mountains, romance, and binge eating!

Apr 15, 2015

Disclaimer:  This is a lengthy blog post that may contain sappy proclamations of love and photos and descriptions of delicious food.  Continue reading if you so desire, but don't say that I didn't warn you.  

This weekend Ryan and I celebrated 3 years of marriage. 3 very eventful, fun, sometimes challenging and rather life changing years.  It's quite literally been a dream come true…. a dream born over late night Skype conversations and patchy phone calls.  With thousands of miles in between us, we'd imagine our future life. We'd have a beautiful wedding, get a puppy, buy a house, and eventually start a family. We'd be together.  Life would be perfect… one day.  It felt like forever, but we finally reunited for good and set out to make our dream a reality. Here we are. 3 years later. One house, one dog, and nearly 2 children.  5 years ago I was jetting off to London, Paris, and beyond, but it's only now that I'm truly living the dream.

An occasion like this should be celebrated, so that's exactly what we did.  We've spent our previous anniversaries on holidays in different countries, but at 32 weeks pregnant I felt more comfortable closer to home.  We opted for the next best thing… a weekend away in the mountains!  Our parents graciously offered to take Aaralee so that we could enjoy an adults only weekend, likely our last one before our second baby joins the family.

Once Ryan was finished work on Thursday we loaded up the car and headed for Red Deer to drop off our child and fur-child.   Our original plan was to spend the night there and leave for the mountains in the morning.  Upon further contemplation, we decided to get a hotel in Calgary. That way, we'd be an hour from the mountains and spend more of our next day relaxing and less of it driving.  We approached Calgary before the sun had set and made a last minute decision to carry on to Canmore.  We had enough hotel points for a free night's stay, and Ryan happily paid the $20 extra to upgrade to a nicer room.  When the hotel employee found out that it was our anniversary, he placed us in the honeymoon suite… not bad for a $20 night!  We settled in, turned on the fireplace and relaxed for a little bit before heading out in search of a late night (for us) snack.  We found ourselves at Canmore's famous "Grizzly Paw" brewery, where Ryan sampled the beer, I sampled the soda, and we devoured hot wings and dry ribs.  We returned to our hotel where I took advantage of the jacuzzi before a nice sleep in a big, cozy king sized bed.
We awoke the next morning ready to take on the day, but felt inclined to relax and enjoy the freedom that comes with being childless.  There were no high pitched screams to demand breakfast and no diapers to be changed.   We stayed in bed, rather content until my hunger took over and we headed for breakfast.  After breakfast we grabbed lattes from my favourite Canmore coffee shop and hit the highway bound for Banff!  We strolled down main street, browsing some shops until we'd worked up an appetite. We'd made an agreement to only try restaurants we'd never been to before during this trip, so we sought out a new spot for lunch.  We ended up at a cozy French restaurant with a beautiful view and great food.  For lunch, we enjoyed French onion soup, a charcuterie board, and salmon pate… all very delicious.  

Next on the day's itinerary was a trip up the Banff gondola.  In all of our trips to the mountains, we'd never been up the gondola together!  We'd hiked to the top of Sulphur Mountain in the past, but that was certainly not in the cards for this trip.  We redeemed our free tickets thanks to a photo contest that I'd won last summer, and hopped into our gondola.  It was a beautiful day for a scenic, mildly terrifying climb to the summit.  Once at the top, we hiked the trail, feeling rather out of shape as we huffed and puffed up the stairs.  It's easy to take the scenery for granted when you live so close to the mountains, but that day we took it all in and appreciated just how amazing our little corner of the world truly is.  

By the time we were back to our car we'd successfully killed enough time that we were able to check into our hotel.  This wasn't just any hotel… it was the castle of the Rocky Mountains and an item to tick off of my bucket list.  It was a special occasion, and thus we splurged on a stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.  We felt like royalty as we wandered the halls of the incredible building, and I was ecstatic over the amazing view from our room.  

We spent a couple of hours exploring the hotel until it was time to go for dinner. We'd conveniently made reservations at a Japanese restaurant right in the hotel.  I'm not opposed to eating sushi from reputable sources during pregnancy, and fortunately my obstetrician is in agreement… after all, I traveled to Japan while pregnant with Aaralee and feasted every single day.  With that in mind, we ordered the special set menu which consisted of miso soup, tempura, sushi, and an incredible hot pot cooked right on the table in front of us.  For dessert we enjoyed one of my personal favourites… matcha ice cream!  Everything was amazing, and we left with very full bellies. 

We capped off the evening with a dip in the outdoor pool before retreating to our room for hot chocolate before bed.  
We woke up feeling refreshed after a great sleep in our super comfortable bed.  For breakfast we headed to the pantry restaurant downstairs, where in the spirit of vacation Ryan had an ice cream sandwich and coffee to start the day.  Since we were already in Banff, we decided to make the drive to Lake Louise.  It was a snowy day at the lake, but if there is one place that I don't mind snow it's in a beautiful winter wonderland like Lake Louise.   The temperature was quite mild and the big fluffy snowflakes made it seem almost magical. 

After a walk outside and some exploring the hotel, we grabbed lunch by a window overlooking the lake.  I'd always dreamed of dining there, but between the overpriced food and travelling with a small child, we'd typically return to Banff instead.  The food wasn't cheap, and neither was my virgin cocktail… but for what it's worth it was all extremely delicious. 
We drove back to our hotel to change and get ready for dinner.  We'd looked up restaurant reviews and found out that lobster was in season and offered at the Maple Leaf Grille.  As seafood fanatics, it was an obvious choice.  We had some time to kill before our reservation, so we shopping and made a few special purchases for our second baby's mountain themed nursery. 
When we arrived at the restaurant we were led upstairs to a cozy table by the window. We started off the evening with scallops and indulged in steak and lobster for the main course.  Few things in life make Ryan and I happier than an amazing meal, so we were in all of our glory.  For dessert we enjoyed a chocolate peanut butter cake so good that I could have ordered 5 more if it weren't for being so full. 

We finished dinner and returned to the streets of Banff. Because I'm pregnant and lack any hint of self control, I proceeded to purchase some treats from the fudge shop.  We returned to the car and headed towards Lake Minnewanka for a nice little walk to finish off the evening.  

The next day was Sunday… our anniversary! Although we'd already spent the entire weekend indulging and having fun, this was the most important day of our weekend and thus we planned to savour every moment.  Getting out of bed early didn't sound like much fun, but I'm pregnant and constantly hungry, so waiting long for breakfast wasn't an option.  Obviously the only solution was to order room service! Seated by the window overlooking the amazing mountain view, we ate eggs benedict in our pyjamas and then proceeded to lie in bed all morning.  

Lunch time rolled around and because we were staying at the Fairmont it seemed only right to experience afternoon tea.  I was worried that it was too much of a girly affair, but Ryan assured me that he'd enjoy it… after all, who doesn't like sandwiches, tea, and desserts? 
We were seated by the window and completely clueless as to what to expect.  Our waiter delivered a tower of tiny, yummy sandwiches and pots full of tea.  We quickly consumed the sandwiches and eagerly awaited the dessert tower.  It was delivered with a special plate for our anniversary, including chocolate strawberries. I'd spent the weekend talking about chocolate covered strawberries, so to say that I was excited would be an understatement!  The desserts were all amazing and we fell in love with the Kyoto Rose tea.  Such a fancy affair was quite out of our element, but we both really enjoyed the experience.   

We walked around the hotel for awhile to take some photos and then retreated to our room to relax and get ready for dinner. 
How do you decide where to eat for such a special occasion?  You consult the internet for the best restaurant in the area, of course.  This led us to discover Eden, a fine dining restaurant in the Rimrock Hotel with some of the best views around.  The evening was more than just a meal, it was an experience.  The service made us feel like royalty. Every time that I'd go to the washroom someone was at the table to pull out my chair before I returned to sit down.   Ordering our meal was a bit of a challenge.  We are food lovers, but we don't typically find ourselves in places that serve foie gras and truffles, or specific wine pairings for each course.  With a toddler typically in tow, even Earl's seems too high end for our presence these days.  Staring down at the menu left us feeling a bit lost, but we eventually decided upon our dinner… 3 courses for me, 4 for Ryan.   What we didn't realize was that the chef would periodically send out extra courses for us to sample.  When all was said and done, we'd had 2-3 appetizers, our entrees and not only dessert, but a pre-dessert and a special after dessert treat for our anniversary.  Though the portions were small, we left full, happy, and in awe as the sun set behind the mountains.  Would we return to Eden?  Not likely, unless a lottery win is in our future, but it was an experience and evening that we won't soon forget.  

By the time that we returned to the hotel, we were beyond ready for bed after one of the most memorable and wonderful anniversaries that we'll ever celebrate.  
Monday arrived and it was nearly time to go home… but not before one last little indulgence.  We had an appointment for a couple's massage, which in my current stage of pregnancy felt like Christmas.  Before our massage we took advantage of the pools that were exclusively for spa guests. I sipped glass after glass of fruit infused water, and grabbed fruit from the bowls as though I'd never ate before.  It was obvious that I don't spend much time in fancy spas. I felt like an economy passenger on a plane who'd been upgraded to first class, taking advantage of everything that I could, clearly out of place.  It was finally time for our massage, and my goodness… I could have stayed all day.  Sadly, the hour ended and with that it was time to check out and return to reality.  

Though sad to leave our castle and carefree weekend, I was looking forward to reuniting with my sweet little girl and our crazy little dog.  We drove back to Red Deer where we arrived just in time for dinner to celebrate Ryan's grandpa's 96th birthday.  We ate, packed up our stuff and hit the highway, reunited and homeward bound as a family.  
Our weekend away had proven that it's not always necessary to escape Canada to have an incredible, memorable time.  What's most important are the people that you share your time with, and I'd had the privilege of 4 full days with one of the most wonderful people in the whole wide world.
  Happy anniversary, my love. Here's to many, many more anniversaries celebrated together.  

Easter Time!

Apr 6, 2015

Happy Easter! 
Yet another holiday has come and gone, and as per usual I'm regretting my food consumption as even my stretchiest of pants feel a wee bit tight.  Lent is over and I've probably eaten more chocolate in the past 2 days than a person should eat in 40.  Judging by the flips and kicks, my baby is thoroughly enjoying the feast. 
This Easter weekend was a busy one!  Having a child makes every occasion so much more fun.  Aaralee is at the magical age that is just on the brink of understanding fun activities such as decorating Easter eggs and participating in hunts to find them.  Her age has never stopped me from carrying on with our holiday traditions in the past, but this was the first time that it was fun for both of us!  
A couple of weeks back we took her to meet the Easter bunny.  I've never been a fan of the creepy mall rabbit, but every time she'd see him from a distance she'd giggle and wave with such enthusiasm that I couldn't resist paying for an overpriced photo.  As it turns out, she's more of a fan from afar and up close he wasn't nearly as awesome.  

In the lead up to Easter I decided to introduce Aaralee to one of my favourite Easter traditions… decorating eggs! Once she caught on to the objective, she had a blast! She painted the egg, the high chair tray, and the wall beside her.  

The fun lasted until her egg slipped out of her hand and landed on the floor. Once it cracked open she realized that by some cruel trickery she'd been holding food the entire time! She was not very happy about the fact that we wouldn't let her eat the paint covered egg.  Ryan and I took on the task of decorating the remaining eggs.  

We spent Good Friday evening among friends, dining on a delicious meal that included many, many perogies.  Our normally quite anti-social toddler took a liking to our friend's two little boys. They strolled around the house holding hands and ran in circles through the pantry. The five year toted her around the house and kissed her on the cheek.  Ahh, young love.  Enjoy it while you can kids… your parents won't think that it's as adorable when you approach the teenage years!  
Saturday morning we headed for the big Easter dinner with Ryan's family.  We spent the day eating, watching the kids play, and searching for Easter eggs! With a little bit of help from me, Aaralee managed to find 17 eggs! She enthusiastically placed them in her basket and waited for me to point out the next one.  Once she realized that the colourful plastic eggs were filled with chocolate her excitement level peaked.  A few tantrums would follow as she was denied eating it all at once.  I'll be honest, I'd never felt so hypocritical in my life.  

Sunday morning we all slept in until nearly 9 am!  Between Ryan's work schedule, Aaralee's desire for breakfast, Niko's need to be let outside and me being 31 weeks pregnant, sleeping in is a rare luxury in this house these days! It was pure bliss. Once we were all awake we headed downstairs to see what was in Aaralee's Easter basket! She was certainly excited! She was kind enough to share her treats with Mommy… okay, fine... She had no choice in the matter. 

After breakfast and a little (a lot) of chocolate, we were all tired. We spent the rest of the morning relaxing… it was much needed after a busy few days! All in all, it was a wonderful weekend spent with great friends and family.  Next year we'll have two busy little ones to celebrate with, and I can't wait!