I don’t know about you, but as soon as the snow begins to settle, I start fantasizing about a winter getaway. I’m all grumpy at the moment, under heavy deadlines and not even the thought of skiing is making spirits bright. What is helping me through this crunch is fantasizing about how I’m going to celebrate once pay day rolls around. If you’re like me and are keen to get a move on your winter hols, you’ll want to take advantage of Cyber Monday travel deals. Transat is offering a particularly awesome one.

fly and flop

Cyber Monday

This upcoming Monday, November 30, Transat will be holding its highly anticipated Transat Auction. Canadian travel enthusiasts can bid on their next vacation, with all proceeds being donated to SOS Children’s Villages. To me, the charity angle makes your vacay that much sweeter. Since Tansat started supporting SOS Children’s Villages in 2009, it’s assisted over 25,000 vulnerable children.

The auction will take place on Twitter, where you’ll be able to bid on 20 auction lots consisting of all-inclusive packages to popular sun destinations like Mexico, Curaçao, Panama and St. Maarten, as well as roundtrip flights to Europe.

A must do for Cyber Monday

The most important reason to travel is….

There’s no shame for me in bidding on a fly and flop. I could use a beach in a bad way and Mexico, specifically Cabo is on my hit list for early 2016. If there’s one reason you should be travelling it’s to make you happier (and I suppose learning more about other cultures and becoming a better world citizen also rank up there:). But I’m not about to get all hippy travel blogger on you. I’m here to remind you what numerous studies have shown – that travelling, specifically pre-trip planning is known to boost your happiness levels. Surprisingly, this surge in happiness comes not after returning from the sun kissed Caribbean, but in the weeks leading up to the trip.

fly like a bird

Think of it like Christmas. Having a trip to look forward to is the equivalent of Christmas Day. December 25 is a pretty great day, but wouldn’t you agree that its anticipation makes you pretty jolly during the entire season? The excitement of Christmas Day is pretty much over by noon. You’ve gotta admit trimming the tree, chatting with friends over mulled wine and the office Christmas party are a lot more fun then remembering the big day in dismal January.

When it comes to vacations, you first do your research and fantasize about where you’d love to go. Then you bite the bullet and book it. Woo-hoo! The next few weeks are spent bragging to all friends (also crucial for increased happiness levels), shopping for your trip and researching local blogs on the best spots to hit up on your visit. You ought to do all this my friends, because anticipating the future delivers more happiness than reflecting on the past.

web design

Make your dreams a reality

To participate and bid on your dream vacay, hop onto Twitter follow the @AirTransat account, or search for the hashtag #TransatAuction this upcoming Monday. Full details of the Transat Auction and the lots will also be available on the www.transatauction.ca microsite as of Friday, November 27.

See you in Cabo?

Tis the time of year to get a jump on your holiday shopping. Savvy shoppers know how to escape the crowds AND get into the spirit of the season. Their secret? Leaving town. Not only will you snag unique items Calgary chains don’t carry, but these festive outings remind you how lucky we are to live in such a gorgeous destination. Here are some sweet towns and quaint country boutiques around Southern Alberta well worth the drive.

A Very Prairie Christmas: Destination Shopping in Alberta

Little shops on the prairie

About a 15-minutes north of Hanna, Cattlemunns Ranching Gift Shop is a gem of a shop worth sniffing out. They’ve pretty much cornered the market on quaint country Christmas items, and you’ll have to do several laps of the store (and quonset!) to do it justice. I snagged some Nordic looking linens and a few antique wooden containers from China.

red gift shop

Note: Open Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., or by appointment. Schedule a girl’s night out here and you’ll want to make it an annual event. Drop by on Saturdays and tuck into freshly baked cinnamon buns.

Check out MerryAboutTown.com to learn more about Sister's

Check out MerryAboutTown.com to learn more about Sister’s

If I had a nickel for every shopaholic who recommended Sisters Roadside Treasures to me, I’d be able to pay off my shopping bill! Located between Rimbey and Bluffton, this mercantile successfully mixes the old with the new inside a hip roof barn. Pick up retro Christmas ornaments, depression glass and great finds for the cottage.  Note: Open Thursday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Afterwards, head to Rimbey for a bite at Corner Bistro or swing by Empress Theatre Coffee Shop for more shopping.

Black Diamond

This tiny town is a trove of eclectic shops, galleries and surprisingly good drugstores. Hit up Bohemia for fair trade, local and just plain cool products. (I walked out with a three dresses, each under $50!). Next, nip in to Blue Rock Gallery located next door. Even if you’re not an art collector, you can snag pottery and a locally made adult colouring book by artist Crystal Salamon.

white city bike

You’d expect to find a shop like Branch Market & Studio in trendy Inglewood, but prices at this funky up-cycle studio are much lower compared to Calgary. It’s one find after the next in this handmade market that has a knack for transforming everyday objects into pretty pieces.


Don’t think you’re finished! A three-minute drive away is the Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley. Take a tour, try a tasting or snag some of their Christmas spirits.

Christmas booze

High River

If you’re besotted with the french country farmhouse look, you’ll love stepping into Pixie Hollow. The edit here is spot on, the merchandizing is gorgeous and the selection of books, stationary, clothing and quilts is second to none. Next door is Bearberry Lane, a top notch children’s store, with a fab selection of children’s books, in addition to quality learning toys and games. Stuff those stockings with tasty treats from Sheena’s Sweets and Such.

Pixie Hollow

There aren’t many opportunities in life to dine on a train anymore, so roll into Whistle Stop Cafe for a bite. I’m also partial to The Hitchin Post, a seasonal burger shack that’s worth the calories.


It may not look like much from the outside, yet inside The Red Carrot is another story. Every nook and cranny is overflowing with stationary, kitchenware, home decor, plus covetable costume jewelry. Come the season, they stock up on super cute Christmasy decorations.

Christmas signs

Brimming with restaurant dishware and Pinterest worthy bric-a-brac, Strathmore Pawn & Collectables is anything but stodgy. I only ask you avert your eyes from the stylish army jackets and wooden snowshoes. Those babies are mine! Hungry? Kim’s Cafe is where local shoppers nosh for breakfast and lunch.


Start your shopping excursion at Because I Said So, a fair trade cafe, where you can browse while sipping speciality coffees. Their selection of indy music and greeting cards is tops, but I’ve got my eye on the buffalo hide bags made in Sundre.

Because I Said So

Mosey onto Mosaic, flush with funky jewelry, wood carvings and stained glass (hello Tiffany-style lamps!). While you’re there, you can even get a tattoo! Auditorium Hotel Cafe serves up home cooking in a rustic atmosphere, and there’s even a coffee and wine bar in town. The vibe at Fieldstones is fresh, modern and oh-so European.


With a  belief beauty can change your life, the finds inside Heavenly Outhouse are unique, non-toxic and well priced. From bedding to baby, bath and body, expect to snap up gorgeous items you might end up keeping for yourself.

Heavenly Outhouse

Superb soup is found at Coffee Traders, you can go vegan at Thai Onzon and Guy’s Bakery is always fun. St Christopher coffee drink at The Gentry Expresso Bar is approaching cult status and their paninis are pretty rad, too.


Drumheller is the perfect family getaway from Calgary. Divide and conquer with one parent pleasing the troops at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the other hitting the shops. Jungling Works offers a unique mix of home décor and art (especially textiles), Faux Den carries antiques, mining memorabilia and toys, while Dry Canyon Collectibles offers First Nations art, collectibles and gift items.

prairie town

Got a T-Rex obsessed tyke on your list? The Fossil Shop has fantastic selection of fossils and minerals. As you’d expect, the gift shop at Royal Tyrrell Museum is groaning with dino related toys, books and educational items for purchase.

For a lovely lunch check out Bernie & the Boys Bistro, featured on the Food Network’s You’ve Gotta Eat Here. Sublime Food and Wine has a Red Seal Chef (and an affordable menu for foodies), while Ivy’s Awesome Kitchen & Bistro is tops for those with dietary concerns.

So what did I miss? What are your favourite shops close to Calgary?

Friday Faves

I’m on the prowl for holiday cheer, like I found at this Christmas Market in the Netherlands two years ago.

Man, did this week ever fly by. I almost wish today was Tuesday, so I could get caught up. This week I made an appearance on Calgary’s Global TV, and I was able to get into the holiday spirit at my first Christmas party. I’ve said yes to a lot of things recently, including squeezing in a girls weekend. I think November is such a great time of year to reconnect with your besties, swap steal ideas for Christmas and just chill, before the season overwhelms us with cookie exchanges and concerts you’d rather not attend. Hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re looking to get into the spirit of the season, check out Banff’s Winterstart Festival. I’ll for sure be hitting it up this weekend with the team.

In Europe, they let children man the bar. Just like when we were kids!

In Europe, they let children man the bar. Just like when we were kids!

This week’s Friday Faves is brought to you by the number 7

Warm bevvies, anyone? The Norwegian secret to enjoying a long winter.

Want to slow down? Take a penny walk with your kids.

A must read for parents: Finding the balance between freedom and fear.

7 keys to happy parenting.

7 Hacks to beat sugar cravings

7 Secrets to becoming a morning person

Find your ideal dog by selecting the traits you like best

How to cut your grocery bill by $1000 a year.

I feel a bit Junior High posting this, but I thought it was an interesting read, nonetheless. How to recognize signs from the universe

How a man defeated his anxiety

How to give yourself a karmic cleanse.

Easy, affordable accommodation options for winter

(Photo credit: Clubesl.com)

Is it too early to say the Christmas season is upon us? Even if it is, it’s not too early to start thinking about and booking your accommodation for the holidays or even a winter getaway. If you’re Canadian, you’re probably keen to save some pennies and stay closer to home, while our loonie remains weak against the U.S. dollar. Here’s a look at some easy ways to find, affordable accommodation options in Alberta.

red barn on a farm

Search for variety

I know you think you want a ski-in and ski-out chalet with a hot tub, but if you widen your search, you just might surprise yourself. I like to fantasize too, but when I’m actually in research mode, I cover all the bases.

Booking.com Homepage

I’ve been playing more with online sites like Booking.com, simply because it allows me to do this comparison. Booking.com offers more than hotels – it’s got 30 different categories to choose from, so if you decide not to go for a hotel it’s easy to plug in a new type (e.g. hostel, treehouse, tent hotel, boat!) and make the comparison.

Hotel Themes

Homestays or self catering options are awesome because they come with equipped kitchens, several bedrooms, and laundry facilities. There’s often little extras like free wifi, fireplaces, perhaps even a hot tub. Not only is it much cosier than staying at a hotel, you’ll save major bucks.

snowshoeing with friends

Go local

It’s hard to get a proper perspective on a place when you’re staying at a chain hotel. I try to live like a local as much as I can when travelling. Not because I’m a travel snob, but because you get the best experiences that way. When you go the self catering route, you’re in a position to access different parts of your destination and can explore off the beaten path.

Staying at unique properties (other than traditional hotels) is gaining steam. Over 70% of accommodations available on Booking.com falls outside of the traditional hotel category, making it the #1 destination for awesome, unique places to stay. Here’s some cool finds I stumbled across that are easily accessible from Calgary.

arts and crafts house

Check out Fitzhugh House in Jasper from only $110 night. It’s centrally located in the sweet mountain town and sports a flat-screen satellite TV in every room.

prairie cabin

East of Red Deer lies Nestled In The Pines Cottage, a pet friendly, alpine chalet.

log house

Who wouldn’t want to bed down in a log house like The One in Blairmore? As you’d expect, it affords mountain views and is minutes away from a lake.

wooden dining table

A Safe Haven is a fully furnished holiday home located in the heart of Crowsnest Pass. Bonus: Allison-Chinook cross country ski area is less than a 10-minute drive away.

alberta lake

At Foxlake Retreat outside of Hanna, you could go ice skating or cross country skiing direct from the doorstep.

Why use a site like Booking.com?

  • It’s easy. If you’ve ever tried to wade through a homestay or home exchange site, you’ll appreciate how streamlined and easy on the eyes this one is.
  • Peace of mind. You receive instant confirmation.
  • There’s no constant back and forth negotiation with the home owner. The properties and rooms are listed in real time, ensuring that the availability viewed is the availability you’ll actually get.
  • Free cancellations for most bookings up to 24-hours prior to your stay.
  • You don’t have to pay upfront for most of the accommodation options on the site. Who wants to shell out major bucks before the holidays and hope the accommodation is up to snuff?
  • The online review system lets you quickly see what others thought of the property, so you know which ones to avoid.

Thank you to Booking.com for taking the time to walk me through your site (that 24/7 support is really handy), and for helping me find some cool options for my family this winter.

A trick for making lipstick stay put

Do you eat your lipstick as much as I do? Inevitably within an hour or so of applying a fresh lick of colour, I’m back to my pale, invisible lips. Fret not, friends. Help is at hand! I picked up a slew of makeup tips and tricks at Nordstrom recently. Laura Mercier was putting a free holiday makeup and hair tutorial, so I went, got schooled and walked out looking quite a bit better then when I walked in. Here’s the trick for making your lipstick stay put.

How to make lipstick stay put

  1. When applying foundation, also smear it across your lips.
  2. Take a lip liner that matches your lipstick and fill in your lips. Just don’t outline them, colour in-between the lines.
  3. You can freehand outside your lips if you need to make some adjustments, but go easy. If you’re not well versed in this, you could end up looking like a clown.
  4. Apply your lipstick.
  5. Blot your lips on a tissue.
  6. Take another tissue – ideally one that’s two-ply and separate the plies. You could use three-ply tissue, but that’s just going to be more work.
  7. Take that thin, transparent now one-ply tissue and place it over your lips.
  8. Using a blush type brush, pick up some translucent powder and dab it over the tissue, which is still placed over your lips. The powder sets your lipstick and because you’ve got the tissue barrier, the powder doesn’t cling to the colour.
  9. Remove the tissue and admire your handiwork. Just don’t lick your lips! Try not to eat or drink immediately after. Give it a few minutes or use a straw like Gwen Stefani does on The Voice.

blotting lipstick

And there you have it. Perfectly set lips for the holiday season. Why not put away your tubes of gloss and give this a try? If you feel you need additional help, however, get a complimentary makeup bag makeover with one of Nordstrom’s Beauty Stylists.

How do you make lipstick, or any makeup for that matter, stick?

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