Celebrating Canada 150: Where To Stay And What To Do This Summer

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With Canada Day just a day away, this country is buzzing with excitement with Canada 150 events, and there has never been a better time to take a vacation–or staycation–in Canada. I was recently on Breakfast Television in Montreal talking about the great things to see and do, and where to stay, in Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.

Ottawa is obviously the place to be to celebrate Canada Day, but if you want to avoid the crowds, not to worry; there is a lot going on after July 1st, too.

Here's what you can enjoy:

Sky Lounge: Taking place between July 7th and 22nd, this is an exclusive culinary experience that will take the brave 150 feet in the air to discover Ottawa like never before; you'll get to experience a dining experience presented by chef Stephen La Salle, from Andaz Hotel's Feast and Revel delicious restaurant. You can choose between a a cocktail option with appetizers and Canadian wine, or a gourmet three-course dinner. You'll be strapped in Formula-1 style seating, with a six point harness for ultimate safety, so don't worry; just be sure to go to the bathroom before you take to the sky!

Inspiration Village: Made up of sea containers in the Byword Market, you can check out this awesome display from now until September 4th. You'll also be able to snap a selfie by the big OTTAWA sign. Inspiration Village will be the place to be this summer, and you can enjoy special exhibits and performances showcasing Canada’s province and territories.

Ottawa Welcomes the World: Embassies and high commissions in Ottawa are showcasing their country’s heritage at the Aberdeen Pavillion and Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park over the next several months. Everyone is invited to dive into a unique multicultural journey of food tasting, musical celebrations, performances, and more. It kicked off with Greece in March and continues right through to December.

Where to Stay: There is no better place to be this summer than Andaz Hotel. This stunning new luxury-boutique hotel right in the heart of Ottawa’s downtown core is the place to stay in Ottawa. With an amazing gourmet restaurant, Feast and Revel, featuring locally inspired cuisine, you'll feel like you're on a vacation far from home. After dinner, head to the gorgeous rooftop lounge, Copper Spirits and Sights, on the 16th floor, where you’ll see the most stunning views and sunsets in Ottawa. 

If you're heading to Toronto with the family, here's something you can all enjoy:

The Redpath Waterfront Festival: This festival is taking place from June 30-July 2. Presented by Ports Toronto, this is the place to celebrate Canada Day and Canada’s 150th in Toronto. It's a jam-packed weekend festival with water front activities as well as live music and delicious food from local chefs. 

Where to stay: The Hazleton Hotel, right in the heart of Yorkville, is a luxury boutique hotel and the perfect place to stay whether you’re travelling as a couple, with friends, or with the entire family. Of course, being right in the heart of Yorkville, you're surrounded by luxury boutiques and great restaurants  including the restaurant ONE; the perfect place to people watch, especially during the summer months. I love the personalized service, the in-room dining, and the fabulous spa at this hotel. You can also enjoy the TD Jazz Festival taking place until July 2nd, too. 

Not only in Montreal celebrating Canada 150; the city is also celebrating Montreal 375. Needless to say, there is a lot going on in this charming, historic city, including: 

Montreal International Jazz Festival: This world-famous jazz festival is going on until July 8th, and it's 10 incredible days of musical celebrations in the heart of Montreal's downtown core. For details, check out montrealjazzfest.com. 

Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton Montreal is my favourite hotel in Montreal, and one of my favourite hotels in the world. It's actually the first Ritz-Carlton in the world, (the original Ritz was in France) and it's been around since 1912. Although the hotel has gone through incredible renovations, this famous hotel (also called the "Great Dame of Sherbrooke") hasn't lost any of its charm. The lobby area, also called the Palm Court, is a great place to enjoy high tea and people watch. The beautiful spa and rooftop pool with views of the city makes a stay here even more enjoyable. My children always feel welcome here, and the attention to detail make our stays even more memorable; the personalized cookies waiting in our room upon arrival, the swimming pool, and the friendly service is what makes the Ritz-Carlton so special. 

However you're celebrating Canada 150, I hope it's a good one. We have so much to be thankful for! Happy Birthday, Canada.


Eat Together With President's Choice

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Today was the last day of school, and I was equally emotional and excited. After all, my oldest son is moving on to a different school in September, as he and his classmates start their new journey to middle school. When I started this blog, he wasn't even in kindergarten! Time sure goes by quickly, and that's why it's important for me to make sure I'm spending quality time with  my boys as often as I can–including eating dinner together. It's important to carve out time with family and friends and slow down the pace a little, especially now that summer is here. Whether you're BBQing in the backyard by the pool, or taking a vacation overseas, dinner time is the best time to re-connect with your loved ones.

Earlier this year, President's Choice (PC) embarked on a journey to get Canadians to eat together when they released their Eat Together film, seen here:

I don't know about you, but watching the video brought a tear to my eye. (And the video's been watched more than 62 million times already!). While the idea of slowing down and eating together may seem simple, with our hectic lifestyles, it's not always the case, and not something we do enough of nowadays.

Did you know that 67% of Canadians eat alone most of the time? That's why the PC team teamed up to create Eat Together Day on June 29th. Canadians from coast to coast have started showing how the video inspired their own Eat Together moments, which is a beautiful thing. But PC wanted to do more, and that's why they came up with Eat Together Day taking place tomorrow–and everyone is invited to celebrate!

What will you do on #EatTogether Day? Who are you looking forward to sitting down with and chatting over a long dinner and some wine? Make sure you share an image or video from your celebrations and tag @PCEatTogether on Facebook. It'll be great seeing people from around the country come together this way.

Disclaimer: I have been compensated by President's Choice for this post. All views and options are my own.

Simple Ways To Live An Eco Friendly Life

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I was never very environmentally conscious before becoming a mother. Once I had children, though, my perspective on most things changed, including my views on the environment, the world I was raising my children in, and what I needed to do to make sure my children were growing up aware of the things they needed to do to keep our planet green and contribute to their environment in positive ways. Thankfully, I've raised some really good people–boys who are smart and know more than I did when I was their age about science, the environment, and how even small things can make a big impact. Taking on a new job in Communications at Environment and Climate Change Canada has opened my eyes even further to how much work is being done around us to keep our air clean, and our communities safe and healthy.

Here are some ways you can be more environmentally conscious in simple ways:

Be Aware: Becoming more environmentally conscious isn't difficult; in fact, living in Canada–a country that does so much already to help our environment–makes it almost easy. Read more, be aware, and find out how you can get involved in your community in ways that give back in small or big ways.

Get the kids involved: The more you lead by example, the more your children will learn. Have your children help with composting, recycling, and donating items they no longer need or use. Teach your kids the importance of conserving energy, why it's important to use less water, why they should turn off lights when they leave a room, and try spending more time in the great outdoors appreciating the environment and the clean air we're so fortunate to breathe.

Reduce what you use: This can be tricky, especially if you like holding on to things like I do. A few times a year, go through all your household items, including your closet (this one can be difficult!) and get rid of what you don't need, what you don't wear, and what you could do without. Donate items in good condition.

Buy less: Think twice before making that next purchase; go through your closet one more time and see what new outfits you can put together so you don't have to keep shopping for the same things over and over again.

Pay attention: Pay attention to how much you're using in your house, including water and electricity. Turn off lights, install energy efficient lightbulbs and, if you can, energy efficient windows, and reduce your daily consumption. Unplug electronics, and use less water.

Plant trees: Even if you don't have a large back or front yard, you can always find room to plant more greenery. The City of Ottawa will give (and plant) a new tree to home owners. All you have to do is request a tree. We did this last year and are enjoying watching our tree grow.

Drive less: I drive to work, because it's the easiest and more efficient option for me, but if you're able, drive less, or carpool. I wish I worked close enough to walk or bike to work.  

Buy energy efficient products: We've switched to energy efficient lightbulbs throughout our home. Energy efficient light bulbs consume 40% less energy than regular bulbs, and last ten times longer, too. Going green saves money, which is a total bonus.

Share: I have a thing for buying new books and I'm an avid reader.  I'm also not a fan of e-readers, because nothing can replace an actual book in my hands. What I do to make myself feel better is lend book to all my friends who are looking for new things to read. At least I'm re-using what I already have! I also donate books to hospitals. Every few months, my girlfriends and I get together for a clothes swap, too, which is another great way to recycle items you're no longer interested in keeping.

My children also love grocery shopping with me and we choose local produce as much as possible. We also enjoy planting our own vegetables and thanks to a mother-in-law who is an expert gardener, my boys have enjoyed learning about plants and how they grow.

Keeping things green and helping our planet doesn't have to be complicated. It's the simple things we do daily that will have impacts for years to come.

How are some ways you're helping the environment?

Disclaimer: This post is part of The Whole Family Happiness Project in partnership with Social Currents and the Low Carbon Economy Narrative Initiative. The Whole Family Happiness Project poses the question, "What is the connection between our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us? 

To learn more or to get involved, visit Whole Family Happiness on Facebook. #wholefamilyhappiness

Help Yourself To Faster Airport Security This Summer

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It's summer, and if you're like me, you've been planning your vacation for a while. Although the weather here is absolutely perfect right now, there's something exciting about getting ready for a vacation. My favourite summer vacation destination in Greece, because of the beauty and the culture. There is nothing more breathtaking than the Mediterranean Sea! I also love going to Miami in the summer (and winter!) with my family because it's a short plane ride, the resorts are gorgeous, and the beach life is perfect.

I'm a last minute packer, and despite how often I travel, I always pack more shoes than I should–but if you don't plan accordingly, over-packing will be the least of your worries. Since we tend to be so focused on our destination, it's easy to forget about the journey, particularly security screening at the airport. The good news is that being prepared can help you breeze through the screening checkpoint, leaving you more time to shop, eat, or relax before your flight.

The first step is doing your homework so you know what goes in your carry-on (take it from me: pack your beauty essentials that aren't 100 ml or less in your checked luggage–I learned this the hard way!) and what goes in your checked baggage. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has some useful tools on its website, including a searchable "What can I bring" list that lets you know where to pack your items and what can and can't fly. It also has a travel-checklist generator and tips for all sorts of challenges, from what to do with large sports equipment and medical supplies to travelling with pets.

According to CATSA, one of the biggest hold-ups at security is having too many liquids, aerosols, and gels. I always have my water bottle taken away from me–maybe this time I'll finally remember not to bring it through security with me. Containers over 100 ml and 1 litre bags that are overstuffed with smaller containers (no seal, no deal) will need to be checked. As for that cup of coffee or water bottle I mentioned: if it's over 100 ml be prepared to chug!

There are some exceptions, like liquids for kids under two years old, and medication. You can check out more here. In all cases, the containers should be taken out of your carry-on and be ready to present to the screening officer for inspection.

Once you hit the front of the line, it helps to have your boarding pass ready to show the screening officer. You can also speed things up if you put loose change, keys, and small electronics (including your phone and tablets) in your carry-on so you can just drop them in the bin. If you're travelling with a laptop or other large electronic devices like gaming consoles or DVD players, you'll need to put them in a separate bin. For more information on what you can put in the bins at the checkpoint, you can find the information here.

If you're still wondering what to do with an item or want more information about security screening, send questions to CATSA on Twitter or Facebook.

Lastly, travel is all about being mobile, so you should definitely download CATSA's free mobile app. It's available on Android, iOS and Blackberry, and can help you with all this and more, including wait times for security at most major airports.

Here's a great little video with packing tips to make your travel time–and getting through airports–a breeze this summer.

Happy travels!

Disclaimer: I have been compensated by CATSA for this post. All views and opinions are my own. 

Getting Healthier From The Inside Out With Align

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Finally, warmer days are here! Summer makes me happy, and the warmer temperature and sunshine always motivate me to stay on track with eating well, taking care of my body, and staying on top of my fitness routine. Of course, some days are harder than others, but I find it's easier to stay on track when the weather is cooperating nicely.

Although working out several times a week is important in helping you look and feel great, I believe it's what you put inside your body that has a bigger impact. If you feel good from the inside, you'll no doubt look and feel incredible on the outside, too. The best part about getting healthier from the inside out is that it's not complicated. We all know what foods are good for us, and we know that being physically active is important, too. I like doing activities I love, like cycle and barre classes, and spending as much time in the great outdoors as I can, now that it's nice outside. 

Whether it's swimming, playing soccer or basketball with my boys, or just going for a long walk after dinner, staying active is key.
In addition to eating healthy and working out, taking a daily probiotic like Align helps your body, too. These capsules provide ongoing relief of IBS symptoms like abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating, and Align contains a probiotic that provides live bacteria that form part of the natural, healthy intestinal flora. 

Now that summer is here many of us will be travelling and keeping busy; and sometimes, changes in our routine, like when we're travelling, can disrupt our natural healthy intestinal flora. Taking Align once a day, every day, provides probiotic bacteria that contribute to making you healthier, and feeling better. The capsules contain Bifidobacterium 35624 TM, a patented probiotic strain.

Align is the number one Gastroenterologist recommended Probiotic supplement, and the number one Doctor recommended probiotic supplement, so you know what you're taking is good for you.

So why not kick up your health care routine this spring and summer, and make Align a part of your daily routine?

Disclaimer: I created this post as a paid ambassador for Align Probiotic. All opinions and advice are my own and I only work with companies I genuinely love and have used prior to being contacted.

*Among gastroenterologists and doctors who recommended a brand of probiotic in an AlphaImpactRx 2016 survey 

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