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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A Healthy Lifestyle With AdvoCare

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Now that summer is unofficially over, we’re back to the usual fall routines—kids back in school, making lunches every day, and work is picking up speed. While summer is all about going with the flow and enjoying all the season has to offer, I think fall is the perfect time to get organized—not only in the home, but with life, in general. For me, this means making sure we are all back to a healthy eating routine, one that is easy to follow, to ensure we’re eating the right nutrients every day, including eating healthy, well-balanced meals, working out regularly, and taking supplements to ensure I’m getting the nutrients I need on a daily basis.
I have partnered up with AdvoCare to talk about their great products, products that are well known for those striving to live their healthiest lives, and products that are now finally available in Canada. AdvoCare is an established nutrition and wellness company that provides innovative nutritional, weight-management, and sports performance products for adults. AdvoCare products are available for purchase through distributors, (you can even become an AdvoCare Distributor yourself!).
AdvoCare relies on credible scientific knowledge and high-quality ingredients that create safe and effective products; and all are compliant with Health Canada regulations. Coupled with the company’s commitment to helping people achieve physical wellness, AdvoCare offers the total package of solutions that are complementary to helping people reach a healthier version of themselves.
AdvoCare sells five distinct product lines in the U.S., but are starting with their best sellers in Canada, including Spark®, MNS®3 and the Protein and Vitamin Shake.
There is an excellent 24-Day Jumpstart™ program, as well, which is meant to be taken over a 24-day period, alongside a balanced diet and regular physical activity. The 24-Day Jumpstart™ program is designed to fuel a fresh start and help set you on the path to a healthy lifestyle. The 10-day cleanse phase helps you prepare your body for optimal nutrition, and then you complete the 14-day max phase, where you’ll start to develop a routine of fuelling your body with quality supplementation and a healthy, balanced diet.
Anything that helps me maintain a healthier lifestyle, I’m a fan of, and I look forward to incorporating these products into my healthy lifestyle routine.
To get connected with an independent AdvoCare Distributor or become one yourself, visit www.advocare.com.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I have received compensation to promote AdvoCare. All views and opinions are my own.

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Take The Pledge And Raise A Food Lover

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We all lead busy lives—from juggling work to extra-curricular activities, sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day to get it all done. Trying to find the perfect balance can be challenging, but one thing remains constant in my household: connecting around the dinner table. Coming from a Greek family, dinnertime was always a priority, no matter how busy our days were, and this is a tradition we’ve kept with our children.
Now that our boys are older (13 and 10 years old) my husband and I often get them to help out when it comes to dinner preparation, and even cooking; I’m happy to say that my even my youngest son can make a delicious homemade tomato sauce, with some ingredients coming from our own backyard vegetable garden, like basil, tomatoes, oregano, and onions.  Growing a garden was a new venture for us this summer, and one we thoroughly enjoyed. It made meal time prep more fun, and also forced us all to eat more vegetables than we were used to. 




Although I’m no master chef, my husband is. Often, I’ll get home from work after him, and he’ll already have dinner prepared for us all. I’m thankful for this, and I love the way he’s leading by example by showing our boys to be handy in the kitchen, too.
Most nights we enjoy dinner time just the four of us, and several times a week, we eat together with our extended family—my sister’s family, my parents, and my in-laws. It’s a wonderful thing that we all live close enough to be able to do this regularly, and I love watching my younger nieces and nephew help in the kitchen, as well.

Loblaws is asking Canadians to take the pledge to Raise a Food Lover, which helps encourage families to live a healthier lifestyle by cooking a meal and eating together at least once a week.  I took the pledge already, and had so much fun cooking with my family. The meal we made was a big one; we invited the entire family over and celebrated summer, by BBQing steaks, cooking scalloped potatoes, preparing a Greek salad, and steaming some tasty beans. Every time the kids are involved with preparing dinner, they learn something new, and hopefully, they’ll remember the steps they took so they can do it again the next time. I think it’s so important to teach our children the importance of nutrition, and eating together, especially in today’s busy, fast-paced world. It’s time to put the iPhones down, step away from Fortnite, and meet in the kitchen!


I believe a happy home is one that is filled with delicious and healthy food—we’re at Loblaws several times a week stocking up on all our necessities! I love shopping for food items at Loblaws, because they always have exactly what we need, and I appreciate how the company tries to encourage healthy eating for the entire family.  
Sign-up now to take the pledge to Raise a Food Lover, too. There are fun challenges to participate in and learn about the food we eat together as a family.


For the first challenge, all you have to do is pledge to eat together (at least once a week) as a family, and prepare and enjoy healthier food choices.
Here’s how to get involved:


  1. Take the pledge!
  2. Enter the first challenge by posting a picture of the delicious dish your family created on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
  3. Make sure to use the #RaiseAFoodLover hashtag.

When you take the pledge and participate in the challenge, your family will be entered to win some amazing prizes, like 10,000 PC Optimum points, or a WE Day family getaway—how amazing is that?



What’s even more amazing? I’m giving away a #RaiseAFoodLover prize package for one lucky family, which consists of:

  • $50 PC Gift Card
  • Raise A Food Lover aprons for your children
  • Welcome kit

To enter, leave me a comment telling me what meal you love preparing with your family. I’ll pick a winner randomly on September 12th, 2018. Please make sure to leave your email address in the comment so I’m able to contact you.

Good luck—and happy cooking!
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Review: The 2018 Ford EcoSport

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From driving the new Jaguar I-PACE in Portugal to summer road trips in the brand-new Ford EcoSport, I have found that as much as I love compact cars, I'm also a huge fan of the smaller sized SUV–especially when driving long distances with my family. They love the extra space as much as I do, and I love the clean, simple look of the EcoSport.


The Ford EcoSport, with heated leather-trimmed seating, is a super cute vehicle that look good outside and inside, and drives really well. It always takes some getting used to for me to drive a car that is not stick-shift, because I love the control of driving standard, but I still enjoyed driving the EcoSport to and from Montreal.

Some of the features I loved about this vehicle:

8-inch touchscreen that works like your smartphone. It's easy to use, simple to understand, and looks good.

4WD. The EcoSport is a really capable vehicle no matter what road conditions are like; this means you can feel just as safe driving in the winter when we have to deal with less than favourable weather for almost half the year.

Auto Start-Stop Technology. This technology helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions, as the auto start-stop shuts off the engine automatically when it's not needed, helping you save money, while helping the environment, too.

EcoSport's Standard Cargo Management. I like this feature because you can adjust the rear cargo shelf and customize how you want to stow your luggage and gear.

Available sync connect powered by FordPass. This is an awesome feature and one that I would most appreciate in the winter months, because it remotely starts, locks, and unlocks your vehicle. It can also check your approximate odometer reading, fuel level, and distance to empty.

Standard rear view cameras. I love the rear view cameras; I have a feeling it's helping a lot of drivers avoid minor accidents in tight spaces and parking lot, and I know this is a feature I need in my next vehicle.

The all-new 2018 Ford Eco-Sport is affordable (starting at $20, 985) and sporty, and the perfect vehicle for families looking to own an SUV for the first time. The technology in the EcoSport makes driving fun and convenient, and with Apple CarPlay, two fast charging USB ports, and 12-volt outlets, you'll always be connected on the road.

Thank you for the great experience, Ford!
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Summer Travels At Diplomat Beach Resort

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Ever since my 13 year old was two years old, we have been vacationing at the Diplomat at least once a year—in the winter, and many summers, too. It's a beautiful resort that's so familiar to us now, it feels like our home away from home.




Fresh from a $100 million dollar renovation, the Dip is now better than ever, with new rooms featuring a fun beach vibe. You can choose sunrise rooms, with oceanfront balconies and spectacular sunrises, or sunset rooms, where you can enjoy city views and a killer sunset from your balcony.

Whether you're travelling with family or friends, here's why a stay at the Diplomat Beach Resort is an excellent idea:

Outdoor paradise

The best thing about the Diplomat Beach Resort can be found outside. As soon as you walk out the doors passed the main lobby and hotel bar, you'll be in lush, tropical surroundings, surrounded by never-ending ocean views, comfortable seating around fire pits, and an outdoor bar.

The infinity pool is breathtaking, and the perfect place to start your day. There is also a great water park called Dip and Slide for the children to enjoy, with an enormous dump bucket, water slides, and water cannons.

Below the infinity pool, you'll find the resort's large lagoon-style pool, complete with waterfalls. To make the most of your stay, rent a pool-side cabana—this will give you extra privacy. The cabanas come complete with a mini-refrigerator, flat-screen television set, indoor and outdoor seating, and personalized bar service.



Sip a pina colada, take a dip in the pool, and walk over to Candy N' Cones for an afternoon ice cream cone—all home-made—and totally delicious. Of course, the best part about being outside in south Florida is spending countless hours on the beach—swimming in the warm Atlantic ocean, relaxing on the lounge chairs, and playing in the sand with the kids—there is nothing more enjoyable than hearing those ocean waves all day long. You can also rent a jet ski or banana boat, play beach volleyball, and take part in early morning yoga on the beach.

Dining options

The Diplomat has excellent restaurants to dine at, from Diplomat Prime, one of south Florida's most famous steakhouses, to Monkitail. Monkitail was recently voted the best hotel restaurant in America by USA Today. I loved chef Michael Schulman's delicious Japanese cuisine, and especially loved the fried chicken, Kobe beef, sea bass sushi and edamame.

You can also enjoy Counter Point, a bakery and coffee shop in the main lobby serving breakfast and lunch, Point Royal, for some seafood, and Playa, for beach-side eats and drinks. Right across the street, at Diplomat Landing, you can eat Italian at Portico, or enjoy burgers and fries at Bristol's Burgers. There is something for everyone, really. (And if you're looking for a late night snack or a bottle of wine, head to the resort's grocery store, called The Canteen—it's always open late).

Spa and Fitness Centre

If you like to keep up your workout routine on vacation, the Diplomat has a beautiful two-story fitness centre with all the equipment you need to break a sweat: elliptical machines, treadmills, stationary bikes and free weights, and personal training and group fitness classes. You can also enjoy yoga on the beach.

The Diplomat Spa is where I prefer to spend my time, indulging in full-body massages before venturing out to enjoy the ocean. You can choose from a variety of massages, facials, and manicures and pedicures at the spa.

No matter what you love to do on vacation, there truly is something for everyone at the Diplomat Beach Resort, and we can't wait to be back.

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Avery Products Canada: Giving Back And A Back To School Giveaway

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It's almost time for back-to-school–and while this is a good thing in many ways, (hello, routine!) I'm sad my favourite season is almost over. We've had a wonderful summer that included some travelling and we've made the most of these hot, sunshiny days.

Even though I'm not heading back to school as a student, I share the excitement with my boys (or for my boys?)–my oldest is going into grade eight (I can't believe it!) and my youngest is heading into grade five. The best part about back-to-school? Shopping for school supplies, of course! I love stocking up on paper, pens, pencils, backpacks, and binders. Isn't it fun getting organized?

I love shopping for products that give back, and this year, I'm happy to be partnered with Avery Products Canada because they give back in a big way–and Avery has some amazing products not only for back-to-school, but for the office, too.

Avery Products Canada has partnered with the Pinball Clemons Foundation (PCF) and multiple school board associations across Canada on their third annual #AveryGivesBack campaign. This year, Avery will be donating 50,000 binders to under resourced students so they can have the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. With the help of the PCF, several Canadian school boards, and Hannah Alper, Avery aims to unlock student enterprise and inspire youth to reach their full potential. There is nothing like receiving support, encouragement, and the tools to thrive in school, especially for young students who need it the most.

"Avery Products Canada is delighted to work with PCF and various school boards and student organizations on this excellent program to give back to your Canadian students. We believe in supporting others and extending a helping hand where possible" says Lynn Livesey, General Manager of Avery Canada.

For every binder purchased, Avery will donate one to a student in need. Join the movement with Avery Products Canada and share your back-to-school shopping finds with the hashtag #AveryGivesBack on social media.

To help make your back-to-shopping easier, I'm giving away two Avery packages of must-have school supplies, including binders, dividers, and file folders. To enter, just leave me a comment below telling me what you're looking forward to this fall. I will select a winner randomly on August 24th. 

Good Luck!
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Must-Have Travel Essentials

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I love everything about summer—the hot weather, backyard BBQ's and pool parties, time off with my family, and, of course, going on vacation.

I travel as often as I can, taking a couple of big vacations a year, with lots of weekend trips throughout the year. If I could travel every other week, I would. From airports to hotels and the journey in between, there is nothing I don't love about getting away, making new memories, relaxing in favourite hotels and just taking in the sights and sounds around me.

As you plan for your summer or fall getaway, remember this: you don't need to overpack. Trust me. When you're a smart packer, bringing with you only the travel essentials you need, travelling will be easier, and less complicated. I was on Daytime Ottawa recently, talking about must-have travel essentials.

Here's what you need to pack before you travel: 

Carry-on luggage

I usually pack a large suitcase when I travel—even for weekend getaways. I don't do well with trying to plan outfits and shoes ahead of time! For my recent press trip to Portugal I was determined to pack only a carry-on and... success! I brought only travel-sized beauty products with me, and only two pairs of shoes. (That was agonizing, you guys). Travelling with only a carry-on makes getting in and out of airports a breeze, and you'll have an easier time deciding what to wear once you arrive to your destination, because you don't really have a choice since you didn't bring your entire wardrobe with you.

I received two pieces of carry-on luggage to review for my summer travels: the Swiss Gear Global Traveller in silver, and the TravelPro Pathways carry-on hard-side spinner in dusty rose. Both pieces of luggage are amazing, sturdy, and can pack way more than you think possible. Both pieces of carry-on luggage are light-weight, have a top and side handle for carrying options, lined zippered pockets inside, and wheels that spin 360 degrees, so you can move your bag in all directions—just like a Rimowa. They are both stylish and functional. There is a 10 year warranty with Swiss Gear, and a lifetime warranty with TravelPro (for defects to wheels, zippers, extension and carry handles). I put both to the test in Portugal, Paris, and Miami.

Beauty products

I've learned that less is more when it comes to packing beauty products; pack only your essential items. On my most recent vacation, I managed to pack all my beauty must-haves into a carry-on. I bought small containers from the drug store so I could easily bring only what I needed, and I labelled the outside of each container with a Sharpie to easily identify each item.

For skin care, I love everything from Elizabeth Arden, especially the Prevage line. The day and night cream keep my skin smooth, moisturized, and protected. The Prevage Anti-Aging Moisture Cream has an SPF of 30, so you don't need to worry about applying extra sunscreen on vacation. Another skin care product I can't live without (travelling or not) is the Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum. These capsules are perfect to use day and night, and really help my skin feel and look soft, while improving skin tone and clarity and minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. (Also, they're perfect to pack in a carry-on, since they are not technically a liquid).


Keep your travel bag simple when packing make-up—a red, nude, and pink lipstick (along with some powder, eye shadow, blush, eyeliner, bronzer, and eyebrow pencil) is all you need. 

Ton Cosmetics is a fabulous new company based in Canada, and made in Canada—created by two sisters who had an amazing idea to create a brand that simplifies the beauty products people need, by helping them select the right shades of nude, pink, and red lipstick. They came up with nine variations of a single colour (nude, red, and pink) ensuring the perfect colour match for everyone's skin tone and complexion. I have tried the nude and red lipstick, and I love them both—especially because they are super long-lasting, and keep my lips soft and moisturized.



My biggest struggle when travelling is doing my hair, because I'm used to going to the salon for a blow-dry a couple of times a week. (I really hate blow-drying my own hair). If I'm not able to make it to a blow-dry bar on vacation, the next best thing is making my blow-dry last as long as possible.

Design.Me hair products–the hair spray and magic powders–work incredibly well to help keep any blow-dry last for days, and they come in travel sizes, too. The Hold.Me hair spray delivers a light, medium, or strong hold; all you have to do is twist the nozzle, and voila! It gives hair shine, hold, UV protection, and volume. The Puff.Me magic powders are like dry shampoo, but better. I've never had a product work so well in my hair, making my blow-dry last for days, while adding volume and texture.


Another must-pack item? The Conair Travel Hair Dryer, because it is small and compact, and ideal for travel. It's small but mighty, with dual voltage, 2 heat and speed settings, a folding handle, and affordable (at $29.99, and available at Walmart). Pack the Mini Pro Straightener in your carry-on, and you're good to go! This little straightener is perfect to bring anywhere, because it's so small, and delivers excellent results, like eliminating frizz, adding shine, and straightening hair, even when it's humid outside.

Swimwear

I love a company I can trust, that delivers what they promise, and has plenty of options—a company like Swimco.


I have partnered with Swimco for the last couple of years, reviewing bikinis and one-piece bathing suits, as well as sun hats, beach bags, and flip flops. Shopping Swimco online is easy and efficient, and I know I'll receive my package within days of placing my order. 

Swimco carries a large selection of cover-ups, beach wraps, flip flops, and beach accessories, like bags, sun hats, and sunglasses. You can do all your vacation shopping in just one place—easing your stress levels, and eliminating your need to go store to store to find the perfect, well-fitted bathing suit. My must-have piece this season? The beautiful kimono. It's a great beach accessory, and the perfect way to cover-up as you enjoy lunch by the ocean or pool.


Beach Accessories

Poppy and Peonies sells the cutest accessories for summer, from purses that'll take you from day to night, to must-have beach hats and bags. (How cute is this lemon beach bag?). Their new jewellery collection consists of fruity-themed earrings, adding the perfect touch to your vacation look.



Comfortable shoes

It took me a while to realize I don't actually wear all the shoes I pack in my suitcase, and stiletto heels are not ideal for cobblestone streets in Europe. I'm better off in cute wedge heels or flats. For travel, the best shoes to wear is a comfortable and stylish sneaker. My most comfortable pair of shoes are the Aimee Sport Tie sneaker by ECCO. This classic lace-up leather shoe comes in blush and goes with everything–like jeans an a cute t-shirt.


The ECCO Shape 65 Block Ankle Sandal is a great pair of shoes that are perfect to wear in the evenings with little dresses, jeans, and sweaters. These shoes are comfortable, like all ECCO foot wear, and super stylish; they've got a great block heel, cool crossing, wide straps and a secure ankle strap. The soft leather lining provides additional comfort.





Books

I love Indigo because they carry a little bit of everything I love, from books to home decor to gifts for all occasions. I love stocking up on books to read for my travels, and while I'm shopping for books, I pick up other travel essentials, like beach towels and travel accessories.


Happy and safe travels!


Disclaimer: I partnered with these companies and brands and received the products mentioned in this post and on my segment for review. All views and opinions are my own. 
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Summer Fun With Tremblant Living

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One of the great things about living in Ottawa is how easy it is to plan a weekend getaway somewhere that's close to home—like Mont Tremblant. Skiing is the best part about Tremblant in the winter, but there are countless things to do in the summer months, too: golfing, cycling, go-karting, horseback riding, rock climbing, hiking, tennis, swimming, zip-lining, gondola rides, sailing, canoeing, shopping, fine dining, and lake cruises on the water. (And if you love driving, you have to check out the Circuit Mont Tremblant, because it's considered one of the finest racing circuits in North America).

Summer in Tremblant is full of amazing festivals, sporting events, and music shows. The 24th edition of the International Blues Festival of Tremblant is taking place July 8th to 16th, and this popular event is perfect for music lovers who love R&B, blues, country, and folk music. This year's lineup is great, and most shows are free and open to the public, taking place in different venues all over the mountain, from the Place Saint Bernard to the Place des Voyageurs.

Even with so much going on in Tremblant, my favourite thing is staying at one of the luxurious Tremblant Living properties, where you can relax and enjoy your surroundings in a luxury condo or chalet, year round.



I had the privilege of reviewing the gorgeous Manor Chalet, just minutes from the village, this spring. It was my second time reviewing this property, and we loved it even more the second time around. The Manor Chalet is the most prestigious home in the Tremblant area, surrounded by a tranquil forest complete with a private mountain stream that the children love.





It's the perfect home for large groups—there were 14 of us enjoying this home, and there were even a few bedrooms left unoccupied. (The house sleeps 22 people comfortably).



The almost 12,000 square foot Manor Chalet has a large heated indoor pool with hot tub, a backyard BBQ and fire pit, a play structure for kids, a games room (with a pool table), a gym, a fully-equipped professional kitchen with lounge area, a dining room that seats 14, and a spacious living room. There are 9 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms, so guests have ample room and privacy, as well. The house comes complete with free WiFi and an awesome Sonos sound system where you can listen to your favourite music while swimming.

When you book a stay with Tremblant Living, you'll be well taken care of; the vacation rental specialists and concierge team are at your service to help you plan your perfect trip, and will assist you with whatever you need, from restaurant recommendations and reservations to filling the fridge with items you desire. They'll also make spa reservations for you, arrange an in-house massage, and leave ski equipment rentals in your property.

As much as we loved venturing into the village from the Chalet, we enjoyed our time in the house even more, because there was so much to do. The children—all eight of them—played games of hide-and-seek, swam for hours on end, went for walks around the property, enjoyed the mountain stream and bridges, and played football outside, while the adults enjoyed cooking, relaxing, hanging out by the fire pit, and enjoying the view.

If you're looking for somewhere to get away this summer, I highly recommend booking a home through Tremblant Living. You will love every minute, and will probably start planning your return visit by the time you're driving home, heading back to reality.






Disclaimer: I partnered with Tremblant Living for my review of the Manor Chalet and received the home for three days in compensation for my review. All views and opinions are my own.
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