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Barilla - David Rocco - Penne Pasta al Burro

Kids in the Kitchen: David Rocco’s Pasta Al Burro

EAT, family meals By March 8, 2016 Tags: , , , , 1 Comment

It is always a challenge to get kids involved in meal preparation but we encourage you to turn off the tech and make some beautiful memories in the kitchen with your loved ones. Food is always a huge part of any family tradition, and involving the kids in the kitchen will teach them life skills as well as cutting down your chores. Especially during the busy winter months with short days, snowy activities and homework, mom and dad need all the help you can get.

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organize-your-life

Tips For Living Simply

beauty, GEAR By January 27, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

I don’t like new year’s resolutions because they usually amount to more pressure and disappointment. I try to look at life as progress – are every few years getting better than the last? Are we happy? Over the past two months I’ve been focusing on living simply, eliminating stress and organizing life. Along with drinking lemon water, buying a juicer, there are 10 things the family has undertaken to ensure we are living simply with as little stress as possible.

Mabels Scan and Store Labels

1. Unsubscribe from as many email lists as possible. Keep the ones that you covet, but recognize that your time – even that 5 second glance to your phone when it dings – is worth gold.

2. Do a closet overhaul. (It doesn’t have to be a What Not to Wear episode where you feel guilty and depressed.) Put anything that doesn’t quite fit in a suitcase labelled with the size and date. We love Mabel’s Labels new Scan and Store barcode labels with an app so you know what’s in the box and where you put it! Check for stained items, holes, pills and shoes beyond repair. Invest in new, thin felt hangers (Homesense is a great place for these) and take metal hangers back to the drycleaner.

Statement Necklace Organization3. Place all of your jewelry on the bed. Separate any broken pieces that need repair, and start a collection of unwanted or broken costume pieces for a little girl in your life. When I was a little girl, a friend’s grandmother did this for me and I was thrilled by my treasures. Polish the silver and clean gold, pearls and gems with a soft cloth. I hung chunky necklaces on scarf hangars and places bangles in shoeboxes.

4. Pull out your makeup and toss anything that is too old. Wash brushes with Dawn and water and dry flat on a cloth. 97.9 % of us, according to a 2003 study on the use of cosmetics, are guilty of  using make-up after the expiration date, with mascara being the most frequently mentioned product. Products with a higher water content have a shorter lifespan after opening due to the ability for bacteria and microbes to breed in moisture. Curious about expiration dates? Here’s a cheat sheet:

Cover Girl and Olay Makeup

Expiration Dates for Makeup:

Mascara (regular or waterproof), liquid, pencil or gel eyeliners: 4 to 6 months
Cream, Liquid or Stick Foundations or Concealers: 6 months to 1 year
Powder-based products (including mineral makeup): 2-3 years
Lipsticks, Lip Gloss, & Lip Pencils: 2-3 years

Skincare:

Cleansers: 1 year
Toners: 6 months to 1 year
BHA or AHA Exfoliants: 1 year
Facial or Body Moisturizers and Serums: 6 months to 1 year
Lip Balms: 1 year

Foreign Currency Travel Packs5. Eliminate undue travel stress. Note passport expiry dates in your calendar and apply for a Nexus/Global Entry pass to skip long airport security lines. Keep travel chargers and ziplocks sorted with different currencies from past trips in your go-to suitcase, and have a few key seasonal clothing items at the ready in case you take a trip to a different climate. Check balances on hotel points cards and ensure you are using them to your advantage.

6. Be ready for sick days. Check first aid kits for expiration dates on medicines. Have homemade chicken soup in the freezer. We use the homemade chicken stock recipe from Kitchen Stewardship, which provides incredible healing benefits, including boosting the immune system, aiding digestion, increasing efficiency of protein use and providing easily digestible minerals, including calcium. You also get none of the ‘fake’ foods and preservatives when you make it yourself. Get rid of the dust. Give your kids an extendible Swiffer duster once a week and give them a quarter if they can cover it with dust from the tops of frames and chandeliers.

Closet Overhaul7.  Grab all of your gift cards and see if some can be amalgamated. If you have a stack of cards you will never use, use Cardswap.ca to exchange them for cards you will use.

8. Are your computer and mobile phone systems working well? I hadn’t backed up files, and my phone and computer contacts were duplicated or not being saved properly. Not being able to find a number for a mom during a playdate or losing precious photos to power surges can be devastating or just stressful. Calling Geek Squad or heading to the nearest Apple or Microsoft store could sort out all of your tech woes. Oh, and write your printer toner numbers in your wallet along with your license plate number. (Or am I the only one who always forgets these?) You can also photograph it all, along with membership cards and parking passes and store the photos in a special account in the cloud.

9. Evaluate the entertainment options. Our family is a bit over the top. We have a huge cable package, a Netflix subscription, Next Issue, and regularly make purchases on iTunes and Google Play. I sat down with the family and we discussed our needs. There isn’t enough time in the week to watch, play and read everything. We decided what is most important (English football and Netflix) and eliminated a few unnecessary distractions from there. It can be worth a call to your providers to check the options. Amazon Prime can cut down on entertainment costs. For film buffs in the US, Fandango is your best friend.

Personal Bags10. Do you and your kids do a weekly activity? We were always searching for shin guards, cleats and ski helmets, so we now have a system. Monogrammed bags for each activity (ours are from Land’s End) are packed and in the mudroom. We take them to the activity and then right to the laundry room afterwards. When the clothes are clean and dry they go right back into the bag and to their permanent home. Ditto for library book bags.

We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for living simply! Write them below and we will choose our favourite at random for a special gift card!

10 Ways to Simplify Life

Disclosure: This article is not sponsored. UrbanMommies does receive samples to test from time to time, and some Proctor and Gamble and Mabel’s Labels items are shown here, however all creative and selections are my own.

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Kids at Big White

Family Activities at Big White Resort

Canada, ROAM By January 20, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Big White BCLeaving my airport hotel this morning, there was a sign that left me breathless. ‘It’s not only about the destination, but about the journey.’ As I approach a milestone year, this message hit me as a powerful explanation of the first 40 years of my life. Recently the family and I travelled to Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna, British Columbia. Their typical champagne powder is such a given that it is often taken for granted. I have a secret suspicion that in fact, the staff have so little worry about snow conditions that management have been able to use their extra time and passion to focus entirely on customer experience.  Trappers CrossingOur room at Trapper’s Crossing included a loft with bunks for the kids and a private hot tub on the deck. The kitchens make a huge difference for families and the grocery store across the street is much better stocked than most resort stores. The moose stencilled on each wall and requisite wooden skis and snowshoes as part of the décor made the kids squeal in anticipation for our Big White weekend. Big White Ski LessonsSomething miraculous and unexpected happened over the next few days. Ready to hit the hill with the new automatic RFID lift cards in hand, we started getting apologies from people… But it was a bluebird sun-filled day with a perfect temperature and a fabulous buzz in the Village Common Mall (VCM for hipsters). The VCM is like the Great Hall in a Harry Potter film – the nerve-centre of the resort where ski instructors grab their morning latte, phones get power from Telus charging stations and rental assistants never make you wait for equipment. With this vibe – why the apologies, I wondered. Big White Pet PassI soon found out that just before we arrived, a crazy mild spell hit the region. It was accompanied by torrential rain which washed away some of the fluffy powder. For the first time in decades, the slogan ‘It’s the Snow’ wasn’t fitting. Being somewhat familiar with the resort, I knew there were always hidden caches of great skiing but I was also interested to thoroughly explore the many other activities provided by the resort. After all – not everyone in the family always skis, and Big White offers so much more for the family than their snow. I should note that ‘family’ also includes four-footed ones, and they also offer the ‘Pet Pass‘ in exchange for a donation to the SPCA. Bluebird Day Big WhiteMy tiny novice snowboarders were not deterred in the slightest by the conditions. They whooped and hollered as my husband made a mental note to give their instructor an extra big tip after he had to pick up the 6 year-old over 200 times. We followed the kids on the hill, spying on them and trying to show off our style a bit too… The Woods Big WhiteWe all met in the village for lunch and The Woods offers some of the best food and ambiance on the hill. A talented artist on staff has even hand-drawn a depiction of the restaurant and it’s on the back of the kids’ menu as a colouring page. In mid-afternoon, when the sun shines and guests are ready for après ski, huge drums with skis attached are slid onto a snowy patio out front and natural wood fires burn ‘til dusk as a DJ spins tunes that made me feel only half of my 40 years.  Big White Tube ParkIn past trips to the resort, we have been challenged with climbing the 60 ft tall ice tower. (For me, ‘challenge’ is an understatement). What I hadn’t yet tried was the tube park. A tow rope drags you and the tube to the top and you are spit out of the trail like a ping pong ball. After instructing the attendants if you want spins or no spins (the boys always asked for 2,000 percent spin power), we whizzed down the icy tube run to be slowed by bunches of hay. My face could have cracked with the grins. Then the true magic happened. We would form a duo with one of the kids, holding hands as we laughed and squealed down the icy track. Memories for a lifetime. Big White Games NightNear the tube park in Happy Valley is a bunny hill for beginners, snowmobiling (including two tiny ones for kids), horse and sleigh rides and of course, the huge outdoor skating rink complete with nets, sticks and pucks. After the activities we all hit the Loose Moose, where resort staff were holding a ‘Games Night’, teaching families how to play checkers and connect four, and being uber-generous with prizes. Six Degrees Bistro I have always believed that good parenting requires great balance, and the ad
ults of our family decided to experience the resort’s more mature offerings. Having no trouble finding an excellent babysitter, my husband went to Showshoe Sam’s to hone his pool skills while I hopped over to 6 Degrees Bistro for a tasting of wines and small plates. Owner John Mooney and his accomplished chef had prepared foie gras and local lamb to serve with an exceptional local pinot noir. I laughed happily when I realized Covert Farms was a supplier. Not only was the preparation and presentation at 6 Degrees more fitting of a New York City starred-establishment than a ski hill, but I found a kindred spirit in Mooney’s daughter, who has been volunteering with kids in Liberia. Though it has been two years since I travelled to Monrovia with Right to Play, we exchanged stories and smiles. After deciding that pool really wasn’t our game, my husband and I wandered into the VCM to check on the boys. It was carnival night, and rumour had it that Big White’s mascot, the Loose Moose, was to get a female partner in crime. The building was packed with bouncy castles, carnival games and cotton candy. Trying to high-five the boys, they were too busy throwing bean bags and getting prizes to pay much attention to mama. Sessions Taphouse Big WhiteWe headed around the corner to check out the newest watering hole and dining establishment called Sessions Taphouse. After a near $1MM renovation, this former ‘dive bar’ (they said it – I didn’t!) had been transformed into a restaurant and après ski paradise by day, and nightclub by night. What I entirely didn’t expect was the cuisine. On our next visit for lunch a day later, the cheesy bacon balls were devoured by the boys a la Homer Simpson, and every single dish we tried during the three visits during the trip were perfection. Carnival Night Big WhiteEarly Monday morning my husband rose early for the shuttle to Kelowna airport so as not to miss his day at work, and the boys and I were feeling the stale negativity that comes when leaving a beloved place. Given that it was the final week of school before the holidays, I didn’t think they would miss much if we extended the stay. Central Reservations was brilliant and helped us so much. While I was chatting with the desk, the two boys were playing in a festive section of the room, donning elf hats and playing with a stuffed Rudolph. On a table there was a microphone – a toy that apparently ‘called an operator’ in the north pole. The eight year old, doubting the existence of Santa, pressed the button. An operator connected him to Mrs. Claus. His eyes wide, she asked him what she and Santa should do for a special date night. My son answered that they should snowboard like he was doing at Big White Resort. Mrs. Claus got very excited by the idea, commenting that she would tell Santa that he had suggested it. My son was in a dream-like state. He has never believed in goodness and magic so strongly. So as we still received numerous apologies about the snow, we left Big White with life lessons, felt closer as a family and had tried new challenges. Though the champagne powder is the typical feather in Big White’s cap, it’s not nearly the only reason to pick this resort destination. Our journey experiencing the plethora of activities offered for everyone in the family reminded me never to focus on the end game. It’s cherishing every second of the journey that’s important. And now I’m 40 so that’s true wisdom talking. Addendum: After our family left the resort had 45 cm of fresh snow. The base is now at 183 cm with a cumulative snowfall of 360cm.

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was provided with accommodation and passes for the purposes of crafting this story.

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The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

ROAM, USA By August 21, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

They had me at the s’mores gift bags.  Sticks, Marshmallows, Chocolate and wafers.  And fire pits by the pool and hottub on which to create the s’mores.  The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe was built around a main fireplace/chimney, from which the rest of the building emanates.  The main floor is more a great room than a lobby, with families eating, trendsetters having drinks and skiers doing après.  It’s like the community centre of the rich and famous.  Or at least that’s how it makes you feel.

The rooms boast soft sheets, stunning views, fireplaces and insanely amazing toiletries.  Combined with turndown service and fluffy robes? Epic.  My room overlooked the slopes of Northstar and I was torn as to whether to ski or stay in the gorgeous room.  (The skiing was too good to pass up though).

I was to be on TV the day after I left Northstar and the Ritz-Carlton, and my nails were a mess.  A devotee of Shellac, I needed acetone and foil to remove the 3 week-old colour from my fingers (it still looked great but not up to TV standards).  The spa attendants let me in after they had closed to figure it out (how amazing is that?!).  Not only did I see the alpenglow at the end of the day, but the healing, serene environment made me giddy.  And I chose a very au courant blue lacquer for the TV appearance.  You must check out the copper bathtub in the spa when you go.  Stunning.

Similar to other Ritz-Carlton properties, the chain gives tribute to local culture and the art throughout the hotel was sourced locally. My favourite pieces were the 160 beer-can butterflies in the lobby bar, of which only one has been stolen since opening.  You would never know they had been up-cycled.  Hopefully I can find them on Etsy.

I wish I’d had my family there.  As I watched a little boy have his boots nudged on by a valet, I remembered all of the weekends at Whistler mountain with my boys, screaming about their boots being tight.  The Ritz-Carlton staff had magic that I do not.  How I wish my boys could ride the uber-cool snowmobile sleigh and get their gear laced up by a pro!  (The valets at the Ritz even place your skis and poles for you so your only job is to hop into them like an Olympian.)  And watching the families après in the huge lobby are, surrounded by fireplaces, warmth and sun made me decide to return with my boys in tow.

The dining at the Ritz was like none I had ever experienced.  (Knowing Shaun Whyte was ‘in the house’ didn’t hurt either – we toured his world-class halfpipe the next day).  I began with a BNB.  That would be – bacon and bourbon.  The bacon being the stirstick.  Yeah.  I’m hard-core, BTW.  Try to catch up to me on the slopes. Ha ha.

The food was amazing,  (Trying not to be cliché but I can still taste it and I just can’t find the words). There were 6 of us around a table, getting to know each other over dinner.  How rude was I when I asked for a taste of everyone else’s meals!

I’ve stayed with several Ritz-Carltons – New Orleans and I am off to Key Biscayne in Miami right now.  What impresses me the most is how each hotel embraces their environment, meshes with the locals, incorporates the history of their surroundings into everything from the architecture to the menu.   True vibrant hotels allow a parent to teach as well as relax, and taking your kids to this property you can’t help but feel the history, the gold rush, and the national forest emanating from the environment.

My drive back to the airport at Lake Tahoe was unforgettable.  I was fidgeting with my Blackberry, fielding calls from work, and the driver was silent.  He was the same driver I’d had on the way in.  Feeling rude, I struck up a conversation which may have changed me forever.  He told me of his ancestors.  The railway tracks to the right that helped Lincoln win the Civil War.  He told me of his great grandfather who was a guide in the gold rush as his eyes gleamed and his pride showed clearly.  As a river guide in the summer he knows these parts.  He stopped in the perfect location so that I could take one parting photo if the Ritz-Carlton.  Remember in The Thomas Crown Affair – the smile of a Father? – That’s what it was like.  The smile of a man who not only loves the land, but loves the businesses who prolong the history – his history.

www.ritzcarlton.com

 

 

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Ski Northstar at Lake Tahoe

ROAM, USA By May 9, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , 2 Comments

I’m waiting for my plane in Reno.  It’s late.  At the bar, a jovial guy introduces himself and acknowledges that he knows Randy Bell, my Ski Northstar Resort instructor.  Cool.  But then the guy went on about how Randy runs cattle farms, how enmeshed in the community he has become, the history of Tahoe, the forest preserve that is so carefully maintained by the resort… The man has been away from Tahoe for a few years and is dying to be back. I completely understand why.

This place is truly magical.

For Families, Northstar, located 45 minutes from Reno, Nevada, boasts an award-winning learn-to-ski program. But more than that. Epic Mix (it’s totally gnarly. You don’t even have to take your pass out of your pocket for the spy-sensors to pick up the radio frequency) allows your teens and tots to track their vertical and ski runs via computer at the end of the day. Epic Mix is available via your computer AND there’s a free phone app for iPhone and Droid, where you can view your photos, trail maps, vertical feet, days skied, digital pins earned….  The passes actually work at all 7 of Vail Resorts’ Mountains. And there are no paper tickets to lose. Not only that – but there are ‘Epic Photo’ photographers with professional cameras waiting in the most beautiful spots all over the hill who will scan your pass and snap a pic. When you log onto the Epic system to celebrate the accomplishments of your day, the photos are miraculously in your photo section. And they are free for you to share via your social networks. (Here’s a resort that not only gets technology, but puts the customer’s experience at the forefront). I loved the live shots, which showed my (bad) skiing at the end of the day and then my (improved after being instructed) skiing at the end.

The terrain is family-friendly, but with glades and black runs to die for. (Beginner – 13% Intermediate – 60% Advanced – 27%) The best? Many more challenging glade runs are adjacent to easier slopes, so everyone can meet (happy) at the lift. I am not usually a glade skiier but you couldn’t get me out of the trees here. Diligent and loving volunteer residents, along with resort employees have trimmed the underbrush and small limbs at the bases of most trees, vastly improving the skiier’s experience and the safety of the glades.

The snow? You know when you pick up a handful of snow and determine what you will use it for? This is not for snowballs. This stuff is like Chanel loose face powder that my Great Aunt wore in the 60’s. Gorgeous. I kept picking it up and blowing it off my mitt, giggling. And if you were in the area at the time – those hollers and whoops were probably me.

What struck me as the gondola attendants carried my skis and the Ritz Carlton valets helped the kids put on their boots, was that Vail Resorts is trying to make skiing/snowboarding a fully enjoyable family activity. I recently visited Disney and the parallels were clear. The customer prevails. Service is key. The business model values the individual and embraces challenges born into every life. And really? If you have a great experience, you’ll return. Skiing is one of those activities you can do for decades, and can help the fabric of a family no matter what the age of the kids – if the resort looks at the needs of everyone from infants to tweens, teenagers and non-skiiers. This place looks at every angle.

The Zephyr Lodge is new last year. Vail Resorts, which owns 6 other properties as well as Northstar, got a leg up on the economic downturn by investing in their properties. When other resorts stopped cutting runs or upgrading lifts, Vail had the forsight to invest 30 MM at Northstar alone into the improvement of the resort experience. The Zephyr, made of reclaimed wood from Montana, offers ‘Rockstar Food’. Why Rockstar? Healthy, incredibly prepared and cutting edge. My choice? The rice and noodle bar. I chose brown rice, lots of veggies, tofu and chicken. There were a selection of sauces – teryaki, curry or X, and a Vietnamese spring roll to top it off. Learn to ski if only for this meal. (Oh, and they doubled the number of womens’ washrooms too!)

For kids the ski school (link to Randy’s video) is incredible and Northstar allows kids to feel ‘big’ even if they are beginners. The learning area starts 6,800 feet above sea level, so after a gondola ride, they walk out to a crisp white wonderland and are shuttled to their own lodge via snowmobile-sleigh. The ‘Bear Hut’ is so named because one summer a bear raided the hot chocolate machine and settled down to hibernate. The next year, he returned and tried to dig his way in. Northstar decided to build a more secure structure in order to ward off future intruders!  The ‘Jib’ parks throughout the mountain offer challenges and fun for kids – there is even one where you can ski over the roof of a house.

I will never forget family apres ski when I was a child. After a full day of challenge and new experiences, you shared a secret almost, with your family. They knew I’d gone down the black diamond on my bum and I saw when my Dad had a yard sale. Apres is about reminiscing, bonding and relaxing. You’d accomplished lots. Northstar is king of apres (and they supply wagons to make schlepping the equipment easier). Adirondak chairs. Sun, happy hour – seriously – coming from Canada you don’t get that often! – and serious tunes. Playing on the loudspeakers of The Lodge at Big Springs were ‘Boogie Fever’, ‘Basket Case’, and ‘Wonderwall’. Thank goodness for Shazam. Stay tuned for the UrbanMommies Apres Ski playlist. People were flopped all over the area, sunning in big glasses and toques, boots undone and refreshment in hand. The apres ‘party’ at the lodge happens daily from 2pm to 4pm, and the brilliant part is that the lodge is at the top of the gondola, so skiing out when you are tired is unnecessary.

Because we were on a guided tour, we got the scoop. For the die-hards? There are Northstar’s guided sidecountry tours and snow cat tours. These will be offered for the first time next season to advanced skiers and riders who want to explore the resort’s new terrain, conditions permitting.  Ask about it. It is supposed to rival heli-skiing. Shh. And don’t you dare take my fresh tracks.

And then there’s the village. Like chocolate? Yeah. This is your place. The Chocolate Bar is all about the specialty. The village is full of amazing activities and shopping. Directly after skiing you must try the dirty snowman (Absolut Vanilla vodka, Baileys, Hazelnut liqueur + hot chocolate). With an ice-skating rink in the middle and devine sofas all around, the town is bustling. And you can shop. Not that any of us need to do more of that. Cute little wagons carry skis and poles so you or the tiny ones don’t have to schlep them and accommodations are plentiful and in my view, quite inexpensive compared with similar resorts in North America.  March happens to have some of the best rates as well as the best snow.  Go figure.

We boarded the gondola (awesome) to zip back to the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe. After a hottub, we ran to our rooms to grab the ‘s’mores in a bag’. Quite possibly the best invention ever, you can purchase s’more kits that include sticks, graham wafers, blocks of chocolate and large marshmallows. The Ritz has scattered firepits throughout the premises. You know what comes next. Relaxing by the fire, tired and toasty, I would have slept all the next day. Had it not been for the terrain. And the snow. And the technology. And the instruction. Just go.

Stay: The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe
Eat: Baxter’s Bistro
Drink: A Dirty Snowman or a BNB (That would be Bacon and Bourbon at the Ritz Carlton)
Spot: Shaun White if you’re lucky

Disclosure: UrbanMommies Media was provided with travel, accommodation, lift pass and a stipend for meals while investigating Vail’s Resorts in Lake Tahoe.

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Chateau Fairmont Whistler

Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Canada, ROAM By February 9, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , 5 Comments

I have a bit of a thing about castles.  Princess complex?  Perhaps…  but there is nothing quite like skiing down Blackcomb mountain as the Fairmont Chateau Whistler comes into sight.  All week before we departed for Whistler Blackcomb the kids announced to every person they saw that we were staying at a castle.  And it was.  And I felt like a princess in a resplendent building while the whole family – kids especially – were treated with boundless respect.

Picture it.  A gentle snowfall and sparkly white lights on the trees.  We pull up the majestic circular driveway and the valets are waiting.  They were so friendly that we couldn’t get the kids out of the car – there were very serious discussions happening around Star Wars Lego.  The kids are ecstatic.  They have a thing about riding on the luggage carts and giggling as I remind them that they are not suitcases.  Maybe when they grow up.

Checking in we were given reusable bags that say ‘I’m a Fairmont Kid!’ .  The treats inside not only occupied the boys, but the colouring book was all about bears and provided a fabulous learning opportunity as well.  (Thankfully I didn’t run into a bear as I hiked Spanky’s Ladder.)

There is something old-world and artistic about Fairmont properties.  I have stayed at at least 8, and in my view, they are cutting-edge in terms of being kid-friendly.  Normally the term means tacky plastic stuff and flashing lights.  Looking around, there is art everywhere – stone valise sculptures, intricate and modern floral arrangements, architectural flourishes and iron crows on the banisters.  The kids were chirping at them.  Yes, every time we walked by.

If this were a book, I’d do a whole chapter on the concierges.  If their smiles and jaunty ski sweaters weren’t enough I have decided that they are the demi-Gods of helpfulness.  Ian especially.  My hero.  He charges my Blackberry (often) and when my colleague lost his corporate visa card (it wasn’t me honest), Ian called every place this man had been the night before.  He then phoned Visa to cancel it.  Demi Gods.  I told you.

One of my favourite things about the rooms were the preppy cableknit blankets on the beds.  The fridge in the room is kept empty – a great help to parents who bring along snacks.  Kid-friendly extends to rooms as well.  I had no idea that if parents want a connecting room for the kids, the second room is half price.  The tiny bathrobes were certainly a highlight for the boys.  They breezed through the lobby en route to the hottub and were excited to find a little warming hut to hang them in order to ensure they remain dry.  Oh – and while you’re in the spa, ask for Wilma.  She offers private swimming lessons for adults and little ones.  So they’ll soon be able to ski AND swim circles around you.  Great.  (If you opt for free-floating the Fairmont supplies lifejackets too).

Whistler has cache.  But there is only one bar in the entire place that exudes the alpine mystique.  The Mallard Lounge.  A semi-circle bar, sledding for kids on the hill in back (they provide sleds), live music, domed ceilings, classic cocktails…  And kids are allowed (even at the bar) until 9pm.  Bartender extraordinaire Adam loves to serve kids Egyptian Lemonade – muddled with mint and raspberries.  A sparkling apple drink is served in a martini glass.  See? Kids are sophisticated too.  And the Chateau knows it.

They’re pretty cool with pets as well.  Dogs are part of the family, after all.  Jennifer Tice, the Public Relations Manager, showed me a picture of 2 puppies that she snapped with her iPhone.  She explained that these ‘hotel guests’ make so many people smile as they trot throughout the lobby, and the dogs assist in bringing people together and creating a social atmosphere throughout the hotel.  They have that down.  Sitting areas, tables, and sofas.  The lobby was always buzzing with activity and a great vibe.

I had the honour to visit the Wildflower Restaurant on 2 occasions.  Chef Vincent Stufano not only creates incredible dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients, but also features a ‘lifestyle cuisine plus’ menu with options in the following categories: heart healthy, diabetes, vegan, raw, macrobiotic, and gluten free. Double wow.  The restaurant also has a ‘sea to sky menu to go’.  For the road.  Just don’t get pulled over like we did on the way up. (Hopefully your lox and bagel doesn’t give energy to your accelerator foot..)

Dinner was amazing.  It was just adults (thank you Nannies on Call).  Before we dined I ordered room service for the kids their meals come with drink and dessert. Not only is there a kids’ menu, but when I asked for milk, They questioned: “plain, chocolate or strawberry?”  Seriously?  Then I learned that in December Fairmont created a new healthy eating menu just for the kids!

“Fairmont Chefs ensure these pint-sized offerings reflect the same basic principals as Lifestyle Cuisine and address the nutritional guidelines established for children by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.  Proactive steps include swapping out refined flour for whole wheat, incorporating fruits and vegetables into recipes to help meet the recommended daily fiber allowance, and employing alternative cooking methods to help ensure healthier choices are made available to young diners. “

On our final morning I took the boys to the Wildflower for breakfast.  Kids eat free.  Wow.  And when they entered?  They were each given an etch-a-sketch.  Our waiter told them it was an old-fashioned iPad.  I laughed hard.  (The boys looked at me with puzzlement as they touched the screen).  As we left each child was given a cookie as big as my head.  ‘for the road’.

In all?  I have a new go-to place when I ski.  After my weekend, the family is closer, the kids feel special, we made a ton of memories, and Ian the concierge is my new best friend.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Family Fun in Whistler

Disclosure:  UrbanMommies was provided accomodation at the Chateau in order to write this piece, and as always all opinions are our own.

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Sun Peaks Maple Syrup Candy

EAT, snacks By March 21, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

Sun Peaks Maple Syrup CandyEasiest, funnest (is that a word?) most perfect thing to do with kids in the winter.  Sun Peaks Maple Syrup CandyKid’s Part: Fill a roasting pan with snow.  Use a spoon to carve thin lines/troughs in the fluffy white snow they have collected.  Adult’s Part: Place a pot on the stove and pour in your desired amount of  pure Canadian Maple Syrup. Never leave the syrup unattended as you bring to a near boil.  (It can come to heat very quickly and you never want it to boil over.)  Once it is near boiling, have the kids stand back, and gently pour the syrup into the troughs they have made in the snow.  Wait one minute while the syrup begins to harden.  Using a teaspoon or a popsicle stick, begin at one end of the first trough and roll the candy onto the spoon.  Voila!  You have a maple syrup candy popsicle.  Now for the lesson in teeth brushing..

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Blue Mountain Cheese Fondue

Canada, EAT, family meals, ROAM By March 20, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Your family has escaped the Toronto winter to Blue Mountain and you are getting cozy in a cabin at Ontario’s largest ski and snowboard resort.  The fire is blazing, the kids are tired (and happy), and snow falls outside your windows.  The Niagara vineyards have kindly provided you with a selection of great wine, and you can now start the quintessential vacation meal:  Blue Mountain Cheese Fondue.

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