogosphere, until I discovered this great company. Campaign Monitor takes the hard work out of planning email content for your audience, and delivers excellent results. I had the chance to try it out, and I love how straightforward and simple of a process it was to get started.

Campaign Monitor gives you everything you need to run beautifully designed, professional email marketing campaigns to grow your blog, and your business, with help along the way, if you need it.

Here are some highlights:

1. With Campaign Monitor, you gain access to hundreds of mobile-optimized professionally designed email templates that resonate with your specific audience. The email templates look good; it's the initial look that prompts people to continue reading, as is often the case for me. Their email templates command attention—there are so many pretty designs to choose from.

2. It's simple to use. You can create gorgeous email campaigns and newsletters that will get results, by using the simple and easy-to-use drop-and-drag email builder, and you can choose from hundreds of professionally-designed templates. You can make them your own for a completely branded email campaign that looks great on every device, too. All template are fully tested and mobile ready. You just have to build it once, and use it on any device.

3. By using Campaign Monitor, you can grow your email list, and reach a bigger audience. All you have to do is use signup forms to build your audience and introduce yourself and your business or blog to new customers. From your website (to your store!), Campaign Monitor's tools allow you to do it all from wherever you are, making it super convenient. You can even bring in new subscribers from your website by choosing a variety of signup forms.

4. Campaign Monitor allows you to use your existing social media engagement to build your list of email subscribers, by simply adding a button to your Facebook page or by creating an offer for email subscribers. Campaign Monitor also provides a white label service for agencies to use for their clients' social channels, allowing you to leverage your social following.

5. If you're looking for new ways to help grow your audience, Campaign Monitor partners with the world's best tools to grow your email list, like WordPress. You can add a simple, branded-subscription button on your website to easily convert your online visitors into newsletter subscribers.

6. It's affordable. Using Campaign Monitor to grow your audience base (and to keep your regular audience coming back for more!) is affordable. It's only $9/month, and this fee includes 2,500 emails across campaigns, automated emails, customer support via email, and all core marketing features (drag-and-drop email builder, professionally-designed templates to launch completely branded email campaigns, and more) as well as basic marketing automation. With this monthly cost, you will also get an overall view of your email marketing analytics with out of the box reports for key KPIs, subscriber growth, and engagement.

Disclaimer: I received compensation for my post. All views and opinions are my own.
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The Endy Mattress Review

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We recently completed a master-bedroom makeover which included a new king-size Casper mattress that I reviewed last year. We love the mattress and our renovated bedroom. Our children's rooms were next; our son needed a new mattress, and the timing couldn't be more perfect, because I was asked to review and test out the Endy Mattress. I instantly said yes to this partnership, having read so many great things about this Canadian company.

The Endy Mattress Review

After a few months of sleeping on the Endy Mattress, my son has declared it's the best mattress he's ever slept on–and he truly has had the best sleep ever, hardly waking up throughout the night.

The Endy Mattress has received great buzz over the last few years–it's Canada's highest-rated and best-selling online mattress–so this peaked my interest; what was it about the Endy that everyone loved so much? I was so excited to finally put it to the test in our house. Our bedtime ritual includes me laying next to my son in bed; it's where we talk about his day, read books together, and snooze. Sometimes I fall into such a deep sleep I don't even make it back to my bedroom–that's how comfortable and supportive the Endy Mattress is.


Soft versus Firm

The Endy Mattress is a little softer than the Casper mattress, which I think is more firm. At first I wasn't sure if the Endy was for me, but after a few weeks of trying it out, I got used to it, and would equally love it in my bedroom. Thankfully, we have the best of both worlds in our house now.

If you like a firm mattress, the Casper might be the better choice. If you love the feel of a softer memory foam mattress that also provides great support, the Endy Mattress is the perfect one for you. The Endy Mattress is really comfortable, but unlike other memory-foam mattresses, you can also comfortably sit on the edge of it without feeling like you're going to fall off. It still has a good firmness to it, and provides great support.

Sleep Cool 

The Endy Comfort Foam has a unique open-air cell structure, designed to provide great support while reducing pressure and contouring to the body. The foam's top layer allows heat to dissipate from the body faster, providing a cooler sleep.

Sheets and Pillows 

Not only does Endy make a great mattress, they also make pillows, sheets, and pillowcases. The sheets are made from 480-threat count, 100% sateen-weave cotton. They're totally silky-smooth, soft, and wrinkle-resistant. (No ironing needed!) The sheets and pillowcases have been engineered to be the perfect balance of luxury feel and breathability. I noticed how easy it was to slip on the fitted sheet, too; there is an Endy logo on the sheets, which align with the Endy logo on the mattress. The fitted sheet has a super strong elastic band that keeps the sheets in place all night long. Best sheets ever? Yup!

The Endy pillows are plush, soft, comfortable, and very supportive. They feature a 100% cotton cover with a microfibre fill to give you the feeling of down, with the support and structure of a shredded memory foam core. You can customize your Endy pillow, by removing or re-adding extra foam to create the perfect pillow for you. (You can store the extra foam in the mesh bag that comes with the pillows, turning it into a travel pillow).

Shipping and Delivery

Shipping is free across Canada's 10 provinces, and receiving your Endy Mattress is the best part–it gets delivered right to your front door–compressed, rolled, and shipped in a box not much larger than a hockey bag. Once you receive your Endy Mattress, all you have to do is open the box, unroll it, unwrap the plastic wrapping protecting the mattress (the box comes with a cutting tool, too) and watch it expand to its regular size right away. (It'll reach its perfect comfort within a week). It's easy to set up and move around, too. We carried the box upstairs with no problem at all.

Price Point and Warranty 

Mattresses are usually very expensive, which is why people have such a hard time deciding what to buy. It often entails shopping around from store to store, trying out mattresses for a few minutes, and then having to decide. It's not exactly stress-free shopping. The best thing about Endy is that it's so affordable. A double mattress is 775 dollars, a queen-sized mattress, 850 dollars, and a king-sized mattress is only 950 dollars. A comfortable, well-made mattress that'll last for years, that's also easy on the wallet? Sold.

The Endy is covered by a 10-year warranty. For 10 years after your purchase, manufacturer defect is covered by warranty. Endy offers a one-time replacement or repair of the original mattress purchased. This includes all components of the mattress.

If you are looking for better sleep and need a new mattress, I highly recommend the Endy. It's comfortable, Canadian-made, and totally affordable. If you aren't fully satisfied, you can return it, hassle-free, thanks to Endy's 100-night trial. (If you have any specific questions, check out Endy's helpful FAQ section on their website).

We are very satisfied with our Endy Mattress, and I would definitely buy one for my other child, as well. It truly is better sleep, guaranteed.

You can save $50 off your mattress purchase, too! Just enter LOUKIA50 online when you're checking out.

Disclaimer: I partnered with Endy to review and test out their mattress, pillows, and sheets, and received all products in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 
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The First St. Regis In Canada Opens Its Doors In Toronto

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Canada's first St. Regis has finally arrived in Canada, making a grand entrance in downtown Toronto. With personalized butler service, a lobby bar, 124 spacious suites, a two-level spa, large swimming pool, and a stunning restaurant on the 31st floor, the hotel definitely caters to those who love fine dining, relaxation, and luxury.

I was thrilled to find out Canada was getting their very own St. Regis, but even more excited when I was invited to review the new hotel a few weeks ago. I've had the pleasure of experiencing the St. Regis Bal Harbour twice, and I instantly knew that my experience at St. Regis Toronto would be equally as memorable–for myself, for my husband, and for our children.

Fine Dining 

The newest restaurant that's causing a lot of buzz in Toronto is LOUIX LOUIS, on the 31st. floor of St. Regis Toronto. It's the perfect place to indulge in your most desired cravings, from caviar to champagne, and everything in between. The menu features items like whole truffle chicken, maple squash soup, seafood platters, snapper, and more. Perhaps one of the most delicious aspects of dining in LOUIX LOUIS is experiencing the 13-layer chocolate cake, called The King's Cake, which comes with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. There is also a secret garden terrace that can be enjoyed during the warmer months, with breathtaking views of downtown Toronto.


Rituals

The first St. Regis opened in New York City in 1904, and is still considered one of the finest hotels in America, and around the world. (After all, not many hotels come with personalized, around-the-clock butler service). There are 48 St. Regis hotels worldwide, from Abu Dhabi to Bal Harbour, and each hotel offers guests a truly exquisite experience. St. Regis strives to make every aspect of every moment perfect, and this is noticeable from the moment you check-in.

Every St. Regis around the world celebrates three daily rituals, an integral part of the brand:

The Bloody Mary ritual: This cocktail was actually founded and first created in St. Regis New York, and now, every hotel creates this drink as their speciality cocktail, with a local spin.

The Evening Ritual: This ritual takes place in every St. Regis at 5 p.m., and consists of a ceremonial champagne sabering in the lobby bar, where every guest that's of age can enjoy a glass of champagne

The Afternoon Tea Ritual: The afternoon tea ritual caters to both young and older guests, and can even be enjoyed poolside in some locations. It takes place on Saturday and Sunday.

Stunning Rooms and Service

We stayed in a two-bedroom suite, on the 28th floor of the hotel. Our suite had floor-to-ceiling windows, a dining room, a living room with fireplace, two large bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large foyer.

Our suite was stunning–and spacious enough for the four of us to truly enjoy. We arrived to some special treats, including personalized Christmas ornaments that took my breath away. It's the little things this hotel does that makes you feel like a most welcomed guest. Every detail is thought of, and children are equally welcomed, too; we had a video game console in our room with games, and our butler offered my youngest son a build-a-bear experience; his bunny even came with a St. Regis Toronto t-shirt, an excellent keepsake to remember our stay. For my older son, they welcomed him with a charcuterie board, something he thoroughly enjoyed. The in-room dining is also delicious, and the menu is quite extensive, catering to all tastes.





We spent time poolside, enjoyed the fine dining, and made the most of our time in our gorgeous suite. We were able to grab a quick bite to eat for breakfast, along with coffee and juice, in the Astor Lounge, the lobby bar, before we departed.


St. Regis is modern elegance, setting a new standard of luxury in Canada. The only disappointing thing about the hotel is having to say goodbye.

Disclaimer: I was offered a  two-night stay at the St. Regis Toronto, to experience all that is new at this hotel, including dinner at LOUIX LOUIS. All views and opinion are my own. 

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National Geographic Kids Celebrates 10 Years of Weird But True! Books With A Canadian Contest

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Disclaimer: I received products for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com) to use and post my honest opinions. Compensation for this post was provided and the page may contain affiliate links. 

When I was pregnant with my first-born son, I started shopping for children's books to fill the bookshelves in his room. I fell in love with reading when I was in the fourth grade, and have been an avid reader every since–I always have a couple of books on the go. I wanted to instill a love of reading in my children from an early age, and thoroughly enjoyed shopping for the books I hoped my children would enjoy. Reading books became an important part of our daily ritual, and my children continue to enjoy reading now that they're older.

My boys love reading the National Geographic Kids Weird But True! books, because these books provide a wealth of information and they're fun and easy to read. They're great books to travel with, and perfect to keep around the house for guests to enjoy, as well. These colourful books are a great way to encourage a love of reading in children, and also encourages curiosity about the world around them; from science to food and travel, there is something in these book every child will be drawn to, no matter their age. When kids have had too much screen time, these books make an excellent break from technology where they learn in a fun and entertaining way.

The Weird But True! books not only encourage children to read and learn more, but these books also give back; a portion of all books purchased help support National Geographic's exploration, conservation, research, and education projects.

These books–now over 25 in the series–inspire children to explore the world through text and visual images. We loved flipping through Weird But True! Canada, Weird But True! Animals, Weird But True! Christmas, and Weird But True! 10. Each book is fun to read, and children learn so many interesting facts, as well.


Weird But True! is celebrating its 10th anniversary of the original Weird But True! series, and to celebrate, the 1-10 series has been totally updated with new covers and 50 more facts that'll appeal to a new generation of young readers. These books are available in-store or through  natgeokids.com/wbtbooks. They make great keepsakes for children, and are great to gift, as well, for birthdays, holidays, and end-of-school year celebrations.

Weird But True! Canada Contest

Kids aged 6-14 are invited to enter the Weird But True! Canada contest to submit their own verifiably weird facts about their hometown, province, or country at natgeokids.com/wbtcanada, until January 31st, 2019. Good Luck–and happy reading!
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2019 Resolutions

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What are your goals for 2019? Sometimes I think we put too much pressure on ourselves with resolutions, but I think it's important to have some goals you want to achieve as the new year begins.

I always set fitness and healthy eating as top goals for myself, but I've made a lifestyle change over the last few months with regards to eating better and staying on top of my fitness routine, so my goals for 2019 will be to stay on top of my never-ending workload, by keeping my editorial calendar up-to-date, getting through my inbox in a realistic matter, and working on things I love, that I can share with my readers and audience.

Here are some ways you can make positive changes to your workload in 2019:

1. A stronger focus on personalization: When you're writing your blog or sending out email newsletters, remember to keep it personal. What started as a personal blog for me in 2007 turned into a business a few years later, and though I don't often blog about personal stories anymore, I keep my posts honest, review the things I love (whether it's beauty products or hotel stays) and share my personal opinions about the things I write about. Remember to deliver content that is tailored to your audience.

2. Increased awareness surrounding data security and privacy: Marketers and bloggers should expect 2019 to bring more security-savvy consumers who expect greater levels of safeguards in the products they use to reach their audience. Campaign Monitor, a leading provider of email marketing services, anticipates this trend and is continuously working on implementing security controls to help customers meet or exceed the needs of their subscribers.

3. More opportunities to practice accessibility: New technology like Google Home, Alexa, and Siri will end up changing how people interact with their email. There are a lot more things being read to you and you can now respond via voice, rather than with text. Make sure your emails can be read by voice-assisted devices, and use strong and compelling copywriting.

4. Authenticity will be the key to marketing success: Authenticity will be key to standing out in other people's inbox. People still love reading blogs that are authentic. With more brands than ever sending emails, the standard 'best practices' will not set you apart from everyone else. Take the extra steps to get to know your audience and customers and send relevant, targeted content based on their needs. Maybe even ask your followers and audience what they'd like to see from you in 2019!

5. Back to the email marketing basics: Email marketing is having a big moment and that's going to only get bigger in 2019. Keep things simple and have a solid content calendar in place. Don't forget: you have to get and keep people on your email lists for the content to matter.

6. Grow your list: The pressure on marketers and bloggers to grow their subscribers and email list will continue to rise and the methods for sourcing subscribers will become increasingly creative. Smart marketers and content creators will think critically about the lifecycle of their subscribers; with the subscribers interests in mind, you can grow your lists organically and encourage engagement for a longer period of time.


Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by Campaign Monitor, and all views and opinions are my own. I have received compensation for my partnership with Campaign Monitor.
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Holiday Gift Guide 2018

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One of my favourite things about the holiday season is the shopping. I love giving back to local charities and organizations, like CHEO and The Shoebox Project, and I enjoy buying presents for my family (especially my boys!) and my friends. December is the busiest month of all, with work, social events, and hosting parties, so I try to plan ahead as much as I can, and check things off my to-do list daily. 

Here are my holiday shopping tips and some great gift ideas to help you get through this hectic season with ease:

One-Stop Shopping

I can spend countless hours in Chapters-Indigo with my children selecting new books to add to our 'to-read' pile. Chapters-Indigo is the best one-stop shop for holiday gifts, too.

They have something for everyone on your list, including technology, like Beats Solo 3 Wireless Headphones, to home decor, journals, toys, accessories, and stylish items like purses, scarves, and hats. Whether you're shopping in-store or online at indigo.ca, your holiday shopping will be a breeze.



Gifts for the Beauty Lover

A company I've fallen in love with is top-shelf beauty brand, Bastide, from France. They have a variety of beautiful bath and body gifts, including fragrances, and bath oil. You can find Bastide at Holt Renfrew, or online. These products make perfect gifts and smell delicious. 



Head to Sephora (or shop Sephora online) to find everything you need for the beauty lover on your list–and for yourself, too. After all, we all need some glitter during the holiday season! Sephora carries skincare, fragrance, and make-up, from every brand I love, including Nars, Clarins, and Dior.


Another great idea for the beauty lover? The gift of Elizabeth Arden. My favourite beauty products are Elizabeth Arden's Advanced Ceramide Capsules and the new Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line-Erasing Night Serum. I use one in the morning and one at night, and my skin has never looked better. I also love the Prevage line, and use the Anti-Aging Moisture Cream with SPF 30 during the day. 

Monat also has some beautiful and delicious (the body oil is perfection!) gift packages; my personal favourite is the Bring on the Magic gift set which includes dry oil body spray, cleansing body oil, and nourishing body cream. These products will leave your skin smelling delicious and feeling smooth and soft. 



Shop Online

A great place to shop for all your gifts is through the aeroplan.com eStore, because Aeroplan has a special 12 Days of Gifting event taking place until December 14th. Aeroplan members can earn up to 10 times the miles through participating stores like Chapters-Indigo, Sephora, The Gap, Amazon, Easy, and more.

All you have to do is shop and earn miles as you go–basically giving yourself a present, too, because the more miles you collect, the closer you will be to booking your sunny vacation down south.

For the Hostess

December is all about entertaining, and enjoying the company of family and friends at holiday parties. Keep it simple when gifting the hostess a gift–everyone is happy with a bottle of Prosecco and chocolates.


My favourite bubbly to give is La Marca Prosecco. Pair the Prosecco with fine chocolates from Chocolats Favoris or Purdy's Chocolats, and your hostess will love you even more. 


Shop Local

Ottawa is full of amazing local businesses, so make it your mission to buy some gifts from local stores this year. Here are my picks:

Roadtrip: Roadtrip is located in the Byword Market, and carries a wide variety of excellent brands, including my favourite, BB Dakota. You'll find all your holiday festive wear at this store, as well as jeans, sweaters, and accessories.

Katye Landry Designs: This local jewelry designer makes the most precious pieces of handcrafted jewelry, from necklaces to earrings and bracelets, that can be customized with initials, names, or special dates. I received the Edge necklace with my children's initials, and the Tag necklace, with the letter L for Loukia. I wear both together.

BB Collection: Give the gift of glitter with BB Collection. For the cutest t-shirts an festive sweaters, you'll love everything you see when you shop BB Collection online. Heads up: December 17th is the deadline for delivery and pick-up orders in Ottawa.




Koyman Galleries: Buying original pieces of art is a gift that never goes out of style; in fact, it's a gift that increases in value over time, and it's a gift, when properly selected, that is cherished forever. 

My favourite local artists is Katerina Mertikas, of course—my mother. Her paintings light up any room, and grace the walls of thought of homes across Canada. 


Need more ideas? Pick up the holiday issue of Ottawa At Home Magazine, where you'll find tons of great gift ideas, including my article on the perfect toys to give kids (of all ages!) this holiday season.  
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12 Days Of Gifting With Aeroplan

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Are you feeling festive yet? I love everything about the holiday season, you guys. From decking the halls to baking cookies (no matter how terrible I am at that!) to attending and hosting Christmas parties, it's truly the most wonderful time of the year.

What I love most about this season, though, is shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on my list—especially when shopping is made easy. I just discovered the best way to shop for the holidays: through the Aeroplan eStore! It's shopping made easy because I can shop online from more than 170 stores, while earning Aeroplan Miles. Earning extra Aeroplan Miles means I'm one step closer to booking my next vacation, so it's kind of like giving myself a present, too, because all I want to do after the holiday season is over is get on a plane and head somewhere warm. If you're not an Aeroplan member, you can join here.

Aeroplan has a special 12 Days of Gifting shopping event coming up, too, and this is really sweet: every day, from December 3rd until December 14th, Aeroplan members can earn up to 10 times the miles and discover new bonus offers from different retailers every day. You can earn up to 10 times the Aeroplan Miles from stores like The Gap, Banana Republic, Sephora, Indigo, Etsy, The Bay, lululemon, and amazon.ca—basically every store I'd be shopping at anyway, for the loved ones on my list.

All you have to do is head to www.aeroplan.com/estore, enter your Aeroplan card number, and start shopping! Make sure to check aeroplan.com daily to find out the different deals every day during the 12 Days of Gifting event, too, so you don't miss any of the special deals and bonus miles you'll receive when you check-out with your purchases.

Once you've finished shopping, sit back, relax, and enjoy the extra time you have to spend with family and friends. Lucky for you, you won't be caught in a mall in a mad panic the day before Christmas, because all your shopping is done. You'll even have extra time to start dreaming of your next tropical vacation with all the extra miles you've accumulated through your online shopping.




Disclaimer: I have partnered with Aeroplan this holiday season and have received special perks and compensation for my post. All views and opinions are my own.
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Al's Steak House: Ottawa's Finest Dining Experience For Over 51 Years

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With the holiday season quickly approaching, many of us are starting to plan our holiday party schedule. From hosting parties with family and friends, to attending gatherings at local restaurants, it's gearing up to a very busy December.

Ottawa has some excellent restaurants perfect for holiday entertaining, and on the top of my list for where to dine in style is Al's Steak House. 


There aren't many place to go on a Saturday night that truly feel like a fine dining experience in Ottawa, where you can look forward to dressing up, people watching, and enjoying excellent food and drinks. Al's Steak House is the perfect combination of great food, excellent service, and romantic ambiance.

Al's is unique because it was Ottawa's first steak house, and it's been a family-run business for over 51 years. Now on their third generation, Al's serves tourists, celebrities, athletes, and local residents every day of the week. The family-owned business has a special appreciation for the city, and treats new and returning customers with that special treatment you don't often find in restaurants any more.


Al's is, of course, famous for the steak they serve; from how they treat steak the right way by cutting everything in their butchery in the basement and aging steaks in-house, to preparing and serving steaks any way customers want. They cook their steaks on live charcoal, and the end result is a steak so good you're be craving to go back again and again. It's truly my favourite steak house in Ottawa, and the only place I'll order a steak if I'm dining out in the city. Nothing compares!

In addition to steak, Al's has a full menu offering a wide variety of other food, from salads (and their world-famous Al's salad dressing) to chicken and fish, and sides like rice, mashed potatoes, and tasty french fries. There is something on the menu for everyone.


Al's has a lively happy hour that takes place Monday to Friday, from 4 to 7 p.m., in their newly renovated lounge, which is an excellent place to gather after work, only minutes from the city's downtown core. Bonus: there is free parking in the large parking lot behind the restaurant, making parking a breeze on busy Elgin Street.


Whether you're dining in the lounge area in a window seat with perfect Elgin Street views, or dining in a more romantic booth, Al's is perfect for everyone–for families, couples, and friends.

We are close friends with Al's entire family, and have been for many years; the restaurant holds a special place in our hearts. I remember dining at Al's throughout my twenties, with my parents and sister, and introducing my children to the restaurant when they were still infants. We mark special occasions, from birthdays to anniversaries, with a night out at Al's.

If you're looking for somewhere to book your holiday party, look no further than Al's Steak House; you'll love the entire experience. Another great idea for the holiday season? Gifting those closest to you with a gift card to Al's so they can enjoy a fine dining experience at their convenience.

Thank you, Al's, for always treating my family so well and with so much love. We can't wait to come back soon!

Disclaimers: In exchange for my review, I was treated to a night out at Al's Steak House, where I was able to escape for a romantic night out with my husband. All views and opinions are my own. 

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Get Minted This Holiday Season

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'Tis the season for Christmas cards! I know it's only November, but trust me–now is the perfect time to get organized to mail your holiday cards to family and friends. Sending out holiday cards is a great way to connect with loved ones, near and far, to let them know you're thinking of them. And whether your message is sentimental, funny, or casual–it's the thought that counts.

There is something so special about receiving cards in the mail during the holiday season, don't you agree? I love adding the cards I receive to our mantle over the fireplace–they add that extra touch to the festive decor.

I mail out Christmas cards every year–it's one of my favourite ways to get into the spirit of all things festive, and starting early means I won't panic at the last minute when things start to get really busy. Once I have my addresses together, it's time to select the perfect holiday card–and the best place to shop for that perfect holiday card is Minted.

Whether you're looking for creative photo cards or unique holiday cards, Minted has thousands of options. No matter what you order, it's going to stand out, because Minted cards are the prettiest.

Here are five reasons you should order your holiday cards from Minted this year:

1. The choice is yours. Whether you're looking for a unique card to feature your family photo, or a more classic, photo-free card, you'll fall in love with every single card on Minted. Seriously! There was not one card I did not like. It has taken me days to decide which card to order, because I love them all–and I'm still not sure.

2. Free custom envelopes with free recipient addressing. Yup, that's right. Minted will take care of addressing your envelopes for you! All you have to do is include the addresses when you place your order, and Minted will do the rest, for free–and they'll even style the addresses on the envelope to match your card design.

3. Luxurious card stock. Not only does Minted have the most beautiful and stylish holiday cards, they use the thickest card stock, too. If you're a stationary lover like I am, you'll really appreciate this.

4. Creative content. I love that Minted is a design marketplace. They source creative content from a global community of independent artists, then sell the best content in the form of art, home decor, and stationary. So not only are you buying unique cards, you're helping the art community thrive around the world.

5. Smart holiday cards. If you want your card to really stand out, you could order ornament cards, petite holiday cards, or even postcards. The all-in-one holiday card is perfect for those who love to include a yearly update in their card, as well.


Happy card shopping, everyone!

Right now when you order from Minted, you'll receive 15% off holiday cards when you spend $150 or more, and 10% off orders of $100 or more. Use code SHINE. There is also free shipping on all orders over $100, with the code FS100.




Disclaimer: I have partnered with Minted this holiday season and have received compensation or product in exchange for my personal review. 

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Haunting Season at Saunders Farm (And A Special Giveaway)

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*Edited to add: Thanks for everyone who entered the giveaway! I will try to give away more ticket this month, but in the meantime, please use code HS4034 for 10% off your tickets! 

Now that summer is over, it's time to welcome fall back into lives. Despite the change of weather, there is a lot I love about this season–the beautiful colours, the crips mornings, and my fall wardrobe: tights, boots, and sweaters make me almost as happy as little dresses and flip flops. Another thing I love about fall is visiting Saunders Farm–and I'm happy to say that this year, I am one of their Brand Ambassadors.

Every year, we love visiting Saunders Farm with the kids. There is so much to do and see at the Farm, and it's especially fun in October, as we get ready for Halloween. Haunting Season at Saunders Farm is a blast–spooky, fun, and memorable. Plus, it's so very picture-worthy surrounded by the hundreds of bright orange pumpkins.

The world-famous Haunting Season at Saunders Farm has been going on for 25 years, and with over 35 attractions, live shows, 9 mazes, multiple food booths, a giant corn maze, and the Barn of Terror, it's a definite spook-tacular experience for the entire family.

If you like getting scared, then check out Fright Fest–the number one haunted attraction in Canada with five fright sites, live original shows, street theatre, and a tavern. It's recommended for kids over 10 years old, because it can get super spooky. (But it's so much fun!).

I'm giving away a family pass so you can experience Saunders Farm this fall! Please leave a comment below or send me a message on Instagram letting me know what you most enjoy about fall. I will select a winner randomly and contact them via email on September 29th. 

I am also giving away tickets at a discounted, special price. All you have to do is buy your tickets online here, and use this code to redeem the discount: HS0244


This code is good until Sunday, September 30th.

Happy Haunting Season, everyone, and thank you for including me in the fun, Saunders Farm!
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Le Germain Hotel Ottawa

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Ottawa has drastically improved in many ways over the years, making it a must-see city for world travellers, and a place to re-discover for local residents. The downtown core has two new hotels perfect for those looking for a modern, stylish place to stay: Le Germain and Alt Hotel. (These two hotels, in addition to Andaz, have helped make downtown come alive again).

I had the chance to check-in to the Le Germain Hotel Ottawa with my husband for a mini staycation, and we loved the hotel–especially because of the location–only a short walk to CF Rideau Centre, and my favourite department store, Nordstrom. Nice hotels and shopping make me happy!


I've stayed at Le Germain in Toronto, and I found that hotel has a more bustling, sexy vibe, but Ottawa's version was equally beautiful and elegant, with an artful design, spectacular views of the city, and great service. The rooms are clean and modern, each one its own work of art that stays true to Ottawa's unique vibe. After all, there's no place like home.

Things I loved about Le Germain Ottawa:

The rooms. Spacious, modern, and stylish, with comfortable beds, the rooms are tastefully designed with modern fixtures, and an open-concept bathroom with rainfall shower, 100% pima cotton towels and bath robes, and Molton Brown toiletries.



Fitness facility. The hotel has a 24-hour fitness room located on the 5th floor, where you can work out to amazing views of downtown Ottawa, keeping fit while on the move.

Lexus courtesy car. If you need transportation to get around the city, the hotel will provide you with a stylish and comfortable Lexus. You can get behind the wheel yourself, or leave the driving to the pros.

Norca restaurant and bar. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the hotel's restaurant, Norca. Menu selections are inspired by local vendors and tastefully prepared by the hotel chef. There are many delicious options to discover on the menu.


Free deluxe continental breakfast. I love that a stay at Le Germain includes a delicious and complete free continental breakfast for guests to enjoy.

Thank you for your hospitality, Le Germain! We truly enjoyed our stay with you and would definitely recommend this hotel to guests looking for a place to stay in Ottawa. The location, service, and rooms make this hotel a perfect place to stay in Ottawa.
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From Portugal To France

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Summer is the sweetest season, and the shortest one, too. I'm holding on tight to these last few sun-kissed days, while looking forward to all the wonderful things fall has in store for my family and I.

A highlight of my summer was being invited to Portugal on a press trip with Jaguar, where I had the opportunity to test drive the brand-new, all-electric I-PACE through the streets, up the mountains on an off-road adventure, and around the race track.  It was a chance to explore a new country, drive an incredible car, meet new friends, and make lasting memories.

My trip included flying first-class on Air Canada. I thoroughly enjoyed the pod seats, (my seat basically turned into a bed) the many delicious meals, and the endless glasses of wine and bubbly I was served. It's not easy flying like a normal person now, after that experience. After our stay in Portugal, we boarded a private chartered flight to Paris—Paris!



Paris was every bit as breathtaking as I thought it would be, even though I only saw it for one night. The Eiffel Tower is dazzling, the architecture of every building was stunning, the people were friendly, and I really wanted to learn French. (Or at least learn to master the language; after all, I've lived in Ottawa most of my life, so I have some French skills). We enjoyed a French dinner at a Christian Constant restaurant and of course, bottles of wine, before touring around the city late at night. Despite the rain, all I was thinking about was how quickly I could return to Paris to experience it all over again—this time with my entire family.

I wrote about my fun I-PACE driving experience, but not about the amazing places I stayed on this press trip in full detail on my blog. (I wrote about this on Travel and Style).

After landing in Lisbon, we were driven (in a Jag, of course) to the luxurious Conrad Algarve resort located near Quinta do Lago, a popular tourist destination. South Portugal reminded me of Greece; the beautiful mountains, the hospitality, and the delicious food. From the luxurious Conrad Algarve, we drove the I-PACE to the beautiful town of Lagos, where we had the chance to stay at the coolest little boutique hotel—Casa Mae.

Here's what I loved about both properties, and why I highly recommend you plan a visit to Portugal soon:

The Conrad Algarve is located on the Atlantic Ocean coastline, and it's the perfect luxury resort to vacation at with family. The resort has a gorgeous spa, one you can enjoy indoors or outdoors in a private cabana. The spa has many services to choose from, including massages, facials, pedicures, and more. There is an indoor infinity pool in the spa, as well as an ice fountain, steam rooms, saunas, and experience showers. If I had more time at this resort, I'd spend my day in the spa.

I loved the stunning outdoor heated infinity pool, located behind the main lobby. The tranquil setting and mountain views was extremely relaxing. Below the infinity pool is the equally beautiful large lagoon-style pool and expansive sun terrace, surrounded by tropical gardens and palm trees. There is also a children's pool and private family cabanas. The pools are serviced by Dado Pool Restaurant, which features something delicious on the menu for everyone.

The Mediterranean-style restaurant, Gusto by Heinz Beck, is a must for food lovers, and you can’t go wrong with any of the fish dishes done in traditional Portuguese style.


If you want to work out, the resort has a fully-equipped gym as well, with the latest strength-training and cardio equipment, an outdoor sun terrace and chill-out zone, fresh towels and water bottles, personal trainers and fitness programs, and indoor/outdoor fitness classes.

The idyllic beach is only as short shuttle ride from the hotel. I hopped on the shuttle bus after I arrived to explore the sandy beach. I loved it. The beach has a full-service restaurant where you can enjoy lunch and dinner, and when you're relaxing on the beach, you can enjoy the sunbeds, parasols, fresh towels, and water they offer hotel guests.



The rooms were spacious, modern, and airy, and all rooms come with large balconies, complete with outdoor furniture for your enjoyment. The views were stunning, too!

From Conrad Algarve we drove through the mountains, went on an off-roading adventure, and even raced around the Autodromo Internacional do Algave in our I-PACE before checking in to the unique Casa Mae boutique hotel in Lagos.

Casa Mae boasts it’s more than a hotel; I have to agree. This is perhaps one of my favourite hotels I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, because of its charm, friendly service, and airy, breezy rooms. Casa Mae was an abandoned estate by the sea which was turned into a hotel, offering guests a quiet place to stay while visiting Lagos. I could have stayed for weeks, exploring the city’s golden cliffs, town square, and rocky beaches.
Casa Mae is a very sustainable hotel, where the owners aim to make it a community driven, socially engaged, and environmental conscious place to stay. 90 percent of what you’ll find at Casa Mae is made in Portugal, from the products sold in the hotel’s store, to the furniture and toiletries in the rooms.

I had the chance to dine at Orta restaurant with the rest of the media on our trip and the food was amazing, mostly because most of it is home-grown and home-baked by the hotel's experienced chefs. You can also explore their vast garden to see all the food they grow, and cook in the best farm to table tradition.

Breakfast? Fresh eggs on avocado toast. Perfection!

You can choose the style of the room you want to stay in, as well: minimalist, boho chic, or vintage. Each room offers something unique depending on your mood and style, and rooms are scattered among three buildings. I stayed in the newest building, and loved the minimalist look of the room, filled with local crafts, homemade soap and shampoo, and a perfect hammock to relax in on my balcony late into the night. 


No matter what room you stay in, you'll be met with the same sunny vibe and personalized service throughout your stay. It was truly the most uniquely beautiful experience.




I am so glad I said yes to this trip. I'm often invited on press trips but usually say no; sometimes, it's not possible to say yes, because of work demands and the worry of leaving my children at home (even though they're always in excellent hands). This trip taught me that it was okay to say yes to new experiences, to go outside my comfort zone, and to enjoy every minute of my time away.

Portugal and France are now checked off my bucket list, though I know I have to return to both countries to see their beauty again for a longer time, and make new memories. There is nothing better than travelling.

I'm forever grateful to Jaguar Land Rover for this experience, and can't wait to say yes again.
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