Travel Swellness: Escape to Vernon for a wellness retreat

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The mountains are calling…

The mountains are always calling me, it seems. I’ve said it before: as much as I love the ocean and spending time on a beach, it’s being in the mountains that truly makes me well up inside with all of the warm and fuzzies.

So I jumped at the opportunity to travel to Vernon, B.C., with Buick Enclave to learn about this luxury crossover SUV and to breathe in that fresh mountain air. It was a whirlwind trip, but I was a busy little bunny and have 5 things you must do if you’re looking to do your own wellness retreat in beautiful Vernon.

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1. Stay at Sparkling Hill Resort. The view from the floor to ceiling windows in the suites is reason enough to book a stay at Sparkling Hill. Just taking in that view and I feel more relaxed and calm.  I could just go from that bathtub to the bed and back all day long soaking it up. Add in a very comfortable bed, some incredible food (everything I had from the veggie wrap at lunch to the chicken at dinner was delectable), and stress just melts away. The property is on a granite bluff overlooking Lake Okanagan and is the brainchild of the patriarch of the Swarovski crystal family, so throughout the property you’ll find more than 3.5 million Swarovski crystals making the resort shine bright.

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2. Snowshoe at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre. With tall evergreens weighed down with fluffy white snow, snowshoeing here with a guide is a magical winter wonderland experience. As a city girl jaded by the frigid long waits for public transit and dealing with the grey, slushy mess of downtown Toronto, escaping to a place like Sovereign Lake  where winter is stunning and gives you a reason to celebrate snow is always a good reminder to make time to appreciate this most Canadian of seasons.

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Breathing in that fresh pine scent as you work your way through the trails is a great workout; you can burn about 500 calories an hour (but it really depends on how difficult your terrain is and how intensely you trek).

Vernon hiking

3. Go hiking. There are 25 kilometres of marked trails in and around the Sparkling Hill Resort property for hiking. It’s so quiet that it’ll just be the crunch of the snow beneath your feet to accompany you, with views of the lake and some 300 species of birds in the area to spot. The resort also offers daily guided hikes if you’re not keen about venturing out on your own.

Kurspa hot pool

4. Spend a day in Kurspa. Yes, an entire day. Or break up your time at the 40,000 square-foot spa over several days. There are seven different themed steams and saunas to indulge in including Rose Steam, Igloo, Crystal Steam and Aqua Meditation.

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You could (and should) also walk the Kneipp Hydrotherapy, a water-stepping path through warm and cold water (it’s only about knee deep) designed to help with circulation, low blood pressure, insomnia and swollen feet. If hot pools are your jam, the one at Kurspa is  designed so that you should move your way around it counterclockwise so that the specially designed jets help to soothe your body. For those who like to swim laps, you will not want to miss the indoor saltwater pool here as music is  piped in underwater. And I haven’t even gotten to the spa treatments yet: try the signature Mud & Muscle if you’ve gone hard with your workouts, or the Crystal Scrub to get glowing. I didn’t have time to have a treatment since I chose to spend as much time outdoors in the mountains, but I heard the treatments are top notch.

Me in Buick Enclave

5. Go for a scenic drive around the Okanagan. Driving the winding roads in the 2018 Buick Enclave was a relaxing and beautiful excursion during which we got to take in the sunset as we made our way to and then back from Sovereign Lake. If you’re traveling with your whole squad, the Enclave is actually a great choice as it seats seven people, and yet it manages to not feel like an enormous car (in fact, I actually didn’t realize the car’s capacity at all when I was driving it, and that is usually something I’m wary of). And check out the super luxe interior (with heated seats, much welcome after snowshoeing in the cold!)

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But my two top reasons a Buick Enclave is the perfect ride for this trip to a mountain escape to Vernon? Firstly, the OnStar 4G LTE wifi, which came in handy given we were in areas where my smartphone had no data connection.  Up to seven devices can connect so every passenger can stream or catch up on social media and emails easily.

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Secondly, the QuietTuning feature. I’ve only just learned about it but it helps create a healthier and more relaxing space in your Buick. What is it? It’s an air ionizer that helps to eliminate odours and improve air quality by creating negatively charged particles that attract all of the things you don’t want in your car (the bad smells and contaminants– think dust, pollen, bacteria) making them heavy and then sweeping them out of the air in the car. Making it that much easier for you to breathe in that fresh Okanagan air.

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I hope I can fit in another mountain escape into my schedule soon because they are calling again. Thank you, Buick, for this little escape to the west coast.

 Photography (Buick Enclave in Ebony Twilight, Buick Enclave in Havana Metallic , snowshoeing, sauna, mountain view): Lucas Scarfone.

 

Leave a Comment December 15, 2017

Foodie Swellness: Delicious Olives from Spain

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Although I did not grow up eating olives from Spain (I actually was probably an adult before I tried them for the very first time), but they’re now something I can’t live without. I’ll regularly crave them (coincidentally, one of my cats loves tapenade, she is so much my spirit animal!).

I don’t see how one can’t love olives from Spain. They’re so versatile, for one. A simple bowl of them with your cheese and charcuterie boards. Or add olives from Spain for a brine-y bite to your salads or pasta dishes (pasta puttanesca is a classic favourite!). Baked into a focaccia so that each doughy bite has a bit of olives from Spain. And what about chicken? On it’s own, a pretty bland protein. Incorporate lemon and whichever variety of olives from Spain you can find at your local supermarket into your sauce, though, and you’ve got one mouthwatering, flavourful main course.

The different ways you can enjoy olives are practically endless when you also consider that there are so many wonderful varieties from Spain. I’m not an olive connoisseur but I try to pick up a variety I’m unfamiliar with when I’m shopping at the market.

And did know they’re loaded with antioxidants that research has shown to be anti-cancerous, and they also contain iron and inflammation-reducing oleic acid? So many good reasons to incorporate them into your snacking and cooking repertoire  if you don’t already.

Next time you’re adding olives from Spain to your shopping list, some you might want to try out: hojiblanca, gordal and manzanilla. I feel like most people I know are partial to black olives, and while I do gravitate to them, I do love gordal, too; These large, fleshy green olives from Spain have a great bitter-salty balance, making them great for snacking. The same goes for manzanilla olives when it comes to snacking; they’re nice and round and plump and since its pit is easy to remove, you’ll often find them stuffed (think anchovies, peppers or cheese)—delicious! And hojiblanca? These olives from Spain have a slight fruity and nuttiness to them, which works well for stews and marinades.

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With the versatility of olives from Spain, I started dreaming of Canadian dishes where I could incorporate them, and bannock came to mind. Let’s face it, I dream of carbs so it’s not shocking I thought of bread. I’ve never made bannock before, a bread that comes to us from our First Nations. I did a little research about it and discovered that bannock can be baked or fried, and although traditionally prepared and enjoyed quite simply, modern versions include cinnamon bannock rolls and bannock breakfast sandwiches  Light and fluffy bannock with some chopped olives from Spain warm from the frying pan sounded like it’d be the ultimate savoury treat…and it was! Here’s the recipe:

Fried Bannock with Olives from Spain

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • chopped olives from Spain to taste (I used about a ¼ cup of Hojiblancas)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup water
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Whisk together dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in olives (I used Hojiblancas) and olive oil, and add water, until almost combined.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead a handful of times but do not overwork.
  4. Divide into 6 balls and flatten with your hands. Fry at medium heat in a frying pan generously oiled on the bottom of the pan until both sides of the bread are golden brown.
  5. Drain on a paper-towel lined plate.
  6. Enjoy warm!

Given the simple ingredients and method, I’m thinking this could be a great bread to make the next time I go camping or for brunch. Although, it’s not camping I’ve got on the brain now, it’s escaping to Spain I’m dreaming of!

For more recipe ideas for olives from Spain, be sure to check out olivesfromspain.ca

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Leave a Comment December 14, 2017

Foodie Swellness: 3 reasons to celebrate the holidays at The Keg (+ GIVEAWAY!)

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The holidays are all about getting together with friends and family, right? Even though we have all year to get together, somehow we’re all compelled to make the extra effort to reunite this month. I guess we all feel a little more festive this time of year.

If you’re anything like me, you have high standards about where to get together. Throw in just about everyone having some sort of diet restriction, and this can make choosing a place to eat and drink that pleases everyone stressful. And extra stress is not what any of us have on our holiday wish list. Which is why The Keg is a great spot to to celebrate the holiday season–there is something for everyone there.

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I’ve got three reasons The Keg is an ideal spot to get together for your holiday merriment–I even went there for dinner this week with friends to research this (I am thorough, people!):

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1. The menu has so many choices. Yes, the Keg is known for steaks, but there are plenty of other choices, too, such as the pistachio-crusted salmon a few of my friends considered. A few of us wanted escargots to start, but we compromised and got the lobster au gratin special instead, along with the crispy cauliflower, calamari and baked brie (yes, my friends and I have healthy appetites!).

The Keg lobster tails with filet mignon

When it came time to decide, for our mains, we did all end up going with steak (the New York strip loin I ordered was heavenly and cooked perfectly medium-rare). And because two of us were indecisive between beef or seafood, we each added some surf to our steak entrees: I went with king crab (so meaty and delectable) while my friend got the Atlantic lobster tails, which I wanted to grab from her plate, they looked so incredible. You know it’s a good dinner when the conversation lulls because you’re all devouring your food.

The Keg striploin with crab

People with restricted diets can easily find dishes to enjoy, too. The items that are gluten-free are clearly marked (the heirloom tomato and burrata sounds like heaven on a plate); so you don’t have to grill the server about what gluten-free options you have (although they, of course, will gladly answer your questions — we had many about the different cuts of steak and sauce choices). For vegetarians, you’ve got some options, too, but I think the one that sounds most delicious is the cauliflower “steak'; with chickpea and sundried tomato relish and asparagus.

And by the way, if you’re counting calories, those, too, are clearly indicated on the menu.

We also ordered several dessert to share. I was very into the Billy Miner pie (I love mocha ice cream!) whereas my friends really liked the creme brulee, which was incredibly smooth and creamy and which had a slightest hint of salt to balance the flavours.

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2. Let’s talk about the affordable wine and cocktails at the Keg. No word of a lie, the cost of the wine and cocktails at The Keg had all four of us (1) very surprised, and (2) planning on making it a regular place to meet for drinks. In fact, we ordered a bottle of prosecco to start (which I believe was $26), and then a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with our meal. I usually only order a bottle if I’m feeling like splashing out but with the prices being so reasonable, it just made sense to order bottles.

The Keg dining room

3. The cozy atmosphere. While I’ve been to other locations of The Keg, this was my first visit to the location on King St. West in Toronto. It’s modern and dimly lit and it just feels cozy inside. There’s the sleek bar closer to the entrance; we sat in the dining room in a comfortable booth. The design aesthetic manages to be both refined and comfortable. I’d also say it’s a touch more masculine in design (the dark wood tones, for example), but it’s definitely a place a group of girlfriends would feel at home in as well. It’s a spot that is entirely appropriate for a client dinner and yet also somewhere you can go with a date or out for a fun evening catching up with friends.

Sold on The Keg yet? Guess I’ll see you there. You’ll find me trying the escargots dish we didn’t end up ordering and sipping on some of that delicious, affordable wine!

(And by the way,  if you’ve got a secret Santa exchange you need to shop for, a giftcard to The Keg is something everyone can make use of — with several locations, and all of the reasons above, it’s a stocking stuffer that I think most everyone would enjoy).

UPDATE: I’ve got a $100 giftcard to The Keg to give away! How to enter to win? Comment on this blog post about what you’d order at The Keg! The giveaway ends at noon E.S.T. on Thursday, December 14th. For additional ways to enter, visit my Instagram! The winner will be chosen at random.

Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and The Keg and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.

 

 

59 Comments December 5, 2017

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