Monday, December 31, 2018

The Ultimate Winter Getaway- Mont Tremblant in Canada

Happy Holidays, all!

I hope everyone had a relaxing, joyous, happy holiday.  That each of you was able to unplug, recharge, experience respite, have a chance to reflect and relax, as well as do things which brought you contentment and joy.  Whoever your time was spent with, I am hoping it was a fulfilling and wonderful experience.  That you were able to connect and spend time with the people you most love, and revel in such.

For those who were able to take a trip, whether a small or longer one, I wish that each of you had a fabulous time.  Whether somewhere warm and luxurious, or wintery and magical.

Having ventured to Mont Tremblant in Canada myself, I would highly recommend such.  For those into skiing, snowboarding, or even just for a romantic, winter wonderland esque retreat, this is a top-notch place to trek.  The activity opportunities are endless: dog sledding, snowshoeing, heading to a spa for the evening, eating delicious food, holing up in a cozy cafe, and as mentioned, all manner of winter sports.

The village of Mont Tremblant is colorful, picturesque, fantastical, and eye-catching.  Throughout the village, you will find a smattering of sweet shops selling all manner of candies and enticing goodies, a couple of quaint cafes, and restaurants which personally, I found to be a bit lacking.  The restaurants within the village itself were touristy, overpriced, and had a chain-restaurant feel to them.  Not especially high quality food.  So for meals, I recommend venturing outside the village, which lies at the base of Mont Tremblant.  That aside though, it is an incredibly romantic place to adventure.

Maxx and I drove 5.5 hours one way, from New York up to Canada.  We arrived in Mont Tremblant around 3pm on Christmas Day.  The afternoon was spent wandering and strolling the village together.  Despite the two of us remarking more than once of the bitingly brisk cold, we were enamored.  We stepped onto a little aluminum can shaped gondola, which whisked us up to the top of a small hill at the peak of the village.  Myself gasping in delight as it picked up speed, akin to a minor rollercoaster takeoff in my mind ;-).

That evening, we went to the restaurant Patrick Bermand, a cozy little French Canadian restaurant, akin to a little log cabin.  We ate by candlelight in the dimly lit restaurant. For an appetizer, we dinedon creamy roasted vegetable soup, which we both agreed was superb.  Our second course was a duck liver pate, which after one bite of, I skipped, though Maxx seemed to find decently yummy, so I offered him mine which he gladly accepted.  Our main course was turkey with a cranberry and herb stuffing.  And finally for dessert, we sampled a small slice of yule log cake.  This, we agreed, was tasty, though left us wanting.  What we both liked best about this meal were the soup and the ambiance.  We rated the food a 7.5 out of 10.

The next day, December 26, we hit the slopes of Mont Tremblant!  The day was spent skiing, which both of us absolutely loved.  Despite that the day was absolutely freezing, we had a blast.  Maxx, who refused to wear a scarf, had a beard caked in snow come late afternoon.  We raced down black diamonds together, a few blue squares, and a couple leisurely green circle rated trails.  At the mountain peak, snow billowed and blew about.  We were feeling pretty good though with our hand and feet warmers.

We skiied from roughly 9:30am until 3pm, with a 45 minute break around 1pm for little chocolate mousse cakes and teas in a cramped cafe close by.  We agreed the break was much needed, which felt totally cozy and wonderful.  The two of us sitting close in freezing stupor, de-thawing and relaxing into the cafes warmth.

That evening, we had dinner at Cest La Vie, a French/Canadian/European restaurant.  Maxx had a pasta topped with pork and a zesty tomato sauce.  I dined on salmon with a goat cheese pesto sauce, which was quite yummy.  For an appetizer, we each had French onion soup, which we agreed was good (loved the slice of cheesy bread it was served with), though concured we had eaten better of this dish before as well.  For dessert, Maxx enjoyed an extravagent cherry ice cream sundae, and I had a slice of rich chocolate cake to go (though, most of which I devoured in the car ride ;-)).  We agreed this meal was also about a 7.5.  Possibly an 8.

Next, we headed to our last excursion of the day.  A major splurge for both of us.  The Scandinave Spa of Mont Tremblant.  After parking and walking from the car toward what appeared to be a collection of large log cabins clustered together, we wound our way along the winding walk lined with evergreen trees, each swirled with white lights.  All of the trees were blanketed in glittering white, as it had snowed throughout the day.  The entire scene feeling like a hushed, dream-like, twinkling, from-the-forest magical nighttime scene.  Maxx even exclaiming, "ok, this is awesome."  (Usually I am the far more outwardly expressive one, especially of excitement ;-p).

We paid and were handed towels and plush hooded robes, then directed to separate locker rooms to change.  The locker rooms were warm, heavily wooden, and cozy.  After changing into our bathingsuits, we met outside on the stone lain patio where there were several steam wafting pools of water, lit in varying colors.  Maxx and I initially walked over to one, which we didnt realize was ice cold, dipped our feet in and, jerking them back out, rushed over to a pool on the other side of the patio which we hoped would be hot.  It was.

We hung out in the pool for some 20 minutes, luxurating in the heat and bubbles, until it was time for our massages.  The massages were one hour long, and in the same room together.  I had never experienced this before and was unsure what to expect.  It was marvelous though.  The massage was absolutely great.  Certainly too expensive for what I would normally pay, but for a one time splurge, it was fantastic to be sure.  Totally relaxing, cozy, swanky, and just a great atmosphere.  I loved this experience with Maxx.

Then, we headed back to our room, which was decked out with a fireplace :-D.  We got incredibly lucky.  They offered us a free upgrade on checking in!  On looking up the normal room rate cost, this one exhorberantly priced, and not one we would ever be able to afford.  So this was a pretty sweet and unexpected surprise.  Both nights, we laid by the fireplace for a few hours.  Side by side, on a blanket lain out on the floor.  I read my book, Maxx read articles on his phone, we played board games, talked, dozed, and just absolutely reveled in it.

On Thursday, December 27, we awoke and, after wandering the village of Mont Tremblant one last time (we stopped for tea and sweets at Oh La Vache Cafe in the little village- the pastries here look DIVINE), headed into the city center.

Oh La Vache, the little blue and white cottage on the left.  So cute inside, with enticing looking French pastries in all manner of assortment.

There was a cafe I was dying to check out after having seen it online, Couleur Cafe.  It looked right up my alley.  Cozy, rustic, trendy, not overly priced, homey, with great ambiance/atmosphere, and delicious.  It turned out to be just that.  The food, we both agreed, was delicious.  Our most flavorful meal of the trip.  I had a Cesar salad, which was gigantic, and loaded with all sorts of yummy ingredients.  Maxx had the Croque Madame with Thai soup on the side.  To finish, we had slices of chocolate mousse cake.  So tasty.  We gave this overall meal an 8.5 or 9.

During the drive both to and from Canada, we listened to BearTown by Fredrik Backman.  Both of us are officially hooked.  Each of us agreed the character development is rich and gripping, incredibly well done.  You become invested and very interested in several of them, most of whom are quite compelling.  We are really enjoying it thus far.  Personally, the character development, relationships, and "world" of the story remind me something of Friday Night Lights (the Emmy award winning TV show, and one of my favorites ever).

The trip was superb.  Maxx exclaimed, "this is like the best vacation ever."  I agree.  It was a stellar, memorable, romatic, cozy, totally relaxing, absolutely awesome trip.  We unplugged, were totally relaxed and tuned into one another, we laughed a lot, lounged, were never in a hurry or on a strict schedule.  It was a welcome remove from the routine of daily life.  We loved every minute of it.

If you have the opportunity, absolutely check out Mont Tremblant for a few days!!  Its a great place.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Unique and Meaningful Gifts for Everyone

Happy Holidays, all!

Whether still in need of a few last minute gifts, or even deciding on grabbing a little something for yourself, here is a list of unique, as well as meaningful gifts that the people in your life will love, find memorable, and actually use.

First off: what actually makes a truly phenomenal gift?  Many, many people mistake this.  Grabbing either something pricey to impress or something somewhat generic or even something that actually reflects their own personal tastes more than to whom they are actually giving it.  A fabulous gift is one that is deeply personal.  To be a great gift giver, you must know your recipient well.  The gift should reflect, completely, your recipient's interests, passions, who they are as a person, ect.  So yes, this does take some effort and careful thought.  However, it has nothing to do with the price tag.  Instead, its all about the person to whom you are giving.

With that said and kept in mind, read on for some great ideas below.

Surprise your close friend, or romantic love, or even family member with whom you are tight, with a weekend trip somewhere close by.  Though this can be an expensive gift, it doesn't have to be.  It just requires some careful planning.  Google "charming cities in___" (you fill in the blank with your state).

Consider what this person loves, their passions, the types of places they enjoy going, their personal interests.  That will be your guide for the weekend, assisting in your choosing what types of places you might take them to eat, which activities you will choose, etc.  If your recipient loves charming, romantic, quaint cafes, you may not choose all swanky 5-star restaurants for the weekend.  If your recipient loves the outdoors, you would probably want to pick some fun outside activities for the time you go away, and maybe even plan it for sometime when the weather is warmer.  You get the idea.

This can be an incredibly memorable, emotionally moving gift to receive.  As well as, can be a majorly awesome memory the two of you will then create and experience together.

Four-Handed Illusionists.  A way cool, loaded with laughter, bewitching, and entertaining show in Boston.  And yes, it is a magic show.  Several of the tricks left me spellbound and awed.  Really, really neat.  And the magicians themselves are hilarious.  The audience is very much included.  Its an elegant and engaging evening.  And some fancy appetizers and cocktails are served beforehand.  Tickets are about $75 each, and very much worth the experience.

Paleonola.  I was skeptical upon sampling this stuff, imagining it might be rather plain and blah.  Not even close.  Absolutely delicious with Greek yogurt.  My new favorite snack.  It will make for a fabulous breakfast or anytime snack.  Officially obsessed over here (Maple Pancake is the flavor with which I am smitten).  And the best part?  It is super healthy :-D.  This is a great gift for your healthconsciouss loved ones.

Take your loved one either: restaurant hopping, or on a dessert tour of the city in which you live!  How to organize and do this?  And further, what actually is this?

If choosing restaurant hopping, pick four spots that are relatively close together or easily accessible to one another by car or public transport.  You will go to one place for a pre-dinner drink (so pick a spot that is atmospheric and well known for their drinks).  Then for an appetizer, you will go to a different locale.  For your entree/main course, yes, another separate place.  And then finally, dessert at a fourth different location.  This is lots of fun!  Offering one the chance to sample several different places and to fine tune where you choose to that spots particular specialty.

Same idea for a dessert tour.  Pick 3-5 places that are semi-close to each other (within walking distance, or easily accessible to one another by public transport or driving).  And take your friend/lover/family member/loved one on a dessert adventure.

The point, of course, is to choose and tailor the places you pick to generally fit your recipients most favorite types of desserts.  And of course, to consider the types of foods your recipient likes, as well as any dietary restrictions, or how they generally like to eat, in mind.

Tickets to some kind of live show that your recipient would love.  Whether it be a sporting event, a musical or play at the theatre, an orchestral performance, stand-up comedy, the list goes on.  This is a great experience type of gift.  Something that the person is likely to remember for many years to come, as well as a memory you two will make together in the process.

Get them a gift subscription box for three months, of course, tailoring the choice of the box to a theme that of course, fits the person to whom you are gifting and would be something they are likely to love.

The choices out there are endless.  From boxes that send someone different types of tea, to a book of the month club box, to boxes overflowing with different types of candy, to a gentleman's fancy sock box, boxes that offer healthy eating snacks.  The options go on and on.

Check out for a boatload of ideas and choices.

Just in time for the new year (resolutions to eat healthier, anyone?), a cookbook chock full of great-for-your body recipes which are easy to make, as well as lovely to look at.  All of the recipes within falling under one, if not more, of the following tiers: gluten/grain free, lactose-free, sugar-free, or raw.

A hint of what you will find within: pancakes, oatmeal, quiches, donuts, heart-healthy quinoa bowls, homey and decadent pasta dishes, pizza, salads, lasagna, and desserts galore.  This is a cookbook worth having in your arsenal.

Snag a print or e-book copy here.

A book.  Both, something your recipient would be interested in, as well as something you believe to be a worthwhile and awesome readBooks change lives.  They have the power to inspire us, alter our thinking entirely, offer us new ideas for being and living.  They can inform and entertain.  Even in some cases, a book can save us.  Reminding each of us that we aren't alone.  That others have experienced similar things that we have.

Books are always a great gift.  And for those who claim they "don't like to read"?  They just aren't doing it right ;-).  They haven't found the right books yet.  There are books out there for everyone.  It's just a matter of finding those that capture your interest, grip and inspire you.

(See below for some of the books I have finished as of late and found to be excellent).

For this last one, I am going to go old school and traditional.  Write someone a letter.  A handwritten letter, detailing what they mean to you.  How this person adds to your life.  Maybe recollecting some cherished memories the two of you share.  How special they are to you.  How your life is better with them in it.  You get the idea.

Too often, we leave important things left unsaid.  To both friends, family members we are close with, and romantic partners.

Say it.  Choose to tell them :-).  You may not know it from their outward reaction, but its likely you will make their month with your letter, and that your words will be cherished and treasured by them, recalled frequently, for a long, long time.  Possibly for the duration of their life.

Need more inspiration and consideration for why letters are awesome and should be written and given far more frequently?

Here is an excellent article, worthy of taking a read through: "The Value of a Handwritten Letter."

As well as a blog article on the life-changing power of vulnerability.